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RAMBLER SUMMER – The Song

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Let’s go surfin’ now, everybody’s learning how….

Summer beaches, summer fun, summer hormones, summer sun…

Summer holds a delicious lure to us residents of the chillier northern regions (although perhaps not this week where the temperatures here in B.C. reached well into the 40+C range).

This magnetic lure is intense.

When the dark days of December and January descend like a heavy, grey blanket, the lily-white limbs of northern denizens do a lemming-march onto airplanes, then migrate like geese, southwards to recapture that special, intoxicating summer lure.

July and August blow in in a heady combination of scanty clothing, the scent of BBQ and french fries in the air, convertible car tops down with wind in our hair, sweet potent icy drinks, trashy beach books, and of course, la pièce de resistance… summer music.

I wonder if you, like me, have one summer in your past that stands out as unique and memorable in a way that no other has before or since?

My “special” season came along in 1974… I turned 17 during those hot, humid, Hamilton summer days.

I passed my driver’s licence test that spring.

I moved away from my family home into an apartment with my sister when my widower father remarried.

By the time Grade 12 ended in June, I was flipping burgers at McDonalds for about 2 bucks an hour (my starting wage was $1.55/hr) and through some financial wizardry, I scraped together $1,000 bucks… enough to buy a 1967 Rambler American car.

Tan brown and suburban middle-class stodgy, my Rambler wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t sporty, it wasn’t fast, but… it was MY own car.

I installed a clickety-clack 8-track player and fed it the music of James Taylor, Carole King, Seals & Crofts, America, Supertramp, Elton John, Eagles… and of course, summer music supreme… The Beach Boys!

Cars and boy hormones are a standard teenage combustible combination… which means by the end of August I had a car… AND a girlfriend. All my hormones were cosmically aligned and on fire.

I wasn’t old enough yet to vote or drink alcohol legally… still, this young man came of age in the summer of 1974.

Which brings us to the song below, whose lyrics I wrote and posted here a year ago on June 28.

At the time I labelled it The Colour of My Rambler Summer, but after a number of revisions, I’ve shortened it to just Rambler Summer.

OK, now the nitty-gritty of putting music to a lyric. Hours and hours are spent experimenting different time signatures, keys, melodies and chord arrangements. This song has been through about 3 complete iterations in differing styles.

BUT.

Music and lyrics have to blend and match like a pair of identical twins to create magic, yes?

Musically, I wanted it to have a summer song ambiance- after all, it has summer in the title (as I hear DUH in my ear).

I love the Latin-style Cuban beat and one of my favourite Latino singers is a talented Cuban-Canadian young man, Alex Cuba (who lives in Smithers, B.C). Cuba often uses a Latin calypso rhythm in his songs which I’ve hijacked here. When I hear Alex, I feel summer heat on my skin.

Alex Cuba

Come the chorus, there was no doubt in my mind that it had to emulate a Beach Boys style of harmony to give it a summer-beachy sound.

It all begins with my simple Martin acoustic guitar and builds from there. It’s like baking a cake, adding one ingredient at a time.

Of course, I have miles to go to achieve the quality and texture of an Alex Cuba, or the mastery of a Brian Wilson song, but I’ve had a blast of summery fun playing, singing, and recording all the layers to this tune.

See if you can hear the elements I’ve mentioned.

If you pass, I’ll send you a music appreciation certificate like the one I received in Grade 6 for Sight-Singing music!!

Rambler Summer

by Larry Green

I don’t know if I learned the truth
at 17 or in my older days
soft lips and youthful yearning
the colours of a rainbow’s arch
seemed so clear in my first car
shared tones between the bars

CHORUS
The colour of my Rambler summer
was a camouflage tone
melting ice cream on my chin
syrupy sweet night
dark and light
dreams come free at a cost

Cool Butch and handsome Sundance
were the heroes of this laddish young’un
I’d pretend to be the thuggish
bad boy that held the school hall fun
watching shag cut kids with
droopy eyes singed by drugs

CHORUS
The colour of my Rambler summer
was a camouflage tone
melting ice cream on my chin
syrupy sweet night
dark and light
dreams come free at a cost

We sat in movie theatre matinees
cool dark balconies hanging with Steve McQueen
while outside buses fumed the air
sidewalks seared the shoppers’ feet
city streets scorched humid in the sun
that curled the women’s hair


CHORUS
The colour of my Rambler summer
was a camouflage tone
melting ice cream on my chin
syrupy sweet night
dark and light
dreams come free at a cost

YOU’RE A UFO – The Song

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In the distance, they hear ruinous bombs detonating near the house they fled only an hour earlier.

Fear and worry overwhelm their hearts and heads.

The ground they walk over is rough and difficult to manage when carrying a one and a 3 year-old… but happily the Jordanian border is just another kilometre or two over the next hill.

Flash floods of humanity rush and surge and overflow upon us… still.

Syria, Central America, Venezuela, South Sudan, Myanmar, Somalia… the list goes on…

Conflict and climate and economic refugees of different stripes and colours and ethnicities continue to pour across borders and oceans like sand slipping between our toes on a warm southern beach.

For many or most of us, this is a distant reality… we see it on TV and read about it in our internet news feeds, but we rarely really touch it with our own eyes and fingers.

For 3 and a half years now, I’ve been getting together once or twice weekly to work on English studies with a man whose life and whose family’s lives have been torn apart for no reason of their making.

He’s a Syrian refugee – one of 5.6 million of his countrymen since 2012 – who was “fortunate” enough not to be one of the hundreds of thousands killed by their own government with Russian complicity.

His parents and siblings have fled their generational homes and are spread far apart in Syria, Jordan, Canada, Denmark, and Britain.

He and I have become good friends, and I’ve gained a tremendous amount of understanding and compassion for the plight of refugees because of our time spent together.

We’ve shared birthday celebrations, and the joy of an additional two births within their family since arriving in Canada.

All of the children speak fluent English (in addition to Arabic) and are now Canadian citizens, while Mom and Dad study in preparation for their citizenship tests which will come up soon.

He didn’t know one word of English when he landed at Pearson Airport in Toronto – but he absorbed “thank you” quickly.

One thing he has since learned – NO, not from me – is the “F” word.

He grins and laughs about it because he knows it wields great power in the English language, although he’s not quite sure why… I haven’t explained that one well to him so far, but I advise him to keep it inside his head (or at least to voice it ONLY in our sessions)!

Today, after 5+ years in their adopted country of Canada, they continue to struggle daily with the sea change that befell them. The confusing blend of cultural and religious differences are akin to mixing oil and water for them.

They are like UFO’s coming to a planet

they have never seen before.

They try. They grapple with totally foreign ideas and social norms, strange foods and ways that people dress. They appreciatively wonder at the acceptance they encounter, and fret about the dark, overt racism that also comes their way.

While appreciating the freedom and safety to raise their children in peace, they can’t help but miss their old lives tremendously.

Canada (government, private sector, and individuals) has done an admirable job of keeping them aloft with financial support for their home, healthcare, educational opportunities, children’s activities… not perfect, but … I am proud of this country that brought them to safety and is able to share its wealth in ensuring they are reasonably comfortable.

For my own small part, I help them over the many hurdles of Western life and government bureaucracies, yet I often feel impotent and powerless to “make things right” for them, even when I know there is much I just cannot do.

Which all brings me to….

… a blog post I wrote on October 19, 2019.

I wrote and posted these song lyrics about this family’s journey to where they are now.

Today, I’m sharing this song with music attached… I’ve removed two of the verses because it was becoming too long (BIG size is a favourite trait of mine that I’m trying to kick (at least in music)).

Finally, in case you’re interested in the anatomy of a song’s production, here are a couple of things to digest.

I’ve added in an underlying deep cello “drone” to hint at slow plodding (like refugees walking) and suggest drama.

And in the chorus, I’m doing a vocal harmony that is a I-VII interval that gives the music a more unsettled or uncomfortable feel that hopefully matches the lyrics. This is instead of the more typically melodic I-III or I-V harmony that we usually expect. Bonus points if you notice.

YOU’RE A UFO

by Larry Green

Schoolyard dust a daily friend
farm that held no borders
The air was calm and warm
your brothers’ calls familiar
then a new day broke hell
with clouds that lit a storm

You packed a bag and wandered far
along quiet lines with others
left your home where soldiers warred
where bombs and bullets threatened
bully tyrant who ripped your life
your tears he never cared for

CHORUS

You’re a UFO that landed
in this universe apart
in hibernation from your nation
soul burned from your heart
and a home that’s just a house

….

Years slid by in sun-baked camp
your eyes so shy, smile drained and dry
yet morning breaks another day
phone call beckoned with your chance
one week later you climbed the steps
to a westward craft of hope

Aliens greeted you with smiles and promise
strange words that made no sense
trembling smiles over months and years
memories crushed under winter’s ice
through long night’s darkness cloak your kids
they never saw your tears

BRIDGE:

How long will this prison hold you?
when will the air smell sweet again?
and carefree gossip with your neighbour
turns your hair to grey

You feel the stares, the daily threat
stories ripped from the news
wander streets with kids in tow
schoolbooks under arms
others spy your covered head and shake
about the dangers you impose

CHORUS

You’re a UFO that landed
in this universe apart
in hibernation from your nation
soul burned across a border
and a home that’s just a… house

HUXLEY STONES – The Song

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Wedding Day June 8, 1899 – Margaret Gray and William Miller (my grandparents)

In nighttime fog, as you press yourself through tangled cobwebs and gauzy mist, where do your dreams take you in time and place?

Do you, like me, sometimes “chat” with a departed relative or friend almost as if you’re at a seance?

Might it seem so real that you can feel your grandmother’s hand on your arm… or smell the scent of tobacco on your favourite uncle’s breath? Hear the excited timbre of your childhood friend’s voice?

I have very fond memories of childhood (and adult too) visits to a cemetery at a countryside junction between Wellington Rd 24 and Sideroad 27 in the bucolic rolling hills just outside of Hillsburgh Ontario. Huxley Cemetery.

There, I’d commune with my grandparents and their siblings, my aunts and uncles – some that I had met, and many more that left this little blue planet before I drew my first breath of air.

Nowadays, when I’m not at the actual cemetery “visiting”, I sometimes have nighttime explorations in my dreams and fill my head with the imaginings of these ancestors whose very presence made mine possible.

My life rests upon their lives, even though I never knew them apart from family stories and old worn photographs. They were real flesh and blood people with all of the troubles and joys that I have felt in my own life.

In this week’s lyrics post, I’m taking one of my imaginary journeys into the world of my forebears for a dusky chat with my grandparents, Will and Maggie, buried side-by-side many years back along the grassy slope of Huxley Cemetery.

What sort of conversations do you have with your past?

Huxley Stones

by Larry Green

Intro

Before these stones

before this granite’s tome

before you go no further this day

before your sand returns from bone…

slip through the cracks of Craigh Na Dun…

Verse

“… pull up a chair beside

and chat for just a few, would you?

tell us first, where have you been?

We’re sure there’s been so many changes

Since your last drop by to see us

We’re not mere misty strangers

hazy illusions of a painter’s brush”

Verse

“Could you tell us all we’ve missed

these 80 years or so

the big the small dear share it all

parcel up the news from near and far

Were you your parents’ sheen and shine?

we worried so about your mother

to carry such a worried mind”

Verse

“We catch the roamer’s stories

in glimpses as they pass

what war or peace was seen of late

whose hearts are filled with love and hate

If only we could trade places,

to wander streets and dance vivacious

what might we see out there?”

Verse

“And what of your siblings dear?

So sad we never got to know you all

anywhere ‘cept here

by this chiselled quirky stone standing tall

where kinfolk talk in whispered tones

We see the wrinkles on your brow have grown

reminding how days and nights have flown

your face now weathered like our own”

Verse

“Oh my we yawn and close our eyes

under sun it’s hard to fathom

how we weary now, no chore or two to ply

God knows we toiled long and hard

in our many days gone by

this stone of dates you touch is chill and sterile

but in you our hearts stay warm this while”

CHORUS

Tell me, are you a

caregiver creator lover jester

warrior outlaw explorer sage?

Blow the grass, lie with us forever

look up and see the clouds as we do

your bones and blood a part of us together

SLOW SPEED CHASE – The Song

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Have you ever witnessed something happening on the street or in your life that you think would make a great story idea, perhaps a novel… even a song?

It’s likely crossed your mind at least once or twice.

This happens to me quite regularly and occasionally, just occasionally, I actually spring into action and move on the thought.

A few years back (pre-COVID era!), during a bike spin class, I was panting and dripping a salty-sweat river like a torrent over Niagara Falls.

Our energetic instructor Therese would sometimes keep our minds off the “pain” of a hard spin by telling little stories from her daily life.

It’s a little like – using an example from my former lab life – distracting children while putting a needle in their arm. There, that wasn’t so bad, was it? *where’s my sucker that you promised me?*

Anyway, her personal anecdote this time began simply while driving down a street in the small town of Penticton next door to our tinier town of Summerland.

Therese’s miniature dog Sugar sat next to her in the passenger seat as she drove along early one summer’s evening.

In passing, her eye (and Sugar’s too) was drawn to a young, shoeless man walking… bedraggled, head hung low, dragging himself along the sidewalk. A lonely island.

A true Samaritan-type, she checked in her rearview mirror, pulled to a rapid stop and backed up her car – Sugar barking excitedly – to ask if he needed some help.

Poking his head inside her window with a relieved smile, he gently stroked Sugar on the head, and almost knocked them both over with a wallop of 80-proof alcohol-breath.

And then next… well… for the rest of this story, you’ll need to pull up yourself, and listen to the country-twang song of this story that I hijacked from Therese as my own, then wrote and recorded.

I call it SLOW SPEED CHASE… I’ve always had a blast playing this song and enjoy the response I get from audiences when I get to the words… right down there by the old stripper’s bar…. (lyrics follow below)

(As a postscript, little Sugar passed on to puppy heaven a year and a half back at the age of 17 years, may his memory live on in this song)

SLOW SPEED CHASE

Words & Music – Larry Green


Verse 1
It was just before dark and I was driving back home
Barely noticed your outstretched thumb
So I glanced in my rear view mirror
I could see your tears beginning to come
When I caught that you had no shoes to wear
It pushed the brake that was my heart
Sugar barked at me c’mon let’s pull on over
Here’s a guy that we can’t discard.

Verse 2
You wobbled to my door with your bloodshot eyes
Through my window breathed a liquor shot
I said get in we’ll take you somewhere safe and warm
Someplace nearby that’s got a coffeepot
Y’ said, could ya help me find my buddy he’s around here somewhere
You should meet him He’s a real cool dude
He can suck back a beer while standing on his head
He can do it, even do it in the nude

CHORUS
It’s a Slow Speed Chase
Where the rubber hits the road
And if I just unload
I can catch him at this frantic pace
So I creeped on over to the other lane
The meter hit 15 I felt just fine
So I juiced it up to 20 my heart started to race
There’s no escapin’ from this Slow Speed Chase

Verse 3
Tears of joy started pouring down your cheeks
Can you take me down to Oliver you slurred
No I can’t but the bus depot will do you just fine
I can send you on your way on bus 39

Bridge – Slow and sweet
You and Sugar are the sweetest things I’ve seen,
He said since my last hot tender cruller
And a double double right now would sip so good
Even Better … better…
Even better than the last beer in my cooler

Verse 4
Just then your furry hairballed eyes did spy
That good ole boy that you were searchin’ for
You yelled, follow him, c’mon let’s catch that guy
Sugar barked out “yep” like Toto on the handlebar

CHORUS
It’s a Slow Speed Chase
Where the rubber hits the road
And if I just unload
I can catch him at this frantic pace
So I creeped on over to the other lane
The meter hit 15 I felt just fine
So I juiced it up to 20 my heart started to race
There’s no escapin’ from this Slow Speed Chase

Verse 5
We pulled up along beside his swerving wreck
You rolled your window down and hollered out some words
I couldn’t hear but they must have had the right effect
Cause he inched his beat up Chevy right over to the curb
I kinda slowed and came to a rollin’ stop
Right down there by the old stripper’s bar
You jumped out and poor Sugar looked so sad
He was teary when you slid drunk into his car.

CHORUS
It was a Slow Speed Chase
Where the rubber hits the road
And if I just unload
I can catch him at this frantic pace
So I creeped on over to the other lane
The meter hit 15 I felt just fine
So I juiced it up to 20 my heart started to race
There’s no escapin’ from this Slow Speed Chase    

Gone Bananas…

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It’s a Super Twofer Sunday!

FLASHBACK x 2

… first to China 9 years ago in 2012 … and then a jump forward to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 2019.

Ten years back I was contacted by my eldest brother Robert from Saskatoon about accompanying him and his wife on a tour through China.

Hmmmm, honestly, China hadn’t been on my “travel radar”. But… given the 15 year age gap between myself and my bro, my wife and I decided this was a great opportunity to spend quality time when chances for sharing time together might be limited as his age advanced.

It was a fabulous journey through China (the Terra Cotta Warriors… OMG!), but one morning, while sharing breakfast on a small cruise boat on the Yangtze River just downstream from the Three Gorges Dam, I was surprised when my brother showed no recollection of a cold that I had been sniffling, snorting, and coughing from over the past 2 days.

Nothing else unusual jumped out.

It was really a tiny thing but noticeable nonetheless. I was suspicious. I could hear a faint alarm bell ringing. Not normal.

OK, flash forward 7 years to June, 2019.

My brother now spends his days and nights in a Saskatoon care home in a hunched over position in a padded wheelchair, lacking spark, no vivacity, much less any ability to initiate a conversation.

It’s not certain, but he seems to recognize me and other family members as we chatter away at him in his tidy little room where all of his physical needs are looked after by attentive, friendly care staff.

He is a shell of the highly intelligent (PhD- Chemistry), sassy brother I have known all my life.

Yes, Alzheimer’s vapours have enveloped another soul, hungrily sucking up his humanity. In your life experience, you likely know someone(s) who has also been hijacked this way. The fire is out and only a few dim embers remain.

Having a parent travel this dementia road is tragic… having a sibling afflicted is surreal.

So, on June 9, 2019 I posted some song lyrics in a blog post here about my “lost” brother.

It’s called LET’S BAKE YOU A BANANA CAKE

… you may think the title sounds irreverent, perhaps even disrespectful, but to my Monty Python-loving brother I once knew, I think he would laugh at the “dark, sick humour”.

For a long time, I’ve sweated and re-hashed music to accompany these lyrics over and over.

Then about 2 weeks ago, in one of those “aha” moments, the music muse unveiled a melody and chord structure that – at least for me – fit the subject of the song.

Good songs need to absorb and reflect the tone of the message in the lyrics. It’s called prosody… where all the elements of a song create a synergy towards one meaning or essence.

Below is a version I’ve recorded with my rudimentary grasp of recording techniques (and thin singing voice!) in my little home studio. The lyrics I wrote in 2019 follow afterwards…

Jade-shopping in China Bro-style

Let’s Bake You A Banana Cake

VERSE
I called my brother the other day
when he answered I knew he wasn’t there
his voice held up strong but it was clear
the same world we didn’t share
at least not anymore.

VERSE
It’s funny that you can hear a smile
though the sound travels a thousand miles
the words are a salad, they even sound sane
Do you think you can remember my name?
No, not anymore.

VERSE
Books linger hushed on your shelf
framed photos pretty your little room’s walls
blue summer skies and childhood smiles
are prairie breezes sharing your favourite waltz?
I don’t think so anymore

CHORUS


Maybe you’re Lennon’s Nowhere Man
so let’s bake you a banana cake
there’s a batter of sorts
all mixed up of course
And you don’t know what you’re missing

VERSE
So let’s chat lightly for a bit mon frère
I’ll ask the questions, to see if you’re there
You’re pretty cheery so does it really matter?
We’ve sipped some wine, skied some trails
but, perhaps, not anymore

BRIDGE
There’s a thief in the house
taken the marbles and flown
the halls echo empty where you, my brother, once roamed

CHORUS


Maybe you’re Lennon’s Nowhere Man
so let’s bake you a banana cake
there’s a batter of sorts
all mixed up of course
And you don’t know what you’re missing.

SUMMERLAND – The Song

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I wonder if I should have my testosterone levels checked?

I’m just a sentimental Summerland sap.

There is a lovely, poignant movie recently released on Prime Video that swept me up and embraced me with its tender story. (Aside: if you’ve ever seen the heart-rending movie Summer of ’42, you’ll find some similarities here)

I guess you could call it a consequences of war movie – it’s set in the British countryside of World War 2 as London is being bombed mercilessly by the German Luftwaffe – with an underlying LGBTQ storyline that is understated but clear in its societal message.

For eons too long, those who stand outside the mainstream heterosexual realm have been sidelined and chastised and humiliated. And like a pernicious virus, too many human sorrows and tragedies lie crushed in the wake.

I believe we all need to see and be exposed to gentle messages of inclusion to rub away the sandpaper-cruel roughness from this world. The movie takes us down a bumpy road before finding some smoother ground in the end.

The title of the movie is SUMMERLAND… yes, the same name as the little town where I’ve lived and raised a family over the past 33 years.

The film comes with an unexpected twist near the end that has the nature of deliciously fine wine with a serene aftertaste that lingers.

The beautiful cinematography of English rural life combined with the movie’s eponymous title inspired me in my songwriting this week… how could it not? Summerland, whether in England or in the mountain-ringed orchards and vineyards of British Columbia cries out for poetry.

………………..

One tiny thing this movie taught me was the phenomenon of FATA MORGANA… “Summerland” was a fata morgana in the movie – “heaven” to the Vikings.

Wikipedia says:

A Fata Morgana is a form of mirage that can be seen in a narrow band right above the horizon. It is an Italian term named after the Arthurian sorceress, Morgan le Fay, from a belief that these mirages… were fairy castles in the air or false land created by her witchcraft to lure sailors to their deaths.

Fata Morgana mirages significantly distort the object or objects on which they are based, often such that the object is completely unrecognizable. A Fata Morgana may be seen on land or at sea, in polar regions, or in deserts. It may involve almost any kind of distant object, including boats, islands, and the coastline.

The optical phenomenon occurs because rays of light are bent when they pass through air layers of different temperatures in a steep thermal inversion where an atmospheric duct has formed.

………………..

And so, in this context of my town of Summerland and a cinematic’s scenic panorama, I’ve put together a short song lyric that combines two stories/ideas into one (yup, it’s Idea Sex again!)…

… a local landscape inhabited by historic characters living an aching internal war with the secret of their forbidden love, in a time of true physical war.

SUMMERLAND

by Larry Green

Giant’s Head climbs a wintry horizon

windswept skeletons of Ambrosia

outstretched arms of Cabernet

your windswept nut-brown hair lashes

chilly shoals lining cliffsides of clay

.

Flames kiss the moon in the sky

Sweet smiling eyes reflect lovers’ shine

sun diamonds dance on the lake

each Monet frame makes a painting

at sunrise before her heartbreak

.

CHORUS

Song of seclusion

Hint of allusion

Fata morgana

drifts over Summerland shores

.

Salish sunflowers upon Ponderosa pine

call out the new season’s coming

through the sage’s turn to sadness

cage of love’s play and maternal desire

burned to ash in the grasses

.

BRIDGE

Take off your sweater

in this hot summer sun

Shed suffocation of expectation

that withered away

your twins of desire and hope

.

CHORUS

Song of seclusion

Hint of allusion

Fata morgana

drifts over Summerland shores

.


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

My EXTRA EXTRA Dream…

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Holy Jesus, the roaring sound is deafening, black-grey smoke surrounds me; large clods of dirt, mud and rock pummel down like hell’s hailstones from above.

The writhing guy scrunched next to me in the trench lies soaked in blood, lacking a good portion of the right side of his body. The rub of wet, itchy wool on my skin is barely noticeable in the mayhem…

CUT!!!

The director calls out loudly through a megaphone (not a MAGAphone!).

“Torn bloody body” guy next to me smiles, then stands up and leisurely stretches.

That was a totally fictional scenario (based on very real occurrences) I imagined in my sleep last night.

I had been hired as a soldier extra in the movie 1917, the barbarous story of British soldiers on the front-lines of World War I.

There are scads of TV and movie productions (yes, even now in COVID world) that require bodies of men, women, and children… extras as they’re known… voiceless ordinary people who make a story appear genuine by merely walking on streets, drinking in bars, or even shooting rifles in war scenes.

I’ve never been an extra, and I get it that I’ll never be a featured actor in ANY film scene… my acting chops were chopped during the gene edits in utero.

However, as an appreciator of cinematic creation, I’d love to have the experience to prance before the camera and have a Walter Mitty’ish experience: “Bond… James Bond”, I’d say in my deepest Sean Connery voice.

OK… no speaking parts, but… as I ponder the notion and scenes in my head, I wonder to myself, what are the preferred productions that would be most appealing… the most relevant and fun for me?

Which show(s) would I like to be cast as an extra? How about you, do you have a scripted opus out there that might be improved with your face lurking in the background?

And BTW, if you live in Vancouver or Toronto, here are 2 links that could make you a part of my screen viewing enjoyment sometime in the future:

Vancouver: http://bcfcasting.com/extras/home.html

Toronto: https://torontofilmextras.com/

I love the idea and fun of dress-up, so many of my choices revolve around “period” pieces where I would get to live for a few short hours in another world and time. But not The Walking Dead, or “Boy Car Crash” movies, not for me. For women, could you see yourself marching in pairs in a Handmaid’s red and white outfit?

Let’s get to it… here are some shows, or scenes that I would have liked to have shared my immense “extra” talents within:

  1. WHEN HARRY MET SALLY – The Deli/Orgasm scene. Hell, I don’t mind sitting in a restaurant, eating smoked meat sandwiches and listening to a cute woman fake an orgasm… this might be the first recorded episode of FAKE NEWS to a man (any man) who will likely never know it’s fake, right? Thanks for robbing us of our manhood Meg!
  2. DEADPOOL – Super-hero movies would usually be out for me, but this movie enterprise is so campy and crazy, I would happily stand on a Vancouver street (where it’s filmed) while Ryan Reynolds eviscerates the bad guys.
  3. SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION – I (usually) enjoy Stephen King’s fertile imagination, so becoming a part of his fictional world and life inside a prison yard would be a vicarious experience I would hope never to experience in real life.
  4. ELF – it’s an adult child’s world with vivid colours, a ton of sugar topped with syrupy sweetness; the perfect chance to release my inner child.
  5. BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID– one of my all-time favourite movies, and yes, an opportunity to throw on chaps, a 10-gallon hat, ride a horse and carry a 6-shooter on my hip, all the while humming Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head. Maybe I’d have even glimpsed Paul Newman’s blue eyes close-up.
  6. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN– a chance to be near my director hero Steven Spielberg… the opening 23 minutes of the movie with the landing of troops in Normandy during World War II is about as terrifyingly dramatic a war scene that could be made and not be real. It scared the shit out of me to watch and should be required viewing for any young person who thinks that war has a romantic side to it. I would cry for 3 nights after being an extra, but it would be worth it.
  7. TITANIC – the heart pounding drama of the “sinking” scenes would likely terrify even an extra to the core. The systemic injustice of the class system and who would be saved and who would cling to the ship until it plunged into the icy Atlantic would make me an angry “extra”.
  8. MY AMERICAN COUSIN – how often do small town folks have a quality film produced in their own backyard, and the story is actually all about their backyard? Director Sandy Wilson put together a lovely recollection of the 1950’s, beach fun in Penticton, and a teenage girl’s crush on an older American cousin. A local version of…
  9. GREASE – slick back my hair to bunny hop and jive with bobby-socked cuties like Olivia Newton-John? Sign me up Casting Director!
  10. MONTY PYTHON anything – similar to Deadpool, the slapstick humour would make it a challenge for me to NOT giggle non-stop in the background. My silly walk would look normal to these guys!

.

and finally, another musical interlude, based on lyrics I wrote and posted here on July 19th.

It’s a rule-breaking piece of songwriting – the long song – that has been used by other far greater songwriters than myself eg. Bob Dylan, Harry Chapin, Don McLean, Arlo Guthrie. I haven’t yet absorbed Hemingway’s advice on brevity in writing…

Each Glass of Romance (THEO’s Song) is a song of young romance, desire, and even some sexual tension playing out in the Greek restaurant (THEO’s) where I bartended for 4 summer seasons post-retirement.

Just over 6 minutes long, it doesn’t hit its first chorus until the 2:34 mark, interminable by pop song standards.

I don’t know if it’s a hit or a miss, you will have to be the judge. Maybe “EXTRA” work will be my salvation! Thanks for listening.

THE NOT SO DUSTY ROAD – The Song

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OK my friends… I’ve had a couple of weeks of fun and frivolity in my recent blog posts… recess is over for today… so…

Back to the harder work of lyric and songwriting.

Time to get back to some serious reflection and contemplation. Thoughts viewed through the poetry and filter of music.

In these COVID times, it’s quite simple to see our time, our lives, as difficult and maybe even unfair. There are so many sad and unfortunate stories across the globe that push us towards a feeling of despair.

I can only imagine not being able to hold the hand of a loved one dying in a care home or a lonely hospital bed. I can only imagine being held in a desolate refugee camp with little hope for the future of my small children.

It’s fair to say I’ve lived a sheltered and charmed life.

My good fortune was being born in a time and place, along with a gender and skin colour, filled with advantage. I’ve known little other than peace, health, and abundance.

There have been real fears over my years, such as nuclear war, but for the most part – in historic context – my life has been low on dire threat to me or my brethren. I’m not a great believer in random luck, but in this way, I truly have been lucky.

………………….

The lyrics I’ve written in today’s song The Not So Dusty Road – the road that you and I have walked as children of the late 1900’s and early 2000’s – are my attempt to strike a comparison of life 100 years ago with today’s western world.

One hundred years ago, life was lived on the edge of survival, with hunger, war and disease readily prepared to snatch away the breath of any who ventured too close to those ravages.

My images lean in on childbirth and war, gender issues, schools and technology.

The first half of the song is written viewed from the year 1920, the second half from 2020. Each consecutive verse is constructed from the angle of woman, man and child.

Let’s dive in:

THE NOT SO DUSTY ROAD

by Larry Green

(1920)

1.Woman

You heard the baby cries through ether fog
Victorian images, blooded queen in silken sheets
whose fate and fortune bestowed by God
whose joy to live and breed

2. Man

Childs’ faces pocked, lungs assailed by smog
crushed sons in mud, infected feet in bogs of icy thaw
returned at last
to steal the bread from kitchen ledges

3. Child

Stand in line and heed the bell
no shoes to wear, lunch from fields soaked in your sweat
your blood-red hands declared
from shaming eyes, the severe Judas prayer

CHORUS

The not so dusty road
so few have ever seen
the tarnished one that others strode
lost afar on the not so dusty road

(2020)

4. Woman

Ads tell me “Baby, you’ve come so far”
I aim the gun, I own my house, I drive my car
I cross my X, I boot my Ex
I squeeze my thighs with MeToo flex

5. Man

My baby’s fed, makin’ bacon in the house,
swapped the plow a few years back for bits and mouse
Sim life just moved onto my street
Sweet Niagara, the carpet’s moving under me

6. Child

What’s it like outside today she asked
wind or rain I’ll check the weather cam
smartboard lessons since burnt the chalk
wisdom’s candle, the cellphone aftershock

BRIDGE

The troubled bridge that brought me here
from where so many tumbled
dim voices distant in the tunnel

CHORUS

The not so dusty road
so few have ever seen
the tarnished one that others strode
lost afar on the not so dusty road

 

 

Happy Humpday!

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I was born on a Wednesday… Happy Humpday!

Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go.
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living,
But the child born on the Sabbath Day,
Is fair and wise and good in every way.

I’m trying to get my mind away from the negative humps of TrumpWorld and Coronavirus… this temporary season of suck… with featherweight blog posts that refresh and leave a light spearminty taste in your mouth afterwards. Let’s label it an attitude reset.

Anyway, I am a Humpday Baby… sounds kinda appropriate given the way people say babies come about (although, much like you, I know with certainty that my parents never did the Dirty Deed!)… but who can really trust science, it might be FAKE NEWS!

A couple of thousand years ago on a dark and stormy night, I wiggled my way into this world in the very early hours of a Wednesday (1:52 am to be exact).

Good thing my Mom was a night owl… she was probably awake writing letters to family members when I popped out.

Just a few nights back, I awoke in the quiet blackness of some ungodly hour thinking about weird (and strangely, non-sexual) things as we all do, and it occurred to me that we seem to know that our birth order has an effect on who and what we become… sure… but does birth day of the week also mark us equally?

It’s not crucial to know this stuff, but our mind doesn’t seem to care a scintilla about what is or isn’t important when it goes off on oddball tangents in the middle of the night.

Of course the zodiac has something to say about all of this.

I’m a religious skeptic, and a zodiac skeptic too.

But let’s face it… a little mystery, a little supernatural, a little esoteric wonder gives us a little bumplet of enthusiasm about the magic of how we became US.

It’s harmless metaphysical meandering that adds a pinch of spice to our world of unknowable unknowns.

Hogwash?… yeah, maybe…. but let’s step through the looking glass anyway…

And because this isn’t a scientific or fact-based paper, but a loose creation from a mere blogger (me), the information below is sourced from a variety of (unreferenced) Google sources which may or not have a smidgen of credibility.

Numerology, which is a belief that numbers and events are connected, might hold some answers to the army of secrets in our lives.

There are multiple things that affect our personality, and the day of the week we were born, it’s supposed, might have something to do with it. There are lifepath numbers, which can be found by adding all the numbers in your birthdate. These can apparently reveal your strongest and weakest traits, but the day of the week you were born on doesn’t rely on numerology alone.

The seven days of the week are influenced by seven planets and other celestial bodies — Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

Here’s what the zodiac says about me, a child of Wednesday:

Wednesday is named after the Norse god Wodan. This day, the fourth day of the week, is linked to the planet Mercury. Those born on a Wednesday are generally well-spoken and have an innate talent for improvisation… They love juggling with numbers. Those ruled by Mercury are the best improvisers. Children of this day will inherit the restless and questioning qualities associated with this planet. Wednesday’s child is communicative, logical, unreliable, careless and versatile. These individuals have a message to deliver to the rest of us and need to stay on the move, learn and communicate in order to prosper. Wednesday born people are very smart and have amazing communication skills but have also workaholics tendencies.

I’d have to say that description hits about half of me. The mists inside the crystal ball are a bit murky in some of those descriptors.

But here’s the important stuff for you… and to save you the bother of checking important “facts” the next time you awake at 3 am wondering….

… wondering what day of the week you were born and what that reveals about your personality, I offer you the following (and if your memory is weak like mine, and you’ve somehow forgotten, here is a handy site to plug in your birth-date and retrieve the day of the week YOU were born):

1. Sunday

Those born on Sunday are ruled by the sun, according to astrological zodiac signs. It’s seen as the first day of the week and those born on this day might become leaders. If you were born on a Sunday, you are someone who seeks something extraordinary in your life. Daily life is too mundane for you and you are forever searching for a better time. This also makes you a positive person to be around. You are likely to be creative, noble, self-centred, bold and loud.

2. Monday

If you were born on Monday, you are ruled by the moon, which might mean that you are sensitive, moody, intuitive, and emotional. You are also likely to be a romantic person who knows how to shower your partner with love and affection. The moonchild is also likely to be someone who loves being home and cares about their family life above all else. The stability of a home and the comfort it gives brings out the best in you.

3. Tuesday

If you were born on the third day of the week, you are ruled by fiery Mars. You might display traits that the most successful people have. However, you are likely to be sensitive to criticism, which can be a good thing if you are trying to change. You have a high amount of energy and you push yourself to work hard until you meet your goals. You are someone who doesn’t know how to mince their words and people come to you for an honest perspective.

4. Wednesday

This day of the week is ruled by Mercury. If you were born on a Wednesday, you have a questioning and restless mind. You are also great at improvising your way forward. You are a logical person who values communication. You are also someone who is versatile and you can’t sit still until you have the answers to your questions. While you are great at communicating, there is a tendency to overwork and tire yourself out.

5. Thursday 

Those born on this day are ruled by Jupiter. Optimistic, genial, and a generally fun person, you attract people to you. Thur is derived from the Norse God Thor, and just like him you display a strength of character. You might be the life of the party but sometimes you forget about the mundane things in your life. You are more likely to be planning a grand birthday party for your partner than take care of the dishes on a daily basis.

6. Friday 

Venus rules the Friday child, and that means that you are creative. There is an artist and a lover inside every one of you. Social, seductive, artistic, and sometimes, a little too reliant on people’s opinions are how people might describe you. You might be the quintessential epicure, who has a love of fine things. You love surrounding yourself with beauty and your home would be the perfect example of it. You cherish harmony and prefer not to ruffle any feathers.

7. Saturday

Ruled by Saturn, Saturday is traditionally the last day of the week. Those born on this day are important to their family and are unlikely to have an easy life path. You are wise, modest, practical, and studious. While there may be many challenges in your life, you also have the skills to go past them. You might find yourself being the person responsible for most of the important things in your family. You are also likely to be individualistic and freedom-loving.

There you go… You now understand the WHO and WHY of YOU.

So when you make a terrible mistake some day in the future…. just shrug and reply innocently… “… it’s not my fault. I can’t help it, I was born on a (your day of the week).

Ta-Daaaaa… you’re welcome.

PS. Three weeks ago, I posted a blog with lyrics I wrote to a song called The Vacant Chair, the story of my Grandmother writing a letter to my Mom less than 2 weeks after my Grandfather died in 1935.

Below is a recording I’ve made to a slightly amended set of those lyrics.

The music I’ve written to accompany it is aiming for – as my sister labelled it – “dissonance”… a feeling of discomfort and loneliness.

For the music and guitar nerds out there, I was going to use Beck’s unusual guitar tuning – from Heart Is A Drum – but couldn’t get the sound I was looking for, so I switched into the C tuning (CGCGCE) vs standard guitar tuning of EADGBE that allowed me to get the chords with the “jangled” sound I was seeking. Ta-Daaaaa!

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