Our newest project at the farm is a dock for the pond in our back yard. It was launched last week, a magnificent 8′ cedar square atop four pink plastic barrels. The barrels formerly contained cow teat wash at a dairy ranch.
While our friend Lee was in a kayak positioning the float, I noticed a leech attached to one of the barrels. It was easy to spot, being shiny black on pastel. The next day I saw another one on the office floor. It likely hitched a ride into the house on our dog Slinkee, who had to do a lot of swimming to supervise our construction.
It seemed docile and compliant when I slipped some paper under it. But, as every zookeeper knows, I shouldn’t have let my guard down. He/she (let’s call it “Pat”) semi-suddenly uncoiled and lunged at me.
Imagine my quasi-panic as I slowly backed away, trying to maintain eye contact. I’m not sure if leeches even have eyes, so I focused on Pat’s top four fused segments, which contain the mouth and the first of 32 brains.
It’s the mouth I really had to worry about anyway. If Pat had bitten me, he/she could have really clamped down. Three blades slice a “Y”-shaped incision into which an anesthetic and an anticoagulant are secreted. Pat could have then lunched at her/his leisure.
I can’t overstate the stickability of leeches. Remember that Pat or a family member was crawling vertically on wet plastic in the pond. I held Pat over the toilet stool waiting for her/him to unstick.
It took awhile.
After plenty of prompting, Pat took the porcelain plunge. I bid her/him a bon voyage with the most appropriate thing I could think of: “So long, sucker!”
I’ve posted before that being a baseball fan is a humbling experience. The Seattle Mariners won 116 games in the 2001 season, a record for the current 162-game format. So even with that unprecedented success, folks in the Puget Sound area had to agonize over 46 losses.
I’m in baseball agony now (not to be confused with smashing-my-thumb-with-a-hammer-agony or listening-to-Glenn-Beck agony). My beloved San Francisco Giants have lost 12 of their last 14 games. They’re stinking up the league, in all aspects of the game.
Their vaunted pitching staff is unraveling. Ace Matt Cain, who threw a perfect game last year and went on to a 16 – 5 record, has already lost five games midway through the campaign. His earned run average has swollen from 2.79 last year to 4.85 now.
Barry Zito had a solid season last year, but has reverted to his losing ways. Former ace Tim Lincecum continues his tailspin. Ryan Vogelsong, another stalwart from 2012, is out with an injury. Sergio Romo, so effective a year ago, has an ERA of 3.03, which is terrible for a closer.
The defense sucks, as well. In their latest loss yesterday, Buster Posey’s error kept a Dodger rally going in the ninth. The Giants’ fielding percentage is one of the worst in the majors.
And don’t get me started about the offense.
Too late. Starters Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence and Brandon Crawford are in lengthy slumps. Posey and Marco Scutaro are both hitting .310, but nobody is getting the clutch hit. During this recent bad patch, the boys on the bay scored just one run in five of the losses and two in four others. Homer Bailey of Cincinnati shut them out with a no-hitter.
I know they’ll get better. They’re usually very good after the All-Star Game break. And they’re not that far out of first place. But the Diamondbacks are starting to assert themselves and the Dodgers are finally getting some pay-off from their massive payroll. It’s going to be an interesting second half.
In 1964 I started college so wet behind the ears that I could have irrigated the nearby cotton fields with my head. Another freshman, street-wise Jim, volunteered to help me with my off-campus education. Most of the classes were held at Mom’s Pool Hall and the Trianon Lounge.
That started a friendship that bounced from Monroe, Louisiana, to New Orleans to Southern California to Vietnam and back to the world. We worked as editors on the college newspaper, then as reporters on the Monroe daily.
One night after extensive tutoring at the Trianon, we decided to hit the road in pursuit of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. En route, we staggered to the middle of a bridge in the middle of the night. Realizing that the moment called for dramatic symbolism, Jim threw his wedding ring into the Ouachita River. I threw my dorm key.
Further realizing that we needed some sleep and sobering up before we actually drove off into the sunset, Jim went home and I went back to my dorm, waking up my roommate to let me in. Fighting off gargantuan hangovers the next day, we acknowledged that perhaps we hadn’t really thought things out.
When I joined the Marines in ’66, Jim joined a few months later. For my 22nd birthday, I rode shotgun on a truck convoy just below North Vietnam so I could have a beer with him. The Viet Cong honoured me that night with a mortar and rocket attack. It was the most terrifying time of my life, but Jim got me through it.
About a year later, Jim shepherded me through another seminal event in my life, my first acid trip. He had gone AWOL and I was a week away from being released from active duty. We met up in Atlanta with another jarhead friend who had just gotten out. He took us to a party in the large hippie community.
A seasoned psychonaut, Jim told me what to expect and guided me through it. When I was well into my voyage and its infinite possibilities, I thought “so this is what it’s all about”. I looked at Jim, who was sitting across the room. He smiled and nodded. It was fucking freaky.
Contact between us tapered off after that. In 1994, I was in Shreveport, Louisiana, for my high school reunion when I learned that Jim was back in nearby Monroe. I drove over to see him and his wonderful wife Dora. He’d had a rough readjustment to civilian life and wasn’t in good health.
Ten or so years later, he got a liver transplant. He was within a few hours of dying when a donor was found. I don’t have any details yet, but I believe that his gift organ gave out. About six months ago, doctors told him he had just a few months left. With each call after that, I could tell he was letting go.
During one of them, he said that he wasn’t following LSU football or the New Orleans Saints anymore. That is unheard of in any Louisiana male two years or older.
He died last Thursday. Dora called and left a message in that unmistakeable timbre of voice. I dropped the phone and sobbed.
Jim was not a model citizen. He could even be a genuine SOB at times. But I felt his pain and knew where it came from. He was the dearest of friends. If there is an afterlife, I’d wager he’s there sipping a brew at the ethereal version of the Trianon.
I had a rewarding, productive day Wednesday. I went into Campbell River to help Jude find and deliver some furniture for a client, then ran a passel of errands before coming home to do yard work. After supper, I settled into the sofa for the first game of the Stanley Cup finals. Jude went out to work in the garden.
As the boys pummeled each other in the brutal ballet that is hockey, I heard Jude yelling at Slinkee in a voice that could only mean our dog had killed another chicken. The luckless fowl had escaped the confines of the garden into the rest of the farm, where Slinkee is queen.
Because Her Nibs had eaten some of the hen before Jude intervened, we couldn’t tell which of the girls it was. Slinkee had started with the legs — not the KFC-type legs, the actual leathery-like spindles with claws, including the plastic leg band.
After tempers cooled, Jude went to check the survivors. It was Garbo that Slinkee nailed. Named after the ethereal, reclusive movie star for her blond head feathers and shyness, she had become our favourite. She was the smartest of the flock, the first to realize that humans in the garden usually meant upturned soil and bountiful worms.
Her intelligence was her undoing, alas. She kept finding ways to get through the netting of the fence. Many times I found her outside the perimeter. This time Slinkee did first.
Jude and I consoled each other and I vowed to check the fencing yet again for breaches. We distracted ourselves the rest of the evening with the hockey game, a first-rate first effort for the Bruins and Blackhawks. Since we’re Vancouver Canucks fans, we don’t have a particular pick to win. Given our problems with bears and raptors, we may stay neutral.
Wavy Gravy, like Chip Monck (see below), was another behind-the-scenes person at Woodstock who had quite an effect on the festival. He was born in 1936 as Hugh Nanton Romney. As a child, he took walks with Albert Einstein. After 22 months in the Army, Romney used his G.I. Bill to attend theatre classes at Boston University, then moved to New York City.
He shared an apartment in Greenwich Village with singer Tom Paxton. He made friends with fellow newcomer Bob Dylan. Through Dylan, Romney met his future wife Bonnie Beecher. She knew Dylan from his Minnesota days, and is possibly the inspiration for his song “The Girl from the North Country”. They’ve been married since 1965 and have one son Jordan, who was born Howdy Do-Good Gravy Tomahawk Truckstop Romney.
Hugh started performing and caught the eye of legendary Lenny Bruce, who became his manager. Bruce moved him to L.A. in 1962, where Romney once opened for Thelonius Monk. He eventually took a job at Columbia Pictures, teaching improv skills. Bonnie landed parts in The Twilight Zone, Peyton Place, The Fugitive, The Invaders, Gunsmoke and Star Trek.
When Merry Prankster Ken Babbs stole the Pranksters’ bus “Further” and fled to Mexico, many members of the stranded group stayed with Romney, causing him to be evicted. He moved to a hog farm. The Pranksters and a lot of others followed him. Romney said that was the start of “a bizarre communal experiment” where the people began to outnumber the pigs.
By 1966, the bizarre experiment had slouched toward a collective called, oddly, the Hog Farm, and was doing light shows for acts like Jimi Hendrix, Cream and the Grateful Dead. Romney became the official clown of the Dead. The next year, the group started touring the U.S. in school buses purchased with money some members had made as extras in a movie. In 1969, the Farm was asked to help with crowd control at Woodstock. Romney named the effort the “Please Force”, as in “please don’t do that, do this instead”.
When asked by reporters how he planned to maintain calm, he jokingly replied “with cream pies and seltzer bottles”. The Farm also helped feed the multitude. Romney is shown in Woodstock announcing “what we have in mind is breakfast in bed for 400,000″.
A few weeks later at the Texas International Pop Festival, he was lying onstage when B.B. King was announced. As Romney started to get out of the way, King put his hand on his shoulder and asked him if he was wavy gravy. He said “yes” and King said “it’s OK, I can work around you”. Romney regarded this as a mystical happening, and legally changed his name to Wavy Gravy. He says the moniker has “worked pretty well through my life, except with telephone operators — I have to say ‘Gravy, first initial W’”.
He’s still squirting seltzer at age 77. He’s on the board of directors of the Seva Foundation, a non-profit world health group he co-founded that has helped restore eyesight for 3 million people. He and his wife started and run Camp Winnarainbow, a circus and performing arts camp, on a northern Californian farm it shares with the Hog Farm. For awhile, camp scholarships for underprivileged kids were paid for by sales of Ben and Jerry’s “Wavy Gravy” flavour. The carton had a tie-dyed motif. Wavy is known for his love of all things tie-dyed, including a set of his false teeth.
Seeing Chip Monck in the clip from
Woodstock I had in my last post reminded me of the fundamental role he played at the festival. Please meet him.
Edward Herbert Beresford Monck was born in 1939. While attending boarding school on athletic scholarships, he started dabbling with machinery. He designed a potato picker that International Harvester bought.
In 1959 Monck started working for the Village Gate in New York City, lighting music and comedy acts. He lived in the basement under the club. One of the performers, some guy name of Bob Dylan, wrote “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” on Monck’s typewriter.
He landed other jobs lighting the Apollo Theater in Harlem and the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals in Rhode Island. He lit the Monterrey Pop Festival in 1967, which was then lit up by acts such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and the Who. Concertmeister Bill Graham recruited Monck to help him renovate the Fillmore East and West venues.
When Monck was hired for Woodstock, he was paid $7000 for ten weeks work. Much of his original plan had to be dumped when town officials of Wallkill, New York, reversed a decision to lease an industrial park for the festival. The truncated schedule caused by relocation did not allow him time to build an adequate stage roof. The lighting rented for it stayed under the stage floor.
Monck was hired as master of ceremonies at the last moment when promoter Mike Lang realized that no one had taken care of that particular detail.
Four months later, Monck helped plan the infamous Altamont Free Concert for the Rolling Stones in the Bay Area. With 100% hindsight, most anyone would agree that hiring Hell’s Angels for security was not prudent. A concertgoer was stabbed to death by an Angel as he rushed the stage.
Monck himself was the victim of violence. He confronted an Angel stealing a carpet from the Stones stage set and lost some teeth to a pool cue. Chip tracked down his attacker and traded a case of brandy for the carpet.
He went on to briefly host a rock and roll talk show, and to help out with the Muhammad Ali – George Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle” match and accompanying music festival in Zaire.
Today Monck lives near Melbourne, where he’s Director of Production on the “One Great Night on Earth” music festival, which will raise funds for victims of Australia’s various natural disasters. He hopes to present a high-tech version of Woodstock with “a classic rock feel”.
It seems like the world has been extra busy of late, but please let’s pause a moment for the loss of Richie Havens last month. Havens rose from organizing street-corner doo wop groups in Brooklyn to international fame after he electrified the crowd with an acoustic set at Woodstock. He toured from then until last year, when health problems forced him to pack it in. He died at home from a heart attack.
He was the opening act at the storied music festival, setting the tone that helped 400,000 or so folks endure rain, food shortages and severe sanitation problems. Stomping out the beat in scuffed leather sandals, Havens did a nine-song set that ran longer than planned because some of the other acts were stuck in traffic. And he was called back for encores.
Here is “Handsome Johnny” — a stirring look at human violence — from the film Woodstock, prefaced with a warning from Chip Monck about the brown acid.
As his popularity burgeoned, Havens started a record company and promptly rewarded us with an exuberant cover of the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun“. He co-founded the Northwind Undersea Institute, an oceanographic museum for children. It spawned the Natural Guard, a group to educate and activate kids about the environment. He performed at numerous benefit concerts.
He made commercials and promos for TV, and acted in films and on stage, once playing Othello. Last year’s blockbuster Django Unchained featured his famous “Freedom“, a song he improvised at Woodstock when he was stretching his set.
Thank you, Richie, for reminding us of the circularity of life.