Category Archives: A-Musings

Right Place, Right Time

My dear old friend, Jerry Swift, former owner of The Ritz music hall in Memphis and with whom I shared musical memories, misadventures, and shenanigans in the mid-to-late 70’s, challenged me to post a slice-of-life story. Jerry, you were one of the early stars and co-horts to my colorful life:

Late 1977, after coming off the road with Captain Beefheart in support of Shiny Beast, I met up with Harry, Don’s manager, for a thank-goodness-the-tour-is-over weekend in New Orleans. My second visit to this sexy, provocative, mysterious city. Staying with friends of Harry’s, we piled in the car to go hear music finally pulling up to a block already lined with people. We bypassed the line, Harry back-slapping all the doormen & bouncers on the way past. Sliding into Tipitina’s, a vibrant energy thrummed, expectation I’d rarely experienced in a small venue (exceptions Alex Cooley’s, The Ritz, Cafe Wha, Agora Ballroom, Bottom Line).

Harry, being Harry, had scored us a table up front. Shots of Jack tossed back. Lights dimmed. Music started. Wild Tchoupitoulas danced their way on to the stage, feathers flying, feet stompin’ full of rhythm-from-a-dozen-cultures. I was clear blown out of my chair and on my feet moving parts of my body I didn’t know even moved, barely noticing as the stage filled with Neville after Neville and a few guests – including Harry with his harp. I turned, surprised – but not really – to see his empty chair.

Harry was a man of a million stories, each better than the last. Former manager of The Meters, learned harp from Charlie Musselwhite and Sunnyland Slim, and I could go on and on. But Harry’s a story for another day. As is Van Vliet – I still have the rapidograph set he bought me in some art store somewhere between Atlanta and Birmingham.

On the way home way past 2am, Harry asks “will you be really disappointed if we don’t bum around the city today? Aaron asked if I’d come lay some harp tracks down on their album.” Disappointed? Not. Driving across the Pontchartrain late morning full of excitement and possibilities, sun glittering on the water ’til we finally drove into Studio in the Country in Bogalusa. It would be a day and night that imprinted deeply. The musical process with all players in the same room. No overdubs that day. Jack Nitzsche, manic beyond description, behind the board. Channeling mentor Phil Spector. Jack, brilliant, yet frequent-crazy-town-resident, orchestrator of Ike & Tina’s “River Deep, Mountain High.” That day there were moments I wept with emotion. Laughed so hard I snorted. Felt my heart beat faster at magic as it happened. I couldn’t stop staring at Aaron’s birthmark. I tried, I really did.

A revered right-place, right-time memory. Magically up-close, immersive, and personal. “Life’s been good to me so far.”

If you know Harry Duncan, give him a hug from me!

SHUFFLING ACROSS THE PONTCHARTRAIN
Washable Ink – The Neville Brothers
In The Heart of the Night – Poco
Congo Square – The Neville Brothers
Arianne – The Neville Brothers

Zig Zag Wanderer

November 1978. Was sent out to work a handful of shows with Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band.

Driving between Atlanta & New Orleans on the tour bus, Don and I discovered our deep love and fascination with art supply stores. He’d often make the bus driver get off the interstate to track down a store. No simple feat in those days prior to Google and the internet. You had to find a phone book.

Once located and inside, it was an endless treasure hunt. We’d be on opposite sides of the store and would excitedly raise our arms high, prize discovery in hand.

At one of those nameless, long-forgotten stores, he bought me a set of Rapidograh pens and two bottles of ink – one black, one white – along with a stack of rough paper in a variety of colors. Back on the bus, he skilled me in filling the pens and making that first mark on the expensive paper.

I still have the pens and a few of the sheets of paper.

While moving house recently, I went through my old portfolio and set aside artwork, photos, and other memorabilia for framing. This one has long begged for a frame. I only wish I still had even one of the few sketches the “Captain” gave me that he drew while on that bus ride through the South.

SHUFFLING ACROSS THE SOUTH
Zig Zag Wanderer – Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
Debra Kadabra – Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band

Sketches of Life

Mid-60’s. Hendersonville NC. A small youth group from Binkley Church spent a few weeks at a migrant workers camp helping out at the day care center and small store.

While sorting donated clothes one day for the small shop, I found a denim railroad jacket and bought it for about $2. It was well-worn, raggedy in places, and I loved every stitch of it.

Back home in Chapel Hill, my mother was horrified by the jacket and my insistence on wearing it everywhere. I ended up sleeping in it for months knowing that if Mom had a chance at getting the coat, that it would end up in the trash.

I still had it in art school evidenced by this drawing (which I clearly romanticized by ignoring the tears and rips – it’s how I saw it), but I’m not sure what happened and where it ended up. It’s surely out there with the baby blue suede Frye boots that I lost somewhere too.

The sweet memories often outlive the belongings. Such is life.

Shufflin’ through the vault
On That Train – Jude Johnstone
Coat of Many Colors – Dolly Parton
Last Train Home – Pat Metheny

A flurry of words


Yes, today’s the day. Those posts. You know the ones. Almost written. Half written. Today they’ll see the light of day. You’ll get lots of emails. Apologies for that. Stay with me.

Wheels on the bus …..

A cold day in February 2017

1 year. 7 days. X hours. That’s how long it’s been. Longer really since I’m trying to sneak in and count a little piece written for Durham Magazine. Sometimes you get so caught up in life – the living of it, the recovering, the making sense of it –  you don’t have time to stop and organize letters into some semblance of sentences and paragraphs.  Seeing that of the last three posts, two of them are about my Mom and Dad is extra bittersweet.

My Dad’s death in December 2014 completely untethered me. (Reveal: flapping in the proverbial wind comes easy for me. I don’t much like to be tethered.)  This was an excruciating separation full of murky permanence. Holding his hand for hours, then one tight squeeze. That was all.

In a chair at the foot of the bed, and mindfully unaware through her own curtain of Alzheimers, Mom just nodded and whispered a slow, drawn-out “yeah,” her go-to response to everything, even death. Her own death a year and a half later on their 65th wedding anniversary was unsettling and different. She fought ’til the end. Determined. Unknowing. Unaware. At the last minute, she turned toward me. Glaring into my eyes. Now THAT’s an imprint.

It was a gift being with them in their end days, at their last breath. I tried to soften it for them. Making phone calls to all the kids and grand-kids so they could tell Dad they loved him. Mom’s favorite classical music playing softly. A long-time friend brought in a mountain dulcimer. Another with the voice of a million angels and a 12-string guitar sang Amazing Grace. Somehow fitting since my Mom’s name was Grace.

Kinda shaken and stirred in all that was the news that my ex-husband Bill had died. Sad that in a recent email, he hadn’t told me he was battling cancer. Our separation/divorce took many of our friends by surprise, the close ones not so much. He had an edge and I was never totally comfortable in the marriage. I had always thought/ hoped we’d have time to sit across from one another and make things right. Not reconcile, just stop being angry with the other. I was surprised at how emotional and saddened I was by his death.

And at the end of the muddle, there was Lindsay. As if I’d dreamed him up – and I had. An entire lifetime of dreams. A complete surprise. Bringing the sweetest love I’d ever known. And for the first time in over 20 years, I was a family again.

A friend nudged me yesterday, asking about Simmer2Sizzle’s radio silence. That’s why you have S2S in your mailbox. I promise to do better.

 

At a Loss For Words + Shufflin’

Fall Into Winter 2016

drawing of hand with a feather pen
Almost a year of silence. I wrote. Just not to you. Short words. Because those were the only ones I could find. The big ones mangled on the way from my brain to my mouth. Way too often I’d feel the “f word” form on my lips, swallow it back before it spewed it’s way out. It’s a lazy way of expression, though sometimes the only perfect word. I miss you. Make no mistake.  My long voice is longing. By the way, YOU equals the collective you out there.

I was sure I at least wrote poems. Yet couldn’t find one fully formed. Not one. I must have written them in my head with that invisible pencil I carry around. Now they’ll never to see paper.  I remember snippets.  Half things I dictated to my phone at stop lights, or where ever they hit. So there you go. Gone.

an ocean
of tiny rip tides
low and high
drown my face ….
tears.

and then there was:

A song
of slippery words
keepsakes of something
hot and sticky and amorous …

blah, blah, blah. Though I had to laugh at the last one. At least part of my brain was aroused. That it was something other than deadened.

The more you try to still your mind,
the farther flung it sweeps
capturing even the whisper of suggestion.

And this happened.  Sweeping down Erwin Road at a respectable clip:

I kilt that snake
essing in a hurry
across the blacktop
smack off center line
he looked right at me
with a slithery smile of gotcha
and for a second looked like you.
Too late to stop,
braked and backed
a time or two
just to make sure …
he needed killin’ …
and I needed
to smile
at something.

Gotta think for a while on what that was all about. I thought I was over that guy, but he rared up from time to time. Unexpected and always unwelcome.

Losing a parent is, well, nothing short of devastating. Losing both in the space of a year and a half is double that. Like walking in a giant jello pool of every flavor. Just getting to the other side is exhausting and feels impossible.

Somewhere peeking out of the loss comes clarity. Fuzzy at first, but something to hang on to in the rush of unexpected feeling.

………………………………………………………………………
ViolinNotesShufflin’ & Steamin’
In the Garden – The Avett Brothers
Turtle Dove and the Crow – Mandolin Orange
Carolina – The Honeycutters
Stardust – Rod Stewart

 

 

Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

Twice I started. Twice I walked away without pushing the publish button. So bear with me as I give these life.  Be warned. There are more than one.
~ dpm / September 15, 2018

Who knows where the time goes?
September 20, 2016

The_Persistence_of_MemoryObviously not me. I’ve been gone so long even I’ve lost my place.  But there have been things, I try to explain to anyone who’s listening.  They have to be mighty big things to miss two whole years.  And they have. The biggest. The worst losses you can imagine if you know how it is to lose both your parents (or spouse or child or grandparent or beloved pet or whoever) in the space of a year and a half. But this even goes further. Since 2011, 24 people (and a great dog) who used to be in my life at some point are no longer there. 24. 24. I’m stuck on that number. It’s actually increased since then, but I’m staying stuck on 24.

I won’t go there right now, because I’m on the upside of grief today and, as Nina Simone sings, “I’m Feeling Good!”

howfgriefworks

I will just put this out there.  To all of you who said the completely wrong thing in the aftermath, I forgive you. But I ask you to sort your words more tenderly and thoughtfully the next time you find yourself having to console.

What not to say.

  1.  God needed another angel.
    No, he/she didn’t, there are plenty already. We need some serious angels right here  on earth, trust me on this.
  2.  At least they aren’t suffering any longer.
    I want to like this one, but on second thought, NO, now I’m the one who’s suffering.
  3.  Everything happens for a reason.
    By who’s standard of reason?
  4.  It was his/her time.
    And you know this how?
  5.  He/She wouldn’t want you to be so sad.
    Maybe not, but that’s kinda beside the point, now isn’t it?  In fact, I think my Mom  might be a little ticked off if I wasn’t sad.
  6. God never gives you more than you can handle.
    Don’t even get me started on this one. God does all the time.  I mean he gave us   Donald Trump, right?
  7. He/She’s in a better place.
    Again, No … the better place would be in the kitchen making me some damn Mudhens or in a lounge chair cheering on the Tar Heels.

Just say I’m sorry and hug me. Let me talk about them. Hand me a real handkerchief. I promise it’s easier than having to mutter some platitude that even you probably don’t believe.  And stop asking me ……

HowAreYou

’cause if you’ve been there, you already know.

And, oh yeah, there was that hip replacement a week after my mom died. Where I spent the week between dealing with cremation, death certificates, cleaning out her room – the business end of death. The drugs and the medical haze that fuzzed out and postponed the grief gave me something else to focus on for 3 months in the aftermath – while I still sorted  -though it felt eerily like snooping – through the personal papers and possessions.

So that’s a snippet. Aren’t you glad you asked?

There’s plenty of good though. Stay tuned for that!

The Hindsight Zone Revisited

And yet I keep going. Why is that? It’s because I believe in love.

Tom (Wake Forest, NC ’16)
OKCupid
Predate
Him:  If you don’t look like your picture, you’re buying me drinks til you do.
Me:  Same right back atcha, buddy. –>his photos are at least 15 years old.
Him:  We’ll go to your favorite restaurant.
I chose Kitchen in Chapel Hill run by the amazing Dick and Sue Barrows.
Him to the waiter: What’s good here?
Me thinking: Oh, no, he’s kidding, right?
Him: I’ll have the raw oysters. Don’t overcook them.
Me thinking:  Blank. Not funny.
Me: So I know you’ve been married once. What’s your love history like?
Him: My second marriage was only a couple of months. She was from Bulgaria.
Me: Oh, wow, what was Bulgaria like?
Him:  I never went there. I met her online and then she moved in with me.
Me:  Ah, well then.
Him: Yeah, but can you do this?  (While he’s busy hanging his spoon from his nose.)

 

Winner, Winner. Chicken Dinner + shufflin’ through the past

LeoWagoner_tnCycling through that first year of hallmarks and holidays would be hard. I knew that. You can’t prepare. You can’t practice. Father’s Day and his birthday would be wrenching. He was 90 and lived an enviable life full of family, friends, and faith. I will miss you every single day, Dad, and all the goodness you brought to everyone who knew  you!

~Leo Wayne Wagoner Sr.
August 4, 1924 – December 11, 2014~

……………………………………………………………………………

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner*

*Original NC Food post, March 28, 2014.
Reprinted by permission of the North Carolina Folklife Institute.

Dad was a traveling salesman, driving all over North Carolina in the late 50’s/early ‘60’s, and he loved that it put him with new people all the time.

Gone a lot, and often late for dinner, he was still the guy who rolled into the driveway every so often with a trunk full of Hostess Cupcakes, Twinkies, and SnoBalls –  compliments of a bakery he called on in Winston-Salem. The son of tobacco farmers, he grew up poor in Brook’s Crossroads, walked five miles in the snow to school (not really, but we heard that a lot), didn’t have enough money to join the Boy Scouts, and earned a nickel helping clean the church every Saturday. From what I can tell, likely lived a hard-scrabble life on the farm. He lived deliberately, determined to make a better life for his family while telling us to always do the right thing and reminding us that life wasn’t fair. He was an eternal optimist who never met a stranger. And the best man I ever knew.

Brooks Crossroads, NC

Brooks Crossroads, Yadkin County, NC

He spoke proud that he’d been in each of the 100 counties of North Carolina and knew those two-lane roads forward and backward. From BBQ to hot dogs, he knew where to stop when he got hungry. Riding along with him sometimes in the summer, I spent plenty of time waiting and reading in the car while he called on Farm Bureau and other offices, mostly down east. With the windows rolled down in hopes of catching the slightest, often non-existent summer breeze, I’d read a little. Squirm a lot. Read a little, fidget a little more, peeking out the window as if that would hurry him up. All the while sticking to the hot plastic seats as my impatience grew and my tummy rumbled.

We ate at oil cloth or plastic-table-cloth covered tables in Mom and Pop places where the waitresses called you “Hon” whether you’d been there a thousand times, or this was your first. Where they automatically brought you a basket of hush puppies (or cornbread, or biscuits, or slices of soft white sandwich bread.) And where the tea was always sweet and the glasses were always filled without even asking. Sometimes we stood by the car under a tree, or sat with the car doors open leaning over so not to drip on the car seats.

When it came to food, Daddy was predictable. That man could simply divine who was serving up chicken pie or chicken & dumplin’s for lunch. Many times we’d stop on a Sunday or Wednesday afternoon at a country church hosting supper-on-the-grounds just to see if they had any chicken pie.

Long tables, or sometimes saw-horses holding up planks, were covered with tablecloths brought from home by God-fearing church women. The spread practically strained from the weight of all the fried chicken, deviled eggs, chicken pie, chicken and dumplings, green beans, cornbread, biscuits, and ham.

He’d hone in on that chicken dish like a dog on a hunt complimenting the maker saying “that was the best chicken pie I ever had.” And he always meant it. While he was helping himself, it was the best he ever ate. By the time we left, often with leftovers tucked between two plates, Daddy had met everyone there, knew their life story and had shaken their hand with a promise to return. And he would. And would remember every single one of them even if it was months, or years later.

Leo Wagoner

It didn’t matter to him whether the chicken pie recipe included peas and carrots, or was topped with pie crust or biscuits, he was an equal opportunity chicken pie lover. He did have a favorite. His Mama’s and it was included in Hugs From The Kitchen, written by Peggy Snow, his first cousin and the daughter of his “Aint” OllieIn our own Wagoner Family Cookbook, we’ve updated the recipe to include vegetables and even added, heaven-forbid, some wine to the cream.


Peggy Snow, Hugs From the Kitchen.

The Lakeland Ledger, Nov. 25, 1993, Lakeland, FL

Best Ever Chicken Pie

2 ½ to 3lb chicken
1 small onion, sliced
1 rib celery, plus some leaves
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup buttermilk
½ stick butter, melted
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cans chicken broth (in which the chicken was cooked)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, combine chicken, onion, celery and celery leaves. Half cover with water. Cook until done. Cool and bone chicken, saving the broth. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Layer in a 9”x13” backing dish or cast iron skillet. Mix together flour, buttermilk, butter, salt and pepper. Spoon batter over chicken.  Stir soup and the equal of 2 cans of broth together. Pour over batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Top should be brown.

Note from cookbook:  This is a great chicken pie! You can use chicken breast instead of whole chicken. Don’t think I’ve even made this that someone didn’t ask for the recipe. I believe it came from a family night supper at the First Baptist Church in Elkin, NC. – Peggy Snow
______________________________________
ViolinNotesShufflin’ through the Past

What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes – Katherine Grayson
Stardust – Nat King Cole
I Love You, For Sentimental Reasons – The King Cole Trio

Packin’ Light – Josh Preslar Band

Josh Preslar newI’m confessing right up front that Josh and the band are personal friends and that I worried a little when Josh asked me to write a review. Live, they are as much fun and as tight as any national touring band out there. What if that didn’t translate to a record? What if I didn’t like the album? What would I have to say? Needless worry.

If Josh Preslar can pack the house and have everyone near ‘bout hanging from the rafters song after song, it stands to reason that he can pack an album. He’s done just that with his new CD, and don’t let the title fool you.

Packin’ Light is an eleven-song collection stacked end-to-end with original tunes tastefully played by his “house band,” who just happen to be a handful of Triangle favorites – T.A. James (bass and guitar), Chuck Cotton (drums), Clark Stern (keyboards), and Mike “Howlin’ Wind” Davis (harmonica/vocals). With special guests Tad Walters (harmonica), David Richards (trumpet, Tim Smith (tenor sax), Neal Chapman (guitar) and Chris Bennett (guitar) sitting in, he really did turn the studio into a juke joint. And those of us who are regular fans know exactly what that means.

Preslar, a generous front man with a guitar style and voice as smooth and caressive as a fine bourbon (not to mention an enviable hat collection) lets each of his players shine throughout, often stepping back and sharing guitar space with James, Chapman, and Bennett.  Part of Preslar’s talent, aside from his vocal and guitar playing, is his ability to manage a room full of multi-instrumentalists and still make everything come out sounding spare and full all at the same time. It’s pure musical joy to hear the results when he seamlessly and expertly moves each into the spotlight.

JoshPreslarBandSoDu

Favorite cuts? “Housekeepin’.”  It’s basic relationship truth that gets in a groove you don’t want to leave. Leave that useless stuff behind. As long as it is, at nearly 6 and a half minutes, you don’t really want it end.  “Josh’s Boogie” feels good from the first note to the last. On second thought, don’t make me pick. The CD has been playing in my car and house for 4 solid weeks and, with each listen, my appreciation for the collection grows.

A self-proclaimed road warrior, Preslar’s been playing blues all his life and loves being out with a band. Packin’ Light is a reverent testament to the “grab what you need and it better fit in a matchbox or it’s getting left behind” simplicity of early blues along with the necessity of being able to hit the road traveling light whenever the notion strikes.

The songs on Packin’ Light tell a story. Whether it’s a town or a woman who talks too much or a dusty broom, life is often about what you leave behind in search of what’s in front of you.  Musically, it’s also a serious nod to the often miss-attributed Miles Davis quote “it’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t play.”

The Josh Preslar Band knows exactly which ones those are and the wisdom to know just which to leave behind.
…………………………………………

Catch Josh Preslar Band at one of these upcoming CD release shows
Sat., June 6, 2015 – Walker’s Bar, Greensboro, NC
Sat., June 13, 2015 – Rock Harbor Grill, Apex NC
Fri., June 26, 2015 – Blue Note Grill, Durham, NC

Take a listen on ReverbNation!