Patriotic Music

Today we celebrate the declaration of freedom of one group of white, male, landowning imperialists from the tyranny of another group of white, male landowning imperialists. (I’m writing this on 4 July, but you won’t see it until the 5th, since everything goes live at midnight. As usual, if you just read your email you won’t see/hear the music links, so click the title and open the page.)

Samuel Johnson has been quoted (by Boswell) as saying that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Our current president hugging and kissing a flag immediately comes to mind.

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

In the 1960s, the people who were the equivalent of Trump’s base today had a bumper sticker that said, “America: Love it or Leave it”. Soon another bumpersticker appeared reading, “America: Love is not Enough”. The triumvirate concluded with, “America: Fix it or Fuck it”. I wrote an essay in high school in which I chose the third and concluded, “In my life, I want to be the fixer.” The elderly version of me would say, “I don’t trust any philosophy that can fit on a bumper sticker.”

I have seen other blogs listing “patriotic music” we should listen to today. As I rambled through 50 miles of countryside this morning, a few patriotic tunes ran through my head, so here is my contribution to the day. First, a potential alternate national anthem. I am far from the first to suggest that.

Much music has been written for “important” people. Aaron Copland decided it was time for a fanfare for the common people. (The imagery in the video seems to have been chosen by someone who had a totally different idea of what Copland meant.)

When I heard Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee perform this song I had a new appreciation for the song and the harmonica, and of the benefits of growing up in a college town so I could see and hear them.

Even presidents who accomplished great things in their tenure can ultimately fail. I always liked this intro, even though the song had nothing to do with LBJ. With a band name like “The Electric Flag” (with the subtitle “An American Music Band”) I had to squeeze them in, with their rendition of this Howlin’ Wolf tune.

Bob Dylan had to make this posting, and this one, while always timely, seems especially so again, with a new generation taking the lead.

Too often in Dylan’s shadow, Phil Ochs was a genius in his own right. It’s hard to pick one song, but this is one that those who don’t listen closely can misconstrue (kinda like “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen).

Richard and Mimi Fariña sang of (not) testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). A live version was recorded at the Newport Folk Festival. I have it on vinyl (the posthumous album “Memories” – beware – the CD version is not the same) but all other versions I can find are a vastly inferior recording, so this is the original studio version, since digitizing my album is beyond my capability. The album was a Christmas present from my sister, who heard it playing at a record store. She told me that if I didn’t want it, she’d keep it. No way was I going to let her have it. It grew on me quickly and I still have it 53(?) years later.

Antonin Dvořák showed that European classical composers can be influenced by the US, not just vice versa. And who can resist a piece that opens with viola?

Much is made of the American Dream. I grew up learning about America as a melting pot; a rich stew enlivened by new additions. But the longer the stew steeps, the smaller the influence of those additions. My kids learned a song in elementary school that told them “My town is not a melting pot/My town is a salad bowl” – that our identities are lost if they are melted together. Folksinger Charlie King taught me that America truly is a melting pot – “The scum rises to the top and those on the bottom get burned.” (One might conclude that we have to stir things up every now and then.)

We tend to forget that “America” includes a huge land mass stretching from about 70 degrees north latitude to about 55 degrees south latitude. The United States is but a small part of America. In Spanish there is a term for people from the US – “estadounidense”, roughly “United Statesian”. English lacks such a term which encourages us to forget the rest of America and think of ourselves as Americans and everyone else as Other. And we conveniently forget that people were already here when it was “discovered”. Not to mention that many think of American as meaning “light-skinned and of European origin”.

Whose version of that dream will be realized? Whose version is snuffed out too soon? Los Lobos asks the question.

Early readers will miss the next link. I forgot it yesterday when I got home. Leadbelly sang of hypocrisy and segregation in “Bourgeois Blues”.

Before hip hop there was Gil Scott-Heron, who taught us that “The Revolution Will Not be Televised”. Sitting back and watching is not enough.

Now that I’m home and can look things up, this list could keep growing. I realize women are under-represented. But I will stay true to the theme (this being a bike blog, not a music blog) of what I thought of and sang on today’s ride – with this one exception. What if we had a president who sang along with the Freedom Singers instead of retweeting White Power? (Oh yeah, we did once.)

I don’t know which should close – Gil Scott-Heron or Sam Cooke – but it’s gonna be Cooke. He started as a gospel singer, became famous to white folks as a pop singer, but I think this was his greatest achievement. It continues to send chills down my spine.

A real American – an oak tree on this morning’s ride

A funny thing happened on the way to the

clinic. The main road there is torn up and there was a Detour sign for bikes. I followed the sign, which led me onto a bike path. There were no further signs to direct me back to the road I needed to be on. I eventually found my way there. With the temperature 88 degrees F (31 C) and dewpoint 73 degrees (23 C) I was pretty sticky on arrival.

To avoid the detour, I took the scenic route home. What is normally a 15 mile round trip ended up as 30 miles. Along the way, I didn’t think I was in Kansas anymore.

A suburban retention pond in Wisconsin…bears would be a stretch; but alligators?!?

https://ytcropper.com/cropped/1N5efa2b6ec33f4

On the way home I stopped to check the cherries on the tree by the middle school. I hoped to pick another pound or three. The tree is dead. Now I know we’re not in Kansas.

I saw someone in a t-shirt that said “achiever” on the front. I wondered if that were a true statement, or aspirational. I wondered about being required to wear shirts that label us, maybe even honestly, or maybe with our family’s judgments, and what they would say: “Underachiever”; “I coulda been somebody”; “Never lived up to my potential”; “I told you you should have gone to med school, but no – you wanted to be a plumber”; “I lie – but mostly to myself”; “My bike deserves better”; “Too much money and not enough sense”. The last two are for people riding bikes that are faster than they are. Your comments/additions are welcome.

Detours were the theme of the week. On our continuing “Wednesday Night’s Greatest Hits” tour, we did the “Mt Horeb South” ride. Screaming downhill at 40+mph we came upon a “Road Closed 1000 Feet” sign, then a “Road Closed 500 Feet” sign. The road ended (with an escape route to the right) in a pile of sand (that we could have turned into a ramp to jump the closed section but I couldn’t talk anyone into doing it while I took pictures). The creek is tiny but the trench was pretty deep and a lot wider than the creek, with steep and muddy banks; not to mention lots of heavy equipment and a crew working. The once and future bridge was nowhere in sight. Some “Road Closed” signs are only suggestions. Rivers can be forded or maybe have something to cross on. We’ve had highway crews welcome us to cross a partly-finished bridge when we asked nicely. This was clearly the end of the route. And of course there was no cell phone service and our map had an inset covering the spot where we were. There was only one way to turn so it was an easy choice. Then it was just a matter of making our way back north and east by any means necessary. This was not the Royal We. I rode with two other people for the first time in a few months. We didn’t share air. or beer.

E-bike commercial

Early in our ride, I saw a car and a bike approaching from the rear. Both were clearly going to overtake us – three men in bike clothes on road bikes, going about 20 mph. The bike came closer and closer. As she pulled around us on the left, she was sitting bolt upright, wearing pedal pushers, and rang her bell, passing us effortlessly. I had to look for the battery. Indeed, it was an e-bike.

I’m not sure which would have looked funnier – three guys close to 70 in bike clothes, or three guys closer to 20 being passed by a middle-aged woman sitting upright on a step-thru frame and passing without breaking a sweat on a 90 degree day. I wanted video. One of my friends thought it would be better were she passing Tour de France riders climbing L’Alpe d’Huez. At any rate, at least one version would make a great commercial.

This being July 4, I have to say something. I can’t think of this holiday without re-posting a history lesson:

While the myths we’ve been raised on are “Give me liberty or give me death”, “No taxation without representation”, and “Don’t tread on me”, the reality is a bit more complicated. Genocide against the current inhabitants was already well under way. Imperialism was a central founding principle. While the term “manifest destiny” had not yet been coined, the US was already expanding, and by the time independence was recognized by England in 1783, the US had claimed land to the Mississippi River and beyond. We had already brought people to work as slaves on our plantations. We enshrined in our constitution that a slave was equal to 3/5 of a person, not to acknowledge that they were more than half human and allow them to vote, but in order to increase the representation of the slave states in the House of Representatives and increase their share of taxes. Were three of every five enslaved people counted, or 3/5 of each person enslaved? At least they were acknowledged as “Persons” as well as property.

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

US Constitution: Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3.

Thanks for the memories

Two years ago today (Sunday) was our first rest day, in Missoula, Montana. I needed another patch kit and more inner tubes. We had ridden 612 miles in 7 days. Today the hardest thing I did was pit two pounds of cherries and bake a cherry pie. I didn’t even have to pick the cherries – my son and daughter in law did that, from the tree in their backyard. (Thanks!)

Day 7 had been a 103 mile slog through nonstop rain, the last 50 miles into a headwind. My new bike was now broken in. Sunday was the day to clean the gunk of 103 rainy miles off the bike, relube, and get ready for another week (and another, and another…). We had crossed the continental divide for the first time by then. I wrote my two essential lessons about mountain riding:
1. Don’t worry about the top, it will be there when you get there;
2. Keep your feet moving in circles and all will be well.

I don’t have to look back at that blog entry to remember the day. It is one of those days that is burned deeply into my memory. It was cold and wet but it ended with a hot shower, a warm sweatshirt, pizza and red wine. We slept in a dorm for the second night in a week – the only time we would do that all summer. It was a day marked by camaraderie, as four of us stuck together to gain strength from each other, so we could take whatever nature dished out. Five miles from the end, we picked up a fifth. He was at the roadside fixing a flat in the pouring rain and told us to go on. We didn’t. We rode in together. It was exactly as Greg had said on the phone sometime in the spring: The days you remember won’t be the 70 degree and sunny days. Those will all run together. The days you remember will be the ones in which you faced adversity and overcame it.

We had already had our first night sleeping indoors on the solstice, in dorms at Gonzaga University. We covered the quad with drying tents and sleeping bags. Gonzaga is in Spokane, home of U. Utah Phillips, the Golden Voice of the Great Southwest. While he is best known for his recordings of the IWW Songbook, I have a warm spot for “The Goodnight-Loving Trail”, about life on a cattle trail in Texas in the 1800s. My friend Cripps introduced me to the song.

Cripps worked at the Whole Earth Co-op at the same time that I worked at the Willy Street Co-op. Whole Earth was one of the last of its kind. In lieu of a cash register, they had a cigar box and a spiral notebook. When you finished shopping, you toted up your goods, wrote the total in the notebook, and put your money in the box, making change yourself. We, on the other hand, had gotten our first cash register at St Vincent de Paul, and replaced it with a fancy one that ran on electricity (instead of a hand crank) when that one died. We were the first in town to have an electronic scale. The city weights and measures inspector told us he wouldn’t decertify our old scales, but he advised us to replace them. While they were inaccurate, they consistently cheated the store and not the customer. That wasn’t illegal but wasn’t a good way to stay in business. The new one had a calculator in it, so you could type the price per pound into the keypad and it would calculate the total price. (I know, all scales do that now; but back then it was a big deal. Scales had a chart with a range of prices and you found the price per pound and read along a red line to get the total. Since the ones we had were pretty old, the prices were low enough that you often had to multiply to get the real price.)

Cripps (remember Cripps? This is a story about Cripps) and I sometimes spent the night in the same house. One night I heard bass laughter coming up through the floor below me. I looked at my partner and she noted my surprise – “That’s Cripps”, she said. Cripps had a tenor voice but a bass laugh. Cripps’ partner was a woman from West Virginia. She taught me a line that I use to this day. You know how there are people you’ve seen around, maybe even know by name or have talked to, but you’ve never been introduced? Someone might ask, “Do you know Cripps?” And your reply might be, “I know who he is, but we’ve never been formally introduced.” Her reply was, “We’s howdied, but we ain’t shook.”

Another night Cripps and I were the last two awake in the house. He was sitting at the kitchen table with his autoharp and U. Utah Phillips songbook. I made myself a cup of tea and joined him. We sang our way through the book, but the first song we sang together was “The Goodnight-Loving Trail”.

One afternoon, too soon after that, Cripps got off the bus downtown, stepped out from behind the bus, and into the path of a bus coming the other way. He died that night. The song, and this post, are dedicated to his memory.

Wednesday Night’s Greatest Hits

Since we don’t have group rides this year, every Wednesday night I pick a ride and go. This week held scattered showers. I checked the radar and there seemed to be a hole in the storms. It corresponded with a favorite ride that isn’t on this year’s calendar. I checked the archives and found a cue sheet and headed out. It looked dark in the distance but that didn’t seem like a reason not to ride. I remembered this week two years ago and hit the road. If I can go 100 miles in the rain, what’s 20 or 30? The darkness seemed to stay in the distance and the roads were dry. About ten miles in it started to sprinkle. The sun was shining so I kept riding. The sun disappeared and the rain came harder. It was cooling off. A dense cedar tree appeared at the roadside and I took cover until the rain let up. There was thunder in the distance (in the direction I was pointed) so I took a shortcut back to my starting point. In the car on the way home it rained hard enough that I considered pulling over to wait for it to let up. The wipers on high were barely keeping up.

The front is rolling through. Time to cut this ride short.

Future archeology

Turtle Island 06053023

We have long known of the mound building civilization that existed some 2000 years ago in the center of the Turtle Island land mass. Recent discoveries have unearthed another mound-building society some 1000 years later in the same region.

We have had difficulty understanding this latter society, as they had abandoned prior forms of record-keeping for primitive electronic storage using systems that changed every few years and which were irreconcilable with each other. We have unearthed a plethora of different and incongruent storage devices and a myriad of incompatible operating systems. This society apparently thought they were creating long term storage solutions, but creating new ones constantly. We found mounds of discarded computing devices, each with infinitesimal differences, but enough to make them discordant. As a result, it has taken us years to decipher their history.

Only recently have we been able to uncover the history of these strange people. They subjugated the peoples of Turtle Island with a rapidly expanding imperial society based on the premise (that would be quaint were it not barbaric) that only humans with light-colored skins were actually humans. After the genocide of the native peoples, they “imported” darker skinned people as slaves. Once they ended abject slavery, they continued the process of subjugation of normal-toned people until the collapse of their civilization during the realm of King Trump III. They called themselves “white” and considered white to be associated with purity. Everything with color was considered inferior. Since very little of the natural world was white, the entire planet was considered inferior and ripe for subjugation.

The society was built on the exploitation of Gaia’s resources, discarding goods as rapidly as they made them, only to replace them with new goods. They apparently worshiped their discards. We recently uncovered a vast temple in the western portion of Turtle Island. The temple was built on a mountain of trash and is estimated to have held upwards of 10,000 people for their religious fests. The ground was said to burst into flame with the intensity of their rites, or perhaps from the release of methane from the decaying filth. Our translation of records reveals they referred to it as “Shoreline Amphitheatre”.

We have found smaller mounds on individual homesteads. Archeologists first thought these were burial mounds in emulation of the previous society of mound builders. They were almost exclusively long, narrow mounds, rectangular in shape, located near their dwellings. They contained vent pipes to the surface. At first, scientists hypothesized that this was how they buried their dead, and that the vents were placed in the belief that the souls of the dead were still alive and needed air to breathe. When we analyzed the contents of these vaults, we found them to be almost exclusively decayed fecal matter and a primitive paper. Current thinking is that these people literally worshiped their own shit.

Euro-American burial mound. Note white vent pipe at right.

The society collapsed during the reign of King Trump III. While they generally worshiped whiteness, images of the Trumps depict them as a bizarre orange-hued people. Perhaps this is why they were worshiped. During the Trump reign, all of the excesses of the “white people” came to a head. Extraction of minerals from Gaia came at breakneck pace. Huge pipelines were constructed to transport their primitive and filthy fuels. The trash piles grew more rapidly than ever before. The waste from their extraction of minerals piled higher and higher. The planet’s waters were defiled at a record pace. While they no longer enslaved their darker-skinned peers, they now locked them in huge warehouses, whose purpose has not yet been definitively discovered.

Gaia’s wealth was held by a tiny oligarchy. The majority of the populace seems to have had no purpose beyond consumption of the goods produced. As the goods were produced primarily by robots, the people could not afford them, lacking jobs and income. Greater numbers continued to be warehoused in an apparent effort to stave off rebellion. Finally the system could not sustain itself and the society, as it were, collapsed. Rivers were fouled in some regions, dried up completely in others, and overran their banks in still others, inundating the cities. The climate varied wildly, with droughts and floods simultaneously in different regions. The irreplaceable minerals, the very flesh of Gaia’s body, ran out.

In a last-ditch effort to save themselves, they attempted to colonize other planets. Their transport systems were so slow, and carried so few people, that most of the would-be colonists died en route. The rest apparently killed each other soon after arrival.

A society based on consumption had consumed all it could see, all it knew how to use. The planet was gashed, horribly disfigured. This ushered in the dark age, as Gaia healed its wounds. Only recently have humans once again come to recognize that we are part of the web of life. While this seems blatantly obvious to any five year old, the Trumpians (as we’ve come to know the dominant society of this entire era of mass exploitation and consumption) held themselves above Gaia and separate from the web of life; their inferiority complex manifested in a false aura of superiority, which nearly destroyed our home.