My words were rooted in these hills, carried on the backs of the Irish farmers who followed the Potomac southwest instead of crossing the spruce-covered ridges of the Allegheny Front. My muscles formed from climbing white oaks and boulders, from hauling firewood. The mountain rivers that flashed through narrow canyon walls, over boulders and under high railroad bridges, flowed through my veins. Laurel brakes nestled beneath Pottsville sandstone ledges were my nursery. Sad fiddle tunes, played by old-timers beside a dying fire were my genetic code.
In these mountains I’d seen things that Alex would never believe: floods, rockslides, forest fires and blizzards. One time I saw a bear defend her cubs from hunting dogs while I hid in the upper branches of an old oak. Later, on that same trip I saw a blacksnake swallow her young when a hawk flew over. One time, near Smoke Hole I found a cave where thousands of bats roosted, then came back a year later to see that the Forest Service had barricaded its entrance to protect them. When I was really little I saw West Virginia’s last confirmed cougar trapped and beaten on the plains above Red Creek. The musky smell of its urine as it pissed itself had made me cry.
From a clearing on Spruce Knob I spent weeks watching two comets, Hale-Bopp and Hyakutake, as they streaked sunward in a cycle of rebirth as old as the solar system. Then on a backpacking trip to Roaring Plains I saw the sky strangely empty of planes and contrails for three whole days, only to return to a world much different than the one I had left.
In my short life dead rivers had struggled back to life, the orange-stained rocks are the only reminders of a time when nothing would live there. In my short life mountaintops disappeared, bulldozed into tender streams. None of this could I have seen from anywhere other than here.
And I couldn’t prove most of it.
10 August 2011
09 August 2011
From THE DEVIL AND PRESTON BLACK:
Jerry was the most fatherly of all my fathers. Like, I could see him coming to pick me up from school in that old black t-shirt, maybe even driving a shitty old Jeep like the one me and Pauly drove. Jerry as my father never said anything harsh, and when I fucked up he disciplined me firmly, but never harshly.
In my wishes he taught me to play the guitar. He'd watch patiently as I fumbled through scales, my mind fighting for control over my fingers.
Jerry sang a few lines over and over, looping like a digital delay. He sang, "I went to the levee but the devil got there first, said you can run all night but you can't outrun a curse."
I thought he was talking about my dad. I asked him what I should do.
"The accuser of brethren doesn't want us livin' Godly lives," he said, wiping his hands on his black t-shirt. For a second it felt sunny and cool. I assumed it was Marin County because the light looked like the light in all those old Grateful Dead family pictures. May as well have been heaven. He pulled his beard and said, "He don't want us living patient and lovely lives."
He was talking about my dad, so I listened, waiting for him to get to the good part. But after waiting a long time, knowing morning would be here soon, I got direct. "Is the song true? Should I be worried?"
Jerry strummed a banjo. As he plucked he said, "Satan's already been defeated, he just don't know it yet. He'll soon get all he has coming to him. Woe to my children for the devil's coming down on you with great wrath, because he knows that he ain't got but a short time."
In the hospital room the air kicked on, chilling the sweat that had formed on my skin. I folded my arms over my t-shirt, a shirt I had when I was little. Optimus Prime held up a laser pistol with one hand. With the other he waved with a half pointed finger, like Bumblebee, Jazz and Bluestreak would appear on the horizon any second to kick Megatron's whiny ass. The red shirt, worn thin and soft by thousands of washings had been my favorite.
I asked, "What do I have to do? To save myself?"
Nurses and attendants came and went, but they all ignored me. I figured Jerry didn't want to give me my answer while they were in the room. Then the sun went down. The room got colder. Light came from the hall through a tiny sliver beneath the door. Steady blue light from his heart monitor illuminated his silhouette on the bed. I got really tired just sitting in the chair waiting. I stopped paying attention to what went on in the room and my mind drifted other places. By the time I realized his heart monitor had stopped making noise it was too late to do anything.
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August 9, 1995, my brother and I were patching rafts in the big red building behind Laurel Highlands River Tours. Must've been listening to DVE to have heard the news. I popped AMERICAN BEAUTY into the cassette player. Then WORKINGMAN'S DEAD. Then AMERICAN BEAUTY. As the other guides trickled back in from their trips they'd say "Black Peter" or "Box of Rain" and I'd tell them what'd happened. The rest of the day went by like that--guys hanging out until the tape flip, taking turns breaking the news to guys coming in from later trips.
Here's a show from April 23, 1977. The day my brother was born. I thought it was kind of cosmic. And they open with "Sugaree", which I was really in the mood to hear.
Stream it at Archive.org.
Grateful Dead, April 23, 1977
Springfield Civic Center, Springfield, MA
Source: Soundboard with audience patches
Lineage: SBD-> MR-> DAT-> CD, with AUD patch on reel splice (FOB Sony ECM99A mics-> Sony TC152-> DAT-> CD via Darrin Sacks)
Ramble On Rose
Me & My Uncle
It's All Over Now
Scarlet Begonias->Fire On The Mountain
The Music Never Stopped
Help on the Way->Slipknot->Franklin's Tower->Around & Around->GDTRFB->Not Fade Away E: One More Saturday Night
07 August 2011
THE MUSIC AND PRESTON BLACK, Elvis Costello And The Imposters, Gathering Of The Vibes Seaside Park, Bridgeport, Connecticut 7/23/2011
From THE DEVIL AND PRESTON BLACK:
"Preston Black. Pleased to meet you."
He put his hand on my shoulder. "You should be famous with a name like that."
Mick pinched my cheek. "He's trying, Lou. He's trying."
Lou asked, "Elvis Presley or Elvis Costello?"
Lou said, "That's what's wrong with this world," and made his way to the front of the store, squeezing between Mick and me.
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Elvis Costello is music most well-known enigma. Everybody knows him, nobody buys his records. He sounds like a lot of stuff you've heard, and like nobody else.
Not sure if it's because of the hat or not, but I look at him as the last of the songwriters. The ones who mattered. Would "Pump It Up" or "Radio, Radio" stand a chance today? I'd like to think they're good enough that they would.
Here's an amazing show to get your little Elvis Costello toes wet. Download it at Sugarmegs.
Elvis Costello And The Imposters
Gathering Of The Vibes, Seaside Park, Bridgeport, Connecticut 7/23/2011
Source: Schoeps CCM4V'S(din)>Lunatec V2>Benchmark AD2K>
Sound Devices 722 (24/48)
OTS/FOB/DLFC/KFC/ZFC/AARP 7' High
DSP: Sound Devices 722>Sound Forge 9.0>CD Wave>flac(16)
Recorded By: Z-Man
Seeded By: Z-Man
01 Introduction By Wavy Gravy
02 ? >
03 Heart Of The City >
04 Lizard's Dance >
05 ? >
06 Shotgun >
07 Radio, Radio >
08 Everyday I Write The Book >
09 ? >
10 Watchin' The Detectives
01 This Wheel's On Fire >
02 On Your Way Down >
03 This Wheel's On Fire >
04 I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea
05 *Slow Drag With Josephine
06 *It Must Have Been The Roses
09 Sulphur To Sugar Cane >
10 Pump It Up >
11 What's So Funny About Peace, Love, And Understanding
* Elvis Acoustic Solo
Labels: preston black