Monday, April 27, 2009


I wonder how many Mexicans died because of air pollution today. I wonder how many died trying to cross over into the United States. I wonder how many died because of respiratory irritations caused by living downwind from an industrial hog operation.

I am drained. I had a big fun Saturday. I went to my Saturday morning meeting of the friends o' Bill where we practiced the secret handshake. Then I went to the beginning of the big fundraiser for my friend, Rosanne. She has cancer. This is her third recurrence of cancer. She won't be with us much longer.

Things seemed under control there, so I went to my friend, Dave's big retirement party. I had a good time, ate free food and hung out with bus drivers. I listened to bus drivers play music. I watched a couple of bus drivers dance. I told jokes to bus drivers and bus drivers told me jokes. It was OK. More about that later.

Then I went back to Roseanne's fund raiser. The joint was jumpin'. I missed my friend, Cory, singing, but caught most of a set by a group of women whose name I never heard. They had flown in from North Carolina just to help Roseanne. They could really rock and they were tight as hell. Roseanne is a lesbian and it seemed like every sober lesbian in California was there. We boys, straight and gay, stood around the edges and smiled.

You know, I've known a lot of lesbians, but I haven't been to any social events organized by and for lesbian women. I'm pretty used to the gay men's scene, but this event was a little bit of an eye opener. I'm used to lesbians keeping their guard up in mixed company, but this was all about women, all kinds of women, being completely relaxed in their own element. It was really very pleasant to see. I didn't feel excluded. I knew a lot of women there, but this was party was not about me or people like me. More about that later.

Then I had to run to the store and drop off a cake for more friends o' Bill who were celebrating various lengths of time practicing the secret handshake. I couldn't stay for the meeting because next I went to Santa Rosa and saw Tippy Canoe and The Paddlemen and my new hero, Madame Pamita.

The event was held at recording studio/hang out/performance space called Atlas Studios. There was a group of really nice young people there. I had several people stop and introduce themselves. That was OK too.

My friend, Bob, met up with me. That's Bob G from Santa Rosa, not to be confused with my boyhood friend, Bob C, from SF. Even with a nice friendly crowd, it was good to have a friend along.

I got to meet Madame Pamita for the first time. She was friendly as could be. We talked about Tarot and old timey music. She introduced me to Tippy Canoe. Tippy is slightly famous in Bay Area club circles and fairly famous in ukulele circles. I'd never heard her music and was looking forward to her performance.

Tippy opened the show. She was accompanied by a guitarist, Mikie Lee Prasad. I think I've got his name right. They sang and played mostly original songs from Tippy's CD. The songs were simple enough, but beautifully carried off. To tell the truth, the club's PA did not do justice to her voice. I liked all of her songs. I'll try and post one and talk about the others, but that, too, will have to wait. Tippy was playing a beautiful custom ukulele built by our mutual friend, Peter Hurney. More about that uke later.

Let me pause here to say that Tippy reminded me, through her songs and performance, that it is a damn good thing to do art. I do not enjoy art that makes me feel passive. I like art that makes me want to do things. When I was a kid, The Beatles made me want to play music and Dadaists and Surrealists made me want to do art. When I was older punk rock made me want to start a band and Lester Bangs made me want to write. I do not have Tippy's talent, but she made me want to play music with people. That was OK too.

Next up was Madame Pamita. I've been a fan of the concept of Madame Pamita, but it was apparent that I would have to see her act to really see what was up. I've got to say that there is nothing fancy about her music or her act, but the woman is larger than life. She went from being a quiet presence to the center of attention in seconds. When she turns it on, she puts out thousands of watts of energy. She tells me that spiritual practice is part of what she does and there was a strong hint of magic in the room. If Tippy made me want to do art, Madame Pamita made that goal seem as though it was in my reach.

At the end of her set, Madame Pamita encouraged everyone to join in with some audience participation. Tippy was accompanying her on the washboard. She motioned to me to take her ukulele and play along. I was really honored because this is a special instrument, built specially for her. It was like having Merle Travis hand me his guitar. It played like butter too. That was really fun.

I'll be putting up links to Tippy and Madame Pamita's CD's soon. I bought copies of both. Tippy's CD sleeve is a beautiful piece of Art Nouveau design that goes nicely with her music. If you can manage it, I would suggest buying the CD rather than downloading the songs.

Madame Pamita's CD was originally recorded acoustically on a wax cylinder recorder from 1898. It doesn't get any more lo fi, but the sound of crackles and the announcements at the beginning of each song are a part of the art. Again, I would suggest that you buy the CD direct from Madame Pamita. She packages each CD with a vintage piece of good luck, a wonderful magical device and a personal fortune with Tarot Card. This is the coolest record I've bought since Sergeant Pepper's came with all of those paper cutouts and The Who Live at Leeds came with a bundle of documents. That was a long time ago and I have bought a lot of records since then.

The last act of the night was a Santa Rosa band, The Spindles. I would have liked to see them, but I was too, too tired. They looked interesting and I hope to see them soon. I was so tired I was nodding at stop lights on the way home.

I had a real good time that day.

Now let me go back to earlier in the day. Before I left Dave's retirement party, I stopped to thank Dave for 20 years and a nice party at the end. He grabbed my arm and said something I will not soon forget: "Jon, there's nothing that great about that job, nothing special anyway. It could of been hell, the last twenty years, but we helped each other and watched out for each other, all of us, so it was heaven. We did a great thing." That pretty much sums up the day.


mwhybark said...

sounds like an awesome day, jon.

Anonymous said...

jon, great balance in that post. we can have joy and friendship in our lives despite being part of the problem for other parts of the world. days like the one you had are rare and to be cherished as i am sure you know and do. may you have more of the same in the future.

ib said...

Reading this made me almost feel that I was there in person at Madame Pamita's gig in Santa Rosa. Magick. As is your review of her CD as artifact. Magick and intriguing.

Looks like the industrial hog operation you mentioned in your introduction is going global. Maybe that's what it takes to get the world to prick up its ears and pay a little attention.

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