May 18, 2009

Laughter in the Rain

After two of the driest years in recent memory, I'm happy to report that the Piedmont section of South Carolina is finally getting some rain. Thankfully, the lake are filling back up and the grass is greening up nicely. And speaking of rain...

Some years ago (33 to be exact), fellow MTH author Larry Reid and myself made the short drive up to Charlotte NC to see the old piano pounder Neil Sedaka. At that time, The Captain and Tenile had a mega hit with one of Neil's tunes, Love will Keep Us Together...and Neil himself had reemerged from his early rock and roll days to once again hit the charts. Teaming up with Elton John he released the bouncy hit Bad Blood...which he performed that day in Charlotte with two gorgeous blonds instead of EJ. Definitely better on the eyes. But the song that brought the house down was Laughter in the Rain.

A movement is afoot to get Neil into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I can think of several inductees right off the top of my head that haven't had the impact on popular music that Neil Sedaka has had. Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen, Calendar Girl, and Breaking up Is Hard To Do are just a few of Neil's hits. But none as sweet and melodic as LITR. If paragons of music such as The Sex Pistols are in the HOF, then Neil Sedaka should be in there no questions asked.

May 11, 2009

Monday Musical Interlude

When visiting my Aunt Velma, cousin Ricky would let me listen to his records while my parents and various aunts and uncles played Set Back in the dining room. "You bored buddy? After I leave you can go to my room and listen to my stereo. Be careful with my records, don't scratch em' up". So, after cousin Ricky split for places unknown, I'd wander back to his room and peruse his collection. Iron Butterfly, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (Deja Vu), The Who (Live at Leeds), Smokey Robinson, and James Taylor to name a few. I always like the long haired, freaky, married to Carly Simon, James Taylor. Sweet Baby James had just been released and the AM radio stations played the hauntingly beautiful Fire and Rain frequently. I heard the song this morning as I took my daughter to school. It took me back to 1970 and the uncertain days of becoming a teenager. Sadly, Fire and Rain also reminds me that about a year later, in the summer of 1971, cousin Ricky died in a shoot out at an apartment complex. RIP Ricky. This one is for you.

May 5, 2009

The Brandon File: The Boys of Summers Past...

"Hustle Phil! Get on it boy!" bellowed James, "Speedy" Landreth as the base runner touched third and headed for home. "Get the bat out of the way!" "Hit the dirt!" But the bat boy had failed and the bat lay guarding home like a tree. As he had gone into his slide, Phil's cleat caught the barrel of the bat which sent him head first into a waiting catcher's mitt. "You're out!, growled the umpire, followed by Phil's groan of pain and embarrassment. With his face covered in dirt, the stocky, curly haired base runner glared at the cowering bat boy as he limped to the dugout. His teammates greeted him with merciless laughter and pantomimes of his clumsy effort. Meanwhile, Speedy continued his lambaste at the chubby bat boy. "Didn't I tell you to get that bat! You need to get your head in the game or I'll get somebody else. Hustle damn it!"

I assume they called him "Speedy" owing to his unhurried demeanor; for he never actually "hustled" anywhere himself. Perhaps T. Durham could put up a tell all post that could shed some light on our little league coach and further verify the sleazy side of mill hill life. Lord knows, concerning the hill, I've written about nothing but murderers and drunkards.
Summertime in the Brandon Ballpark: It was broken bats and exuberant parents. It was rain outs and base clearing doubles. It was road trips to Pelzer and late inning rallies. It was the last days of teen aged innocence and it was the end of the textile era. Before long the hum of the mill would be silenced and many of the kids would soon go to far away places to take on the responsibilities of men.

A couple of years ago I passed through Cleveland Park and I saw that the City had erected a marble wall memorializing Greenvillians killed in the wars. There I found the name Paul Charles Hamby Jr, sp4/Army. "Buddy" Hamby lived across from the Baptist Church. He was killed in a helicopter crash in Vietnam. I scanned the black marble for another name. Gary Lynn Pace, 1lt/Army. Gary didn't live in Brandon, but his parents owned the Jewelry store in West Greenville. Most Parker High students had a school ring from Pace's. Like Buddy, Gary was killed in Vietnam. I then looked down only a row or two in search of his name; and there it was, Phillip Allen Page cpl/Army.

I remember that day in the cemetery standing on the hill across from the funeral. I watched as they laid Phil to rest; his grave not a quarter of a mile from the park where he played baseball a few short years before. I flinched as the seven guns fired their salute; and as the bugler played TAPS, I felt a sadness I had not encountered in my 11 years. The games of youth now in perspective, we walked away leaving Phil in youthful repose.