Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Nanny's Garden, circa 1950ish

I found a small container of old slides in the bottom of an old box of pictures. They are of my grandmother's garden, in the early 1950's. I was born after this picture was taken, and grew up in a more matured version of Nanny's Garden, but I can say without hesitation that this was my favorite place in the whole world. I had the privilege of maintaining it for many years, and learned a lot about gardening from my grandmother. This was a special place. 

Monday, February 16, 2009

Red Camelia - Behind Historical Museum

I have loved camellias all my life. My grandmother was a Camellia master. My first Camellias I grew from seed form her plants (yes, they do have seeds). I caught this one Saturday the 14th in the old First Pres graveyard behind the Greensboro Historical Museum.

See my photostream.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Does Anybody Know These Friends of Mine? (Part One)

Do you ever wonder where old childhood or college friends are? I do. So, I thought I'd put a shout out to the world. Does anybody know any of these people and where they are?

Billy Holmes

He was my best neighborhood bud through elementary school, before he moved to Chapin. He went to Satchel Ford and also Crayton I think before he moved. We later reconnected at Clemson. I have not seen him since. Many memories of football in the front yard with Billy.

Marshall Moore

Marshall went to Satchel Ford, and to Fairwold I think, and then Keenan. He lived on Meadowood Road I think. He also went to Clemson. He had the most awesome backyard - a big field for baseball and amazing climbing trees, especially an enormous sweet gum. He played for Sunshine Cleaners at Satchel Ford and hit the infamous groundball that went through my legs and won the "first half" playoff game for them. I was the goat.

Phil Owens

Phil was my best friend in 8th grade at Fairwold Junior High school in Columbia. His middle name was “Carroll.” He lived on Fox Hall Road. I hung out at his house all the time. He was on my pony league team, and was part of the great all star team that had a real shot at going the whole way until Bill Allen the pitcher broke his foot sliding into second. He ended up going to Keenan and I to Flora. Last time I saw him I think he visited my roommate Harry Lancaster and I at Clemson.

Gregg Busdicker

Gregg was a good friend over several years in Columbia. He was a pitcher on my pony league team at Trenholm Park. He had an amazing house on Sylvan Drive, with a second floor pool table recreation room. I have great memories of pool with Phil and Gregg, with Led Zeppelin playing very loudly. I saw Gregg in an airport 20 or so years ago – last time.

Bo Cox

Bo Cox was a friend at Clemson from Greer SC. He was part of the great bike ride all through SC four of us went on after our sophomore year. Bo was a trip. I have several great photos of Bo on my Flickr site.

Mary Linn Chapman

Mary Linn lived next door to me for most of grammar school and was my very best bud in my early childhood years. Her dad was a pastor at North Trenholm Baptist. She had a brother named Horace Chapman. They moved to Georgia. My sister Mary and I recently read some letters she wrote to us after she moved. We were all very sad.

Ricky Meyer

Ricky and I were friends at Clemson. He was Forestry major. The man could play guitar, and often played in venues at Clemson. He taught me guitar lessons. I have some cool pics of him at Clemson on my Flikr site.

David Hollis

David Hollis was my best friend in sixth grade at Satchel Ford Elemntary. He lived at the corner of Trenhold Road and Briarfield. We walked/rode to school almost every day. He was on my little league baseball team and Pop Warner football team, and became an outstanding running back at Spring Valley High School. Yes, as with most of my friends, he moved to a different school! Great memories.

Larry Smith

Larry Smith was my roommate for one semester at Clemson. He was from Greer SC. He was an English major, and an amazing guitar player. He loved Gordon Lightfoot. We saw Jackson Brown together in Athens GA in the fall of 76.

Levon Lee

Levon was living at Carolina Children's Home in Columbia SC when I knew him in 8th and 9th grade. He was on my pony league team at Trenholm Park and, along with Ray Derrick (they alternated at pitcher and short) was an amazing athlete. He was a quiet humble unassuming fellow. He has this annoying habit of retrieving grounders and holding the ball to the very last second before rifling the throw to first base. It drove Cleveland the coach crazy, but I loved it! I had the honor of playing at third base next to Levon at short, though I was a peon in comparison. He was adopted by a family up in Maryland I think, and I never saw or heard from him again.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

The 25 Saddest Songs Ever

OK, so the other night I watched Pink Floyd performing Dark Side of the Moon on channel 76, and "Great Gig in the Sky" got me thinking - what are the 25 saddest songs - the songs that are saddest to me personally.

I don't know Country music very well so, sorry for the absence of much of that. And I know the content of many Blues songs is terribly sad, but The Blues makes me happy. I don't know Opera.

So, the criteria is that song has to have a saddening effect on me and it needs to be a sad song inherently (so not mere sadness by association with a memory).

Here is the list..I'll annotate it later...well, except to say that Bill Mallonee's "Locket Full of Moonlight: Casual Reprise" is the most brilliant and profound connection with the deep sadness that springs up from a fallen world that I have ever heard or could want to hear. The harmonica device produces an almost transcendent wail that reminds me of a whale actually, a sad whale cry coming up from the depths...This song is about his marriage dissolving as far as I can tell - I was worried about that at the time - and that made it sadder. But as an artist Bill has delved into the deepest grief of his own failure and alienation and unraveling in away that does not so much leave us there in his situation but takes us on a deep journey of our own soul. Out of his travail he gave us this saddest of brilliance - this song defines the artist's calling and craft to me.

25) Fast Car - Tracy Chapman

24) Walk on By - Dionne Warwick

23) My Life - Iris Dement

22) Honey - Bobby Goldsboro

21) The Circle Game - Joni Mitchell

20) Hallelujah - Rufus Wainwright

19) Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Eva Cassidy

18) Mr. Bojangles - The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

17) Crying - Roy Orbison

16) Into the West - Annie Lennox

15) Time in a Bottle - Jim Croce

14) When You're Blinded By the Light - The Vigilantes of Love

13) Always On My Mind - Willie Nelson

12) These Days - Jackson Browne

11) So Far Away - Carole King

10) Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd

9) Have You Ever Seen the Rain - CCR

8) Calling for You - Iris Dement

7) Blue - Lucinda Williams

6) I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry - Hank Williams

5) You're Missing - Bruce Springsteen

4) Hurt - Johnny Cash

3) Great Gig in the sky - Pink Floyd (featuring Clare Torry)

2) Adiago for Strings - Samuel Barber ("Leonard Bernstein" version)

1) Locket Full of Moonlight (Casual Reprise) - Bill Mallonee

The Great Snow of '73

What if you were to read this headline - "24 inches of snow in 24 hours?" Would you think Erie, PA? Buffalo, NY? Denver, CO?

Actually this was Rimini SC, just north of Lake Marion in the low country between Columbia and Charleston, on February 10, 1973. I know, we couldn't believe it then either.

In Columbia where I lived we just got 17". Slightly different amounts fell in different parts of the city. It was far and away the greatest and most amazing weather event of my life. I can't believe it has been 37 years ago. It seems like yesterday.

Just a little SE of Columbia, in Manning, there was 21". Orangeburg got 21". Greenville - they got 1".

It happened on February 9 and 10, 1973. I was 15 years old, in tenth grade at A. C. Flora High School.

Back then in Columbia we got a pretty decent snowfall about every winter. Three years before, in January of 1970, it snowed so hard and fast that our bus from Crayton Junior High couldn't get us home, and believe it or not the driver let a group of us off in brutally cold windy snowy weather two miles from where we lived. We got lost on the golf course walking home. It was my first whiteout experience - or near whiteout. We weren't dressed for it. It was brutal.

Back to 1973. I believe that we did go to school that February Friday and when it was apparent later what was going to happen we were sent home. I distinctly remember that the the storm had not been forecast. They had called for rain. Even today with advanced tools these events are hard to see more than a few hours out. This was one of those many low pressure systems rising out of the gulf. The incoming cold front which met it was not expected.

The storm came up from the south and west. This was an enormous snow event for southern Alabama and Georgia too. You can get a good overview of the storm here.

The storm hit so fast that thousands of cars were stranded on I-95 and other highways in southern SC. National Guard troops were called out to rescue the people by helicopter. I remember watching the footage on the news at the time. There were multiple fatalities. People froze to death in their cars.

There were reports of drifts 6-8 feet deep, and strong winds. In Columbia where I was there was almost no wind. I remember the night of the 9th watching the snow fall onto our little back porch. We had one of those standard early 60's variety steel railings with a flat inch-wide top. The snow was coming down in enormously huge flakes, falling very very slowly, like little parachutes. The snow was piling straight up on the little rail. I can't remember if our power went out. I would imagine that it did.

So I went to bed that night and it was snowing like crazy. The amazing part is that when I got up the next morning it was STILL snowing like crazy. That had never happened, and has not come close to happening again in Columbia. It snowed 17 inches at my house in 24 hours.

The next morning the snow on those rails was standing up in thin white walls a foot high. I could not believe my eyes looking out side. It was deeply delightful. But even in my joy I couldn't begin to match the sheer gush of happiness that came over my 18 month old Irish Setter Clancey. When we finally went outside together he was running jumping and spinning around with an expression on his face of utter and pure animal happiness. We rolled around and around wrestling, chasing, playing. It was one of the happiest days of my life.

I remember standing straight up and falling backwards - straight back stiff-spined. Plop! The snow would poof out from the impact, and then I would be lying there in a canyon of snow with the snow wall to my right and left quite higher than my head. I did this fall-backwards thing over and over all day.

I tried doing snow angels but my arms and legs were just plowing under the snow!

A cold freeze followed the snow so we were out of school for at least a week. Snow isn't great for the dry cleaning business so my dad wasn't super excited after the first day or so. I remember my grandmother being stranded in her house. Not sure how I got over there but I remember a lot of pine tree limbs down.

Somewhere we have a few little black and white pictures but I can't find them. I do offer for your view amazing footage from that morning Feb 10th 1973 in Sumter SC, 45 minutes east of where I lived. Sumter had the same amount of snow we did. This footage is wonderful.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Train Songs

So, Issac and I had lunch at Fin Castles today. They have this a new New Orleans menu along with the normal stuff - the red beans and sausage on rice - so good. Well, they also have a jukebox, and while we were there our waiter put on the song "Love Train." Then he started singing and dancing for everyone - well, mainly for a table of ladies next to us. The man could sing and he had the moves - the old time moves - smooth, classy, tasteful.

Well, that song got Isaac and I thinking about songs with trains, so we came up with a list there at the table - deal was I would not add more later. So here is our list - these are also almost all songs we like too. Oh, and the waiter...he's in a band that bears his name - plays next door to Fin Castles Saturday night, but I can't find where I wrote down his name. Will add that later.

Here's our train song list - what can you add? Has to have the word "train" in it or be about a train - not just a station!

Love Train - The O'Jays
Midnight Train to Georgia - Gladys Night
Folsome Prison Blues - Johnny Cash
I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry - Hank Williams
Long Train Runnin' - Doobie Brothers
Tuesday's Gone - Lynnyrd Skynyrd
Nothing Like a Train - Vigilantes of Love
House of the Rising Sun - The Animals
City of New Orleans - Arlo Guthrie
Slow Train Coming - Bob Dylan
Last Train to Clarkesville - the Monkies
One After 909 - The Beatles
Hear My Train a Comin' - Jimi Hendrix
White Room - Cream
Like the 309 - Johnny Cash
Slow Dark Train - Vigilantes of Love
Crazy Train - Ozzy Osborne
When Love Came to Town - U2 and BB King

Monday, February 09, 2009

Help With Google Blogger

I wrote last week about having "upgraded" my Blogger site to the "new" Blogger, called now "Google Blogger." There are many advantages to Google Blogger for people like me who aren't very code savvy. Yet, even as limited as my skills are I had with old Blogger been able to drop snippets of code into the Blogger template and out comes a flickr badge for example, or a we101 badge, or whatever.

It's not quite so easy in Google Blogger. The template code is built around the architecture of the Blogger "gadgets" - little programs like WordPress widgets that can be added to the site and move around easily. This new functionality for Blogger requires code that looks very mysterious to guys like me, and which from all I have read makes it all but impossible to plop in other code for badges and such.

There is a new Blogger gadget called "HTML/JavaScript." supposedly this gadget allows the user to add code from third parties, but no code I have dropped in there has come out right. I am talking about code provided by various third parties to add to Blogger templates.

If any of you have transitioned to "new" Blogger I would love very much to know if you know how to insert things like the Flickr badge that Flickr provides, or the badge, or the like. You can comment here or e-mail me.



It Won't Be Long Now

Just thinking ahead...

Home and Garden

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Where Are the Prophets When You Need Them?

I've been quiet on the goings on a half block down and across the street on S. Elm. And yeah, I have an opinion.

Parking downtown stinks. That's just a fact. If I didn't have a parking lot for my building I'd be mighty frustrated. I doubt I'd come down here very often because of the parking. The businesses up and down the 300 block of S Elm are doing their best to make it with poor parking options (and without city incentives).

It takes a lot of dough to renovate these old buildings. How come the city can't make that process easier? And for real, I walk around a lot down here. I think the city could do a lot more to help with the parking other than writing $25 tickets which is what the guys at the barber were talking about yesterday. There are a lot of empty lots here and there, and we could even build a architecturally appropriate parking deck if we wanted to.

Every building in this block is old, or, if it isn't, it was built to fit the rest of the architecture. The thing they plan to put up in that lot on S. Elm is going to butt ugly in context and stick out like a sore thumb. It will steal much of the charm away from the block and further diminish the "cool" factor for people wanting to come down here enough to put up with pathetic parking problem.

So after the new building and its proprietary parking lot takes away thirty some parking spaces that otherwise would be for patrons of local businesses, well, where are people visiting the other businesses supposed to park? I have a real problem as a taxpayer knowing my tax money is going to be given unjustly to the fancy-dancy new developer and at the same time further hinder the ability of the shop owners to survive. Maybe a tax revolt would be in order. It's enough to turn me off from downtown entirely.

Once again the monied interests win out, and the developers on our council sit on their hands and look the other way. It's a nice little racket they've got going here.

It reminds me of some things I have read in my Bible:

Woe to those who join house to house,
who add field to field,
until there is no more room,
and you are made to dwell alone
in the midst of the land (Isaiah 5:8).

Woe to those who devise wickedness
and work evil on their beds!
When the morning dawns, they perform it,
because it is in the power of their hand.
They covet fields and seize them,
and houses, and take them away;
they oppress a man and his house,
a man and his inheritance (Micah 2:1-2).

Basically Isaiah and Micah were talking about developers, monied influence-peddlers who "influenced judges" so as to take over the land of those less able to sway the foxes looking out for the hen house.

The city council is the judge in this scenario, and rather than doing what is right it succumbs the the influence peddling of the developer set. I just wonder what deals got cut in the country clubs or in the dark chambers hidden away from public view - and how did the council come to change it's mind so abruptly? Very strange if you ask me.

So, a guy is going to make a three and a half million "investment" in ruining a very nice block and discouraging hard working small business owners - wow, I'm all ga ga. Doing wrong by the people who have been working so hard to make a living and promote downtown isn't worth ten times that much.

Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, we need you guys here to kick some serious butt.

And while you're at it can you get the developer interests and their proxies to find a place for the homeless to stay during the day and night?

Joel Gillespie
301 South Elm

Friday, February 06, 2009

The Street, from Above

Taken from atop the Guilford Building - looking down at intersection of S Elm and Washington. Check out the headless rider (you have to look VERY close to figure that out).

My Flickr photostream.

Even the Gestapo Had to Start Somewhere

This should deeply worry anybody who has an affection for the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Help! New Blogger and Flickr

Due to the gradual build up of small coding problems on my Blogger site (which I am not smart enough to fix) I have taken the plunge into the world of "new" Blogger or as they now call it "Google Blogger." Seems it is trying very hard to be like Word Press without the Open Source aspect. ). I have set up a "new" Blogger site. Don't know if I will stay with template. As far as I can tell the new Google Blogger is trying to make it as hard as possible to access non Google sites - places like as Flickr, Pandora, Facebook, or Technorati. It looks like Google is turning into a proprietary monster. I do like the new Blogger widget thing - it's useful for code dorks like me.

But here is the problem. Their widgets for non Google sites are lame. For the life of me I can't figure out how to paste html code the old fashioned way (even in their html widget) and have things show up on the side bar - such as my Flickr badge. Flickr generates the code for a badge but it won't take inside the new Blogger. It does not work just dumping it into the "new Blogger" template code or into the html widget. Do any Blogger users out there know how to do this?



Tuesday, February 03, 2009

February - Buds, Birds, and Blooms

It's cold outside this morning. During the night it snowed a bit and the roads are too slick for the school buses, so school was canceled. I am at home with my daughter.

February is certainly an unpredictable month. There may be a week of 70 degree weather, or there may be a huge ice storm. The most amazing winter weather event of my entire life occurred in February - February 9-10, 1973 in Columbia SC. But that's another story.

Just like in late August and early September when there are often harbingers of fall - the cold front that brings air that is dry and cooler and seems to smell like fall, the Tulip Poplar leaves here or there that are starting to turn yellow, or the flock of birds that shows up in your yard already starting on its journey south.

February is similar - it is still winter but hints of Spring abound. It is a month pregnant with possibility. Despite the cold of January that has just past, the days continue to lengthen, and temperatures become just a little more mild.

Life begins to break out all over. There are three harbingers of Spring that make February delightful - buds, birds, and blooms.

The birds are busy and even have a different sound. They are claiming territory and building nests and mating. I've seen several blue birds this week flitting busily about. We have sparrows building a nest in a shrub. Crows are hyper. This can be a hard time for birds that gather seed and berries, as well as those who feed on insects. Food sources are in short supply. It's a good time to "feed the birds, tuppence a bag."

Tree buds are swelling already. It is fascinating to study and understand what it is exactly that triggers bud swelling and opening. Day length or night length may play a part, as may temperature. Either way, buds are really cool, containing in them tiny but recognizable precursors to leaves and flowers. It's only February 3rd today but already the silver maple buds have expanded.

February brings forth many beautiful and delicate little wildflowers in fields and lawns. Many consider these to be weeds. My favorite early wildflower is Lamium, that little purple flower that shoots up with a tuft of beautiful blue/purple flowers in a whorl around the stem. There are many others, mostly small. I hope to get pictures of them all this year.

Take a walk, take a break, and open you eyes and ears to all that is around you. Spring's a coming!

Monday, February 02, 2009

My Ten Favorite Albums

I've been thinking for some time about what are my favorite records. I don't know why, maybe it is a little nostalgia thing, maybe a desire to know myself, I'm not sure. In some ways it may be a desire to step back and identify with and know my own generation and culture. Maybe it's the many great memories associated with each record. Seeing an artist perform the record live is also a big connector.

For some reason I would only allow one record per artist on the list - kind of arbitrary I know but I didn't want it to be dominated by the Beatles.

I am thinking here only of studio albums, too, otherwise Allman Brothers at Fillmore East would be number 2 or 3, and Jackson Brown's Solo Live Acoustic would have been in the list.

To get on the list 1) I had to own the record, 2) I had to be currently listening to the record, and 3) I had to take a kickback. These artists are all so interested in making my list :-).

Of the hundreds of records I love, how do I narrow it to a top ten? How do I choose between five different great Bob Dylan albums, five Beatles albums and so forth? I think in the end it has to with affection. I tend to have more affection for records that seem to hold together and have a sense of unity. It doesn't mean they have to be concept albums, but I tend to think of a record as a whole.

There may other albums with more great songs, but for some reason there isn't the connection for me with the whole. Obviously I have left out way more great albums than I have included.

The list does not reflect any idea of what albums I think are the greatest, the most important, or the most significant, but the records that seem to speak to me most now.

I bought Layla and Other assorted Love Songs when it was first released and have loved it ever sense. It got burned into my psyche I guess. It is a rough record, sounding more "live" than your average studio recording. It is 2-3 songs too long, those 2-3 being real lemons, but the rest of the record flows well. Thankfully the guys managed to get Duane Allman on board by the fourth song. The twin guitars on "Have You Ever Loved a Woman" send me to guitar heaven, and knowing the context makes the song interesting as well. This is the record that hooked me on the blues.

I was not ever that big a fan of Bruce Springsteen, well, except for his mellow music. I bought The rising right when it came out. It does not get the critical acclaim as other of his records. it holds together extremely well, and even songs he wrote before 9/11 work in this collection of songs written about and in honor of 9/11 and its impact on people. The Rising speaks to me very powerfully and intimately. I never tire of it. I like every song, and I saw the concert.

I more or less stopped listening to Led Zeppelin by the time I was 14 after a brief obsession with stairway to Heaven." But I have been listening to them a lot over the last 2-3 years, and I love talking Zep if you're ever interested. Zep fans love to debate which is their greatest album. I like all of them but their album I seem to listen to he most all the way through is their first. It's raw and muddled in parts, yet so full of energy. This is a great driving album and of all their records the one that seems to flow the best in my view.

Some of my choices would befuddle critics. I love so many Bob Dylan records, but I LOVE Modern Times, his most recent, a record on absolutely nobody's top twenty list of his greatest records. But it gives me joy; it makes me smile. I was tempted to put Slow Train Coming, The Times They are a Changing, or Highway 61 Revisited, but the smile won out :-)

Few people even know Iris Dement. What can I say, put on the record and pass the tissues. Tracy Chapman's debut record was close to making the list. "My Life" is her best flowing and most personal record, haunting in places. I have seen her now a couple of times which always adds to the experience of listening to a record.

I was pretty much a rocker-only when my oldest brother Mike gave me Jackson Browne's first record for my 17th birthday in August 1974. I think it is the gift I most treasure from my siblings and family over all these years.

I think the greatest bliss I know listening to modern music comes about 2/3's the way through Question 67 and 68. I think of early Chicago as the pinnacle of creative energy. if you ever see me walking down the road air conducting like a escape from the asylum, I'm probably listening to Chicago.

It is very hard to decide which Beatles record to include. For a very long time the Beatles record I would have called my favorite was the record almost universally considered the Beatles worst - Let it Be! It was the first Beatles album I bought. They broke up when I was 13 and I bought Let it Be when I was in eighth grade! I have a deep affection for it all the way through. But Abbey Road gets the nod now. it is from the first to the last note the one Beatles record I like the most and listen through the most.

I did not discover Astral Weeks until a couple of years ago. I'd have Moondance at #2 if not for Astral Weeks. Astral Weeks is so layered and brilliant, though put together in a hurry, and without great diversity within the album. I think of it as a symphony and the songs as movements. It pierces me.

There has really not been a competitor for number one for quite a long time. Not only do I have deep life long affection for Dark Side of the Moon (I bought it right when it came out in March 1973, about a month after the greatest snowstorm in the history of the universe (well, in the history of Columbia SC). I was in tenth grade. As a studio recording it is as close to perfect as I can imagine. Dark Side of the Moon is a record whose content speaks to me no matter how many times I listen to it, sort of like my favorite poems by GM Hopkins, or my favorite Psalms. Obviously the message of Dark Side of the Moon is ultimately darker and more forlorn, but in some way God uses it to point me to Himself as an answer to the questions raised. And I can't even put into words how Great Gig in the Sky connects with me. It's primordial. But over the primordial and confused bent world the Spirit broods....

Here’s the list…

10.Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs - Derek and the Dominos
9. The Rising - Bruce Springsteen
8. I - Led Zeppelin
7. Modern Times - Bob Dylan
6. My Life - Iris Dement
5. Jackson Browne --Jackson Browne
4. Chicago Transit Authority - Chicago Transit Authority
3. Abbey Road - The Beatles
2. Astral Weeks - Van Morrison
1. Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd