Yeah, it’s an old house. The trick is finding workmen who love and respect them. I’ve found two of those now, one via Bloodshot’s Nan Warshaw, and they are treasures. It’s like this bedroom set I bought a few years ago: bed, dressing table with mirror, chest of drawers. It’s a ’30s “waterfall” design; the surfaces have been way abused, but structurally, things are just fine. When I bought it, I commented to the guy what a shame it was that people hadn’t taken better care of it. And he said, “We’re just lucky they’re all still together and in one piece.” To him, they were a treasure, and they are to me. Some day I’ll get them back to the way they were, but it’s not that hard to love them just the way they are.
This guy I work with came over last week because I’d been talking about the place and how I’ve been wanting to sell it. He thought maybe we could deal. He’s got this investment/contracting business on the side. He comes in and walks around and starts talking about how what people want is modern things. He’s gonna knock a breakfast bar out of the kitchen walls. Gut this, rehab that. He says he’s gonna look around and see how much he might be able to get for it if he “modernizes it.” There’s lots of development on Howard Street and Clark Street, which has been way seedier than the residential streets for some time now. It’s getting to be a more “desirable” area in that way. I’m guessing he’s probably gonna lose interest pretty quickly, though, actually. The reason is, he said to me: “Are there a lot of blacks in this neighborhood?” Well, if you have to ask…
See, my bias from the beginning was not to gut the place, but to put it back the way it was before the hard times came and went in the neighborhood, and before the do-it-yourselfers got to tinkering with it. So as long as I don’t have to replace the roof this year, I can get the ceiling fixed. Maybe get some things painted. Maybe get the yard fixed up, finally. And I can get the porch rail fixed. When I got up this morning it was so sunny out and another bunch of my tulips is starting to bloom. The peonies are covered with unfinished red leaves and tiny buds. It’ll be a while before the ants all come to open them. This looked like it might be my first porch day, but it isn’t; it’s one of those real sunny but real cold ones.
Have a sunny day, everyone…
— Linda Ray
Subject: American Tune
Date: Sat, Apr 24, 1999 1:47 AM
On Fri, Apr 23, 1999 2:00 PM, BHoover247 writes:
“American Tune” is my absolute favorite Paul Simon song.
It was the fall of 1973; I’d just turned 20 years old (that was actually in Columbia, Missouri, at a bar called the Loading Zone; I’d just learned of Gram Parsons’ death), and I was on my first great hitchhiking adventure across these United States. Somewhere outside of Madison, Wisconsin, I got picked up by three fools from Connecticut in a VW Bus they called Lightnin’. The Lightnin’ boys were like me: out on the road to glimpse Kerouac’s vision before things started changing too much.
We traveled together several days, had a great time, got chased out of South Dakota from a little drugstore town. Back on that first night, traversing southern Minnesota at night, we had dinner at a truck stop and purchased two 8-track tapes: Rock ‘n’ Roll Is Here To Stay by Sha Na Na, and There Goes Rhymin’ Simon by Paul Simon.
Whenever I hear “American Tune”, my mind goes back to that bus called Lightnin’: “We come on a ship they called the Mayflower/We come on a ship that sailed the moon…” But I just see this crowded VW bus, driver Bruce chugging bourbon while outmaneuvering the pursuing rednecks in South Dakota, or chugging up an impossible hill in Montana. I see Nixon in the White House, just starting to talk to the statues. Agnew was being prepared for the sacrifice… “We come in the age’s most uncertain hour/To sing an American Tune…”
I recall us convincing the ranger at Mount Rushmore to turn on the lights even though it was way after hours, and all of us, maybe even the ranger, singing “America The Beautiful” when the faces were lit. Singing “Days Of ’49” in a campground restroom; hearing the Allman Brothers’ “Ramblin’ Man” in almost every other car that picked me up. And Sha Na Na: “If you don’t like rock ‘n’ roll, think what you’ve been missing…” I hear it all in “American Tune”.
“Still tomorrow’s gonna be another working day,” Simon sang. Yeah, before we all knew it, just about every day would be another working day. But damn, the adventure was fun while it lasted.
— Stephen W. Terrell
Santa Fe, New Mexico