St. James Infirmary iPhone Blues

I first heard “St. James Infirmary Blues” covered by Eric Burdon and the Animals, and the song really moved me, the horror of it, having to encounter the corpse of your lover “stretched out on a long white table/ So cold, so stiff/ She was dead.” Throughout the years, the song really stuck with me.[1]

The other night, Caroline and I were at the Lowfife Bar on Folly, and somehow the topic of public domain tunes came up. I mentioned that Dylan had borrowed the melody of “St. James Infirmary Blues” for his masterpiece “Blind Willie McTell.” In fact, I sang two verses of the Burdon cover right there at the bar.

Well, the very next day, an ad showed up on my Facebook feed for this book, which I’m eager to read.

Anyway, we can probably chalk up the ad’s appearance to coincidence, but, man, could it be some bot was listening to us via our phone?

Then last night at the Soapbox open mic at Chico a banjo player covered the song. WTF?

So, this morning, during one of my undelightful stints of insomnia, I composed this piece of doggerel in my head, which I consider a more productive use of my time in the wee hours than contemplating politics, my health, the past, or the future.

(BTW, occasionally, a reader accuses me of cultural appropriation one of these paeans to Black culture, but my conscience is clear on that score.)

St James Infirmary iPhone Blues

Tapping a cane,
Mr. Andre Beaujolais,
with some hoodoo magic
in his front pants pocket
bopped down St. Charles
on his way to see
Miss Hattie Dupree,
the one-time lover
of McKinley Morganfield,
better known as Muddy Waters,
King of the Chicago Blues.

Those who got bad mojo
go see Miss Hattie Dupree
for the inside dope
in the hope of counteracting
shenanigans ¬– hexes,
curses, wet nurses,
vexations, permutations,
marital relations.
genetic mutations,
Haitian sensations,
and genital truncations.

Mr. Andre Beaujolais
was on his way
to deliver a batch
of John the Conkeroo juice
to help some dude
whose private
conversations had
been swiped by
advertisers, enterprisers,
franchisers, monopolizers,
and merchandizers.

He’d been telling his gal
about Blind Willie McTell,
how the Dylan song
by the same name
was sung to the same tune
as St James Infirmary Blues.
Their moment of intimacy
the next day mysteriously
appeared in an ad
for a book being peddled
on the dude’s Facebook page.

“I Went Down to the
St, James Infirmary:
Investigations in the shadowy
world of early jazz-blues
in the company
of Bling Willie McTell, Louie Armstrong . . .
where did this dang song
come from anyway?
“That title don’t trip off the tongue,”
Mr. Beaujolais said when
he heard the dude explain.

“Hand me your phone,” Andre say,
then took off its cover,
whupped out the Conkeroo juice,
poured it over the device,
mumbled some discrete mumbo jumbo.
“Ta da! problem solved!”
“Wait a minute, “the dude hollered.
My phone’s quit working!”
“No shit,” Mr. Andre replied.
“That’ll be fifty dollars.
I’ll accept ten fives.”

[1] In fact, I asked Gary Erwin to play it at Judy Birdsong’s memorial service, which he graciously. BTW, Gary is an underappreciated Charleston treasure.

Death and Dominos

Death and Dominos

Be absolute for death; either death or life
Shall thereby be the sweeter.

Duke Vencentio, Measure for Measure, 3.1

Yesterday, on what would have been Janis Joplin’s 80th birthday, I was shooting the breeze with bluesman Johnny Holliday at Chico Feo and asked him if he’d ever heard of Steve James, the superb blues guitarist who died earlier this month.

Johnny Holliday

Johnny hadn’t, so I sang Steve’s praises, mentioning his partnership with Del Ray, a ukulele virtuoso. Johnny asked how old Steve was when he passed, and I replied 72.

“Well, that’s a good age to die,” the thirty-something said, and I agreed, but mentioned I’d just turned seventy.

A sheepish look, a nod of the head. “You don’t look seventy,” he graciously said, and I responded with a thank you, attributing my supposed well-preserved wreckage to clean living and the fedoras that hide my freckled bald scalp.

After I made my way home, climbed the stairs to my drafty garret, and logged on my computer, I learned that David Crosby had just bitten the dust at the beyond ripe old age of 81, he who had been addicted to cocaine and heroin but who nevertheless had managed to outlive the author of the best-selling book The Complete Guide to Running,Jim Fixx, who succumbed to a heart attack while jogging at the age of 52.

I will have to say that David Crosby looked worse for the wear, as does his one-time collaborator Joni Mitchell. Jeff Beck, on the other hand, who died suddenly five days ago, looked pretty damned good, though unlike David and Joni he dyed his hair.[1]

Anyway, these iconic rock stars of yore seem to be on a death roll, falling like dominos, painfully reminding the “me generation,” i.e., m-m–my generation, that all good, bad, and indifferent things must come to an end.  

A host of others are waiting in the wings, Rod Stewart (78), Pete Townsend (78), Eric Clapton (75), Tina Turner (85), Paul McCartney (80), Ringo Starr (82), Keith Richards (79), Mick Jagger (79), Robert Plant (75), Willie Nelson (89), Joan Baez (82), and the man himself, Bob Dylan (81).

Bob’s demise will likely warrant a screaming above the fold front page headline in the New York Times and Washington Post.

By the way, I say Dylan live last spring, and the show was terrific, the songs new, the interplay with bandmates a thing of beauty.

Anyway, back to the subject. This is counterintuitive, but it seems as if rock musicians, at least famous rock musicians, enjoy longevity, outpacing the general life expectancy of 71.6 – 73.2.  Maybe the secret is avoiding those overdoses they’re prone to in their 20s and, of course, avoiding the helicopter and plane crashes that seem to take out so many.

And on that upbeat note, I’ll leave you to take my blood pressure and cholesterol meds.


Del Rey and Steve James

[1] Maybe Mick Jagger should give up the ol’ hair dye. Once you hit the big 8-0, dark hair looks weird, sort of creepy, according to me, a fashion aficionado.

Folly Disunited

Folly Beach is in the throes of a political battle that wages real estate interests versus residents who would prefer Folly remain a community rather than become a resort destination.

Two competing collectives have formed, Saving Folly’s Future and the Folly United, which employs the shaka “hang loose” hand signal as its logo.[1]

I certainly understand real estate investors wanting to expand their net worth and protect their investments. However, I wish they’d make their case without resorting to misinformation.

My friend Chris Bizzell has taken the time to analyze some of the erroneous information from the flyer that Folly United recently distributed and from the Folly United web site.

First, Folly United argues that Folly Beach residences have grown 2% per year since 2015; however, even though the number of houses, i.e., residences have grown, the number of full-time residents has fallen, as shown in the chart below.

Chris provides the following analysis:

Based on the latest 2022 data from the US census, the current population of Folly Beach is 2,056.
What was the peak population of Folly Beach?
The peak population of Folly Beach was in 2010, when its population was 2,617.

Folly Beach’s population is currently 21.4% smaller than it was in 2010 and 6.0% smaller since the year 2000.
In fact, Folly Beach’s growth is below average. 63% of similarly sized cities are growing faster since 2000. If the STR market is not capped, we can easily expect Folly’s full-time population to decrease further.

The flyer also contends that fewer short-term rentals will lead to higher crime rates because the properties are left empty.

Again Chris:

While studies do show that empty properties can lead to higher crime rates, this has nothing to do with STR levels. In fact, a new study shows that a proliferation of Airbnbs, or similar short-term rentals, in a neighborhood contributes to higher rates of crime in the area.
The study compiled 911 data from 2011-2018 determined that higher STR properties in a community does in fact lead to higher crime rates. A major finding in the report was that certain violent crimes, including fights, robberies, and reports of someone wielding a knife, tended to increase in a neighborhood a year or more after the number of Airbnbs increased. “What seems to be the problem is that Airbnb is taking households off the social network of the neighborhood and eroding its natural capacity to manage crime,” says O’Brien, who also studies criminology and criminal justice at Northeastern.
“What we’re seeing is evidence of a slower process, one that becomes significant over the years,” Babak Heydari (associate professor at Northeastern and author of the study) says. “It’s another support that changing the social fabric of the neighborhood is what’s undergirding these results.”

Folly United’s web site has a page entitled “Did You Know,” that ends with incredible bit of so-called information:

The STR commission discovered that STR had NO impact on the number of Long term rentals and no impact on population growth. INCONVENIENT FACTS that have repeatedly ignored.

C’mon, commonsense tells us that this couldn’t be true. As off-island owners transform their properties from long term to short term rentals the renters who called Folly home are replaced by vacationers.

Chris Bizzell:

As more properties are converted to STR’s, the supply of available housing open for long-term renters and homeowners shrinks. With housing in short supply, everyone ends up competing for the same tiny pool of rental properties and rents increase.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that Airbnb “mildly cannibalizes” the long-term rental supply. And in the cities they studied where Airbnb was popular, residents faced a more severe reduction in housing stock.
Research at the University of Arizona and University of Denver found that Airbnb is indeed making the real estate market more expensive. By enriching its hosts while making housing less affordable for others, Airbnb and other home-sharing platforms may be compromising public affordability for private wealth, the research suggests. “It’s going to increase the gap between the rich and the poor,” Wei says. “It’s going to make inequality a little worse.”

The study concluded: “STR’s have become a major alternative for real estate investment and have had a significant impact on housing affordability.”
We can learn by looking at what has happened in other vacation destinations.
In Colorado ski towns, the demand for short term rentals and the increase in supply of STR’s are growing at such a rate that it is displacing local residents of the towns they are supposed to serve.

Margaret Bowes, Colorado Association of Ski Towns executive director, says that the perfect solution to the crisis is still not within reach. “The trajectory of the number of properties becoming (short-term rentals) is not sustainable,” according to Bowes. She adds that at the current rate, no one working in the said communities will be able to live in them.

Look, like I said earlier, I understand that property owners, especially those who don’t live on the island, want to increase their wealth, and certainly, if you live in your Folly residence nine months out if the year, you should be able to rent it short term and that goes for adjacent properties. However, we’re not talking about eliminating short term rentals but capping them, creating a happy symbiosis between full time residents and vacationers.

But, please, don’t resort to cherry picking data and resorting to misinformation to make arguments.


[1] Cue George Orwell: “Yes, war is peace!” If Folly were united, there would be no issue, and nothing screams “hang loose” and the aloha spirit like frenetically placing signs in the yards of short-term rentals that read “Don’t Cap Folly’s Future,” as if Folly is sentient being that would prefer to have its few remaining lots clear cut for the construction of McMansions than maintain a verdant residential vibe.


Photoshopped from Jerry LoFro’s Clumsy Painting

In pains me to admit I have the fine motor skills of a duck-billed platypus. I’d hate to add up the total time I’ve squandered in supermarkets struggling to open those plastic bags you unspool from rollers in the produce department. When shoppers stroll by, they probably attribute my fumbling ineptitude to senescence – or perhaps to a stroke I’ve not fully recovered from – but truth be told, this disability has plagued me from my earliest years.  

The humiliation began in kindergarten when Miss Marion hauled out some shoes and attempted to teach the class how to tie them. As my playmates looped and threaded, the laces kept slipping from my tiny fingers. Miss Marion had to come over and help me, and when I had finally accomplished the feat, the bow I had managed was so loosely constructed, the whirr of an oscillating fan unraveled it.[1]  

Then there were those horrid two weeks after third grade when Mama made me go to Vacation Bible School at Summerville Baptist Church, a church we didn’t attend regularly, so many of the kids were strangers to me, especially the older ones. We were required to thread a knitting needle, which took me so long I had missed steps two and three and suffered verbal abuse from a tall dark-haired older kid. Thank Allah this was not a Muslim religious school because if it had been, my ineptitude in later painting the clay likeness of our Lord might have been mistaken for desecration.

I could go on with further examples, like my attempting to carve a likeness of the Statue of Liberty from a bar of soap in Cub Scouts or much later struggles in freeing prophylactics from their tiny plastic pods; however, for me the most embarrassing incident concerning my total lack of fine motor coordination occurred when my older son Harrison and I teamed to construct a Pinewood Derby racer from a block of wood.

As a boy, I would turn over such a project to my father, who would fashion the car at his workplace. Once he got home, I fetched newspapers so he could paint it in the carport. 

See, I helped!

So, when Harrison and I tackled the job, I followed my father’s lead, in a way. I carved a very un-aerodynamic semblance of a car, but, in a more honest rendition of my old man’s methodology, I had Harrison sand and paint it. After I had attached the wheels, I wrote “Free Tibet” on the side of the car with White Out.

I had the good sense not to photograph this monstrosity.

The great race took place at the gym of the Isle of Palms rec center. Harrison and I arrived early and got in line to have our car inspected, which essentially meant weighing it. The lady in charge was very complimentary to Harrison, and as she handed to car over to me, she leaned over and whispered in my ear, “It’s so nice for a change to see a dad who let his child do all the work all by himself.”

I smiled and said, “Thank you.”

[1] The year was 1957 before such establishments were equipped with air-conditioning. I remember being in the first grade sitting in my reading circle in early September eagerly awaiting the fan to turn its puny breeze my way.