In his poem Jerusalem, William Blake writes of the “Countenance Divine”. Hallowed, mystical and ethereal, it is a shining beacon, which emulates between man and his environment.
The Hermitage is this ideal which juxtaposes between the past and the present. Representing multiple symbols for generations who have visited the site, make a pilgrimage to it, or honour it in art, it is a colloquial manifestation of our community, our history and our beliefs.
To not preserve the sacred import that it has garnered over generations would be a crime against the annals of history. Perhaps it offers new age spirituality, a link to our historical past or simply a monument (not unlike Stonehenge), which seduces and engages our imagination as well as our cognitive side.
It is our duty to preserve this legacy for generations to come, not to see it as a dichotomy between nature and a man-made structure. The Hermitage and the Dundas Valley co-exist in harmony.
Do the words Cayo Hueso mean anything to you? If they don’t, then things like the Cemetery, Sloppy Joes, Captain Tony’s, the Lighthouse, the Aquarium, Hemingway House, dining at a Raw Bar and Mallory Square probably aren’t on your radar either. If you’ve been to Key West however, they will mean the world to you. They mean the world to me.
Cayo Hueso was the name attributed by the Spanish that first arrived in the Florida Keys more than four hundred and fifty years ago. Translated it means “Island of Bones.” It is said that the island was littered with the remains (bones) from a Native American battlefield or burial ground. The English who arrived later, took the Spanish name to mean Key West and the name stuck. I don’t think you “visit” Key West. If you do, you’ll probably be disappointed. It’s not the type of destination where you opt to pack up the family station wagon and spend a week there. There are no amusement parks for the kiddies, no “real” beaches to speak of. It’s not a resort town, and it’s not a coast town. It’s Key West. The last true bastion of overt freedom and publically displayed hedonism that exists. It’s a pirate village in a quasi-Caribbean port, an offset sea shanty wailing from a Russian Bayan. It’s loud, bombastic, honkytonk and serene, peaceful, vile, decadent, boorish, trite and monumental all at the same time. Add some wild roosters sprinkled liberally in all the wrong places, three-foot iguanas and an oppressive blistering heat, and you are getting marginally close to what this tiny island is comprised of.
So what do you do there? Well, you drink, you walk, you wander, you cavort, you see, you experience, and you let it roll over you like a sweltering summer breeze… and then you drink some more. There are bars everywhere in Key West. You’ll even uncover the world’s smallest bar, (if you don’t miss it) and I think that you are able to imbibe shamelessly almost twenty-four hours a day. Duval Street is the Sunset Boulevard of Key West, and the main artery for debauchery. It is the road that takes you from one side of the island to the other. Which is only about a mile or so. Herein you will discover bars, restaurants, t-shirt vendors galore, cigar rollers, and clubs. Watch your step though. Traffic on Duval comprises of scooters, more scooters, pedestrians, trolleys, inebriated visitors and locals, golf carts disguised as cars (as the locals will tell you the windshield wipers and headlights are only for show and to make them street-legal) and of course wild chickens and roosters. People will slow down and stop for roosters. The fowl cross the roads haphazardly or form small flocks of chicken and chick chains that delay traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian. Be thankful that the iguanas don’t overtake the streets. They are usually found sunning themselves near the man-made beaches (imported sand from the Bahamas no less) or relegated to grave yard security at the cemetery. The cemetery is a great place to visit. It is gothic, pirate, Caribbean, tropical, military, humorous and macabre all at the same time. And there the iguanas’ dwell, with the occasional chicken, protecting the antiquated headstones and above ground tombs that look like white slabs in the hot mid day sun. As Ernest Hemingway once said “ I’d rather eat monkey sh*t than be buried in Key West Cemetery.”
Later you can wander over to the water’s edge where boats are packed in like proverbial sardines. Raw bars abound where you can indulge in freshly caught oysters and pink shrimp to your heart’s content or visit locals haunts that have been there since biblical times. Don’t forget to visit the sponge man. A site not to be missed!
Then there are the local legends of Key West. Captain Tony Tarracino made famous in the mythical song “Last Mango in Paris” by Jimmy Buffett. Captain Tony was a renegade sailor, a saloonkeeper, and eventually mayor of the city. Jimmy Buffett, the Key West troubadour who coined the word Margaritaville. The anything-but-sublime and happy-go-lucky singer song writer/business tycoon who changed the world for thousands of devoted Parrot heads. Robert the Doll, the creepy yet adorable one hundred plus year old “living boy” hand-made by a Bahamian occult practitioner and voodoo priestess. She gave Robert as a gift to painter and author Robert Eugene Otto when he was a young boy. The two became inseparable companions both in childhood and into adulthood. How disturbing is that?
And of course Elena Hoyos, the young Cuban beauty who was the apple of the eye of Count Carl Tanzler von Cosel, long after her death. This necrophiliac radiologic technologist spent many moon lit evenings at his love’s decomposing corpse in the Key West Cemetery. He then “made-off” with her body one hot summer’s eve and took the squishy and decaying Elena home where he prepared her for re-animation. With the aid of cheap perfume, hot wax and some old silk scraps he brought his beloved Elena back from the grip of the grim reaper and into his matrimonial bed. Gasp! Then he ingeniously assembled an airplane out of old washing machines and scrap metal that would some day take he and his betrothed to the firmament where both he and Elena could take a trip around the world for their honeymoon. Sadly it was not meant to be…. Elena was snatched from the Count’s secure possession by the police and put on display for all the small children of Key West to gaze upon. As one child remembered, “After seeing that thing, I haven’t slept well in fifty years”. And of course Key West’s most famous resident Ernest Hemingway who’s beautiful tropical hacienda can be visited daily.
I love Key West. LOVE IT. Key West has to call you. It needs to be part of your being, bubbling under your very fiber. Coursing through your veins like salt water. You need to be part pirate, part adventurer, part drunkard, part bohemian, and part bon vivant. If you fit into all of those categories, maybe, just maybe Key West will call out to you. Once you get there, have a margarita, some mahi-mahi or some grouper. Watch the street performers at Mallory Square behind the canvas of a blazing sunset. Have a slice of key lime pie and torch up a hand rolled cigar. Bite into a Cuban sandwich and listen to a bar balladeer sing Son of a Son of a Sailor for the five thousandth time. As someone once said about Key West “We don’t have a town drunk, we ALL take turns!”
I never “visit” Key West. I’m a displaced Conch (resident of Key West) who lives far too North for my liking.
I recently discovered Canadian poet, R. William Patry, and was just blown away by his apocalyptic yet deeply poetic Pinnacle of Vandalism. Mixing traditional verse in the spirit of Percy Shelley with photographs and brief prose oral histories, Patry has created a bold and lyrical voice that will hit you with stunning moments like “She brought me the opiate, I brought her the sun”; “Take the heat from my body, burn me tonight”; “I will not stop the fight, though my hands are gnarled and chilled”; “air is tight, unsafe and sure”; “The light has taken the best of me/ and dropped me in this place.”
He writes some breathtaking lines.Striking black-and-white photographs are placed throughout the book, almost on every other page, and these are visual rewards also, worth staring at for a few moments. Poetry should touch the feeling of a time, and Patry’s dexterous and agile verse does just this. This rising poet will leave you with sort of a haunting and beautiful hope as you walk through these dazzling poems. I was thrilled to discover him.
Mark Damon Puckett is an American literary author of three books of fiction. He has studied with writers like Edward Albee, who produced his first play, and plays a mean harmonica and trumpet. He has worked in television and film and been all over the world as a traveling scholar, studying Woolf in Alaska, Joyce at Oxford and Dante in Santa Fe. Currently, he teaches a Science Fiction/Horror/Fantasy course and a Fiction Workshop at Lenoir-Rhyne University’s MA in Writing program in downtown Asheville and is working on his fourth master’s degree in poetry.
The Hermitage as she stands now (top) and an artist’s rendering of the “proposed site”.
Ontario Heritage Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. 0.18
Its purpose: to give municipalities and the provincial government powers to preserve the heritage of Ontario.
Its primary focus: to protect heritage properties and archaeological sites.
There amongst the solid limestone ruins lies the heart of the Hermitage. You cannot see it, but it’s there. And it’s made of balsa wood. Light, ethereal and fragile, it beats ever more softly as time goes on. The years, and decades bleed into each other, and still the frail heart goes on. The Hermitage is indeed a ruin. A mere transparent wisp of what once was a beautiful Southern Ontario mansion ravaged twice by fire. And now the Hermitage is fighting for her life, and few seem to know or care. Her fate lies in the hands of bureaucrats. Not the people that visit her in her aged years amongst the beauty and the serenity of the Dundas Valley. Not those we have seen the landscape of Southern Ontario get chewed up and spit out by developers. Not those who have fought and won the right to keep these homes and archeological sites pristine in a protected and safe custody. On the contrary the stewards of her heart are businessmen, accountants and government officials who spin and react to budgetary constraints rather than perform the duties of the custodians that they should be.
I must confess that prior to last year, I had never heard of the Hermitage. Only through happenstance late one evening on television did I learn of her ghostly charms. This was back in the early spring of 2013. Once the snow had thawed, and the soft moist ground was hard enough to be walked upon, I made my way to visit her for myself. There stood the Hermitage in front of me. Immediately in her company you realize how beautiful and magnificent she must have been in her youth. And now she is delicate and the years are waning around her. The building clearly is in a state of decay. Make no mistake. She is in an advanced state of decline. However, the people must protect the Hermitage if only to commemorate and honour a time of grandeur gone by. The Hermitage belongs to the people of Ancaster, of the province and of our country. The site is a notable symbol of strength and endurance in spite of fires and destruction.
Yesterday afternoon, and into the early evening I spent with the Hamilton Municipal Heritage Committee at Hamilton City Hall. I was there merely as an observer, neither involved in any of the proceedings or discussions. On the agenda were half a dozen items that needed to be addressed by council. Most of them revolved around reviewing permit applications for Heritage homes in and around the city of Hamilton. Window and door treatments, a house’s turret changing from cedar shakes to copper roofing and the replacing of gingerbread treatment in the front gable of a home were all up for discussion. Homeowners or contractors were invited to speak relating to the physical changes to their heritage properties. One of the stipulations of living in a heritage home is that you must get board approval prior to making any changes to these sites thereby protecting their original integrity, craftsmanship and both social and historical significance.
The board members handled each and every application with concern and an understated compassion for each site’s case. Thorough questions were posed focusing on physical changes, overall street aesthetics and structural changes and damage. Each case was conducted in a respectful manner to the permit applicant, but no stone was left unturned when it came to heritage home alterations. So far, I was impressed with the line of questioning relating to each request.
Then, after almost a three-hour wait, at 7:00 pm, item i. on their agenda started.
i. 739 Sulphur Springs Road, Ancaster (The Hermitage) – removal of the upper portions of the ruins.
The ambience in the meeting room was very sterile and antiseptic. As the actuary compiles numbers and statistics relating to body counts, so did these members dissect the information submitted. The Hermitage to them was simply a “ruin”. Even the wording on the Agenda sounded clinical “Removal of the upper portion”. This was not a place for history, passion or preservation. The de facto word of the evening was “ruinesque” describing the way that they (the committee) wished the final results to appear. Requesting the permit were members of the Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA) who own the land, and ultimately the ruins that bare witness to the past. Immediately the volleying of thoughts, ideas, comments and rebuttals began. Inopportunely, neither side gained any ground, and neither side had a clear course to follow.
It seems that the HCA was there to be handed a permit to tame the beast and put the Hermitage in her place. Slice her down to a formidable height, then cap her off , as one member put it, “with the appearance of a bbq pit”. Without any regard for history, heritage, or significance of any kind, the HCA’s plight clearly was to jackhammer the Hermitage into a park where pedestrians can ogle the concept of what once was. I suspect that if the HCA were in charge of the Tower of Pisa it would be straight up and have no tilt. The Liberty Bell crack would be filled with some sort of epoxy and spray-painted bronze, with added faux patina, and the Venus de Milo would have arms retrofitted, or have her lower torso removed to prevent children from climbing her. The banter continued on both sides to no avail. Nothing was accomplished other than “let’s go back to the (proverbial) drawing board”.
I think that everyone on both sides missed the entire point. This is a site that should not be tampered with. Leave it well enough alone. One committee member suggested a public contest where people could offer suggestions as to how the final site should look. Here’s a suggestion. The way it looks now. Both the HCA and the Heritage Committee are bound to preserve, protect and keep these sites intact. They should use the same discretionary methods for the Hermitage that they apply to homeowners requesting permits to change the porticos of heritage homes. Preserve its natural beauty. Add to the history by putting up a small gazebo with educational information and photographs of the home as she once was. Keep the grounds clean and clear of overgrowth and debris. If the building needs to be cordoned off for safety purposes – DO IT. It seems to work for the Coliseum in Rome, and the Parthenon in Greece.
This is a cautionary tale, and one that you may choose to heed. In the greater scheme of things it won’t matter in the short term. In fact you may not care one iota about what I’m writing here. But in the future you will. If you don’t speak up and make your voice heard, these sites, will be torn down and lost forever, leaving behind a shiny brass plaque stating:
“HERE WAS THE SITE OF THE HERMITAGE”
Alma Leith, John Leith’s (The builder of the Hermitage) daughter who remained on the property long after it had burned down, wrote a series of historical articles for the Hamilton Spectator in 1896, entitled “Delving Among the Ruins”. It seems that Alma’s passion was to write about local houses, mills, churches and graveyards that had fallen into ruin. Over one hundred and twenty years ago, she pointed out to the people of Southern Ontario the importance of cherishing and preserving the iconic monuments of the past. Sadly, The Hermitage shows that Ms. Leith’s words may have fallen on deaf ears. Perhaps the aged balsa wood heart is not of the Hermitage, but of Alma. And only a faint sound can now be heard as she sees her home transposed into an architect’s mid-term project.
Sometimes Moai a poem by R. William Patry – Pinnacle of Vandalism (A selection of thoughts, feelings and musings)
Over the cliff he stands, directing his gaze to the wind
Carved, etched, warn, salt-eroded
His lips speak of silence not spoken
The tern lays softly on his brow
The moon swirls around his view, a thousand times
Weeks, and years and centuries roll
And all passion he holds in
Basking sometimes in sun, sometimes in blood
Sand at his feet does not shift; it does not alter his vigil
He witnesses his brethren sometimes stoic,
Dragged to the ground as so often the warrior is
Does he impart riddle or rhyme?
Fable or solution?
He will not say
But when chiseled away
And all that remains from
Roggeveen’s folly is loss
His veins drip tears
Pinnacle of Vandalism (A selection of thoughts, feelings, and musings) by R. William Patry Review by Dr. Donna Kay Cindy Kakonge (Writer/Journalist/Teacher)
There is a lot going on in Patry’s book, the same way thoughts, feelings and musings tend to flow from us as humans. I will choose to focus on one of the more striking things I find about Patry’s book and that being his portrayal of women, particularly the second poem “Isis.”
I recall back in 1992 when Austin Clarke who is dubbed “Canada’s multicultural writer,” came out with In This City. I recall quite a bit of debate happening around that book regarding Clarke’s portrayal of women. At the time, I remained silent, wondering what exactly was the problem and I did read the book of short stories. I was impressed that at least Clarke attempted to write from a women’s perspective. Patry on the other hand is not a multicultural writer in a visible minority sense, however, through the poem “Isis,” which has long been associated with African culture, Patry successfully depicts an image of a strong black woman and his own personal mystery with the Isis figure. The next poem that follows is “Cut the Deck” and one can imply that Patry’s association with the Isis figure as he writes about it in this book comes through musings that may be linked with the tarot. Here is an excerpt:
We met near a sand dune in a small café
Outside Zanzibar on hot sweltering day
She looked for a lover, a ride through the storm
Aphrodite in blue jeans, true to her form
She called herself Isis for reasons unknown
The markings of the devil high on her cheekbone
With eyes dark like pitch and hair like the sun
Our swan song of mystery had only begun
This poem is a fascinating perspective of male and female relationships from a perspective that often women do not know through the inner workings of what a man thinks and his feelings, as well as his musings. Patry’s book of poems is a fascinating read for myself as a black woman understanding what goes on in the mind of a white man. These are things I would not know. Through Patry’s writings, I am given insight into a world of which I am unaware. As well, since none of us think exactly the same, anyone, not just black women, can derive powerful insight into the inner thoughts, feelings and musings of a fascinating man with a lot of intelligent conversation going on in his head.
Dr. Kakonge is a respected author, teacher at the University of Toronto and freelance journalist.
Pinnacle of Vandalism (A selection of thoughts, feelings and musings) by R. William Patry will steal your heart
I am a warrior of mighty battles and I challenge a mighty foe
A dreamer of endless passions that capsizes in an undertow
Of swirling visions and endless fears blown up in front of me
Being chased by demons of evil nature trying to set me free.
I fall so many times and I fail at my tasks
That I remain nameless to anyone that asks.
I hide behind the one who meant something in my youth
I bleed and open up to all yet rarely tell the truth.
Of what hides deep under the skin of one who broods so long
Of bubbling terror, endless rapture and horrors that are so strong
I milk from my cerebral cortex tales and yarns spun and turned
A valid question to myself of how this soul was burned.
As we all wrestle with those demons within us, join R. William Patry on his exquisite journey of poetry perfection to lay yours to rest through Pinnacle of Vandalism (a selection of thoughts, feelings and musings).
Fraught with tangled storylines that melt into your heart the way honest and impressive poetry always does, R. William Patry’s Pinnacle of Vandalism (a selection of thoughts, feelings and musings) will illuminate your senses, stimulate your mind and help you escape your daily worries.
Order Pinnacle of Vandalism (a selection of thoughts, feelings and musings)by R. William Patry online at:
Ask for Pinnacle of Vandalism (a selection of thoughts, feelings and musings) by R. William Patry at your local bookstore soon!
Time to plan summer fun
When: July 5, 2014
Time: 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Where: Eaton Centre – Toronto, ON, Canada – Indigo Bookstore
What: To find out more about R. William Patry’s Pinnacle of Vandalism (A selection of thoughts, feelings and musings)
“Oh, when I think about the old days,
Lord, it sends chills up and down my spine,
Yeah life ain’t what it seems, on the boulevard of broken dreams,
Guess I opened my eyes in the nick of time,
‘Cause it sure felt like the end of the line.”
END OF THE LINE ~~ ALLEN WOODY, JOHN C. JAWOROWICZ, WARREN DALE HAYNES, GREGG ALLMAN
This band is measured in layers, not only in increments of time. Layers of softness, strength, brutality, joy, sadness, gifted poetry, cinematic imagery, wailing solos, and whisky soaked voices. This was a time for Dreams, for open roads… and for loss. There were many losses. Duane Allman, Berry Oakley, Lamar Williams, The Toler Brothers (Dan and Frankie), Allen Woody, Promoter Bill Graham and legendary producer Tom Dowd. Leaving a legacy of forty-five years of music, The Allman Brothers Band defined a style, an approach and an attitude to a burgeoning type of music – Southern Rock. Seminal to the core, the Brothers created in two studio albums and one live recording from the Fillmore East the archetypal base of Southern Rock. From those humble beginnings, they became the ultimate jam band, the quintessential improvisational American rock group. With brothers Duane and Gregg, Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley, Jai Johanny Johanson (Jaimoe) and Butch Trucks on drums, they laid the solid foundation for bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Outlaws, The Marshall Tucker Band and many more. They were segmented also. Their own history is divided into breakups, re-groupings and offshoot bands. Clearly divided into two camps, The Allman Brothers Band shared and balanced two musical schools of thought. One was a blues based band that was driven by Gregg, the other, a more modern, lighthearted country rock boogie band led by Dickey. In the middle, Duane Allman, who’s meteoric rise to success, and then immortality had been honed on session-man status for the likes of Aretha Franklin, King Curtis, Wilson Pickett, Lulu and Boz Scaggs to name a few. What would the weeping romantic dirge of Derek and the Dominos song Layla be without the intro guitar, which Duane Allman provided?
It was recently announced that Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes would be leaving the band at the end of 2014. Gregg LeNoir Allman, then put out his own statement. This would mark the end of Allman Brothers Band. I was nine years old when the Brothers put out their first album, and eleven years old when Duane died in a tragic motorcycle accident. I first became aware of them at our local library. The library in the early seventies started carrying vinyl records, and one of the first I recall seeing there was Eat A Peach. Although I never actually took it out (two albums of music seemed like an awful lot!), I do remember the album cover art. The front was a truck with a giant peach on it and the back cover was a flat bed freight train car with a giant watermelon on it. The insert… I can’t even describe it. Suffice it to say, that I suspect that Psilocybin mushrooms and Lysergic Acid diethylamide had something to do with it. I suppose it left an impression on me. Perhaps it was the artwork, or the Majesty of the name Allman Brothers, but that first touch of that album left an indelible mark on me. I first dipped my toe into the warm Southern bayou waters of their music when I purchased An Anthology – Duane Allman. The cover featured an angelic Duane on the banks of a Nirvana soaked bayou fishing hole, casting his rod and troubles to the wind. A blend of his session work, Derek and the Dominos and Allman Brothers cuts, it was an incredible introduction into music which would keep me entranced and gave me a lifetime of joy. I still contend Boz Scagg’s Loan Me a Dime is one of the greatest blues songs of all times. Featuring Duane’s soulful wailing guitar, a powerful rhythm section and a crescendo build up of the Muscle Shoals Horn Section, it is mesmerizing, haunting and ethereal. To this day I cannot listen to it without getting the chills, and regard it in many ways as one of Duane’s most expressive contributions to the world of Blues. His playing is never flashy or contrived, only pure and honest, and in many ways, I suppose, that was one of his strongest attributes. His mastery and control of the instrument peaks on Goin’ Down Slow. And he had yet to even cut any tracks with the Brothers!
When Duane left this earth far too early, the band immediately re-invented itself. Rather than replacing an irreplaceable guitarist, they brought on board Chuck Leavell as a secondary keyboardist to trade chops with Gregg’s Hammond B3. The birth of this short-lived lineup was the monumental rocker Brothers and Sisters. I would never go out on a limb and say that Duane Allman was not a creative, influential and a pivotal slide player. I believe he and the Brothers created a sound and ideology that continues to this day, forever altering the concept of a rock/jam/fusion band. But unlike the other guitar wizard that was taken away too soon from us, Jimi Hendrix, Duane left behind not only a complete band, but also 50% of the guitar making magic. Betts’ contributions included Instrumentals penned by him, i.e. In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, Revival, Les Bres in A minor (A bastardization of the French for “The brothers less one A”)…and of course Blue Sky the pre-cursor in so many ways to Ramblin’ Man. Brothers and Sisters is the first true “Southern Rock” album. With the scorching guitar lead of Jessica to the dueling ending of Ramblin’ Man between Dickey and Les Dudek, and Betts’ soulful voice and “traveling man/house of the rising sun” lyrical imagery, Dickey catapulted the ABB into a region they had never before seen. Neither had the music world at the time. He created a sound that he would meticulously build upon with his own band Great Southern to be followed by so many great bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd et al. The legendary story of how Dickey had to learn Duane’s slide parts in one evening is proof enough of his mastery of the Les Paul.
And how they touched my life. One late evening in the mid seventies, I watched the Midnight Special hosted by Dickey, dressed in his blue jeans and blazer. He rocked, roared and boogied with the likes of Charlie Daniels, Elvin Bishop and the beautiful Bonnie Bramlett. Bonnie of course had toured with her husband Delaney along with Duane and Eric Clapton late in the sixties. Elvin toured with Duane and The Brothers is 1971. And Charlie immortalized Dickey in his song, The South’s Gonna Do It, “People down in Georgia come from near and far to hear Richard Betts pickin’ on that red guitar”. This was the acceptance of the Southern Brotherhood of musicians. The South did rise again and Dickey was in the position of not only Southern Rock guitar god, but also host and MC. It led me to get into his solo project, Great Southern, and headed me to see him at Toronto’s El Mocambo for a sold out show. Yes, the same bar that hosted the notorious Rolling Stones evening along with Margaret Trudeau’s extracurricular post dusk activities. Blistering is the only word to describe my first encounter with a member of the Allman Brothers Band. Betts was reeling from the first breakup of the Brothers, after the live album, Wipe The Windows, Check The Oil, Dollar Gas. And the band broke up, got together again and again. They reunited for Enlightened Rogues, then broke up after Brothers of the Road. They would reunite for one last hoorah as all living original members put down their guns and agreed to re-group for Seven Turns. I also saw Gregg with the Gregg Allman Band just prior to releasing I’m No Angel. It was the mid eighties and Gregg had gone with a slicker sound featuring the Toler Brothers, Dan and Frankie, both ex members of Dickie’s Great Southern. Another partner in crime would be hired to sing a duet with Gregg when the album was released. Don Johnson of Miami Vice who had offered his pipes and writing to Great Southern’s lyrical and rolling song, Bougainvillea. I recall over so many years of dysfunctional in-fighting, the band always seemed to rely on musicians who had played with Dickey. That evening I managed to meet with Gregg, who I profusely thanked for creating Southern Rock. “It’s just rock, man… just rock”, he said.
When they reunited for Seven Turns… Well that was a slice of heaven. The band had never sounded better. Recording techniques, engineering and production values had increased exponentially in those nine years. With Dowd mastering the soundboard, and the addition of new guitarist Warren Haynes, and keyboard player Johnny Neal, The Allman Brothers Band sounded fresher and more alive than they had in years. They also connected with the younger audiences on new levels. Dickey the proud Southern Man was now connecting with a Native American spirituality. Gregg was the blues singing biker outlaw, and Warren brought in the jam band/hippie effect. The crowd was a mixture of all three with biker Rockers, and tie dye wearing kids swaying to the rhythms as if trying to evoke some Jerry Garcia karma. The crowd was high for the music and high on the emotive power that this American Legacy unfurled. I recall Dickey coming out on stage for the first time, knowing that he and the Brothers were a powerful unit. We were close to the stage, and he seemed to have caught my eye, making direct contact with my eyes. They then opened with Blue Sky. It was going to be a sweltering summer night of music.
On their Shades of Two Worlds’ Tour, we saw them at an outdoor venue in upstate New York. Betts was on fire. He had tamed his Les Paul, and unleashed it on the audience with little, if any mercy. Combined with fireworks, Betty Boop Cartoons and a Liquid Light Show that could have brought Timothy Leary to his knees, The Allman Brothers proved to me what I had always known. Live, no one could touch them. And as the night sky enveloped the stage at the end of a rousing three-hour plus show, all you could do was smile. Because you knew that you were part of a rare event. History in the making. I have condensed this story as best I could, offering you my memories and thoughts as I saw and remembered them. It is difficult summarizing forty-five years in a few short paragraphs. The emotions swell and cascade, and some are not as crystal clear as they once were. Yet, I think overall I give my fair assessment of a time, a band, and a true lover of these musicians who brought me joy, gave me cause for thought, and in the end touched me very deeply.
Now we have reached the end of the line. There are many people, including myself, who have questioned decisions made by the band. Hordes of people who debate on who the “real” members of the band are, and who the virtuoso guitarists are. Over forty-five years, in any family or brotherhood there are many changes, many challenges and many poor decisions made. Overall though, who are we to judge? These men are all survivors of a great battle. I recall what Robbie Robertson said about the road in the movie The Last Waltz. “The road was our school, it gave us a sense of survival and taught us all we know. You can’t press your luck, the road has taken a lot of the great ones…it’s a goddamn impossible way of life” Perhaps knowing that The Allman Brothers Band were still out there brought solace to my spirit, and soothed my weary soul. It reminded me of my youth, and that things in the world that I grew up in, were the same. And now, in the quiet of night, I drop the needle on a scratchy vinyl copy of Eat a Peach. The song is Little Martha. I have a tear drop in my eye.
Thank you to The Allman Brothers Band for riding this journey of life with me. Gentlemen, you are, and always will be, my Blue Sky and my Sunny Day.
Candace certainly had no reason to fear the day and the insipid attitudes that people cast her way. She had caused no wrong in her choices and the marks that etched her skin were more than just a monochrome passage of right for her. Shapeless, bloated and scorned, the people that had used their will to keep her in her place, would now undulate at the passing of her once maligned spirit. She had grown both in stature and poise, and was now ready to pass along to that next level of contempt. No longer would she embrace the status quo, but rather would excel in the game she had created. The rules were of her making. They could be followed or ignored, but either way, once put into place, they would chart her course. The very sport that caused nail biting amongst her peers would now be the abutment of her selections, the catalyst for her very existence. The wheels began turning, and the machine set into motion. It is said that the devil is in the detail, and if it is indeed, Beelzebub dwelled in the spirit of one who had lost hope. Candace quickly dismayed a wistful and frail desire such as hope. Locked and loaded, her journey now took on a hairpin turn that would isolate her demise, and elevate her self to godliness.
The clothes of her choosing were both of purpose and of merit. Displaying a sense of style, each handpicked item represented an aspect of her being, and foreshadowed the choices made in her recent denouement. Black was the obvious selection. Serene, stoic and always malignant in its interpretation, it was the foundation of the representation of the hollow. Empty and devoid of attribute, it managed to parlay into a rainbow of texture, resentment and fear. The final blow required unbridled, tenuous focus. A chink in the armor would be seen and reveal the sense of purpose Candace had tried so very hard to hide like the emotions that brought her to this desolate place. So few can appreciate how difficult it is to dress for death. The statement must be defined clearly. The wearer must not convey haughtiness nor display any sort of irony. All must seem to fall in line with the proper course of action. Her thoughts scurried and she harkened back to Marie Antoinette, Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Mary Queen of Scots. Four queens who met their demise with the executioner’s blade. Each one dressed for their own demolition tasting the cold reality of steel as it devoured through their lifeblood.
She bolted back to the here and now, then Candace ran to the mirror. Confronting it in times of distress, the mirror was more than a silent reflector. Judge, lover, arbitrator and confidant, the mirror highlighted all imperfections and flaws. Arms, legs, torso, head and thought were contrived. Intellect and physicality were alienated from each other. Effort was not something that came easily to her, so she shunned any form of original impulse. Choosing friend or foe never mattered because they were cut from similar slabs of flesh. Only the melted wax and glossy sheen that now encased her spirit enabled her to reach the imaginary destination. She sighed heavily as she applied her make up. Her crystal blue eyes, trained to gaze upon the reflection in the mirror, only revealed the strained inevitable emptiness. There was no revelation in the tears that now pooled in her eyes. Swaggered anger held back any choice that may have turned around her dark path. How could someone travel this far and still have succeeded without any moniker of continuum?
When one can no longer hurl anger outwardly, the swift descent to the inward becomes defined. The fight and the constant clawing battle are put aside for a new victim. This one however, follows the lead of the aggressor and lays down at his command, pinning the vendetta on the self, then to carry on with an unabashed hatred for others. All judgment becomes blurred. Clear choice is muddled, and the depth that one will try and achieve bases itself only on how deep one will dive into their self-made abyss. One wishes to acquiesce to the reality that the end is close at hand. One achieves a measure of balance by isolating the truth and extracting it from the day-to-day grind that leaves us empty and thirsting for a divine answer. Intervention rarely at hand, Candace had but a few cards to chose from a heavily stacked deck. Given her past choices and present frame of mind, she needed to touch the possibility that all things would come to a swift and steady end.
Candace made the decisions that placed the wheels in motion. Yet now, she was exhausted. Fighting a battle, real or perceived takes a toll on the soul of the warrior. Once surrendered, she could rest and sleep the deep sleep that she craved. On going and layered it offered it her solace from the ever-present reality that would not give up the ghost. She sat on the edge of her bed, now prepared and ready to accept and open up to the inevitable outcome. Candace put the gun to her head, the barrel barely touching her soft white skin. She cocked the hammer, and felt her index finger slowly guide itself up and down the curvature of the trigger. The coldness was painful to the touch. Numbing and shallow it further solidified her feelings of emptiness and devalued her worth. All those who had laughed at her, who hurt her, who had cast her to the shadows now seemed inconsequential. Candace was immobilized by the moment. Frozen by the second hand that now supplied a second chance. She blinked for a moment, and then squeezed here eyes shut. Moisture developed in her eyes, and she knew that today was not the day of choice. Resistance had put out its hand and she had clutched it with firm commitment. For all the anger and bitter rage that simmered in her soul the letting go had triumphed. The sisterhood of martyrdom had lost another fight. Joan of Arc was not to lick the flame at the stake today, and Candace would go on to see a new morning dawn.
The silver-gray Peterbilt pulled into the truck stop shortly after 1:30 a.m. The parking lot was desolate, and the morning dew hung in the air. A slight fog cloaked the area, and the trucks headlight beams left an eerie-tunneled mist into the never-ending distance. As the diesel engine rumbled, the cab shook its final gasp, and left a vapor trail of haze, high into the night from the vertical exhaust shafts. The cab door opened, and the stranger stretched out his long legs. Dressed in black from head to toe, he wore leather harness boots, a thick leather jacket and a brandished black Stetson. His hands wore thick black leather oiled gloves, the kind used by farm hands. The dense gloves protected the skin from deep cuts caused by heavily wired fences, but were nimble and flexible enough to pick up a dime. The stranger jumped out of the cab and landed deeply in the soft damp clay beneath him. He slammed the cab door shut and made his way to the brightly lit diner. With his left hand, he pulled out a pack of Camel unfiltered cigarettes from a pocket that was located on the right-hand sleeve of his jacket. He grabbed one of the smokes and used a black metallic Zippo lighter to torch it. He breathed in the smoke and kept making his way closer to the diner, his swagger instantly seen by anyone who got in his way. He opened the swing door to the all night eatery and tossed his cigarette butt to the wind, as he took one last and meaningful drag of nicotine. He exhaled the sweet smoke from his nostrils and grabbed a seat over at the counter.
– “What a God awful night”, the waitress gushed to him. “What can a get you?”
– “Coffee, black”.
– “Nothing else?” she replied.
– “Coffee, black.” The stranger’s voice was monotone and direct. She went over near the coffee machine and poured a black tar-like liquid into a white mug.
She swung around quickly and with a smile she said:
The stranger cocked his head up and stared directly into her eyes. She was taken aback, because she had never seen eyes quite like his. They were dim, almost murky, as if there were no contrast between iris and pupil. And rather than shine a reflection, they only echoed an empty bleak stare. Without a word being muttered, the stranger had told her to keep away. He picked up the mug and slowly nursed the coffee. The diner was quiet except for a few people mingling about, mostly truckers in for slice of pie, or a plate of all day breakfast, which consisted of runny eggs, and overcooked, fatty bacon. Hank Williams was wailing soulful over the jukebox and the air was thick both with the dampness, which crept in from the outside, and the cold deathly chills the stranger exuded. As he drank the hot coffee he stared intently neither with purpose or focus. It was a blank gaze burning through anyone that stood in its path, though he did not concentrate or connect his vision with his thought. When he finished his coffee, he left a ten-dollar bill on the counter, stood up, turned and walked towards the same door he had just walked through. The waitress knew to leave well enough alone, and never asked him if he wanted change. She rationalized to herself that she deserved a hefty tip for staring into the eyes of what she would describe as pure unrestrained evil.
As soon as he hit the night air, the stranger lit another Camel, then walked over to his truck parked in the distance. He sauntered over to the back of the truck’s container and unlocked the large steel doors. They creaked a metallic sound that reverberated through the dank night. He climbed the double stepladder to the floor of the bed then pulled himself in. The stranger drew back the heavy dark canvas curtain, and heard the bubbling sound of an intravenous regulator. He walked over to the table strategically placed in the middle of the dark, empty container. Although it was on wheels, the bed was judiciously bolted to the floor so that no sudden braking or turning would cause it to move position. Strapped in the bed was a young woman, though her appearance gave her neither the look nor disposition of youth. She was connected via I.V. to a slow morphine drip. She was in a state of drug induced pre-coma; cognizant of certain things in her surroundings, but unable to communicate. Her body had been stripped of clothing, and she lay naked on the frigid steel bed. From the top of her head, to her knees she remained completely intact. But below the knee, all remains of skin, cartilage and muscle had been surgically removed. All that continued was bone, attached directly to her feet, which were still whole. No blood was visible, no tissue left clinging to the bone, which shined in the dim light and gave cause to believe that the bone had been cleaned with Dermestid Beetles. These tiny “skin” beetles when used in sufficient quantity would eat away at any residual tissue to the bone. Used for many years by professionals in the taxidermy trade, these particular beetles had cleaned her flesh clear off, leaving her with only bone connecting her knees to her feet. The feet were also connected to an I.V. providing anesthetics, but also antibiotics as well as preservatives. For all intense and purposes, her body below the knees was being kept as some sort of gruesome experiment.
The stranger walked over to the table and leered down at the girl. She was awake enough to see him through a cloud of drugs and painkillers, but felt no pain. Her eyes attempted to focus directly ahead, but she quickly realized that she lay restrained on her back. Her mouth was covered, and the first thing she became aware of was the I.V. drip beside her body. She felt motionless, almost floating in an embryonic state. She was trapped in a hollow room cascading with sheets of cold steel walls as the sound of raindrops reverberated in her skull and bounced off the roof of her psychological prison. Sparks of chrome, blood and scalpels danced in her now drug provoked imagination. Fluorescent light and flashing prisms flashed and snapped in unison, as she saw the stranger’s icy stare and crooked grin.
Sam Jones had finished his breakfast, downed the last of his cold coffee, and read the paper cover to cover. He got up, swinging around his stool, toothpick in mouth thanking the waitress with a curt salute. He put the folded newspaper on the counter. The waitress, cleared off Sam’s plates getting ready to give the top a quick wipe down. In her left hand she held a pot of freshly brewed coffee. Suddenly she dropped the full pot of scalding coffee to the ceramic floor, as her face turned a pale white. She picked up the folded newspaper that Sam had left behind. On it was a picture of the stranger. The headline read:
“Convicted serial rapist and serial murderer Jake Waterman was pronounced dead after a lethal injection at 1:30 a.m. in the Harris County, Texas Penal Facility. Waterman was known in East Texas as the Tibia Butcher because of his penchant to brutalize and torture women while mutilating their legs”
The waitress looked into the black still of the night beyond the windows of the diner out into the mist, and heard the roar of a diesel engine kicking into gear, full throttle.