Archive for January, 2010


Again nature taking over, but this time a personal one.  Of course this bachelor didn’t own a thermometer, but I got one – the old fashioned under the tongue kind – not those fancy digtal ones for nine-ninety-nine.  Never sick often and abhorring the E.R., I awakend to soaked sheets earlier this week.  Feeling chills to the bone in a room full of heat was a good indication that all was not right within my body-nation.

Ever notice how people get ill and sometimes die just before and right after their birthdays?  I have, even  my Dad went just  before his eighty-first birthday, and that is why I’m especially carefull right after my birthday, with the hand-washing and all each and every time I come in from errands; this year it didn’t work though.  When you have a fever as an adult, every joint that you have ever injured through sports or accident aches.  My hips that I fell upon while roller speed skating “derby-style” thirty years ago, my shoulder that I jammed slightly in an auto accident; the base of my neck which suffered whiplash when rear-ended by a NYC taxicab while sitting at a stoplight; the  other shoulder on my “weak” but overly harmoned side which cries-out just from too many dumbbell reps, and of course my surgically- repaired Achillies tendon from basketbal and distance running competition days..  Then there is the middle of my lower back – no answer for  that one…I guess when they finally give all of us health insurance, I’ll get a “physical” to find out what is on the way.  Now in my late fifties, those results will carry the day.  I guess the theme here is the power of nature, whether it be the “Mother” kind or our personal ones, the great equalizer, to shut things down with ther ultimate “reset button” upon our increasingly distracted, and blindly technologically dominated lives.  Thee “chill pill”.

Every year around my birth anniversary, I stop my one vice – wine drinking – for a month or whatever; a kind of sabbatical.  I was just in the beginning of that yearly ritual when the fever struck; my personal “nature” taking over and shutting me down physically and mentally – except for some great dreams which included the words you’ve just finished reading.

pickhitt: President Obama deftly dances like Rogers and Astaire or Emmit Smith on “Dancin’ With The Stars” during his State Of The Union Address last night.  He poked, prodded and cajoled the Obstructikans, who sat on their hands for the most part like the mischieveous side of the class who cracks wise and would rather shoot paper clips, spitballs or paper airplanes instead of listening to the message in the name of unity. They represent the left-over “angry white men” who still have a problem with a man who’s skin is brown “telling [them]what to do”.  I thought he touched all based with at least three home-runs, humor and thankfully avoided the tempting metaphor “we are on the one yard line” while pitching the continuted committment to health care reform.

Now back to bed.

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Suff-er-ingg

Suffering

How would you like to be,

At a young baby age, an amputee.

Did Nature’s purge cause you to see?

That could happen to you or me!

Earth has the final say,

When she acts it is dramatic, often cataclysmic.

Have you learned the lesson from Haiti?

We survive at the will of Mother planet;

Such an event can happen here

Too many bodies in mass graves,

Only a fraction can be saved;

Have you learned not to take each day for granted?

A mechanism generated by our planet,

Ultimate population-control.

pickhit: From slaves of the French to shunned by Thomas Jefferson

I don’t know about where you live if you live in a city in the U.S.A., but here in Hootyville I didn’t hear any radio stations doing a tribute to Teddy Pendergrass when word came that he passed away on January 13th.  That is  damn shame, but what you get when you have cold, inflexible corporations running the radio of the day.

The first time I heard Teddy Pendergrass was back when the late, great radio programmer Frankie Crocker played a record by Harold Melvin &  The Blue Notes called “I Miss You” on the first Black FM music station in New York City, WLIB-FM in 1972.  They would play the whole eight minute version where the AM stations would only play “part 1” and the Teddy’ Bear’s voice was the most powerful on this then new group; it grabbed you!  My favorite on that first album on Philadelphia International Records however, was (and still is) “Yesterday I Had The Blues”.  That was the first time that Teddy really brought it emotionally, and shined distinctively on a song with his “cryin'”  and pleading style.  The other hit from the album was “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” (whose intrumental track sounds very similar to The Eagle’s “Take It To The Limit, by the way), and again Teddy carried the tune and painted the lyrical picture.

Around 1973 WLIB FM became WBLS FM, and Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes second album, “Black & Blue” hit the streets preceeded by the single “The Love I Lost, part 1”.  Back then many “soul” records had a “part one” and the flip side of the 45rpm record would be “part 2” – a trend started by James Brown and King Records I think.  What was hip about that was that it created anticipation for the album (lp or long-playing  331/3) to come out so that you could hear the whole song without the interruption of having to physically turn the record over.  I remember this especially benefiting this group on this particular song and once again Teddy Pendergrass was given more of a lead role and he ran with it.  It also was the beginning of the “Disco” era, so when I as a “baby DJ” gleaned this, I would play it to fill the dance floor because of its really moving beat.  The cover features the group clad in caberet-style tuxedo, and Teddy still tugging at your heart strings as he breaks it down.  Another favorite on that album is the slow jam, “Concentrate On Me”, where in their classic Gamble & Huff style, the formula was for Teddy to tell the story in-between magnificent chorouses by the rest of the group.  I remember vintage radio personalities of the day like Crocker saying that Teddy was “taking you to church on that one…”  Groups like these helped to form my notions about romance and unrequited love, and I still fall back on them during times of heartbreak (like in recent months). 

1975 saw the group  produce two great albums, “To Be True” and “Wake Up Everybody”.  It also marked the first signs of a restless Teddy Bear; as I recall, he threatened to leave  unless he received top billing, and so in a compromise of sorts they became Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes  featuring Teddy Pendergrass. Teddy knew he made the sound of the group sell.

“To be True” spawned at least three hits: “Where Are All My Friends”,” To Be True”, and the biggest, most dancable one, “Bad Luck”. I also loved “Nobody Could Ever Take Your Place” with its long MFSB-style dancable instrumental- into-the-fade.  The group also introduced a female to the sound for the first time in Sharon Paige who many of my classmates loved on the jazzy “Hope That We Can Be Together Soon”.  Word was behind the scenes that she was included to vex Teddy a bit within his power-play.  Lightning struck twice when later that year the second album dropped and Teddy led the way on a spirited cover of the Thelma Houston disco classic “Don’t Leave me This Way”.  My personal fave on “Wake Up” is his work on “Tell The World How I Feel About’Cha Baby”, and the title track scored by touching a nerve within us all in a timeless way.

 The next vinyl in my Teddy library, is simply entitled “Teddy Pendergrass” or “the white scarf album” as my mentor, the late Sonny Taylor called it.  As the title suggests, he was now a solo act after a final dispute with Harold Melvin, who replaced him with someone I remember only as “Ebo” as introduced at Madison Square Garden’s old “Felt Forum”  (now the Paramount).  He was still written by Gamble and Huff, and the material  and tempos were as good as every for “Pender-bender” which was another of the nicknames we gave him.  It featured the hit “You Can’t Hide From Yourself”, the introspective “The Whole Town’s Laughing At Me” and a serious smash in “I Don’t Love You Anymore” among others.  My notes scribbled on the back of the jacket give this album five stars back in March of 1977.  Personal fave here: “The More I Get, The More I Want” ( he’d sing “ah-yeah” between verses).  As I listen to the music Teddy left behind, it becomes apparent that he made the right moves with his career, and his timing was excellent for a good while.

There are two vinyls that I was never able to add to my collection, “T.P” and “Life Is A Song Worth Singing”.  They were released sometime between 1977 and 1980 and included two of my faaavorite numbers, “Love TKO” and “Close The Door”. “TKO” was so hot that even with the record company connections of a young  DJ, I could not secure anything but a couple of 45rpms of it until Teddy’s “Greatest Hits” came out  in 1984.

Two years later, in 1979 (a great year for Disco and Soul music) his next solo album, “Teddy” or the red album was clearly a sexier effort.  “Come Go With Me” and the powerful “Turn Off The Lights” (“I’ve something in my MIND, something I’ve been wanting to do it all the TIME!  Yeah…Yes!..”) led it off and were massive romantic hits which still sound  sensual today. Later that same year “Teddy Live! Coast To Coast” , a double vinyl album hit just in time for Christmas on December 12th.  If it had come out today, it definitly would have included a video, but in those days a full length poster of Pendergrass did just fine.  During those performances, one In Philadelphia and the others in Los Angeles, he included a medly of his hits with The Blue Notes and by now the women in the audience were throwing articles of their underwear at him in adoration.

Little did he or we know that tradegy would strike and almost silence Teddy three years later when he had a Roy Campanella-style auto accident one night that left him paralysed from the waste down.  There were several scandalous rumors surrounding that event, which I’ll not go into here.

Teddy Pendergrass rose like the Pheonix though; the next vinyl in my collection, “This One’s For You” (1982) was a homage to his fans after he pulled through the medical procedures that followed his accident.  Maybe the first track on there says it best about how he felt at the time, ” I Can’t Win For Losing”.

By 1984 Teddy had signed with Elektra/Asylum Records and subsquently sang the next three and final of my vinyls for that record company.  The three now only photographed him from the chest-up; no more cowboy hats and suggestive gyration photos.  “Love Language” featured the sexy, “You’re My Choice Tonight” which I played on New York City radio along with more introspective selections such as “In My Time”.  1985’s “Workin’ It Back” had eight five-star songs on it, including “Let Me Be Closer”, co-written by the legendary Linda Creed, and “Love Emergency”, co written by Womack & Womack,  who also penned the fabulous “Love TKO”. For the first time, Teddy’s star began to fade around this point, in my opinion. 

The last and most recent vinyl in my Teddy Bear den is 1988’s spirited “Joy” , which was produced by Teddy for Teddy Bear Productions, Inc. (see, he listened to us!)  The first two songs are the stalwarts here as well: the title track and one of the best songs he ever sang after the crash, “2 A.M” which decribes the end of a party and alludes to taking her home and to a more intimate level.  The accident humbled Pendergrass as it probably would  any of us, and his subsequent work showed it even though his voice never lost all of it’s sex appeal nor he the ability to orally interpret lyrics to evoke real feelings.

I just heard the end notes of Teddy fading off from a tribute to Teddy Pendergrass on the radio tonight, two nights later – on the PBS station! Bigg Upps to them and their warm teddy-bear selves.

And now for something completely different: a video!  I usually only post videos that move me on my myspace page, but this one was sent to me by a friend who knew that a fromer friend is from eastern Europe, as alluded to previously here.  I was attracted to her marginally physically more interestingly due to her culture, and this video is an example of a struggle few who are not world historians in “the States” really know about and how one young, beautiful Ukrainian woman has embraced and tells the story. You’ve gotta sit still and dig this whole video, ok?

This work or art shows The Great Patriotic War, as it is called in Ukraine, which resulted in up to 11 million deaths out of a population of 42 million during WW II and how ordinary people were affected by the German invasion.

The artist, twenty-four year old Kseniya Simonova, winner of 2009’s “Ukraine’s Got Talent” contest – an American Idol type deal, draws the pictures on an illuminated sand table, projected onto a big screen, and  begins by creating a scene showing a couple sitting on a park bench holding hands lovingly under a starry sky. Then warplanes appear to change the mood.

Next a woman’s crying face she does, until a baby arrives to make her appear happy. Only to see the war return with thrown on sand depicting the chaos on a young woman’s face which appears only to then become old, wrinkled and sad, morphing into a Soldier, I think…next, this outdoor scene is framed with a window pane like looking outward on a war memorial.

Finally, it’s a mother and child reunion being looked upon by a man outside, his visage pressed upon the window glass and apparently saying farewell.

Kseniya (I like that name!) won the grand prize of $75,000 U.S.

pickhit: “Mother and Child Reunion” – Paul Simon

Who still says “Negro”??

Well it didn’t even take a whole year between State of The Union speeches for the Jimmy-The-Greek moments to come back to haunt the healing of the perceived racial divide in, at least, American politics.  First, the formerly mild-mannered-looking Senate leader Harry Ried apparently wrote in his published book that President Obama was more likeable because he doesn’t use “Negro dialect”.  LMAO  Now I KNOW what Senator Ried wants to convey, and it is rather true – at least in HIS world – but use the word “Negro”??  WHO says “negro” anymore?  I am going to now call this Senator, “Senator Spencer Tracy” because it was about the time Sidney Poitier starred in the film, “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner”  that we last heard Black Americans described as “Negroes”.

  We don’t want that term to come back to the U.S.A.’s daily lexicon, because you all know which offshoot of that word returns with it… I can’t believe it!!  Don’t they EVER learn? (a Song by Lou Rawls)

Then the shamed-out-of-office, former Illinois Governor Blagojevich is now “apologizing” for his apparent foot-in-mouth flair-up at the expense of President Obama, who Blag endorsed!  What IS up with this propensity for white American men in visible and lofty places to still perpetuate petty prejudices?  Like I would tell my younger sister, as people wiser and older once told me: “THINK before you open your mouth or cast words out, fore once you DO, you better never want them BACK, because that is impossible to achieve.”  So are these calculated outbursts and insults based in an innate anger that these men try to conceal? If it is honest zeal , their not coming to grips with having a Black American as their boss is real.

Pickhit: C’mon Mariah Carey…stop sleazing-down your act by appearing sloshed at the lecturn while receiving an award.  Not classy and many want to continue to admire you. ‘Never seen the First Diva of Soul, Aretha Franklin, go out like that, and she is who you give lipservice to being  your role-model Diva, right?  Even when with Tommy Mattolla, you never were see on a public stage like that, Girl!! No more adult beverages till my birthday, ok?

Pickhit: Is her new hubby, “Mr. Carey”, plying her with drink,  in order to take advantage of the purse strings eventually?  Hmmmm. 

Pickhit: Conversely, Alicia Keys reminded me of what a bright new star she is still ascending to be with her performance on SNL over the weekend…Class-SEE!  That “Sleeping With A Broken Heart” song is now my latest “tune wedgie” – and for good reason.  I can hear it again, and again, “I’m gonna hold on to the times that we had, Tonight, I’m gonna find a way to make it without you…”   Right in my wheelhouse, people.

Pickhit: I wish to perform a “system restore” on my life.

                               Well it all seems to go back there these days doesn’t it?  I mean, I’m going to have to work through all of these memories and good times associated with my former g/f with you in order to become the “free” bachelor again;  every holiday, birthday, traditional celebration is associated with someone who I thought at the time was my new best female friend outside of my dear Mum.  I know now that I am going to just have to work through it all, so thank you for reading and holding my hands because this will take at least until June, when she laid the “magic is [suddenly] gone” speech on me to get over.  Yet, it has changed me for life – this I now KNOW.

So I thought that going into last year’s growing season, and gleaning that in her old eastern European country she was closer to the land and growing things than me, a “city boy” has ever been, it would be a great idea to have a collective garden and grow some stuff we could eat together and save money on produce costs at the same time!  She happily brought over a plastic tray with some dirt in it, telling me she had started some “salad” in there, and all the while telling me I had to make a “box” as she called it (“planter” in our vernacular) to transfer the young seedlings into once they had sprouted.  I placed it outside my side door and tried not to overwater the shallow thing in spite of a very rainy spring as they tried to grow.  She told me that there was radish, lettuce and something else in there that I cannot remember as I write this tonight, and indeed they did try to grow.  However, almost on-cue as she dumped me, they began to die much to my chagrin.  I believe in stuff like that – our burgeoning “green thumbs” turned purple and the plants withered, so I went back to Home Depot where we had been on one of the best early spring afternoons to plan our horticulture, and copped a pack of hot pepper seeds.  I’ve always used Tobasco sauce on almost everything I eat – it is a tradition in my family – my granddad used to call it “Popeye sauce” when he asked us to pass it to him at the head of the table during family gatherings like Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, I felled a dying tree in my front yard and the kid who cut it down made it into little ‘Lincoln logs” and piled them up agains my Saucer Magnolia tree. For a while I didn’t know what to do with them, and was going to trash them, when one day, upon pulling into my driveway, it hit me: configure them as an open log cabin-style planter or “box” as she had advised.  My neighbor had some good soil from a swimming pool indentation the previous owner of that house had created, and welcomed me to use it.  I thought, “Brilliant!” and now envisioned it as it became.  I transferred the tray my former beloved had left and planted my hot pepper variety as well.  You  know  what happened don’t you?  All  her stuff died and my peppers flourished!  Green ones, Jalapeno, those angry-looking crinkly-devilish kinds that began green but ended up long, slim and firey red by September. 

Frost was long in coming, and so my pepper harvest was very good – they kept growing into early November!  While I harvested them, I put them in a plastic zip-lock bag and froze them as I had researched on the i-net to do.  Soon I had a wicked assortment and they were ready to make sauce out of.  I found out all I needed was (love) and some white vinegar, a pinch of salt, garlic clove, and a secret touch I’ll not reveal here (unless your comments beg me to) whipped-up in my blender and saved in one of those jars that commercial Marinara sauce comes in.  I sealed it in there two days before Thanksgiving in the refrigerator for one month; then took it out and it is in the top shelf of one of my cabinets until late January when, I will take it down and unseal the “fire”!  I plan to make little bottles of it as a present to my friends who want some of my own “57 (birthday) Style” homemade hot sauce.  “On-Guarde!! LOL

                                      Let me put last year to bed as much as I can, ok?  Please remember this column was suggested to me by those who have ‘known” me most of my adult life, i.e. my college buddies from years gone by et al.  I finally relented, having little left to lose about six weeks ago, give or take…

New Years Eve I appeared at a party where there were several club DJs, in their early thirties, who recognized me and told those who didn’t know me but were within earshot that I am “a legend”…like, “You don’t know who THAT is?  He’s a Legend!…” I didn’t know whether to be gracious (which I was), or feel old (which I did) or just ignore it kind of and kick the science and reminisce parties past with them (which I also tried to do) in between egoistic proclamations of the assembled selectors about themselves (which is common amongst us or I suppose any bunch of professionals in a given field).  I write you the following highs and lows because I believe that you expect something like this from me, and so that I can go to sleep soon on this frigid early January night in the “big Hootyville”. 

Top five Dance tracks for me off the top of my head from 2009:  #1. Chis Lake featuring Nastala – “If You Knew”; #2. Sylvia Tosun – “Five Reasons”; #3. Lionel Ritchie – “Just Go”; #4. Dizee Rascal feat. Calvin Harris & Chrome – “Dance Wiv Me”; #5. Guru Josh Project – “Infinity”.  Maybe I’ll have five more by the time you read this….

Personal #1 2009 Highlight: being in a music video with real screen legends Kris Kristofferson and Mickey Rourke for a song that made the Country music top ten. #2. Tutoring a Korean MBA student in English who would go on to graduate. Proving I CAN do the “ESL” thing after all! LOL #3. Seeing my Mother who I hadn’t seen in three years on the cusp of her eighty-fifth birthday looking radient when I pulled up in the taxicab that early morning in front of the house she raised me in. #4. Winning five-hundred dollars in the state pick-three lottery by playing a number that a numerologist concocted for me back in 1984 based upon my birthday chart.  This number still is magic!  Thank you Lloyd Strayorn!  I was on top of the world when I shared some of that loot with my then, ladyfriend during a lunch at ( the also “legendary”) The Palm restaurant. #5. One of my “characters” from my real life “Bartender’s Tales” coming to life and visiting me here in June of ‘009  in this strange and far away from my home field state.  One of only four individuals who have ever visited me here.  Many Thanks KRB.

personal #1 2009  Lowlight: letting myself get “open” to loving a woman who would dump me unceremoniously a month after our one year anniversary and the best sex I almost eva had. #2. The betrayal  at the hands of my only sister who brought my financal house down upon me like you wouldn’t believe.  Who woulda thunk it?  #3. Missing an opportunity to rescue my former flame when she called me in the middle of the night, to woozy to drive home from a nearby bar – it could have made all the difference in getting her back.  #4. Having my first ever auto accident when I dozed-off at the wheel[a long distance trip I had driven many times]. Luckily, I was the only one involved with the guardrail that noon.

pickhit: “And there’s always something there to remind me…” – Naked Eyes, circa late 1980s

Achilles…blessed except where his Mother held him in the magical waters by his ankle; vulnerable yet appearing strong to others.

TBC…

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