Up North! Escaping the Heat and the Noise!

Minnesota Marvels.  Let’s Go!

Golf Cart Fourth of July Parade. There were 25 carts dressed for the day!

We love the cool air of Minnesota! The locals opened their arms to us as we explored their towns.  Our camping home for a week was an RV Resort in Hinckley.  There is plenty of room to bike, an 18 hole golf course, manicured lawns, full-hookups, and stellar showers if you need them.  You will also discover a Casino with modestly-priced restaurants, and a place to deposit your money or win big and buy a condo on St. Croix. Grand Casino RV Park is owned by the Ojibwa tribe and they do a great job of managing it.  We also visited their Grand Casino on Mille Lacs Lake that features an Indian Museum.

Here they are Steve, Dixie, and Tom!

Dixie and Steve, two of our friends from Minneapolis,  came up to spend the weekend with us.  The goal was to bike a lonesome trail or kayak on the St. Croix River.  Rain cancelled those plans, so we visited the Hinckley Fire Museum and explored the town of Mora with them.  It is always great to find people who have similar views about politics and life in general.

A wall painting of the 1894 fire storm that completely destroyed Hinckley and other towns in the area.

Mora’s Swedish Dala Horse!

The courthouse, from 1894, was a sight to behold!

Fourth of July was spent without bangs and fireworks!  What a relief!  The full-timers at the RV Resort got together and decorated their golf carts.  About 25 of them circled the resort for a couple of times throwing candy and gifts at everyone!  I thought it was Mardi Gras!

Mille Lacs Indian Museum Stunning Architecture!

Exploring Minnesota

Along the way we bought great food from Amish ladies and the famous Toby’s bakery and restaurant. After our friends returned home to their jobs, we explored a few of the towns around Hinckley.

One day we circled Mille Lacs Lake in search of a summer RV site on the lake.  We drove as far as Brainerd and found no cement or paved pads for RV’s.  We camp on gravel or grass only if we are staying for a day or so.  For long term stays we prefer cement and a clean area for our beloved canines.

Photo of Masonic Temple taken from the car, my apologies. Isn’t this a beautiful building?

The small and isolated towns of Northern Minnesota have been in decline for years.  In Askov, a Danish town, we discovered gorgeous sandstone architecture with the windows boarded up.  One of those buildings was a stunning Masonic Lodge.  The steps were crumbling and all of the windows were open with the door ajar.  How sad!  This was not the first time I wanted to rescue historic buildings that locals do not treasure.

Inside the Fire Storm Cafe with great food!

In Hinckley we dined at the Fire Storm Cafe.  The food was terrific! I wondered how you could make a living with so few customers?  I asked the owner.  He said that he made enough to live and he was his own boss!  The restaurant did not have a mortgage and he didn’t have to work for Walmart!

Real Estate is undervalued in this part of Minnesota.  Land costs about $1000 an acre and you can purchase estate-sized properties for less than $300,000.  Many homes sell for under $100,000.  

It is tempting to think about selling all and trekking north to the land of luscious trees and a thousand lakes.

P.S.  Wait A Minute!  Exit Vacation

Just as we were about to make a daytrip to Duluth and Lake Superior, we received a call that Tom’s mom was dying.  This was a shot in the heart!  We had to negotiate a longer lease on the rental car, plead for a refund for our days left at the RV Resort, and then find a RV place to stay in Wisconsin on July 5 the busiest camping day of the year!  Almost everything was booked but we found a sultry spot about 40 miles away from Tom’s mother.

Tom and his mom in May of this year!

On the Go!

It was a long, fast, and hard 350+ mile drive with the RV and a car following.  When we arrived his siblings were holding a vigil day and night with his mother.  This has been going on for days.  His mom Janet Mabel Oscar Hemling passed away only hours ago on July 9 at the wonderful age of 88. I kept thinking of the tune, “Will the Circle be Unbroken” by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Johnny Cash.  If you would like to hear this tune click here!  

Tom has created an appreciation on my Facebook Page also.  Click on Facebook.

In the midst of the vigil for Tom’s mom, my dear friend Anne Connole lost her battle with cancer.  I have written An Appreciation for her on my Facebook page. (Click on Facebook.) I thought a fitting tune for her passing was “Oh Death.”   Click on “Oh Death!”

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

Advertisements
Posted in Camping, Duluth, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, Uncategorized, Wisconsin | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

From Tom’s Dashboard: The Blues Ain’t Blues Any More

Keeping the Blues Alive – KCK Street Blues Festival

Instead of visiting our regular blues destination (BB’s Lawnside BBQ) we headed West to the 12thKCK Street Blues Festival. The event is organized by the volunteer members of the KCK Blues Society at Lavender’s Circle L Ranch in North KCK.

The event was attended by more than 500 people and featured infectious blues groups. We learned that in earlier years the event was held in downtown KCK with 5000-10,000 attendees. Because of a dispute over the practice of allowing attendees to BYOB, the event was forced to move to a more rural location.  (We think local businesses were angry because they were not selling their own brews.) Unfortunately the rustic location of the Circle L Ranch limits attendance because of its remoteness and lack of parking.  For a history of how government bureaucracy nearly killed this event see this article in the Pitch.  (Just click on the word “Pitch.”)

Danny Cox (on the right) was great!

The Blues Festival included three musical groups on the hilltop Acoustic Stage and four on the valley Electric Stage. All the musicians are KC area residents. We were entertained by an engaging Danny Cox, a legendary blues singer, who performed traditional blues and his original music. Danny and his band even improvised a message about a parking issue that needed to be addressed. We were so impressed with Danny Cox that we will check him out at another venue around town.  What a voice and personality!

Norman got everybody up and dancing!

Next was The Norman Liggins’ group with their version of funky blues, including guest singer Jason Vivone on the awesome slide guitar. People were swinging and dancing in the field!

Host of a 99.1 FM KKFI Blues show. the “Boogie Bridge.” Jason mesmerized the audience.

Jaisson (pronounced Haisson) can be heard at BB’s also. What a talent!

On the Electric Stage in the valley, we enjoyed the Jaisson Taylor Group.  Jaisson, on drums and vocals, is a fantastic musician. He understands that the audience wants to be entertained.   Music is good but a little humor can make the event sizzle!  He interspersed his music with a well-crafted message about national politics and engaged the audience in a mischievous manner with a Muddy Waters tune, “I’ve got my mojo working.”  He was hilarious!  His base player really rocked!

Here they are again, Jaisson!  Great base guitar player on left!

A panorama of one venue. We were listening to tunes up on the hill. Later this field was filled with worshippers.

After four hours in the sun, unfortunately, we had to depart before the 2018 “King of the Street Blues Festival” D.C. Bellamy took the stage. Given his outfit for the day, we likely missed a very entertaining show.

Love that outfit! D.C. Bellamy!

The Blues is thriving in Kansas City.  We keep meeting new musicians who can be heard at various venues around town.

Join us the next time we check them out!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge!

 

 

Posted in Blues Festivals, Blues in Kansas City, Jazz in Kansas City, Kansas City Blues Scene, Music, Music in Kansas City, Musicians in Kansas City | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Tom’s Dashboard. Tooling Around in Milan, Italy!

Pizza, Music, Expresso and Gelato

Milan Cathedral or the Duomo dominated the square. How awesome!

Having visited many countries over the years, Marla and I have recently cut down on international travel. Airport security hassles and smaller seats on airplanes have made that an easy choice. I returned to Milano only because I was offered a chance to teach a short course on my “Seven Point Plan for Mastitis Control” with a panel of friends who are international experts.

 

Santa Maria delle Grazie influenced by Roman architecture and home of Michelangelo’s Last Supper.

In addition to the National Mastitis Council meeting, I played tourist in Milano and Lake Como for three days. With a hotel in the city center, it was easy to explore the churches, historical buildings, shops and cafes. Milano, like most European cities offers an easy to use matrix of subways, buses, trams and trains. The metro stop for my hotel was interestingly called Misouri (spelled correctly).

In Milano, there are churches every 100 meters as I discovered on my walking tours. After visiting many churches, temples, mosques… with Marla the past 36 years, the need to visit these sites seems to be in my DNA. The Duomo is the highlight, but the architecture of the collection of churches was diverse and interesting.

Saint Stephano’s Baroque facade is gorgeous!

Churches not readily apparent on the tourist map were pointed out by my friend of 25 years Paolo Brambilla, over a nice dinner conversation. Milano also offers a castle, parks, some remnants of the city wall, and upscale shopping at the Gallery Victor Emmanuel and Montenapoleone.

 

 

Only in Italy!!!!

To keep your batteries charged up there are no shortage of coffee shops, pizzerias and gelaterias. The expresso and pizza were as expected, but the gelato exceeded expectations: dark chocolate + hazelnut + pistachio anyone?

Can music get any better!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My musical interests led me to a Django Reinhart Festival at Spirit de Milano, an interesting old factory converted to an event space. I arrived around 6:30 PM to observe a master class on gypsy jazz and jam sessions (Listen to the link.) This was followed by a concert with three three groups playing variations of Django inspired music. The performances started around 9:30 PM and were going strong at midnight. The demographics of the crowd got younger and louder as the evening progressed and there were 50 people waiting to enter the event when I departed.

Lake Como and the wealthy!

I also enjoyed an excursion to the Lake Como and a boat tour. The scenic lake in the foothills of the Alps is ringed by villas owned by the rich and famous. George Clooney purchased one of the smaller villas a few years ago for $80 million.

This is Tom’s creation!!

Sometimes they used three screens just like the rock stars use in the main auditorium.

Oh yes, the excuse for the trip! I also attended the NMC conference which was a major success for the organizers, with a collection of 650 experts from 39 countries. I enjoyed conversations with many of my international friends. Our 3.5 hour short course lasted 5 hours and everyone stayed to hear our plan for reducing antibiotic usage while maintaining animal health and milk quality (We need good milk for gelato and that wonderful Italian cheese).

Friend in the air!

Even though air travel is a hassle, sometimes you make new friends!

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Corpus Christi and its RV Resorts!

The Oil Kings and the People of Corpus Christi

A happy trailer on Port Aransas.

 

Tom reasoned. Texas is closer and a straight shot from Kansas City. And the sun shines there in the winter also. Dreams of sunrays filled our minds as we headed toward Texas.  (Within the last ten years we had visited and camped near Corpus Christi, and we had a great time.)

 

The Hunt for an RV Spot 

After visiting approximately fifteen properties labeled RV Resorts (to buy or rent), around Corpus Christi we wearily gave up the search.  Apparently Texans define Resort differently than the rest of the world. Many of the “resorts” were good places to tie up your pet and sit a while.  There was no room to even stretch out your arms.  Their main attraction was the sky and the dirt.

This was the RV Pad that cost $166,000.

Two of the sites we inspected were livable, but the costs were excessive.  There was a cute little Casita on a driveway about 30 miles away from Portland for $132,000.

We really liked the RV Pad on the island of Port Aransas for $166K with monthly costs of maintenance and taxes of $500 or more a month.  But that was all it was, a driveway.  And right to the side of it they were building a three story home?! It felt like a closet.  Tom just reminded me that we looked at a two-bedroom loft condo, 1.5 baths on St. Croix for about $165K negotiable.  Which would you choose?

Remnants of Harvey 

We checked out the area all around Corpus Christi going as far as Mathis, Fulton, Port Aransas, and Mustang Island.  (We could not go as far south as we wanted because the roads were blocked.) Remnants of Hurricane Harvey that hit last August were everywhere.  Downed signs, empty lots, blown out gas stations, blue-tarp roofs, and sagging buildings greeted us.  One very sad building was blown in half.  You could see furniture on all the levels.  Debris was piled up in many places.  But most of the buildings looked like they had new paint.

The best hours we spent in Corpus Christi were on the ferry to Port Aransas and the winding drive through the southern Mansions on Ocean Blvd.  (I will return to this shortly.)  While we did not appreciate 75 mph signs on two lane highways without shoulders, we discovered that the best road in town was a runway at the airport.

Would you want to live near one of these. They inhabit most of the coast along the Gulf.

Greedy Petroleum Kings

What really shocked us was the presence of the Petroleum Kings (industry) everywhere.  Refineries circle the town.  One source says there are 6 oil refineries and over 1,000 oil wells in Corpus Christi. Seems like there were more to me. Tall prayer-like minarets spewing flames were everywhere.  (At first I really thought they were minarets.) The only place we have experienced these tall stacks/chimneys burning off gas was in Williston, North Dakota during the height of the fracking.  We camped in Williston and the burning gas kept us awake all night.

Is Corpus Christi a Potential Bhopal?

Church Row in a very dismal downtown Corpus Christi!

We know that people depend upon this industry for survival, but it seems to us that people should not live around the refineries or wells.  It reminds me of the Bhopal tragedy!  Oil is stored very close to humans.  The round cylindrical storage units look like flowers popping up out of the ground everywhere.   It seems like a disaster just waiting to happen.

I love farms and some of them outside Corpus Christi were right next to a refinery.  The cattle grazing and especially an old church looked out of place against this rusty backdrop. I kept thinking about the wind turbines.  They seem to be a better alternative than digging up, burning off methane gas, and processing oil –leaving rusting steel giants behind as oil Kings do all over the world. (Check out the abandoned plant at St. Croix)

We worried about polluted ground water.  We worried about the air and food on the farms.  Was petroleum seeping into everything?  Most older roofs were black from the fallout from the factories or mold??  What about the fallout from the gas being burned?  And then there was the sand!

Look at the tire marks! It was dangerous to walk!

We walked on the beach at Port Aransas and found two lanes of cars driving up and down the beach. Sand was constantly being thrown in the air.  Some beach people brought their campers.  Others taped off sections of the beach that they were claiming as their own.  It was really a weird, bizzare, and hostile experience.  I wondered about the safety? of whizzing cars and trucks right next to the water.  We decided the place was not for us.

Here is another close-up on the beach. I guess we would have to pull a trailer behind our motorhome to visit the beach.

Now, let’s get back to the mansions.  I thought that those wealthy people were really lucky; they did not have huge chimneys or refineries in their backyards.  On our way back to town, because Ocean Blvd was closed at Texas A&M University, we took a break and walked along the water again.  Wait a minute!  What is that out there in the water?  Is it a floating city?  What is it?  It was mile after mile of offshore oil platforms right in front of the mansions.  The wind blows from the East across these platforms and lands right on top of the mansions.  Not one person, not even the well-to-do, can escape the effects of oil pollution on their property and lives.

The USS Lexington is in the background. The dog is obeying his master.

Just before we left, we stopped to take a photo of the USS Lexington.  Right next to me was a sculpture of a dog and two white feet.  The dog was looking up in the air to the invisible person who owned the feet.  Some say that the title of the sculpture should be “The White Man and the Indians (the dog).”

I thought the dog sculpture was an insightful commentary on our experience of Corpus Christi. It should have been entitled, “The Oil Kings (feet) and the People (dog).”

My apologies, when I took this photo I saw shoes and so an earlier version of this post discussed the shoes and the dog.  Obviously, it is the dog and two feet!

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

 

Posted in Camping, Corpus Christi, Discounts on campgrounds, Rving across America, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Playing Games with the Devil!

The Devil Plays Straightline Blues

Here is a photo of Robert Johnson taken from Wikipedia!

Highways 61 and 49 run right through the middle of Clarksdale.  Elvisland is less than an hour away.  Legend has it that a teenager Robert Johnson in the 1920’s came to this crossroad and made a deal with the devil.  Johnson agreed to sell his soul if the devil would teach him how to burn up a guitar! According to the myth, he did indeed begin to kindle a fire in his guitar.  Today, at the crossroad where Johnson allegedly made the deal, there is a statue of two guitars! Although there is some dispute as to which crossroads he was at and in what city!

 

The Famous Crossroads

Ground Zero Blues Club

What a building! Ground Zero!

Clarksdale is a Blues town!  Ground Zero Blues Club was voted #1 Blues Club in the nation by bestbluesclub.org.  One of its owners is Morgan Freeman!

On the second day of the Harmonica Camp, attendees had to perform at Ground Zero.  It was an amazing place and experience.  Local bands were so electrifying that the lights seemed to dance.

The audience was surprisingly international on Jam night.  Anyone who wanted to play could sign up.  The aging Buzzards from the UK  (Listen to this link!) sent shocks up the spines of all of us.  I called them the “Rocking Grandpas.”  They were in their 60’s but they really energized the house!

One or two  of the Buzzards!

We learned that there is live music every day of the week in Clarksdale.  Other Clubs include Hambone Gallery, Bluesberry Cafe, Levon’s Bar and Grill, the Stone Pony, and of course, the Shack Up Inn where we stayed while Tom was at the Harmonica Camp. The Shack Up Inn has a few hook-ups for RV’s and they plan to add additional sites! Call ahead for a reservation.

I went over and cheered the Buzzards and one of them kissed me!

 

The Town of Clarksdale

Last December, on our way to the Mississippi coast, we tooled around Clarksdale.  I was not sure if I wanted to return to this city of 17,000. The downtown area, like so many other major downward U.S.A. cities in the late 20th century, was in ruins.  Businesses had fled and many of the buildings were in disrepair.  Houses around the south side of the city were also crumbling.

The Stone Pony Restaurant

But, behind some of those crumbling facades are vibrant businesses.  We dined at the Stone Pony.  The inside of the restaurant looked like any local restaurant anywhere, and the food was delicious.  After touring the city, and even finding a landromat, I discovered wonderful southern charm.  Everyone was very polite and helpful!

Delta Blues Museum

There are many interesting sites in Clarksdale, but I really enjoyed the Delta Blues Museum.  It was so great to see African-American musicians plastered in posters all over the walls.  The museum has created glass cases to showcase the Blues careers of both females and males. (Photography was prohibited so I can’t give you a glimpse of the wonderful displays.)  The steel sculptures of Blues greats were fantastic.

Female Blues singers included Dorothy Moore, Big Mama Thornton and Denise La Salle.  Many of the names of Blues players were unusual, like Model T. Ford,  Jimmy Duck Blues, Little Mike and the Tornadoes, Ike Turner and Ikettes and Furry Lewis.  Jug bands were also featured!

Muddy Waters had his own holy area. He is probably one of the most well-know Blues musicians.  You entered his sacred space by ducking under a canopy.  Another musician whose story took up a lot of space was Charlie Musselwhite (a light-skinned person). His harmonica rocks!  Just listen!

The Delta Blues

Several Blues singers ended up in this prison farm! I think it is 18,000 acres and still farmed today by inmates.

There are so many different types of Blues, it can make you go crazy.  Check out Piedmont Blues, Chicago Blues, Texas Blues, West Coast Blues, Country Blues, Hillbilly Blues, Jump Blues, Piano Blues and many more.  For the past few months I have been trying to understand the differences in this music, but I have not made very much headway.

One of the books I was reading created cameos about popular Blues singers/musicians from the Delta.  The stories of gunfights, violence, physical and verbal abuse were too much for me.  Who sleeps with a knife or a gun under her pillow?  I sent the book back to the library.

You could be sent to prison for any little thing, like stealing a ham!

Party Blues

There has always been this idea of the “devil” associated with Delta Blues.  I surely did not understand this link. I thought the  churches were very puritanical and bad-mouthed the Blues.  But, now I am reading a book,  Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues a Musical Journey.  To my surprise, the early Blues (1920’s) lyrics  were on the edge if not square in the middle of pornographic.  The singers referred to body parts with vocabulary that fit the heat of the song in what are termed “Party Blues.”  “Shave ‘Em Dry” by Lucille Bogan is heart and soul Party Blues. (You can look up those lyrics if you are interested.)  All of this vivid sexual imagery (often grotesque) went right along with their drugs, liquor, brawling, and sleeping around.  Many of the lyrics we listen to in the “tame” Blues really allude to the same sexual imagery.  We just don’t make the connections.  What does “Dust my Broom” mean?  If Johnson did not sell his soul to the devil, it seems pretty obvious that others did! (Just kidding!)

Cotton field and the Shack Up Inn Lodging. One of my favorite photos from this trip!

Harmonica Blues

I have never been a fan of the harmonica.  It seemed that the harmonica players I heard were always too loud and they wailed too much. I wanted to turn down the music!  (Had it not gone out of style like the accordions?)  After an entire week of hearing harmonicas played every day, I understand the so-called “drugging” effect of music.

A great harmonica can sound just like a person who is talking to a guitar or the audience.  The conversation mesmerizes you.  The more you hear it, the more you want to hear it.  For the first time in my life, I understood why people spend their lives singing and playing and inventing music.  I think listening to music all day long rewires your brain,  and that brain is not happy unless the tunes are playing or being played.  I get it!

Harmonica Power!!!!

So Much Is Left OUT!

There is so much more to see, hear, and experience in this area of the world.  Visit it yourself.  We can’t capture all of it for you!

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

 

Posted in Clarksdale, Delta Blues Museum, Devil Blues, Ground Zero Blues Club, Robert Johnson, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Harmonica Heaven! From Tom’s Dashboard

Blues Harmonica (Fantasy) Jam Camp

This is energetic Jon with Harmonica, guitar, and singing the Blues.

Think of a music camp and envision young musicians learning to advance their skills in a traditional educational format. Then think of a fantasy baseball camp, where you get baby boomers living out a fantasy for a few days at a baseball camp at a major league spring training facility, run by former baseball players.  Combine those two images and you get Jon Gindick’s (jongindick.com) Blues Harmonica Jam Camp in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

A room full of harmonica players, playing at the same time. WOW!

We met Jon when he performed (harmonica, guitar, and vocal) at the International Folk Alliance Festival in Kansas City in 2016. Jon invited me to join a one-hour group harmonica lesson where the Jam Camp was mentioned. The April 2018 Jam Camp fit our schedule so I signed up. I thought this would be the traditional music camp, but it was more!

Baby Boomers

Imagine 30 baby boomers, with interest in the Blues, most of whom have put musical interests aside for careers and family. Now retired, with a few dollars to spare, they take the opportunity to live out a life- long musical fantasy.  They visit the epicenter of blues music in Clarksdale, MS. The participants range in age from about 55 to 80, coming from across the US, Boston to San Francisco, Portland to Atlanta. Throw in some international boomers from Switzerland, Scotland and Canada, and 5 of the best Blues harmonica players in the country as coaches and trainers.

Shack Up Inn

Check out the link to the Shack Up Inn.

The event was held at the Shack Up Inn, a B&B (Bed and Beer) where the housing is a mixture of shacks and metal cotton bins. The main venue for performing was appropriately called the Blues Chapel.  To imagine the Blues Chapel think of cross breeding Knuckleheads with BBs Lawnside BBQ in KC.

The Blues Chapel from the second floor. Quite an experience!

Back to School

The “training” included some large group lessons, small group lessons, and one-on-one sessions. “Training” is dominated by jamming, that is, playing/creating music together with others. Students were learning by doing. For the more experienced players, the opportunity to jam with other musicians seemed to be the highlight and the reason for attending.

For me and the fellow “raw beginners” we were handled with care in small groups, and in one-on-one lessons. We were still required however to perform solos along with the experienced players at the camp.  By the second day we had to perform at the Blues club Ground Zero during their open jam session.  Our final was a solo of our choosing on day 5 at the close of the program.

Tom’s solo was “I feel like a motherless child.”

The talented group of instructors and local musicians.

The musical excellence of the trainers can not be overstated.  Jon Gindick was the master of ceremony, lead “class room” instructor, expert on single note blues harmonica style, and creative musical story teller. RJ Mischo, who was born 20 miles from where I lived in Wisconsin, tours internationally and will be in KC at BBs September 9.  Cheryl Arena, was the vocal and harmonic instructor and can set off smoke detectors with her harmonica playing. Hash Brown, accompanied us on guitar through the week and helped work out arrangements for our solos. He was so kind and encouraging that even when I misplayed 3 of only 4 notes during a rehearsal, he said “that sounded good, keep it up.”   TJ Klay plays a folksy-blues guitar/harmonic. On the second day he forced beginners to play 2-3 minutes extended solos, re-enforcing the message about the safe notes. Richard Slay plays a contemporary and introspective Blues harmonica.  How about listening to a short piece of Harmonica Blues?  Here ya go...

Tom on the same journey the famous Blues player Robert Johnson took!

By the end of the week I had learned a lot about the Blues and learned a lot about playing the harmonica. I also listened to tremendous playing, singing, and song writing by campers and trainers, attempted 3 solos, and spent 5 days with 35 of the most supportive people I have ever been with in my life.  Now, back to trying to bend the 2 draw on the C harp (harmonica)

In about a week, I will post my own blog on the Harmonia Heaven experience!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

This is the cover for the color version of the book.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Elvis Re-Imagined and Re-Commercialized

A New World.  Elvisland!

The Guest House is located behind a steel fence!

On our way to a Blues Harmonica Conference in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Tom decided to camp at Sam’s Town Casino in Tunica because it was in between Memphis and Helena, Arkansas.  We were surprised at the quality of the RV Camp at the Casino. Full hook-ups were only $20 a night. (Full hook-up means water, 50 amps of electricity, and sewer.)  It was a bargain.

Here is the new Elvis Mall. It looks like a military installation, hidden from view!

Graceland Has Lost Its Grace

The first day out we headed for Elvisland.  We have done the tour of Graceland on every trip through Tennessee. Usually we hit the shops.  And we have even camped across the street from Graceland a couple of times.  After enjoying Elvisland.  There was always a lot happening in Memphis.  So, Sun Record’s bus would pick you up in front of the Heartbreak Hotel and bring you down to Beale Street (for free).  We know the beat!

But … when we arrived at Elvisland this time, we found that everything, except Graceland itself, was destroyed.  All that was left of Heartbreak Hotel were piles of sticks.  The shops were gone.  The planes were hidden.  The retro-cars had left the scene.  The humanity of Elvis was gone!  If we wanted to visit the new Elvis MALL, we had to pay to park.  Huh? We even had to go through guarded gates to visit the new humongous Guest House Hotel that dwarfs Graceland.  What a heartbreak!

Rockin’ Beale Street

Chicken and Waffles and a vegetable plate for me!

We decided not to enter the highly guarded holy site and headed down to Beale Street and Miss Polly’s for lunch.

Beale Street was everything it has always been!  Huge guitars dotted the landscape this time.  Tom had time to visit the Gibson guitar showroom again.  Guitars run in the thousands of dollars.  W. C. Handy’s and Elvis statues welcomed us.

Just dream! You will have to work a long time to  purchase one of these

Sign said, “Do not touch!”

At the Visitor’s Center west of town, we paid homage to B.B. King and Elvis once again.  The first time I saw the King statue (years ago), I wondered why he was enshrined near Elvis.

His life and work make us all proud!  BB King!

Now that I have been studying the Blues for more than a year, I understand that both Elvis and B.B. were kings in the music world!  B.B., like Elvis, was a tremendously talented self-made man! Here is a link to “Riding with the King,”  a favorite of ours.

So cool. This was on the side of a building and it was fading away!

 

The Blues Trail. Helena, Arkansas

If you are interested in Blues music, find time to visit some of the historic places along the Blues Trail.  (There is a map to help you find the greats.) These Blues giants are worshipped today in ways they were not during their own lifetimes. Yesterday we made a trek to Helena, Arkansas.  KFFA has been broadcasting the King Biscuit Time for more than 75 years from Helena. African American Blues singers and players found audiences here when they were not allowed to play and sing on other radio stations.  Have you ever heard the term “race” music?

How big is that guitar?

Tom and I were hopeful of visiting sites in Helena, but the trip was a “bust.”  It seemed like most of the houses were unoccupied or condemned.  Huge storage facilities were lifeless and rusting.  What a shocker!  It reminded me of the miles of abandoned factories on the Japanese island of Hokkaido. It was Monday and almost everything downtown was closed.  There were no public restrooms.  We considered entering the Courthouse as a last resort.

After visiting a Civil War cemetery, circling Ft. Curtis, and photographing several very large well-trimmed churches, we found The Tavern and had a great lunch.  My favorite spot in Helena was the Jewish Synagogue.

Temple Bet El

Sometimes you learn more than you can quantify, even if a site does not meet your expectations. Memphis and Helena will long be on our minds as we continue investigating the Blues.

For the next week Tom will be improving his musical skills at the Blues Camp at the Shack Up Inn.  I hope that he will write a paragraph or two about his experiences soon!

As always this blog is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

P.S. “Elvisland” is a word that I created! Maybe others have used it too.  I was thinking of that famous novel, Herland!

Posted in Elvis, Graceland, Shack Up Inn, The Blues Trail, Tunica | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Make Your Dreams Come True. Head for Alaska!

Alaska.  More Than An Adventure is Published!

This is the cover for the color version of the book.

Think about placing Alaska in your bucket list.  It is one of the most astonishingly beautiful places on earth.  It is a place where the air is crisp and clean.  It is a place that can revive and restore you!  Wild animals abound and fish can be larger than a human beings.  There is so much more to Alaska than can be captured in a book, but I hope to lead readers  to the “Promised Land.”

Cruising and RVing in Alaska

What is the best way to travel to Alaska?  Well, there is no “best”  way!  But– you could cruise the Inside Passage, or you could rent an RV and skim across the countryside.  Linking the two experiences will bring you up close to the landscape, historic sites, people, fish, foul, and animals in the wild.  Of course, you could just call a travel agency, sign up for a bus tour, or travel by train through some of Alaska.  Or, you could launch into the travel-planning yourself!  But if you are considering visiting Alaska your way, this book may help to make your dreams come true. And you just might enjoy its 200+ photographs and illustrations of Alaska.

The Peoples of Alaska

Not only will we visit the most important sites of Alaska — you may learn a little about the peoples who have inhabited the land.  Back-stories on glaciers, Russians, First Nations, and myths/stories that have been preserved by Alaskans, permeate the book.

A Shaman’s Mask!!

Ancient oral traditions reveal how early peoples lived very challenging and scary lives.   Raven’s story about how he survived and escaped the belly to of a whale to freedom is inspiring.  And the blind boy who begins to see because of a Loon, teaches us that parents should take care of their children. And during the gold rush days, the story about Soapy Smith and the gunfight on Moore’s dock is a nail-biter.

One of the more than 30 Russian Orthodox Churches that you will find all over Alaska!

 

 

Alaska. More than an Adventure will visit most of the major cities and towns in Alaska, with advice on how to plan and prepare for the adventure.  By land, we visit Fairbanks, the Arctic Circle, Anchorage, Seward, Whittier, Prince William Sound, Valdez, and across the Kenai Peninsula. We will meet a moose who adopted us as we speed by Kenai, Soldotna, Kasilof, Ninilchik, and the Homer Spit.  By sea, we will explore Vancouver, Seattle, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Hubbard Glacier, and the Tlingit stop at Hoonah.

The beauty of Alaska is on every side!

Gold Rushes.

B&W Version of the Book

We consider the gold rushes and the hundreds of thousands of men and women who fled to Alaska with high hopes of wealth. And those that died from exposure, hunger, or avalanches.

Exploitation of First Nations Peoples.

Being one quarter Cherokee, I was compelled to consider the indigenous peoples in Alaska. There are feature stories about the exploitation of the First Nations by both Russia and the United States. It was their land and now it is our land! Understanding a bit about the land and its peoples makes the journey even more meaningful!

Dream of Denali!

Soon.  The original book is in color.  Both the Kindle and Second book (Two) are in Black and White.  At this point Amazon has uploaded the B&W and Kindle versions of the book.  I am waiting for the color version to emerge.

They have incorrectly run the text together that describes the book.  Hopefully that will be fixed soon!  In the next few days, I hope to send you an excerpt or two from the book.  Click on the title of the book above and it will take you to one of its locations on Amazon.  Find a legal pad, keep your pen ready, and take this fascinating journey with me!  More photos will be coming soon!

If you have questions about Alaska, please email me at selvidge@ucmo.edu

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

 

 

Posted in Cruising Alaska, Rving in Alaska, Wildlife in Alaska | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Florida in February and Skipping the Missouri Winter Blues

Where are the palms?  Where is the sun?  Where are the ocean breezes in Missouri?

(Beware, there are lots of photos below!)

On the Sebastian Inlet Beach. Ohhh so gorgeous!

Conquering the world for God and the Spanish crown!

Did you know that Juan Ponce de Le’on landed at Melbourne Shores? And he wasn’t looking for the fountain of youth, he was looking for land to exploit and conquer for the monarchs of Spain. He had already served as governor of Puerto Rico and joined in the massacres of the native population in South America. This is the type of important info you learn while trying to escape the cold winter in Missouri. (Tongue in cheek, of course!)

 

Camping in Florida

RV Spaces at a premium!

Florida is gorgeous and everyone knows it. That is why there are hoards of people hitting the beaches. Luckily, we arrived one week before Spring Break. While in Florida we began looking for a place to park our motorhome for a couple of months next January and February. We want to be sun worshippers too.

Finding a place to stay (rent) for our motorhome in 2019 is a bit overwhelming. Every campground or resort has a date when you can begin to reserve,  IF anything is available. Some very nice RV resorts require a rental of at least three to six months. We love the sun but we love our home in Missouri too and don’t want to stay away that long. Many campgrounds that might be available pack RV’s into spaces like sardines. You can’t breathe! We have tried for two days to book St. Sebastian Inlet Campground but there are so many rules and so many people trying to book that we think we will be out of luck. One campground would not even allow us on the property to determine if we wanted to rent one of their driveways. We were so frustrated that we stopped looking for a spot.

Should we Purchase our Driveway in the Sun?

Our hotel in Melbourne Beach on the beach!

One solution to this problem is to purchase our own pad at an RV resort. Those little pieces of ground, as big as a small driveway, start at about $60K and go up to $250K. We could not believe it! There are too many people floating down to Florida, I think. They must drive up the prices.

A friend told us that more than a million people visit Florida during this time of year. But in 2016 there were 110 million visitors and in 2017 eighty eight million visited Florida in spite of the hurricanes.   There are only 21 million residents of Florida at the moment.

Sunshine is not cheap nor reasonable.

We loved all the dogs playing on the beaches!

Once you have purchased your little piece of sunshine (pad), then you are assessed a monthly fee starting at about $200-$500 and going up depending upon the resort. I am not sure that we will ever be able to reserve RENTED spots for next year.

 

 

 

 

The Beach 

Indiatlantic Beach (in Melbourne Beach) was our ocean home for a week. I forgot how grand and memorable the waves could sound! Dogs, birds, treasure hunters, surfers, sun bathers, runners, fishers, bicyclists, and children of all ages walk the beach. Everyone is happy and staring at the ocean. Everyone is uncovering their knees and shoulders and ….

The lines were a hazard!

She did not find any gold!

Tom loves the water!

ET Experiences

Oh say can you see …

We had several ET experiences here including a rocket launch.  (This link is of a silly tune “Rocketman” by our friends Igor and the Red Elvises.) We started gathering on the beach and looking north toward Cape Canaveral a few minutes before five in order to see the rocket /satellite launch. From our balcony we held our cameras high to catch the space wonder. I thought it would be boring. After all, I had watched Sputnik fly over my home as a child. It was not at all boring! A gleaming object leaving a white trail passed right in front of us. The white exhaust began to fade and that is when the impact and noise of the launch hit us. WOW! Let’s do it again!

Sunrise every morning! Another ET event!

Moon over our hotel! Could that be ET?

Treading Sacred Water and Land

This photo is from the Fish Museum at Sebastian.

St. Sebastian Inlet Park was beyond beautiful. It is where the Indian River heads out to the Atlantic Ocean. Hundreds of fishers set up their stakes hoping for the catch of a life time. One fisherman told me to get off the pier because tourists bothered him. I wondered if he was really a local. The scenes around the beach were unbelievably gorgeous!

The bridge to Sebastian Inlet State Park

Combat fishing on the pier at Sebastian!

The Pelicans posed for me!

 

The waves were huge and surfers took advantage of them!

Rich Grissom Memorial Wetlands.

These wetlands, dedicated to a sixteen year old boy who lost his life here, took us by surprise. As we walked a lonely road hundreds of birds were singing, dancing, and clucking. I have only heard songs like this in the jungle of Sierra Leone, West Africa. Alligators stealthy patrolled the marshes and occasionally dined on foul caught off guard. Oh no!

Birds had nested in almost every palm tree!

Beware!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom found another nature preserve for us to hike near Sebastian Inlet Park. Trees were gnarled,  Indian River slapped against decaying foliage. An occasional palm stuck its head out of the bushes. We heard not one bird, not one animal, not one insect on this trek. We were not even bothered by mosquitos. A sign warned us that alligators were ahead, so we turned back. The silence made me think of the polluted Treadmill mine in Juneau, Alaska. I think we were walking on a superfund site again! Were there really alligators ahead?

Sun and Fun

From left to right: Rick, Barb, and Ines!!!!

We extended our stay to catch up with old friends Barb and Rick from Delaware, and found a new friend, Ines. In the past, we traveled with them to Alaska, Ireland, Belgium, and a memorable Caribbean cruise. It was so nice to talk with people who were of the same mind!  While in Melbourne, living it up, we had such a great time talking, and dining, and thinking about the future, that I forgot to take a photo of all of us. Shucks! Rick took this selfie for me.  Thanks Rick!

Moos and Ron Jon

It was a meeting place for all ages!

Moos became our favorite place to load up on calories. They serve Cow ice cream and we ordered the coffee flavor more than once.  In Cocoa Beach we visited the Ron Jon Surf Shop extravaganza.  Bass Pro and Cabela’s would be jealous!

This was really too much for us!

When you walk the beach, you are never alone!  Many creatures accompanied us on our strolls!

Florida was a fantastic break from the cold chill in Missouri!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge!

 

This could be you next year during February!

Below are pics of some of my books that may be purchased at a variety of online outlets.  Alaska.  More than an Adventure will be published by  summer!

Posted in Camping, Camping in Florida, Cocoa Beach, Florida, Igor and the Red Elvises, Indiatlantic Beach, Juneau, Melbourne Beach, Missouri, Motorhome, Recreation Vehicles, Ron Jon Surf Shop, Sebastian Inlet State Park, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Need To Sing Truth!

 2018 Folk Alliance International Conference (FAI)

“How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?”

Capturing our experiences at the FAI is almost impossible. I kept thinking about the quote above from the Sound of Music. The music was all around us like an uplifting light!  Next year it is in Montreal!

Don’t you think it looks like a turtle on his back?

Everywhere you looked musicians were carrying their instruments, sometimes three at a time. They gathered in circles talking, playing, or singing together. Like upright turtles with their guitars and bass instruments strapped to their backs they slowly muddled across the floor.

Tom and I attended no less than 18 concerts or public showcases in just three days. It was a musical overload when spliced together with 20 hours of volunteering as security at the Exhibition Hall. We would see the artists on stage and then talk to them at the door. What fun!

This is really a good way to get someone’s attention. I could have used a bagpipe in the classroom!

FAI took us on a world tour of vibrant and meaningful music. We sailed to many countries including Scotland and heard the thundering Talisk; the mysterious chanting of songs from southern Italy (Newpoli); to the heartfelt pleas of an Aborigine from Australia (Yirrmal); and the chided songs from a lesbian in New Zealand (Anika Moa). We missed Cubanisms and Rosie the Riveters!

Bagpipes called us to stand at a attention! We listened to the vibrant strings and Italian arias of Beppe Gambetta and were in awe of the all-Spanish Radio Free Honduras. Artists from 27 countries attended FAI last year.

What a special moment for me, standing with “The Wardens!”

During the times private showcases were offered, we visited the Alberta Room so we could hear one of our favorite groups, “The Wardens.” They were not part of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police but they do and did keep the peace in Canada’s National Parks of Alberta. They sang a song about how they are replenishing the Buffalo in the National Parks in Alberta, Sleeping Buffalo.  In the Alaska room we caught up with a fabulous pianist Kat Moore. I could see her work sung on stage in a musical and contacted her about the idea.

What a voice! What a talent! Ruthie Foster!

Our favorite evening was spent in a session sponsored by the Blues Foundation from Memphis, Tennessee. Hands down Ruthie Foster held us spellbound with her compelling voice honoring her slave ancestry.

We danced in our seats to Chris Barnes‘ Hokum Blues set. Rita Chiarelli, a Canadian, brought us to a lonely cell in a prison where she has been working with inmates. “Four Walls” was a chilling reminder of the isolation of incarceration. Hans Theessink, an Austrian Blues player, set us straight about the appeal of the Blues all over the world. Guy Davis took us back to the early days of the Blues and channeled Sonny Terry. He was very funny!

Her penetrating voice goes right to your heart. Martha Redbone!

The most spellbound and challenging concert for me was by Martha Redbone. Martha captured her African American, Cherokee-Choctaw, and Kentucky roots, by chanting the story of how the U.S. Calvary massacred 1,000 Native Americans. She even sang in the language of the Cherokee. I related to her tunes because I am one quarter Cherokee. My mother grew up in Kentucky not far from Martha’s roots and lived in abject poverty as a child. See, Life Everlasting and the Twelve Mile Blues.

Our own Kansas City group, Victor & Penny and the Loose Change Orchestra deserves a standing ovation. Like so many other groups we heard, they have resurrected tunes from the early 20th century and put a modern spin on them. They were fantastic and made Kansas City proud!

So professional! So talented! So much fun! Victor and Penny!

The conference itself is a feast not only for the ears but also for the mind and eyes. People were dressed in period costumes or not much at all. Hair was a myriad of colors. I envied the males who had long curly hair streaming down their backs. It seemed as if everyone wore a hat from cowboy types to dainty little diddies with a feather on top.

Our very nice BOSS. Mike!

FAI is more than a music festival. It offers opportunities for participants to engage in issues related to their fields through discussion panels (70 of them)  staffed by professionals. FAI also offers a health fair with hearing, vision, blood, etc. screenings. It helps to support musicians/artists with access to agents, advice on planning a career, and legal issues! There were even sessions that evaluated tunes developed by artists.

Tom is frowning because Sheriff’s never smile. He is guarding the Exhibition Hall. We decided to wear badges!

We were constantly reminded that music can change lives, reveal lives, and heal lives.

It can create underground movements and many of those tunes pointed out the devastation to people that the current administration has caused.

I kept wishing that someone would create a tune that we could all sing together that would force the politicians to do the “RIGHT” thing! It could happen!

We need to sing truth!

Tom has encouraged me to place a list of my recent publications at the bottom of my blogs. I hope this does not distract from the fun you might have reading our thoughts.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

Below are only a few of the books I have published since retirement!  I will add more to the next blog!  Alaska.  More Than An Adventure will be published soon!

Posted in Folk Alliance International, Folk Music, Music, Underground Music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment