Archive for July, 2013

“You Never Can Tell”

July 23, 2013


“It was a teenage wedding and the old folks wished them well.
You could see that Pierre did truly love the Madamoiselle.”

“You Never Can Tell” — Chuck Berry — (1963)


You can’t buy it where they make it.

Lynchburg, Tennessee is the home of Jack Daniels, distilling fine bourbon whiskey by the billions of barrels, but it’s in Moore County. That’s been dry since way before Prohibition.

A bit north of Lynchburg is Cookeville, about 80 miles east of Nashville, where our oldest granddaughter, Katherine, was married on Saturday to a handsome young Second Lieutenant named Patrick. He’ll be heading off to Flight School in just a few weeks

I’ve known Katherine for almost 21 years, holding her in my arms that first day she was born on December 20, 1992. She was baptized in a fine Irish Christening gown Eileen and I brought from Killarney a short time before for just such purpose. In the years that followed as she began to ever so magically enter early childhood, the enchanted “Riverdance” unexpectedly exploded from a Dublin stage into the global phenomenon it became, reviving traditional Irish music and dance from modern cultural obscurity to unparalleled prominence – lifting both to world renown.

Following my presentation suggestions with proper precision, Katherine would patiently hide behind the living room couch biding her time as I would elaborately initiate her introduction in my announcer voice to an imagined audience bubbling with anticipation. As opening strains of “The Countess Cathleen” filled the room with fiddles and flutes, I would continue my recitation of exaggerated hyperbole until a specifically selected instant, at which point two year-old Katherine would leap into sight with electrified launch and River Dance in joyous abandon exactly as did Jean Butler in the original production.

I was most honored when Katherine called several weeks ago and asked if I might assist her in preparing music for both her wedding ceremony and the reception to follow. And so it was that extra tears flowed when she appeared in dazzling view, hitting that exact cue once again – but this time slowly and gently gliding down the aisle like the most graceful of beautiful swans accompanied by her wonderful father, Paul.

Katherine and Patrick had scripted everything out with acute attention to every tiny detail. “Riverdance” selections with ten edited tunes from George Clooney’s highly eclectic “O Brother Where Art Thou?” was surely creatively brilliant and was accompanied by outstanding visual elements, further elaboration upon which must await some future time. Suffice it to observe that “Blue Grass” music directly evolved from its native Scotch – Irish origins in the hills and valleys of early Appalachian settlement. I’m quite proud that Katherine knew this and figured out a way to combine both in theme and execution.

Shifting mood, her Reception following lunch started with Chuck Berry’s early Rock & Roll classic, “You Never Can Tell,” then rocked right along – virtually offering every form of contemporary tunes right up through today.

At the entrance to the Cookeville Town Center, wedding guests were confronted with a large, down-home, hand-lettered sign which simply read, “Today two families become one, so pick a seat – not a side.”

That immediately brought to mind my colleague, Alan Cheah’s “For Your Consideration” column from last week ‘s Sierra Star, which I had just read before leaving the hotel.

As mentioned previously, we have never found need to read each other’s words until actually published, an excellent approach which has proven most viable in our collaborative effort – great minds thinking alike.

Alan’s basic theme was that, despite basic differences in fundamental political persuasion, there is every reason to discover common ground in oppositional positions wherever found and act collectively toward better times in mutual best interest. I herein echo those sentiments.

It just might work.

Whenever we can, let’s agree to agree.

You never can tell.

Lenny and “The Lottery”

July 5, 2013


It has been judged a “chilling tale of conformity gone mad.”

“The Lottery” was first published by The New Yorker magazine in June of 1948 and is today regarded as one of the most famous short stories in the history of American literature — dazzlingly brilliant in its relentless darkness.

In an annual rite of spring, a rural community chooses — by random drawing — a sacrificial victim, who is then stoned to death by one and all to insure a bountiful harvest.

Written by Shirley Jackson, “The Lottery” is a study in collective mentality, an evolutionary adaptation that provides a mechanism for common consensus, but also offers an ever present possibility of group sanctioned, morally reprehensible behavior.

An extreme example in modern times is easily witnessed by brief reflection at the ultimate horrors unleashed under Hitler’s Third Reich.

Discernable resonance might be cited in mindless generational adherence to traditionally cherished, but demonstrably antiquated notions such as belief in an utterly flat world from which we might sail straight off the edge without due caution. It’s been far less than a thousand years since our relatively ancient species set that matter straight.

An even milder, but similarly concerning development in recent days has been the stunning cultural castigation of Paula Deen, a stoning I feel is both unwarranted and unfair.

66 year-old Paula Deen is an American celebrity chef and Emmy Award winning television personality with whom I had been completely unfamiliar until she admitted using the “N-Word” during questioning in a legal deposition and now the you-know-what has hit the you-know-where. Mind you, Ms. Deen didn’t use the “N-Word” on her TV show or in her cookbooks or yell it at someone in public, especially at an “N”. She merely admitted that she had allowed that word to pass her lips at some point in life. Her exact testimony under oath was, “Yes, of course. But that’s just not a word that we use. I don’t — I don’t know. As time has gone on things have changed since the 60’s in the south.”

Since this display of sincere candor exploded on the front page of the National Enquirer last month, Paula Deen has been brutally ostracized by the American press — her integrity bashed, her endorsements crashed, her reputation thoroughly trashed.

She has been effectively fired by The Food Network, Walmart, Target, QVC, Home Depot, J.C.Penney, Sears, K-Mart and Ballantine Books in an outrageous example of wimpy, smarmy, patronizing, knee-jerk, lemming-like response to potential accusations of marginally offensive racial insensitivity or something vaguely akin.

What’s wrong with us?

I find myself in complete agreement with former President Jimmy Carter who courageously states, “I think Paula Deen has been punished, perhaps overly severely, for her honesty in admitting the use of the word in the distant past. She’s apologized profusely and should be forgiven.”

I’ll go one step further. I think we should all use the “N-Word” as often and as loud as we can till it’s all worn out and we can throw it away forever.

Here’s Dusty Hoffman quoting Lenny Bruce as directed by Bob Fosse back in ‘72:

“l’ll pass with seven niggers, six spics, five Micks, four kikes,
three guineas and one Wop. You almost punched me out, didn’t ya?”

“l was trying to make a point — that it’s the suppression of the word that gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness.”

“lf President Kennedy would just go on television and say
“l’d like to introduce you to all the niggers in my cabinet.”
And if he’d just say ”nigger, nigger” to every nigger he saw,
Boogie, boogie, boogie, nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger,”
till it didn’t mean anything any more —

Then you’d never be able to make a black kid cry because somebody called him a nigger in school.”

Repeated for emphasis — “It’s the suppression of the word that gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness.”

    Lenny Bruce was a high wire act. A gentle genius.

    When Michael Richards of “Seinfeld” fame tried to use Bruce’s classic monologue on the ” N-Word” in 2010, he failed miserably. It’s one of those stream-of-consciousness ramblings one has to repeat perfectly, word for word, beat for beat, or not try at all. Richards is not a real racist – just a poor performer. He tried some Lenny lines, blew his balance and killed his career in less than two minutes time.

    “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you” (Traditional Children’s Chant) (Timeless)

    One more thing about Lenny Bruce:

    “Dirty Lenny died so we could all be free”

    Steve Earle — FCC Song (2005)

    Niggerly yours,

    Peter “The Mick” Cavanaugh