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  • March 14, 2017

    Lyrics, Poetry and Prose IV

    A place to share some words of beauty, inspiration, and fun. This week we are sharing some of our favorite versions of well-known songs. Click on the name of the piece to get a video or more information. You have some favorites? Please share…

    Someday, I wish upon a star
    Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
    Where trouble melts like lemon drops
    High above the chimney top
    That’s where you’ll find me

    Over the Rainbow & What a Wonderful World Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

    Do you remember the night we met
    That’s the night I knew you were my pet
    I want to tell you how much I love you
    But I’m drowning in the sea of love

    Sea of Love Singer Tom Waits, Writers Philip Baptiste and George Khoury

    The many ways you speak of love, I’ve heard before, but it sounds so good every time
    Please say the part that I love just once more, darling I’m so glad that you’re mine
    Talk to me, talk to me, hold me close, whisper low
    Talk to me, can’t you see, darling, I … I love you so

    Talk to Me Singer Jimmy Burns, Writer Joe Seneca

     

     

  • March 6, 2017

    WALKING WITH GHOSTS: PART ONE

    The story begins in 1848, when William Bodey left his wife and family in Poughkeepsie, New York, and sailed to California on the sloop Matthew Vassar to join the gold rush. At least that’s what the facts seem to indicate, the keeping of detailed records at the time being somewhat less than perfect.

    BODIE HOTEL

    In July of 1859, Bodey and some of his associates discovered gold in a place that became known as Taylor Gulch apparently named after his associate, a half-Cherokee Indian named E.S. “Black” Taylor. But Bodey would have little time to enjoy his new-found wealth. In March of the following year, Bodey and his cabin-mate Black Taylor were returning home from Monoville with supplies, when they were caught in a blinding blizzard. Bodey collapsed. Taylor carried Bodey as far as he could, then wrapped him in a blanket, and continued on to their cabin.

    Although Taylor returned that night to get his friend, by the time he got back the snow had piled up over boulders and brush and Taylor was unable to discover exactly where Bodey lay. Bodey’s frozen body wasn’t found until May when the snow had melted. He was buried in a shallow grave in the frozen ground.

    Some 156 years later, we ended up in Bodie – the town in the hills of the Eastern Sierras that is named for William Bodey. The name of the town is spelled differently – apparently the result of a mistake by a sign painter. People liked the new spelling, so that’s what the name of the settlement became.

    Bodie today is a ghost town – in the real sense of the word – administered as a California State Park, which means you can visit, walk down the same dirt roads that the early pioneers used, and look in the windows of the remaining structures. You can even go into some of the buildings, although access is limited because of the weakened condition of the structures.

    There are no phony gun fights in the streets or other wild-west reenactments offered; there are no snack bars or souvenir shops. And if you arrive early in the spring, as we did, you can practically have the whole town to yourself.

    Just you and the ghosts of the people who once lived there.

    You may not believe in ghosts, but I do. I don’t mean ghosts like in the movies, floating around, causing trouble. But people leave their mark on their world, in the things they build, in the deeds they do. Those actions – their legacies both good and bad – are with us still, as our actions will be for the generations to come.

    Orville and Wilbur, Hitler and Stalin, Lincoln and Roosevelt, and the people of Bodie.

    As the pioneers of their day dug gold and silver out of the hills around Bodie, the new town prospered and grew – at one point to almost 10,000 people. There were miners, and store keepers, gunmen, gamblers, prostitutes, barkeeps and other characters of the Old West. There was a school for the children, two churches, regular stage service, and freight wagons bringing in supplies and carrying out gold ingots.

    In 1879 – 19 years after Bodey’s death – the townspeople found his body where it had been buried, dug it up, and brought his bones back to Bodie to give him a proper burial. The prominent people of Bodie even initiated a fund that would pay for a monument to mark Bodey’s grave. But when President James A. Garfield was assassinated 22 months later, that money was redirected to erect a monument to the fallen chief executive instead.

    By today’s standards, life in Bodie was both primitive and hard. Babies were born, people worked long days to put food on their tables and to build their town. They lived their lives and they died – sometimes violently. That was the case with Thomas Treloar and Joseph DeRoche, who clashed during a dance at the Miners’ Union Hall on January 15, 1881.

    DeRoche danced with Treloar’s wife, and Treloar objected. When Treloar and his wife left the dance to walk home, they were ambushed by DeRoche, who shot Treloar in the head and killed him. DeRoche was soon arrested and put in jail, but it wasn’t long before the 601 vigilante group showed up, took him from his cell and hanged him at the scene of his crime. The 601 name reportedly signified: six feet under, zero trial, one rope.

    DeRoche’s last words, according to reports, were “Oh God.” It was a little late for that.

    A more humorous quote that made headlines in the frontier papers of the time concerned a young girl, who according to a Truckee newspaper, ended her prayers with the words: “Goodbye, God. We’re going to Bodie.” The Bodie newspaper responded that the youngster had been misquoted. What she actually said was: “Good! By God, we’re going to Bodie.”

    The buildings of Bodie are now slowly coming down, ravaged by wind and age, propped up against the elements – in some cases by outside bracing. But if you walk the dirt streets slowly or find a place to quietly sit, it’s not that hard to conjure up the spirits of the hard-working men and women who used to call the town their home.

    Times change, but those folks back then, the ghosts of Bodie, were not that different than we are today. People trying to get ahead, to raise and support their families, and make the best of the world into which they were born.

    – George Lee Cunningham

    To get to Bodie, and commune with the spirits of its now-departed residents, take Highway 395 north past Lee Vining (or if you’re coming from Reno, south past Bridgeport) and turn east on State Road 270. The road is paved for 10 miles, then dirt for three. Bodie is a state park and there is a $7 entry fee for visitors 17 years and up; $6 for those 6-through 16; with children 5 and below admitted for free. Dogs are welcome, but they must be on a leash. Take your own water and food. Look all you want, but don’t take home souvenirs.

    For more information: http://www.bodie.com/

  • Lyrics, Poetry and Prose III

    A place to share some words of beauty, inspiration, and fun. WARNING: This week’s selections are not politically correct. They include cruelty to an alligator, hurtful slurs to native Americans, and a proud black man exploited by a white boss. Click on the name of the piece to get a video or more information. You have some favorites? Please share…

    We fired our cannon ’til the barrel melted down
    So we grabbed an alligator and we fought another round
    We filled his head with cannon balls ‘n’ powdered his behind
    And when we touched the powder off, the gator lost his mind

    Battle of New Orleans writer James Morris, singer Johnny Horton

    Please Mr. Custer, I don’t wanna go
    Listen Mr. Custer, please don’t make me go
    There’s a redskin waitin’ out there, just fixin to take my hair
    A coward I’ve been called, cuz I don’t wanna wind up dead or bald

    Please Mr. Custer Singer: Larry Verne, Composers: Fred Darian, Al DeLory, and Joseph Van Winkle

    John Henry said to the Captain
    Well a man ain’t nothing but a man
    And before I let a steam drill beat me down
    Going to die with a hammer in my hand, Lord, Lord
    Going to die with a hammer in my hand

    The Ballad of John Henry Richard Buckner, Melanie Clarin, Alex Liu, Stephanie Rogan

     

  • Once Again the End is Near

    THE ARMAGEDDON BLUES

    Put your affairs in order, for the end of the world is coming soon. I know that it’s easy to be skeptical about such things, since there have been folks throughout the centuries who have predicted that the end was near and warned everybody to get ready for it. And each time, the world kept imperfectly toddling right along as it had been doing before their dire warnings.

    For instance, you may remember evangelist Hal Lindsey, author of the 1970 book, The Late Great Planet Earth, in which he predicted the end of the world. He didn’t have an exact date, but he suggested it might be sometime in the late 1980s. Well the 1980s have come and gone, but Lindsey’s still around, still predicting that the end is near.

    In 2008, he suggested that then-newly elected President Barack Obama was nothing less than an advance man for the Antichrist. Lindsey is now 86 years old and still going strong, but after all these years, the world has moved on. And I have to wonder, if President Barack Obama was the advance man for the anti-Christ, what does that make President Donald Trump?

    I keep thinking those two guys hated each other, but then again maybe that’s just part of the plan. Or just maybe, Mr. Lindsey really doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    I got my information, on the other hand, from a serious, if shabbily dressed, middle-aged man in the parking lot at Walmart, who thrust a paper in my hand and told me it was something that I needed to read.

    It was a flyer, printed on both sides, full of arrows and biblical verse warning about the “7-YEAR TRIBULATION,” the coming of the Antichrist, and Armageddon.

    I tried to read it. I really did, but some of the handwritten letters were really big and some were really small and with the arrows pointing from one phrase to another and sometimes back again, it was very difficult to figure what went with what.

    Let me be clear, I like Christians. I also like Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and even the much maligned Muslims. But the end of the world? HOLY MACKEREL!

    I had hoped to be long gone before the Antichrist arrived. On the other hand, if it’s right around the corner – or maybe even in the oval office – it would certainly be something that would be a shame to miss.

    – George Lee Cunningham

    Are you worried about the end of the world? Let me know at george@georgeleecunningham.com. For more information on the end of the world, go to www.endtime.com

  • February 27, 2017

    Lessons from The School of Knocking Hard…

    Lessons from The School of Knocking Hard…
    WHAT THE HELL!

    I’m old – 76 years and counting. This comes as a shock to me sometimes, because I tend to forget. Then I will catch my reflection in a store window as I walk by and it comes as a total surprise – every single time. What the hell, I think to myself. How in hell did this happen?

    And the answer, of course, is one day at a time – so slow you tend not to notice. You’re too busy living life to worry about the creeping little aches and pains that get a bit bigger with each passing year. Then one day, walking past the store window, it all catches up with you.

    What the hell!

    You look back at your life and you think – wow, that went quicker than I thought. And then you look forward to that day when it’s time to shuffle off the mortal coil, hand-in-hand with your contemporaries, and it seems like just a short little jog. It’s not that I’m afraid. I’m not. I’m just a little disappointed. It all went by a lot faster than I thought.

    And that brings me to my first piece of advice for all my young friends. An entire lifetime may seem like a long time now, but it goes by so fast it will take your breath away. You only have a few years on the planet, so make them count.

    My second piece of advice is don’t let them put you in a box. Who are “them?” Your parents, your teachers, your young naive friends, preachers, politicians, singers, actors, or other entertainers. This is as much a warning as a piece of advice. I hit all the potholes in life, I’ve done most of the things I’m warning you not to do. Love your parents, your grandparents, your uncles and aunts, but use their experiences as lessons not only in what to do with your life but also in what not to do.

    My third piece of advice is don’t waste too much time in school. If you want to be a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, or a researcher, you will obviously need formal training, but those disciplines are trades – skills you acquire to make a living. Math and the physical sciences are aimed at understanding the world, they’re not the same things as arguing legalities or designing a better airplane. Don’t get me wrong. I’m very much for education. We can’t make proper decisions unless we understand history and the world around us, but education is a personal choice and it doesn’t happen just in college. Be curious about life. If you want to understand how the world works, you will do so. The only question is whether you go into years of debt to learn it at college from professors –   most of whom have spent most of their lives in school, either learning stuff or teaching it to others.

    My fourth piece of advice is don’t take experts too seriously. Experts are mostly just people trained to spout the common wisdom, which sometimes is right, but often is not. Use common sense. Think for yourself. As you get older, you will look back and see how seriously flawed expert advice has been.

    My fifth piece of advice is have fun. Enjoy yourself. You are not guaranteed 70 plus years. People around me have died, stretching as far back as elementary school. Some of the young people I currently know may well die before me. That really sucks, but let’s face it, life’s not fair. Don’t be planning so much for the future that you forget to enjoy the present.

    And my very last piece of advice is to take everything I just advised with a grain of salt. You’re not me and I’m not you. Consider what I have to say if you like, but in the end make up your own mind and make your own mistakes. Be your own person – not who anybody else, including me, thinks you should be. It’s your life, live it, which is exactly what I am doing with mine.

    Meanwhile, I’m still learning from my old mistakes and moving on – hopefully a little smarter. I will make brand new mistakes, I’m sure, but not the old ones. My plan is to be around as long as possible, having fun and enjoying life.

    Wish me well in that endeavor, and I will do the same for you.

    — Your pal, George Lee Cunningham

    Do you have a dissenting opinion or any opinion at all on the subject? Contact me at george@georgeleecunningham.com and let me know. Meanwhile, you can always subscribe and get an email reminder of blog postings. Your name will not be shared and you may cancel at any time.