Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Few (Somewhat) Random Thoughts

My commute to and from work is north to south in the morning (and thus south to north in the evening) and, on a good day, about forty-five minutes. Some days it is closer to fifty-five, and on iffy days it is closer to an hour. Given that, I spend a lot of time on Connecticut roadways. And what I can tell you, having spent that time on the roads, is this: 

People in southern Connecticut need to learn how to drive in inclement weather. People in northerner Connecticut need to learn how to drive more cautiously in inclement weather.

Why? Well, today's afternoon forecast was a wintery mix. In southern Connecticut, where I work, that meant flurries in the sky that dissolved before hitting the ground. It was in the upper 30s and the sun was still out, meaning there was nothing but the barest hint of wetness on the ground. There wasn't even any slush. And yet... the top speed until I hit the line of accumulation demarcation was about 20 miles per hour. It was like these drivers had never seen snow flakes before, like they were terrified that somehow the snowflakes, if hit too fast, would severely damage their cars. It was, in a word, hell. Meanwhile, after I passed that lovely line of demarcation, after the sun had set because it took an hour to get there when it normally takes 20 minutes, the slowest the cars around me were willing to go was 60 mph. And because snow started gathering before it did in the south, there was actual snow and ice on the ground and the wintery conditions were actually fairly dangerous. That was clearly the time meant for speeding.

Along the way, though, I learned a few things.

One of those was that I love the duet of "As Long As The Grass Shall Grow" sung by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. This is a reworking of the song written and performed to protest the treatment of the Native Americans, and it takes almost nothing from the original except the melody and a bit of the chorus. According to a guy who was not Bob Boilen on All Songs Considered (I think it may have been Stephen Thompson), Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash recorded this version of the song about a year before they both died. It is absolutely beautiful, a truly wonderful love song. This may be because it fits right into the musical styling I love, but I also think there is something to the lyrics. This is a song that deftly fits the Cashs' history; and unlike many love songs that highlight the beginnings of love, this one celebrates a robust and aged love - a love that is still strong even though its participants are nearing their twilight and the love shared between them has spanned the decades. I highly recommend listening to it; it's the third one down in the list of songs featured on the Lesser Known Love Songs list.

Fourth on the Lesser Known Love Songs list is one by Betty Davis. Not the actress Betty Davis, the one whose eyes were immortalized in the Kim Carnes song. This one:
Called "Anti Love Song", Carrie Brownstein on All Songs sums it up when she says, "The lyrics represent a total reluctance and resistance, but the way Betty Davis sings it conveys this undeniability and an understanding that she's going to give in to this very, very soon... ...It's slightly libidinous." 

It is very, very hot. And while there is a bit of that "I don't want to give in and yet I will, what is also there is this power, this recognition that as much as she is going to give in to this love and this libidinous experience, so will he. Because she's that good. And there's about 5 different ways that's awesome.

Then there was a revelation on Bill Moyers' program The Journal. Like many of the programs I wish I actually watched, I generally catch Bill via podcast and so sometimes it is a while before I get around to listening to him. In honor of Lincoln's birthday, Lincoln was the topic. And the guy who wrote one of my history texts for my college Civil War class, Eric Foner, was one of the guests. His postulation, that progressives of the early 20th century
"saw Lincoln as, you might say to go back another couple of generations, a combination of Jefferson and Hamilton at the same time. In other words, Lincoln is a man who believes in Jeffersonian ideals and equality, of democracy, of the government by the people. He's not an elitist in the way of Hamilton, who wanted a monarchy basically. On the other hand, he believes in a powerful government, like Hamilton did and Jefferson did not. He believes the government can be an agent of social change and social reform and improvement."
Lincoln, a combination of two of my favorite revolutionary/post-revolutionary figures!

The last thought is that there are some truly gifted poets out there, and Bill Moyers presented me with one I have not heard before. Nikki Giovanni seems like one of the coolest people to have ever lived. Just listening to her speak on The Journal was like listening to a free form poem. She was entrancing and funny and witty and brilliant. One of my favorite moments was when she said,
"I've always been amazed that you can break up with somebody, and somebody will say to you, 'Well, if you leave me I'm going to kill you.' Now, logic says, if I'm dead, you still don't get me."
I also loved when she said,
"girls are always sitting around listening to stupid things that boys say. And girls, you know, half the games girls play, Little Sally Walker, what is she doing? She's rising to the east, looking for the one she loves the best. What did - what's her name? - Snow White. And she's going to go to sleep until "one day my prince will come". You get sick of that. You got a girl who can spin flax into gold, and her father, "The Miller's Tale", which became "Rumpelstitskin", her father then takes her up to the prince to say, "You should marry my daughter. She can spin flax into gold." What does she need with him? If I can spin flax into gold I would - I mean, she didn't need the prince."
My favorite line, though, was this:
"life is a good idea."
And to end this, the first poem I heard by her on The Journal:

Midnight poems are bicycles
Taking us on safer journeys
Than jets
Quicker journeys
Than walking
But never as beautiful
A journey
As my back
Touching you under the quilt

Midnight poems
Sing a sweet song
Saying everything
Is all right

Here for us
I reach out
To catch the laughter

The dog thinks
I need a kiss

Bicycles move

With the flow
Of the earth
Like a cloud
So quiet
In the October sky
Like licking ice cream
From a cone
Like knowing you
Will always
Be there

All day long I wait
For the sunset

The first star
The moon rise

I move
To a midnight
The dangers

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