Thursday, November 27, 2008

Fathers and Sons

Being a hermit, I do not ordinarily keep a lookout for evening entertainment out of doors. We already have a good deal of entertainment on the video and dvd shelves, which means very good films, many from the BBC, which is generally acknowledged now as having the best talent pool in the world, thanks to British theatre. Also, in a week today, I have to render two-and-a-half pages of text from the memoirs of one Bill Triggs into a recording microphone. Bill was from England, and for the past several days we have been watching Michael Palin's "Full Circle", his journey around the Pacific Rim, not only for Palin's wonderful ability to portray a people and a country's most human face, but also so I'll be primed to render Mr. Triggs with a reasonably accurate accent. His son Stan, whom I've known since the days we jammed together in the north basement of Brock Hall, he on mandolin, I on tenor banjo, says I was the spitting aural image in my last try, for a different project, but no real actor ever rests on his laurels, and I've already hit a couple of rough patches in my rehearsals, inasmuch as some of our BBC stuff comes with Cockney, Geordie, and Yorkshire accents. These can play the very devil with an actor with a musician's ear. Bill was a purser on the Kootenay Lake paddle wheelers, and Marianne's niece Nicole is cooking up a virtual history of the lake boats for a computer installation in the Nelson museum. We record in this room a week from now. Interesting, when you ponder that the only other recording these walls have seen were for the present Pope.
But, there it was in the Nelson Daily News: Fathers and Sons: four guitarist/singers, performing in the Royal Hotel on Tuesday, November 25. Amos Garrett and Jim Byrnes being the fathers, and Steve Dawson and Doug Cox the sons.
Now, I'm a novelist. (A very creditable poet and critic and publisher at the Coast also admits that I'm a poet, but that's another story.) And to me, Fathers and Sons is a novel by Turgenev. I read it, when I was the keeper of the little basement room in the Irvine house on Bellevue Drive in Point Grey, the city of Vancouver, in 1958-59. Something about one young radical and freethinker influencing another young fellow. I am also a theologian, and therefore references to fathers and sons remind me of some very stern sayings laid down by John the Baptist in the Gospel of Saint Matthew. All of this hits me with a rush, and I decide that the monastery will empty on Tuesday night, in order to take up some space in the Royal. I need no powers of persuasion. My cohorts are in the mood for some BLUES. I must confess, however, that I did diddle and dawdle over jumping on the tickets, and had to be almost manhandled into Eddy Music by MT. She knew that the affair would be sold out, and we'd better grab tickets before we were shut out. But that's teamwork.
And she was right. It was sold out. Of course. The cognoscenti knew these guys, all of them. I've been in Europe mentally for decades, so what do I know, although I think my oldest son had talked about Jim Byrnes, from his time in Vancouver, and Amos Garret had been through Nelson before. But, like I said, we don't go out much.
Perhaps I had a sense of celebration, perhaps I was confident that with all my music research I wouldn't feel so far out in left field when the blues experts started to strut their stuff. They'd bloody well get their ears in line if I got into the singing groove, but when it came to walking through a guitar neck with complete familiarity I had for a long time been out in the cold. All those goddamn chord books. Oh yeah, a good place to start, as I have said before, but by no means a place to finish.
But now I know what finishing is all about, because I really know how to start, and in the Royal on Tuesday night, I knew how to analyze the skills exploding in front me, on the stage which the newish management has arranged along the east wall. Twenty-six years ago, when I dropped in for a beer after a rehearsal for my last play, the stage of the Royal was then too on the east wall. My oldest son was playing and singing. I remember in particular Jimmy Buffet's "Margueritaville".
What goes around comes around. In the spring of 1982, on the east wall of the Royal, it was the Red Brigade. The three musicians in my son's band were redheads. In the late fall of 08, it was Fathers and Sons.Two greyheads and a couple of men long past nineteen. Still at it, still on the road, and we're all the richer for it.
This was the night of the day I had put the first three stanzas of the long poem up on the Web, and the next morning I sent them to a poet/publisher who had led me to RockSalt, the influence of which has already been celebrated. His professional kindness was quick. He liked the lines. He also told me that 100 people turned out in the Nanaimo library for the RockSalt launch in that town.
So now, I think, the spectrum of the Ranger is initially complete. I know where I am and what I'm about and all I have to do is live with the different inspirations competing with each other. I actually already had some topic sentences for a review of F and S even before we got there, but I had to hold off for 48 hours because of other stuff rearing its head, and even as I was getting to the head office, as it were, which to my surprise is up in Smithers, I was fending off overtures from canto two of To Hunt the Lions, at the same time as I was pondering what to do with the news from Ohai, California. That's where John Stark lives, but also leaves for professional reasons. At least one of these reasons will be to check out the response to his Chekhov film, about to play during the winter in art film theatres in New York. And that just might be only the tip of the iceberg.

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