At an annual celebration of the famed World War 2 correspondent, Ernie Pyle, at his home in Albuquerque, N.M., a docent tells the small group about the permanent closing of Pyle’s childhood home, in his birthplace,in Indiana. As the docent continues, he reminds his aging audience of the steady inexorable disappearance of American history, the necessity of knowing our collective past.
Ernie Pyle was a celebrated World War 2 correspondent, but, today, there are many Americans who don’t know much about World War 2 except what they see in the movies. They don’t know Ernie Pyle, or Julius Caesar, or Frederick Douglas. They believe the American Civil War was only about the abolishment of slavery and the United States Constitution is outdated and irrelevant, written by stuffy white men who owned slaves and wore white wigs..
Where does history go when it is behind us?
Does God put His memos, research papers,videos and photos on shelves in his personal library? Does he go back and review his plans and progress for the Universe, make changes in the roll out of his vision ? Does knowing history mean we can stop or modify what is happening to us while we are in the middle of its happening?
On this pleasant afternoon, we are taken on a guided tour of Ernie Pyle’s life and times, in a place he fixed bacon and eggs for breakfast and read his newspaper thrown on the front porch by a neighborhood boy on a bicycle.
His house feels like a home and I walk away suspecting that Ernie would offer me a cold drink of lemonade on a hot summer day and have some good jokes to soften the wounds of World War 2 as we both set at a little table on the front porch with empty vistas of the Rio Grande Bosque several miles away.
He came from humble roots but was placed in the middle of one of the worst wars in human history.
His writings and his home survive him, and remembering is something we can still do for him.
Ernie volunteered for the war but some would say reporting on everyday Joe’s from the front lines was his destiny.
The beauty of his writing is that it seems like it was written for everybody but him.
” Nothing Fancy” is the name of this bluegrass band.
This is a good name for a band because we didn’t just drive hundreds of miles to Westcliff to listen to frills and trills and a lot of Mozart licks.
Nothing Fancy serves us country meat and potatoes, fresh vegetables from pa’s garden, cornbread,plenty of sweet ice tea, and a big slice of rhubarb pie in their down home musical buffet this afternoon to start the after lunch concert rolling.
These boys are also slipping us a little bit of fancy too, whether we want it or not, but we aren’t going home from this performance hungry.
Bluegrass music has fancy in it, but it doesn’t come out on stage until the right moment, and, even then, only for a few choruses.
This music came from houses with no plumbing, no electric, well water and wood heat.
Singing and playing too fancy would be akin to committing musical fraud.
This little brook gently runs through the Alvarado Campground, following a path of least resistance on it’s way to join a larger river, and then, with that river, rambling all the way to the closest ocean.
Nature’s music refreshes, doesn’t ask for applause, or notoriety, recording contracts, or interviews.
Nature’s songbook is this little brook, wind moving through pine needles in tall trees on a cool clear night, a woodpecker carving his home inside a tree trunk, the rustling of brush as a brown bear scurries off the highway and back into the woods, waves coming into shore as the tide rises, hail hitting the roof of your car in a freak summer storm,deer antlers striking one another as bucks fight for dominance.
In a couple of days, I’ll hear fish songs at Hermit Lakes, breaking the lake’s surface as they greedily gobble dragonflies.
Back in Albuquerque, city melodies will be much more staccato and complex. There will be car horns, sirens,bacon sizzling in a frying pan, heavy equipment taking down condemned buildings, nail guns installing shingles, gunshots, light classic jazz in Starbucks, the sound of a well struck golf ball on it’s way towards the pin.
This brook is a comforting, simple, legato melody.
Mother Nature, as hear her this morning, is a very good composer.
Her melodies remind me that there is no need to hurry.
I don’t have to think I need to change anything here.
One of the more entertaining bands at the festival, playing numerous sets over the four days, is the Kody Norris Show.
The Kody Norris show features traditional bluegrass along with dancing, clowning around, comedy, and audience participation tossed in for dessert.
Wearing bright blue and red suits on stage,their group musicianship is high and all spirits under the big tent this afternoon are in fine shape.
Kody, who is soon to marry the group’s fiddle player, Mary Rachel, asks the audience for tips on making his imminent marriage successful.
One of the best audience suggestions is , ” She is always right. ”
Everyone laughs, when they hear this wisdom,except for the ladies. They all nod their heads in total agreement and give their husbands, boy friends and significant others stern “You should be doing this ” looks.
We catch the band several more times between Thursday and Sunday, and each performance is just a little bit different.
Another good tip for Kody, as a soon to be husband ,would be – don’t sing the same song too many times.
Variety is always needed in performing, regardless of what kind it is.
Greg has been playing since he was a kid, a professional since his teens. He has toured the world, made recordings, teaches , creates instructional aids for aspiring musicians, promotes his music, travels extensively and is among the best at what he does.
His wife, Judy, is on piano tonight and plays professionally in the Chicago area. Tom, on bass, is a touring jazz musician who plays now with Lee Konitz but is sitting in tonight, much to our surprise and joy.
Listening to Greg is analogous to standing next to a pro golfer on the practice tee after a tournament,watching him hit three hundred yard drives followed by wedge shots to within a few feet of the driving range pin.
Fluency, flexibility, precision, attitude, creativity, are required to make this jazz music sound good, all in the right combinations, like a spectacular chef salad served at Chef Ramsey’s finest world restaurant.
I love what I hear even if it is beyond my ability to even copy.
What’s possible to do on the saxophone gets a whole lot bigger after hearing tonight’s performance.
It is uplifting to watch people do what they do better than most everyone else.
Seeing how far you can go with gifts you have been given is always worth doing.
These two questionable birds remind me of cartoon characters us kids watched on black and white television in the 1950’s, most often perched on a tree limb talking about crazy humans. They were, as they appear here, angular, opinionated, and had New York voices that were like a piece of coarse sandpaper rubbed over my cheek, and not gently.
Perched on a tiny end table in front of the Madrid, New Mexico Mine Shaft Museum, they, for the moment, aren’t gossiping loud enough that I can hear who they are roasting.
The Madrid mining museum is full of old rusted mining implements piled into one large open room, under a tin roof. Through an open doorway, I see the old rust colored machines that kept town mines operating in the 1800’s when lots of young men and painted women came out west to make their fortunes.
The docent of the museum this morning, a gray haired volunteer woman standing by a manual cash register, talks in a mellifluous voice and explains, to an equally old couple, listening attentively, how the town prospered in its heyday.
I can hear Heckle and Jeckle cackling outside over a really nasty human joke.
For some unfathomable reason, I want to buy them and the fountain and set them all on a little table on my back porch in Albuquerque.
These two could really tell me, every day, funny, but true, stories about mining in Madrid, Mew Mexico, before and after the hippies came.
There are no sharp edges, nothing to scrape or cut, no nails, splinters, burrs or broken glass. The brightly colored posts can be walked around but are not easily climbed, colors are primary, and water falls from the triangular sails like a cool rain. The shapes here are organic and you can hide behind,or touch to your heart’s content.
Children’s voices are amplified and they are involved in their play, walking and running, under, and through the water. Their voices make a soothing melody. Besides the sails that give shade,there is a green sea serpent in the middle of this installation and a maroon lighthouse that gives the park its nautical theme.
The kids are happy this morning, inquisitive, co-operative, playful.
Temperatures will rise into the nineties with no rain forecast for the next several weeks, and, if I’m a kid, I can’t think of a better place to be while my adults are acting like bigger kids somewhere else.
By the Fountain Hills Park lake is an outside music area. In a tight circle are eight different music makers, You can hammer tubes, strike bells, bang on cans, waggle ropes that move noisemakers, make sounds to call the cows home.
All the instruments are unattended this morning, so, having the area, all to myself, I pick up a mallet and take a turn at one of them.
This must have been how these instruments were discovered. Some cave man hit a mastodon skull with a rib bone, and, to his delight, the first melody in the world was composed.
Hitting a small piece of metal with a mallet to get noise is easy.
What is hard is to make a combination of noises, in the right order, with the right rhythm, that sound like music.
Musicians have been wrestling with this conundrum since the dawn of time.