Category Archives: Personal

This is where I will put autobiographical accounts other than those in Old Brandon, and anything related to my family’s or my own experiences. Of general interest might be my father Robert Barna’s service as a navigator in B-24 bombers in China during World War Two.

Pt2–MY MUSICAL TOP 100–AND YOURS IF YOU WANT

Pt2–MY MUSICAL TOP 100–AND YOURS IF YOU WANT

It’s a wide, wide world—musically, too.

Listening to a pioneering radio reggae program in the early 1970s, I said to my wife, “That guy Bob Marley is a GOOD songwriter.” In the 40 or so years since, he’s proved that to the world.
“Get Up, Stand Up” has become iconic and a worldwide anthem, besides being a good reason to get up, stand up, and dance.

This is another great reggae song from the 1970s. I gave a copy to a Middlebury Union high school kid who only weighed 160 pounds but was the quarterback and punter on the football team, an all-range scoring threat and wizard passer and the best defender I have ever seen on a high school court in basketball, and the shortstop and a pitcher on the baseball team.

My feeling is that Greek folk music has preserved something of the sound of the very first seriously thought-out music.

Markos Vamvakaris was an alienaris, as the Greek equivalent of beatniks were called in the 1930s—a virtuoso bazouki player (stringed instrument somewhat like a guitar and eventually a famous songwriter. He is said to have wandered the streets at night, unable to sleep because of all the thoughts crowding into his head. He survived World War Two and in time became a star in the world of Greek music. There are scads of “videos” of him on YouTube, many with Greek text, along with a couple of documentaries about him. It’s hard to pick one, but what I’ve linked to is from his youth, from 1937, and is a good representative.
I’ve followed that with a link to one in a collection of 121 examples of Greek rembetika. If you saw the movie “Zorba the Greek you know what kind of power this tradition has.

This is the music that accompanies the final scene of “Zorba the Greek:”

Klezmer goes into my bloodstream—on both sides of my family I’m Hungarian. Eastern European Jewish immigrants, their music influenced by that of the Rom (gypsies), blended that cultural stream with American influences to create a new tradition, which has developed an international following. One of my favorite musicians of all time is the early 20th century klezmer clarinetist Naftule Brandwein, This is “Nifty’s Freilach,” the word being associated, like “frolic,” with joy.

This video, a violin solo of an old Hungarian klezmer piece, is not the best musical representative but it is accompanied by wonderful pictures of photos and art from the pre-war era.

Klezmer carries on. This is from an album by a New York City outfit, titled “Rhythm and Jews:”

In college, the girls in my wife-to-be’s dormitory would gather to sing folk songs, led by the daughter of a Bishop of Maine. This was one of the songs I liked best. I’m haunted by it because I have learned since that it was created for this country’s Yiddish National Theater, in 1941. When your house catches fire, GET OUT, GET OUT, GET OUT, GET OUT, GET OUT

Flamenco, sometimes called “the Spanish blues, may have been preempted in this country by more popular Hispanic genres. There may have been some influence from the Ottoman takeover of much of Spain; in Manitas de Plata’s long love lament “Little Moorish Girls,” one of the listeners is picked up by the microphone saying, “Eso es canto Moro!” (This is Moorish singing).
I grew up with flamenco. When the Brandon Free Public Library was lending out vinyl records, one was a boxed set of the work of Manitas de Plata (“hands of silver,” popular name for Ricardo Baliardo), which we kept taking out.. He’s too good to have been lost to time. Here are a couple of his pieces.
The first shows off the way flamenco playing has been partnered with flamenco dancing. There isn’t a video of the latter, but it’s easy to imagine.

This shows the handsome devil on British TV in 1971. Makes me think of the title of a piece by blues great Lightning Hopkins: “Watch My Fingers.”

There are various sub-genres within flamenco. This is another flamenco great, Sabicas, doing an alegrias.

Flamenco dancing and singing is chaste yet charged with the frustrations of love. It’s easy to see where the tango came from.

The “canto moro” I mentioned might owe something to the reciting of the Qu’ran. “Reciting” is a word used, but “incantation” might be more descriptive. This is one of the best-known sounds in the world, though most Americans aren’t familiar with it. Former Goshen, Vermont resident, the late Ahmad Abdul Aleem, played a recording of a master reciter and I bought it from him. It’s said that a skilled reciter can move listeners to tears; I don’t doubt it.

This is the complete 19th sura, 30 minutes long, about Maryam, the mother of Jesus. Part of this was on the record I bought. Merry Christmas.

While we’re in the Moorish part of the world: our word “lute” is related to the name of a stringed instrument still played in the Arabic World. There is a large repertoire of music for this instrument—I would compare the situation with Indian sitar music—but I’m not familiar with it. But I’ve linked to something by a master oud player and singer to illustrate the richness of the tradition. The lyrics, about peace, are worth heeding.

One of the tragedies of the warfare in Mali is what it may have done to the traditions of griots, as they are now known internationally—members of lineages of musician/storytellers who have for generations preserve the culture and history of the region. Some of the most skilled players of the kora, a stringed instrument more complex than the guitar often used by the griots, have toured in this country.
The Diabate clan is one of the best-known of the griot (jeli) names. This is Mamadou Diabate:

West Africa has the guitar, too. Slavery and what came before slavery made the blues possible. Here’s Boubacar Traore doing “Mariama,” part of a big compilation of African pieces.

Influences and collaborations cross oceans now. One that’s in my top list is from “Timbuktu Blues,” an album that brought together American Ry Cooder and Mali’s Ali Farka Toure. A Public Radio International program used the opening of “Diaraby” as the theme music for their geography quiz; I found the music gripping, contacted the program, and found out the source. (Answer to the Geo Quiz: Timbuktu is an ancient city in Mali, important for centuries as a key point on cross-Saharan trade routes.) I could tell without any translation that, like many blues songs, it was about the pain of love, but an Internet comment provided this information: “The vocals tell the story of a couple fighting to overcome obstacles to their love, the biggest of which seems to be their respective families (and yes I do speak the language). R.I.P. King Toure. You are forever.”

Now listen to this:

This is Huddie Ledbetter, aka Leadbelly, doing “The Grey Goose.” On the surface it’s a children’s song; What I have read and believe is that it was slave code for their endurance some day letting them go back to Africa. Top 100.

In spite of everything, when World War Two came black soldiers and sailors and aviators (look up the Tuskeegee Airmen) fought like wildcats. This is Leadbelly doing “Mr. Hitler:”

Son House, “American Defense.” “ No use of shedding no tears, no use of having no fears—this war may last you for years.”

Not all blues love songs are about troubles. Definitely in my top 100 is “Sweet Jivin’ Woman” by Blind (Arthur) Blake. “My friends all tell me, don’t listen to no woman-talk…But a sweet jivin’ mama makes me pick up my bed and walk.”

Blind Blake does some great comic songs, too, like “That Will Never Happen No More.” Don’t know who’s doing the rhythm on the spoons or bones.

Speaking of comedy, the jug band was made for fun. Using improvised instruments like the washtub-stick-and-G-string bass, the washboard for rhythm, and the jug instead of brass, the early practitioners created a genre that has never disappeared. I consider the Dixieland Jug Blowers the best. “House Rent Rag” is their version of a gospel revival meeting:

Their 1926 numbers “Boodle-am-shake” and “Banjoreno” to my mind evoke the heyday of the 1920s better than anything else than videos of the Lindy Hop. I’m linking to “Banjoreno” because it is purely instrumental, but absolutely characteristic of the era—I’d say work of genius. Think of it if you read, or have read, “The Great Gatsby.”

And there are the blues songs about what poet William Carlos Williams called “the hard give-and-take” between a man and a woman. I’d match the verses in the 1927 song “James Alley Blues” by Richard “Rabbit” Brown with anything ever done on the subject.

The country blues tradition has its translators, in the sense that modern musicians who have been drawn by its power rather than pushed by experience, have done some very good work. The one for which I have the greatest esteem is Martin Grosswendt. I had no knowledge of him when he came to Middlebury, Vermont’s Renaissance Folk Club in the early 1980s. He got onstage, took out his guitar, and said “I just drove up from New Jersey so I don’t know how this is going to sound. (He lives in Rhode Island; as of 2013 he was still performing.)
He took a couple of back-beats and went on a tear. After his blues-heavy concert—he is particularly good at summoning Blind Blake–I told him, ”You’ve put a new grin on my face.”
It irks me that Greg Allman’s version of the Sleepy John Estes song “Floating Bridge” became a national hit and Grosswendt’s arrangement, which is sheer genius, remains almost unknown. I couldn’t find a video of that, but here is an example of how he brings the Deep South to life, this time playing the banjo.

Some of the best musicians of the blues era were on the opposite side of the aisle, so to speak, being primarily religious musicians. One of the best was the Reverend Gary Davis. Copyright issues blocked “Motherless Children,” but this is a good example of his talent. Note how this points toward rap.

Blind Lemon Jefferson, aka Deacon L. J. Bates, was another musician whose steady playing echoes the driving power of railroad engines. This Top 100 example, “True Religion.” includes a reference to the unstoppability of the railroad, as a metaphor for death—something found in other songs of the era (you see Gospel Train” in some of the titles), both black and white.

Mississippi Fred McDowell was another black musician rescued by the Sixties and brought to national attention. This 1969 recording “Shake ‘Em On Down” is electric, in more ways than one. Top 100.

Bob Dylan learned from the blues and from the folk tradition generally then went so far beyond them that he came to be as close to the voice of my generation, of the Sixties, as anyone could have been. I remember one issue of my college’s student newspaper (whose editor at the time has become an Atlantic Monthly and National Public Radio commentator) used the titles of Dylan songs for every article.
The albums he put out before as motorcycle accident halted his momentum cross the line into poetry, in my opinion. Some of his love songs are the wittiest verses of the kind since Shakespeare’s contemporary John Donne.

There are so many songs I couldn’t do without, but I’ll start with one—“It’s All Right, Ma, I’m Only Bleeding”–that conveys the authentic feeling of many young people coming out of the house and facing the cross currents of those times.

Likewise the surrealism of Tombstone Blues,” though I would say the John the Baptist verse applied equally well to the Bush administration’s policy on interrogation.

The people I admired most in the Sixties were fearlessly willing to confront hypocrisy, phoniness, and thoughtless behavior. Dylan was one of them; “Like A Rolling Stone” exemplifies what I’m talking about.

Some of Dylan’s love lyrics are wickedly witty, especially those in the album “Blonde on Blonde,” but his mastery showed in his ability to evoke many emotional shifts. “Someone Who Has Had You on His Mind,” for example: “When you wake up in the morning, baby, look inside your mirror/ Oh, you will not see me, you know I won’t be near you/I’d just be curious to know if you can see yourself as clear/As someone who has had you on his mind.” It was good enough to win Joan Baez, who sings this version:

One of my top 100 songs, “All My Trials,” was done by Baez, as well as many others. It originated in the Bahamas. I remember saying to myself, “It would be worth all the trouble of learning to play a guitar just to do this song.”

Baez did a fine version of “Lowlands” on an early recording, but she learned it from Odetta:

That leads into the next piece. On the album “The Real Bahamas II,” which I happened to run across in a record bin, there was a song that’s well up in my top 100: the Pindar Family’s “Take Me Over the Tide.” I couldn’t locate a YouTube video, but there’s a sample and a chance to buy it at

http://www.virginmedia.com/music/browse/various-artists/songs/918114

The trials and tribulations. This is top 100, alas: “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child,” done here by Odetta:

Blind Blake’s “That Will Never Happen No More” has reminded me that I should include two anthems of female empowerment in this listing: first Enya’s “Sail Away” then Joan Jett and the Blackhearts doing “I Love Rock and Roll.” Women are central, nor subsidiary, as far as I’m concerned.

I haven’t listed much rock-pop music, but some in this group are in my top 100. These are in no particular order.

The Rolling Stones, “Mother’s Little Helper:

The Beatles, “Things We Said Today:”

Lothar and the Hand People, “Machines,” which includes one of the great rock videos:

The Doors, “People Are Strange.” Personal reasons here: this is how it felt my freshman year in college, raw country kid in the city, scholarship-and-work kid in a college with a lot of rich kids.

The Lovin’ Spoonful, “Coconut Grove.” How the Sixties often felt, later in college, after I met my intended..

Bo Diddley’s version of the lullaby “Hush Little Baby Don’t Say a Word,” though it might be hard to recognize. A lot of people imitated the rhythm of this after it came out in 1955, but no one did it like Bo.
It’s simply titled “Bo Diddley.”

“Sweet Dreams” by the Eurhythmics. I can’t say much for most of the melody, harmony, and rhythm except that with the words, they form a relentless insistence on the insanity of the world today as seen by the young.

Abba, “Take A Chance On Me,” one of the most compelling rock love songs:

Blondie, “Heart of Glass,” brings back for me the intensity of the era just before AIDS hit, especially in the cities. It’s one of the two rock songs that for me epitomize the urban Seventies. (The Back to the Land movement lived in a different world.)

The other (speaking of female empowerment) is Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff.”

I couldn’t find my top pick for a back-to-the land song, the Holy Modal Rounders’ “Same Old Man,” which has the lines “Yes, I’m certainly glad to be home;/ New York City can continue on alone.”
The Rounders were psychedelic goofballs, but they knew their stuff when it came to folk music. I couldn’t find top 100 “Bound to Lose,” either—it’s about riverboat gambling, and uses its refrain with terrific effect. They could pen memorable verses to old songs, like one in “The Cuckoo Bird” that effectively uses a two-beat line–which I can testify as a magna cum laude Ivy League English major is very rare: “Sometimes/ I wonder/ What makes women/ Love men./ Then I look back/ And I wonder/ What makes men/ Love them.” Great duo; worth getting a CD.

That last verse has its counterpart in a Muppets number that’s in my top 100. Here are Rowlf the Dog and Kermit the Frog with “I Hope That Somethin’ Better Comes Along:”

Back to the Land and back to folk music went together. For all the gardeners out there, I recommend Doc Watson’s version of “Ground Hog.”

It’s worth remember that a lot of the back to the land work was and is done by people who have never left the land but don’t have any of their own and have to keep moving. Woody Guthrie immortalized the Dust Bowl refugees of the 1930s, writing many moving songs, but I don’t think any are better than his 1944 “Pastures of Plenty”—an American “Meadowland” of sorts. If your only knowledge of the Dust Bowl is from a page or so in a high school history book, find a documentary video—those dust storms were astounding. Hitler thought Americans were soft and wouldn’t make good fighters; he wouldn’t have last a week in the Dust Bowl.

One of the best environmental songs is Tom Paxton’s “Garbage,” sung here by Pete Seeger:

John Kenneth Galbraith once said the American system was based on a balance of power between business, labor, and government. The ability to shift jobs overseas without any requirements for worker welfare or environmental safety has come close to destroying organized labor as a countervailing force (Galbraith’s term) and income inequality has soared.

One of the musicians mostly stalwartly pro-labor has been Britain’s Billy Bragg. His “The World Turned Upside Down,’ also known as the Diggers song, is in my top 100. Rarely has electric instrumentation been used more effectively.

The classic labor song is “Which Side On Your On?” Many people have done it, but as far as I know Florence Reece was the first. At the age this was recorded she’s creaky and squeaky, but the determination is ageless.

In the other half of this, I said that Bob Dylan’s “North Country Blues’ was a brilliant portrayal of how a town dies when its main source of work goes away. Another is veteran labor and community organizer Si Kahn’s “Aragon Mill.” This is where you can find him singing it. The Vermont group Woodchuck’s Revenge does a wonderful version, with Kristina Cady’s fiddle adding poignancy to an already powerful song.

I would be remiss in mentioning something British without including something Irish. I’m linking to “The Belle of Belfast City” because of the subtly of the lyrics. Note how in a few words the girl goes from disliking boys to being flirtatious to settling on the one who really cares about her. This is Kirsty MacColl:

In more rural times, it was very important for boys and girls to court and marry and start families. On the surface, “Leatherwing Bat” is just a kids’ nonsense song—but pay attention to the lyrics. Pete Seeger’s version is in my top 100.

Something Scottish, a very old song by the great Ewan MacColl, “The Gardener Chyld.” (Yes, he was Kirsty MacColl’s father.) Unusual melody, with notes more typical of a refrain at the front of each verse. More courting: it’s pitiless tale of a poor boy getting shot down by his lady-love. It opens with her in her father’s doorway holding a switch, and along he comes with a rose—guess who’s dominant here. He gets slamcraggled. I like the melody enough to have written a song to it. Last verse: “Trapped in our time like ants in amber/ We tried to rise above it all/ But in the end took consolation/ There was not that far to fall, for us/ There was not that far to fall.”

Another great tale of woebegone courting, top 100 for me, came from the duo of Carter and Young in 1930: “A Lazy Farmer Boy:”

A last courting song, “Swing and Turn,” by Jean Ritchie backed by Doc Watson, with one of the great refrains. Top 100.

This has gone on long enough, so I’ll close with something ultimate: from the Monty Python movie “The Meaning of Life,” “The Galaxy Song:”

pt1–MY MUSICAL TOP 100–AND YOURS IF YOU WANT

pt1–MY MUSICAL TOP 100–AND YOURS IF YOU WANT

For years I have been saying from time to time, “That song is in my top 100,” without ever trying to make a definitive list. When I upgraded my computer this year, I discovered that a fair number of the “videos” on YouTube were actually audio with still pictures to fill the screen while they were playing. Among them were some of my all-time greats.
Most, though no meas all, are from folk music, including world music. Some are there only in memory, technological change having rendered obsolete the methods of recording them. To know folk music is to know heartbreak—there are so many things you’ve heard and cared deeply about that you can’t share.
But some you can, and that is the purpose of this set of YouTube Internet addresses. Of course these, too, will at some point become ethereal, but perhaps not for a while. What follows is not in any definite order, though I have tried to keep things grouped.
For any young writers who might be tune in: I guarantee that if you through the two parts of the compilation, your musical horizons will have expanded, and very possibly other horizons as well.

“Crossroads”
Robert Johnson

They finally put his picture on a postage stamp, with his cigarette digitally edited out. There aren’t many recordings—he died young, poisoned by a love rival—but those that remain are foundations of the blues. He was said to be able to play anything after hearing it once, but there are passages of his that no one has been able to play better. One of them follows the first line of “Crossroads,” a number that has come to stand for his restless, doomed wanderings.

“Preaching Blues”
Robert Johnson
“Preaching Blues” isn’t about preaching, it’s the ultimate expression of what “the blues” were, and are. Listening to this, I’m amazed that so much intensity could be packed into one person. You probably didn’t know that “blues” could be a six-syllable word; then gain, maybe you never had them long enough.
The song includes some of the best blues lines ever written. “The blues is a low-down aching chill; if you never had them (guitar notes fired like two arrows) I hope you never will.”

That url is part of a series of Robert Johnson videos, some of which have slide shows with them that are worth watching. I’m mentioning that so I don’t have to take up too much of this with his work. But one more:

“Traveling Riverside”

This is as close to putting raging sexual desire into music as anyone is likely to come. The guitar accompaniment to the words is indescribable, except perhaps to say it’s sheer genius.

“Travel on, poor Bob, just can’t turn you round.”

“Lyke-Wake Dirge”
The Young Tradition

Shifting a third of the way around the world, the Lyke-Wake Dirge is the music that plays in my head during the All Hallows-All Saints-Samhain-Walpurgis time of the year. There’s a historical document that indicates it was sung in 1616, but general agreement considers it much older. Sung in an ancient Yorkshire dialect and in an ancient style of harmony (parallel fifths, unaccompanied) by a trio that includes the formidable folk presence Peter Bellamy, it speaks of what happens to a soul after someone dies. Besides confronting the flames of Purgatory on the journey toward Heaven, the spirit must cross Whin Moor, an upland area that is home to shrubs with sharp thorns (whins). “If hosen or shoon thou gavest ain/ Then sit ye doon and put them on…/But if hosen or shoon thou gavest nain/ The Whinny will prick thee to thy bare bane…” The Bible: “If you refuse those in need, you refuse me.” The LykeWake Dirge isn’t “spooky” as some kind of costumed fun, it’s in tune with the nature of that time of year, when the leaves and the light fall together and the cold and wind join forces and strengthen. Skip the Halloween parade, read the opening chapter of Thomas Hardy’s “Return of the Native,” then listen to this.

Halloween idea: leave the lights off and some windows open and crank up an Australian aboriginal didgeridoo player. This recording includes a very good slideshow tour of the Oceanic continent.

Another great evocation of that season is the opening of “Witch’s Hat,” by the Incredible String Band, another British group. I was fortunate enough to see them twice in the Sixties; I believe they were every bit as creative as the Beatles, in unique ways. I am including this piece in my Top 100 because it is the single best music evocation of childhood of childhood that I know (though in that regard I would also point to Debussy’s “Children’s Corner Suite”). There is a chord here that I have never encountered anywhere else. YouTube has a compilation of 97 videos titled “Top Tracks for the Incredible String Band” if you want to delve further.

Another very old song, dating to the 11th century, is sung in Catholic churches at Easter. I first heard “Victimae Paschali Laudes” in a college course on the history of music, which means it was included as classical music, but it’s such a pure expression of absolute faith that I associate it equally with the more emotional folk tradition. “Tell us, Mary what did you see on the road?” But the Latin is far more poetic.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_ggghrIF7A

Thinking of the Sixties, I also saw John Fahey twice. Exhibiting less guitar wizardry that the better-known Leo Kottke, another guitarist who learned well from bluesman Mississippi John Hurt, Fahey was a better composer. His “Great San Bernardino Birthday Party, a long instrumental piece I have so far been unable to find on You Tube, is to my mind the best single evocation of the spirit of the Sixties. Its opening and closing served as the processional and recessional at my wedding in 1971.
But there is another of his pieces I’m putting here, which bears the fanciful and completely non-descriptive title “Dance of the Inhabitants of the Palace of King Philip XIV of Spain.” I heard it first at one of his concerts. He took out a guitar he said was made of a particularly resonant kind of Hawaiian wood and started doing “bottleneck” slide guitar playing, and I went into some kind of trance state. Literally I did not know left from right, forward from backward, up from down. I was not hearing the music, it was going up and down my spine.
There was a musicological reason for this, I was to learn later. The Western musical scale has been “tempered,” its pitches slightly altered from what they would be if they followed the actual vibrational pitches, so thenotes can harmonize over a wide range. (When my son was one year old he toddled over to the piano and started using the fingers of both hands to play octaves—historically the first kind of harmony to appear in the history of Western music.) The piano wouldn’t have its 88 keys without tempering. Musical traditions that emphasize melody rather than harmony, notably Indian classical music, regularly employ tones that Western musicians touch on by “bending” notes. Or, as black musicians did in the 20th century, by using guitar slides. I was hearing and responding to a massive influx of those missing notes.

Man cultures use a mouth bow or mouth harp of some sort to access interesting twangy tones. This is in a set of 70 videos, from many countries, featuring what we call the Jew’s harp or jaw harp. Olga Prass is performing at the 7th International Jew’s Harp Congress Festival in Yakutsk in Siberia in 2011.

Fahey is the link to another Top 100 performance: Big Boy Cleveland’s (title created by others later) “Quill Blues,” because Fahey included it in something he put together using the piece, the sound of a “singing bridge” near Memphis, Tennessee, and some of his own playing.
Cleveland improvises this in 1926 on a very primitive pipe made of a feather quill. The range of his notes, their accuracy, and the pattern they form are phenomenal. I wish I knew more about the man behind the music.

Perhaps it wasn’t an accident that Fahey used a bridge near Memphis, whose Beale Street was in the 1920s the kind of freewheeling place that Greenwich Village in New York City was during the folk revival. Charlie Poole of the legendary string band
Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers sang at the time about Beale Street “I’d rather be there/Than any place I know…And it’s going to take a sergeant (of the police)/For to make me go.”
More from Charlie Poole later. Here I’m including something I think could only have been recorded on Beale Street because in that era of the Jim Crow South, what’s said in one verse could get a black man lynched. Papa Harvey Hull is singing—he used a fake name for the record label—backed by Long Cleve Reed, one of the best of Beale Street’s musicians. You can hear Reed feeling around for the best accompaniment then coming up with something unforgettable.
The verse that gives “France Blues” its name is buried among others about death and mourning that are moving in and of themselves, but then comes the one about France, like Mohammed Ali’s “phantom punch” that knocked down Sonny Liston.
During World War One, black soldiers on leave in Paris found that the French prostitutes had no prejudices against black men. You won’t read about this in histories of the civil right movement, but it was a breakthrough. On a personal note, this was one of two pieces played on my college radio station’s folk show that swung me to folk music (the other, Penny’s Farm, will come later.

More typical of the black experience in those years is one of the most heartbreaking songs I know. Given the title “Poor Boy,” it is played and sung in prison, musician unknown; it is about a man having to tell his mother he is penitentiary bound. Alan Lomax recorded it in 1939.

Another of the great witness sons from the pre-World-War-Two era is Son House’s depiction of the Southern injustice system “County Farm Blues.” I’m amazed that he dared to record it. The song is a night haunted by the whites of the eyes of terrified blacks.

Alan Lomax recorded the work songs that prison chain gangs used to work in rhythm and to keep up their energy. You can hear the fatigue and energy in this field recording, along with the kind of thoughts about women that men in prison are likely to have.

One of the best representations of those work songs comes from the Georgia Sea Islanders, who until the construction of a bridge linking them with the mainland kept alive black traditions that had vanished elsewhere. Here their leader Bessie Jones, one of the truly great female singers, performs some of the most telling of the work song verses, which she heard growing up in Georgia in the 19-teens, as “Sink ‘Em Low:”

I haven’t been able to find my favorite work song, a gang of gandy dancers, as they were known, putting down railroad tracks and driving spikes to secure them to the ties—giving the words the title “Lining Track. The white boss didn’t know the meaning hidden in the words: ”If I could, surely would/ Stand on the rock where Moses stood/ (Hey boys, won’t you line it?/ Ho boys, won’t you line it?/ Hey boys won/t you line it?/ Well-a we’s-a-go linin’ track.) Moses stood on the Red Sea shore/ SMOTE that water with a two-by-four..”
The escape of the Hebrews from slavery. I once saw a sixth grade singing book with “Lining Track” in it, but they had rendered the refrain as “See Eloise go lining track,” missing completely the poetry in the actual work song’s contraction.
The legend of John Henry took off from the prowess of those railroad-building sledgehammer men. There are many versions, but the one I’ve listened to again and again for its unique driving power was done in 1944 by the supersession unit of Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston, and Leadbelly.

There are so many unknown work gang songleaders and fine but lesser-known bluesmen. I have no idea who did the unaccompanied solo “Niggers ain’t got no justice in Atlanta, and I don’t know where you could hear it. The only reason I know about it is a10-watt MIT student radio station program in the 1970s “Country Blues and Politics” (which I was able to record 40 miles away because I had an antenna an engineer friend had given me) that featured field recordings by Delta X (Stephen Michelson), himself a wizard blues player.
You have to imagine a man in a recliner chair with his young son, so young he can lie on the man’s chest, singing in as deep a voice as he can
“Well if you go to Atlanta boys you better walk right
Down in Atlanta
Well if you go to Atlanta boys you better walk right
Down in Atlanta town
Well if you go to Atlanta boys you better walk right
Well you better not gamble and you better not fight
Niggers ain’t got no justice in Atlanta
And on for six more verses.
The only kid in Vermont, maybe ever, to have that as a lullaby. In high school he played trombone and bass horn; in his rock band, the electric bass.

White sharecroppers had a hard time of it in the Deep South, too. This is by a 1920s group called the Bently Boys, about whom almost nothing is known. Musically, it’s extremely simple: except for two notes, it can be played in the key of C, but it’s in the key of A+ for storytelling.

The vile part of Southern history can’t take away the heritage of their great string bands, as these acoustic units are now known. Maybe the best-known is Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers. They did a lot of things that continue to inspire folk musicians, but I thought I’d specifically point to “He Rambled.” (Their version of the ballad of Frankie and Johnny “Leaving Home” was part of those college AM radio folk program broadcasts that convinced me of the genre’s value.) If you listen to a collection of the Ramblers’ work, you may end by feeling as I do that the mindset of rural America in those days was in many ways kinder and gentler than today’s. Who would write a song now about someone waiting for a letter that never comes? Who would craft a song about a girl’s habit of chewing gum and leaving wads of it around that ends with the revelation that the singer is talking about his wife? My late father grew up on a small farm in northwestern Pennsylvania in the late 1920s—the song I’ve linked to was recorded in 1929–and always insisted that their neighbors had been the friendliest, most helpful folk he had ever known. Listening to Charlie Poole, I’m inclined to believe him.

This is a Charlie Poole railroad song, “Bill Mason.” The ending is superb: “He came around the curve a-flyin’/ ‘Bill Mason’s on time tonight,’” and the rest is left to your imagination.

Another musical plus for the South was its preservation of shape note singing, which is now widely known and actively practiced her in Vermont. It originated with professionally trained musicians who wanted to make four-part harmony singing accessible to people who could not read music. They devised a system in which each note (do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do) was represented by a different shape. Once singers learned to associate the shapes with the notes, they could sing a wide variety of songs—and they continue to do so, sometimes at all-day gatherings. There is a famous shape note hymnal called “The Sacred Harp” which is still used today, to the extent that the music is sometimes called Sacred Harp singing. I’m posting here links to two of my favorites among these fierce, full-throated performances, of the hymns “Rocky Road” and “Wondrous Love.”

I said “fierce” and I meant it. “Babylon” would do as well for a battlefield marching song as a church hymn. To illustrate the popularity of this sort of choral singing, I’ve posted a link to a video from Cork in Ireland.

I don’t want to leave the subject of martial music without including “Meadowland,” a song that rallied patriotic love of Russia during World War Two. Appropriately, it’s done here by the Red Army Ensemble in 1965.. For more of what the Nazis (and Napoleon and the Teutonic Knights) ran into in Russia, listen to the Montagues and Capulets section of Prokofiev’s music for the ballet “Romeo and Juliet.”

When it comes to choral performance, I would be remiss in not mentioning Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The group came from Laydsmith in South Africa, the black ox was the strongest farm animal, and “mambazo” has to do with chopping down—which they did so successfully to their opposition in singing competitions that they were excluded from them. Paul Simon included them on “Graceland” and they took off from there.
Founder Joseph Shambalala said when he retired in 2006, “In the early 1960s I had a dream of a type of singing group that I wanted to create. Not just a dream, in the wishful way, but an actual dream while I was asleep. This beautiful dream led to the creation of my group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Now, some forty-five-plus years later this original dream has led to so many more dreams. We have been awarded Grammy Awards, represented our homeland of South Africa at many prestigious events, including accompanying Nelson Mandela to Norway to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, traveled the world so many times and most importantly, spread a message of Peace, Love and Harmony to millions of people.
This was never a dream a black South African could ever imagine.”
This is their performance of “Homeless” at the Nobel Prize award ceremony:

Regarding harmonization: “Winken and Blinken and Nod,” recorded by sisters Carly and Lucy Simon, is about as close to perfection as harmony singing can get. It was a top 10 hit in San Francisco in 1964. For me, one of the precious qualities of the Sixties was vulnerability, and the audacity of thinking that a nursery rhyme was worth turning into song lyrics exemplifies it.

Family singing like the above can bring a unique kind of unity to a performance. One of the best groups in this regard was the Carter Family. “Single Girl, Married Girl” is one of most truth-telling, heart-breaking songs I know. It’s also an illustration of something a lot of 21st century recording artists seem to have forgotten: the power of simplicity.

Anyone who knows anything about folk music knows Doc Watson, who hailed from Deep Gap, North Carolina. To begin with, he was a phenomenal guitar player. He came to Rutland, Vermont once and I took my one-year-old son to hear him. The boy was too restless to stay, but he was impressed. The next day he summed it up in two words: “Dekatar—FAST!”
Watson has also been a wonderful wordsmith. His version of the old English ballad “Matty Groves” conveys his ability to put together verses of an oft-told story in the most effective way and phrase things memorably. “Matty Groves” is a tragic love story, set in motion when Lord Daniel’s page boy overhears his master’s wife’s lover telling a companion that he will be with her that night, when Lord Daniel is away. The boy decides that his master should know about this “before I go to bed.” He’s only a child, he’s thinking about his bedtime—the characterization, in just a few words, is perfect. The way he tells Lord Daniel what is happening—“Matty Groves is in the bed with your wife/and their hearts both beat as one”—could not be bettered. And so on. For those who want to look it up, Doc Watson also did a comic hillbilly version of the Eternal Triangle story called “Everyday Dirt” that likewise has some wonderful lines in it.

“Warm and Windy” is an example of Doc Watson’s note-perfect, dynamically perfect, ideal-tempo playing. The video focuses on his fingering—it’s a guitar lesson. Go ahead and try to do it as well. Remember, you’re watching how he does it, but he’s blind.

Dave Van Ronk was another folk musician with the ability to take an old song and craft verses that give it life—in his case, enduring life. “Duncan and Brady,” the story of a mean cop getting paid back, has one of folk music’s most memorable refrains: “Well, he been on the job too long.” Notice how the guitar accompaniment ends one section then immediately poises the song to begin another.

Creating new and better ways of telling old stories is itself an old story, going back to Homer’s version of Greek war stories in the “lliad” and “Odyssey” and before. The Bible furnishes the material for one of Van Ronk’s finest, “Jesus Met the Woman at the Well.”
It’s done slowly, with an exquisite guitar patterns that repeat and create a unique space in time inside which the story unfolds.
And there is a moment that says worlds about the spirit of the 1960s. Van Ronk, with his voice set to spring to the next words, gives a little yip. It’s the spirit of pure joy, built up to a point where it can’t be contained and bursts out. It’s one of those instantaneous moments, like the one in Ozu’s film “Tokyo Story” when the bus flashes past in the other direction, that carry feelings and meanings beyond any words.

There was time in the Sixties for songs that took their time. One of the best, from the Jefferson Airplane in 1967, “Coming Back to Me,” is completely at variance with people’s images of rock bands (Jerry Garcia interview at that time: “I like to play loud”) and is a wonderful love song.

Another quiet song, from Stephen Stills in 1970—“Four and Twenty.” Generation X, Y, Z—you’re far from alone is feeling the pain of growing up with marital strife.

Continuing with songs that take their time, here’s one of my favorites from one of Bob Dylan’s early albums—“In My Time Of Dyin’.” Had he chosen to be simply a folk musician, I think he still would have achieved greatness. The people who saw him in little folk clubs were lucky.

About the same time there was another impressive rendition of a song on the same subject, by Pat Sky, whose first album to the best of my knowledge didn’t cross over to CD: “You’re Going to Need Somebody On Your Bond.”

While I’m on the subject of death: when Ralph Stanley’s performance of “O Death” became famous because of its appearance in the movie “Brother, Where Art Thou?” I tried listening to it and couldn’t get all the way through because I knew the version done by Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Islanders, which is driven by deep faith:

Dylan, whose work could take up a lot of space in this compilation, showed early on that he was indeed following in the footsteps of Woody Guthrie by writing memorable songs. “North Country Blues” is the best song I know about how foreign competition has destroyed many American working-class towns. The concluding line is poetic ambiguity at its best: there’s nothing left in HER either.

The iconic Jefferson Airplane song is “White Rabbit,” from the early days of people experimenting with taking LSD. Whatever you think of doing that, there is no mistaking the courage of the first explorers, which comes through in this performance, especially through the look in singer Grace Slick’s eyes. It was a generation in which many of those whose parents survived artillery fire went through explosions of a different kind when they launched into the new frontier of “inner space.” For the record, I never took LSD, not because I was against it but because I did not think I was psychologically stable enough to handle it. A fair number of those who did went on to spiritual traditions that involve meditation and experiences of enlightenment. I went to Zen meditation and concomitant experiences without being pushed in that direction by hallucinogenic drugs. There was one time, during a period when I was meditating very intensively, when in a dream my mind set itself the challenge of producing the same kind of cascade of visual images that people had reported happening during “trips.” As many, many people insisted: it isn’t the drug that creates the experience, it’s the (mind)”set and setting.” Anyone who is seriously thinking of taking LSD should get a copy of Lisa Bieberman’s manual “Session Games People Play,” which suggests wise guidelines that were widely ignored during the teenybopper phase of the LSD craze. (It’s still online as of 2013 at http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=67996.) The imagery in “White Rabbit” comes from Lewis Carroll’s classic “Alice in Wonderland,” read by children and adults alike.

Memories of the Sixties: in the evening, the president of the co-operative house where I Iived in college would climb out through the window of his room with his banjo and sit on the roof of the entrance to the three-story wood-frame house and sing the Phil Ochs song “Crucifixion.” It was riveting: people walking along the street would stop to listen and people who lived along the street would come to hear it. Fit THAT into your stereotypes.

Yes, there were drugs. Yes, I inhaled. Jamie Brockett’s “Legend of the U.S.S. Titanic” isn’t played over the air because it’s flagrantly politically incorrect, but the part where the captain goes walking around the wheelhouse is the best re-creation I know of what it felt like to have marijuana take effect.

The right wing had done its best to demonize the Sixties as a time of rampant personal selfishness, ignoring all the experiments with communal living and, more sustainably, all the arts and crafts and social service groups that were founded then and are still doing good work. I remember that one of them, Volunteers In Service to America (VISTA) became so good at community organizing as part of their ant-poverty efforts that Nixon, seeing a political threat, gutted the program.
In the area of folk music, there were musicians who went into the South and looked in the dusty bins of bypassed stores to find the “race records,” the music put out by recording companies under special labels that appealed to the “Negro” market. Then they listened to those records. On some, there was information that helped them find the people who were recorded, some of whom were still playing.
Mississippi John Hurt, “Avalon’s my home town, always on my mind.” They went to Avalon, Mississippi and found him. They brought him out of retirement to record more songs and appear at folk festivals, and to inspire guitar players for decades to come. Listening to those old records, some of them asked, “But who’s the other guitar player? There was no other guitar player—those old-tike black bluesmen were just that good.
Here’s the original “Avalon Blues.” If you like it, thank the Sixties.

Walter “Furry” Lewis, 1893-1981, was another great bluesman brought to fame by the so-called Blues Mafia. “Kassie Jones,” the name of the song changed from Casey Jones to avoid copyright problems, is one of the many old-time songs that talks about the railroad. Listen to the absolutely regular beat of this song, for which I believe the steam engine, the most powerful machine of those times, provided a model–teaching the lesson that steadiness empowers. On top of this the lyrics, in non-standard English but in poetically adept phrases, stand out as the figure against the regular accompaniment’s ground. Robert Frost theorized and wrote in a style that interplayed the variations of sentence structure and background meters. At about the same time, the great blues artists worked with similarly interconnected patterns.

Of course this doesn’t just happen in American music. In 1972, “The Harder They Come” introduced Jamaican reggae to the general public, a film with one of the best soundtracks ever. Among the classics there was “Rivers of Babylon,” a Biblical psalm set to music by the Melodians.
Truly to hear this, you should either listen on headphones or have a music system with excellent stereo separation. In the “song of freedom” section, two voices divide, singing the same lyrics differently, then for the words “We’ve got to sing it together” they unite, in a way that makes the words resound.

Getting back to the blues, another “home town” song was Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues” (it’s in Georgia).

Some of my Top 100 are performances. I don’t think it’s likely that I will find anything as intense as Johnny Cash recording at Folsom prison and starting with “Folsom Prison Blues.” When the voices of these men doing hard time rise at the words “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die,” you know you’re in a different world entirely. This is a link to the entire album, but it starts with the song to which I’m pointing.

Watch the movie “Monterey Pop”—that festival’s music, on 1967, was better than Woodstock’s. “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” by Otis Redding will show what I mean.

Jimi Hendrix was to the Sixties as Robert Johnson was a generation earlier: a natural-born musician and phenomenal guitarist and performer. I think he was at his peak when, at Woodstock in 1969, he changed forever many people’s image of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” When the people promoting World Cup soccer the year it was based in this country did a video announcing it, they used the first six notes as the introduction. There is a right way to blow a train whistle approaching a crossing, there is a right way to play Taps (which Hendrix incorporates into the National Anthem, an even more telling anti-war statement than the piece’s re-creation of “bombs bursting in mid-air”), and there is a right way to do the notes of “Oh, say, can you see;” you know it when you hear it, and at Woodstock a half million people heard it.

Some of my top songs are there because of the words more than the performance, though I have tried to put outstanding versions here.

There are many dire plaints about coal-mining, but none better than Peggy Seeger’s account of a collapse in Springhill, Nova Scotia “Springhill Mining Disaster,” done here by Martin Carthy. The last two lines are among the best conclusions in all folk music.

Disasters: when it was announced that the Allied invasion of Normandy had begun, British celebrity Lady Astor called the British soldiers in Italy “D-Day Dodgers.” In fact the Eighth Army (and their American counterparts) had fought a brutal campaign in the mountainous terrain against highly effective German troops. One of those British soldiers wrote a song in response, using the melody of Lily Marlene,” the favorite song of ordinary soldiers on both sides in the European war. The outrage in “D-Day Dodgers” is quiet and understated for the most part, but the climactic line is a knife-thrust, with a degree of sexual innuendo that makes it one of the most effectively vitriolic lines in folk music.

As a prelude, read the World War Two correspondent Ernie Pyle’s account of fighting in Italy here:

http://www.pbs.org/weta/reportingamericaatwar/reporters/pyle/waskow.html

The song:

For comic relief, I’ll turn to MIT math professor, student of musical theater, and songwriting genius Tom Lehrer. He wrote and performed a lot (please pardon the non-quantitative terminology, Tom) of wonderful things, but in honor of the recent selection of a new Pope (as of March 2013) here’s the “Vatican Rag;”

Some of the best-written lyrics in recent decades have come from Lou and Peter Berryman. The refrain in “Squalor” is as good as it gets.

Among the best-written of the old-time songs was picked up by Patrick Sky, “The Devil and the Farmer’s Wife.” Note the attention to detail: “Off to Hell he went, clickety-clack”—cloven hoofs. And the way things are phrased: “I’ve been a devil most all my life/ But I never knew Hell till I met your wife.”

I’m going to close part one here because my computer is telling me the word-processing file is getting so large it’s causing problems. I hope not for you.

FOUNDERING FATHERS

FOUNDERING FATHERS

Would-be reformers of our highest courts are urging the nation to look back to the era of the Founding Fathers and follow their intentions. In that regard, it’s worth considering the example set by some of the earliest Vermont citizens of the United States when they celebrated this state’s entry into the Union in Rutland on March 21, 1791, as described in one participant’s letter.

“The federal standard was hoisted at six o’clock in the morning, ornamented with 15 stripes, and the field emblazoned with two stars, representing the state of Vermont and the new state of Kentucky. About five in the afternoon, a large body of citizens assembled at Williams’ inn, consisting of the judges of the supreme federal court, the attorney general and other officers of the court, the rev. clergy of the vicinity, with a large number of respectable citizens from this and the neighboring states.
“After an economical collation the following federal toasts were drank, under the discharge of cannon, fired by the volunteer corps of artillery, under the direction of capt. Samuel Prentiss.
1. The president. A discharge of 15 cannon.
2. The vice-president and congress.
3. The allies of the united states.
4. The state of Newyork.
5. His excellency governor Chittenden.
6. The union of Vermont with the united states,–may it flourish like our pines and continue unshaken as our mountains.
7. May the new states soon rival the old in federal virtues.
8. May the federal officers of the district of Vermont act with integrity and merit the confidence of the people.
9. May the patriotism of America secure it from venality.
10. The union of states, interests and hearts.
11. Arts, science, manufactures and agriculture.
12. The clergy, may they unite to dispel the clouds of ignorance and superstition.
13. The memorable 16th of August, on which was fought the glorious battle of Bennington.
14. The conjugal union and rising generation.
15. May we never experience a less happy moment than the resent (sic) under the federal government.
(There followed a song celebrating federal union, which included the lines “Let each Vermonter come,/And take his glass” and “Fill, fill your bumpers high.”)
“Volunteer toast. May the Vermonters become as eminent in the arts of peace as they have been glorious in those of the arts of war.
“The festival was then concluded with continued demonstrations of joy. In the evening the ladies of the vicinity honored the youthful part of the company with their presence at a ball.”

The foregoing suggests that Ethan Allen, known to be a hard drinker in an age when the apple crop was often preserved in liquid form, had plenty of convivial company. This was the age during which Route 7 north of Rutland, sometimes known in latter times as The Cowpath of Doom, more closely resembled a cowpath, and the equivalent of the modern-day term “designated driver” was “the horse knows the way.”
–30–

Mediation–Michael Palmer, Woodbury College, and the Vermont Bar

MEDIATION: MICHAEL PALMER, WOODBURY COLLEGE, AND THE VERMONT BAR

Sarah had ordered custom-made cans from George, her usual supplier, and George had delivered the right number of cans. But they were too small, and now she was refusing to pay for them.
George, on the other hand, insisted on payment, since Sarah had not returned the cans–which would have been of limited value to anyway since they were custom-made for her use. A hard-fought court case seemed inevitable, until one of the lawyers suggested at least talking to a professional mediator.
The mediator took them outside the courthouse and started asking questions, all sorts of questions that at first seemed to have nothing to do with the issue at hand. But once he had established that both had a need for a continuing supplier-customer relationship–Sarah’s other potential supplier was considerably more expensive–a solution evolved.
In the future, they agreed, Sarah would pay George for cans, but more than his usual price–though less than the alternative supplier would have charged. The extra payments would continue until they covered the cost of the first order of cans, then the price would drop to its usual level.
“Together, George and Sarah saved at least $25,000 in legal fees,” wrote Middlebury lawyer and mediator Michael Palmer, who uses that actual Vermont case when teaching classes on conflict resolution. “That was over 15 years ago. Sarah is still buying cans from George.”
Analyzing that case, in which he was the lawyer who suggested mediation, Palmer noted that the present system grew out of trial by combat, in which the winner of a duel was deemed to have been supported by divine providence and became the winner of the legal contest as well. But “no matter how we have gentrified this duel with rules and ethical restrictions, it is still a fight,” he wrote.
“Litigation enflames disputes,” Palmer went on. “It tears open fresh wounds. And it does so at great cost.”
“No wonder Learned Hand feared litigation more than major surgery. Lewis W. Dilwyn likened those who go to law for redress of grievances to ‘sheep running for shelter to a bramble bush.’ As for the profit thereby, Ambrose Bierce summed up the minuses when he defined litigation as a “machine that which you go into as a pig and come out as a sausage.”
But in the past 25 years, Palmer observed, trying to discover options that serve the needs of both sides has emerged as a new paradigm. “Mediation is not the only form of this paradigm, but it is perhaps the most powerful and unquestionably the most widespread.”
Though courts have developed mediation programs, mediation is not a mere adjunct of litigation, Palmer said. “The mediation model is altogether different from litigation.”
Among the differences:
–Mediation is informal rather than formal, allowing people to vent feelings and tell stories rather than following strictly procedures to verify facts.
–It encourages participants to focus on their interests, rather than demanding rights.
–It looks forward to what can be done from that point on, rather than looking backward at what supposedly happened.
–It encourages creative problem-solving rather than fighting, defensive behavior, demonization, and an us-them mind set.
–It fosters openness and honesty, rather than breeding dishonesty and rewarding deception.
–Instead of leaving a legacy of bitterness and alienation, it can help repair relationships and bring a new sense of possibility.
“Mediation is not a panacea,” Palmer said. “Litigation has a legitimate and necessary role to play in deciding constitutional questions, handling class actions, establishing precedents, and resolving conflicts involving severe power imbalances or physical abuse.”
But in the opinion of the founder of Palmer Legal & Mediation Services, the latter has immense untapped potential for making life more efficient and productive, as well as more peaceful. It’s a view that is becoming more common in businesses, agencies, and schools as well as around courthouses.

WOODBURYING THE HATCHET

“It’s amazing what’s going on right now,” said Neal Rodar, director of the Dispute Resolution Center at Woodbury College in Montpelier.
As an indication of mediation’s growing acceptance, Rodar described a recent two-hour conference in Montpelier to which more than a dozen government agencies came and talked about their mediation programs. The Attorney General’s Office, the Human Rights Commission, the Agency of Natural Resources, the Environmental Board, Aging and Disabilities, all came, he said.
The Department of Education uses mediation in some special education cases, Rodar said, and Family Court has a mediation program, and the Vermont Bar Association has an alternative dispute resolution committee…
“It’s been very successful,” Rodar said. “Three, four, five years ago, hardly any of them would have been there.”
Peter Cassels-Brown, a 20-year Starksboro construction company owner who went through Woodbury’s mediation program in 1998, agreed about the usefulness of mediation. He had worked in Chittenden County Small Claims Court’s mediation program, he said–a court that used to be so overloaded that claimants had to wait more than a year.
With mediation, “within a year, they had cut the docket to about three months,” Cassels-Brown said. He added, “A big part of mediation is being part of the system and working together with attorneys and courts. It’s not a separate world. They overlap quite a bit.”
Rodar said that when Woodbury started training mediators in 1984–a logical adjunct to their paralegal program–they would have four of five students take the yearlong set of courses and practice. The Conflict Resolution Center, where students serve as interns to gain practical experience, began in 1989, he said.
Now, there are around two dozen mediation students each year at Woodbury, Rodar said. Through 500 hours of instruction and 90 hours of internship at the Center or other locations around the state, they learn about conflict dynamics and management, handling personal conflict, techniques and strategies for mediation and intervention, group process, advocacy, negotiation, agreement writing, and ethics–adding up to an understanding of creative conflict resolution.
Through it all, one key is to see clearly the distinction between issues, which are often divisive, and the interests that are behind the positions. “That’s what opens up the door to resolution,” Rodar said.

GETTING TO YES

Palmer, a lawyer for 22 years and a Vermonter since 1987, took a different route to becoming an activist for mediation. The key for him was going to Harvard in 1991 to study negotiation with Roger Fisher, together with William Ury the author of the best-selling “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.”
From there, he went in 1993 to Confluence Northwest in Oregon, where he gained practical experience in the area. Then it was back to Harvard Negotiation Project for further study.
“Mediation was not such a big deal in Vermont at that time,” Palmer recalled. He helped move it forward with a 1996 Vermont Bar Journal essay “The Magic of Mediation,” from which the story was taken that began this article.
“I became an advisor to the Vermont Bar Association Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee,” Palmer said. From 1999-2001, he was that group’s chairman.
“I’m a member of the Association for Conflict Resolution,” Palmer said. “There is no license for mediators in any state that I know,” he said, but membership in that group requires 40 hours of training and 100 hours of experience.
In his own practice, he was done business mediation, divorce mediation, and educational mediation, the latter often in cases involving special education. More recently, he has been involved with in-school peer mediation, which typically involves students of the same age acting as mediators.
Fifth graders, for instance, can help other fifth graders resolve difficulties. “You would be surprised to learn that they learn to do it fairly well,” he said.
Mediation, not arbitration. “When we first started talking about mediation (in the 1980’s) people heard the word ‘arbitration,” he recalled.
Even now, the concept of mediation is new enough so Palmer still finds himself explaining that arbitration involves the two parties agreeing on an independent judge who will make a final determination on points where there is no agreement. Mediation calls for “a neutral facilitator,” he said, and in mediation “sometimes they DON’T resolve things.”
“If the system is set up right, mediation is an alternative to something else,” which further encourages a solution,” Palmer said. Versus litigation, “it’s cheaper, it’s quicker, and people are in control of their own destiny.”
Legal fees can be punitive regardless of the outcome of a court case. “It costs thousands of dollars to find out what the judge is going to pay,” Palmer observed. “You could pay $10,000 to get $5,000.”
Mediation has taken root on well-prepared ground, because Vermont lawyers tend to avoid prolonged legal fencing (“Rambo lawyering,” as it has sometimes been called) in favor of mutually trying to resolve cases. Numerous sources in the Vermont bar have given this opinion, and Palmer agreed: “Most (Vermont) lawyers I would say are not interested in simply doing as much legal work as possible because it will up their fees.”
There are times when Palmer is hired as a lawyer to represent the interests of one party, but even there he finds techniques related to mediation useful. “When I learned to be a lawyer, we didn’t have any training in negotiation, no training in interviewing clients,” he said.
Rather than assume he understands what is going on in a case, he practices “active listening,” which includes questioning his client about all the whys and wherefores of a situation to determine what is really at stake. Reaching an understanding with fellow attorneys can also benefit from what he has learned about mediation.
Currently, Palmer is working on an article he has tentatively titled “The Best Defense.” Among other advice, it will incorporate the suggestion that “I don’t try to persuade you to abandon your position by attacking it. The best defense is to listen.”
But “this is not for sheep. It’s not a matter of being nice,” he said. It’s a misunderstanding to think that mediation is opposed to the adversarial system on justice by suggesting that people give in to each other in some mushy, feelgood way.
Rather, he said, mediation takes the view that conflict is an inevitable part of human existence. It’s not a failure, it’s not something to run away from, it can be a positive incentive for change, and in any case, with knowledge of the process, “you can deal with it.”
Studies have shown that about 20 percent of people thrive in an environment of conflict, challenge and competition, Palmer said. The other 80 percent, for lack of confidence and knowing how to put forward their own interests, suffer losses–like the $4 billion worth of economic loss that comes from harassment, intimidation and other types of bullying behavior in the workplace.
Currently, Palmer is working on a book about bullying in schools, which he sees as causing a tremendous erosion of educational quality and achievement–and, consequently, American economic security.
But inn the country as a whole, Palmer sees a movement away from the old paradigm. One of the best examples, he said, is the success of the CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution, founded in 1979 as the Center for Public Resources.
Its mission is, according to its Web site, “to spearhead innovation and promote excellence in public and private dispute resolution, and to serve as a primary multinational resource for avoidance, management and resolution of business-related and other disputes. To fulfill its mission, CPR is engaged in an integrated agenda of research and development, education, advocacy and dispute resolution. It is the leading proponent of ADR (alternative dispute resolution) that is managed by the parties and a highly qualified neutral, or self-administered ADR.”
By now, more than 800 corporations and 3,200 subsidiaries have signed the CPR Pledge, as it is commonly called, to explore a resolution through negotiation or other alternative conflict resolution before going to litigation. Together, these 4,000 companies account for more than half of the Gross National Product.
In Vermont, Palmer said, his estimate is that at least 50 lawyers use both mediation and litigation in their practices. “The number may be higher,” he said–and as students who have grown up with peer mediation and other dialogue-oriented programs join the profession, it will surely increase.
Palmer pointed to the work of Deborah Tannen, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, as an example of a growing awareness. In her book “The Argument Culture: Moving From Debate to Dialogue,” she wrote that “In the argument culture, criticism, attack, or opposition are predominant if not the only ways of responding to people or ideas.” The prevailing view is that “if two sides are given to a forum to confront each other, all the relevant information will emerge, and the best case will be made for each side.”
However, Tannen went on, “opposition does not lead to truth when an issue is not composed of two opposing sides but is a crystal of many sides.” Likewise, Palmer likes to transform “what would otherwise be a fight into a joint problem-solving activity.”
“It’s the experience of problem-solving that makes (mediation) such a salutary activity,” he said.

————————————

update: as of March, 2013,Woodbury had become the Woodbury Institute of Champlain College, which is based in Burlington, Vermont, but was continuing its work in the field of graduate education in mediation and applied conflict studies. Inquiries could be sent to Julian Portilla, director of that program, via jportilla@champlain.edu, and information could be obtained via Champlain’s website.

FORMERLY THE FOUNDATION FOR EXCELLENT SCHOOLS

FORMERLY THE FOUNDATION FOR EXCELLENT SCHOOLS

Of all the journalistic work I’ve done, some of the most rewarding involved the Foundation For Excellent Schools, as it was known early in this century. An educational facilitation group with a superb record, it has since changed names to become College for Every Student and has relocated its headquarters to Essex, New York (whose school system is part of what follows, but it is still masterminded by Herbert F. ‘Rick” Dalton, Jr. Current information, the organization’s history, and an email contact form can be found at www.collegefes.org

The following two pieces are meant to illustrate their work and spirit and to encourage anyone who could use their assistance to get in touch with them.

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Keene, New York doesn’t expect to grow that much, surrounded by the Adirondack Mountains. But it does expect its children to grow and thrive.
In a school system where there are 200 students, K-12, there are no anonymous faces. When a graduate fails to complete college, “it’s like your own child came home from school,” said Superintendent Cynthia Ford-Johnston.
But in a school with only 14 seniors, many things are possible. Seeking to forestall problems for all of them, not just the college-bound, the Keene Central School District and the community collaborated on Senior Survivors seminars.
These were seven sessions “designed to help to ensure our students’ survival once they go out into the work force or into college,” Ford-Johnston said. Six of them were handled by local teachers, parents and helpers, but one involved reaching out about 120 miles to Union College in Schenectady.
The subjects of the seminars were meant to “level the playing field for all of our kids,” some very sophisticated and some very isolated, Ford-Johnston said. The themes were:
–Transportation, including such things as how to read a bus schedule, and what it’s like trying to buy a car.
–Social interaction, particularly the way it’s different in cities, where you try to avoid eye contact rather than wave and say hi, and where you make sure to ask the right people for directions.
–Financial issues, such as dealing with college debt, and understanding what credit card debt looks like over a 20-year period.
–Finding resources, for instance by networking through social groups, or taking part in church life.
–Legal obligations, whether living in a dormitory or renting an apartment.
–Housekeeping skills, to make sure newly independent youths can get their laundry done properly, shop wisely, and so on.
–Social skills in a college environment.
For this last subject, they called on Tom McEvoy, Dean of Residential and Social Life at Union College. He said he doesn’t often get such requests, but loves to talk to groups of younger students that way and would be glad to help other FES schools.
Sometimes high schoolers have unrealistic and unhelpful images of college, McEvoy said to the seminar. For instance, in the residence halls, “I see many students coming in with preconceptions that their roommate is going to be their friend for life. That realistically is often not the case.”
Though studies are obviously the main priority, he told the Keene group, a college environment offers many chances to be active, get involved, and take a leadership role. Whether it’s in a student organization or activity or sometimes to do with the class, take a chance, grow a bit, become the leader you didn’t think you could be.
And of course there was sage advice about drugs and alcohol. McEvoy said it was good to have the students and their parents in the same room, because probably what he said confirmed a lot of things the parents had already talked about.
“It was a great program,” McEvoy said of the Senior Survival series–something he wished he could have experienced before college. As for his part in it, “if my school allowed, I’d be happy to do it all the time.”
Ford-Johnston said there is one more step left for Senior Survivors: a dinner along the lines of the TV “Survivor” series, complete with appropriate decor like tiki lamps. Another lesson well-known to FES schools: celebration is part of education, too.

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It’s a considerable distance from North Country Union High School, close to the Canadian border, to most places in Vermont, let alone Harlem and Broadway.
But this spring, once again, FES coordinator Cheryl Currier, dance teacher Cheri Skurdall, and Spanish teacher Helen Poulin took a group of students from Newport to New York. It was the 12th time Currier had traveled from apple-growing territory to the Big Apple in the past six years, either personally or with school groups.
“I am a native Vermonter–with a passion for New York City,” Currier said. Not only is it culturally unique, “I feel safer at 1 a.m. in Times Square than I would downtown in any city in Vermont,” she said.
This trip came about through networking at a national FES conference.
Currier said it was more than a case of country kids getting a look at city life, because the 29 ninth through twelfth graders included 22 girls who were members of the school’s dance troupe. The Dance Company had rehearsed six numbers to present for adjudication at Steps on Broadway, a school where they were also to
take classes in ballet, jazz dance and modern dance.
But the group ís first destination was a school North Country had contacted through FES.
After starting at 4 a.m. on Friday, they arrived seven hours later at the Academy of Environmental Sciences, a multicultural school in New York City ís Spanish Harlem neighborhood. There, the dancers would have a chance to warm up for their judged performance by doing their six numbers for some of the AES elementary students and students of their contact, AES’s Heide Goertzen.
The program including one hip-hop piece–and that, said Currier, was a test of nerves. How would their performance come across, on hip-hop’s authentic home ground?
“They were received by a very enthusiastic crowd,” she said. “There was clapping and cheering,” and by the end, “they were all up on stage dancing together. It was awesome.” And in true FES fashion, pizza and socialization–not always in that order–followed the show.
It was an “If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere” moment. But it was just the start of a weekend orchestrated by Skurdall and by Currier, who fantasizes sometimes about being a tour guide in her “golden years.”
If you know New York, she said, a many-splendored visit doesn’t have to be a many-spendered thing. Their nighttime accommodations, for instance, were at a 300-bed, budget-friendly hostel known as Jazz on the Park located on Central Park West.
Having checked in, the group hopped on the subway and went to Times Square. Currier knew a place there called TKTS, where it’s possible to get cheap same-day tickets to top Broadway shows. On this trip, appropriately enough, “Cabaret” and “Rent” were accessible.
Saturday, the dancers took ballet at Steps on Broadway–whose programs serve professionals like Broadway cast members–then it was time to see some of the sights. Lincoln Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Rockefeller Plaza, the GE Building–and something called the Museum of the City of New York.
What better way to see a lot of New York than to get to a museum dedicated to its many historical transformations? Currier said it’s part of a whole line of such attractions situated along the so-called “Museum Mile.”
After dinner, there were more TKTS to Broadway. Various groups went to “I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change,” the American Ballet Theatre, the New York City Ballet, and “Barbra’s Wedding.” At the latter, Currier and two students met with the play’s two characters after the show and had their picture taken with them.
North Country’s principal Bill Rivard, the Principal and his wife met the teachers and students in Times Square and visited for awhile before the group headed back to the hostel. The two also went to Steps to watch the girls take a modern dance class on Sunday.
“I gave him an itinerary knowing that he and his wife were ‘mini-vacationing’ in the city that weekend, and we were all pleased that he took the time to meet with us,” said Currier. “It was a surprise meeting.”
Sunday was the big day for the dancers: morning classes at Steps on Broadway, then from 3-6 p.m. their performances, followed by extensive, detailed, fully professional critiques. Those not in the company went to attractions like the Frick Museum and Tiffany’s (just looking), and took a horse and buggy ride in Central Park.
In the evening, the whole group went to dinner and explored in the Greenwich Village area.
Monday was the day to go back, but not before taking in Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum–another concentrated dose of history along with the fun. “The bus picked us up in Times Square,” Currier said.
Do such trips have a deep and lasting effect? Apparently so: two of last year’s FES New York City trip students decided to apply to schools there, Currier said, and one has been accepted at New York University.

A THANKSGIVING TO REMEMBER–TROPICAL STORM IRENE

The flooding from Tropical Storm Irene may have been a 100-year event, but Vermont is a 250-year event, and the damage was no match for the state’s community spirit.
This year, as ever, visitors flocked to the Green Mountain State to see it change color during foliage season. They came too soon to experience something just as extraordinary, if with a less immediately evident rainbow blend: Thanksgiving after a period that at first seemed to have little to inspire thankfulness.
National media were behind events in predicting that Hurricane Irene’s landfall would cause few difficulties, then behind the times again when they overplayed the resulting Vermont disaser. Only days after headlines about downed bridges, roads turned into ravines, and towns left isolated except for those with all-terrain vehicles, almost all those roads were passable, no one was isolated, and towns were expressing determination to restore their historic bridges.
At Thanksgiving, as ever, there will be places offering free dinners to all comers, no questions asked. This time, everyone who takes part will be remembering how everyone with earthmoving equipment leaped into action and worked to their limits helping with the emergency, no call for volunteers needed. Those serving the turkey, dressing, potatoes, vegetables, and pumpkin pie and those holding out their plates will be know they are echoing the way people brought food to emergency workers, took in strangers who had been left homeless, came to coordination centers to find out how they could assist, organized benefit events, and both at those events and in churches and at schools and at store counters, gave until it hurt because they knew they had neighbors, near or far, who were hurting.
Around the family dinner table, along with saying grace, many will be thinking “There but for the grace of God.” If our home had been beside a picturesque brook that almost shrank to a rivulet in dry seasons, but suddenly turned into an overflowing Roaring Branch post-Irene, we wouldn’t be sitting at our accustomed places. If we had been earning our living farming, and had not only seen most of our crops go bobbing downstream but also much of the land on which they had been growing, we might not have had much fun carving a big grin on a Halloween pumpkin, and the taste of one in a pie might well have been spiced with bitter remembrance. In a disaster there may be fault lines, but not fault, and if the brook knew no boundary, neither should our generosity.
Along with the family stories, there will be “have your heard about” stories from the flood, to be followed by others in the spirit of “can you top this one?” Did you hear about Black River Produce, which brings food from a hundred farms and from regional suppliers to its North Springfield warehouse then travels to three states to resupply hospitals, schools, inns, restaurants and more? For the first time in 30 years, the day after the flood they couldn’t make any deliveries, because the workers couldn’t get to the warehouse. But by the end of the week, they were delivering everywhere again, except Killington.
So Killington came to them. Residents with four-wheel-drive pickup trucks formed a convoy that threaded its way along remote dirt roads and logging trails past the upheaval that had been Route 4, then made its way to the Black River Produce warehouse, where they took on the shipments intended for the Killington area and made the trek back again. And so on and so on.
But beyond sharing stories of triumphs over adversity, this Thanksgiving is likely to be a time for reaffirmation, resolve, and avowed determination. The big dinner’s leftovers will be a lot more fun to deal with than those of the flooding. If freedom requires eternal vigilance, so also community spirit calls for an enduring commitment. The spirit of fellowship at Thanksgiving dinners will be a reminder of the need to look beyond oppositional differences to realize what we have in common is much greater and much, more important. If the disaster bearing the name Irene only teaches that lesson, it may be worth whatever restoring the state costs.
Because we are entering a time of great dangers, of which the recent flooding may be only the first. There is around Vermont an unspoken realization that what happened once can happen again, and might in another season take on some equally disastrous form, such as an ice storm. This time there were no hurricane winds; the next time we may not be so lucky. And so on and so on.
The sacrifices made to help neighbors in an obvious time of travail may not be more difficult than taking the many small steps necessary to reverse a headlong course that reckless use of energy has set us upon. But what happened post-Irene can and should remind us that everyone’s help is needed, and even the smallest contributions are important to making a difference.

FALL FOLIAGE VIEWING GUIDE

Vermont’s fall foliage season is such a rich feast that it’s easy to overlook some of its most rewarding features.
That’s especially true for those in quest of “the peak,” a mythical condition that can all too easily be rained out, weakened by frost, or complicated by the presence of too many other people seeking the same thing. Relaxed enjoyment of nature’s diverse wonders, both the anticipated and the unexpected, will work out better.
There are sights to savor high and low, large and small, in town and in the wild. What follows is a sixty-something native Vermont poet’s thoughts on how to make the most of a time that the seasoned realize is for stocking up on vividness before the long weeks of black, brown, gray and off-white ahead.
First, it helps to know something about how and why this outburst of color takes place.
Most people know that when plants do their essential work of using sunlight to create the building blocks of life, it’s a green substance called chlorophyll that is most heavily involved. (Many people don’t know that chlorophyll is almost the same as hemoglobin, which our blood cells use to carry oxygen, except that a chlorophyll molecule has magnesium at the center and hemoglobin has iron. Those colorful trees are distant cousins.)
As sunlight weakens in the fall, trees begin to protect themselves against the coming winter by sending nutrients in their leaves down to their roots. (People do something like this in winter: their hands and feet get cold as their bodies try to keep the vital internal organs alive.)
When the chlorophyll is broken down and removed from the leaves, they change color, partly because of other substances that were there all along. Oranges and yellows come mainly from carotenoids—yes, the same chemicals that makes carrots orange.
The situation is more complicated for reds and purples. They depend on anthocyanins, which the leaves start producing in late summer as their phosphorus levels decrease, and which they continue to produce in the fall. (Why? Possibly to protect the leaves from excessive light during the nutrient breakdown process, possibly to try warning away insects—research in this area continues.) That’s why the ideal conditions for blazing red foliage involve cool, clear days and nights that are chilly but not freezing, since frost breaks down anthocyanins. To answer a question you may have had, these substances also why you see red at the edges of young leaves in spring; and they play a major role in coloring blueberries, red apples, cherries, and other fruits.
Also helping to promote the growth of anthocyanins is a layer of cork cells that forms where the leaf is joined to the tree, slowly closing down the veins that move water in and out of the leaf. When the leaf is completely sealed off, it is ready to fall, but until that time the anthocynanins are hard at work.
If science bores you, there is always the old-time Native American view, that hunters in the sky kill the Great Bear and his blood drips down onto the trees.
Weather affects what happens. A fall foliage season will occur later than usual if spring has stayed cold longer than usual. It will last longer if temperatures climb, though the colors will be more muted. And if a spent hurricane comes through with its high winds, it’s time to start looking for good leaves on bushes (the subject of a later section), or on the ground where they have fallen (where children can find and try to preserve them—yet another later section).

WHERE AND WHEN

Fall comes earlier in the north, and at higher altitudes, where the lower air density (less ability to retain heat) means that temperatures are a little over three and a half degrees Fahrenheit for each 1,000-foot rise. So one basic strategy of foliage-hunting is to travel in the right direction. There are now many published guides to the areas where foliage is peaking, which takes these factors into account.
But there is one noteworthy exception. In swamp areas, where red maples (a species, not a description) are better adapted than sugar maples, there are often wonderful displays early in the year, which include many colors besides red. A route that parallels a major river (Otter Creek being an excellent example) is likely to reveal these areas. Sometimes they are found on one side of a pond or lake, in an area that is transforming from wetland to dry ground (eutrophication is the technical term).
Since the highlands turn early, consider taking the ultimate high road: a ski area gondola or chairlift ride. The views from any Vermont mountain will be stirring in any case, but in foliage season they may prove unforgettable. A check with central-southern Vermont mountain resorts found that Killington (422-3333) will be running a gondola from its main base lodge, which is at the end of Killington Road, not along Route 4 on the way to Bridgewater. Stratton (1-800-787-2886) will operate a lift that starts near its slopeside village, said to be about a three-minute walk from that group of residences, restaurants and shops. Bromley (824-5522) will have one running, near their family fun park. Okemo (228-4041) doesn’t have such a high-rise lift, but there is a hybrid between an alpine slide and roller coaster (i.e. your vehicle can’t jump out of the chute) that will send you zipping between the trees if not above them.

2003–Brandon’s Pig Parade & Auction

Never mind running with the bulls in Pamplona. Running with the pigs in Brandon on Saturday at 1 p.m. will be much more fun, not to mention safer.
That’s the time for the Pig Parade, the great unpenning of 40 life-size fiberglass pigs and three wee ones, decorated and adorned by local, statewide, and classroom artisans and artisans. The colorful procession down Park Street, through the business district to the Town Hall, then back behind the Brandon Inn for a free ice cream social is being billed truthfully as “The Really, Really Pig Show.”
Coming on Open Studio Weekend, this will be a chance for studio-trekkers to let the artists do the traveling and to see a wide diversity _ perhaps weird diversity would be a better term _ of approaches and styles. The ice cream social (entertainment by the Otter Valley Jazz Band) will give everyone a chance to view the herd close-up and to ask the creators to explain what they were thinking about at the time.
Those with city connections may recognize this as a clone of the CowParade events that started in Switzerland in 1998, quickly became popular in this country, and have gone on to feature several other animals.
Noted folk artist Warren Kimble, whose downtown Brandon studio has been a focal point for getting the Pig Parade going, said he got the idea from seeing how successful such events were in New York City.
But no community as small as Brandon has ever undertaken such a project, Kimble said. Attempting the feat has gained regional publicity for Brandon, through a show on Boston’s WCVP-TV, he said.
The Cow-Parade-type events all serves as charitable fund-raisers as well as entertaining the public, enhancing business districts and helping to build community spirit. As Kimble put it, energizing a town “takes people having fun to begin with.”
The Brandon pigs will spend the summer at stores and other sites related to their sponsors, then will be auctioned during fall foliage season, on Oct. 11. Kimble said one will try its luck on E-bay’s charitable auction Web site.
The proceeds from the auction, from sales of a $10 book with color pictures of the pigs, and from fund-raisers this summer will go to “the Brandon Artists’ Guild, local schools for art projects, and other worthy, visual-arts-related community efforts,” according to the Brandon Chamber of Commerce Web site www.brandon.org.
Kimble said the plans include funding an Otter Valley scholarship for a graduate seeking a career in the arts.
Pigs were chosen rather than cows because they immediately get people into the spirit of having a good time, Kimble said. Also, life-size four-foot hollow fiberglass pigs were easier to afford, ship, and handle, he observed.
At first, Kimble and his fellow organizers in the Brandon Artists’ Guild wondered how long it would take to find sponsorships at $500 apiece. “In three weeks, we got sponsors for 40 pigs,” he said.
Actually, some gave more than $500, he said. That has allowed the Otter Valley Union High School and Middle School, and the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union elementary schools in Brandon, Chittenden, Leicester, Pittsford, Sudbury and Whiting to have pigs for art projects, he said.
Since the blank white pigs arrived from their Chicago manufacturer in December, community involvement has been steadily growing, Kimble said. Notably, the McKernon Group construction company has built sturdy bases with rollers that will make the parade possible, and James Zutell of Sudbury has glazed the pigs with protective coating so the parade can take place rain or shine.
A look at some of the porkworks suggested that few people will be able to resist the chance to see them close-up in the Brandon Inn courtyard.
CyBOARg, by David Martin of Brandon, bristles with electromechanical pieces and devices, including a working clock. An upside-down funnel on its forehead serves as a horn _ and pulling a lever in the back blows a real horn.
Porcus Latinium (“Pig Latin”), by local bookstore owner Matthew Gibbs, features quotations by Cicero and other classic writers, plus citations from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and Francis Bacon. The pig of the letter, so to speak.
Underhill artisan Jill Listzwan, an Otter Valley graduate, said Pork Jester spoke to her (in artistic terms) asking to have such summery accoutrements as leaping fish pantaloons, dragonfly suspenders, and a gourd hat. Local artist Jackee Foley used the sides of “Brandon” for scenes of downtown Brandon framed in October leaves.
Rutland’s Peter Huntoon will bring “Pork Chopin,” which includes pig musicians concertizing around a Swineway piano. Middlebury cow artist Woody Jackson has done “Pigmoolian (with apologies to George Bernard Shaw),” whose play “Pygmalion” was the basis for “My Fair Lady.”
Pigs may not fly, but pig puns will. Among the parade trotters will be Kimble’s Pig T. Barnham, Rodney Batschelet’s “Swine Family Robinson (Lost in Vermont),” Mike Schick’s “Pig a la Matisse” (Paris’s artsy Pigalle district?), “Pigture Perfect” from Otter Valley, “Country Ham” from Sudbury’s Country School, “Pig in a Blanket (We’ve Got You Covered)” from Whiting Elementary School, “Pigtograph” from Leicester Central, and “Pigcasso” from Barstow Memorial in Chittenden.
Listzwan said that after the parade she will be among the 15 artists whose tented show in Central Park will be part of the event.
“I usually do Open Studio Weekend up here,” she said. “But when I found out about the pigs, it was too much fun to turn down.”
After growing up in Brandon, “I am amazed and delighted and excited at how much has changed and has grown,” Listzwan said. “I think the Artists’ Guild and Warren are doing a lot of work for Brandon.”
For more information, call the Brandon Artists’ Guild gallery in downtown Brandon, at 247-4956.

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There comes a time in every pig’s life when the truck backs up to the gate and it’s time to take the big ride. Even for plastic pigs.
On Friday and Sunday, Brandon will give the last 14 stars of its summer-long “Really, Really Pig Show” a rousing sendoff. The life-size, hollow models, all decorated and adorned in different creative ways by area artists, will be auctioned off Saturday evening in a giant tent behind the Brandon Inn, a show to be preceded at 7 p.m. Friday by a screening of the movie “Babe” and other events in the same tent.
The Brandon Area Chamber of Commerce is adding to the excitement by having business district members keep their stores open until 8 p.m. on Friday.
Neshobe Community Center, Inc., a non-profit group trying to create a pool and community center, is behind Friday’s movie. Howard Giles, their coordinator, said admission is by donation, so anyone can come, and they wanted a pig movie that had a G rating so all family members could enjoy it.
Speaking of which: parents are strongly advised against having their children look up “Babe” on the Internet. Pigs aplenty they will find, but not always the right kind.
Here’s what you’ll need to know about this comic heartwarmer, if you missed it the first time around:
Farmer Hoggett wins a baby pig in a raffle, and when it arrive at his well-populated barnyard, it is taken over by Fly, the matriarchal sheepdog. Babe decides he’s a dog, too, and starts to learn herding, something the other animals go along with.
Hoggett, too, decides to have Babe join his siblings in mastering the necessary skills, just in case something happens. Something does, and it’s Babe who ends up in the world sheepdog contest.
“A comic fable about not fitting in and the lengths to which an ordinary pig will go to find acceptance,” went one summary. Another was, “A humorous look at the limitations and lunacy of a preordained society.”
Plan to stick around afterward, because that’s when the winner of the Kiss-the-Pig Contest will be come forward to meet the pork’s chops, so to speak.
Around town, various shop counters have made room for five containers with the names of the five well-known local residents, several active in the Chamber of Commerce: Bernard Carr, florist; Charles Foster, chiropractor; Warren Kimble, artist and downtown gallery owner; Dennis Marden, local elementary school art teacher and theatrical leader; and Jessica Putnam, owner of a hair salon. The one who with the most donated money will “win” the chance to kiss a pig provided by the Harvest Program, a farm-based program for at-risk middle school kids in Leicester.
“They were thinking of having a full-size pig,” said Anne Young, director of the Harvest Program. “I discouraged this.”
Mama Pig weighs somewhere between 350 and 400 pounds, looks like it would take the Los Angeles Rams to tackle her, and has sharp, strong teeth. But luckily, she just had another litter, and Young said they’ll get a cute little thing about three weeks old. In a word, Babe.
Saturday starts with the Brandon Farmers Market Harvest Craft Fair, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., in the park across from the Brandon Inn.
Pigs will be visible behind the Inn during the day, but the real preview inspection takes place from 4-6 p.m. There will be food, a cash bar, and live musical entertainment by the Otter Valley Union High School Jazz Band during those two hours.
Lagasse’s Restaurant will provide the food. Scott Lagasse said pulled barbecued pork, steamed Essem hot dogs, homemade brownies, hot cider and soft drinks are on the menu.
Lagasse predicted a big crowd Saturday because it’s Middlebury College Parents’ Weekend. His 20 guest cottages are full, and “if I’d had a hundred cottages, I could have filled them 10 times.”
The auction itself could be quite a show, even for non-bidders. Word is that several collectors of local folk artist Warren Kimble’s work (he’s sold over 2 million prints worldwide) will be on hand, because the lineup includes his Pig T. Barnham, colorfully done with designs reminiscent of the great circus showman P. T. Barnham’s era.
Kimble said that to keep it a local event, he and the other Brandon Artist Guild members agreed not to allow any remote bidding. People have to be there.
Originally, there were 40 life-size pigs (and three little ones), sponsored for $500 apiece, sent to participating artists, protectively coated (Auto Paint Plus in Middlebury sells the coating), and taken to the sponsoring businesses, schools and organizations for the summer. Then 30 of them went up for bids via the online auction site Ebay, according to local artist and pig event coordinator Edward Loedding.
Five didn’t get their “reserve price,” a minimum bid, and came back to join nine others in the real life auction. Of the ones that sold, only two went for less than $1,000.
Kimble’s “Country Pig” topped the list at $15,000; Loedding’s “Petunia Pig” was in second place with $9,100; and local artist Jackee Foley, who has made a specialty of wildlife art, brought in $7,900 for “Pigmalion.”
All told, Loedding said, the Ebay venture grossed about $70,000. Expenses have yet to be subtracted, but he said the final sum should be a big boost to the Guild and to the educational programs they support.
For those who might be speculating about it, Loedding said most successful bidders were not affluent out-of-staters. Of the 25 pigs, 20 will stay in Vermont.
One was purchased and donated back to the Otter Valley students (who had appliqued it with local history graphics), the gift coming from an anonymous 1972 graduate now living in Arizona, Loedding said.
To get a seat in the 300-capacity tent, people will have to pay $10 for an artist-print-decorated auction paddle (you raise it to bid; easier to see than a hand). Loedding said local Celebrity Rentals let them use the chairs for free, but it’s a big tent, and its rental has to be paid.
People who want to stand are welcome, and can bid as well.
There will be a raffle for a small piglet painted by Warren Kimble, along with prizes donated by area merchants. Raffle tickets will only be sold at the event, and winners must be present.
When the auction begins at 6 p.m., pigs will be carried one by one up the aisle and placed on a turntable so everyone can see all sides. Then Jim Dickerson of Charlotte will start the bidding.
Kimble said Dickerson is the old-time fast-patter type auctioneer, but “we’re trying to slow him down.”
So who’s left, among the colorful herd that rooted around Brandon’s streets this summer? (Actually, the local merchants were doing the rooting, because by all reports the pigs brought a lot of tourist attention.)
Loedding said the bidders can look forward to:
_ Pig T. Barnham, Warren Kimble’s folkloric tribute to the great circus era.
_ Cyboarg, David Martin’s technopig, with a built-in clock and a horn that blows.
_ Circe, Linda Hickox’s reference to the sorceress who charmed the Greek Odysseus’s men by turning them into swine, a tribute to her 26 years on the Greek island of Paros.
_ Ol’ivia Money Bags, Chris Naylor, covered with green money, which lived at the bank. Check to see if First Brandon president Scott Cooper is bidding, because his face is on one of the bills instead of a national President’s.
_ Hamhocks & Hollyhocks, Edna Jones, one of the more decorative offerings.
_ Pork Jester, by former Brandon resident and Guild member Jill Listzwan, a more comical treatment.
_ Crazy for You, Cindy Thomas, which may appeal to quilt collectors with is crazy quilt theme.
_ The Wings of Pigs, Jim Haley, one of the season’s many references to the idea of pigs flying.
_ The Piggyback Ride, Robin Rodda Kent and Jim Barner, who added a rider, seen all summer along Park Street.
_ Country Ham (Sudbury’s Country School), Pig in a Blanket (Whiting Elementary School), and Piggsford (Lothrop Elementary School in you guessed it).
For Brandonites, Saturday will be a kind of community celebration, not just a pig sale. By general agreement, the combination of the pig event and several downtown renovation and construction projects has given the town a new sense of pride and optimism.
“Downtown in general is on the way up,” said Lagasse, whose own establishment, half a mile out of town, is getting about 70 percent of its clientele from the Rutland area.
Loedding said that on Saturday, everyone will hear the Artists Guild choice for next summer’s project: birdhouses. Any size, any shape, up to the maker’s imagination.
They felt that too many cities and towns are now doing similar projects with plastic cows, bears, frogs, and so on and so on, Loedding said. Also, “we had a lot of people who said they were intimidated by the process of painting a pig.”
The birdhouses will stress local participation, and feature handmade projects that are more symbolic of Vermont ingenuity in general, Loedding said. “We’re going to have it wide open,” he said.
The overall title will be, “Brandon is For the Birds.” Loedding said that the town now feels confident enough about itself that it won’t hurt to have a slogan that some might turn to satirical purposes.
Humorous, maybe. You bird it here first.

THE SISTER WE NEVER THOUGHT WE HAD–GAY WEDDING IN 2003

Brandon, Vermont in 2003

“It was wonderful,” said one of the Brandon Inn employees, who had witnessed many weddings there. “It brought tears to my eyes.”
Louis Pattis, co-owner and co-manager and chef there, said it was “a good, good happening,” and not just because it brought about 150 people to town. “They had a great program.”
Also, he said, it was a family whose members had been coming to the inn for years, one of whom had been in the relationship for 15 years already. “It was just a matter of legalizing their status,” he said, of the 217-year-old establishment’s first civil union.
“It was great,” said the mother of one of the two participants, Mary Cadwell of Pittsford.
It had not always been so easy, recalled Steve Cadwell, originally from Pittsford, and a graduate of Otter Valley Union High School in 1968. Their first ceremony of commitment for him and Joe Levine had been a small affair in the home they were setting up Dorchester, Massachusetts, a Boston suburb just becoming one of the area’s gay enclaves.
The family, members of whom watched with smiles on Oct. 4, went through some tough times emotionally, Steve said. Many families did, that being a time when, just as closets were being opened, the AIDS was in danger of becoming epidemic and gays were being blamed for its spread.
Everyone learned, but he himself may have gone through the greatest transformation. Following a physical altercation with one of his brothers, he spent time in the state mental hospital in Waterbury.
Cadwell not only pulled out of his own turmoils and depressions, he went on to become a licensed psychologist–Dr. Cadwell, officially. He maintains a private practice in Boston helping mainly the gay population, and serves as adjunct faculty at the Smith College of Social Work.
Partly for that reason, his union was more than a personal matter. For both partners, it was an explicit political statement about the value of social recognition and acceptance of homosexual relationships.

DOCTOR’S PRESCRIPTION

In the early 1990’s, the American Psychiatric Press tapped Cadwell to co-edit a book about therapy and the HIV/AIDS crisis. It was published in 1994 as Therapists on the Front Line.
By then, Cadwell’s credentials for the task were well-established. The book’s introduction states that he had researched “burnout, empathy and countertransference in clinical work with gay men with AIDS,” had consulted for agencies and clinics and hospital staff, and had led support groups both for individuals and for professionals affected by AIDS.
One of his hard-won conclusions was that the combination of being labeled as deviant, stigmatization, isolation, and shame–greatly worsened by the isolations coming with an HIV diagnosis–was promoting rather than helping risky behavior. In the absence of social supports, promiscuous sex was a way of ending at least some of the isolations.
“We have found the enemy, and again it is us,” Cadwell’s leading essay in the book concluded. “If there is an opportunity for good in the war against AIDS, it is that we can develop healthy relationships that are more humane and more capable of embracing differences.”
“We may then truly heal ourselves and our social disease.”

TO HEAL AND TO REJOICE

Nearly a decade after the book’s appearance, with AIDS at least held in check in this country, the tone of the civil union was far less intense than that of the book. In fact, from a distance, it could have been any wedding, with its stirring music, heartfelt poetry, expressions of mutual love, communal celebration, and good-natured joking at the dinner afterward.
But not all unions have the couple’s 11-year-old adopted Guatemalan son taking part in the ceremony. Not all take place under the umbrella, almost literally, of a ribbon creation masterminded by an internationally known performance artist (Pat Oleszko, NEA and Guggenheim grants, Bessie Award, Rome Prize; remembered for things like being forcibly arrested at the Vatican for personifying The Nincompope).
And very, very few have the final vows administered by one of the participants own brothers–in this case, Alden Cadwell, a Justice of the Peace in Waitsfield.
What is a civil union like?
Theirs was in the Brandon Inn’s ballroom, with its elegant antique furniture and wall-high, ornate mirrors redoubling the space, rather than in a church. But at one end, something somewhat like an altar had been set up–except that it bore a certain resemblance to an oversize tiki lamp.
This, it turned out, was not accidental. Steve and Joe had gone for their “honeymoon” 15 years ago to Bali, and references to that exotic and peaceable Indonesian island, including a gong ceremony, were a theme.
On one side was a sound system with a keyboard. The former held forth first, playing Vaughn Williams’ “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis,” and Bizet’s “Au fond du temple saint” (the program supplied the subtext: “Two life-long friends are reunited after a feud; they reaffirm and vow to uphold their love for each other.”) After that, Steve took over the keyboard to play an original composition he had created for the occasions.
Then it was Joe’s turn (while son Isaac took over the keyboard location to get a good angle for his camera). Like Cadwell a published writer (he has turned to his marine biologist training to the production of textbooks), Levine quietly but powerfully spoke of how for them, the personal ceremony was also a political statement.
Marriage, he said, usually legalizes a relationship in the eyes of the state, or in the view of an organized religion sanctifies it. Fifteen years ago they could do neither–so why did they have that ceremony at all?
“We had wanted to announce publicly our love for each other,” he said, but also, “we were asking for your help, friends and family, to help us stay together through the rough times we knew were going to come.”
“These days,” he observed, “to have any kind of relationship of any sort that has lasted for any length of time is a miracle in itself. For a gay relationship to survive that long with all the antipathy outside, without the support of all the legal and social things that help keep marriages together, we think is a miracle of miracles, and we want to celebrate this–and celebrate your part in helping us to stay together.”
Times have changed, and they could have found a church willing to hold a ceremony, he said, but they couldn’t agree on which one–a comment that brought knowing laughter from friends. So it would be a civil ceremony, “and that’s the reason we’re all here in Vermont today.”
Levine paused in his oration for Cadwell to read one of his poems. He used flowers and their variety to symbolize the harmony of differences: “With all our light// we fill these rooms// with flowers and are stirred.// Let flow these many colored words!”
His Ogden Nash-like sense of humor couldn’t pass up the chance to slip in some gay humor: “The more variety! The more zest!// Fickle pleasures? YES! YES!// Polymorphous?// Jolly more f’r us!”
And he brought down the house by reading the final lines (“Our rainbowed, spectrum-ribboned bliss. // We hold each other in love’s de-light.// So lit go into our long “Good Night”.) then adding “And we plan to have a LONG, GOOD night.”
Levine brought things back from rainbow connections to political connections. The interpersonal celebrations were “not the only reason we asked you here,” he said.
Especially because of their son, “we have managed to land ourselves smack in the middle of a major struggle for civil rights,” he said. “People have used and abused religion to justify slavery, racism, anti-Semitism, and oppression of women. We’re the latest to be added to the list.”
Nationally, there is a major backlash, he said, in which “people are making a living trying to get other people to hate people like us. They call us evil. They call us things I won’t say with children present. They do it publicly, and they get applauded for it.”
“So that’s why we’re having a CIVIL union, to claim this part of our CIVIL rights,” Levine said.
“In many parts of the country I’ve traveled to lately, we would be putting ourselves, and you, in physical danger if we had this kind of event in this public a setting,” he said. In Vermont, “an extraordinary group of people have worked incredibly hard to create a safe place for people to create families with love, no matter how they they want to do so.”
He then asked everyone to imagine an even more wonderful place, “the kind of magical place that children are sometimes the only ones who believe can exist _ but adults are the only ones who can make it possible.”
Ol`eszko brought out long, wide ribbons that were attached to the central stand, then unrolled to reach all the edges of the gathering, to “enclose the room,” as Levine put it. The song that followed was “Over the Rainbow.”
The union of colors continued as a theme with Steve and Joe donning what they had chosen as their union suits. Steve’s verses put it this way: “Some in the State House dressed us down,// So off the tuxedo, off the gown.”
Instead, they brought out kimonos made from silk fabric they’d bought in Bali 15 years earlier. Steve: “As our family is of color–// American, Latino, Boston Jew–// Authentic Asian is what we agreed to.”
The Amherst College multi-racial women’s a cappella group gave much-praised renditions of “Harbor Me” and “On Children,” Knisely and Cicone contributed “Lucky Man,” and there was the (again Asian-flavored) gong-ringing ritual. Finally, it was time.
“I want to express how much I’ve admired the courage, tact, insight and dignity you’ve used over the years to raise my consciousness and understanding of what it means to be gay,” said Jared Cadwell, J. P. “We are enriched by your love today.”
The vows started out lighthearted: “I do, I do, I do.” “You do?” “I do, I do.” “You do?” “You do, I do, too.” “You do, I do, too.” “Oh, doodle-do.” “Oh, doodle-do.”
“In tight abs and softened girth// In sour mood and in mirth// Without and with child// In the ‘hood and in the wild…”
“In your Texas book campaign// In days when you felt too many clients’ pain…”
But at heart it was serious: “In plenty and in scant// In what we can and what we can’t// In summer garden and in snow// In the unknown and what we know…”
Together: “We join in civil union, in the pursuit of peace and love, growth and happiness.”
Then it was Jared’s turn: “Now by the powers vested in me by the State of Vermont, I pronounce you in civil union. Show some affection.”
That was the easy part. The crowd clapped and whistled and whooped and cheered for nearly a minute.
At the high-spirited celebratory dinner that followed, ending in pie “family style,” there were heartfelt statements and knowledgeable toasts (such as one of the five Cadwell brothers joking about “the sister we never THOUGHT we had”). The political situation had its moment, with one man saying his partner was from a foreign country, and if they could marry “it would solve a lot of our problems.”
“It was just so moving to be somewhere that it IS legal,” he said. “It was important to be here.”
A woman observed that it was no accident that the civil union law passed in Vermont. As early as the 1700’s, a Harvard man came north to Vermont, and eventually wrote a book titled “Tolerance Is Not Enough.”
To tolerate, she said, is to put up with something seen as inferior. True cultural diversity means equal respect for all, and “that’s where that law comes from.”
Mostly, the dinner wasn’t that solemn.
One man said, “This is the first wedding my children have been to,” to which their mother added “And they’re 12 and nine.” “If they see no other wedding, they couldn’t see one with more love and joie de vivre than this one,” he said.
“I have to say one more thing,” he said, but h-is mate completed the sentence: “We aren’t married.” The room erupted in laughter. A voice cut through the uproar: “You’re not married either?”
“You both have reminded us,” said one friend, “that love has no national boundaries, no gender, no religion _ no boundaries at all. Love just is.”

MISC THOUGHTS–LATEST AT END

MISC-ING PERSON

Miscellaneous descriptions, comments, and statements eventuating from my direct experience:

Midnight July 13-14, getting ready for bed, impulse to step outside and see what’s happening. No rain on the concrete steps, rain starting to fall. How many times, how many times, this has happened. I used to walk past the woodstove and know without looking inside if there was a flame; now, in a different house, something inside, inside me inside the house, knows when rain has begun outdoors.

This morning I heard a sound that was part of my childhood, but hasn’t been that common in recent years. With the weather cloudy, a jet flew nearby, at a much lower altitude than a commercial liner, followed by a second jet. During the Cold War, bad weather served as an opportunity for military exercises out of the Burlington Air National Guard base, and perhaps this is becoming the case again. But I doubt it will reach the proportions it did when I lived in Brandon and owned one of two historic barns at the east end of town. On one occasion, a fighter jet slowed and banked and circled the barns, perhaps to get oriented. I put that incident into a poem that begins “My son, your fears/ I can do nothing to relieve/ But agree:” .
It ends, “Like your mother/ You fear the dark;/ Like me,/ The knock at the door by night.”
Someone at a poetry reading asked me, “Why would you be afraid of someone knocking on your door?” Ah, the innocence of America.

Prelude—Lessens of the Rude

Usually I’m not up before 7 a.m., but this morning it could have been 5 a.m. At least an hour and a half passed twisting and turning, flipping and flopping pillows and other bedclothes, trying to find a position that would end the arthritis pain in my right hip. When I found one, on my right side, the left shoulder started to hurt, since it was sagging and my upper body was bending into in a curve. I found out about the shoulder a few years ago trying to ring the bell at the county fair as in the past, and pain rang my bell instead. Note to any younger person who’s delighted to be tall: you’ll pay for it. The bedclothes now looks as if a dust devil had slept there.
Why does my right hip ache but not the left? Here’s another one for the younger set: probably because that has always been my carrying side. Over the years I strengthened it lugging loaded five-gallon buckets, firewood logs, landscaping rocks, and other representatives of what my late mother used to call the innate perversity of inanimate objects. But building up that side meant more pressure on the liner in the right hip’s ball-and-socket joint. Putting on my pants in the morning, and listening to bone thudding on bone, I realized: never mind the cars, I have become my own old clunker. I used to be able to sock the ball quite a distance; now if I go quite a distance, my balled-up hip joint socks it to me.
Through the years, I’ve learned about various details of auto mechanics from service station personnel who had spent bent-over-fender time (not to mention my money) diagnosing my vehicular woes. Looks like I’ll learn about the human body with thickening consistency.
To quote a well-worn saying for which I can’t give any attribution other than experience, “The golden years aren’t for the faint of heart.”

PILL POPPIN POPPA

It’s now 5:13 a.m., not quite the Hour of the Wolf (see my blog on Bergman’s death for an explanation), but bad enough. For the past year, I haven’t had more than three hours of good sleep a night, due to pain in my right hip and thigh. Arthritis, massive arthritis. The first of two planned total hip replacements is scheduled for March 23.
As part of the preparation for that Blessed Event, I had a physical examination with my family physician, former Vermont Physician of the Year Dr. William Barrett. His nurse did an electrocardiogram, and Barrett deciphered atrial fibrillation—disorganized heartbeats in which the input part isn’t coordinated well with the output part (auricles and ventricles, if you remember bio class). His office wangled an asap appointment with a heart specialist.
This gentleman turned out to be former Gov. Madeleine Kunin’s son. He determined that it wasn’t the most severe kind of “A-Fib,” as those in the know call it (the pattern didn’t show up on his office’s EKG), meaning it should response to medication. I’m taking dronedarone now, and my heart feels a lot stronger already.
The drug name means “That drone Ed is still going to be around.” Having fallen into the once-dreaded condition in which interactions between medications might worsen the interaction between syndromes, I’m reminded of a bit of Theodore Roethke light verse titled “Academic:”
The stethoscope tells what everyone fears:
You’re likely to go on living for years,
With a nurse-maid waddle and a shop-girl simper,
And the style of your prose growing limper and limper.
Of course the hip situation, which has me hobbling and bobbling like someone 20 years older, hasn’t let me get enough exercise. Bed rest is dangerous, hospitals warn—and deskwork, too, I’d add. Though right now I’d be glad to get a little bed rest.
What with replacements for the missing endocrine glands, restless leg syndrome, and miscellaneous stuff, I’m now taking a truly bizarre assortment of pills three time s day, always with food to avoid stomach problems, which doesn’t help the weight situation. Thanks to a substandard metabolism I’m currently around 260 pounds and have been over 300. Which leads to the next problem.
The cause of the heart problem may be sleep apnea, periods of not breathing and suddenly gasping for breath, which may have been worsened by having to sleep on my back at times to keep the hip and leg pain down to a level at which I could at least stay in bed, even if it wasn’t good sleep. Before I can get the hip operated on, I need to do a sleep study at a sleep lab, where the wire you up to a bunch of monitors and say “Now try to sleep.” I’ve done this before, and it showed sleep apnea so bad that I had a throat operation to take out all the tonsils, adenoids, etc. that hadn’t been removed when I was a kid.
And the heart doctor is going to put me on blood pressure medication, since my rates keep going to the upper end of the normal range and slightly beyond, according to statistical surveys. I’ve been hoping for this for some time, because I know what my system is capable of doing. Back in the Seventies, I weighed 170 pounds, had blood pressure of 104 over 58, and my resting pulse was about 40. That won’t come again, but with any luck neither will 140 over 90.
Would I have a problem taking another kind of medication? I answered by quoting my original photographic mentor back in college, who was schizophrenic as well as brilliant: “What’s another crater to the moon?”
Younger brother Walt died of a heart attack in his 50s. So did Roethke. Give me dronedarone, or give me death!

The Gate to Old Age

I have a college classmate, a sometime Benson resident, who is a sculptor known for creating gates. Not the garden gate kind, but stand-alone portals more to areas of meaning that physical territory. The next time I see him or contact him, I’m going to suggest a Gate to Old Age: the crosspiece would be the human skeleton’s pelvic area, including both hips, and the support would be two crutches instead of legs.
The biggest reason I haven’t been blogging more often this year is my back—or at least I thought it was my back. Anyone who has seen me limping and gimping around, hitching and hobbling like an old farmer dragging himself to Town Meeting, knows what I’m talking about. In a hundred ways, it keeps me from going the extra step to get things done, and they pile up, sometimes literally, especially in a small office. Mine is about nine feet square; for two days now I’ve been trying to get to the other side of it, and I’m not there yet.
I went to Brandon chiropractic doctor Chuck Foster, who has always been able to help me with my back, and this time the adjustment lasted about 100 feet from the office door and BANG the pain was back. It wasn’t his fault, though, as I found out from Champlain Valley Orthopedics here in Middlebury.
X-rays showed the back to be a bit twisted out of line, but not too bad. The hips, on the other hand, were shot. Massive arthritis, so bad there wasn’t any gap at all between the ball and socket in the joint, just fuzzy white. The doctor said that on a 1-to-10 scale for arthritis, it was about an 11. “It’s sort of a good news-bad news thing,” he said, beginning a summation that ended with “You need two hip replacements.”
I answered, “In other words, hip hip, but no hooray?” I had heard of such operations but had never thought much about them, because that was for old people.
It isn’t the whole hip that gets replaced, it’s the ball part of the ball-and-socket joint. I told my covered bridge acquaintances (I wrote a book called Covered Bridges of Vermont) “I’m afraid I need a little Glulam,” that being an artificial wood product that covered bridge preservationists want to keep out of the wooden bridges as much as possible.
On the good side (aside from not needing back surgery), the doctor said it’s was his favorite operation, because it almost always it goes well and gives the person a whole new life. Son Damon, now operations manager at the First Avenue music club in Minneapolis, emailed back “That’s good about your back, but whack about your hip, pop. At least once it’s over and done with, you’ll be able to move about relatively pain free, right?” Brother Joe, a year younger, replied “Sorry to hear it, but I do know that it is one of the few operations I know of where everyone seems to have no problems and ends up extremely happy with the results. Keep me posted on plans. Maybe my gall bladder removal will end up being at the same time!”
There’s a song by Rambling Jack Elliott that has the refrain “Arthritis is the thing to miss—it will leave you walking with a double twist. And it’s all kinds of trouble gonna find you somehow.” It’s almost 5 a.m., maybe the acetominophen has started to work, and maybe it will do better than the megaibuprofen that’s been prescribed, so that I could get at least a few hours of decent sleep.
Good luck with yours, Mrs. Calabash, whatever it is.

p.s. Two hip replacements were successful, but the period of prolonged activity brought a dramatic decrease in personal energy which so far has not been possible to reverse. The Social Security Administration agreed, on appeal, to start my payments a year and a half early. I’m being very careful with my knees.
For the record, I have now been operated upon behind the eyes, in the eyeball, in the nose, in the throat, in the large intestine, in the hip, and on the big toe. If there is indeed a heaven, does there come a time when God steps in as umpire and says “You’ve been hit by enough pitches, take your base”?

I will have more to say about this, but after spending the fall in frustration and desperation at being unable to lose the weight I gained while recovering from two total hip replacements, I have now lost 25 pounds, from my peak weight, by following the principles of physician and nutritional researcher Dr. Joel Fuhrman. My sleep clinic doctor had recommended his “Eat to Live,” saying he’d lost 15 pounds in a month by following Fuhrman’s advice. I was skeptical, but ordered the book, digested it, and lost 15 pounds in the first month. This isn’t some fad diet, and he doesn’t neglect to emphasize the importance of exercising. So don’t give up—there’s hope yet.

Not all artistic experiences can be shared. When I came to Robert Frost Farm in Derry, New Hampshire in 1971—Frost’s daughter wanted to see some young poet living there, and I had become known to the Frost family because my wife-to-be’s roommate at Radcliffe was Frost’s great-granddaughter, and her mother had read some of my poems and said she “believed in” me—the area in back of the farmhouse was devastated. A previous owner had sold the topsoil to make his down payment then had put in an automobile junkyard. Though the cars had all been removed, shattered glass from broken windows littered the ground. I got in some trouble with the New Hampshire Parks Department, which had taken over the place, for saying to a newspaper reporter than the area “looked as if a B-52 had made a bombing run on it.” Topsoil was later brought in thanks to a Housing and Urban Development grant (it wasn’t housing, it wasn’t urban, and it wasn’t development, but it was money.)
Before that happened, on moonlit nights I would listen to Bach’s organ Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor then, with that piece playing in my head, walk through the field looking at the moonlight reflecting off the glass chips like the rolling phosphorence of some tropical sea. I count this as one of the supreme aesthetic experiences of my life, and wish I could share it—and repeat it.