CONGRATULATIONS! YOU HAVE STUMBLED INTO "THE SHALLOW ZONE." WATCH OUT FOR THE ROCKS. SOME OF THEM ARE SHARP.
If you're looking for a blog with meaningful content on the important issues of the day, you've come to the wrong place. This is the shallows, my friend. Nothing but shallowness as far as the eye can see. Let someone else make sense of things. I like it here.

About Me

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I love my grown children, miss all the dogs I ever had, and I cry at the drop of a hat, I believe in true love, destiny, fairness, and compassion. If I could be anywhere right now, it would be the ocean. My favorite city is New York, but I am always longing for London and craving more time in Copenhagen. I'm drawn to desolate places, deserted buildings, and unknown byways. I don't care how society perceives me as long as my gut tells me that what I'm doing is right. I am interested in paranormal things, spiritual things, historical things, and things that glow at night. I like to drink, I smoke when I write, I can't stand small talk, and despite my quick temper, I would rather kiss than fight. I'm selfish with my writing time, a spendthrift with my love. My heart has been broken so many times that it's held together with super glue and duct tape. The upside is that, next time, I won't be tempted to give away what I no longer have to give. But I will let you buy me a Pink Squirrel.
MY SHALLOW MISSION STATEMENT

MY SHALLOW MISSION STATEMENT

MY SHALLOW MISSION STATEMENT
Not that there's any weight to it...
IN A WORLD FILLED WITH COMPLEX POLITICAL ISSUES, SOCIAL INEQUALITY, AND FINANCIAL UNCERTAINTY, I CONSIDER IT MY GIFT TO YOU, MY READER, TO OFFER THIS SHALLOW LITTLE HAVEN, WHERE NOTHING IS TOO SHALLOW, TOO INSIGNIFICANT, OR TOO RIDICULOUS TO JUSTIFY OUR ATTENTION. IN OTHER WORDS, IF IT'S NOT IMPORTANT....SO WHAT? NEITHER WAS MARILYN MONROE'S BRA SIZE. AND THAT STILL SELLS MAGAZINES, DOESN'T IT?
VIDEO OF THE MONTH

Thursday, June 21, 2012

ROCK AND ROLL LOVE STORIES


Last post, I mentioned, briefly, the epic love story that was Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, two iconic figures of country music, who died within months of one another. And it got me to thinking about other love stories connected to the music world, most specifically, the part of that world dedicated to one of my great loves...rock and roll. (Yes, I still call it "rock and roll", and if you have to ask why, I would suggest, in a completely non-judgemental way, that you listen to a few Buddy Holly songs). But back to the subject of this post. Great loves. In rock and roll. What comes to mind for you? Depends on your age, I guess. If you're in your 30s or younger, you're probably picturing Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale, Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, or, possibly, Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown (although not in an approving way, one would hope). If you're my age...53...or somewhere around there, the images that come to mind are more than likely those of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman, Bob Dylan and Sarah (Whatever-her-last-name-was), and, possibly, Pat Benatar and Neil Geraldo. To name but a few anyway. But love isn't always rooted in the romantic. Sometimes it's based on something completely non-sexual, but, yet, every bit as strong and all-encompassing. Which brings us to the real subject of this post. And what's that? Well...scroll on.

FROM LIVERPOOL WITH LOVE: WHEN THE NOWHERE MAN MET THE WALRUS


Long before John Winston "Ono" Lennon met "Oh, Yoko!" Ono, and James Paul McCartney fell head-over-heels for "Lovely Linda" Eastman, they were just a couple of fag-smokin', pint-swiggin' lads from Liverpool who happened to stumble into one another's lives, and decided to make music together. That's the short version of the story anyway. Obviously, there was something almost fated at play when the two future founders of the Beatles first met and felt whatever it was they felt that drew them together in what was to become one of the most important and influential partnerships in the history of popular music. Of course, as any Beatles geek can tell you, it was hardly a walk in the park, even in those early days of their friendship. On first meeting Paul, John was arrogant and dismissive. Paul was a few years younger and a little too much on the clean-cut side for John's taste. And John's naturally acerbic nature was a bit off-putting for Paul, especially when Paul started bringing his even younger friend, George Harrison around and touting him as a potential addition to their band. But as we all know, John eventually accepted George as a bandmate, and after ditching hearthrob drummer Pete Best and replacing him with heartbeat drummer Richard Starkey (aka Ringo Starr), the two icons-in-the-making were on their way to becoming the musical pulse behind the band that would change the face of rock and roll forever.


But that's the weighty subject of someone else's much less shallow post. What concerns me in this one is the nature of the complicated relationship between John and Paul. Yeah, sure, they were good mates (at first anyway), but how the hell did they go from being such good mates to what they were at the end? I mean, by the time the Beatles broke up, John and Paul were behaving more like a divorced couple than two guys who used to be in a band together. It's like that song by Hole that says, "I love you so much it turns to hate." The sort of acrimony that existed between John and Paul toward the end of John's life only occurs between two people who once truly loved one another. Paul, who was always the musical sugar to John's lyrical salt, pretty much always wore his heart on his sleeve when it came to John, as well as the rest of the band. When John wanted to quit the Beatles (for good) in 1969, it was Paul who implored him to continue. True, Paul left a short time later, thus becoming, technically, the first Beatle to leave the band, but, then, if you want to get really technical, Ringo had actually tried to leave a couple of years before, (citing his feeling that he wasn't a very good drummer and was not appreicated by the other band members), but was lured back by (I assume) the sincere entreaties of the other three, especially John, who sent him cards and flowers and accompanying "words of love." So, who really left who, and exactly when, and why are all matters up for grabs. Bottom line, according to almost everything I've ever read on the break-up of the Beatles, which is probably enough books and articles to fill the Albert Hall, Paul seems to have been the die-hard when it came to wanting to keep "the lads" together. The grandson of an old-school music hall performer, he had the old show biz motto "the show must go on" hardwired into his DNA, and coupled with his naturally sentimental sensibilities, he just couldn't bear the thought of no longer being part of the band that had been his de facto family since his teen-age years. But, of course, for John, it was a different matter altogether.


As youths in Liverpool, one of the things that must have drawn the two musicians together was the fact that both had lost their mothers during their formative years. Julia Lennon was famously run down by a car only minutes after leaving her sister Mimi's house where she had been visiting John. Mary McCartney had succumbed to breast cancer a few years before. The parallel in personal tragedy could only have forged an even deeper bond between two young men already "in love" with each other's musical creativity. But where Paul eventually channeled his grief into the classic songs, "Yesterday" and, allegedly, "Let It Be", John's pain surfaced only in glimpses, in the quietly personal "Julia", and years later, in the raw, aching, tear-sodden "Mother", which he recorded with the Plastic Ono Band. If Paul was sometimes too overtly sentimental, John was almost always too maddeningly cryptic. As the Beatles started to fall apart in the late 60s, Paul chronicled their demise with songs like "We Can Work It Out" and "Hello, Good-Bye", which, underneath their upbeat surfaces, were actually personal pleas to the increasingly disenchanted John, on whose continuing particpation the life of the band depended. In response, John wrote songs like "I Am The Walrus", "How Do You Sleep?", and "Glass Onion", all of which made no bones about the depth of his resentment toward his old friend.


In 1980, giving an interview in support of the just-released "Double Fantasy" album, John said that no one had ever hurt him as much as Paul had. In typical Lennon fashion, he neglected to go into detail about just what Paul had done to earn that distinction. Was it the Allen Klein versus Eastman Brothers affair that put the final nail in the Beatles coffin? Or was it the resentment that he still might have felt over Paul's much publicized declaration that he had tried LSD after convincing John, who had actually tried the drug first, to keep the matter under his hat? Some people still believe that it all had to do with Yoko. But if Paul hated Yoko, he clearly loved John more than he hated her, the strongest testimonial to which fact is etched irrevocably into the vinyl grooves of 1969's "The Ballad of John and Yoko", which include Paul's harmonies, offered as beautifully and effortlessly as ever, despite any supposed rancor he may have felt toward the woman who, for all practical purposes, had replaced him as the foremost creative partner in John's life. John performed the same service on "Hey, Jude", a song Paul wrote for John's son, Julian, after John divorced his first wife, Cynthia in order to be with Yoko. Although I, personally, have never been asked to sing harmony on a song that highlights a major problem area in my life, I'm almost certain that I'd have a hard time with it. But for John and Paul, clearly, it was the music that mattered more.



In the epic tale that is John Lennon and Paul McCartney, one of the saddest things has to be that we will never know what might have happened between them had John not been murdered. Time may not actually heal all wounds, but it definitely heals a lot of them, and age really does make us wiser. Since John's death, Paul has often referred to his late partner, both on stage and in interviews, and always with what seems to be a genuine sense of affection tinged with an unspoken sadness over his absence. Clearly, the acrimony that fueled the break-up of the Beatles and the subsequent estrangement between John and himself is no longer a factor for Paul. Unfortunately, John died whilst still in his 40s, still relatively young, and still too close to the residual pain to be able to look at his part in it with the objective eye that comes with age. And so, while we will always have the songs and the pictures and the endless documentaries and bios, there will always be that relentless shadow hanging over the Beatles unending legacy. But, perhaps, like so many love affairs, even those that seem fated from the start, the one between John Lennon and Paul McCartney was doomed by its very nature. After all, when it comes to love, no matter what sort of love that is, one of the people involved has to be willing to make concessions. Love may be stronger than death, and even hate, but when it comes to egos, even the strongest love is liable to falter.


Skol! xoxoxxoxoxxoxo

NEXT POST: NOT ALL THAT GLIMMERS STAYS GOLD: LICKS VERSUS LIPS IN THE ROLLING STONES

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

FATHER'S DAY TRIBUTE


Let me get one thing straight. I am not a fan of country music...per se. That might seem odd since I grew up with it ringing in my ears. My father is a pedal steel player, who now lives in Georgia, and still plays gigs on the weekends with his country gospel band. Growing up, he was always strumming Chet Atkins and Hank Williams tunes on his flattop guitar (a black Fender acoustic with a red pickguard) around the house, occasionally lapsing into Johnny Cash, whom he professed not to like, but it was the 60s and hard to get away from "A Boy Named Sue" and "Folsom Prison Blues". But for the duration of his tenure with our family (he left when I was in the sixth grade to start a new family with a bouffant-sporting woman called Priscilla, I remember thinking that my father was a great musician, yet, at the same time, feeling a decided lack of appreciation for the music he chose to play. That didn't stop me from singing with his bands later on. I performed with several of them at summer fairs and the like after he and I reconnected when I was in my early twenties. But although I gave my all to the counry standards Dad and the other guys in the band hammered out for the pleasure of their country-fried audiences, I never felt what you could call a true affinity with the music. That was reserved for the music that came from my mother's side of the family. My Black grandfather was a singer of extraordinary range, possessing a classic "soul" baritone that triggered something deep and unnameable inside of me whenever I heard it. When, at the age of eighteen, I started looking around for a band of my own, it was that soul/blues sensibility that characterized my vocal style and which drove me to seek out band mates that could transpose that sensibility into the more current, New Wave-flavored songs that were popular at the time. Still...as they say...the apple never falls far from the tree. And although Father's Day has already come and gone, I'd like to dedicate this post to my father and the music he still loves and plays. Hence...the following list of the five country artists who, for me, transcend the genre and, against all odds, somehow manage to give me chills.


Born Hiram King Williams in Mount Olive, Alabama on 17 September, 1923, the man known to the world as Hank Williams had his first number one hit at the age of 24. At the age of 29, he was dead, the victim of a non-stop regimine of alcohol, morphine, and painkillers. In between he wrote and recorded songs like "Honky Tonk Woman", "Your Cheatin' Heart", and "I'm So Lonesome, I Could Cry." Arguably the most important and influential country artist to ever pluck a guitar string, Hank Williams embodied what country music is supposed to be about...i.e. heartache, love gone wrong, and that never-ending pain that can never be cured, but can sometimes be quenched by the right chord progression. His tumultuous life is the stuff of country legend, but it is his death that I've always found to be almost quintessential country. After an ice storm kept him from appearing at a scheduled concert in West Virginia on New Year's Eve, 1953, Williams hired a college student called Charles Carr to take him to Canton, Ohio where he had a concert scheduled for New year's Day. Along the way, they stopped in Knoxville, Tennessee because Williams was feeling a little ill from the combination of chloral hydrate and booze he'd been imbibing on the drive. The doctor gave him a shot of B12 mixed with morphine. A few hours later, Carr and Williams stopped at an all-night diner in Bristol, Virginia where Carr asked Williams if he wanted something to eat. The singer replied in the negative. Carr drove on, stopping at a gas station, at which point he realized that Williams was dead...surrounded by empty beer cans and unfinished song lyrics. See what I mean? Country at its core.


If you've ever seen the 1982 movie "Coal Miner's Daughter", you know all about Loretta Lynn's hardscrabble early life in Butchers Hollow, Kentucky and her long, determined road to fortune and iconhood. As classic country stars go, Loretta Lynn is without a doubt the real deal, even if it did recently come to light that she shaved three years off her age when she first began giving interviews in the early days of her fame. So, she was fifteen, not thirteen when she married Oliver "Doo" Lynn and started reaping the song-inspiring benfits of being married to a philandering, controlling redneck. So what? It's the music that matters, and Lynn has given the world plenty of that. From 1966's "You Ain't Woman Enough To Take My Man" to 2009's Jack White-produced "I Miss Being Misses Tonight" (a melancholy recollection of her late husband), Lynn's songs are as straightforward as it gets. She feels it, thinks it, writes it, and sings it. Influences? Her own life. That's how the real country stars do it. And in my opinion, there isn't a single female country artist today who doesn't owe Loretta Lynn a great big tear-stained bunch of roses in gratitude for helping to pave the way.


If the country world owes Loretta Lynn a great big thank you, they owe an even bigger one to Patsy Cline, the woman who inspired and befriend Lynn in her early days as an artist and put her own, inimitable stamp on the genre. Born Virgina Hensley in Winchester, Virginia in 1932, Cline attributed her distinctive, throaty contralto voice to a case of rheumatic fever she contracted when she was thirteen, saying that when she woke up in the hospital, she had "a booming voice like Kate Smith." However she came by her voice, Cline's renderings of songs like "Crazy" and "I Fall To Pieces" are the standard bearers of soulful country styling. But the best thing about Cline, in my opinion, is not her voice, but the fact that her personality was so at odds with it. Who wouldn't adore a woman who sings like Patsy Cline and can hold her liquor whilst decked out in a white turban and a leopard-print sweater? Cline was one hot ticket...even in her manner of death. Weeks before she was killed in a plane crash in Tennessee in 1963, she began giving away personal items to friends and family, telling them that she had a feeling of impending doom. Having survived two car wrecks, she felt that "the next one would be either a charm or it'll kill me." Unfortunately, it turned out to be the latter when her plane crashed in a forest 90 miles outside of Nashville on the night of March 5. Her music and legacy remain, however. Especially her music. I mean, how many times have you heard another artist cover "Crazy", including Willie Nelson, the man who wrote it? No matter how many times that is, I'd wager that anyone who thinks of the song automatically thinks of the woman who first recorded it and made it her own...Miss Patsy Cline.


When actor John Ritter died unexpectedly on 11 September, 2003, it was a sad occasion for television fans, many of whom, like me, had grown up watching Ritter on shows like "The Waltons" and "Three's Company". But what was even sadder was that news of Ritter's death was all but buried by the news of another death...i.e. Johnny Cash's, who passed away the next day. Talk about unfortunate timing! Cash's death at the age of 71 came only four months after the death of his wife, June Carter Cash, who succumbed to lung cancer at the same age. People said that Cash died of a broken heart. I wouldn't bet against it. The love story between Cash and his second wife, June is one of the great epic tales of country music. And Cash was one of those artists whose fans came from all across the board, and who loved him not just because of his music, but because of what he represented. And just what was that? Well, the man came from nowhere, with nothing but his guitar and his songs, and somehow managed to parlay those two simple attributes into a career that spanned decades and transcended genre...all without changing a single thing about himself. He was what he was. A musician, a bad husband, a drunk, a loving father, a better husband, a hero, a man in black, an icon, and an inspiration. (He was also a refrigerator salesman at one time, but we all have to pay the bills, right?) Bottom line, Johnny Cash was the sort of artist who can never truly die because his songs have become so deeply embedded in popular consciousness that it's as though he's still here, still performing, and still reminding us that it's possible to be yourself in an industry where too many artists try too hard to be what they think people want them to be.


Say what you will about Dolly Parton. That she looks cartoonish in her endless array of wigs and layers of make-up, that she's just as famous for her huge tits as she is for her music, that she sounds like a chirpy little bird when she sings. None of that changes the fact that the woman has written some of the most widely covered songs in the last few decades, including "I Will Always Love You", "Jolene", and "Coat Of Many Colors". And when it comes to being an original, no one has anything on Dolly Parton. Asked where she came up with her unabashedly gaudy fashion sense, she replied that she and her mother were running errands back in her hometown of Sevierville, Tennessee when she happened to spot a woman decked out in dyed blonde hair, red lipstick, and femme fatale attire. She asked her mother who the woman was, and her mother told her that the woman was "the town whore." Right then and there, Dolly said, she decided that when she grew up she wanted to look just like that. The difference was that Dolly could sing and write songs, and the rest of it just came with the territory. It just proves my philosophy. Dress however you want, look whatever way you want to look. If you can back it up with talent and/or brains, the rest of the world can go to hell. Dolly Parton's much too nice a person to think along those lines, of course, but it's still true. After launching her singing career, she ventured into film (remember 9 to 5?), and then established her very own theme park, which draws thousands of visitors every year. Is there nothing she can't do? But what I love most about Miss Dolly Parton is that she has been married to the same guy for decades and, for all her stage swagger and red lipstick, she's never been the subject of gossip mills. Why? Because no one messes with Dolly Parton. Even if she does have a chirpy little voice.

Til next time. Skol! xoxoxxoxoxoxxoxoxo

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

WHAT THE BLOODY HELL WERE THEY THINKING?


Well, it's that time again. What time is that, you ask? Time for another top five post, of course. And this time around, by popular demand (seriously...two people to whom I owe money actually demanded it), the subject is 'songs that just should never have been written." We're not talking merely cheesy songs, either. Or even songs so bad they're sort of good. We're talking awful, terrible, what-the-hell-were-they-thinking songs. So grab your barf bag and start scrolling. Ready? Let's cringe...


Okay, the fact that the words "yummy, yummy" are repeated throughout the song is bad enough. But the rest of the lyrics are even worse. How they ever made it on 1968 AM radio is anyone's guess. "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy. I got love in my tummy, And I feel like a-lovin you: Love, you're such a sweet thing, Good enough to eat thing. And that's just a-what I'm gonna do." Am I the only one who thinks I know what the members of Ohio Express are really talking about? In a word...ewwwww. Of course, we can't actually blame Ohio Express since they were merely one of the many manufactured bands created by Jerry Kasenetz and Jeffrey Katz, the brains (and balls) behind Super K Productions, the pop hit machine also responsible for giving the world "Sausalito" by Graham Gouldman, another song we really need never hear again, although I'd take it over "Yummy, Yummy" any day. In fact, I'd pretty much take any song over "Yummy, Yummy" including the next one...and that says a lot.


Oh, man. Or...perhaps we should...woman. Because this 1976 top forty "sleeper hit", crooned in a sicky sweet monotone by Charlene Duncan (known professionally simply as "Charlene") could be viewed as a lightweight companion piece to Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman" of a few years before. Written by Ron Miller, it's a confessional piece that would probably make Oprah cry, telling the story of a woman who's lived a life filled with worldly pleasures, including but not limited to taking "the hand of a preacher man" with whom she made love in the sun (I always picture Jim Baker), going to Monte Carlo "like (Jean) Harlow", and sipping champagne in a yacht near an isle in Greece, only to discover that, of all the amazing places she's been, she's "never been to me." Yeah, Charlene, we get it. It's all about channeling your inner goddess and empowering her to make you happy instead of looking to outside things to do the job. Not a bad philosophy at all. It's just that the song is so damned cloying and annoying (yes, I know they rhyme), and Charlene sings it in a voice that just begs to be used in a Disney movie...from the 1940s. Not surprisingly, it was Charlene's only hit. That it was at a hit at all is what makes us crazy. But nowhere near as crazy as this next song...


He hit me...and it felt like a kiss. Great lyrics...Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Yup, that's right. The same song writing legends who wrote "One Fine Day" and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" actually wrote the above lyrics...inspired by the personal life of Little Eva, their babysitter-turned-pop-star for whom they also wrote the much less disturbing "Locomotion." Seems that upon discovering that Eva's boyfriend hit her on a regular basis, they inquired as to why, and she explained that it was because he loved her. So who else to produce it but Phil Spector? Yes, the gun-toting madman behind the early 60's "wall of sound" was in on it, too. Now, don't get me wrong. I understand that Goffin and King weren't condoning relationship violence when they wrote the song, merely reflecting Eva's attitude toward it, but you wouldn't know that from the sincere rendering it gets from The Crystals, who were the first to record it. Back in 1962, as now, the song was not well recieved, and there were even protests leveled at it, both facts which minimized its radio airplay. Even so, it's been covered by some pretty formidable artists, including The Motels and Hole (actually, that one makes sense). Amy Winehouse even once named it as one of the songs that most influenced her as a singer. But none of that lessens my contention that it's a terrible song that should never have been written...at least not without a disclaimer. And that goes for the following song as well...


"She has breasts like melons and breath like rotten eggs"...yeah, and those are the more radio-friendly lyrics in the song. By the time you get to the line "I want to take your chubby ass back to my place and squirt my baby gravy all over your face", you know that you're listening to the work of either a full-fledged chubby chaser or a very bitter metal singer who's had it with all those skinny groupies hanging around outside the dressing room every night. But either way, it's not a very nice tribute to its subject matter, i.e. "fat girls", who, for the record, don't always have breasts like melons or breath that smells like rotten eggs. Hell, if anything, the singer looks like he could use a good washing-up himself. What was Steel Panther thinking when they recorded this song? Hard to say. But I know what I think when I see the video...and it's a two-word phrase that starts with the same first letter of the song's title and ends with a letter that rhymes with "ewwwwwww." And I feel pretty much the same way about this next song...


1982. California metal band. Best known for their 1987 live album "Harder, Faster" (which is actually pretty good). So far so good. But then you realize that they wrote this song, the chorus of which goes, "ON your knees, you shall be on your knees, cause i want you on your knees, you shall be on your knees." Okay...so, the dude wants a blow job. Well, does he have to be such a damned, arrogant jerk about it? I mean, come on. I'm no blushing virgin, but I take issue with the tone, if not the sentiment of the song. How old were their groupies, for God's sake? Really, fellas. You're playing with the self-esteem of malleable young women here. Go easy. There are ways to make a point without totally reducing the concept to its basest form. But that's just me, I guess. I happen to like my metal with a little oil on it. Works better, you know?

Well, that's it...once again. My top five picks for terrible, never shoulda been written songs. Hope you enjoyed it. See you next time. Skol! xoxoxxoxoxxoxoxoxxo

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

TEMPLE HEIGHTS: SEANCES BY THE SEA IN NORTHPORT, MAINE


If you're a regular reader of my other blog, Nocturne In G Major, you know that one of its major themes is the paranormal. Most recently, I've been writing a succession of posts on 19th century paranormal investigations, most of which were carried out by the British Society For Psychical Research (the SPR) shortly after its inception in 1888. There are few things I like better than a good, detailed account of a Victorian-era haunting. Even the mere mention of gas lamps, flickering candlelight, and glowing figures in filmy grey gowns is enough to set my heart a flutterin'. But as much as I love to read and write about such things, I love taking part in them even more. But how is that possible, you ask? Well, settle down, and I'll tell you...in two simple words. Ready? Temple Heights.


TEMPLE HEIGHTS: MECCA FOR SPIRITUALISTS AND THE SIMPLY CURIOUS FOR OVER A CENTURY

I suppose the best way to describe Temple Heights is as a "spiritualist retreat", which it is, technically, although you don't have to be a spiritualist to go there. In fact, for the past five years that I have been making regular summer pilgrimages to Northport, Maine, where Temple Heights is located, I'd have to say that the majority of people I've met there are men and women who are simply curious to find out what goes on at a place like Temple Heights. The short answer? A lot. From the day it opens its doors for the summer (this year that day will be Friday, June 16) until they close for the season in the first week of September, visitors can partake of everything from a group seance (or message circle, as they're called by the regulars) and/or a private reading to classes on such diverse topics as remote viewing, spirit photography, and spiritual healing, as well as church services in the separate, and equally old church which is also located on the property.


THE CHURCH AT TEMPLE HEIGHTS AS SEEN FROM THE FRONT PORCH OF THE MAIN BUILDING

But just because Temple Heights is a place dedicated to the pursuit of spiritual knowledge doesn't mean it's all somber faces and hushed voices. Spiritual seekers have their fun-loving side, too. For the price of $45 (cash only; they don't take plastic at Temple Heights), you can rent an absolutely adorable, pristine little room in the main building that overlooks the ocean and which you can use as a base to explore not only the section of beach that is part of the property, but the nearby towns of Belfast (consummate Maine coastal town with some of the best bars and restaurants in the area) and Camden (consummate Maine tourist trap also with some of the best bars and restaurants in the area) as well. And if you really want to make the most of your time at Temple Heights, you definitely have to visit Dos Amigos, the unapologetically cheesy Mexican restaurant owned and staffed by a very nice family with roots in Eucador, which marks the turn off from Route 1 onto the windy, summer cottage-lined road leading to Temple Heights. In fact, I usually make a point of stopping at Dos Amigos first to fortify myself with a plate of chicken mole (the best on the coast of Maine), a Margarita, and a shot of Grand Mariner before checking into my room. Invariably, half of the people I see whilst there, I see later on at Temple Heights. Clearly, I'm not the only one who considers a visit to Dos Amigo an important pre-Temple Heights ritual.


DOS AMIGOS IN NORTHPORT, MAINE: BEST CHICKEN MOLE ON THE MAINE COAST (AND THE MARGARITAS AREN'T BAD, EITHER)

So, by now, you're probably thinking, okay, it all sounds fun enough, but what about the paranormal part? As in...have I ever actually seen anything that could be classified as such during any of my stays at Temple Heights? Good question. But the answer is a little complicated. I mean, sure, I've had my share of experiences whilst there. The first time I ever spent a night at Temple Heights, I woke during the night to the unmistakable sensation of arms around my waist. The sensation was so real that, for a second, I actually wondered who the hell had climbed into bed with me. However, on turning around to look, there was no one there...which sent me into such a panic that I groped for the light and then went outside for some fresh air to calm my nerves. Then I remembered the private reading I'd had earlier that evening with one of the many mediums who offer their services (for only a small stipend) at Temple Heights every summer. During the reading, the medium had informed me that a spirit was present and wished to give me a message. She described the spirit, telling me that it was up to me to identify it, because, otherwise, it would just be her telling me that it was so-and-so, and that would hardly stand as proof of anything, would it? In other words, she explained, "given your age, it would be reasonable for any medium to assume that you have a grandmother in spirit. So, for me to say, 'Your grandmother's spirit is here' just sounds like I'm making that assumption. But if my description of a spirit makes you say, 'That sounds like my grandmother', then the message I give you is more likely to mean something.' Do you understand?"

I had to admit that it made sense. And so did the message that the medium gave me afterward. But just to be sure, after the reading, I asked my grandmother (silently, of course) to give me further proof that she had actually come through at the reading. Some sign that only I would understand. Just some little thing that, when it happened, I would connect immediately with her. And I had left it at that and gone to bed. And then...well...the sensation of arms wrapped around me in my dark room. The interesting thing is, when I was a kid, I lived with my grandparents and often slept in my grandmother's bed. And very often, she would wrap her arms around my waist as we slept. It's one of the things that I remember most fondly about my childhood. In the context of what I had asked from my grandmother's alleged spirit, it was a perfect response. To this day, I am convinced it was my grandmother's spirit who slipped into my bed at Temple Heights that night.


HARRISON D. BARRETT: FOUNDER OF THE SPIRITUALIST CHURCH IN MAINE

There have been other interesting occurrences at Temple Heights which have cemented my belief in an afterlife as well. There was the time when, during a seance, I saw a spirit trumpet vibrate and rise a few inches off the floor, the occasion when a medium asked me point blank about a personal situation that she had no business knowing about and which had been on my mind all day, and the night that I sat in on a table tipping session and was astounded when the table began dancing and rocking, seemingly of its own volition and those of sitting around it had to grip its edges with all our strength to keep it from scuttling across the floor. Yes, I know, cases can be made for fraudulence in connection with all of these things. But the way I see it is, that when it comes to the paranormal, the burden of proof isn't on the person who claims to have had the experiences, it's on the person who wants the proof...and good luck proving a negative. The last thing I'm going to waste time doing is trying to prove what I believe to anyone else. Maybe it really happened, maybe it didn't, but, bottom line, I experienced something...and that's all that matters to me. You want to meet me at Dos Amigos for a Margarita, I'll tell you all about it. Otherwise, feel free to go spew your skepticism elsewhere...perhaps in your own blog dedicated to the purpose.


THE SUNFLOWER: THE THE SYMBOL OF SPIRITUALISM, AN IMAGE OF WHICH CAN BE FOUND IN EVERY ROOM AT TEMPLE HEIGHTS

Skeptics or no, I'll be going to Temple Heights this Saturday, to attend a seance and spend the night. I've booked the "angel room", so-called because of the picture that hangs on the wall opposite the bed. It's a copy of a 19th century lithograph of a dying woman, her husband kneeling in anguish at her bedside, with a spirit (or angel) rising up out of her body in a mass of shiny white glory. The first time I stayed in the room and saw the picture, I thought it was macabre and even a little bit horrifying. Now, I just think, oh, well, typical Temple Heights. Just one more fascinating element of a place where the flesh and the spirit are all intertwined, where those who have recently imbibed Margaritas and scarfed down chicken mole can enjoy a seance by the ocean at night, and splash in the ocean by day, and, maybe...just maybe...come away believing in something that they didn't believe in before.

Skol! xoxoxxoxoxoxxoxoxxoxoxo

Sunday, June 10, 2012

THE DISSING OF SUMMER LAWNS


I really love kitsch. I mean...I love it so much I wish that I could start my own kitsch museum and fill it from top to bottom with Kit Kat clocks (jewel encrusted and plain), black panther TV lamps, glow in the dark saints, sombrero-shaped ashtrays, and all the hundreds of other cheesy and wonderful things that make up the world of kitsch decor. Given a choice between a perfectly appointed Victorian house replete with an endless array of potentially valuable period pieces and a nice little city flat with a 1950s living room set, a starburst wall clock, an avocado green stove and matching refrigerator, and a year's supply of Black Tower wine and Laughing Cow cheese, I would, without hesitation, opt for the flat...provided I already had enough money to live on without needing to sell the Victorian antiques, of course. My point is, I find a strange comfort in surrounding myself with the brand names and dated fashion trends of the past. I'm shameless in my passion for kitsch...but not clueless. The way I look at it is, it's one thing to celebrate something that you know is cheesy and ridiculous. But it's an entirely different thing to have no idea that your taste in home furnishings (or clothes or food) is just...well...bad. It's the difference between decorating your front lawn with pink plastic flamingos and draping them in little white lights because you know that your lawn is never going to be featured in Better Homes and Gardens anyway, and sticking a couple of the pink plastic birds next to your trailer because you think they "look nice" next to the Golden Retriever banner that you bought on sale at Family Dollar. Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against trailers, and I'm in no position to be snobbish about where other people do their shopping. It's simply a matter of sensibility. Which brings us to the real subject of this post.


Someone needs to come up with a guide on appropriate lawn decoration. I'm serious. Do you know what I saw whilst driving to a friend's house today? A statue of St. Francis (you know, the patron saint of animals, from Assisi) standing next to a garbage can outside a shabby little house with a pit bull chained to a stake on the other side of the driveway. Now, you tell me...what's wrong with this picture? Aside from the fact that there are a lot of better places to put a statue of St. Francis of Assisi than next to your garbage can, a person who owns a pit bull that they keep chained to a stake in the yard has a lot of nerve decorating the outside of their house with the image of a man known for his love of animals. Keep in mind, I'm no animal rights activist, and I have a lot of issues with the way that PETA conducts their campaigns against animal cruelty, but I'm pretty sure that there's something inappropriate about that particular scenario. And I've seen even worse ones. Like the statue of Jesus I used to pass every day on my way to work, standing with its arms outstretched outside a house decked out with two satellite dishes (two? really?) and an assortment of ersatz appliances set next to the curb, as though the people inside the house couldn't be bothered to get rid of them properly and were just hoping that someone would pull up to the curb one day and scoop them up like newly discovered treasures. What was the statue of Jesus supposed to mean in that context anyway? "God bless our slovenliness"? And what about those lawns littered with those awful black silhouettes of cowboys, running children, or horses? I can't be the only one who finds those things creepy. Especially at night. Although, as lawn decorations go, they're nowhere near as bad as the "fat lady behinds" or the "pissing kids" that some people seem to think add visual enhancement to their front yards.


What I'm saying is, if you're going to include a statue of a religious figure in your lawn decor, use decor--um. And if you're going to use bad taste as a template, then at least have a sense of humor about it. Can't live without a lawn jockey? Well, fine. Just make sure he's wearing a cap with the logo of your favorite football team on it. If you just have to have one of those fat lady behinds next to your house, consider adding a "kick me" sign to it. And as for those black silhouette things...well, just go with pink flamingos instead. Even if you don't realize how kitschy they really are. Because even if you don't, when it comes to lawn decor, kitsch is always better than creepy.


Skol! xoxoxxoxoxxoxoxxoxoxxoo

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

WHICH BEATLE MAKES YOU FEEL FINE?


Okay, so...because I am a geek who never learns...I took this quiz the other night, called "Which Beatle Are You?", which, based on your answers to the questions, purportedly tells you with which of the four members of the Beatles you have the most in common. As a long time, die hard (extra die, extra hard) Beatles fan, I was pretty sure I already knew the answer, and I was not disappointed. But that still leaves the question of...how come that particular Beatle? I mean, sure, we all know that...supposedly, at least...John was the "sarcastic one", Paul was the "sentimental one", George was the "spiritual one", and Ringo was "the clown." But no one is ever just one thing, and although there are times when I have declared, with absolute certainty, that I am a "John person", there have been nearly as many times when I felt much more closely aligned with Paul, George, or Ringo. Hell, there have even been times when I felt that I had more in common with Brian Epstein! That's why I thought it might be fun to expand on the "which Beatle are you?" concept and explore an entirely new level of the question. And so I have come up with my own quiz, one based on an even more shallow version of the same kinds of quiz. Are you ready? Good. It's time to take my "Which Beatle Would Have Been Most Likely To Give You An Orgasm?" quiz. And if you happen to be a straight guy or a lesbian, don't worry. It's all academic anyway. Oh...and be aware...the questions are not quite as straightforward as they seem.


Here we go...

1.) It's 1965, and you've just landed in "swingin' London" for a little R&R. Stopping into a pub near Carnaby Street, you're excited beyond measure when, glancing across the room, you spot the Fab Four chatting up a group of German art school birds. Which of the following attributes asssociated with the Fab Four impresses you the most?

a.) A flowery, puff-sleeved, paisley print shirt b.) A goofy, lopsided grin c.) Perfectly coiffed hair and puppy dog eyes d.) Granny glasses

2.) You are thrilled beyond belief to have been invited to an actual Beatles recording session at teh Abbey Road studio. Which of the following qualities turns your knees to Jell-O?

a.) An unabashedly sentimental rendering of the latest Beatles ballad b.) A straightforward, no frills drumming technique c.) Acidic comments to fellow band mates between takes d.) A psychedelic hat

3.) You have become a member of the Beatles "inner circle", thanks to your witty repartee and cool new white plastic hoop earrings that compliment your Jean Shrimpton haircut, and have just been invited to a party at Mick Jagger's house where the the Fab Four will all be in attendance. Assuming that you're fortunate enough to actually catch the attention of one of them instead of just standing next to the lava lamp eating cheese and sipping a Fresca and whiskey cocktail, which of the following lines would be most likely to set your heart a-flutter?

a.) "You look a lot like my girlfriend. Want to get out of here, get some Japanese take-away, and check out my home recording studio?" b.) "Have you ever been to India?" c.) "What's your ring size?" d.) I was feeling pretty good yesterday, but now life just looks like one big long winding road. Want to help me navigate it?"

Alright, then, let's see how you did...

Question Number One: If you chose (a), (b), or (d), you should probably try to hook up with John or George, or, if they're busy, maybe Ravi Shanker. If you went with (c), you might be better off with Paul, but only if Linda Eastman isn't in town, and even then, only if you're a vegetarian.

Question Number Two: If you chose anything but (b), you are definitely a candidate for a sweet, soulful orgasm with Paul. If you did go with (b), well, Ringo just might be your man, but it would probably be better as a threesome, because Paul played drums on a lot of Beatles tracks including Dear Prudence, Back In The USSR, and The Ballad of John and Yoko. Confused? Hey...I told you it was a misleading quiz.

Question Number Three: If you chose anything but (c), you are looking at a night of orgasmic delight in the company of John. I mean, come on, it wouldbe just like him to throw in a sarcastic reference to Paul's "Yesterday". But if you chose (c), you're definitely heading to the water bed with Ringo...as if you didn't already know. Just make him take all those rings off first. They can be painful.


So there you have it...a totally unscientific, completely arbitrary quiz on your orgasmic potential with one or more of The Beatles, circa 1965. If you want to take a real Beatles or rock music quiz, feel free to check out a few I wrote during my days as an editor with Fun Trivia, the best and largest quiz site online. Just click on the "Music" category. They're all top-rated. And as always...skol! xoxoxxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Monday, June 4, 2012

DRIVE, SHE SAID...AND TURN UP THE RADIO


I said good-bye to an old friend today. Well, in theory anyway. I sold my 1980 Toyota Celica GT Liftback, a lovely little automobile from the days of yore, which has been in storage for the last two years, but now, once again, will have a chance to do what she was created to do...namely, tool down the highways and byways of this fair state, her sun roof open, and her cherry red paint job gleaming with the reflection of the summer sky. I will miss her. Had some good times in that car and had hoped to have a few more, but life is nothing if not an endless array of twists and turns that take you to places you didn't expect to ever go. So although she is still parked outside my living room window as I write this, come Wednesdasy afternoon, she will have gone...and I will do my best to be happy that she has at least found a good home. And in tribute...because she deserves it...I offer you these following songs....my top five picks for best car/driving songs ever. Enjoy.


I used to do this song with my band, Syntonic, and still love to sing it in jam sessions. A collaboration between Neil Young and former bandmate, Stephen Stills, it was released in 1975 and peaked at #26 on the American Billboard 200, and at #76 on the UK singles chart. Like most Neil Young songs, its lyrics are pretty autobiographical, whilst, at the same time, oddly universal. Is he singing about a woman, a friend, or a car? Turns out the subject of song is actually the Three Chord King's beloved 1948 Buick Roadmaster hearse, which, apparently, replaced another beloved hearse he used to drive around Los Angeles in 1966, shortly before he joined Buffalo Springfield, where he first met Stills. And what more fitting tribute can one give to a car one has loved and been forced to let go than lyrics like "Long may you run, long may you run, although these changes have come, with your chrome heart shining in the sun, long may you run"? I can't think of any. Thanks, Neil Young.


To be honest, I had a hard time deciding which version of this song to post here. I love Cyndi Lauper's 1987 version, mainly because of her strong, soaring vocals on the chorus, but this 1992 version by the amazing Roy Orbison, while a bit more sedate, somehow seems more in keeping with the melancholy concept of driving late at night, compelled by a feverish desire to see that beloved person lying in bed (and possibly awaiting your appearance) in some distant location. Written originally for Orbinson by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelley, the song was actually recorded first by Lauper and reached #10 on both the American and UK charts in 1989. Orbinson's version didn't come out until after the legendary singer's death in 1988, following its remix by former Traveling Wilburys bandmate Jeff Lynne, when it was released as a single from the 1991 posthumous collection album Nintendo: White Knuckle Scorin', scoring a #7 spot on the UK charts and a posthumous Grammy for Orbinson. A third version, featuring Canadian pop diva Celine Dion, was released in 2003 and went to #26 on American singles charts and all the way to #1 in...you guessed it..Canada. But while Lauper and Orbinson rocked out on the tune, Dion's version comes off as a slick commercial dance number, which it pretty much is, and which is probably the reason it was used in promotional ads for the Chrysler Crossfire. But whoever happens to be singing it, as driving songs go, this one still revs my engine every single time.


Who doesn't love this single from the Beatles 1966 Rubber Soul album? It's not really about driving, of course, as much as it a euphemism for...well...you know. At least that's what I've always assumed anyway. But it's got a good beat and you can dance to it. And like any really good driving song, it's perfect for singing out loud along with the car stereo. Interestingly, when Paul McCartney first approached songwriting partner John Lennon with the tune for the song already in his head, he intended the initial lyrics to start with the line "You can buy me diamond rings." But Lennon, who was never shy about voicing his opinions, called the lyrics "crap" and pointed out that he and McCartney had already written several songs with lyrics about diamond rings. Looking back on that particular songwriting session, McCartney remembers it as being "one of the stickiest" the pair had ever engaged in, until Lennon came up with the idea of making the theme of the song "driving a car", at which point the lyrics finally began to flow. And the rest, you might say, is Beatles history.


It's hard to believe that this song, written by Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway, and Bob Ezrin, and released by Alice Cooper (aka Vincent Furnier) in 1971, was one of the legendary shock rocker's first singles. It's been covered by a multitude of artists since then, including Megadeath, Manic Street Preachers, and as a duet featuring Axl Rose and Cooper. But, as is almost always the case, the original version is still the best, even if it is, taken literally, about driving over your girlfriend. But, hey, back in 1971, if you were a girl whose boyfriend happened to be Alice Cooper, what else could you expect? I mean...really. But whether or not Cooper ever really did have some girl under his wheels, this kick ass little ditty is a timeless tribute to that surge of power that comes from being the one in the driver's seat.


How many times have you heard a bar band cover this song? Probably as many as I have, not to mention the times that I've sang back-up to it in one of my own bands. It's just one of those songs. Sort of like the R & B version of "Freebird." Covered by countless artists since it was first recorded by Mark Rice in 1965, it was a song that, according to rock historian Tom Shannon, started out as a joke between Rice and his friend, fellow R & B artist Della Reese, who at that point in her life was hot for a Mustang of her own. Rice wrote the song in response to Reese's oft-stated desire, calling it "Mustang Mama", but later changing it to "Mustang Sally", at the suggestion of another friend, an up-and-coming singer called Aretha Franklin. Rice's recording of the song was a moderate hit for him, reaching #16 on the U.S. R & B charts, and that was that....until another singer, Wilson Pickett, who recorded it a year later. Pickett's version of the song went to #6 on the R & B charts, not only eclipsing the original, much more laconic version, but crossing over onto the American, UK, and Canadian pop charts and eventually gaining a status that can only be described as iconic. So iconic, in fact, that it's probably a safe bet that, even as I write this, there's at least one bar, somewhere in the world, where someone is singing, "Ride, Sally, ride" right now. And if there isn't, well, just give it a few minutes.

Well, there you have it...my top five car/driving songs in honor of my little red 1980 Toyota Celica GT Liftback. And speaking of little red cars, I would like to mention that, if it were at all possible, I would have liked to have included Prince's "Little Red Corvette" on this list as well. But it seems that Prince doesn't take kindly to having his music uploaded onto YouTube, which means that I wasn't able to download a version of the song for this post. Thanks a lot, Prince. But, then, I'd rather have a Toyota anyway. Seriously. Although I have been told that I look pretty good in berets...raspberry-colored and otherwise.

So, here's to you, old friend. Long may you run. Skol! xoxoxoxxoxoxoxxoxoxo

Saturday, June 2, 2012

IXNE ON ZOMBIES, SAYS CDC


Still worried about a zombie apocalypse? The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention say that your fears are unfounded. Click the link below for details.

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/cdc-clears-air-threat-zombie-apocalypse-article-1.1088675

Skol! xoxoxxoxoxoxoxxo