Saturday, November 25, 2017

"A Good Old Boy."

The only picture of Steve, Dad and I as adults.
My Brother from another Mother, Jason Stone and I are going to host a regular DJ night and if you asked me about our favorite DJ, I'd be a bit torn between our first night at Grits and Gravy in Charlottesville with the Rum Cove (Robin Tomlin) and DJ Colin Powell or our first Hip Drop at Ponderosa Stomp, but the title of this is MY favorite DJ gig and I know the answer to that one.

My family loves music. I grew surrounded by a lot of albums. Mom and Dad dug the classics, like Mussorgsky, Respighi and Bach, Mom liked Johnny Mathis and ANYTHING Hawaiian and Dad like Latin and various Island musics and could even tell you where a song came from either by style or by translating the lyrics.

Steve was big into Osibisa, Mandrill and Jimi Hendrix, which, before he got a Sylvania unit with a flip-down turntable (!) he played on a portable, but heavy Electro-Phonic turntable at the foot of his bed, which is why I call myself Electro-Phonic Brian.

Dad and I had a checkered history. Mom and Dad divorced, which devastated Mom and neither Steve nor I took it well, either. In the movie "Out of the Past", one of the characters was described as, "...a bit cold around the heart", which describes me, on some occasions. It put a bad seed of distrust in me for some time. In 1984, I reached out to him. He had remarried and gotten sober AND stopped smoking in a way that can only be described as typical Orva Phillips resolve. Two times, the doctor told him, if you continue to do _____, you're going to die.

So, he stopped. Cold turkey, no patches, no, "I only drink on holidays or at social events", he stopped.

When I called, he genuinely didn't believe it was me. After three or four, "reallys?" we started mending fences. I'm happy to say that we had a good relationship for the rest of his life after roughly eight years of not talking. 

Sometime before the divorce, Dad passed out at a funeral and that is when we found out that he had cancer. It destroyed one of his kidneys and a bit of his spleen. He recovered, or so we thought. Some years later, the cancer returned and it went after his brain. He could barely walk and if he tried to sleep he would have dreams that he was falling and wake up violently.

Dad didn't talk much, unless he was comfortable. He didn't say he was quiet, he preferred "reflective". If chemistry was the topic, well, then he could go on for days. It seemed like days. The disease pained him, so his sentences were not too horribly long, but he was cognizant in his last days. 

I can't speak for every child, but I have to have a report card. I need to know how I did sometimes, ESPECIALLY in my parent's eyes. He was facing his demise and he knew it. It is something when your Dad tells you that he's not scared of dying, because you know that he IS dying. It was not a happy conversation and it didn't end on a good note.

When I lived in Montebello, east of East L.A. (Dad lived in NY), I found a great compilation called "Bravos del Ritmo" at the local library and I couldn't get enough of it. It had so many wonderful names, like Arsenio Rodriguez, the La Playa Sextet, Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz, Ocho and Tito Rodriguez. I made a cassette of the highlights and tacked on a song by Miguel Poventud (backed by Yomo Toro) from the 1950s. 

By the way, the Miguel Poventud song was, "Si Me Pierdo en la Vida" which I later found out means, "If I Get Lost in Life".

I called him sometime after that. Of all things we talked about that day, Dad mentioned the tape I made for him. He was not perfect, nor am I. We could have done things differently, but I didn't want him to go to bed angry with me. It was one of our last conversations. Had I waited too long, I would have had to live with the words of our last conversation.  He was in such pain, all he could say was, "Can't talk...can't talk".

The night I called after I knew he received the tape, though, he said, "That! You're a good old boy, do you know that?" My best gig, to an audience of one.

Thanks, Dad. Come see us at El Myr. I'll play Hector Rivera for you. You'll love it!

I love you.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Blood, Soil and Fields.

It's not my full-time job, but I am a DJ. I play vintage music, mostly Soul and Rhythm and Blues. It's not an act of defiance or bravery, it's just what I do.

I've done this several times in Charlottesville, to very appreciative crowds. I don't know where they came from, but I know where they were the nights we spun records. My memories of younger and older people, African-American and Caucasian, even, memorably, a woman in a wheelchair dancing to wonderfully obscure music brought out by my friends and I. No fights, no rancor, no death.

Three people are dead, others are injured, because of hate. My people are injured and dead.

I'm a Christian. Yes, I play secular music (and some Gospel too!), but I am a Christian. The white nationalists that marched and those that sympathized felt they were doing this in the name of various and sundry reasons, the loss of a statue, the "threat" of diversity and some have the nerve to say that they were doing it with Christian motives. Then James Fields of Kentucky and Ohio came along in a car and drove through the crowd, which injured many and killed one person.

This person hurt my people. My Savior would not endorse this. He didn't ride into town and trample disbelievers. A 32 year-old woman is dead because of Fields. Because of these hateful people, Berke M.M. Bates and H. Jay Cullen are dead. 22 families' lives have been disrupted, because of Fields. He, just like Dylann Roof, was apprehended, alive.

Eric Garner's family must be relieved about this.

One of the things chanted was "blood and soil". I have walked on the soil of Charlottesville, as well as the streets where the attacks occurred and the horror of the bloodshed that has resulted from the action of fools shakes me to the core. We are at once, goading war with one country, taunting another, failing to unite with many as a result of our non-support of the Paris Agreement and at home, we awaited the word of the government that seemed to say that these unabashedly racist attacks were to be condemned, BUT softened it to say that "all sides" were a concern when bigotry is concerned.

There is no mistake here. None. These people came out with a clear and concise message to hate and they did. David Duke favorably invoked Trump's name, or brand, if you will, hoping that this protest was a turning point for the country.

"Condolences to the family of the young woman killed today, and best regards to all of those injured, in Charlottesville, Virginia. So sad!"


"Deepest condolences to the families & fellow officers of the VA State Police who died today. You're all among the best this nation produces."

One tweet came after the other. Three lives were lost. The above seems to imply that his depth of condolence changes. Three people are dead because of this atmosphere of hatred. Death is the deepest of tragedies. There is no level to it.

A quick note here: As ironic as this will sound, electronic communication is horrible for nuance.

Another small aside: Does anyone else find it a bit odd that a pro-white protest used tiki torches?

What am I to find, should I decide to spin records in Charlottesville, which I hope to? Will I see more dancers or will someone deem that I am part of the tragedy of diversity and try to harm me? My prayers go out not only to the families of the dead and injured, but also to those who stood up against the marchers.

However, I feel I cannot call myself a Christian if I didn't say this as well. I pray for the white nationalists, too. In the Bible, Saul persecuted Christians and instead of condemning him, God saw that he was fervent, but wrongheaded. He then became Paul and there can be no doubt that he became a true man of God. It is my prayer as well that someone among them will realize the error of their ways. I pray for Trump as well, since he is at the head of the country. I HAVE to. It's in the contract.

It's difficult, though. The atmosphere of this country has either changed, or it is merely being reported more than it was previously.  I do feel that it is either being fostered.

It needs to be ended. It needed to be ended in 1866.