Sunday, May 28, 2017

Pools of Sorrow, Waves of Joy

I suppose I ought to write about Gregg today.  Saddened to see that Gregg Allman had passed away this morning.  I thought about it and then returned to it as one thing and then another happened during my Sunday.  You can point to a few but certainly not many white men who could channel the blues the way Gregg Allman could.  I think of the many, many times I empathized “pools of sorrow and waves of joy” with that man, when I was down.  Mostly when I was I was twenty or so and had the blues bad and didn’t know what the hell to do about it.  I played those first two albums so many times my final year of college I’m afraid I ruined them for most of my housemates.

I had no time for the Allmans in high school.  I think I swiped a copy of “Beginnings” from my mom and played it a bit when I was thirteen or so.  But once the Clash and the Sex Pistols commanded my consciousness everything that proceeded such immediacy was the enemy.  Later though, somewhere around eighteen, when tastes broadened and mastering blues licks became one of the most important things there was to do, Duane and Dickey trading runs suddenly seemed vital.

It was Gregg though, who most often told the stories.  And of course, it wasn’t so much what he said, but the growling, defeated way he called out.  When he was down, which was most of the time, you had to believe the man.  When he said he was going up on the mountain, you knew you had to head up there with him.

Duane died at the tender age of twenty-four and like Jimi he was never tarnished with the indignity of ageing.  I wasn’t one of those who followed Gregg and the rest of the surviving members progression, through addiction, glitz, anonymity, resurrection, though I can respect those that did.  I was fan of the first half a dozen albums or so but after “Win Loose or Draw” I suppose I couldn’t be bothered, though I’m sure there were no shortage of pieces worth contending with.

I had the first album on at the gym today and it sounded fresh as ever.  “Every Hungry Woman” straight into “Dreams.”  Damn.  And I must thank Gregg now for introducing me to Little Milton as well.  Reading the New York Times obit this morning I took note of the bluesman to whom Gregg said he most achingly aspired.
“ ‘Little Milton’ Campbell had the strongest set of pipes I ever heard on a human being,” Mr. Allman wrote in his autobiography, “My Cross to Bear,” written with Alan Light (2012). “That man inspired me all my life to get my voice crisper, get my diaphragm harder, use less air and just spit it out. He taught me to be absolutely sure of every note you hit, and to hit it solid.”

I’ve been listening to Little Milton Campbell all day, on a Youtube list of some 300 songs, sampling an oeuvre that spans many decades imagining what it would be like to get a diaphragm tough enough to sound like either one of those gentlemen.

Thoughts idly drifting south, by southeast this afternoon.  Rest in peace, Gregg Allman.

Sunday, 5/28/17

Saturday, May 27, 2017

I'm Not Sure if I Succeeded

Can you make us something for breakfast?”  My daughter had a middle school dance last night and a gaggle of girls had slept over.  Typically, around 11:30PM our lights went off.  Really?  Use the flashlight on your iPhone, grab the card you need to charge up and open the garage door so you can . . . oh.  It’s an electric garage door opener.  Pull the bike in through the house and carry it out the front door so I can bike over to the main gate to recharge our electricity.   There is no way to know that you are running low on these cards until they simply run out.

I knew we’d gotten some raisins and bananas yesterday.  There was milk.  But what was I going to make or these kids?  I asked if they’d like pancakes and that was well received.  You want bananas, raisins or blueberries in them?  Blueberries. I suppose a normal person would consult a recipe at this point but I figured I remembered well enough how to put together a bowl of pancake batter.   Flower, egg, water and what?  Salt?  Needs to be the consistency of something you can pour in and watch extend out into a circle.

The first one was a little hard.  The blueberries looked somewhat detonated  but soon we had a stack.  I knew one of my daughter’s friends was a big Tolkien fan and I asked her what she was reading just now.  “A few different things.  But nothing really matches “The Lord of the Rings.”  I can remember looking for other trilogies after finishing “The Return of the King," when I was her age.  She was probably right.  There’s nothing to top Tolkien’s world, certainly in that genre.  But there is, of course, the real thing.

I told her that if she wanted to read the stuff that had inspired J.R. Tolkien himself, she ought to read the sagas.  “Do you know where Iceland is?”  I asked.  “Sort of.”  Soon I was trying to explain the early scene in Egil’s Saga where he cuts the head off another, older boy who bested him at a game, explaining how Egil's father thought this would mean trouble but his mom was glad, reckoning rightly that he’d grow to be a good Viking.  She and my daughter considered this.  I’m not sure if I succeeded in piquing their curiosity but just in case I returned from my room with a handful of sagas.  I wish someone had hipped me to the sagas when I was twelve and ensconced in Tolkien.  Hard to say if I would have dug in or searched on for something with a cooler cover. 

Saturday, 5/27/17

Friday, May 26, 2017

Got to Be Decidedly Southern

Happy Dai people are dancing.  Topless men are carrying an enormous boat down the street.  Tourists line the riverbank with enormous cameras ready to shoot.  An areal shot of a twisting muddy river bow.  Air China wants me to know that Dragon Boat Day approacheth.

This has got to be a decidedly southern Chinese tradition.  Beijing doesn’t have any estuaries worthy of such an aquatic holiday.  The seminal Yellow river doesn’t even reach the sea most of the year in Shandong.  The riverine Yangze culture, the “river people” of the Three Kingdoms, these guys were well disposed towards celebrating water dragons, one reckons.  I’ll have to look it up, but the seminal Dragon Boat festival scenes are always with southern ethnic minorities like the Dai people all the way down on the Thai and Burmese boarder  But if that’s the case, how did their local “ethnic” holiday become a national celebration, meriting two full days off for everyone?

Twenty-five years ago, I recall Dragon Boat was, like ancestor grave sweeping day: something only the Chinese in Taiwan and Hong Kong, formally observed.  Racing boats carved to look like Dragons would have been a feudal artefact and indicative of everything China was trying to shed as it labored towards a worker’s paradise.  Why celebrate a backwards ethnic remnant when you had proper holidays like O Yanghai’s birthday and the success of the Eighth Route Army reaching Yanan to celebrate?  It’s a new day.

Does anyone else on the plane notice that the ‘history of Air China’ reel they were running (I wasn’t watching, honestly I was writing. I was glancing.  But I certainly wasn’t listening. . . ) shows the proud origins of the air travel in China and then skips nearly five decades of war and revolution to suggest a time in the 80s when suddenly Chinese other than cadres or fighter pilots might be able to board an airplane.  Is anyone curious about the gaps in history?  Wouldn’t anyone care to have them filled?  Is it simply that by the time people are free to fill them, everyone with experience of them will simply have passed?

Friday, 05/26/27

Pedestrian Mall is Deserted

Arrived in Shanghai at midnight.  Once again the faculty housing I’d booked was not ready.  I’d written a few weeks back.  I’d called earlier in the day.  All had been confirmed.  I arrived at 12:40AM and . . . “Sir, we don’t have a reservation for you until July.”  I suppose I was lucky.  They found me a room.  I just had to pay for it.  The last time this happened they had no rooms and I had to call Starwood.

Shanghai wasn’t too warm.  Visited my local Family Mart for a banana on the walk over to campus.  How much do they cost again?  It’s a dumb number like 2.4 yuan, per, so you wind up with useless change every time.  I generally put the three yuan down and tell them to keep the change.  This probably means a hassle for the staff who wind up with an imbalanced account at the end of their shift.  To date, no one has complained.  “There’s too much money?  I think I see a way out of this.”  Today though, the line as too damn long and I figured I could make it through the day without my mushy potassium.

Starbucks only had one guy there in front of me.  Double espresso, and an orange juice to start things out with.  The latter’s in my gut after a few gulps.  Eyeing the coffee production my double shot is up quickly.  It doesn’t matter that I’d asked to have it without a lid, he fastens one on robotically and I immediately remove it and toss it in the trash.  The cup itself follows shortly into the bin after two quick swallows.  I find myself wondering why it is that the drink, which was presumably made with at or near boiling water, mere seconds ago, isn’t more scalding to my mouth.

Oddly, downtown Puxi seems almost quiet this morning.  What time is it?  It’s 7:30AM.  There should be people bustling all about.  There’s only a scooter or two tearing along as the light changes.  The Nanjing Road pedestrian mall is deserted.  Only a person or two is descending from the subway stairs as I turn to head east.  I’m unnerved for a while, wondering if it’s a holiday, wondering if I’ve calculated something incorrectly.  Then there are other things to think about.

Thursday, 05/25/17

An Ailment to Avoid

The painting of someone suffering from Tetanus posted there on the Wiki page certainly makes it seem like a disease worth trying to avoid.  A wretched soul is arched backwards in a cruel hooked position writhing with muscle spasms.  Definitely one to avoid.    The CDC recommends boosters for adults, but there are no such vaccinations available in China for adults.  Haven’t been for years.  In fact a number of requisite vaccinations, I’m finding, are difficult to obtain. Now it’s become something I’ve got to focus on.

Diseases and vaccinations are on my minds as the family is planning a trip to East Africa.  If you take a glance at the Center for Disease Control website you can search by country and, as expected there are quite a few vaccinations required for the places we’ll be heading to.  But our local western clinic does not carry the Tetanus vaccine.  In fact you can’t seem to get the adult Tetanus vaccination anywhere in China.  It isn’t required by law, so the local manufacturer (is there really only one?) stopped making them.  If someone accidentally licks a rusty knife, and contracts the disease, China recommends a shot of the immunoglobulin.  But as my Doctor queried, will that be available in East Africa, and can it be trusted?

I read David McCullough’s book about the construction of the Panama Canal last year and Yellow Fever, which decimated the French team who first tried to build the canal, also sounds like an ailment to avoid.  ‘Typhoid Mary’ Mallon infected fifty some-odd people with the disease, was told never to work as a cook again, did so regardless, under another name and spent the rest of her lie in quarantine.   But our local clinic doesn’t have the Typhoid or Yellow Fever vaccines either.

What we were able to get is our MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) booster and the shot for Meningitis.  There is unfortunately a Meningitis band that stretches across much of Africa tantalizingly stopping just around the places we’ll be visiting.  Before I left my Doc reminded me about of Malaria.  Right.  How could I forget.  I guess because it isn’t a vaccine it doesn’t necessarily show up on the quick checks for shots, as it’s an oral prophylactic. “For this you’ll need an antibiotic in case any of the malaria larvae are there in your liver. ” Lovely.  I left the clinic with a course of Doxycycline for everyone as well.

People suggest there are travellers clinics in Beijing that will provide the Yellow Fever and Typhoid vaccinations.  I've got a number.  So far they don’t seem to answer the phone. 

Wednesday, 5/24/17