Return of the Singer/Songwriter Soapbox

Image by George Alan Fox

After a week off, Chico Feo’s Songwriter’s Soapbox returned in fine fashion. George Alan Fox, our inimitable host, bookended the extravaganza with a sampling of original tunes. This one’s my favorite, the brilliant “Figurin’ It Out,” performed at the end of the evening.

Pernell McDaniel laid down some country tunes he had recently written:

Alas, I didn’t get to record an outstanding set by Captain Philip Frandino, whose song “Compromise” speaks to our times. I promise to get him next time he performs.

Here’s a second or to of my occasional poem on Georgia flipping Democratic:

What an easy act to follow, especially for a talented songwriter like Gracie Trice, who, believe it or not, just started writing songs last month.

OMG, as the young people say, get a load of these spoken words by Brianna Stello:

Brother Fleming Moore did a set ending with a gospel tune.

Alas, I also failed to record Jeff Lowry, whom I also promise to video next time he performs, and, even though I did video Jason Chambers, I did so on his phone and don’t have access. It’s a big ass file, and I’ll add it if he can transport it. Lastly, several other performers were outstanding, but I didn’t catch some of their names.

What fun, y’all. Whitney Wienmann was there, celebrating her birthday, along with Caroline Tigner Moore. In addition, a Who’s Who of Folly illuminati made the scene: Surfer Phil, Tyler, Greg, Jesse, Matthew, Dan and Becca (who did a duet early in the evening with Becca on banjo) – the list goes on and on.

A shoutout to bartenders Rachelle, Katie, and Gavin. I also believe I saw a hatless Solly lurking on the periphery.

So if you’re in town, next Monday, head out to Chico Feo. Open Mike starts at 6PM.

Cheers!

In Living Memory

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In memory of Judy, on the anniversary of her death, a villanelle about Everyday Use and the grafting of new life, in which she has the last word ~  Caroline Tigner Moore

 

In Living Memory
a villanelle

There hangs a patchwork quilt above our bed
A stained and storied past in pastoral,
Skylit purple, indian summer red;

Clary, sea glass stitched with auburn thread.
Tuck to rimple, soft in autumn’s thrall,
A damocletian quilt above our heads.

Aboard the river bark where we were wed,
The innocents stood by in quiet pall
As each we swore to share our daily bread.

And like a bruise that first appears bright red
Then blue and green and ochre in its sprawl
We lay this patchwork quilt across our bed.

So stitch together prints of all our dead,
In orisons, from labyrinthine walls.
Her face was viridescent while she bled,

But now at peace… and lovely overhead,
A Pride of India[1] shades her, green and tall.
Here lies a patchwork quilt across our bed.
“What you see is what you get,” she said.

Caroline Tigner Moore


[1] “Pride of India” is an alternate name for a crepe myrtle.

Romanticizing Defeat

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Edward Hopper

Any sports fan who grew up in the Sixties has seen the intro to ABC’s Wide World of Sports hundreds, maybe, over a thousand times:

 

Of course, here, “the agony of defeat” makes better theater than “the thrill of victory.” Watching fans hoisting a futbol hero on their triumphant shoulders or a grand prix racer popping a cork in the winner’s circle lacks the high drama of witnessing an Olympian pinwheeling off of a ski jump ramp or a motorcyclist skipping stone-like across a lake of asphalt.

Even as exhilarating as it is to see a big wave surfer survive a precipitous drop and then ascend the crashing slope of a breaking avalanche, I’m still not sure that it produces the vicarious adrenaline rush of one of those Wagnerian wipeouts that make you grit your teeth and shudder in wonder. [Warning, in addition to harrowing wipeouts, this compilation has a soundtrack that might make Sid Vicious cringe].

 

* * *

If you’re a Southerner born near Charleston, South Carolina, in the early Fifties, you grew up in the shadow of defeat. When I was a child, the “War” my granddaddies talked about wasn’t Korea, or WW2, or the Great War, or the Spanish American War. It was the War Between the States.[1]

Among the fanatical, that defeat was a miasma that hung in the air like an enervating narcotic.  My friend Don Doyle convincingly argues in New Men, New Cities, New South: Atlanta, Nashville, Charleston, Mobile, 1860-1910 that citizens from Charleston and Mobile were so traumatized after Appomattox that they couldn’t bring themselves to do business with Northerners,[2] perceiving it as treasonous – unlike folk from Atlanta and Nashville. While those two cities readjusted to postwar changes and modernized, Charleston and Mobile stubbornly wallowed in the romanticizing of the Lost Cause, rationalized that defeat was somehow noble­ –  tragedy, after all, being the highest of literary genres.

As late as 1988, VS Naipaul in the New Yorker wrote about his visit to Charleston when he interviewed a non-Reconstructed blue blood celibate who monklike had abandoned all worldly pleasures for a life devoted to lamenting the fall of the Confederacy.  I think I encountered this person in 1978 when my late wife Judy and I lived on Limehouse Street, a block from the Battery. You could see this fellow – or one like him – assume catatonic postures as he stared out towards Ft. Sumter, not moving a muscle for something like twenty minutes. He almost seemed like an apparition.

So, if you grew up in this culture, a culture that had fetishized defeat, and you were cursed with a Romantic bent of mind, you might come to see defeat as inevitable, or worse, as preferable – defeat being more Romantic.  Yeats masterfully expresses that sentiment in a gorgeous ottava rima stanza whose beauty deepens the tragedy because you realize that Yeats’ canon, too, will be disappear when the annals of civilization are wiped away.

He who can read the signs nor sink unmanned

Into the half-deceit of some intoxicant

From shallow wits; who knows no work can stand,

Whether health, wealth or peace of mind were spent

On master-work of intellect or hand,

No honour leave its mighty monument,

Has but one comfort left:  all triumph would

But break upon his ghostly solitude.

                        “Nineteen-Hundred and Nineteen”

 

Indeed, there might be some truth to idea that defeat builds character in the Dostoyevskian sense of suffering being good as a regimen for redemption, or even if, like me, you think eternal life seems as about as likely as Dan Brown’s receiving the Nobel Prize in literature, repetitious disappointment can, if you live long enough, inure you, to reverse Gerard Manley Hopkins – “More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, [less] wilder wring.”

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photograph by Caroline Tigner Moore

But let’s get real. Losing sucks, as does the pathology of obsessively dwelling on lost causes, whether they be wars, loved ones, or championships. Although the season of spring has been a time of loss for me in the past, I’m making the most of this spring’s beautiful weather, sitting each afternoon on the deck with my beloved wife Caroline talking about literature and art, checking out the play of light and shadow on the spartina, noting the mated robins who nest nearby as they dart back and forth, reveling in how much clearer the air seems, going through the photos Caroline has taken of Folly during the quarantine, discovering through them hidden gems never before noticed, treasuring the rich life afforded us on this funky, narrow strip of a barrier island we call home.

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[1] I never heard any of my people call it the War of Northern Aggression, and I always called it the Civil War myself without ever being reprimanded.

[2] cf. Southern governors refusing federal stimulus money.