I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
January 29, 2017 - 2:57 p.m.
There were important news events yesterday that I must write about. I also did something musical that I must write about. Our lives go on as the world goes on. I'm going to start with my life because that's something I know more about than anyone. You've read plenty about the news and all I can offer is my perspective. I'm not going to put in my usual divider as my life will lead naturally into the news.
It has been far too long since I've seen Sasha Papernik. Last week I saw her husband Justin Poindexter perform at the Spirit of Django event. He told me she was doing something in Queens. Then after not seeing her posts about shows on FB in ages I saw her post about this, The Burt Bacharach Songbook with Sasha Papernik. It was at the central branch of the Queens Borough Public Library in Jamaica. Growing up we just called in the Jamaica Library. When I lived in Briarwood I walked there; from City Island, it's an expedition. It was in the afternoon, I love Sasha, I love Burt Bacharach, so I made the trek. It was the weekend and there was construction so it took even longer than usual. Two of the trains I needed to take were not running express. I arrived two hours and 10 minutes after I left. I don't want anyone to tell me that a show is too far when it's an hour drive away.
The show was free but you had to register online. I did. When I got there, I was surprised to see a long line. I shouldn't have. It's a free show on a Saturday afternoon, that means lots of senior citizens. Sasha obviously knew this as she gave a seniors' discount on her albums.
When they let us in I saw it was a large auditorium, not what I expected. It easily fit all the people on the line and those that came after me. It was largely filled but there were still some extra seats. I sat in the first row right next to the piano. When seeing a piano player, I like to sit at the seat the keyboard points to. That's the best view. In this case I was about five feet from Sasha. When her band came out I knew two members of it, Justin, her husband, on guitar, and Will Clark on drums, who is in Silver City Bound with Justin.
Sasha is a pianist/accordionist/singer with a broad repertoire. I've heard her play classical, jazz, pop, standards, and original songs. She often draws on her Russian heritage for inspiration. Now I want to book a show with her and Villa Palagonia.
Before the show, I was thinking about how do I know a Burt Bacharach-Hal David song when I hear one. The answer I came up with was that if is a ubiquitous song from the 60s and 70s that is not rock or folk and I love it, it's by them. That was not a satisfying answer. I've heard new songs by other artists and thought, "That sounds like Bacharach." Sasha and Justin taught me the real reason. They didn't just play the songs but they discussed him. The reason why Bacharach is recognizable is that he wrote weird songs. They never seemed weird to me because I grew up hearing them. To me that was what a genre that had no name sounded like. I am not enough of a musician to pick out what's weird but I can gestalt it. He did things like start a piece in 5⁄8 then inserted measures in 7, 9, and 11. That's a lot of extra beats. He also used unusual chords and progressions. He followed his own muse and instead of coming up with something than is for a small niche, like most experimental musicians, he came up with pop hits.
Sasha didn't play only Bacharach-David songs. She played songs by his influences. On one piece, she segued from a piano piece by Bacharach's teacher into one of Burt's big hits. His teacher was more obviously weird. At first I thought she hit a wrong note, which seemed so unlikely. When they kept coming, I figured out that he liked dissonance.
This was the second special educational concert that I heard by the Papernik-Poindexter clan. After the show, I let everyone else talk to Sasha while I waited and talked to Justin. When she was finished selling CDs I got my hug and conversation. I should have realized she would sell merch and volunteered to do it. Next time. Sasha, always feel free to ask me. Then you can schmooze and sign while I take care of the business.
My next stop was Trader Joe's. I was thinking of going to my old one in Forest Hills but that would take a subway and a bus; it would be faster to take the into Manhattan and go to the one in Chelsea. I was on the train in Manhattan. Just recently the MTA wired every station for cell coverage and Wi-Fi. That means I can checked Facebook on the subway, updating every time I get near a station. I was going down my newsfeed when I found a post by Jean Rohe that she was going to a protest at JFK in support of the detained non-citizens. The library is a short walk from the Air Train. If I had found that before I left I would have hopped on that and been one of the first people there. As it was, it was late and it would take me a long time to get there. I decided that it was just one of those things and didn't go. That's a good thing as they had stopped letting people without plane tickets on the Air Train. That got reversed under orders from Governor Cuomo. I thought I was through with him. I vowed to support anyone who opposes him in the Democratic primary, but he's been winning me back since Trump was elected. He's showing real backbone. People are complex; it's no use separating them into good and bad.
When I got home I saw more posts on Facebook that people were now gathering at the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse where a judge was holding an emergency hearing on the detainees. By then I was two hours away and missed that too. I had so many friends at the airport and court house; friends who were willing to drop whatever they were going and fight for right. I'm so proud of you.
There has been a torrent of horrors coming from Trump but visitor and immigration ban is the most immediate. Dispassionately climate change is the most important, that effects everyone. But not doing it today makes little difference as long as we do it soon. Every day we wait on the bans detainees and refugees suffer. It's wrong in so many ways. We are turning our backs on those most in need. We are violating the country's founding principles by discriminating on the basis of religion. We are not fighting but aiding terrorists as they can point to this and say, "America is at war with Islam." It's just plain mean.
There's a line in Lord of the Rings I often quote. "I should like to save the Shire, if I could – though there have been times when I thought the inhabitants too stupid and dull for words and have felt that an earthquake or invasion of dragons might be good for them." Who hasn't felt that way? Trump and his administration can be our invasion of dragons. It can unite us and lift out complacency.
The two best pieces of news yesterday was the spontaneous demonstrations and airports through the country and the courthouse and this; Christian Leaders Denounce Trump’s Plan to Favor Christian Immigrants. The left is so often at odds with the religious right but here we have a common cause. That's a good thing. We need to join forces and fight this injustice. We will find we have more common than is usually thought. They have been supporting refugees throughout the world. They have given vital medical support to the poorest of the poor in the third world. They are not bad people, they are wrong about important things. If we work together they can learn the same of us. Then when one side says yay the other side does not respond reflexively with nay. That doesn't mean we stop fighting for the rights of women, LGBT, and non-Christians. It doesn't mean we stop fighting for teaching evolution or climate change. It doesn’t mean lessoning our resolve at all. It means working together when we share a goal and respecting each other as people. Think about it, isn't that exactly what we are fighting for when we fight for the refugees?
After music and politics, I must end with food and today's plans. I made something for breakfast I have not made in ages, the custard version of grits ala Horvendile. That's where I mix the egg right in with the grits and meat, in this case sausage. It turns the consistency and color to that of custard. The usual way I make it is by poaching the egg in the grits. I forgot how good this is. I need to make it more often.
Tonight, I'm going to hear great music while taking part in the fight for climate change. I'm going to, Folk Fights Back: A Benefit Concert for EarthJustice. There's a great lineup with so many of my favorites in it, The Brother Brothers, Lily and Duncan, Jean Rohe, Phoebe Hunt, Stephanie Coleman & James Shipp, and Hannah Read. I know that Jean demonstrated yesterday and I bet she wasn't the only one of the performers to do so. She's an activist. We must all be activists.
Brother Brothers in Arms - October 01, 2017
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