3 a.m. and a Jazz Joint Jive

The Fitzgeralds attend a formal event, circa 1935.

Good morning all you bright eyed people.  I can’t match your pep today.  Not close.  I’ve been awake since 2:30 -in -the -morning.  Ugh.  I had a lot on my mind. There was the  good– an upcoming trip to Scotland.  There was the bad–  some worries over people I love, some anxiety  about the 101 things I need to check off my to do list by . . .well, yesterday. And there was the odd– namely, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.  They came calling around 3 a.m., in just the way you might expect them to, as if they were still staying in The Plaza in New York, waking the other guests with drinking and dancing at all hours, not to mention frolicking in the fountain fully clothed. (I’ve never understood why their contemporaries took offense at the fully clothed part– seems to me that this part of the equation was their best nod to courtesy and decorum. Am I wrong?)

Obviously, they didn’t actually burst into my room and party the night away.  They were, however, very loud inside my head.  They kicked about and chatted away and both charmed me and bothered me in the unsettling way that senselessly tragic stories bother me.

If you’re asking yourself why the Fitzgeralds would descend upon my sleep-adled brain and refuse to budge for hours on end,  you’d have to ask them.  I will cop to having more  than a passing fascination with them, but less than an obsession.  They’re a puzzle to me–a tangled mess of talent and tragedy, of what might have been and what was.

They’ve always been stowed in my pocket– fellow travelers,  entertaining raconteurs, rather rude house guests (as they proved last night). Every now and again I take them out and have a gnaw at them.  Lately, they’ve been emboldened though.  I suspect this is because I pass by their gravestones frequently*, and when I pass I often think of them.   I never stop to visit.  I always think that I should.  I plan to do it some day.  Maybe next week, I tell myself.  Or when the weather is nicer.  But I never do.  So, guess what?  They’ve come to me.  That’s one way to do it, I suppose.

I’m a little worried that they’ll start showing up frequently.  I think an excorcism is in order, by way of a visit to their graves– flowers in hand and apologies for having been a stranger so long.  I do have a couple of hours free tomorrow morning, and if the sun shines bright and the chill breaks . . . maybe I’ll pay that visit and report back to you.

*Where are they buried?  In Rockville, MD, as unlikely as that may seem.  Scott grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota and came East; Zelda was from Montgomery, Alabama.    Scott had a long family history in Maryland, though, and when he passed away at the age of 44, from a heart attack and years of alcoholism, he was brought to Maryland to be buried next to his father.  Unfortunately, the priest at St. Mary’s Church refused to allow Scott a burial there, as he was not a practicing Catholic.  He was buried in a nearby protestant churchyard, by a minister who had never heard of him, in a service attended by only 20 or 25 people.  “Show me a hero, and I’ll write you a tragedy,” he once wrote.  He knew the story arc well.  But years later, and after her mother had also passed in a tragic and early death by fire, their daughter petitioned St. Mary’s to allow her parents to be moved to the family plot there.  This time, it was allowed.

It’s a happier resting place than what went before, but still an odd fit.  St. Mary’s is an old church, but the church grounds now sit on the edge of a monstrous intersection that is a main thoroughfare for morning commuter traffic into Washington, DC.   It’s tucked between apartments, shopping strips, and a large Metro station.

I say it’s an odd fit, but, you know, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to look up one day, as I motor by, and see the eyes of Doctor T J Eckleburg looking down on me from a billboard above that very spot.  Nobody escapes the judgement of those eyes.  Not fleeing from a jazz joint, not laid to rest by the roadside in Rockville, and certainly not on a daily commute to and from our nation’s capital.

gatsby poster eyes

 

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The Sound of Silence

This morning, I was tinkering with a partially written (but long ignored) post from a trip to Nashville  in 2017– wondering if it was worth reviving, completing, and posting.  Somewhere into this thought process, somewhere toward the bottom of a cup of coffee, as I was figuratively walking away from that post– leaving it once again in blog-post-purgatory– the universe began pelting me with spitballs, each one hitting me with a ping that whispered “Nashville.”  So, yes, that post will pop up some day.  But first, I bring you a little info of note– the spitball that hit me right in the eye/the delicious morsel of Nashville trivia that popped up, unbidden but perfectly timed, in my news feed this morning.

On this day in 1969, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash recorded an album.  It was never released. 

Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.  Recorded. An. Album.  Together. And it was never released.

How is this possible?  That’s like panning for gold and throwing back a shiny nugget.  Maybe the tracks weren’t up to snuff?  Maybe they just didn’t congeal together as an album and didn’t fit well with anything that came after?  Maybe people just forgot about them?  (Could a recording session with Dylan and Cash be so mundane that you just forget about the tracks it produces?)

According to an article from the website Open Culture, “On February 17 and 18, 1969, Cash and Dylan recorded more than a dozen duets. Only one of them, a version of Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country,” made it onto the album, Nashville Skyline. The others were never officially released, but have long been circulating as bootlegs.”  (You can access the article and a recording from Dylan and Cash here.)

So, there you go.  A random post, but too shiny a nugget to throw back.  Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash recorded an album, and, if you are resourceful enough, you might be able to scare up a few tracks somewhere.  Cash and Dylan, and their rough around the edges but pure poetry music, is too good let lie in silence.

Johnny Cash & Bob Dylan

 

 

Prague Winter

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A celebration of Prague:  my photo and Madeleine Albright’s words (from her book Prague Winter).

“On a hill in Prague there is a castle that has stood for a thousand years.  From its windows one can see a forest of gilded cupolas and baroque towers, slate roofs and sacred spires.  Visible too are the stone bridges spanning the broad and winding Vltava River as its waters flow northward at a leisurely pace.  Through the centuries, the beauty of Prague has been enriched by the labor of artisans from a plethora of nationalities and creeds; it is a Czech city with a variety of accents, at its best in spring when the fragrant blossoms of the lindens burst forth, the forsythia turns gold, and the skies seem an impossible blue.  The people, known for their diligence, resilience, and pragmatism, look forward each winter to when the days lengthen, the breezes soften, the trees regain their covering, and the river banks issue a silent summons to play.”   Madeleine Albright, Prague Winter.

 

The Return of Light: Candlemas

Happy Candlemas and Groundhog Day!

Travels and Tomes: One Expat's Amblings and Ramblings

Ripon Cathedral, Ripon, N. Yorkshire

Photo courtesy of @Riponcathedral twitter Photo courtesy of @Riponcathedral twitter

The winter-blooming snowdrops may be pushing up from the cold ground in England about now, and we are at the halfway point between the shortest day of the year and the March equinox.  Light is returning to the world, and slowly but surely we turn toward spring.

And the religious calendar turns also.  There are few places in the world where Candlemas is still celebrated on February 2nd– Americans are far likelier to think of today as Groundhog Day (same principle, though)– but the Ripon Cathedral is one of those glorious places where the holiday is remembered.  The cathedral is lit with thousands of candles, and candles only,  and a  processional service takes place in the evening.

Our first visit to a Candlemas service took place in 2005 or 2006.  Our children were very young, and we took them in…

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New Christmas Images

Re-blogging this from the wonderful Mark Sunderland, who takes amazing photos of Yorkshire. These Christmas photos feature my one-time home of Ripon and neighboring Harrogate. They put me in a festive mood! Merry Christmas, everyone!

Mark Sunderland Photography Blog

I’ve been out and about locally adding a few new Christmassy images , which may make an appearance in my 2020 range of calendars!

Montpellier Quarter in Harrogate at Dusk Christmas lights in the Montpellier Quarter at Harrogate

Montpellier Hill in Harrogate was looking particulatly pretty this year with white lights across the entrance to Montpellier Mews and Christmas trees in the shop windows.

Bettys in Harrogate at Dusk Red fairy lights in a tree at Bettys on Parliament Street in Harrogate

I prefer to shoot my Christmas images at dusk so that there’s a nice “blue hour” sky rather than later in the evening when the sky looks black.  The sky always looks lovely, but at this time of year dusk means around 4pm so it’s also very busy so it can be quite time consuming to get a few decent images!

Knaresborough Castle at Dusk Coloured lights on the King’s Tower at Knaresborough Castle

In Knaresborough this year the King’s ower at the…

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