I’m lost and I wish I were found, in the arms of My Darlin’ Hometown…

Alan LeQuire’s bronze and limestone sculpture presides over the Music Row Roundabout in my hometown of Nashville, intended to convey “the importance of music to Nashville”.  If you know much about my beloved South, you will understand that those easily offended (they’re naked!) called for its removal at its installation in 2003.  We all calmed down eventually, or at least got tired of shouting about it, and these days it is a mostly beloved iconic figure representing music in all its forms (we have a wonderful symphony too).  I love music, and many of my posts feature lines from songs I particularly enjoy and/or find relevant.  A case in point would be My Darlin’ Hometown, a song by the great John Prine that speaks to those of us who live far away from home.  My hope is that anyone interested might dig a little deeper, check out the music in question, or even better buy a song or a CD and give it a listen…you waste more money than that driving driving around every day, and music is much more fun!  (30 March, 2010  Nashville, TN)

Now she’s gone and I don’t worry, Lord I’m sittin’ on top of the world…

Sitting on Top of the World (Sitting on Top clip) has been recorded about a zillion times, but the version I heard first and fell in love with was sung by Jimmy Martin on the second Circle album from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.  In the image below, ant-like people scurry atop Preikestolen (Preacher’s Pulpit) in Norway.  I’ve written about the place before…a chunk of rock sitting about 1,800 feet above cold, hard water.  Have you ever been close to the edge of some precipice, maybe a building top or high bridge, and had this feeling that if you stay long some irresistible urge would lead you to jump off?  Not because you wanted to do so, but out of some weird misfiring of synapses in your brain?  You would not be alone.  Many people have this sensation, and I felt it myself atop Preikestolen.  Not the fear of falling off…the fear of jumping!  In “The Imp of the Perverse”, Edgar Allan Poe describes it as carrying out an act simply because we know we should not- the imp that sits on your shoulder and whispers self-destructive encouragement in your ear.  Poe had issues of his own, no doubt, but the man also had creative genius.  He is usually credited as the inventor of the genre of detective fiction, paving the way for generations to enjoy crime-solving maestros from Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes to Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon (“the Da Vinci Code”).  So, if you read detective fiction, you might want to check out Poe’s short stories featuring the Parisian detective C. Auguste Dupin so you can see where it all came from.  And if you might enjoy a rollicking old bluegrass standard, give the Dirt Band’s Circle Volume II some ear time…I think you’ll be glad you did.  (15 August, 2011  Preikestolen, Rogaland, western Norway)

Sunrise, Sunset, swiftly flow the days…

Sometimes you just need to shut up and let the photos speak for themselves…(5 October, 2011  Oslo, Norway)

(14 October, 2011  Oslo, Norway)

(18 October, 2005  Maui, Hawaii)

(29 May, 2006  Chicago, Illinois)

(17 September, 2011  Firenze, Italy)

(18 October, 2005  Maui, Hawaii)

(24 December, 2007  Lebanon, Tennessee)

(16 September, 2011  Firenze, Italy)

(15 September, 2011  Manarola, Italy)

(5 October, 2011  Oslo, Norway)

(2 November, 2003 Smoky Mountains, Waynesville, North Carolina)

(9 October, 2011 Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

(25 October, 2011  Baltimore, Maryland)

(27 April, 2005 Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois)

(18 October, 2005  Maui, Hawaii)

(13 September, 2005  Manarola, Italy)

(29 May, 2006  Chicago, Illinois)

It’s only half-past twelve, but I don’t care…

It’s five o’clock somewhere, according to Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett and probably this guy anchored out in front of the Oslo Opera House one sunny afternoon.  You may think, like I did, that the Jolly Roger he’s flying just below Norway’s flag is just another creation of Disney.  As it turns out, this is one case where Hollywood actually studied history rather than inventing it.  The “skull and crossbones on a black field” design actually dates as far back as 1687, and it was apparently widely used by pirates from that time forward to let their intended victims know that there was a new sheriff in town. The pirates hoped that by thus signaling their lawless intent they would bluff the hapless merchantmen into giving up without a fight.  If simply “showing the colors” didn’t work, they had another flag they would run up to reinforce the message…the red flag.  That second flag declared “…and we aren’t taking any prisoners if we have to fight you”.  The message must have been clearly understood in 1720 when a pirate sailed into harbor in Newfoundland flying the Jolly Roger, whereupon the crew of all 22 vessels at anchor abandoned ship in great haste!  Sometimes the simplest messages are the most effective.  (22 August, 2011 Oslo, Norway)

Bring the bacon baby, I’ve got the wintertime blues…

The title comes from a hilarious and spot-on song by John Hiatt, an anthem to the plague of Seasonal Affective Disorder or SADD.  Like many maladies once thought to be the exclusive purview of old wives, SADD is now a commonly accepted mental disorder thought to affect up to ten percent of the population in some northern regions.  As the days get longer here, tempers get shorter, you tend to overeat and oversleep…if you’re not careful you emerge like Punxsutawney Phil in the spring fat, crabby, and in serious need of orthodontia.  Treatments include light therapy, melatonin supplements, and even couch time with Dr. Feelgood, but what seems to work best for me is exercise and being out and about as much as possible.  That seems to be the regime that Norwegians have worked out over time…they embrace the outdoors in the winter like a religion, regardless of weather or temperature they are hiking or skiing or even just sitting outside the cafes on sheepskins soaking it up.  Like I always say, when in Rome…eat all the gelato you can find, that stuff is awesome!  (5 October, 2011  Oslo, Norway)

I got friends in low places…

Everyone’s been the new guy somewhere, so you know how much it can mean to be warmly welcomed.  When my good friend Don moved down to Tennessee from Ohio, he found a job working for a construction crew.  His first day on the job involved being on the road for hours with his new boss, whom he’d never met.  So Don shows up and introduces himself to Boss, who responds “Great.  Another chicken-eatin’ bastard from Ohio.  Get in the car”.  Don says there wasn’t a lot of talk in the car on the way to wherever, oddly enough.  Yep, setting the tone is so important for geting people off to a good start!  That’s Don in the photo below, standing on a bridge in Dublin wondering how long it’s going to take me to take a picture already…Christ!  We may have been over-served by an apprentice Irish bartender the night before, it can sap your patience.  (24 June, 2004  Dublin, Ireland)

Sky, sky, blue and black…

Jackson Browne was talking about how true love hangs in through thick and thin, whether you have sunny blue skies or ugly black ones.  Black skies are not too tough to figure out, they result from the absence of light…night.  But what makes the sky blue?  To answer that question, you have to know something about the nature of light.  Sunlight is composed of different colors (wavelengths) of light…maybe you’ve seen this when the morning sun shines through a piece of crystal, breaking the light into that pretty array (spectrum) of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.  Moving from the red toward the blue end of the lineup, those wave forms become shorter, smaller.  It turns out the little blue waves scatter more easily than the reds when they encounter bits of dust, water vapor, political ads and other trash on their journey from the sun to our eyes.  So we look up, and all those crazy blue particles of light are bouncing around willy-nilly, while the reds and oranges are marching on locked in on target.  Our eyes see blue, blue, blue…hey, it’s all blue up there, apparently!  But what about sunset?  It’s usually some form of red, right?  Well, the sunlight coming to our eyes at sunset is really low down there on the horizon, which means the light has to travel through even more of our messy atmosphere, down low where the dust particles are bigger, water molecules more rampant, and politician yap more intense.  By this time the blue particles of light are pretty much beaten into submission, out of the game, and even the big boys…the reds and yellows and golds…are getting kicked around and scattered about.  To our eyes, the blue bits are gone and we we see the colors that are still there bouncing around, and we grab the camera because it’s just so pretty.  So the next time you get The Blues from too many Tequila Sunrises, you can just blame all the Dust In The Wind!  (16 September, 2011  Firenze, Italy)

Mother, Mother Ocean, I have heard your call…

The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has had a fine run, despite being based on a Disney theme park ride.  Opening in 1967, the ride was the last one overseen by Walt Disney himself, further evidence of the man’s Midas touch.  Johnny Depp modelled his pirate character on a mixture of Rolling Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards and the cartoon skunk Pepé Le Pew, and Disney executives were initially confused as to whether he was supposed to be drunk or gay…but didn’t care for the performance either way.  Pirates are real, of course.  The heyday of piracy in the Caribbean was between 1650 and 1730, when the heady combination of distracting wars in Europe, out-of-work sailors, and easy pickings on the open seas led to open season on merchant shipping.  Life could be nasty, brutal, and short in those days, so the prospects of quick paydays and high living drew many to the trade.  The average sailor’s life expectancy at the time was about four years, and he could count on ending life shot, hanged, stabbed to death or drowned.  I say “he”, though history records a few ladies among the crew as well.  The mighty sailing man in the photo below was riding his bike along the wharf in Oslo one day, and I envied his comfort in his own skin.  The boy may have a future in front of the camera!  (2 September, 2011 Oslo, Norway)

Stone walls and steel bars, a love on my mind, I’m a three-time loser, I’m long gone this time…

Judging from the attention these bunnies gave to the holes in their cell door, I think they were longing to try a jailbreak.  The Easter Bunny tradition came to the US with German immigrants, though back in the old country it was the Easter Hare.  The rabbit has long been associated with renewal and rebirth, thanks to its status as a prolific breeder.  In a single breeding season a female rabbit can produce as many as 800 children, grand-children, and great-grand-children!  While that’s impressive, consider the following:
– infant aphids are pregnant before they are born
– male seahorses are the ones that give birth
– a termite can produce up to 30,000 fresh house-eaters in a day, but hold on…
– each section of the tapeworm’s body can grow up to be a new tapeworm, and can produce a million baby tapeworms a day! We have a winner!  We saw the bunnies in the image below while hiking in the hills above Lake Como…their house may be a bit snug for their liking, but their view is spectacular.  (12 September, 2011  Lake Como, Italy)

That’s the power of love…

We saw the face of evil on the 22nd of July, 2011 here in Oslo.  The world press did a fair job of reporting the facts on the ground, confusing as they were in the early hours.  What is hard to adequately convey is the strength and resilience of the Norwegian people.  The delusional pest who bombed the Government building and then carefully targeted children on an island in the fjord meant to sow hate, fear, and distrust.  Norway refused to be led down his path…they responded with love for their fellow man.  The image below is of a boarded-up shop window near the site of the bombing. (29 July, 2001  Oslo, Norway)