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PAPER ROSE – The Song

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In days past when we gathered in groups and sat close beside each other (remember those days?), there was a bi-weekly Open Mic at a small re-conditioned church cum Gelateria in Oliver, BC called Medicis, owned and run by a friend of mine, David.

We would head down to Medicis once a month on a Friday evening and I would perform my three allotted songs.

The place was cozily warm and comfortable with about a dozen or 15 tables scattered about, an inviting atmosphere to play or to listen (think Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe).

One of the really fun parts of attending this was to see and listen to other performers. Listening to their songs, their style, while watching their frayed nervousness or professional polish, was a highlight of the night.

We listened to many dozens of musicians over a few years, but only a few performers really stand out in my mind. There was the: really good, the really bad, and the eccentrics, of which there was no paucity.

One of those eccentrics was an elderly lady with a sweet temperament and a very folksy presence on stage.

I called her Paper Rose which I’ll explain more about in a moment.

She would climb the three creaky stairs to the stage holding her guitar, smiling somewhat shyly out at the audience as she fumbled to slide the guitar’s strap over her head.

Her physical appearance was strikingly reminiscent of Minnie Pearl, the flower-hatted lady on the old TV show HEE HAW, her voice a bit less shrill. And yes, she actually wore a flowered, round-rimmed straw hat, sans dangling price tag!

Once settled a bit, she would begin to tell in expansive detail a narrative of her recent life and health issues. This could go on for some minutes.

In many cases it might irritate an audience to listen to her go on, but her engaging manner just endeared her to us.

By the time she began to play her guitar and sing, the audience was rooting for her, no matter what she sang.

And after seeing her on more than one occasion, it became clear that one of the 3 songs she would always sing was Paper Roses (made most famous in 1973 by Marie Osmond).

Invariably, halfway through the song, “Rose” would lose track of the chords on her guitar and stop playing mid-stride in apparent embarrassment.

She would try one chord and hum a bit, try another chord and hum some more… then the audience (maybe slightly lubricated by this time) would begin to pick up the well-known tune and sing aloud until she just joined back in without any guitar accompaniment.

At the end of the song, a great burst of applause would ring out. Rose would beam in her awshucks folksy way.

Rose may or may not be alive today, I don’t know. I hope so.

I only know that she was adorable and adored.

The following song lyrics I’ve written are an ode, an homage, to the sweet lady that invariably brought a smile to your face… a lady that I call Paper Rose because of this song that she sang.

(NB. Following these lyrics, you will find a new song recording I’m pleased to share…)

PAPER ROSE

by Larry Green

These old church steps are harder to climb
guess it’s a telltale sign
my heart’s grown so weak and tired
the doctor says, “watch your fire
you can’t do everything you desire”
then reaching the top stair a quiet voice draws close
“Sing your song Paper Rose.”

Medicis’ door swings open wide
I’m not so crippled when I come here to hide
but I’m not feeling too good of late
just a whispery shadow of a merciful fate
light upon the smile in my eye
my dancing heart that soon may die
the stage is calling “Sing your song Paper Rose”

CHORUS
Paper Rose, Paper Rose
you’ve shown me this mirror
this window of life
I’ll thank you for singing
I hear Angels singing
I’ll exit this stage with my Paper Rose

Wood floor warm, full of innocence again
sparked to make memories and preserve them
Strum this first chord on my guitar
house holding out to me their dance card
Kind David babysits over the gelato counter
hear my heart it’s fluttering fast
I search to find the song of my past

“These strings just won’t tune” I babble
struggle and giggle, peer up and prattle
adjust my Minnie Pearl hat to where it belongs
Can I remember the darn words to my favourite song?
the song I always sing, that song I always sing
I’ve got it, that mysterious ghost
The words, the music for my Paper Rose

“Oh dear my friends I’ve lost my chords”
burning flush pouring through my pores
wiggle and squirm “oh I’m clumsy as an ox”
Losing my smile on the ragged wrecked rocks
then musical words rise aloud from the house
as they sing along on a moment’s notice
Sweet Lord, “Paper Roses, Paper Roses…”

BRIDGE
The party’s growing wan
the band still plays on
little girl in the photo withering

CHORUS
Paper Rose, Paper Rose
you’ve shown me this mirror
this window of life
I’ll thank you for singing
I can hear Angels singing
I’ll exit this stage with my Paper Rose

…………………………

I’m proud to share this next song with you.

An eternity ago, at the start of the COVID isolation, I got together with a long-time musical collaborator of mine, Marie Delmaire. As a duo, we perform publicly as Green Sea Âmes, a nod to each of our last names and Marie’s birthplace of France.

We recorded this lovely song called GREEN EYES. The song was written in 1982 by American folksinger Kate Wolf. Wolf died a mere 4 years later of leukemia at the age of 44.

I hope you like it.

GREEN EYES

The Best Place and Time to Die… Nowhere and Never…

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funeral on ganges

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The idea is to die young as late as possible”

Ashley Montagu

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The sunshine in our days is growing shorter and I’m growing longer in morbid thoughts. It’s an annual tradition I celebrate with hot roast turkey and cranberries while giving thanks.

Death is a part of my DNA… literally.

It is for you too, and so we all think about it, some more than others.

My own “bible” says that if we lived in a world with 16 hours of daylight every day no matter the season or time of year, we’d smile and never die and never know anyone who has died. That’s the power of sunshine.

This would be my Garden of Eden. No apples of temptation, no sneaky serpents, but the running around naked part stays put. I’m convinced.

The notion of death is easy to come across these days not only because of the COVID virus but also because there’s huge amounts of scientific data spewing from research labs that are shining spotlights on the aging process (eg. stem cell treatment, senescent cell removal, CRISPR technology and others) and how we can reset the epigenetic clock and delay the onset of “not living”.

With each passing month, scientists are driving us closer to a length-of-life that more closely resembles the biblical ages of such well-known celebs as Moses and Job (or Ibrahim in Islamic faith) who reportedly lived well beyond 100.

……………

John Green: “You die in the middle of your life, in the middle of a sentence”

Isaac Asimov: “Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.”

Dylan Thomas: “Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Benjamin Franklin: “Most people die at 25 and aren’t buried until they’re 75.”

Woody Allen: “It’s not that I’m afraid to die,
I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

“I have a very low threshold of death.
My doctor says I can’t have bullets enter my body at any time.”

…………….

So while I’m hopeful that we all surpass the century mark of aging (while remaining healthy), death is our lifetime companion, like a child’s imaginary friend that we all have but can never truly share with another.

We all must die alone in the sense that we pass through the door one at a time, like a turnstile at a sporting event.

Given its inevitability, what is THE best way to die?

Death… rapid-onset, or slowly drawn-out is shocking. There is NO good way to die because the end result is that you’re no longer alive.

There’s no easy or right answer.

I bump into folks all the time who opine on the best way to die. It’s great party chatter.

I wanna just drop dead on the sidewalk… BOOM!

A lot seem to think that a sudden demise- maybe a bullet to the head-  is the perfect solution to life’s thorniest conclusion.

It’s uncomplicated and “painless”. It’s like an “Irish goodbye”, leaving quietly out the side door of a party or bar without saying goodbye to anyone.

dead chalk outline

Others prefer the more drawn-out ending where you are conscious of your final days. The downside here is that longer deaths are often wrapped part-and-parcel with agonizing pain or discomfort, sometimes a foggy confusion.

Let me lay on my death bed for weeks, get my affairs in order, and tell my loved ones how much they’ve meant to me…

Yup, there’s no happy or easy answer, and much like the unknowable question of whether a God does or does not exist, in the majority of cases, we aren’t allowed the decision.

For me, given a game-show choice – Door A or Door B – as part artist, part-scientist… I’d take the hybrid highway, Door C… no express check-out, but also no long, drawn-out painful plod to the finish line.

My own wish is for a (lucid and relatively painless) week or two to wave from the deck of my personal Titanic.

Perhaps our aging-research scientists will be the artists that one day allow us all to become the “forever 21” Dorian Gray.

Until then, I’m going outside to do my Sun Dance for a few more hours of delicious Vitamin D.

ENOUGH TO BE SUNG

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It’s Canadian Thanksgiving weekend … I look out my window and scan the nearby orchards to see the pickers, mostly young immigrants, in the long rows of apple trees filling large wooden bins with Spartan, Ambrosia, Gala, Honey Crisp, and Mac apples. Mmmmmmmm…

It’s a perennial and very pleasing vista in this fruit-growing Okanagan Valley. Even COVID virus couldn’t cajole or frighten the trees from loading down their limbs with sweet, juicy fruit.

It fills me with a toasty feeling similar to the one I get whilst sitting around a blazing fire on January’s chilliest days… it’s an inner swelling of coziness, warming from the inside outwards.

I get these homey sensations when I play a lovely guitar piece as well…

Today, I’m not writing one of my usual more wordy blog posts, but settling into a miniature musical Sunday with a short instrumental piece I recorded this week.

The part I’ve recorded (below) is just the introduction to the longer part of the song that includes lyrics and singing.

Enough To Be On Your Way was written by James Taylor and inspired by his brother Alex’s death in 1993 at the age of 46.

James (left) with brother Alex and Alex’s son James (whom JT wrote “Sweet Baby James” for)

I really love this song, and so I’ll play amateur armchair musicologist for a minute here.

I don’t truly know what JT was thinking when he sat down to write this, but I can speculate a bit just based on his chords and melody.

The song is played in G major (technically I play it in A# as I Capo up 3 frets on the guitar); major keys are usually fairly positive and upbeat. James uses mostly major chords (with an occasional minor one) along his journey before sliding into minor chording towards the end which will lead into the main body of the song which I’ve not recorded here.

When I listen (or play) to this, I see and hear it as a classical overture where the curtain is rising before the actors set foot on the stage; the music is quietly celebratory and praising of a loved brother (major chords), but then ultimately slips into a melancholy sadness (minor chords) when James thinks about the challenges (drugs, alcohol) his brother faced in life, and realizes that he’ll never see Alex again.

After this short musical interlude, James begins to sing and the song goes full on into minor chord territory marking the sensations of instability and sadness.

This is classic James Taylor guitar playing… unusual chord shapes and lots of pull-offs and hammer-ons… guitar-speak for lots of ornamentation.

Enough said on my part… Happy Canuck Thanksgiving… here is ENOUGH TO BE ON YOUR WAY

Give Me Comedy… Make Me Laugh

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A lot of things are on my mind this week, and sadly, even a bit unusually, most of them are not bright, upbeat thoughts.

We’ll call it a minor level melancholy… I won’t use the word depression because that would subtract from the very real depression that afflicts many out there for whom it is a serious issue. I consider myself fortunate not to suffer depression.

Typically, writing this blog is an enthusiastic, relatively easy endeavour that springs from a magical geyser of inspiration. Unearthing ideas for blog exploration is an almost sure-thing that sometimes calls for a bit of ruminating and reading others’ thoughts in articles and blogs.

But…

… this week has been laboriously difficult to get started… and…

… I think this is why…

• The combination of days of shortened daylight

PLUS COVID virus in a local and global upswing

• PLUS the (maybe virus interrupted) March of Doom that Trump represents, is a pernicious drag on my psyche.

And finally, to show how desperate my despondency is, even something as minor as a cancelled Canadian Football League season is a downward pull, like an ocean undertow (or undertoad as we said as kids!) on my inner soul.

For the past 4 years, I’ve been able to convince myself that laughing at the ineptness and rudeness of Donald Trump is the solution to maintaining sanity through the surreal maliciousness of such a character.

But now, the closer to the U.S. election we come… I realize with frighteningly greater knowledge that a voting population of about 156 million – a great number of whom I’ve lost my confidence in their wisdom – has the future fate of the entire world in their hands with the marking of an X. Such is the power of *ironic laughter* “The Greatest Country in the World”.

I don’t like this feeling.

Practising and playing my guitar helps lift my spirits, but I know I need some extra cheering, so I’ll share with you a few little comedic things that I’ve encountered recently that are soothing my uptown funk:

Jim Gaffigan:

On his Pale Tourist comedy tour, he makes fun of Canada… speaking about the sexual perverts of Saskatchewan… and giving a city the obviously erotic name “Regina”.

A couple of other Canadian jabs…

Poutine is a mixture of fries, gravy and cheese curds. It’s almost like someone was just trying to make French fries even more unhealthy — what if we cover it in everything that causes heart disease?” “Let’s do it! We have free health care.”

• A Caesar cocktail is “kind of like a Bloody Mary, but with clam juice. I didn’t know that was an ingredient. Or a liquid.”

………….

Rita Rudner:

I’ve been a fan of Rita Rudner for decades. A lady with a wonderful sly smile…

My boyfriend — he said to me that he reads Playboy for the articles. I said, “Yes, I know. I just go to department stores for the escalators.

They are trying to put warning labels on liquor now that say, “Caution! Alcohol can be dangerous to pregnant women.” Did you read that? I think that’s ironic. If it was not for alcohol, most women will not even be that way.

……………

Jerry Seinfeld Meets Barack Obama:

A flashback to a more beautiful, stress-free world where “normal” was the expectation from leaders of big countries. So here’s just two guys having a nice chat… what’s more fun (and funny) in 2020 than NORMAL?

…………….

Sarah Cooper:

And finally, how about today’s “IT” girl Sarah Cooper… a comedian who doesn’t have to write any of her own material because there’s a being out there who every time he opens his mouth a waterfall of crazy stuff gushes out so that all she has to do is imitate it and I laugh!

Whew… I feel better already. There are lots of other funny people out there that can make me pee my pants but I’m good for goofs with these folks for today.

Thanks for listening and helping me through this lowly funk.

A boy and his bike… Little Larry in more carefree days!