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Monthly Archives: August 2009

The other night Rick called me on the phone. We had traded music tapes for the first time over 12 years ago, meeting through our mutual music interests on the internet. Fox99rickI think we met in person for the first time before a Neil Young concert at the Fox Theater in Detroit in the spring of 1999. He had front row seats and I took a picture of the back of his and his wife Susan’s head & Neil Young.fox99neil

The next show we were at together was John Hartford at the Ark in the fall of 1999. We were able to go back in the dressing room of the theater, which is never allowed, that’s because John had problems with his leg and had trouble walking. He wanted to meet fans and sign autographs but it was difficult for him to get to the public areas, so he had the public come to him. The Ark dressing room walls are covered with autographs and notes from the artists that have performed there over the years, it was very cool to see that!

I forget how many shows I saw Rick and Susan at after that, but we are mutual fans of Buddy & Julie Miller, Fred Eaglesmith, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Iris Dement … I could go on … there have been countless concerts that we have crossed paths at, mostly at the Ark. We have met for meals before shows, exchanged Christmas cards, shared losses … his mother & father died within the last few years, my father 8 years ago.

Anyway, he called on the telephone, maybe the second time we used that technology, it’s always email. He wondered why I wasn’t at the Iris Dement show at the Ark and asked how I was doing. He inquired about my brother, who I attend concerts with, he knew John had been unemployed since October of 2007. We talked about many things, just catching up, hadn’t seen him in a years time. It was good to hear from him.

That communication with Rick came while I was working on writing this:

“After reading an article that contained this quote “the internet has turned listening to music into a very solitary pastime“ got me thinking about how the internet has actually brought people together, not isolating individuals. In my own internet experience, going back 15 years, I have corresponded and met with people from around the globe. It all starts with a common interest, in my case it’s been music but then expands from there. intPalauStampOne example were exchanges with someone I share the same last name with, he resides on a South Pacific Island and works in the local government there, we mailed each other copies of Neil Young shows on cassette tape and frequently a memento from our region was included like a post card featuring a local artists painting or even a beer label.intPalauCard

The sharing of the mutual enjoyment of music started when I connected my computer to the internet for the first time in 1994. My first searches were my favorite artists, Frank Zappa was number one. My next search was Neil Young, which led to joining an email group of fans, trading live music tapes and meeting at concerts. Fox99fest

Before a Detroit show in 1999 I met Mark from Boston & Andy from Toronto, a few long term friendships started there. That’s how I met Rick & Susan ten years ago, also Bill and his wife Julee in addition to Dan and his wife Kris six years ago. My brother and I occasionally meet with them before concerts.”

That’s where I had stopped writing about the subject at the time before hearing from Rick, his call speaks for itself and I feel no need to elaborate further on the subject … that’s all I have to say about that.


mayfest0On the 40th anniversary of Woodstock I’m reminiscent of my attempt to duplicate being at that event. It was Mayfest 1980, I have few memories of it due to Woodstock type substance consumption but I do remember it being a magical day in the spirit of the “Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music” 40 years ago.

mayfest1Some pictures were found online, presented above and below, and a review:

“Mayfest draws 11,000 for final party”


Some quotes from the article:

“God himself could not have picked a better day” … “a warm, sunny Saturday to witness the performance of nine bands, drink a lot of alcohol and enjoy a day of leisure” … “the jams ranged from the Bruce Springsteen-type rock and Lou Reed-type punk of Johnny D. and the Stains, to the boogie and progressive-type jazz of Newt and the Salamanders” … “it’s been real mellow” … “even the bikers have been cool”mayfest3

One of the performers, Johnny D, had been around the local college music scene since my freshman year in 1976; we lived on the same floor of the dorm that first year and would visit “Banjo Dave” who lived across the hall from me. Johnny was dylanesque in appearance. (p.s.- after just watching the Woodstock movie I’d have to say townshendesque too)

More magical moments like Woodstock & Mayfest are needed in this world … and probably happen more often than we realize.


p.s. … the fine line …

“All these hippies wandering about thinking the world was going to be different from that day on. As a cynical English arsehole, I walked through it all and felt like spitting on the lot of them, trying to make them realize that nothing had changed and nothing was going to change. Not only that, what they thought was an alternative society was basically a field full of six-foot-deep mud laced with LSD. If that was the world they wanted to live in, then fuck the lot of them” – Pete Townshend


The first time I saw John Hartford perform was in 1998 at Central Michigan University, I had been a fan of his since being introduced to his music while attending CMU in the late 1970’s. His music became synonymous with having a good time, many days were spent with friends sitting on the front porch of our rented house with music blaring out of the stereo, enjoying the passage of time. It was fun taking my son Andrew around before the concert and revisiting some of the old houses I lived in and where Hartford’s music was first heard, many happy memories and stories were shared.
hartfordBulliescrThe show at CMU was recorded for the public radio show “Our Front Porch”, it was interesting just being a part of that, it was like an old-time radio show. During this period and for the rest of his life Hartford played a lot of old-time tunes, a tribute to his musical heritage and honoring those he learned from. They used the traditional method of one microphone in the middle of the stage, when it was time for a musicians solo they would step up to it, there was some awesome guitar, banjo, bass and fiddle playing that night! Being able to meet him after and chat a little was great, Andrew asked him about a tape we purchased wondering if the child pictured on it was him, it was not but he told us who it was, I wish I could remember.

On the way home my son said, “Dad, that’s the best music I’ve ever heard!” I suggested we go to his show in Tawas City the next day, he agreed.
The next night was like another trip back in time, he played in a church hall and fiddled himself right off the stage into the audience where everyone pulled back their chairs and made room for an old fashion dance-calling by John Hartford!


About a month later I was delivering a new car to my brother-in-law, he was living in Atlanta Georgia at the time so we met about halfway, somewhere in Kentucky. On the way back home I spent the night in Lexington where Hartford was playing at the Kentucky Theater, a neat old place to see a show. For my road music I brought along the “Anthology Of American Folk Music” which I had recently purchased, it was a great opportunity to listen to many hours worth of “The Old, Weird America” recorded in the late 1920’s, driving through the hills of Kentucky added to the experience.

Sometime between spring and fall of 1998 I was contacted about helping sponsor a local historical event called the “River of Time”. I selfishly suggested, arranged and paid for John Hartford to play at it. I was very excited to have him perform in our community, to have him share himself with us, and I hope we shared a little bit of and about ourselves with him. That evening my wife and I had dinner with John, Bob Carlin, Larry Perkins and Chris Sharp. Mike Compton had the first driving duties so he was sleeping on the bus.


John greeted my wife Janet with, “you know my first love’s name was Janet”, what a smooth talker. We walked into the five star restaurant looking like bums, I loved it! John was unshaven, wearing his derby hat, t-shirt and an unbuttoned plaid flannel shirt. Bob had his porkpie hat on, jacket and the thinnest old plain white t-shirt, he promptly removed his jacket and hat, looking like he was sitting in his underwear. Larry had on bib-jeans and a sport coat, he is the most polite, mild-mannered gentleman of them all, at the end of the night he said goodbye to my wife with…”thank you Miss Janet for the most lovely evening”, and Chris Sharp had on a black “Elderly Instruments” t-shirt and jeans.

That meal lasted three hours, we talked about many things and John was very open and sharing of himself with someone he hardly knew. When asked what my favorite John Hartford album was, I told him “Old Long Bow”. John said, “Bless you son, you just made me the happiest man in the world, that album I put more of myself into than anything I’ve done, we spent more than 4 years on that!”

And there was a discussion of working on a “part II “of his 1971 album “Aereo-plain”, Bob Carlin mentioned there’s a song that John does not want on the “part II” release… John asked Janet’s permission to use foul language… he said it’s a song called “Smoke Shit and Fuck“, it’s about smoking pot and screwing. John then proceeded to sing a few verses! He said it’s a place he was at almost 30 yrs ago and it just doesn’t pertain any more, and he also feels that kind of language is uncalled for!

At the end of the night John handed me a 3×5 card and asked for my 1999-09-25addressaddress and phone number, he then wrote out his address and phone number on a 3×5 and gave it to me. I also got to shake his hand, which he doesn’t allow people to do often. The first time I approached him at CMU for an autograph I offered my hand to him and he said he didn’t shake hands but would be happy to “do-sa-do” me and offered his elbow to lock my elbow with like you would do square dancing, which I did and was probably more thrilled with that than a hand shake at the time. But it was now a great pleasure to finally shake his hand and look him in the eye and thank him for all the wonderful music!

I will never forget that time I spent with him.

After reading this article it got me thinking about the question.

My first thought was I don’t need a label for my beliefs.

My second thought was Catholic Taoist Presbyterian Musicologist.

firstcommunion2I was raised a Catholic, went to Holy Rosary Academy for grade school where I recited things in Latin as an alter boy, went to mass frequently, made my first communion and went to confession. Confessing such sins as disobeying my parents and taking candy that was not mine. I did not confess that when we would go to practice being alter boys  in the chapel that we would take some of the unblessed hosts from the side storage room to snack on in class or take some of the incenses and coal to play with at home. We aspiring alter boys would go visit the school priest in his room across from the chapel, we were comfortable approaching him because when he first came to the school a few years earlier from Poland he would sit in our classroom to improve his understanding of the English language. I recall once going to visit him by myself, his door was open but he was not in his room, looking around I noticed an envelope in the waste basket, it caught my attention because of the stamp, it was from Poland, I took it. I guess it wasn’t stealing, it was trash picking, so no confession was necessary. Years later I found out that Father Stan studied under Karol Wojtyła, who became Pope John Paul II which made me wonder if that envelope was from that man. I doubt that I saved the envelope but I’m sure the stamp is tucked away with my childhood coin and stamp collection in the little green safe box hidden away with other treasures.

My interest in eastern religions started in high school where I took a class that explored the world’s religions. These subjects were studied further with classes I took in college, one in particular was Dr. Kendall W. Folkert’s class on Mysticism. It included studies from Hinduism to Catholic mystics such as St Teresa of Ávila. An excellent book was used; “Mysticism, Window On A World View” by Margaret Lewis Furse. Assignments in that class included days of fasting and documenting your awareness of every perception from your senses. Taoism is what I identified most with but found all eastern religions interesting to study. That class actually taught me that there were deeper aspects to the Catholic religion than what I was exposed to in all my years of Catholic training.

I joined the Presbyterian Church when I married my wife Janet who had been a lifelong member. I actually got a lot out of the new member’s class, it prompted further soul searching. The minister, Lloyd Umbarger, gave inspiring sermons, something I never experienced in the Catholic Church. He seemed to relate more to the congregation than any priest I had known or heard. His sermons about “The Road Less Traveled” and “People of the Lie”, books by Dr. M. Scott Peck prompted their reading, I consider them milestones in my personal learning experiences also.

withMikeTimmons44cr2I have always enjoyed musical experiences as far back as I can remember. But as of most recently (the last 12 years) I have discovered the ethereal journey it can take you on. The experience of a talented performing artist’s live show can bring you to tears under the right circumstances, and it can be simply the music, words are not needed. It  gives affirmation that “we’re all in this together” … a favorite quote by an unknown author:

“the truth that can be told through a song is something that people are longing to hear, because it is not the kind of truth we talk about in ordinary conversation. But it is human and it is what we usually keep hidden – secrets, in other words. If a singer is truthful and honest, listeners will recognize themselves in those secrets and they will be moved”

I believe in all of this … and yet I believe in none of this.


Charlie passed through the vacant showroom again today, yesterday he approached me about going to see the ’69 ‘bird … today he just said hi, I asked if he had another car in … he said he wanted Randy to look at something on the Firebird again. I printed out a copy of the photo I took yesterday for him. Sending it to a color printer in another office took some time, had to figure out why it wasn’t printing, so we had time to talk.

I have seen Charlie coming in since I started working here 33 years ago, never really “talked”, I guess a shared loss brings out sharing that doesn’t just happen under normal circumstances. He talked about his first car, a ’61 Catalina he bought used, and a ’73 Grandville convertible he also had … we wondered if that was the last big convertible Pontiac made. He talked about family in Missouri, I asked if he was from that area, he said yea … the Springfield-Joplin area, his brother-in-law told him about the jobs available at the GM Plant up here, so he applied. Said he would have got a better retirement package from GM if he didn’t join the Marines first and serve 15 months in Viet Nam. He talked about the terrible things he and others saw in ‘Nam and how terrible war is, his brother-in-law was a prisoner of war. I expressed how fortunate I was for not having to go through a war experience. I told him my father never really talked about his experiences in World War II but I could only imagine the horror he saw when his platoon was at the Dachau concentration camp just days after it was liberated, one of the few things he mentioned but never elaborated on.


Charlie was in for an oil change on his 1969 Firebird today, the third new car he bought from us he said, Randy worked on it as he has for many years.


Also Mrs. Rugenstein stopped by this afternoon with a book she got when she worked at the GM plant here in town, it was the 75th Anniversary book from 1983 in the original box … mint condition, she wanted me to have it. She mentioned she was born the same year our business started and doesn’t know what she’s going to do when we close. She said growing up she lived in the same neighborhood as my Dad, I asked if she went to Central High School … she said, “Yea … one year … I didn’t like it so I stopped going”.

It was a happy occasion on Sunday, Harold’s wedding, his third I think, and they say “third times the charm”, I hope so for Harold and get the impression Cindy is a charming woman. Harold’s a great guy, thoughtful with his heart in the right place, I feel honored that I’m one of the few people from work that he chose to invite. Harold and I kind of grew up together in the business, when I was moving out of the service department in the early 1980’s I suggested Harold take my place working at the service counter. At the time he was the Used Car Department’s porter, that’s the guy who does everything nobody else wants to do, from washing cars to shoveling snow. He worked out well and eventually became the service manager, he has mentioned many times that he looks to me as a role model on how to do things the right way, I’m sure that’s partially buttering up the boss but Harold wouldn’t say something if he didn’t mean it to some degree.

The wedding reception was held on the Princess Wenonah, an old car ferry converted to a party boat that also gives historical tours on the Saginaw River. From the dock downtown we went out to the bay and back which takes four hours. I was happy to spend some non-work time with Randy and his wife Diane and their son Jason and his fiancée Holly. In recent years I have been removed from experiencing first hand the daily activities in the service department and would just see Randy mostly in passing. Alan who has worked at the dealership for 46 years was there also with his wife, he’s in the same area as I at work. My wife did not attend, we were also invited to the wedding of Susan who she went to college with getting their masters degrees. Janet mentioned that they had gone through so much together that she had to be there, and we agreed that my time with some important people in my life was needed also, so we went our separate ways. In thinking about it people probably spend more time with there work families than with their home families, both are very important and emotional areas of ones life.


It was good to spend some fun time with everyone, but on the two hour trip back to town I spent the majority of that time by myself on the bow of the boat just watching the passing river bank. There’s a lot of history on the Saginaw, an ancient Indian burial ground is near the old Fletcher Oil Co. property, which for the most part is now abandoned with rusting old machinery and equipment. Further down the river on the other side was the Defoe Shipbuilding Co. that built ships for the US Navy and also built the yacht used by Presidents Kennedy & Eisenhower.


We pass through two old railroad bridges, the smell from the old oil soaked wood reminds me of a coal yard that was near my house just on the other side of the railroad tracks, it had the same smell, like that of diesel fuel. The tree and brush lined river bank areas remind me of the countless hours spent as a child playing in the similar areas that were by my house. I grew up in a house that was one block from the river on one side and about 100 feet from railroad tracks on the other, I can still be lulled to sleep by a freight train rumbling by or a freighter horn blowing.


As the waters rush by I’m reminded of the lumbering industry that thrived here 150 years ago, sawmills lined the banks where now are condos in the downtown area, condos in converted industrial warehouses from the time after the lumbering era. On our journey three drawbridges open and close for us, we go a little south of the docking area to turn around next to the property that once housed Industrial Brownhoist. IB manufactured large cranes that sold world wide, cranes that would work in major sea ports and at construction sites around the globe. The sunset glistened on the broken windows of the abandoned buildings and in the distance beyond the vacant property I noticed the bright white light of our product sign rising above the abandonment, it gave me a sinking feeling to know that it would soon go dark in the days ahead.


My concentration was broken as I was summoned to the back of the boat by Diane who said they needed me back there. All the Dunlop people who attended were on the dance floor taking pictures, they needed me to complete it. Everyone posing with arms around each other, Jason gave me a big hug as he did at work the day he came in to say goodbye with tears in his eyes. After the group picture Jason said he wanted a picture of me with the “last father & son team”, referring to a conversation we had the week before, Randy joined us.

When leaving the boat one of the wedding guests said to me “it’s kind of like losing your family, isn’t it?” … I said yes, but thought it isn’t “like” losing your family, it is losing your family … your work family.

“ … tour started in Stockholm. … featuring God a.k.a. Neil Young … the guys got pissed (that means a little too drunk in English, English) and watched Neil from the side of the stage. (me too but I wasn’t pissed)… Well, there’s simply nothing quite like seeing Neil, feeling Neil, hearing Neil and being in the Neil experience at such close range. I imagine a little like watching Jesus drag the cross up that last hill.”     Chrissie Hynde –

I agree, there is nothing like seeing Neil perform up close, he can be singing a very quiet passage and his face is filled with emotion as if he is screaming, I witnessed that from a 3rd row seat while he was singing Razor Love … “silhouettes on the windoooooooow” … the lady next to me was in tears.