Coffee with a Legend

Would we drink coffee with Davy Crockett?

Cammy:  “You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas.”  So said this guy to voters regarding their decision to re-elect him or not.  They didn’t re-elect and, well, we know where Davy Crockett met his maker.  That quote alone make him worthy of a beverage.  Add to that the Texas thing, and it’s really a no-brainer.  These days I’m not sure kids outside Texas get any real exposure to this figure in history.  For a long time there (particularly when my parents were children), kids outside were exposed to Fess Parker’s Disney-series.  This focused mostly on the legendary woodsman/adventurer aspect of Crockett’s life–events long before his brief, but legendary involvement in the Alamo.  It’s odd to think that part of Crockett might be what some people learn of him first, rather than what Texas kids learn initially which is his role as a hero of the Alamo.  We’re not ignorant of his prior adventures, or even his time spent in Congress (he apparently made liberal use of the spittoons), but that stuff is a kind of foggy blur.  It’s that time I’d love to talk to him about.  As a politician at a time when election campaigns put candidates in real contact with voters, what much he think of how campaigns run now?  When it’s a rare thing for any of us to be in the same room with someone campaigning federal office even once in our lifetimes.  How does he feel about how he’s remembered in Texas vs. elsewhere?  Of course, I still need to at least try to get to one thing Alamo related.  One of the jarring things to happen to a Texas school-kid after years of imbibing the Crockett Hero Legend and multiple viewing of John Wayne as Crockett in The Alamo, is the introduction of the idea that Crockett’s final moments may have been, well, human.  It was a jaw dropper to all in the room when one of my teachers mentioned a letter that had been written by a Mexican soldier describing Crockett’s last moments spent pleading for his life.  I’m not sure whether or not we could get him to confirm or deny (the man was a politician, therefore, a liar), but I’d like to at least attempt to get to the bottom of that one.

Kristy: I study historic people who became folk heroes for a living. So if you think I’d turn down the chance to have coffee with an historic person who became a folk hero, you’re daft. Crockett is a special case because he became a folk hero during his own lifetime. Allegedly he was very uncomfortable with it, and so I’d certainly like to hear that from the man himself. I’d also like to hear how he feels about his postmortem reputation. Who does he think played the best Crokett? I’m not a Texan, but I was raised by one, so I got all the Fess Parker, John Wayne, etc, etc. I also worked for a Davy Crockett scholar who loves him specifically because he wasn’t a perfect hero; my boss informed me that he was an opportunist more than anything. An awesome one, judging by the light in his eyes as he talked about it. So yeah, I guess I’d like some sense of who the man was. On behalf of my boss, the Alamo story I need to check out is whether or not he actually played the fiddle to taunt the Mexicans and what songs he played.

Musikalischer Mittwoch: Song of the Summer, No “Mistake”

I’ve met lots of people who have “songs of the summer”–songs that may not lyrically define their summer seasonal experience, but which, for some reason or other, crop up through their summer in a way that renders them part of the essential soundtrack of every warm-weather memory for a given year.  Last year I had Sarah Harmer’s “Captive” and Hey Ocean!’s “Make a New Dance Up.”  One summer in high school it was BNL’s “One Week.”  These songs–and usually it’s only one or two–survive multiple rounds on repeat and become unforgettable parts of our summers.

This year, one of the two songs was “Desliz” a duet from Lucero and Joan Sebastian.  Obviously, Spanish practice via telenovelas with Lucero led me to her music, and, well, I’m never one to avoid good music, no matter what the language. So, I bought the newest album from the Amazon MP3 store.  The whole album (Un Lu*Jo) is a great collecton in total, but “Desliz” just amused the hell outta me.

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In Which Cammy Gets Way Too Introspective

I am visiting Texas right now. Apologies for any typos–even after so many months, I am still no touch-screen expert, and for the first time in years, I am traveling sans laptop.

I have a Texas-battery that requires charging now and then.  This trip partially fulfills that need, but I have come to accept that my need to return here is not just an over-active case of state pride.  It is also a realization that within these borders, and most particularly to Fort Worth, I have the greatest concentration of friends and family of any place on Earth.  The links may not be as strong as between my parents and my brother, but they are close.  And they are time-tested, and they are constant — both in terms of the relationships themselves, and in terms of geography.  And geography is something my closest relationships (immediate family in particular) are far from consistent on.

So I have been asking myself: am I a fool to want to move here for the friends?  I know it is not–nor could it ever be–all my friends.  This is the downside of the wonderfully diverse group of people I have befriended over the years:  I will never, ever have all of them in one place for more than a short period.  But the friends here are numerous,varied, blend well with my other circles, and this set has remained in place for more than a decade in a city I like, and which has great potential–some of which the outer level of this circle is influencing.

Right now, I live where my only real friends are those I made at the bill-paying-job.  The job itself has made opportunities to expand that circle difficult.  I know I am lonely, and I know that loneliness is inherently unhealthy.  I find myself very, very drawn finding a job here in Ft. Worth as much for the social connection as to escape from the stagnant and unhealthy job situation I am currently facing.

But, I come from a family that has moved because of the job–which I respect.  This past of work-defining-place rather than place-defining-work is making it hard to judge whether my own feelings are wisdom, or folly.

Musikalischer Mittwoch: A Song of Ol’ San Antone

I am not a singer.  No false modesty, I don’t have a good voice and I find it a very frustrating instrument.  I sing along to the radio in the car, but the music is so loud I can’t hear how bad I am, so it’s okay (and I drive alone, so no one else suffers, either).  When I don’t have something to drown me out, put it to you this way: my cat howls at me.  But, this week I realized that the small shower here at home has these awesome acoustics that are just too good to waste.  Since the piano won’t fit in the shower and it’s not good to get a wood oboe soaking wet, my only way to exercise the sounds of the space is with those pesky vocal chords.  After many attempts to reproduce any number of songs, I have found exactly one song that I can sing even moderately well without the assistance of a radio to drown out my weak points:

“New San Antonio Rose”

This signature song of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys ought to be familiar to serious country music fans.  If you are interested in rounding out your musical education with the high-points of all the major genres and sub-genres, this song ought to be somewhere on your to-listen list as a grand example of Western swing.  If you are from Texas I suspect that you might be like me where one day you hear this tune playing and you begin singing along, never realizing until that moment that you knew all the words…

It was called “New” San Antonio Rose because the “old” version Bob Wills originally put together didn’t have lyrics. With the addition of words, they called it “New San Antonio Rose.”  Allegedly, the tune was, at least in part, developed when Wills decided to play the tune “The Spanish Two-Step” backwards.  FTW?  For shits and giggles I sat down and tried to play something backwards on the piano.  Um.  Fail.  So points to Bob for being some kind of crazy genius with his fiddle.

It’s been covered more times than I can count (I can name  5 renditions off the top of my head–I k now there are more) by a plethora of artists and in multiple languages.  It helped rocket Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys into the national spotlight back in the day.

In the grand tradition of country-western music (and plenty of other musical genres, but this one gets the most shit for it) it’s about a lost love.  In the grand tradition of Texas, it’s dance-able.  And it’s about Texas.  All these elements have made it a favorite of mine for years.  The shocker was the part about how sing-able it is.  Maybe I should have suspected it with the number of artists who’ve performed the song, but I didn’t.  And I sure didn’t expect it to be the one song that I can maintain in-tune start to finish.  Maybe it’s that the spread of the range is just right.  Maybe the tempo makes it easier to control the changes.  I don’t know.  All I know is that I usually sing it through 3 times in the shower–and the cat’s okay with it.

 

Coffee with Molly Ivins

Would we drink coffee with Molly Ivins?

Kristy:  Um… I feel like I should have a cute, colloquial way of saying “Hell yeah” but Cammy’s the one who’s good at that.  So I’ll just say Hell yeah.  I have to give Cammy the credit of introducing me to Molly, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.  For one thing, it’s another case of owing her a cup of something (coffee or something stronger if she prefers) for the hours of amusement she’s given me.  Not to mention a couple of readings I assigned to my composition classes.  Also, there’s a lot I’d like to talk with her about and commiserate on.  Being the liberal daughter of a Texas conservative, every time Molly talks about her father it sounds… very familiar.  But what I’ve always loved about Molly went way beyond political orientation–it was a lot more about her willingness to critique everyone and her ability to point out the humor in everything.  So you can’t tell me it wouldn’t be delightful to people watch with her.

Cammy:  By cute colloquialism, I’m assuming Kristy means something along the lines of “Does a wild bear shit in the woods?”  So to this, I’ll say,”Did Han shoot first?”  YES.   Even though I’m most definitely not a liberal, I still love Molly.  She would lampoon anyone on either side of the aisle with sharp insight and the kind of humor that would literally leave my sides aching–and I love equal opportunity mockery.  Granted, she didn’t have to work hard, at least not when she was covering her native Texas politics.  The utter madhouse of the Lone Star State was (and still is) comedy gold.  She bucked trends, pissed some people off (a lot of people) and even when I totally disagreed with her politics, I had to give her credit for her style.  She painted some of the most accurate pictures of Texas I’ve ever read, and shared them with the world*.  For all that, I owe her several rounds of the beverages of her choice.  I’d love to hear her tell stories–because Lord knows she has them–of the insanity of Austin with the Lege in session that didn’t quite make the article/book cut.   And how pissed is she that she’s not around to address the wonder of Governor Good-Hair trying to go national on us?  I want to know if she truly has the same kind of misguided, twisted pride that our state gave the world people as nutty as H. Ross Perot.  I also want to talk about our mutual love of Texas.  As she once said, “ I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults.”  I’m always ready to talk about how we can love a state that manages to thrive in a state of total fucked-up insanity, especially with someone, who like me, left the state, got educated on the East Coast….and still managed to love that misfit of a state.

Kristy:  For the record “Does a wild bear shit in the woods?” and “Did Han shoot first?” are what we folklory types call “sarcastic interrogatives.” Totally counts as a cut colloquialism.

*See this article in The Nation: http://www.thenation.com/article/texas-america

Coffee With…An Alamo Survivor

Would We Have Coffee with Susanna Dickinson?

Cammy: Given my previous post, do I really even need to answer this one?  Of course I would have coffee with this woman, one of a mere handful of survivors of the Battle of the Alamo.  For one thing, I have a deep need to compare the real thing to the fictional character I knew as a kid.  And also….she is going to have one of the most unique views of the battle of the Alamo of anyone.  I’m a little worried that querying too much might result in a melt down.  As much as stories of the battle might be interesting, I’m even more interested in hearing of her one on one encounter with Santa Anna after the carnage ended.  By most reports I’ve ever heard, Santa Anna was quite interested in her and her little girl Angelina, and he offered to take them in and have Angelina educated in Mexico City.  That is the moment I want to hear about.  What was he really offering?  Why did she think he did?  And how the hell did she feel about getting that offer only hours after that man had ordered her husband to be killed?  And maybe just maybe, she could tell me where to look for the kind of sign I’ve wanted at the Alamo.Kristy:  Um… I kind of think I have to.  I may not have grown up in Texas, but I was the child of a Texan and Susanna Dickinson was definitely a story that factored into my childhood.  As Cammy has alluded, history as it’s told tends to focus on the big moments and overlooks the role of women entirely, so when you’re a little girl, and finally there’s someone of the female persuasion in the story, it’s a big deal.  Add to that I’m dissertating on female culture heroes and while she is not part of said dissertating, I have seriously contemplated a later article on Susanna Dickinson and the Angel of Goliad.  So you know… this would be fieldwork.  I have much less specific questions than Cammy being as I’m less familiar with the history.  But I would like to get her view of what happened and I’d also be interested in hearing what she thinks about the sanctification of the Alamo narrative to later generations.  How does she feel about the way her narrative has been shaped?  What would she add to the story?  What would she take out?  Etc, etc, etc.

Coffee And a Song

Would we have coffee with Nanci Griffith?

Cammy: Yup.  I definitely want to have coffee with Nanci Griffith.  She is truly awesome.  How awesome do Kristy and I think she is?  Well, let’s just say that we’re not entirely sure her song “Gulf Coast Highway” doesn’t cure cancer (Nanci herself is a two-time cancer survivor, so…).  She’s a great representative of Texas music–both as a performer and as a writer/composer.  And listening to her songs is one of the only activities that has ever made me feel ashamed that I don’t care more for poetry.  When Nanci in her once-kindergarten-teacher-now-slightly-gravely-voice sings?  Poetry finally seems to mean something.  That alone is coffee worthy.  In addition to  owing her a cup as a thank you, I want to hear some of the stories behind her songs.  Some of them are widely known–like the death of her highschool sweetheart, John, which shows up in multiple songs, and the homage to her school friend Mary Margaret–but others are a mystery (“Shaking Out the Snow” and the anti-carcinogenic “Gulf Coast Highway”).  If they have no real-life story behind them, that’s fine, but if they do, that can only make them richer.

 

Kristy:  Oh hell yes.  Though I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable saying “hell” in front of Nanci.  Cammy introduced me to her and for that I will always be grateful.  Like Cammy, I owe the woman several cups of Joe for the hours of aural delight she has provided me with.  And even though I’ve never seen her live, I’ve seen her perform on YouTube a lot, and she’s just delightful to watch.  You can tell how much she loves doing what she does, and that’s a joy to watch.  I just find her fascinating, so like Cammy, I want to know stories. I’m also curious what inspired her to engage with some of the subjects she has: random references to St. Theresa, Sylvia Plath, Loving vs. Virginia.  Interested to just hear her talk about some of her songs.  I’ve seen a YouTube clip in which she dedicates the song, “It’s too Late” to all the married folks in the audience.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love this song, but it’s an usual song to treat dedicate to said group.  The depiction of love is… not all that positive.  And yet, I can’t say it’s entirely negative either–almost, but not quite reminiscent of Shakespeare’s poem about “My Mistress’ Eyes.”  Anyway, I love her and would seriously drink some coffee with her.
Cammy: Maybe we should co-blog about how Nanci Griffith is the Queen of Awesome and listening to “Gulf Coast Highway” will cure cancer (okay, maybe not, but if someone told me that it did, I could totally believe that)
Kristy: To be fair, neither you or I has cancer yet, and we listen to “Gulf Coast Highway” a lot, so we don’t know that it isn’t a preventative. I’m just sayin

–conversation circa 2008

Back in 1836…

This is a few days late, but besser spät als nie.  March 6 marked the 175th anniversary of the Alamo (and remember kids, when you Remember the Alamo, you need to Remember Goliad, too).

In the Southern part of Texas, near the town of San Antone…

So starts the ” Ballad of the Alamo”.  Now, unlike the ballads that have street credit in Kristy’s pro-folklore world, this historically inaccurate, though very catchy, musical telling of the Battle of the Alamo didn’t come about until the 1960s.  It’s been recorded by Frankie Avalon (which, really, I can’t take seriously.  Because it’s Frankie Avalon), but more importantly, by Marty Robbins, a man whose name is synonymous with Western Ballads.  The song was authored, at least in part by Dimitri Tiomkin as part of the soundtrack for the John Wayne classic version of The Alamo*.

This is not a scholarly work.  There are errors and exaggeration and a tendency to romanticize, and yet, in spite of all that, it’s still powerful as a way to introduce someone to this part of history.  Since the 1960s, plenty of kiddos in Texas have been exposed to the song–and more than one of us who can’t remember numbers for shit has run through these lyrics in 7th grade Texas history to make sure we had the right year for our final exam “Back in 1836, Houston said to Travis…” And “One hundred and eighty-five, holding back five thousand” is a highly speculative set of figures when it comes to the head count for the battle.  But, since scholars are not completely settled on the exact population of either force (particularly not the Mexican side), we can accept this–and again, it can sure help narrow the options on that multiple choice test.  You hit most of the high points of the story (holding against multiple advances, the playing of “De Guello”, the lack of back up/support, the lack of gravesites) and the key names involved.

Any perceived failure comes in the overly romanticized frame for the story–much as I like the image of the “fortress all in ruins that the weeds have overgrown” the fact is that what remains of The Alamo is in the great big middle of San Antonio and has been for a very, very long time.  To get to the very-well-maintained remains of the sanctuary (the rest of the presidio walls are long gone), you have to exit into downtown SA.  But that doesn’t matter–to a kid who is just starting to discover the story of the battle (and who isn’t growing up in Texas) the place might as well have been a fortress in ruins just waiting to be uncovered.  And if a catchy tune, some snappy guitar work and the smooth lilt of Marty Robbins’ voice draws the kind of mental picture that capture’s someone’s imagination and gives her a reason to seek more information about this little tidbit of history?  Then the accuracy sacrificed in the name of rhyming and romanticism is totally worth it.

*Incidentally, Tiomkin also gave us another gem in the theme for that same film –“The Green Leaves of Summer” is an absolutely beautiful theme (with or without the lyrics by Paul Webster).  In terms of pure music, I prefer it to “The Ballad of the Alamo”

In Which Cammy and her Dad Watch The Alamo

At long last, I have finally seen all of the 2004 rendition of The Alamo.

I’m not saying it’s a bad flick.  It’s not great, but I’ve sat through much worse.  And I’m not going to say it’s the least accurate representation of a historical event I’ve ever watched–hell, it’s not even the least accurate rendition of this particular historical event that I’ve ever watched–but it’s definitely not a movie you want watch while in a room with two Texans who are familiar with said event.

I know that historical accuracy has to be sacrificed in the name of storytelling and structure, but that’s really not going to stop my Dad and I from yelling”Bullshit!” at the screen over and over and repeatedly saying, “Well, actually, I believe….” and then whipping out the laptop to Google and confirm ourselves.  We devolved into the worst form of know-it-alls who completely obliterated the movie watching experience.  It would be like watching a sci-fi flick while sitting next to Dr. Brennan from Bones (in an odd ball connection, Emily Deschanel actually shows up in this movie as Rosanna Travis, albeit a Rosanna Travis who looks kinda consumptive).

We actually held ourselves together until cannons got involved.  Then we started with the innocent musing on the utilizations of exploding projectiles (no actual assertions of wrongdoing here, but we had some questions…).  But by the time the Mexicans were coming at the walls we were definitely skewering things.  “That guy wasn’t down there!”  “They didn’t breach into those rooms until later!” “That is NOT how Almeron Dickinson died!”

The aftermath of the battle only made it worse.  I was ready to punch someone when it came to the delivery of the news to Houston (“Where the hell is Susanna?!?”)  Dad nearly jumped up out of his chair while watching the Battle of San Jacinto (to which I had to say, “Seriously?  You’re going to get pissed over the distance where they started shooting, more than over the entire Crockett ending??”).  At one point we even turned on one another (“They didn’t have a cannon at San Jacinto!”  “No, they had TWO!” “Did not!”  “Did so!  The Twin Sisters!”)

And while we both ended the experience shaking our heads at all of the little things they could have done to make it right without sacrificing the story in the process (and Mom was thanking God we were finally done)–it was strangely fun.  I honestly think the movie would have fallen a bit flat if not for Dad and I having so much to rip into.  After all, watching The Alamo is kinda like watching Titanic:  you know the ending.

Other Stuff I Should Have Posted About Instead of Penguins

Just after I’d posted Sunday night about the giant penguins, I realized I really should have hit two other big anniversaries for this early October.  Running on the theory of “better late than never” augmented by “better a little late than 6 months from now”:

-October 2 marked the 175 Anniversary of The Battle of Gonzales, the first battle of the Texas Revolution.  Short version:  The Anglo-Texian settlement at Gonzales, in the Green DeWitt colony, had a cannon.  The Mexican government, fearing revolt (from Texas and multiple other Mexican states) came to take said cannon back.  The Texians weren’t having any of that (because, Comanche = bad news and cannon = answer).  First the settlers buried it to hide it, and then they dug it up and used it against the Mexican troops sent to retrieve it, while flying a flag with a picture of the cannon and the words “Come And Take It.”  So just in case you think that the near-fanaticism over the right to bear arms is a new thing to the fabric of Texas, it’s not.  And neither is being a little bit of a smart ass to one’s enemies.  The Texans won, the battle, and eventually, the revolution that followed from it.

-October 3, 20th Anniversary of German Unification:  A scant 4 years before Oct. 3, 1990, my Dad had been going through a map of the two Germany’s with me and trying to help my 6 year old brain understand the whole Iron Curtain thing, and painting a bleak picture of life on the other side, with particular focus on Germany.  I asked Dad if maybe there was a chance that one of these days they might put Germany back together.  His answer was, “No, I don’t think so.  Not in my lifetime and probably not in yours.”   It’s still one of the clearest memories I have before age 10.  Just as clear was my memory of standing in front of the TV watching people rip up the wall about 3 years later and Dad simply looking at me and saying, “Cammy, I can’t believe it, but I was wrong”–both of us knowing exactly what moment he was talking about.  But even the wall tumbling wasn’t the complete repair.  That didn’t happen until 3 October of 1990 when, at the stroke of midnight, East Germany didn’t so much turn into a pumpkin as cease to exist.

With two events like this?  I’m beginning to think early October is apparently a ripe time if you want massive political upheaval of one sort or another.

(It’s also a good time to drink beer).