Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Robert Earl Keen’

I am not feeling celebratory on this Fourth of July.  I have strong feelings about the ideals of this nation and the recent events here challenge my belief that those ideals can prevail or even merely hold on. There is just a bit too much irony in today celebrating our independence from what we viewed as the grip of cruel tyranny in 1776. We are weakening our country when we accept cruelty and selfishness as an aspect of our governance and national character. And make no mistake about what I am saying, selfish cruelty is weakness and we are witness to that currently. Here’s a post from several years back that I run every now and then on this day, speaking to our better ideals. Enjoy your 4th.

Jasper Johns “Flag”

Another Fourth of July.

Parades. Picnics. Fireworks. Red, white and blue. That’s the shorthand version of this day. The actual meaning of this day is much harder to capture, probably more so for Americans than for those from other countries who view us from a distance. I think we sometimes lose sight of the idea and ideal of America in our day to day struggle to maintain our own lives. But even that struggle is symptomatic of the basis of our nation, reminding us that anything worth preserving requires work and maintenance.

For me, America is not a static ideal, a credo written in granite that will always be there. It is vaporous and always changing, like a dense fog. But it is an inviting fog, one that is warm on the skin and invites you in with hazy promises of possibility.

And maybe that is all America ever was and will be– the promise of possibility.

Maybe it is the sheer potential of a better and safer life, the possibility of remaking one’s self, that defines our ideal America. We are at our best when we are open and inviting, offering our opportunity and empathy to all.

And we are a long way from our ideal when we close our doors and try to capture the vapor that is America all for ourselves. It is not ours to hold– we are simply caretakers of an ideal, one that brought most of our ancestors here.

Maybe this doesn’t make any sense. Since it is such a hazy thing, this amorphous fog that is our ideal, we all see it in different ways. This is just how I see it.

*****************

I have ran this post several times over the years. Even the preface at the top was written in the past. I was going to change things up this year for the 4th and run Frederick Douglass’ famed Fourth of July speech given to a group in Rochester back in 1852. It strongly points out the hypocrisy celebrating a day of independence when one takes an honest look at this country’s past, especially at that time when slavery and the brutal assault on the sovereignty of the Native Americans was in full stride. It is an angry rebuke of the unequal nature of the American ideal. But in it, Douglass still maintained hope for the future, hope that the potential that this nation offered to some would one day come to be available for all people.

168 years later and we’re still struggling with that.

Here’s a song from Robert Earl Keen that kind of captures the atmosphere of this day, at least for me, in recent times. Even the cover for the album that the song came from, with parked cars ablaze at a picnic, fits these times. This song, Fourth of July, it’s not what you might expect. Not a flag waving, good timey kind of tune. It’s about the end of a relationship, about the real life problems and tensions that exist on a day while others celebrate. It’s a good tune so give a listen and have a good day.

************

 

Read Full Post »

I’ve mentioned here before that my father is in a local nursing facility, suffering from Alzheimer’s related dementia. Visits with him have become shorter and shallower, barely any conversation outside of a short script of repeating questions he asks that remain embedded in his fading mind. Most of the time, he sleeps now. It’s a strange thing seeing him now. He seems a faint echo of his prior self. Many of the facets of he personality I knew as a kid are not recognizable in him now.

I sometimes sit there for a bit and look at him, trying to remember him in different times, with his good points and his bad. I often think of him with his friends at a few local bars, the environment where he seemed to me to be most comfortable and at home. There was a lot of easy laughing and a warmth extended to his comrades, many of which were guys he’d known for most of life, that I didn’t see anywhere else, even at home. It was a true facet of who he was, one that only showed itself in the safety found in the dark, smoky closeness of those old bars. 

At those moments, looking at him in this way, I always go back to a favorite song, one that I used in the post below from several years ago that deals with this same subject. Here it is:

GC Myers-Tree Waltz smIt’s the last Sunday of June and I sit in my studio early this morning surrounded by new work in varied states of completion that is headed to the West End Gallery for my show there at the end of July. There are paintings on easels and on chairs, some propped against the walls, on ledges above the fireplace as well as leaning against the hearth– everywhere I turn they’re facing me.

I take a moment and just sit back and take them all in, just letting them meld together as a collective group. For a moment, there’s a disconcerting feeling like looking at mirror that is shattered but still in place, a hundred different angles of myself staring back at me. But there is a quick adjustment, like my eyes coming into focus, and they’re no longer images of myself. Oh, I’m in there and I am part of what they are but they are more like a group of friends surrounding me, each with their own life but still maintaining a close relationship with me. I know them well, know their secrets, know what they mean to me. And they know me, hold my secrets and share a past with me.

In that moment, there’s a feeling like I am in a room full of friends and it is warmly reassuring. I’m not sure I can do justice with my description here. It makes me think of a favorite song of mine, Feeling Good Again, from Robert Earl Keen. Whenever I hear this song I am reminded of the time in my youth spent with my father, especially after my brother and sister were gone and I alone remained at home.

On many Saturdays we ended up at the horse track and before heading out would stop at a beer joint in town. It would only be about 9 or 10 in the morning but the place would be busy, with some guys drinking their morning coffee and some their first of many beers for the day. When we walked in, there would be shouted greetings and smiles from around the bar. Everyone knew each other and there was a terrific sense of friendship and camaraderie in their banter. Looking back, I can  see how that place was a safe haven for a lot of tough, working class lives and how those friendships, though maybe not deep, were reassuring, a connection they often couldn’t find in other parts of their lives.

They might struggle through the week but for s few short hours, they had a kinship that made it tolerable. Those times had them feeling good again.

Feeling Good Again is the name of this song from Robert Earl Keen. When I hear this song, I am transformed again to one of those Saturday mornings, a thirteen year old kid drinking a coke while my old man joked around with his buddies and looked over the Racing Form with his cup of coffee.  Have a great day.

Read Full Post »

GC Myers-Tree Waltz smIt’s the last Sunday of June and I sit in my studio early this morning surrounded by new work in varied states of completion that is headed to the West End Gallery for my show there at the end of July.  There are paintings on easels and on chairs, some propped against the walls, on ledges above the fireplace as well as leaning against the hearth– everywhere I turn they’re facing me.

I take a moment and just sit back and take them all in, just letting them meld together as a collective group.  For a moment, there’s a disconcerting feeling like looking at mirror that is shattered but still in place, a hundred different angles of myself staring back at me.  But there is a quick adjustment, like my eyes coming into focus, and they’re no longer images of myself.  Oh, I’m in there and I am part of what they are but they are more like a group of friends surrounding me, each with their own life but still maintaining a close relationship with me.  I know them well, know their secrets, know what they mean to me.  And they know me, hold my secrets and share a past with me.

In that moment, there’s a feeling like I am in a room full of friends and it is warmly reassuring.  I’m not sure I can do justice with my description here.   It makes me think of a favorite song of mine, Feeling Good Again, from Robert Earl Keen.  Whenever I hear this song I am reminded of  time in my youth spent with my father.

On many Saturdays we ended up at the horse track and before heading out would stop at a beer joint in town.  It would only be about 9 or 10 in the morning but the place would be busy with  some guys drinking their morning coffee and some their first of many beers.  When we walked in, there would be shouted greetings from around the bar.  Everyone knew each other and there was a terrific sense of friendship and camaraderie in their banter.  Looking back, I can  see how that place was a safe haven for a lot of tough lives and how those friendships, though maybe not deep, were reassuring, something on which to hang.  Feeling good again.

So when I hear this song, I am transformed again to that thirteen year old kid drinking a coke while my old man joked around with his buddies and looked over the Racing Form with his cup of coffee.  Have a great Sunday.

 

Read Full Post »

Well, it’s the day before Christmas.  I’ve been fairly fortunate in my life in that Christmas has normally brought nothing but pleasant memories of moments spent with family and friends.  Family get-togethers and quiet moments spent with Cheri fill my Christmas memory bank.  Oh, there have been moments of sadness, such as that first Christmas that fell several weeks after my mother died, but for the most part Christmas has been relatively free of the drama and tensions of everyday life.

As I said, I am pretty fortunate.

I thought for today I would simply show a video from Robert Earl Keen of his  Merry Christmas From the Family, a song that always makes me smile.  It sort of reminds me of some of the Christmases of my youth.

Have a great Christmas eve…

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: