Today is the fifteenth anniversary of the founding of Gates of Vienna. It should be an auspicious occasion, but the fact that Dymphna can’t help me commemorate it has kind of taken the starch out of me. I just don’t have that much to say.
So we’ll have some music instead. Thinking about this anniversary made the song “Stella Blue” by the Grateful Dead came into my mind. It was a staple of their live shows for more than twenty years, from 1973 until whatever the last one was before Jerry Garcia died. The studio version was first released in the summer of 1973 on the album Wake of the Flood, but I first heard it at a live show in Philly in March of 1973.
This version is from 1977 at Winterland. It doesn’t include any video footage, but I chose it for Garcia’s fine guitar solos, even if he does blow the words in a couple of places:
The lyrics are below the jump (the official version from Robert Hunter’s collection A Box of Rain):
My wife Dymphna died three months ago today. Writing about her from time to time helps me cope with the devastation of losing her. This post is off-topic from the primary mission of this site, so readers may skip it without missing anything.
Early in our relationship I introduced Dymphna to the music of Leonard Cohen, and she eventually became at least as much of a fan as I was. A couple of months into our marriage we were listening to the album Songs From a Room, and I suddenly realized the significance of one of the songs. “Listen,” I said, “that’s our song.” She paid close attention to the lyrics, and agreed that it was true. So from then on, for the rest of our time together, it was “Our Song”.
I’ll explain why it seemed appropriate, but first listen to “Lady Midnight” by Leonard Cohen:
Dymphna and I met in the spring of 1979, in a bar in suburban Maryland near where my mother lived. I had gone to elementary and junior high school there, so I knew the area well.
My father had died the previous winter, and my mother and I had just returned from a trip to New England to inter his ashes in the family plot. The return home became a grueling ordeal after her car blew a head gasket in upstate New York. When we finally got back to Maryland, I said, “I really need a beer,” and went off to a bar at a nearby golf course where the bartender was an old friend of mine.
I had reached the point in my life where I wanted to get married and settle down. I knew that you don’t meet the woman you’re going to marry in a bar — I had always been told that, and still think it’s true, as a general rule — so I wasn’t there to pick up chicks; I was just drinking a beer and talking to the bartender.
While I was standing there at the bar a woman in distress came through the door, approached the bar, and said, “My battery’s dead; I need help.” She had been there for a drink a little while before, and when she left, her car wouldn’t start.
The bartender waved his hand towards me and said, “This is the man you need to talk to. I’ve known him for more than twenty years, and can vouch for him.” So I went out to the parking lot with her, moved my car over to hers, got the jumper cables, and started her car.
We left it idling to charge the battery and went back into the bar. She said, “The least I can do now is buy you a drink.” So I got another beer, and she ordered a drink for herself (dry vermouth, if I remember rightly — that was her customary drink in those days).
We introduced ourselves and began a conversation. I noticed that in addition to being attractive, she was obviously well-educated and -informed on various topics that also interested me. After a while my attraction to her must have become obvious, because she said: “I don’t do one-night stands, you know.”
Well. I was genuinely affronted, since that was the farthest thing from my mind — as I mentioned earlier, I wanted to get married, settle down, and have kids. So I said: “I don’t have to take this s***!”, turned on my heel, and went to the gents’ to cool down.
When I came back a few minutes later she apologized profusely, and we resumed our conversation without further rancor. It wasn’t long before the age difference — she was ten years older than I — ceased to matter. The attraction was mutual, and we arranged to meet the following night (a Saturday) for dinner at the Double-T Diner up in Edmondson.
The rest is history, as told in my eulogy back in June.
So remember, boys and girls: you won’t meet your future wife or husband in a bar. Dymphna is the exception that proves the rule.
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Now, having heard the tale of The Night Baron Met Dymphna, read the lyrics of “Lady Midnight” and see why we decided it was Our Song:
I don’t normally indulge in pop-music nostalgia, but… I recently happened to run across the first of the two songs embedded below. I remembered it clearly, and it reminded me of the second one, which had a somewhat similar theme.
Strictly speaking, both songs were before my time — I was still in my “latency” period back then, but the older boys were listening to those songs and singing along with them, so I remember them well. If I had been an actual testosterone-infused teenager when these tunes were being played on the radio, they would no doubt have had the same heart-wrenching impact on me that they did on the boys who were a few years older.
The first song is “Patches”, by Dickie Lee. It was recorded in 1962:
The second tune, “Rag Doll” (1964), is by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. It has a similar theme, but omits the suicide motif:
There was no one like Frankie Valli. He sang like a gelding, but he could really belt it out.
The two relevant lines are:
“My folks say no, and my heart breaks inside.”
“My folks won’t let me ’cause they say that she’s no good.”
“Folks” meaning “parents”, of course. Two parents, a mother and a father. And still married. How odd!
The issue in both cases is the difference in social class between these lovestruck blades and their young fiancées, who are from impoverished circumstances. The parents — who are able to foresee the tragic results of such matches — refuse to let their sons go through with the nuptials.
Just think: the young men that the singers conjure up — who are presumably of legal age — can’t marry their sweethearts because their parents forbid it.
What world was that? Was it in a galaxy long ago and far, far away??
These songs were recorded between 1962 and 1964, just 55-57 years ago. I can remember the period clearly. But it might as well be the Middle Ages.
In the following video, Rasmus Paludan leads his colleagues in a little song while they burn a Koran. Mr. Paludan is a Danish lawyer, anti-Islam activist, and the founder of the Stram Kurs party, which is expected to earn enough votes to win seats in parliament next month.
Many thanks to Nemo for the translation, and to Vlad Tepes for the subtitling:
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Passion Week in the Catholic and Anglican denominations. Thus, Pange Lingua is often used as a processional hymn, with parishioners carrying palms around the church.
As does much of the Gregorian chant I learned in school, this one has stayed with me, running through my head whilst walking. Notice the cadence.
Each religion has its own language. Years ago, a friend of mine converted from her childhood Baptist faith to Catholicism. She found terms like “Passion Week” quite risqué. Never mind ideas such as “transubstantiation”…
Ms. Harris wrote this song for her father, Walter Harris, a Marine who served in both World War II and Korea as a fighter pilot, flying Corsairs. He was shot down in Korea and spent almost a year in a North Korean POW camp. Major Harris is buried in Arlington National Cemetery*, where lie many of our heroes.
*[Arlington belonged to the family of Robert E. Lee’s wife, a Custis by birth. The Union took over the house and began burying their dead on the property well before the Civil War ended. Lee never lived there again, moving to Richmond after the War.]
I went in to the retinologist’s office this afternoon to get a bimonthly injection in my left eye, as a treatment for wet macular degeneration. That’s why posting has been light today: my vision has just now recovered to the point where I can look at the screen and type things.
Here in the family these treatments are referred to as “eye pokes”. I’ll say to Dymphna or the future Baron, for example: “Next week I have to go in and get my eye poked.”
As nasty medical procedures go, these treatments are not so bad. It helps that the retinologist’s office is an unusually friendly and efficient environment. The doctor has an excellent staff, several of whom have been there for the whole six years I’ve been going in.
They say that you can get used to anything, and now I can vouch for it. These eye injections have become a routine. A nasty, unpleasant routine, but a routine nevertheless. I know the drill by now: First they sit you down and have you take the eye test for both eyes. Then they give you a pressure test, to check for glaucoma. Then you get two different kinds of eye drops to dilate your pupils.
After that you wait for a while in a dimly-lit anteroom while your pupils dilate. There’s a large-screen TV there where they play DVDs from National Geographic — with the sound turned down, thank goodness. Some of those are very soothing and entertaining to watch.
Next they come to get you for a retinal scan. The equipment and software for that procedure are incredibly advanced now — 3D modeling, different layers, etc.
When that’s done they begin the process of numbing the eye that will get the injection. Four or five different kinds of drops are used for that. Then you sit in a chair in the treatment room and wait for the doctor to come. And then… Well, I don’t feel like describing the next part in detail. The good thing is that it doesn’t last very long. In fact, the entire process, from the moment I walk into the office until I check out, is usually 45 minutes to an hour. Much quicker than a primary care appointment.
If I don’t get a “dancing bubble”, my eye recovers more quickly. That’s a tiny bubble of air that more often than not tends to come in on the tip of the needle, and jiggles around in your visual field when you move your eye. Very unpleasant. But today I didn’t get one, which is why I can sit here and type so soon afterwards.
All in all, not a bad day, considering. On the way home in the car I listened to The Art of the Fugue (Die Kunst der Fuge, BWV 1080) by Johann Sebastian Bach, played on the pipe organ by Herbert Tachezi.
This is a popular hymn in Cajun Country. Sometimes I am homesick for the food and the music…but seldom the (below-sealevel) climate. Maybe in January??
Though I got to know some of the Canucks in New England, I never heard their music. However, what that Canadian French remnant who managed to survive the trek to Louisiana created still lives deep in my Irish soul. The similarities of the heart converge sometimes.
The French lyrics are below the jump as is the English translation.
The images you see are the large extended family of L’Angelus. It looks like they’re on a levee.
The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.
— L.P. Hartley, from The Go-Between
The title of Dymphna’s post from a couple of nights ago reminded me of an old song from my childhood, “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny”. I could remember the tune and the first couple of lines, and I had a vague idea that it had been composed by Stephen Foster.
But I was wrong — I looked up the Wikipedia entry on it, and it was written in 1878 by a black man named James Bland.
I had also forgotten how “racially insensitive” — as Wikipedia puts it — the full lyrics were. But, really, how could they be described that way, given that they were written by a black person, and a freed slave at that?
Anyway, here they are, a relic of a bygone and foreign era:
Carry me back to old Virginny. There’s where the cotton and corn and taters grow. There’s where the birds warble sweet in the spring-time. There’s where this old darkey’s heart am long’d to go.
There’s where I labored so hard for old Massa, Day after day in the field of yellow corn; No place on earth do I love more sincerely Than old Virginny, the state where I was born.
[CHORUS] Carry me back to old Virginny. There’s where the cotton and the corn and taters grow; There’s where the birds warble sweet in the spring-time. There’s where this old darkey’s heart am long’d to go.
Carry me back to old Virginny, There let me live till I wither and decay. Long by the old Dismal Swamp have I wandered, There’s where this old darkey’s life will pass away.
Massa and Missis have long gone before me, Soon we will meet on that bright and golden shore. There we’ll be happy and free from all sorrow, There’s where we’ll meet and we’ll never part no more.
Exercise for advanced-level students of political history: Analyze the above song without referring to the concepts of “racism”, “white privilege”, “discrimination”, “white supremacism”, or “racial stereotyping”.
There is a gofundme collection site to pay for protection for the kids who are being threatened, particularly Nicholas Sandmann. The amount of money raised to pay expenses for security will determine how long the boys will have protection. From the page:
…threats to Nick and his family are in the thousands to the point where Covington Catholic school disabled incoming calls and canceled school. This boy was a target and I am calling for Americans to help funding for his security and well-being.
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Dr. Turley thinks the attacks on Covington Catholic spells the end for identity politics. This is his most recent video on the subject of the Covington boys.
As I said in his comment section, he was right to point to 1984‘s felony, “facecrime”. That’s what the loony lefties, who often descend to 1984 dystopian levels, are claiming the boys committed.
However, the loons are sprouting ‘leaders’ like Occasional Cortex and Elizabeth 1/392% Native American Warren. They make Bernie Sanders look sane but their “popularity” numbers are YUUGE. Never misunderestimate stupidity.
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Here’s the Covington School’s choir singing a by-now classic anthem. At my request, her brother sang this at my daughter Shelagh’s funeral. It always moves me, no matter which verses are chosen.
This is from 1949 when it appears that singers actually enunciated their lyrics. I listened to a number of versions and this was the best of the lot. Sometimes R&B songs are the most memorable renditions.
So whatch’all doing on the very last day of 2018, Anno Domini? Or, depending on your time zone, what did you do – at least what’s fit for public conversation.
I made Hoppin’ John for tomorrow. It always tastes better the next day. In parts of the Upper South, it was/is still a tradition to eat Hoppin’ John on the first day of the new year in order to have good luck for the rest of it.
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Anyone else have holiday customs to share? The twelve days of Christmas don’t end until Epiphany, so let’s hear it for Yule logs and mistletoe and fruitcake and gold, frankincense and myrrh. [I may be the only person I know who actually likes fruitcake. The Irish whiskey used to saturate the muslin wrapper gives it a certain je ne sais quoi, non?]