Wednesday, June 26, 2013

King of the Song

Dear Unmusically Inclined,

There are some things that I know you will want to be able to do;  change a tire, make biscuits, and play a song on the guitar.

Yes, the glory of making music does belong to the musically talented, but we can claim a bit of that shine by making our own joyful noise.  Here's what you'll need:

A guitar:  This can be dusted off from your own closet, borrowed, or from the pawn shop or thrift shop- unverified statistics on the Internet suggests that 2.9 million guitars were sold in the US in 2006.  Exactly; you ought to be able to toss a stone into one from where you are sitting right now.

Time:  Give it say, 30 minutes.  We aren't going to Carnegie Hall;  maybe a campfire circle, or perhaps an audience of one small 3 year old music appreciator.

A Simple Song:  Yes, I have one right here!  Three chords, easy as pie:  King of the Road, by Roger Miller.

You will need to put the big end of the guitar into your lap, and the small end, the neck, into your left hand.  You will also need to see if your guitar is sounding ok- you can tune it, if you want to get fancy.  Asking the person you borrowed it from to tune it is also good.  Use this doodad, if you like.
The top string is the left-hand side of the diagrams, and the lowest sounding string.  Some of the folks call it 'G.'  Don't get bogged down in a lot of nomenclature; remember, our song is about smoking, freedom from responsibilities, and being happily broke.

Next, you'll need to get your left hand's fingers to press on a few strings, while the right hands fingers or thumb, brush along the strings over the hole in the large end of the guitar.  The diagram below shows the relationship between the guitar's neck, fret board, and strings, and the chord diagram.  Vertical lines equal strings, horizontal lines correspond to the frets on the neck of the guitar.  Frets are the raised thin bars on the neck of the guitar.  We only need the first three of these sections.

There are handy diagrams for making chords with your left hand, and you will find the three chords and their diagrams below.  The numbers in the circles of the diagrams represent your fingers: 
1 = index finger, 2 = middle finger, 3 = ring finger, etc.

The top of the diagram is the small end of the guitar, and the line farthest to the left is the top string (G).  Just keep it all pointed north and port and you'll be fine.

Ok, the right hand- like I said, anything here is fine- brush the strings from top to bottom.  One strum to a count of 4 beats is good, or 4 strums is also good.  Anything you like.  Really.  I like thumping the top string with my thumb, and then brushing the rest of the strings downward with the back of my fingernails.  I do this twice for each measure, which is the space between the slashes (/).

So, what exactly are the slashes and the big letters?  The big letters are the chord names, and you switch to the next chord when you get to the next slash.  Sometimes, you just repeat the same chord.

Let me give an example:  Your left hand makes an A chord, you strum with your right hand, and you sing: 
"Trailer for..".
Change the chord to D before you sing:
" or rent."
Change to E7 before you sing:
"Rooms to let,"
then, back to A as you sing:
"...fifty cents."

Ready?  Try it, you'll love it!  Play it loud, and sing it louder.  I'll be listening for you!

King of the Road- Roger Miller

    A          /   D            /
Trailer for sale or rent.  

   E7              /   A           /
Rooms to let, fifty cents.

  A                 /  D                /
No phone, no pool, no pets.

   E7            /   E7
Ain't got no cigarettes.

            /   A              /   D
Ah, but two hours of pushing broom

           /   E7                    /   A
Buys an eight by twelve, four bit room.

        /   A     /   D                          /
I'm a man of means by no means,

   E7           /  A  /
King of the road.

  A                  /   D                 /
Third box car, midnight train.

   E7             /   A                   /
Destination:  Bangor, Maine.

   A               /   D                  /
Old worn out suit and shoes.

   E7               /   E7
Don't pay no union dues.

             /   A           /   D              /
I smoke old stogies I have found,

   E7                    /   A
Short and not too big around.

        /   A     /   D                          /
I'm a man of means by no means.

   E7           /   A
King of the road.

            /   A                     /   D            /
I know every engineer on every train,

   E7                               /   A
All of their children and all of their names,

       /   A                     /  D
And every handout in every town,

                 /   E7                                   /   E7                  /
And every lock that ain't locked when no one's around.

(back to beginning and fade on a whistle- or mix it up-  it's the folksingers' way)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Transubstantiation Cake


I knew you were coming, so I baked a cake!

This is Elvis's Favorite Pound Cake. How do I know? Jane and Micheal Stern told me so- Meet Jane and Micheal, here. If you just want to hit the open road and start eating your own way across the USA, try here. I have been enjoying their good food recommendations since 1997: Soapaillias in Santa Fe, Scrapple in Pennsylvania, Chili in Cincinnati, Pulled Pork in Georgia, Biscuits in Tennessee , Cuban sandwiches in Tampa, Tamales in Tucson, and ollalie berry pie in Pescadero.

If you'd like to make your own Elvis pound cake ,and I hope you will, here is the adapted recipe from Jane and Micheal Stern's book, Eat Your Way Across the U. S. A.

3 cups sugar
1/2 pound butter, room temperature
7 eggs, room temperature
3 cups flour, sifted
1 tsp. salt
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsps. vanilla extract

Grease and flour a 10 inch tube or bundt pan.
Beat butter and sugar together thoroughly.
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg.
Beat in vanilla extract.
Add half the flour, the cream, and the rest of the flour. Beat for five minutes.

Place your filled cake pan into a COLD oven, close the door, and turn the heat on to 350 degrees. Bake 60 to 90 minutes, using a knife tip or toothpick to test doneness. Let the cake rest for five minutes, then turn it out of the pan.

The recipe says to let it "cool thoroughly," but now that it is out of the pan, I leave it to you to decide when to have a slice.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Hello, how are you?

Dear Everyone,

I see there are 326 million phone devices in the US- but the beautiful telephone has gone the way of the dodo.  I have been thinking of how the spaces for, and tactile qualities of, the telephone are gone:  Little hall nooks, telephone booths, chairs with side tables attached, telephones shaped like Bugs Bunny.  The weight of the handset and the sound and intimacy of the telephone are what you will miss most when you try to tell people about how it was before.  The telephone was designed to be held close. 

a little music while we think about telephones....

Call me, I'm living in twilight.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Two Treats from Texas (and a footnote poem)

Expectant Ones,

Today I have two marvels from Houston, Texas- the Lark of the Border first, I think.

Now, the spacious painting I saw last week in Houston-

If you and I could be there together, right now, looking at this painting, I would not say a word.  I would set there in the hush that the painting demands.  We'd hover there, betwixt looking and feeling, thinking that it might not be true.  That it was the truest untrue truth of e.e. cummings' poem*.   Later, we might go outside, into the heat and the growl of the cicada-clicking late afternoon.  There, in shadow, we might break the spell of it: speak of the glorious shifting light from the scrim veiled ceiling; gasp together at the size of it; was it 12 feet high?  50 feet long?  I might confess to you how I was overtaken by a glimpse through the doorway; transfixed by the gaping, glowing orbs.  We would marvel at how it simmered and hummed in the palpable light of the gallery.  We would promise to make another pilgrimage to it, and we would be so... so happy to think that there were things like this to see.

Here is Say Goodbye Catullus to the Shores of Asia Minor in situ, with its painter, Cy Twombly.

See many more lovely Cy Twombly paintings and sculptures here.

* that melancholy

Let's have just one more Lydia Mendoza song too, don't you think? 

Until next time...