Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dark shadow on Boston Celtics lifts

There was no Seventh and Deciding Game tonight. The Celtics pulverized the Lakers Tuesday, 131-92, and won the NBA championship for the first time since 1986. During that 22-year drought, the Lakers won five championships. L.A. Coach Phil Jackson now remains tied with the late Celtics Coach Red Auerbach for most championships. Both have nine.

Both bad and good, Auerbach is a god around here. Like God, he had his good and bad days. The idea of tofu-munching Jackson surpassing cigar-smoking Red on the Celtics watch would have been hard for the city’s psyche.

One might ask: Did the Celtics pour it on? The Boston fan’s answer: No. The Celts themselves, their fans recall, had come back from a 24-point deficit [a record] just two games ago. If they were to ease up, well that would mean easing up. And opening the door.

Better to nail the door shut, especially since this door holds back not only L.A., but also some very shadowy figures, akin to curses, that followed the team.

During the 22 year lull – a generation; two years more than my son’s whole life! – two very strange deaths occurred that struck straight at Auerbach’’s best-laid plans to keep the team’s historic success going. The strange deaths of Reggie Lewis and Len Bias left us with the feel of a curse – not on par with the Red Sox’s long standing Curse of the Bambino, but a troubling curse nonetheless palpable to a local.

Certainly teams have gone longer without championships – the Bucks, the Warriors, the Bullets - err Wizards – and many others. But it was disappointing and strange for basically the all time great sport’s franchise.

When I got to Boston in 1974 the Celtics were akin to the Yankees. I hated them. Hated their bitter gangster-tied Coach Heinsohn and the red-headed white fouling glompf Dave Cowens. I cheered quietly to myself [being a stranger myself in town] in B.U.’s George Sherman’s Union as the Bucks of Larry Costello and Kareem Abdul Jabbar played them tough.

Jabbar’s arrival in Milwaukee in 1970 was the greatest thing to happen there. Especially after he won a championship with Oscar Robertson handling the ball. His leaving for L.A. after the Boston series was the opening I needed to become a Celt’s fan. Hey, that Cowens sure goes for those loose balls! When Auerbach maneuvered to obtain Larry Byrd, Robert Parish, Nate Archibald, Dennis Johnson and Kevin McHale – not too mention brief stints of Pete Marivich, Ernie DeGregerio, Marvin Barnes and Bill Walton. Well that was real fun. “Red was a master.” The 1980s finals against L.A - we lost most of - were superior sport. Titanic.

Still remember vividly flying in from NCC in Las Vegas, in the cab, 1987 (June 19, 21 years ago today). They are discussing Bias’ death from cocaine. I was flummoxed. The cab driver explained what happened. Black cloud descended. Bird was recovering more slowly from injuries. The Lakers beat us the year before.Aerbach had done something, but there was a post draft party of some kind, death came knocking, and it was for naught.

Reggie Lewis heart studies running up to his fatal heart attack happened within blocks of my home. My doctor neighbor, a guy that was totally insightful and honest, said Reggie no way could have gotten a better doctor. Jake and Cecelia went to his funeral at Symphony Hall – I covered MacWorld. It was tearful. Today, the Reggie Lewis Athletic Arena is in our neighborhood. All being my way of saying this was all close. And it hung over us as the once-vaunted [do you hear me Cosell?] team repeatedly failed to field a top notch competitor. Paul Pierce and everyone else who joined the team afterward walked in to this imbroglio.

A cool part of this whole thing is in Florida I got to see the old 80s games with the Lakers on ESPN Classic. I did not recall any of these guys missing a free throw or launching an errant pass. It happened! Memory simplifies, codifies, gets set on a fair approximation. Especially, Kareem was a real defensive player by then – he pretty much neutralized Robert Parrish who the fans called the Chief. Michael. Cooper could stop Bird for big parts of time. My general Dennis Johnson was getting old, and could miscue. But boy, everyone could dribble, and find the outlet man, and shot accurately. The Celts were so far ahead in Tuesday’s game..they were able come out at the 4 minute mark - Allen, Garnett, and Pierce at one time, to take bows. One of them said: “We come out of that shadow.” Marquette alum Doc Rivers, who was nice enough to say ‘hi’ when our eyes met in a subway tunnel a year ago [a real down time] is my coach of the year. Today: A parade.

A year ago people were praying for them to lose, so as to get the top draft pick in the nation. We turned out to lose that lottery. I called up talk radio host Eddie Andelman and said I was tired of the youth movement. The drive for athletes rather than basketball players. Remember how Red would bring these experienced players in, to make a good team? I asked, Eddie poo-pooed. Hey, Eddie! I was right!

This is a peak of some kind for a town and sports. I have no expectation of the Bruins regaining their 70s style. But to have the Red Sox, Patriots and now Celts win one or multiple championships in a five-year period is pretty extraordinary. Something they don’t know about in Kansas City, anyway. One of the good parts of being here.

* * *

Indelible Cityscape
Walking up the Mission Hill
Past the summer porches
During the 4th quarter
Each TV tuned to the Game 4
Cheers coming out loud
I know we are coming back
See Tall Preston and ask the score
The Celts just moved two points ahead.
-Jack Vaughan, Jun 2008

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Kerouac’s Home in Orlando Working


Writes to William S. Burroughs, February, 1958 …. “…writing every night by candlelight, with windows open to moony yards & trees of Muckland Central Florida in Febiary…..”

Little known but Kerouack had a home in Orlando.
On hard ground under a dome of cypress trees
After On the Road. Before the Deluge. About the time He’d hit some money.

Of late the historically & literary minded people in the area bought the home to create a writers retreat. In homage to Jack. It’s a regular neighborhood. A simple street. I got up there this year and got by at the end of day.

Back then. Seemed like the next place for him. But definitely UnKerouacian. The place is northwest of downtown Orlando & far from today’s DisneyWorld & Universal Studios.

The screen door opens & the bebop negros are singing
The blues & jazz & Jack half winking is thinking golden eternity.

It wasn’t happy - The time in Orlando - So far from Lowell.
The grinding cicadas. Looking at the Falstaff - & working at the Underwood.
Taking long buses to New York with a bag of White Castle burgers.

The moss - Hanging glom-like from the trees - Enough for Poe
To ponder – Did it Put Jack upon his knees? Grey in day & night the southern moss at which the Canuck poesy champion looks.

For Jack - Foot up on an orange crate. Mamere calling to check his progress - and
the bleeding heart of Buddha was calling collect.

But then the screen door opens & the bebop negros are singing
The blues & jazz & Jack half winking is thinking golden eternity.

No more On The road. That teletypic experiment event.
Now ducking & now diving. Now In a stream of whiskey. But things Might Work Out.

In the Publisher’s Advance cottage
Writing every night by candlelight
The bungalow & things go south.

It wasn’t happy the place Today We pray
Imaging the Skeeters on the porch
At the end of the road eventually for this whole train holy mother of God.

Snapping mental pictures In haiku notebooks
Of the folks at the bus stn At the grocer cutting the ham.
Jack looking into dharma but mindful restless & weary was packing a steamer trunk of black

He lived with his mother around the corner from sister nin. Makes sense, n’cest pas?

It might have been Swamp gas On lake Adair But he still could wink
And see the secret god grin. Could See the way, awakened, sentient, God-headed, justified, happy.

& then the screen door opens & the bebop negros are singing
The blues & jazz & Jack half winking is thinking golden eternity.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Greatest Rhythm Guitar Player Bo Diddley died Monday


Bo Diddley died Monday. There are probably some competitive flamenco cats that I am not aware of - but I would rate him greatest rhythm guitar player of all time. The guitar as percussive motivator in his hands was total banshee force, but full of invention. He also had a lyrical approach that was in its turn incredibly rhythmic and original and also humorous.

Mona, Who Do You Love, You Cant Judge a Book, Road Runner .. so many numbers that were part of my best days. He created a foundational style of rocknroll and he did so by reinventing the instrument called the guitar.

Who would say he did not have his hand on the pulse of his time as much as the Nasa astronauts or the Beats?

Say Man, Mumbles, Ride on Josephine, Cadillac, Cops and Robbers. His super session with Muddy Waters and Little Walter. An all instrumental Checker record of his I used to have. Certainly unique. Some good articles have traced his tremendous influence. Let me add a few: The Doors doing Who Do you Love; the Cryan Shames doing Cadillac; The Shadows of Knight doing You Cant Tell a Book; the complete oo-vra of the the QuickSilver Messenger Service. Eerie the Garage that was Bo!

Bur greatest of all: His influence on the Velvet Underground, the kings of the garage. I know that Sterling Morrison mentioned him as an influence. But no question that Lou Reed too, picked up on his modus.

Bo Diddley was early [1955] to adopt an effect box enhancement to his basic beat often heavy Open E guitar playing. This box was the DeArmond 60 Tremolo Control. Like Les Paul and others he worked dutifully to explored the circuitry of the electronic music domain and found what worked for him.

He applied the tremolo to the Bo Diddley Beat [his shave-and-a-haircut clave beat] and it sort of moved it up a notch. Added echo. Lawrence Welk and a generation of Hawaiian guitar players – not to mention slide players like Elmore James – have applied the tremblin tremolo echo to great effect. Bo applied it wondrous Diddley Bo waves.

We caught Bo Diddley for the fist time at Milwaukee SummerFest on Dick Clark’s 1972 Let the Good Time Roll tour with no less than the Coaster, the Drifters, Little Richard and Chuck Berry sharing the bill. It was a raised stage, about 20 feet fronted by a ditch and a chain link fence and he was talking between sets and singing autographs from his side of the fence. I was into conspiracy in those days. And when he mentioned being hounded by the police for a tryst he’d had: I asked if he thought, given the time Chuck Berry spent in Leavenworth, if the Government was not specifically intent on shutting down rocknroll by any means available. What a dolt was eye.

He looked at me skeptically. Then said. ‘Well I don’t know but where was her mother when she was on the street at 2 am the night before?’ Practical was Bo! His tryst klatch was a conniving mother’s blackmailish trap. I buy that. By this time, yunderstand, Bo had moved to New Mexico and become a Deputy Sheriff, the badge, you can be sure, coming in handy when his Cadillacs were perniciously pulled over.

Last time I saw him – Harpers Ferry, Boston, the late 90s - and his hard earned suspicion was on display as he repeatedly claimed to be the one father of rap. He could still churn the beat and let if fly for long spells, and even still take the time and sit down with the mortified pick up drummer and explain the beat in front of all.

His son said he was working on a gospel record when he died down in Florida. Funny, so was Slim! Ever on a gospel record that wasn’t to be. The great bluesmen’s music contains the chords of the church.. but it can be hard for them to extract that strain and show it full. Bo had played violin, taught by the Ebenezer Baptists in Chicago for 5 long years; so it was in him. Too, he was always in the same land as the Florida Spiritualist Slide players. Celestial Harmonics, while you wait. The gospel record want to be but it was out there.. it was in the music .. in the Bo Diddley mix, wasn’t it?

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