Thursday, July 28, 2011

Remembering Nick Valentine & Phil Osborn at The Paper

Where to begin? I find myself wandering incoherent as a cloud, woolgathering attempting to trick myself into writing this obit in medias res with a mea culpea to you, Dear Reader, and to two newspapermen I once knew, as well as to the end of an era. 
What I really want to say to my blog is: Not today, Dear, I have a headache. Gutting closets, tearing the house apart and whatnot has left me stiff and the raging headache is a byproduct of—or rather, a result of old car injuries acting up. To begin my morning with tea and advil. And bad news. Ugh. If i don't just start writing—warts and all—it'll never happen. The self-imposed dreadline.
Today the bad news just kept on coming: an old friend, photographer and writer, Simone Wilson, emailed me that our mentor and newspaper legend of The Paper (now the North Bay Bohemian), editor Nick Valentine died on June 25, in Brisbane, Australia (1941-2011).

And hard on the heels of that sad news, Simone told me that Phil Osborne (1938-2011) the photographer who trained me in the darkroom arts, also died in July 15, in Cloverdale, CA.

Perhaps it's not so strange that these two men died within weeks of each other. For over a decade, Nick & Phil were the backbone and ribs of an alternative weekly tabloid newspaper owned by Elizabeth Poole that we worked for during the 1980s and 1990s. What I learned about photography and writing—I owe to these two great mentors who taught and encouraged me, and allowed me to develop my own style. Godspeed.

Editor Nick Valentine 1941-2011 ©1991 Jesse Valentine

Nick Valentine was founding editor of The PaperWest Sonoma County's Independent Voice (1979—1993). The Paper was where I learned my varied and sullen craft: writing and photography.  Jazz pianist Bob Lucas was The Paper's first publisher, he paid the bills. Shortly thereafter, Bob sold it to Elizabeth Poole whose family owned a string of newspapers back east. So you could say Elizabeth was born into the newspaper business.
One story has it that Guerneville resident Stan Buck was credited with generically naming it The Paper—the place where people got their local news. But the other story has it that when Elizabeth Poole came to work with Nick as an intern from Sonoma State, an Abbot and Costello Who's on first conversation followed. And the paper became The Paper.
During that time, The Paper evolved from a mimeographed flyer to a tabloid. Nick was editor-in-chief for ten years, focusing on local news, with in-depth political and environmental coverage pertinent to West county. Nick had a finely-honed sense of justice and strong working class ethics—he kept a sharp lookout for the rights of the little guy. Perhaps his short stint with The Russian River News—then owned by the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, sharpened his political awareness. 
"Poole bought the financially struggling Paper that year and kept it alive with her family’s money through the 1980s, when at its peak it was printing 15,000 copies a week. After Poole sold it in 1990 The Paper evolved into The Independent and moved to Santa Rosa where it became the Northbay Bohemian." —Frank Robertson, Sonoma West Times & News. 7/27/2011.
The financially strapped Paper offices bounced up and down the Russian River: Monte Rio, Guernewood Park, Guerneville, Forestville. When The Paper morphed into The West Sonoma County Paper, it made a break with the River and moved to the tiny hamlet of Freestone. Then it moved to urban Santa Rosa, it tried to grow up and lose its hippie duds, and then it became the The Sonoma County Independent ca. 1993 (publishers Boland-Carroll Inc.).

The Paper, 1989
Ironically, one of my writing students from Mark West School, Gabe Meline, is now the editor of the North Bay Bohemian. I must've taught him something, it's improved greatly under his tenure. Here is a link to a 25-year retrospective of The Paper from the Bohemian's rather flat lens.Then, The Paper was rebranded The North Bay Bohemian  when it was purchased by Metro Newspapers (Rosemary Olson, publisher). By the time it became the Bohemian (when was that 1996?), and Greg Cahill was editor, the paper no longer had any West County roots to speak of, and I was unceremoniously kicked to the curb. 

NICK VALENTINE

Nick Valentine died in Brisbane, Australia, at the age of 69 from pneumonia—complications of a lung disease. Most likely emphysema. To my way of thinking, Nick died too young. A bearded bear of a man, Nick never did take very good care of himself. Svelte dark Virginia Slims cigarettes and Coca-Cola were his mainstay.

Nick was one caf-fiend Coke-swigging smoking chimney of an editor during Wednesday-night-cum-Thursday morning production drop deadline. When the Coke ran out, Nick switched to leftover coffee sludge, spiked with condensed milk and sugar, and kept on working. I think he only missed the printer's deadline once.
Brother Toby of the Starcross community in Annapolis challenged the notion that AIDS was solely a "gay" disease by offering shelter to AIDS infected orphans. His story shepherded AIDS into mainstream consciousness.

Putting the paper to bed in the wee hours meant that we—the paste up crew, and the darkroom tech (me)—pulled many all-nighters working against time itself in the ramshackle offices above the store. Many's the time I drove home to Forestville along River Road in my VW Bug, with dawn nudging the reluctant stars out of the sky. A few times I delivered the flats to the Healdsburg printer at daybreak.

PHIL OSBORN

Phil Osborn was staff photographer and writer for The Paper from 1979 to 1990. Phil wasn't much better than Nick at taking care of himself. Except his cigarettes were more generic with a longer ash. The diabetes didn't help matters any and he loved sipping a cool one.

I was the Tuesday-Wednesday night relief shift in the darkroom. Safe to say that Phil taught me all I know about photography and running the reprographic PMT camera—the size of my VW Bug—to half-screen photos and ad art. The large format Agfa copy camera had a huge inverted bellows about 4 feet across attached to a lens that focused on a white easel. To enlarge images, I dialed in size, focus and exposure to make negative films up to a foot wide. Then I developed the film, like a print, as well.
This was all before the days of computer desktop publishing—Mac (and laser printers) were still a glimmer in both the Steves eyes. We were using Compugraphic photo-typesetting machines the size of large refrigerators. No screen. You blindly typed your text in, and got a "cold-type" film negative transfer. The printer in Sebastopol, O'Dell, was still using linotype—or "hot-lead type." No WYSIWYG until 1985. when Mac arrived on the publishing scene. Of course, Nick was in the vanguard. So you could say, I also learned to use a Mac (actually it was an Apple IIc) because of The Paper.
Gravel-voiced Phil, born in Lake City, Iowa, was a fine arts photographer who studied with Ansel Adams, so I was well schooled in the darkroom arts. There was a specific way to develop film—the shake and and inverted half roll to ensure the developing chemicals were evenly distributed.  How to rub a print in the chemical bath with the hands to bring up the contrast in a blown out section with friction. In retrospect I shudder, we didn't use gloves, but at least the darkroom was well ventilated.

A member of the San Francisco Folk Music Club, Phil was also a fine musician and a former potter so we held several threads in common. I used to go over to visit Phil in his old Airstream trailer that was hunkered down in the redwood duff at Ring Canyon Campground in Guerneville and listen to him play bluegrass—on a banjo, a fiddle, a mandolin or his Martin. Phil was a master musician and square dance caller—I even went to one of his dances. He was also a talented stringed instrument repairman for Bay Area old-timey folk musicians. He talked me through the process of fixing my Martin when the tuning heads broke and cracked the top. 

And like Nick, Phil was widely read and knowledgeable in many fields, so conversations with him were also educational. After a stint in the Navy, Phil went to San Francisco State and got a BA in sociology. He got married in 1961, raised a family and and became a photographer and writer. He is survived by daughters Shannon and Kelly. In the early 1970s, Phil got divorced, moved to the country, and worked as a potter—where he met Bauhaus artist Marguerite Wildenhain of Pond Farm in Guerneville—who Bob Arneson dubbed the "grande-dame of potters."

CUB REPORTERS AT LARGE

We were a peculiar, if convoluted tribe of fledgling reporters and Nick was our vision, our guide, and Phil, our eyes. I worked with reporter Simone Wilson, in a dyslexic moment, I coined the phrase "Real to Reel," which became the title of our movie column. I also covered the arts as well as being an on-call photographer. Janet Zagoria directed production layout, with Zoe Griffith-Jones who was also an editor and investigative reporter along with Ron Sonenshine and Andrea Granahan. 

There was Nick's wife, Suzanne who ran the office; The Boss: Elizabeth Poole who eventually married Nick in 1991 (it's a long, convoluted story). There was Liesel Hoffman, the incredible copy editor, and many stringers, Roger Karraker, John di Salvio, Tom Roth—who became the editor for a while before he turned to politics...and many more writers whose names I can no longer recall.
Wilson, recalled working in The Paper’s cramped improvised office in Monte Rio above Bartlett’s store. “It was a great group of people. It was also kind of a zoo,” said Wilson, recalling weekly deadlines when Valentine would stockpile Coca-Cola and cigarettes to fuel late-hour production ordeals.
“Nick was a wonderful and very talented man. He knew exactly how he wanted The Paper to look,” said Wilson. “He was an artist who was able to turn typography into art, and he was a brilliant cartoonist.” —Frank Robertson, Sonoma West Times & News. 7/27/2011.
Simone and I came to The Paper from a rival alternative newspaper, Joe Leary's Sonoma County Stump—which was truly alternative. Sort of a laid-back North Bay granola version of the Berkeley Barb. I don't know how the publisher Bliss Buys or carpenter-cum-editor Joe Leary managed to charm us into staying on for two years—unpaid. The Stump office was located in the apartment above the Forestville Cantina so at least we ate well on paste-up night. 

When The Stump went under in 1981 or 82, I was listed as a photographer and entertainment editor (I had the middle truck spread for an occasional poetry insert—sweet), and Simone was an ace cub reporter. We banged out stories on cloth ribbon typewriters—and later, Selectrics, and we pasted our columns directly into the newspaper layout flats—warts and all. We had no idea what we were doing but it seemed to be the right thing to be doing at the time.

When The Stump finally went under for good (it seems newspapers are like drowning sailors, they come up for air several times before they finally drown for good), we dressed ourselves up in our straightest schmatas, marched ourselves down to The Paper, situated above Bartlett's Store in Monte Rio, and convinced publisher Elizabeth, and Nick that they needed to hire us. Don't know why they believed us—they really didn't want to hire us, but we were bitten by the newspaper bug. Perhaps they saw our raw potential. And I do mean raw.

Besides, Phil had his hands full developing all the reporters' B&W film and he needed a hand—someone to take over the late-breaking stories on the nite-owl shift. I learned to roll and develop film, to print half tones, and create ad art on a big PMT camera. I became the queen of pushing Tri-X to its grainy limits.
Oddly, the Sonoma County Stump, then dubbed the Russian River Stump, had its origins in Monte Rio in 1972 to 1973, so, on some level, with a change of cast, we were right back where we started.
After a debilitating car accident in the 1970s that preempted long hours standing as a short order cook at Jenner's River Landing, Nick Valentine applied for rehab training, and studied journalism at Santa Rosa Junior College with Cathy Mitchell, co-owner with husband Dave, of Marin County’s Pulitzer-prize winning Point Reyes Light. So that was our guidepost.
Our beat was cutting edge news—even in a rural setting. Not like the Press Democrat owned broadsheet, the Russian River News that held up the status quo of middle-of-the-road journalism so dear to the dark hearts of local politicians, contractors, realtors, chambers of commerce and of course, the Board of Supervisors.
We covered local politics and corruption, the Santa Rosa sewer wars, the annual Bohemian encampment—one year Simone and I posed as hookers to get a story (women aren't allowed in the Grove so the Bohos ferried across the river to party at Northwoods Lodge owned by Manu Khomeini—a relative of the Ayatollah), we were chasing a scoop on the breaking savings & loan scandal; there were a lot of "allegedly reported" phrases from our unnamed source on German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's speech. We covered  offshore oil drilling attempts, the plight of the fishermen, and the Vietnam vets suffering from the effects of Agent Orange, and PTSS
Guerneville, the gay "boomtown" was covered in Newsweek, and overnight, the Russian River went from a seasonal summer resort, to a year-round hot gay destination and a burgeoning community of artists, dreamers, drop-outs and activists. 
We covered the AIDS epidemic when no one else would touch it. Who remembers AIDS chronicler, Randy Shilts, or Brownie Marie's Cazadero arrest (my story), or the pivotal role that the Starcross monastery played in saving AIDS babies? 
The drumroll included: SSUs math professor and free speech activist Mario Savio—yes, THAT Mario, Carl Jensen's Project Censored, carpenter-activist Lenny Weinstein. We covered the field reports of Earth First! eco-activist Judi Bari, who was framed by the FBI for a pipe bomb explosion that crippled her in her own car in 1990, anti-nuclear activist Mary Moore, and political activist Mark Pearlman who was slain in Mexico. And we covered the local celebs: gay activist Leonard Matlovitch, chess master and bridge champ Peter Pender of Fife's Resort, Raymond Burr, Charles & Jean Shulz.
Wisconsin native, Waukesha born William Nicholas Valentine, who went to college on an ice hockey scholarship, had ambitions of being a painter. He was a brilliant cartoonist and graphic designer, as well as a fine editor who would go out on a limb for you—and help you saw off the branch, if needs be. He taught us to take risks, to investigate further, to follow our hunches.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

California Poets in the Schools 47th Symposium in Santa Barbara 9/9-11, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: We have several "commuter" spaces available—attend the entire conference for only $200/150 for Sat only) and sleep off campus. All the single rooms are gone—but there's usually two beds per room. You could also risk it and show up—there will probably be space available somewhere. If not, then Motel 6 is your BFF. We are also negotiating for more rooms at Casa de Maria. Meanwhile, if you know a poet who is attending, you can always ask if you can share a room.

There are a few slots open for Steve Kowit's fabulous writing workshop on Friday afternoon as well. Call or email Tina ASAP to reserve a slot. info@cpits.org or 415-221-4201.

BREAKING:




Are you going to The Ballgame? Giants vs. Phillies? It's a very SPECIAL event for CPITS. The SF Giants will hand SF CPITS Area Coordinator Susie Terence and 12 Jr. Giants a big check for $10,000 to bring poetry workshops into the classrooms. Be there. Take pix, and post them on Facebook. Go Giants! Go Susie! Take me out to the ballgame...



DEADLINE TO REGISTER IS AUGUST 12. CONTACT CPITS ASAP IF YOU'D LIKE TO ATTEND.


CPITS' 47th annual poetry workshop & symposium, "Writing Ourselves True," 9/9-11, 2011 @ Santa Barbara's La Casa de Maria retreat and conference center.

CPITS' annual poetry workshop & symposium is one of the most sublime and inexpensive writers' conferences in the nation. Poets, artists and teachers are welcome. Sign up for our action-packed weekend, "Writing Ourselves True," on 9/9-11, 2001 at the idyllic La Casa de Maria retreat, a former convent in Santa Barbara. Oh, and the food's divine too. 
Double click to enlarge


Visit http://www.cpits.org/events/ev​ents.htm or email TIna@CPITS.org to sign up.


Over 15 workshops offered at the CPITS' annual poetry workshop & symposium, "Writing Ourselves True," 9/9-11 @ Santa Barbara's La Casa de Maria: Friday workshop with Steve Kowit, featured reading by Perie Longo.


Perie Longo










TUESDAY’S CHILD
                                 for Zane 

…is full of grace, but much more, son
of my son, made of love and earth’s fruit,
high surf, long trails toward wide vision
this grandmother dare brag, snuggling him
first time in the holy air, he light as light,
delivered floating in his liquid orb.
His mother knew a blessing, yes,
from  the start. Nothing could stop
him slipping through heaven's cracks
bent on life, though angels tried to
hold him back. What could he want
from the world with all its strife despite
the splurge of nature, tender parents,
two sisters who would care for him,
coo to see him smile, share kisses,
blankets, books, the “real” rabbit,
their princess wings if he missed
where he came from. Long before dawn
I woke in a pool of moonlight on my pillow
and thought truly, a sign from above,
if only I could call down my husband
to shout the grand news. When sun rose
I opened the door for the paper and
there over the mountains a rare dusting
of snow as glistening crown.

Perie Longo, poet- teacher
Santa Barbara

Perie will be reading with Steve Kowit on September 9 at our symposium at Casa De Maria!


Sat/Sun workshops by Blake More, Shadab Zeest Hashmi, Joan Gelfand, Seretta Martin, Melinda Palacio, Karen Lewis, Phyllis Meshaulam, minerva, Claudia Poquoc, Gwynn O'Gara, Daryl Chin, Fernando Castro, Tobey Kaplan, Nan Busse, Jill Moses & Shelley Savren. Come for a day or the entire weekend!
CPITS 47TH SYMPOSIUM - Writing Ourselves True
Friday, September 9 - Sunday, September 11

La Casa de Maria Retreat Center, Santa Barbara
CPITS 47th Symposium will take place Friday, September 9th through Sunday, September 11th, 2011, at La Casa de Maria Retreat Center in Santa Barbara. Located in the Montecito foothills, La Casa de Maria is a local treasure, ranked by U.S. News and World Report 2006 as "one of the best U.S. retreats."

In addition to charming accommodations, the center provides miles of walking and hiking trails and a swimming pool. Save the date and check back for more details.

Schedule: Friday, September 9 (pre-symposium)
Writing Intensive with Steve Kowit. Includes a fabulous lunch at La Casa de
Maria at noon, followed by the writing intensive with Steve Kowit from 1 to 5pm.
Steve Kowit
Steve Kowit, our featured workshop intensive leader for our CPITS symposium 
will be at Casa De Maria on Friday, September 9.


  

Terri  Glass: When did you discover the love of poetry and who were some of your mentors?
 
Steve Kowit: I've been a writer since I was a kid. My first "novel," (illustrated in crayon) was about a slave rebellion. I was probably in the 4th or 5th grade. I had a schoolteacher in 10th grade, George Bailin, who was a serious poet, and so I started writing poetry because I liked him a lot and wanted him to like me. As soon as I started I was hooked. I've never stopped. Then I discovered Hart Crane and fell madly in love with his work. I didn't understand a word of it, but what sumptuous language, what marvelously ecstatic music and phrasing! I even gave a copy ofThe Bridge to a girl I had a crush on; that was also, probably, in the 10th grade. Then I wanted to write like the avant-garde, the Beats and Black Mountain people and New York School poets who were starting to make their reputations in the early 60s. The poets who published in Yugen. But one day I had an epiphany: Other than Ginsberg's work, I didn't really love their poetry. I was already in love with Dylan Thomas and Crane and Whitman, but because Whitman was a century in the past, and because of the vast range and power of his work, it was hard to use him as a model. And then I discovered Jeffers. Of course scores and scores of poets among my contemporaries have influenced me, people like Mary Oliver, Kim Addonizio, Dorianne Laux, Ron Koertge and Ted Kooser. Far too many to name.
 
Terri:  To what do your attribute the success of your handbook for writing poetry, In the Palm of Your Hand? Why is it the best selling book of its kind on Amazon?
 
Steve:  I wrote it relatively unselfconsciously, in my real voice, out of my real passions and after years of classroom experience teaching poetry to talented adults. But also, I think, I wanted to make sure that it was reader friendly at every level, that it didn't sound technical or esoteric or about some sort of specialized knowledge. And I knew that a lot of the model poems were wonderful models of contemporary poetry that might disabuse people of the notion that poems are always incomprehensible and off putting. 
 
Terri:  Do you have anything special lined for the workshop intensive for our poet teachers at Casa De Maria on September 9?
 
Steve: I want participants to write drafts of at least three new poems, hopefully four, to look at the craft behind a few marvelous model poems, to see what makes them work as moving human communications and acts of memorable linguistic music. I want participants to dig into their emotional memories, things they've always wanted to write about, but haven't yet managed to. Have participants use language acts (questions, exclamatory one-word sentences, broken-off sentences, etc.) and other formal elements that they don't commonly use, work with tone and voice, with assonance and off-rhyme in ways that might push them further in one or another direction. Ultimately, I'd love people to end up with four first (or second) drafts that are hot, that they are excited to keep working on, that they know are going to turn into real keepers. That's what I'd want in a workshop: to produce real work, even though the poems might still be at a rough first-draft stage. But I want it all to be fun; no matter how many tears people shed at the memories or material out of which they're working, the workshop has to be fun and relaxed and full of laughs and with lots of room for lots of points of view (since most or all participants are poet teachers, they all know as well as I do, that there's no "right" way to write a poem, no "correct" process!). Ultimately it should be exhilarating, make people want to get home and write poems! An essay of mine in the current Writer's Chronicle is called "A Poet's Anti-Rule Book" and takes a skeptical view of rules for poets. The trick is to improve on the blank page... which isn't easy to do!
 
Terri: I look forward to seeing some hot drafts and breaking the rules with you Steve. Sounds like tons of fun!
The Blue Dress (YouTube link)
When I grab big Eddie, the gopher drops from his teeth
& bolts for the closet, vanishing
into a clutter of shoes & valises & vacuum
attachments, & endless boxes of miscellaneous rubbish.
Grumbling & cursing, carton by carton,
I lug everything out:
that mountain of hopeless detritus ― until,
with no place to hide, he breaks
for the other side of the room & I have him at last,
trapped in a corner, tiny & trembling.
I lower the plastic freezer bowl over his head &
Boom! ―
slam the thing down.
"Got him!" I yell out,
slipping a folder under the edge for a lid.
But when I open the front door, it's teeming,
a rain so fierce it drives me back into the house,
& before I can wriggle into my sneakers,
Mary, impatient, has grabbed the contraption
out of my hands & run off into the yard with it, barefoot.
She's wearing that blue house dress.
I know just where she's headed: that big
mossy boulder down by the oleanders
across from the shed,
& I know what she'll do when she gets there ― hunker
down, slip off the folder,
let the thing slide to the ground
while she speaks to him softly, whispers
encouraging, comforting things.
Only after the gopher takes a few tentative steps,
dazed, not comprehending how he got back
to his own world, then tries to run off,
will she know how he's fared: if he's wounded,
or stunned, or okay ― depraved ravisher
of our gladiolus & roses, but neighbor & kin nonetheless.
Big Eddie meows at my feet while I stand
by the window over the sink, watching
her run back thru the rain,
full of good news. Triumphant. Laughing. Wind
lashing the trees. It’s hard to fathom
how gorgeous she looks, running like that
through the storm: that blue  
sheath of a dress aglow in the smoky haze―
that luminous blue dress pasted by rain to her hips.
I stand at the window grinning, amazed
at my own undeserved luck―
at a life that I still, when I think of it, hardly believe.

Steve Kowit, San Diego


Friday–Sunday, September 9-11
Check in time at La Casa de Maria begins at 4 pm on Friday. The symposium begins with a 6pm dinner on Friday, followed by an 8pm reading by our writing intensive teacher and feautured reader Steve Kowit and our honoree Perie Longo.

Saturday begins at 8am with breakfast, and workshops will run all day from 9am to 5pm. A general meeting will be held after lunch on Saturday from 1 to 2pm. Saturday evening will include an open poet reading and celebration at 7:30pm.

Sunday workshops will begin at 9:30am and the symposium will end by noon. There will be time throughout the weekend for swimming and relaxation.

Meal Request: If you have any special dietary needs or meal requests, or if you are vegetarian or vegan please inform the CPITS office so they can order meals appropriately from La Casa de Maria.
Download Conference Materials: http://www.cpits.org/event​s/events.htm
mail registration to:
California Poets in the Schools
1333 Balboa Street Ste. 3
San Francisco
, CA 94118
415-221-4201
California Poets in the Schools
Follow CPITS on Twitter @Calpoets

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Across the Road from Mickey Hart

August 5: Mickey Hart at Napa Valley Opera House

In the 1980s and 1990s, I lived across the road from Grateful Dead and New Riders of the Purple Sage drummer Mickey Hart in Forestville. He is somewhat of an unsung celebrity.

When his book (co-authored with Fredric Liebermanand the accompanying CD, Planet Drum—a musical atlas of World Beat music came out in 1998, we all trekked to Copperfield's for the booksigning and reading because he was part of our community. Not because he was famous, but because it was an intensely exciting time.

I remember the book cover made for a pretty cool T-shirt. You could always spot Mickey wearing one of his album cover T-shirts walking down Main Street in Sebastopol.

Sometimes musicians would show up en masse at Mickey's place on Mirabel Road. Talk about a harmonic convergence. Especially around the Summer Solstice. It was like a Ken Kesey VW bus cavalcade meets a Star Trek convention. Locals shuffled over to join in on the fun. The surviving members of the Grateful Dead were jammin' again at Mickey Hart's place.

All manner of exotic music would take flight in the night air. Not just New Riders of the Purple Sage/ Grateful Dead music. (Evan Morgan from NRPS was my neighbor.) But traditional folk musicians showed up too.

Mickey Hart is an unsung celebrity—not because of his fame as NRPS and Grateful Dead drummer—but because few know that he is also an avid ethno-musicologist who produced dozens of ethnic and indigenous music albums. (Mickey just donated his entire collection to The Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. See SFR on Facebook).


One time I just stood in the driveway at twilight listening to the music, wild roses in my hand, too shy to go in and crash the party. It was probably far more interesting to stand in the middle of the dirt road and listen to the music from afar than to be inside. 

The comforting crunch of gravel underfoot, the air redolent with night-blooming jasmine, wild Damascus roses, and the myriad warblings of a small creek for symphony. What I remember was the intensity of the indigo sky and Venus hovering on the horizon. 

Ironically, I thought of another near neighbor from Freestone—Tom Waits' calliope music—Innocent When You Dream. Not his street-punky tough guy Romeo is Bleeding music but the way carousel music sounds in the distance, leaving me waltzing alone in the dust at dusk, and filled with an intense longing of something unnameable and undefined. Like a long-forgotten memory rising to the surface. Of a time that you never lived. But remembered through a veil as if escaped from dreams. Something in the air. The music of a vanishing world.

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Planet Drum: A Celebration of Percussion and Rhythm by Mickey Hart, Fredric Lieberman and D. A. Sonneborn (Aug 1998)


Drumming at the Edge of Magic: A Journey into the Spirit of Percussion by Mickey HartJay Stevens and Fredric Lieberman (Dec 1998)


Top Albums by Mickey Hart (See all 16 albums)

Friday, July 15, 2011

This is Your Life

My great-grandmother Briget Reilly from Arva, Co. Cavan, Ireland, came to Hollywood to appear in the television show, This is Your Life.

The O in O'Reilly is a scribal error—the Express Staff reporter didn't know that her son, John changed his last name to O'Reilly—one story has it that he changed it to evade the law in order to become a policeman—thus splitting the family tree.

Another story has it that when John came through Ellis Island from Ireland, the admittance officer changed it to O'Reilly because he'd only heard of O'Reillys, not Reillys. And he assumed that John didn't know any better.

The rest of us are all Reillys. My grandfather and his siblings in San Francisco also traveled down to LA to be on the show.They were all Reillys, of course. It must've caused some confusion on the air.

I don't know if her daughter Ann Reilly Duffy from Ireland came—I doubt it. It would've given away the element of surprise. But her daughter might've traveled with her as she was old. The article used the spelling "programme" so I suspect it was an Irish newspaper—from the tone. Also the use of hanging paragraphs.

I'm trying to find out when the program aired. There's nothing to identify it in the news clipping but This is your Life with Groucho Marx was a popular television show that was on during the '50s. But there wasn't much on. The Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, Truth or Consequences, Queen for a Day and Western movies.

I want to say it was around 1950—before I was born. But the Wiki article states that the show began in 1952. Laurel and Hardy were on the show December 1,1954. I suspect Briget' Reillys appearance was before that as their show was filmed.

My grandfather came to San Francisco before the 1906 earthquake. 1904 or so. John came to America later. How much later, I don't know. I was trying to work it out via the dates: John was 31 years in America before he saw her. Of course, he could've gone home for a visit before then. No date on the article.

I'd give my eyeteeth to see the footage. If there was any. That was back in the days of live TV.

They gave Briget all kinds of appliances—a modern stove, a washing machine, an iron—even a refrigerator—none of which actually made it back back to Ireland. Apparently the show crew robbed the poor woman blind.

Of course Briget lived in a thatched cottage in the tiny village of Arva—no electricity, no running water, an outdoor bog. So the appliances were useless.