Poetry Week, Day 7, Song Lyric: "In Redondo"

In Redondo

Walking on a windy beach with headphones on
I've got a beat up iPod full of Elliot Smith songs
Foaming waves run up the sand in the shimmering heat
The cool polluted water feels good upon my feet
In Redondo

In the hazy distance mountains rise above the sea
Coming slowly closer, a runner on the beach
Shore birds scatter, wheeling above me as I get near
I look away for awhile, and they've all disappeared

Picked up a spiral shell and suddenly awoke from a dream
Blurring the line between illusion and reality
In Redondo

I shake the sand out of my shoes and walk in the door
You left another note but I can't read them anymore

We tried to hold on to a ghost of the life we once knew
Someday I may lose the memory of you
In Redondo

- Instrumental interlude -

Nothing lasts forever, now I know that's true
Someday I will lose the memory of you
The memory of you
In Redondo, Redondo
You and me in Redondo
In Redondo

*               *               *

All the best songs have snappy, direct and hard hitting lyrics; a great example of this is Bruce Channel's smash hit (on Smash Records!) "Hey! Baby", which topped the charts at #1 for three weeks in 1962. The first verse of that song is:

"Hey, hey baby
I wanna know woh oh
If you'll be my girl"

And the second verse is:

"Hey, hey baby
I wanna know woh oh
If you'll be my girl"

Doesn't get more direct and to the point than that, and success speaks for itself. The songs that come to me aren't close to being in the same league, but we do have fun playing them anyway. 

Song lyrics need music to be complete, and "In Redondo" has an accompaniment, with liberal use of fragmented and vague sounding chords neither major nor minor, which attempts to convey some of the feeling of isolation, uncertainty and loss that we were going for. But although incomplete without the score, do the lyrics by themselves have any poetic value? Possibly.

It's set in a mythical, imaginary place called Redondo, located somewhere between here and nowhere. I've always liked the sound of that word or name; my sister says it's a colloquial translation of "fat round one" from Spanish or Portuguese. And no, it's not Redondo Beach, which is also a poetic place but in a daytime nightmare kind of way. Wow- a fat round one... Hey, hey baby, roll me a Redondo, would you?

Thanks to David for the beat up iPod, without which this song, and poem, wouldn't be possible.


Poetry Week, Day 6, Refrigerator Word Magnet Poem: "Bridget, Midge, Gidget, Rutledge, Rodger, and Madge"

Bridget, Midge, Gidget, Rutledge, Rodger, and Madge

Bridget cadged a ride to the lodge with a badger in a Dodge

And trudged to put wedges of fudge in the fridge

Midge was a lodger on a budget with a ledger and a gadget:

A hodgepodge of kludges and widgets made by a hedgehog named Gidget

Rutledge, a fidgety curmudgeon with knowledge of didgeridoos

And Rodger the judge, a full fledged midget with a badge and a grudge

Nudged budgerigars with cudgels and pledged not to budge

Not even a smidge

From a smudge on a hedge made of sedge on the ridge

But Madge grabbed a sledge from a ledge by the kedge of her dredge

And bludgeoned both drudges off the edge of a bridge…

Into sludge


*               *               * 

A fairly new form of poetry came along a few years ago: the really fun Refrigerator Word Magnet Poem. In a family or roommate or visiting friends setting, a poem or story created becomes ever evolving; anyone who comes to the fridge can be an instant editor or co-creator, just by swapping or rearranging words.

As a writing tool, the basic premise is intriguing: starting with a preset limited, finite vocabulary, move those few words around until some sort of narrative emerges. During a period of reading mostly murder mysteries set in the UK and written by British authors, I noticed how many words and names there were that had the consecutive grouping of three letters: d, g, and e.

With an initial gathering of 39 "dge" words, combined with a bare minimum of others thrown in, a very short story emerged. Eventually this became 56 words, in one of which the grouping occurs twice; every time a new dge word was added, the plot changed a bit. The funnest part was creating and describing the villains, and the heroine that saves all in the end, using only those few words.

Probably there's a lot more "dge" words in our basically English language, and as they make themselves known this pretend word magnet poem done on an imaginary refrigerator will grow.

Poetry Week, Day 5, Limerick: "Love, Geometrically"

π Are Squared,

A young man from Greece named Pythagoras
Was feeling philosophically amorous
To his love he said "I
Have made you a Pi,
'Though its form and its function aren't obvious!"

*               *               *

A Limerick, according to Oxford, is "a humorous, frequently bawdy, verse of three long and two short lines rhyming aabba, popularized by Edward Lear". Why this poetic form is named after the Irish city or county of Limerick is unclear. Possibly because a high percentage of its residents are humorous and frequently bawdy?

Poetry Week, Day 4, Broadside Ballade: "Near Crystal Lakes"

Near Crystal Lakes
Being a Broadside Ballade in 14 1/2 Quatrains,
By Frederick Roy Thomas and James Aoyama
Half term project assignment
Grade 11 Creative writing class, room 218, Mr Warfield

*            *            *

Near Crystal Lakes where the tall trees grow
A mounted horseman rides
To meet his love ‘neath a shady grove
And there to be his bride

Ride, ride, ride
Your lover does await
And from her eye doth fall a tear
Long awaiting your arrival

The high road is long and the way is hard
Over vale and sward
Strong beats the heart of an honest man
Riding ever onward

His thoughts did dwell on a lady far away
In that shady grove
He longed for her lovely face to see
And her hand to hold

Ride, ride, ride
Your lover does await
And from her eye doth fall a tear
Long awaiting your arrival

In a misty copse appeared three desperate men
Of allegiance unknown
Fled from the field of honor they be
Fugitives of the Crown

They cried out “For your money we have stopped you here,
Give us all your gold!”
The honest man replied “I’ve naught but silver in my pouch,
And I sleep out in the cold!"

He sprang from the saddle and unsheathed his sword,
Saying "Come! Who e'er thou art!"
An arrow from behind, and the horseman fell
The bolt had pierced his heart

The varlets rushed forth to where the rider lay
To rob while his life ebbed out
In her anger and grief his steed reared up
To bring the shrieking cowards down

One knave crawled away, to walk again no more
The others paid in blood
Mighty blows of iron shod hooves did leave
Them broken and dying in the mud

His faithful mare went to her master then
With lowered head she stood
His last breath came slowly as he bid farewell
And she departed through the silent wood

Miles away in the shady grove
His true lover cried
In that same instant her own heart had gone cold
She knew he would never arrive

Ride, ride, ride
Your lover does await
And from her eye doth fall a tear
Long awaiting your arrival

Near Crystal Lakes where the tall trees grow
A mounted horseman rides

Ride, ride, ride
Your lover does await
And from her eye doth fall a tear
Long awaiting your arrival
Long awaiting your arrival


*               *               *

Instructor's grading comment:
Overall, a good piece of work, and shows a lot of time and effort put into it. I'll have to deduct a couple points due to your occasional slipping between Elizabethan or Shakespearean idiom and modern English, and I believe that a quatrain is a form of verse, so the correct term should have been "14 1/2 stanzas". Also your depiction of the action scene was a bit too detailed and could be considered blood-thirsty; on the other hand I'm pleased your telling of the protagonist's longing for his bride-to-be wasn't quite so lurid. Good work boys! A solid A-.
Note: Your titling this as a "Broadside Ballade" would imply a song form, and you might consider performing it for the class on an upcoming Free Form Friday session.

Me to Fred: "A-minus?! I think Old Man Warfield needs to wake up!”
Fred: “Hey Jim- we could toss a firecracker in his trash can on Free Form Friday!"
Me: “Let's do it!"
Narrator: This did not end well.

Poetry Week, Day 3, Free Verse: "Wondrous Things"


Wondrous Things

Late as usual, rushing through the square on an unsettled morning
There, ahead, an almost familiar face-
Perched on the edge of a park bench
A someone who could be me
But for wild hair, bent spectacles, undone buttons, mismatched socks
Staring about, or listening

I should stop, I'm thinking
Say hello, maybe talk awhile
Of whatever wondrous things this someone sees or hears:

About god -like rumbling threats from yet-unseen clouds
Tortured eyes staring from wooden fence boards
The baroque languages of dogs
Leering demon faces grinning up from puddles of rain
The unbearable shrieking pain of newly mown grass

A fantastic world easily entered, impossible to leave
I should not ask where the doorway is, and yet
I would

But not this morning, I must hurry on
For I also imagine
Many things to do, places I must go
And meetings
With important people

*               *               *

100 years ago and more, this would not have been considered poetry, since there are no rhymes, and a cadence only an insane person could sense. Until recently, when there were such things, organized poetry recitals and beat poet slams were occasions to hear or declaim thought worthy bits of free verse. Now we can only go around muttering stuff to ourselves while most are staring into their portable entertainment devices as they walk into oncoming traffic. So who actually are the crazy ones?

Poetry Week, Day 2, Haiku: "Sakura Haiku"

Storm at Lake Ashi

Sakura falling on snow

We bid sad farewell


Bright red umbrella

Down the lane past Temple Hill

Fading though snowfall

Brushed ink on paper

Cherry tree near my window

Sakura Haiku

                                                      *               *               *

No comment needed. Everyone's heard of Haiku. Oh, you haven't?- well...

Poetry Week, Day 1, Small Poem: "Randy and Rhonda"

Randy and Rhonda

Randy Biddle was hidden
His acquittal

Rhonda Smittle was smitten
By the spittle
On his mitten

And a little yellow kitten
Who told a riddle
Was bitten!

*               *               *

Most, but not all, poetry considered "small" or "little poems" are written for small or little people - that is, children. One definition is a poem of nine or less lines, and this one qualifies, although a bit too strange to be in a Little Golden Book.

In the '00s, my business was repairing rural folks' satellite TV systems, almost anywhere and everywhere throughout Oregon. In the same day, I had a pair of customers with rather poetically complimentary names: Randy Biddle and Rhonda Smittle. One of them lived in the wild woods near Elmira, and the other just off the scenic highway between Cottage Grove and Lake Dorena that runs alongside the now-defunct Skunk Line railroad which played a prominent role in two classic films, Buster Keaton's "The General", and Rob Reiner's "Stand By Me".

Besides trying not to run off the road while gawping at the scenery, or avoiding head on collisions with drivers high on legal psychotropic medication, there wasn't much to do between jobs besides drive while mentally writing odd bits of poetry and snatches of song lyrics or melody. A normal person would have listened to the radio and absorbed other people's hallucinations, whether in song or rant. I instead would make up my own.

*               *               *

It's been almost a year since there's been a new post on this blog, and it seemed like a good way to celebrate an entire year of inactivity by having an event. Especially since although spring hasn't yet sprung, at least here in western Oregon it's definitely springing. Also it's the final week of Time As We Know It, and in just a few days most of us in this otherwise fine country get to engage in our yearly mass societal delusional temporal displacement known as Daylight Savings Time.

So I'll hereby declare a blog-wide Poetry Week, with a daily posting of verse in various styles, starting with the bit of absurdism above. And then, being up to my ears in projects both household and personal, there probably won't be another post for another year.

Meanwhile In The Back Yard

On a chilly rainy morning, there was a brown squirrel resting and keeping dry in a homemade bird feeding box. It may have been sleeping with its eyes open - when I came out into the yard it took awhile to notice me taking its picture. Do squirrels even have eyelids, and if so, do they ever blink? The answers are: yes, and not very often.

While up on a ladder hanging some suet feeders for the birds, I sensed, in peripheral vision, something moving above me. Looking up, I almost fell off the ladder when I saw these hazy tendrils of floating mist coming fast from the south. Pretty amazing in a subtle way.

This is sort of an update to the post "First Signs of Approaching Spring". A couple weeks later, sure enough more flowers have come up and opened: grape hyacinth, daffodils, and the first tulip. Up until recently the only things green in the yard have been grasses, but now that's changed. Soon those first few iris shoots will be waist high all along the back fence, and already it's time to get the lawnmower and trimmer out before the grass takes over everything.

You know what they say: "Let sleeping doves lie". That's probably also true for doves that are only resting. This mourning dove feels secure enough under the new spring foliage of a blueberry bush to take an open-eyed siesta in the early morning sun.

A couple of weeks ago when most of the yard was still fallow, a red shouldered hawk came down amidst a flock of 18 doves foraging for seed, quickly snatched one up, and flew off, all within a couple of seconds. There were feathers everywhere, and doves haven't been back in quite those numbers since. We're glad to see two or three now, and hopefully more as the leaf cover habitat for them improves.

*Update on the squirrel in the bird box: Probably the same squirrel, taking a short nap out of the rain:

1977 Gibson Les Paul TV Special, Model 55-77

In an earlier post, I started a series on my limited bunch of guitars:

After doing a follow-up featuring an old Danelectro, other things came up and I sort of dropped the thread. Today it's bitter cold out and cloudy; sounds like a good day to pick up where we left off, and do a post about my 1977 Gibson Les Paul TV Special, which I bought brand shiny new in 1978.

We won't be focusing on Gibson Les Pauls in general, their construction and development, or mythology and arcane lore - that's all been done before, millions billions of words already written. This post is about one particular electric guitar, what I know about it, and a few of my impressions and experiences.

Let's start with a view of the back of the headstock:

That stamp tells us about this guitar: it's a Les Paul model 55-77, it was made in the U.S.A., and there's a production serial number which might or might not be useful in finding additional information. One question I get asked is whether it was made in Kalamazoo or Tennessee, and the answer is I don't really know. Experts have told me that, a) it's from one place, b) it's from the other, and c) there's no way of knowing. That's all I need to know; living with a minor mystery is in itself a fun thing.

I should apologize for masking the serial number in the above photo, but as Randy Newman says, "It's a jungle out there". A jungle full of con- artists, scammers, and online agents of bad actor governments, such as, for instance, russia.

Here's a frontal shot of the peghead:

Not much to see here, looks like many other Les Pauls. Note the pencil lead graphite in the 3rd string nut slot. Also, around the tuner shaft bushings are circular impressions left behind by the large washers which were part of the original tuning machines (see below for more info). And yes, the truss rod cover is upside down. Why? Idle hands, devil's playground, evil weed, 1980.

Another pic of the obverse of the headstock:

These are Gotoh open back tuners. They're kinda sorta copies of the world's greatest machines, the famed Waverly tuners. And since they're Japan made Gotohs, they are ultra fine and precision, easily the best tuners this guitar has had, and it's had a few.

In the beginning... the LP Special came with ugly and merely okay tuning machines: Gibson branded, possibly made by Schaller, with plain nickel backs and plated steel "tulip" Keystone knobs. Almost immediately one of the key posts got bent in action and they were replaced with a set of Gibson Schallers that looked a lot like vintage Kusons (with golden creamy colored plastic Keystones), except they were cast body tuners. Although I prefer vintagey style light weight pressed sheet metal machines, that set of cast Gibson/Schallers were good enough, and fit into the larger modern style holes. They lasted about two years of gigging until they wore out, and were replaced with another set of the same.

Since those first three sets, a few other tuners have been on the 55-77, either due to getting busted up at some of the wilder gigs it went to, or not making the grade quality wise: 4) old Grovers; old = pre-worn out = bad. By that time adapter bushings to retrofit vintage style machines into headstocks drilled for cast tuners became available. So next were: 5) New foreign-made Klusons, really pretty but sub-par quality. 6) Japanese Gotoh Kluson copies, very nice, but green tulip knobs = yuk. 7) Gotoh small white knob Kluson clones - take the pickguard off, and voila! instant Les Paul Junior. And finally, 8) these fine Gotoh open-gear beauties, keepers for sure.

Here's a shot of the original store sticker from Bobby's in Denver:

Very classy. Underneath that clear sticker, you can see a hint of what the finish originally looked like - a shade somewhat lighter than what the 55-77 aged into over the decades. If you look carefully, you can see the seam lines between each separate piece of mahogany.

It's hard to take a photo that accurately shows the neck, so I didn't. Basically here's a description in a few words: It's made of a three piece mahogany sandwich, with alternating grain, so it's really strong, no fear of the headstock getting sheared off like a lot of older Pauls do. This guitar has fallen from stands and slipped off amps it was leaned upon, bumped into mic stands and drum hardware during frenetic shows, and even dropped onto a couple stages when straps have broken - snapping off tuner knobs - and never had a cracked or distressed neck.

The neck profile is a bit different than most other guitars - it's wide and slim at the first couple frets, and gradually becomes really hefty by the 12th fret, over an inch thick there. Modern descriptors such as C or V or U just can't do justice to how it feels in your hand. If you play this Les for any amount of time, you'll always know where your fretting hand is, just by the differing thickness of wood under your thumb, coupled with varying fingerboard width as you get up the neck. The perfect "close your eyes while soloing" guitar.

A close up of the rosewood fretboard and some of the wide, low profile frets:

Note the slightly flattish tops of these frets: all due to my own particular habit of doing note bends and wiggly vibrato. Also, there's no gouges or trenches in the rosewood; I fret with enough pressure but don't do the "death grip" thing.

Stock and never been filed down or re-crowned, made of some indestructo material, they're the toughest frets I've ever seen, besides stainless, showing little wear although played a lot over the years. I've never really liked low frets, but that didn't stop me from playing the Special. Sure, I have a definite preference for a certain type of beer, but that doesn't prevent me from drinking and enjoying whatever brewski you hand me. All three of my electric guitars, the Parts-O-Caster, the '59 Danelectro, and this Gibson Special, feel very different in the hand, and have almost radically dissimilar tonal output. But hey, if all my friends were alike, life would be dull indeed; same with guitars.

A lovely body for sure:

Unlike the neck the body is only one piece of very solid and heavy mahogany, no seams anywhere.

As you can see, the control layout isn't like the usual Les Paul. Not too long after getting the Special I rewired for in/out of phase and series/parallel pickup selection, but that didn't last long. Like Jekyll and Hyde, my mad scientist brain enjoyed drawing circuit schematics and getting at it with a soldering iron, but my simple minded playing brain didn't like having to think at all. So the controls got dumbed down to where it's been ever since: single volume and tone, switch below the bridge - straightforward enough for the young Neanderthal rocker, and still okay with me.

The chicken-head knob (a vintage 1940s or '50s part, a gift from a friend) on the upper bout is attached to a pot with wires that go nowhere and do nothing. Looks cool though and fills in an empty hole. The cream colored pickup covers are a bit pinkish looking under certain lights, and I've been meaning to change them for decades. There's an un-plated solid nickel one in the parts bin, and next string change we'll see how it looks on the 55-77. The original black covers were replaced after messing up the bridge pickup cover during a late night experiment I'm not proud of - Dr Jekyll again. Don't ask.

As you can see, in bright sunlight the pickup covers aren't pinkish at all:

When one of the original black "speed" knobs fell off and got lost at a gig, I installed gold volume and tone knobs. One of those two split in half, and the ones on there now are almost new. The original aluminum strap buttons got changed to what the guy at the store in Nebraska in 1986 called "bass buttons" - nickel pegs larger than the usual ones - after the stock one at the tail end of the guitar broke off and disappeared. Packed away in a bag inside a bin, within a box on a shelf in the closet, there's a small collection of miscellaneous original parts; a strap button, three speed knobs and a couple of pots, two black pickup covers (one with holes in it), a corroded switch, switch plate and black knob...

The Thomas sticker, which used to be on the Strat, is a gift from our youngest kid. There used to be a Tigger sticker on the pickguard, put there by his older sister (yellow + black guitar = Tigger), but it literally got played to shreds. I'm looking for another one like it, something like this:

That's about it for mods.

Let's see - what else? That's the original bridge and tailpiece, recently cleaned and de-grunged; never had a reason to change those, they work fine and stood up to hard usage, only had to replace one saddle. Same with the pickups - what we used to call "Gibson single coil pickup", but are now known as P90. Very nice tone and texture, moderately high output, non microphonic. I've tried a few different tone capacitors through the years, but went back to the stock little green one. With a pleasing tone and smooth non- peaky rotational response, it's a good match for these pickups - even better than Bumblebees or Black Beauties, Brown Blobs, Orange Drops, or Blue Hot Dogs. People actually give capacitors pet names - weird, huh?.

Through its life, the 55-77 has usually had various brands of regular gauge 10, 13, 17, 26, 36, 46 nickel strings. For a couple years it had a custom set: 10, 12, 17, 28, 38, 48; and currently it's got the slightly heavier GHS Gilmours: 10.5, 13, 17, 30, 40, 50, with a bit higher action for both finger and slide stuff.

Here's some fun had with natural elements:

When it was new, this Paul just looked too nice and newish. And though I wasn't treating it gently, the heavy polymer finish didn't get broken in like the older guitars I had. So being the young idiot I was, I set about giving it some visual history. Took it to gigs, rehearsals and the studio without its case, just thrown into the back seat. One really cold 5 degree day in the Colorado Rockies, I forgot it was there and left it in the car overnight.

It wasn't exactly done on purpose, but the resultant finish cracking was like instant character:

You can see by the photos above that the finish is fairly thick, a typical 1970s sort of coating. If it was a more retro nitro, or even just plain paint like what's on my 1959 Danelectro, this guitar would be even more visually interesting. In the modern age, it's considered cool to take sandpaper to an instrument and artificially "age" it, but that's so obviously phony you wonder why anyone would do that.

There are a few nice real dings:

That's some thick and tough skin on there! Due to its heavy finish, most of the Paul is free of deep divots, not because I was being careful, which I wasn't. Tough skin, 3-piece neck, monolithic single piece body - this thing is built like a tank.

In my younger days I wore a heavy rose pattern, cast brass belt buckle that did some cool damage to the backs of other guitars, but not so much here. Just a few gouges that didn't faze the finish:

Here's a picture of the back of the Les Paul Special, in dim Oregon winter cloudy daylight:

Nice chocolate brown control covers, stock and original. Once I tried getting a matching brown pickguard made at a specialty shop in SoCal, but after a strange conversation with someone who appeared to be living on another astral plane, it didn't seem like a good idea. Especially when he suggested leaving the Paul at the shop overnight.

Ever since it was new, the Special has always felt great, played great, and sounded great, and it's still all that today. My first quality guitar, a 1947 Martin D18, had tall narrow frets and a chunky V shaped neck, and this Les Paul's wide flat fretwire and slimmer neck felt a bit odd at first. But that was immediately forgotten as soon as I plugged into a '50s Fender Deluxe and cranked it up - the tone was there, effortlessly perfect at any spot on the volume knob, with all the fidelity, grit, and sustain I could ask for.

In my (and the guitar's) gigging days I would often get offers to buy it, sometimes for ridiculously high amounts, but never once considered selling. Over the years, I've lost the Special three times, not knowing if I would ever see it again. Each incident is a long story in itself - one involves a somewhat evil guy, twice there were saints and a series of fortuitous and improbable events, and in the end it always came back. I suspect that means the 55-77 is mine for all time, and that's all right with me.

One last photo of my old friend, the 1977 Gibson Les Paul Special 55-77:

First Signs of Approaching Spring

It hasn't been a very good winter here in Oregon's Willamette Valley, unless you're one of the newly arrived from warmer and sunnier climates. There was a snowy couple of days in early January, and that was great, but overall there's been only a fraction of the usual amount of rain. The long multi decade drought cycle in the western United States continues, possibly to historic low levels of precipitation.

No matter what form our winters take, it's still always a welcome event when we see the first indications that spring is on its way. Over the last week and a half the temperatures dropped into the teens overnight, with highs not much above freezing, but the previous two days saw some warming, and today, although overcast, it got up to 60 degrees. Coincident with that, the first flowers in our yard popped up and opened out: spring crocuses, yellow and violet and white.

It won't be long now until tulips, daffodils, and grape hyacinths also show up to welcome the arrival of longer and warmer days. In the meantime, it's a cheery scene, to look out and see crocuses here and there, the first signs of spring.

Seen through open door -
First sign of approaching spring
One yellow crocus