Another Fall in Philadelphia

Not that I consider it a bad thing. Like most Philadelphians, I love my city and its sports teams, no matter how bad our reputation might be. Sure, we have our share of issues like any other major metropolitan city in the country, but sports myths around here are so blown out of proportion, so I decided I’ll wear my Philly roots proudly.

Fall in Philadelphia is lovely, no matter how depressing Daryl Hall says the song really is. Here you’ll find some of the most beautiful foliage found in any urban area, especially along Kelly Drive and Boat House Row where the river sparkles in the sunshine and the days are filled with tourists and residents alike strolling, biking, rowing or jogging along the path by the Schuylkill River.

The fall colors also make a trip to Old City worthwhile, and this fall, Philadelphia’s Independence Visitor Center, located on one of the most historic square miles in our country, will undoubtedly help plenty of visitors. The Visitor Center is one of the busiest in the country, welcoming more than 20 million tourists over the last decade, which is double the number that was originally expected when the center was first built.

There’s plenty to do in Philadelphia, and there’s no better time of year to take a stroll through history than in the fall when the weather is usually perfect.

I say count your blessings if you get to spend another fall in Philadelphia.

10 quotable lines from 10 great songs

music-notes3-e1567985530545.jpgSeptember 8, 2019 – As someone who enjoys a top 10 list, here some pretty awesome song lyrics that can stand alone as inspirational quotes. Can you guess what songs they are from?

10. “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” — John Lennon

9. “Watch out, you may get what you’re after.” — David Byrne

8. “Laughing and crying, it’s the same release.” — Joni Mitchell

7. “It’s five o’clock somewhere.” — Jimmy Buffett

6. “I’ve seen the bottom, and I’ve been on top, but mostly I’ve lived in between.” — Dan Fogelberg

5. “I am I said, to no one there, and no one heard at all, not even the chair.” — Neil Diamond

4. “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls.” — Simon and Garfunkel

3. “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.” –– Bob Marley

2. “I wish that for just one time you could be inside my shoes; then you’d know what a drag it is to see you.” — Bob Dylan

1. “Carve your number on my wall and maybe you will get a call from me.” — The Beatles (George Harrison)

Were the 1950s the greatest decade in American history?

cleaversAugust 18, 2011 — My father always says the 1950s were the best time in our country’s history. He’s not alone since it is a sentiment shared by many people of his generation, who also believe that life in the 1950s was simpler and more enjoyable.

I was born in December 1959, so I can’t say I remember life in the 50s, but I do remember the early 60s, which weren’t that different. Traditional roles were the norm, men were the breadwinners of the family and few women worked outside of the home after they married.

Back then we believed our politicians, didn’t question our doctors and enjoyed a booming economy. There was a sense of confidence within the business community that almost any problem could be solved quickly. The government helped boost this confidence by imposing price controls on commonly used goods to slow quickly rising costs. They also passed antitrust regulations to prevent corporate takeovers from strangling competition in the market place. Small businesses were also abundant, including mom and pop stores such as newsstands, candy stores, shoe repair shops, drug stores, and food markets. People shopped locally back then, and the small stores thrived.

So, it was a good time for many in this country, but certainly not for everyone, especially those who were discriminated against since the 50s predate the civil rights movement and women’s liberation. Still, my father is correct with his statement, but so am I when I tell my son that nothing compares to the 1970s or 80s.

It’s every parent’s prerogative to tell their children that the world is worse off today than it was yesterday. But I try to remember that even now, at a time when it seems like it couldn’t get any worse, we’re still living in someone’s best time. And in 20 or 30 years from now, someone will be telling their son or daughter that very thing.

On a side note, if you ask Google which decade was the best, there are a few interesting responses. While many noted that the 1950s were best because it was right after the war, the 1980s had a fair share of responses. Some even say that it was 1770, explaining that if that decade didn’t exist, there wouldn’t be an American history at all. 

Over the rainbow and then some

wizardAugust 11, 2019 — In two weeks, the world will celebrate the 80th anniversary of the release date (August 25, 1939) of the “The Wizard of Oz.”

I’m an old movie fan, so it’s easy for me to say that it’s one of my all-time favorites. But even those who don’t care for the old black and whites love “The Wizard of Oz”. After 80 years, families still gather to watch the story of Dorothy and her three friends look for their hearts’ desire.

It made me wonder what other entertainment icons stand the test of time. Here are a few I came up with; feel free to add your own.

Movies:
“Casablanca” springs to mind immediately, which is the greatest in my opinion, along with “Citizen Kane”, although I don’t see what the fuss is all about there. Many movie aficionados obviously disagree. In addition, I have to give honorable mention to anything from Alfred Hitchcock, especially his earlier films of the 40s and 50s, and to the wonderful family movies made in the 60s such “The Sound of Music”, “Mary Poppins”, and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, to name a few. I know I try to catch them whenever they are on.

Singers/Bands:
How about Frank Sinatra, or anyone in the Rat Pack to start? They are still wildly popular today. You could also include The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan in the mix because all of their music still has a strong audience, even though many of the songs were recorded 50 plus years ago. I wonder how many people will listen to Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber 50 years from now?

Books:
This is probably the easiest category because schools will always push the classics on students, although many (like me) won’t appreciate them until they are adults. So, what books stand out? How about “The Catcher in the Rye”, “Jane Eyre”, “Pride and Prejudice”, “Anna Karenina”, and “The Bell Jar”, to name a few? I would be remiss not to mention Judy Blume because I know that young girls in the future will still be captivated with “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret?” It’s also quite possible that the Harry Potter stories will have staying power.

The meaning behind, 2

MN0103084July 26, 2019 — The Weight (The Band)

The Weight is my favorite song from The Band, the musicians who backed up Bob Dylan after the folk singer went electric in 1965. The song was recorded in 1968, appearing on the first album they recorded as a solo act. After 51 years, it’s still played on radio stations and other music streaming sources.

Two of my favorite performances of the song came from The Last Waltz, the Martin Scorsese film that documented The Band’s farewell tour when they performed the song with the Staple Singers in 1976, and from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon when Jimmy sang it with the Muppets in 2014. I had the opportunity to see the song performed live during one of Ring Starr’s All-Star Band performances when The Band’s Levin Helm joined Ring on tour.

The lyrics seemed biblical to me. Consider, “I pulled into Nazareth…” where the man can’t find a bed or a place to lay his head. Add the devil, Moses and even the mention of judgment day and there you’ll notice the religious significance.

One could also assume that “the weight” is a burden lifted from someone, as the lyrics suggest, “Take the load off Fanny … and you put the load right on me.” Not only that, what about those madcap characters, including Crazy Chester, young Anna Lee and Carmen, who walked side-by-side with the devil? What were they all about?

Turns out the Nazareth in the song isn’t the biblical town mentioned in the bible, but actually Nazareth, Pa., a town north of Philadelphia. The Band was on the road, pulled into Nazareth literally looking for a place to stay and couldn’t find a vacancy. The characters mentioned in the song were based on real people The Band members knew. Luke, the man waiting for the judgment day, was a guitarist in one of the member’s former bands, young Anna Lee was one of The Band member’s old friend from Turkey Scratch and Crazy Chester, was a resident of Fayetteville known for carrying a cap gun. Fayetteville and Turkey Scratch are both towns in Arkansas, the former of which is Levin Helm’s hometown.

According to songwriter Robbie Robertson, the song does have somewhat of religious meaning, but not to the extent I imagined. “It’s about the impossibility of sainthood,” he said. “I took my inspiration less from the bible than from Luis Buñuel, a Spanish filmmaker and master of surrealism who, for half of a century, poked fun at the hypocrisies of religion, patriarchy and middle-class culture.”

The title, The Weight, according to Robertson, explores a similar theme. “Someone says, listen, would you do me this favor?” he said. “When you get there, will you say ‘hello’ to somebody or will you give somebody this or will you pick up one of these for me? … So the guy goes and one thing leads to another and it’s like ‘Holy shit, what’s this turned into? I’ve only come here to say ‘hello’ for somebody and I’ve got myself in this incredible predicament.’”

There is also a bit of drama surrounding the song. While Robertson is the credited writer, Helm, who sang the song, insisted that the composition of lyrics and music was collaborative, declaring that each band member contributed significantly to it.

The Weight
I pulled into Nazareth, was feeling ’bout half past dead
I just need some place where I can lay my head
Hey, mister, can you tell me, where a man might find a bed?
He just grinned and shook my hand, “No” was all he said.

Take a load off Fanny, take a load for free
Take a load off Fanny, and you put the load right on me

I picked up my bags, I went looking for a place to hide
When I saw old Carmen and the Devil, walking side by side
I said, “Hey, Carmen, c’mon, let’s go downtown”
She said, “I got to go, but my friend can stick around”

Take a load off Fanny, take a load for free
Take a load off Fanny, and you put the load right on me

Go down, Miss Moses, isn’t nothing’ you can say
It’s just old Luke, and Luke’s waiting on the judgment day
Well, Luke, my friend, what about young Anna Lee
He said, “Do me a favor, son, won’t you stay and keep Anna Lee company”

Take a load off Fanny, take a load for free
Take a load off Fanny, and you put the load right on me

Crazy Chester followed me, and he caught me in the fog
Said, “I will fix your rag, if you’ll take Jack, my dog”
I said, “Wait a minute Chester, you know, I’m a peaceful man”
He said, “That’s okay, boy, won’t you feed him when you can”

Take a load off Fanny, take a load for free
Take a load off Fanny, and you put the load right on me

Catch the cannonball, now to take me down the line
My bag is sinking low, and I do believe it’s time
To get back to Miss Fanny, you know she’s the only one
Who sent me here, with her regards for everyone

Take a load off Fanny, take a load for free
Take a load off Fanny, and you put the load right on me

(Sources: https://www.shmoop.com/the-band-the-weight/meaning.html)

The meaning behind

39272-adad2a9b76feaae9fb70dabc68d7b62c.jpgJuly 19, 2019 — My good friend could tell you a story about driving with me one stormy night in a worn-out car that couldn’t handle the windshield wipers and the radio on at the same time. Something had to go, and to her horror, I turned off the wipers.

Does that indicate the impact music has on me? I think so. I love how it brings out my emotions, takes me back in time to good and not so good memories and makes me tap my foot, shake my shoulders, dance, cry—or all of the above.

As a writer, it may not be surprising that lyrics are equally important to me. However, it is surprising how wrong I can be when I interpret the message behind the lyrics. In this series, I’ll highlight “the meaning behind” what the songwriter wanted to declare when he or she put pen to paper.

Norwegian Wood (The Beatles)

Norwegian Wood is one of my favorite Beatles’ songs, and it appears on one of my favorite Beatles’ albums, Rubber Soul. The John Lennon ballad was a huge milestone for the band, taking them from the pop sound of the early sixties to the first song to feature George on the sitar, which led the way to an entirely different sound.

To me, the song was about a man who met a woman (maybe at a bar), and after she decided not to sleep with him when they got back to her house, he slept in the bathtub. The next morning, she was gone, so he lit a fire to keep warm. Or, possibly he fired up a joint to ponder the events of the night before. Naïve, yes, but the music and the lyrics were so beautiful, and although you could detect frustration in the lyrics, how could it mean anything else?

Several years ago, my cousin told me he actually burned down the house at the end of the song. I didn’t want to believe that, but she reminded me of Lennon’s sarcastic wit, and after I did a bit of research, it turns out she was right.

The song was inspired by an extramarital affair Lennon had and the lyrics did mean that he burned down the house out of revenge. John and Paul both agreed it was a quirky song, sort of like an Irish folk song. And while the song and music belonged to John, Paul claims that he lyrically had the idea to burn down the house and takes some of the credit. Why does that last part surprise me?

After Norwegian Wood introduced pop music to the sitar, the rest of the world seemed to latch on to the craze, equating it with “flower power” and “free love” and the rest is history.

Norwegian Wood
I once had a girl

Or should I say she once had me
She showed me her room
Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?
She asked me to stay
And she told me to sit anywhere
So I looked around
And I noticed there wasn’t a chair
I sat on a rug biding my time
drinking her wine
We talked until two and then she said
“It’s time for bed”
She told me she worked
in the morning and started to laugh
I told her I didn’t
and crawled off to sleep in the bath
And when I awoke I was alone
This bird had flown
So I lit a fire
Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?

(Sources: http://www.thebeatlesbible.com and http://www.beatlesbooks.com)

Summer Breeze

IMG_1683
Summer

July 17, 2019 — To the boy who lived on Claridge Street around the corner,

It was the summer of 1974. You stood near the cash register at Lou’s Candy Store and made an impression on me that will last forever.

Perhaps you were buying something, or just stopping by for a visit because you were a friend of the owner’s son. I knew who you were the way you know all the kids in the neighborhood, but it was the first time I observed you closely.

I felt smitten as I watched you sing along to Seals and Croft’s “Summer Breeze” playing on the radio. It made me realize you were a kind soul even though your little sister had threatened to turn my little sister’s nose upside down so she’d drown when she took a shower.

After I shared that moment with you, our paths ever crossed again.

“Summer Breeze” played on the oldies station today, and I smiled remembering the boy who touched my heart that day, just like I do each time I hear it. Funny, your name escapes me, but I have never forgotten how you made me feel that perfect summer day all those years ago.