Monthly Archives: August 2014

Look At You All…

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I have had the great privilege of seeing most of these performers live – some several times in their many incarnations. Prince only once, and if you ever have the chance, do yourself that favor…Here they play what I consider to be one of the most brilliantly written songs of all time…were we just not listening?!

As a prayer for our nation.

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The Archiver

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My dad passed away the morning after Father’s Day. I’ve been too sad to write until yesterday. We had spent much of my adult life estranged and had become close again just the last several years of his life as his health failed. We reconnected only after my Mom’s death. They had been divorced many years by then, but had remained good friends. After her death he fell apart. We all did.

Just this morning I am cleaning out closets and came across a small old box labeled “Mom’s Photos”…but they weren’t Mom’s – they were Dad’s. My guess is they had not been opened since my mother moved out of our big family home thirty-some years ago now. The box contained photographs from as early as the nineteen thirties…my dad as a baby held by his mom. Dad as a toddler in knickers and argyle socks, and as an Army Corporal during the Korean War. Precious treasure.

I never knew these photos existed. I had never seen a photograph of my father as a young man. I assumed there weren’t any. Trying to figure out who all of these other people were was perplexing. When I turned a photo over I discovered he had gone through this box in 1978 – the year my son was born – and labeled everything. Consciously or not, he meant this for Steven.

And consciously or not, he knew somehow the box would survive in my mother’s care. She was The Archiver.

The past two months since his passing have sparked many memories, of course…some expected, some surprising. The most surprising are all the many times he stepped up to the plate and came to my rescue. Sadly, I have only seen those in hindsight. I am a time-traveler of a certain sort…likely aware of stranger’s stories more often than my own.

He and my mom were married at the age of nineteen, having been life-long friends and high school sweethearts. I was born when they were twenty, and by then he was stationed in Texas waiting orders to ship overseas. His brother was in Korea serving on the front lines, and I think they tried not to send two sons from the same family. (That was back when the country still had it’s soul intact.) As it happened, they were my grandmother’s only two children. Thankfully the war ended, and he and my Uncle Bill came home safely, reluctant heroes.

Throughout my childhood my mother drove all of us nuts with her constant picture taking. To this day we have canisters of old home movies. Since cleaning out my mother’s house ten years ago I have stored the many boxes of old photographs, always meaning to go through them. Sort them into separate boxes for each of my siblings and myself, and for our children – the grandchildren she worshipped and adored.

When my great Aunt Edith passed away she left a file cabinet hidden in the back of her bedroom closet with a note: “Give this to Susan.” I thought, “Why me?!” It lives in the back of MY bedroom closet now. It is packed full of photos and momentos…daggerotpypes and marriage certificates brought over from Ireland during the famine.

What will I do with all of this? Surely, I had to keep it. I moved recently, downsizing dramatically. Culling a lifetime of accumulated collections, I decided my criteria for throwing things away: would I risk my life to save this in a fire or tsunami?! Lightening my load became easier the more I did it. It feels so freeing. I have often envied those who could live in a gypsy wagon.
But alas, I have moved into a 1,000 square foot cottage and it is just right for me…and I sure am glad I didn’t throw that little box away.

Thank You, Rose, for your encouraging words. Bless you.

Got my Mojo Workin’…

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As people get to know me they often say I must write a book about my life…and I reply “I wouldn’t know where to start.” How do you write of the remarkable and ordinary?

As I meditated on this I heard “begin with the soundtrack.” I have always been a shadow musician and artist…and have written stories since Carol Ruth Owens and I made books of scrap paper in our front yards on Sandra Lane and filled them with adventurous mysteries like our heroines, Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew…but with horses, of course…we were obsessed. We volunteered at Dick Trotman’s (yes, his real name…) stable so we could ride. I rode a gentle giant warmblood named Duchess. Even then in grade school I was tall and ugly skinny and the only bony child she would tolerate.

A junior high teacher told my Mother I was a talented writer…if only she could get me to finish something. I was not interested in writing. A sixth grade art teacher had entered me in the Detroit News Scholastic Art Awards unbeknownst to me, and I had won – with a watercolor homage to Rembrant’s Young Girl At an Open Half Door…all my waking hours I wanted only to paint. Little did I know I would win again, with an abstract oil my senior year of high school. I haven’t painted since.

Beginning college brought “two-fers” – creative writing instructors would have me complete two semesters worth of assignments in one. But I haven’t written since.

Let’s just say I lost my mojo. Has anyone out there seen it?

The last forty-five years or so have been about survival mostly. Learning how not to BE my emotions…how to navigate and balance the depression of addiction and medication and it’s insidious clusterfuck of side effects…the sins of my fathers…it’ll suck the mojo right out of a person.

Both my parents were “hobby” musicians, as were their parents. My mother’s father was a direct descendant of Franklin Pierce. He purportedly had some African American blood in his genes as well, and carried many of the physical attributes. But he passed for white, and made his quick and short lived fortune as a contractor building railroads, first for the booming automobile industry in Detroit, then across the continent, and eventually as far away as Japan. I ADORED him…especially on the weekends.

Amos Pierce lost his Golden Gloves to a young boxer named Joe Louis, and he and Joe became fast friends. In their twenties and suddenly well off, they¬†hung around with their mutual friend, Chubby Checker…and many other young Detroit musicians, some who would soon have contracts with a new label called Motown…but first, they needed a big empty space to practice and relax in. So Amos built a rambling old Tudor mansion near downtown and finished the basement like a ballroom with a bar, a stage, and a big dance floor. Some of my earliest memories were negotiating the wide stairway, sister Sherry hanging on, carrying a heavy bag of cornmeal down to sprinkle all over the fancy new invention called linoleum so that the dance floor was slippery slidey…I’ve wondered if the Twist were born here. But mainly, I was just mesmerized by my six – foot – four grandfather with the head of curly black hair shaking to the beat. Late at night, perhaps early in the morning, I would flat out refuse to take off my new patent leather shoes. I remember those arguments; my grandmother coming to my rescue by making a pallet of blankets on the floor where I would eventually fall asleep. Somehow my sweet little self knew I didn’t want to miss a minute of this…

Thanks, Bonkey.