All that glitters is not glass

The thunderstorms that were threatening all evening never materialized. We were in Buffalo High School, home of the Bison. With a short ride today I lingered over a second cup of coffee but still covered the 34 miles to picnic by 9 AM. There’s something a bit strange about eating the second meal of the day that early.

One of four bison heads in the cafeteria.

This ride was the scene of my worst day in 2018 so I was happy to have a different route. Of course, that meant that 60 miles were on I-90. I had never before ridden o an interstate highway. There was a wide and well-paved shoulder, usually clean except when covered with the remains of blown tires. Very few exits and no one exiting or entering, as they were all dirt roads to someone’s ranch. The “exit ramps” were essentially 90 degree angle turns with 10 mph speed limit. From the fog line there was about a 2 foot buffer, then rumble strip, then our riding space, so we were well separated from the minimal traffic.

The router let us know we were starting with a 2 mile climb. What he didn’t tell us is that there was a 5 mile climb to the first water stop, with 3 false summits along the way – one actually descended 40 feet, which we quickly made up. The climbs were gradual, not much steeper than railroad grades, so speed remained in double digits.

I left picnic with 4 others. One quickly dropped behind while 3 sped ahead. I stayed in the middle, figuring I’d ride alone. I caught the group on a climb and stayed with them for the rest of the day. I was riding with “the big kids”, or “the animals”. The old man kept up.

Not a commentary on my riding partners, just the wandering mind when someone called the fast kids “animals”.
Diamonds or just broken glass? For me, the revelation of this album was the bass playing of Ray Phiri.

In the early morning light, the pavement glitters. Some of it is bits of glass that must be dodged, some of it is just bits of minerals in the aggregate. Some might be glass safely ensconced in books and crannies. You pay attention and dodge those that look suspicious and hope you are right abut the ones you ignore. The bits of wire from blown tires are pretty much invisible. They are the real tire flatteners. Three flats so far, so three tubes to patch this weekend.

Often we are riding between rumble strips to our left and a beveled shoulder leading to the abyss on our right. You don’t want to be on the bevel, as the bike wants to go down that slope. You pick a line between those and avoiding the debris. Sometimes that line is pretty narrow so it takes concentration. (Insert “Hold that line” football chant here.)

Riding on an interstate highway is not an invitation to linger and take pictures, nor is it particularly picturesque. It is a day to cover a lot of miles quickly. At mile 27 we had our last view of the Bighorn Mountains, the last snow-capped mountains we will see. By noon I was ensconced at the Ice Cream Cafe, enjoying two scoops (coffee bean and salted caramel) along with an espresso. At home I have only one scoop when I go out for ice cream – here I will burn all the calories I can eat. I lost 15 pounds on this ride 4 years ago and no longer have 15 pounds to spare.

My best purchase so far, in Thompson Falls, MT. Stainless steel, seals with an o-ring and screw top, and holds the noontime addition of sunscreen. Sorry it’s out of focus. I was in a hurry.We won’t say why.

The rituals and rhythms of this life are obviously different than at home. I wake at 5 (same as home). For the first week I was always up before the alarm. When I got sick, the alarm woke me up. (My alarm is the Everly Brothers singing “Wake up Little Susie”.) Breaking camp (including bathroom rituals and dressing) takes less than an hour. We load the trailer, eat breakfast, and ride. Arriving in camp, we unload the trailer, dry out the tent, sleeping pad, and anything else wet, set up, then take a shower and change clothes. Bike clothes get washed in the shower (if I wear them into the shower it takes very little extra time, water, and soap compared to washing me) and hung on a clothesline (or a chain link fence in a pinch). Avoiding saddle sores/infections is helped by washing clothes right away. I rotate 4 sets of clothes – essentially randomly but I may choose a particular jersey for inspiration (e.g the Horribly Hilly Hundreds jersey for a difficult climbing day). If we arrive early, we go out for refreshments first. The rest of the day is available to explore the town, shop for anything needed, rest, read, write, hang out until dinner and our after dinner meeting. Bedtime comes pretty early. Other laundry waits for the weekend.

We have become our own Superspreader event. We are well into our second wave of COVID infections. We range from barely symptomatic to going to urgent care or home. How many asymptomatic (or hiding minor symptoms) but positive folks there are is anybody’s guest. I would guess at least ¼ of us have tested positive so far. New protocols are in place. I still have an ample supply of N-95 masks, though I hope my recent infection offers additional protection to my 4 doses of vaccine. The COVID bus is filling up.

Blue-eyed Soul

My friend Angie in Ireland (corrected from original) is a fan/student/blogger of classic rock. I’m just an old guy who was around then. If I could, I’d just send her my ideas and get her to research/write them; but I’m home from work early on a rainy day and this came to me on the ride home.

Homage/cultural appropriation/minstrelsy is a topic/continuum I won’t tackle here. Angie touched on it while writing about Led Zeppelin and others, Craig Werner delves into it in A Change is Gonna Come: Music, Race, and the Soul of America. The New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project published Wesley Morris’ essay on the topic. The Berklee School of Music offers a course on the topic. Some artists (e.g. The Beatles) openly acknowledged their sources and inspirations, others (e.g. Led Zeppelin) did not. Willie Dixon is credited with writing hundreds of songs, including some that Led Zeppelin stole. Dixon himself has been accused of putting his name on the songs of others. Picasso is credited with saying “good artists copy; great artists steal.”

Sometimes a great song (Willie Mae Thornton’s “Hound Dog”) gets turned into a novelty (Elvis Presley’s version) – though both versions were written by the white writers Leiber & Stoller, who weren’t afraid of a novelty tune. (They wrote “Poison Ivy”, “Yakety Yak”, “Love Potion #9”, and “Charlie Brown”. “Poison Ivy” isn’t so much a novelty tune as a warning about what might befall you if you”feed” that hound dog snooping around your door. )

Actual soul music would take a book, not a blog post. David Bowie referred to his music as “plastic soul”, but that didn’t stop him from making money from it. As for me, I just want a reason to listen to some old music on a rainy day.

Originally a BeeGees song; can’t get much whiter than that.
Steve Winwood when he was still “Stevie” as a teenager
While The Grateful Dead always mixed originals and covers, The Jerry Garcia Band gave Jerry an outlet for more covers, and he tended toward soul/R&B, having other bands to indulge other aspects of his roots and influences.
She wrote the song for Aretha and later sang it herself. A lot of R&B was written by white writers for black artists (e.g. Goffin & King, Leiber & Stoller, Mann & Weill), which makes the whole issue a bit more complex than just the simple notion of white singers stealing from black artists. Note that the teams that were mixed gender list the man first.
A cover of The Supremes hit
Delaney and Bonnie were better known for their “Friends”. They had quite a group of friends. You can find them playing with Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Duane Allman, and many others. Check out Bonnie Bramlett and Tracy Nelson duets some time.
with the famously mis-heard lyric “You and me endlessly groovin'”, heard as “You and me and Leslie…” by folks who thought it was about a threesome. This video lacks their early gimmick of costumes from the Little Rascals TV show. (Now that could be another post, Angie – costumed bands, like Paul Revere and the Raiders.)
Tracy Nelson vocal, Michael Bloomfield guitar, song by Memphis Slim. (I can’t find an online version of her singing “Time is on my side”, which is what I wanted to post. I have it on cassette, which is hard to upload.)
featuring Dave Mason, the “other” singer in Traffic
1945 tune by Buddy Johnson
Like Traffic, more than one of them could sing lead.
From Charles Brown’s “I Want to Go Home”, to Sam Cooke’s “Bring it on Home to Me”, to Van the Man, still going strong on this recording 53 years after his first charted single.
Where Blue-eyed Soul started for a lot of us. Two great voices and The Wall of Sound.

I’m a bike rider, not a music writer. This is not meant to be definitive, but it got me through a rainy afternoon.

The tyranny of numbers

My first Wednesday Night Bike Ride of the season is over. I can’t tell you how fast I rode, or how many watts I produced, or my maximum heart rate, or anything else you datameisters like to measure.

I can tell you I had fun, but I can’t quantify that. I can tell you that my heart and respiratory rates remained non-zero. I can tell you I rode enough miles to get back to where I started, and fast enough not to fall over. I can tell you that the winter wheat is bright green and makes a nice contrast with the pale spring greens of the tree blossoms. I guess that’s bad news to those who are allergic to tree pollens, but I’m not. It felt good to get out of town and on the road again.

Madison Reunion

If you are not in a hotel in Seattle Friday night, as I will be, check out the concert of the summer in Madison, Wisconsin.

Ben and Judy Sidran (p.s. That was a photo of Ben and their son Leo on the Union Terrace in last week’s post) are planning a little party, and you’re invited. There will be workshops and other stuff, but on Friday night there will be a reunion of a legendary band. (OK, never mind. I just looked at the seating chart on February 23 and it is nearly sold out already – back of the balcony only. If you don’t have a ticket by the time this goes on line you will be a few months too late.)

The reunion band includes Boz Scaggs and Ben Sidran (who were in The Ardells with Steve Miller and others before moving to San Francisco [though not all at the same time] as the Steve Miller Band), as well as Tracy Nelson of the Fabulous Imitations, who moved to San Francisco and formed Mother Earth, then moved to Tennessee and stayed there, though occasionally coming home for Christmas and blessing us with a show. Tracy is best known for her song “Down So Low”

(though I have  soft spot for her version of Memphis Slim’s Mother Earth, featuring Mike Bloomfield on guitar and Mark Naftalin on piano).

(And for Memphis Slim songs, I can’t resist “Celeste Boogie”. Who else plays boogie-woogie on celesta?)

I recently learned that Down So Low was written about her break up with Steve Miller.

So those other guys…I’ve always thought of Ben Sidran as the poor man’s Mose Allison

(though maybe less cynical), though he also co-wrote Steve Miller’s “Space Cowboy”. He has worked mostly in jazz and once hosted an NPR jazz show. He’s written a few books and earned a PhD in England.

Boz Scaggs went on to a solo career.

So all these folks are gonna be on one stage together and I’ll miss it. The promo materials say “and others” so who knows? Some of the folks from back then are no longer with us, but a few surprises are probably in store. Someone tell me all about it – either when I get home in two months, in the comments below, or call me Saturday morning, since I’ll still be hanging out in a Seattle hotel.

I ws going to say more about this reunion, so I think we’ll accelerate the pace in this final week before we hit the road and post again tomorrow.