Sunday, May 3, 2015

East River

I've heard it said that South Dakota should be split into two separate states - East River and West River. On a recent trip from the Black Hills to Sioux Falls I saw some evidence to support that proposition. It really is a different vibe over there. Not better. Just different.
A Sunday evening dinner with old friends started the trip off on a fun and positive note. That followed a rather uneventful drive across the state...with one exception. I pulled into a rest area near the tiny town of Wasta, and as I merged back onto the interstate I was convinced I had taken the wrong ramp and was heading back west toward Rapid City. The compass in my vehicle told me I was going east. The road sign said "I-90 East." But it just didn't feel right. Have you ever been so sure of something that, regardless of all the evidence to the contrary, you just know you're right? That's how I felt. After about a mile or two, as I was considering pulling a U-turn through the median (Hey...I've seen cops do it),  I saw a sign that read "Wall Drug - 11 Miles." That was the overwhelming evidence I needed to realize that I was actually traveling in the right direction.
The further east you go the more farms you will see. Mostly large family or corporate operations. Nothing wrong with that. However, spending some quality time at Good Roots Farm and Gardens on Monday introduced me to the concept of Permaculture. Here's how a Wikipedia entry describes it -  A philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system. 
I saw some wonderful examples of pesticide-free farming, effective balanced conservation efforts, and even free range chickens guarded by llamas. Pretty cool. The property was also a delight visually -


This old barn had a lot of personality, and waiting for me inside was a delicious treat fresh from the ground -


Normally I have trouble eating carrots and radishes due to a throat injury years ago, but these looked too good to pass up and I accepted an offer to try one. I enjoyed it without incident, and it was marvelous! 
After some discussions about milkweed, Monarch butterflies, how nature balances itself out, and that the way to start a revolution is to change the culture, it was time to go. I would like to return later in the year to see the full fruits of their labor. 
But now it was time to get back to the city and do a different kind digging...for vinyl. I had heard of a record store called Total Drag. I didn't like the name. No record store I've ever visited has been what I would call a "drag." So, I was looking forward to checking it out and was anticipating finding some buried treasure. That was not going to happen, though, because it was closed. So it really was a total drag.


Just like Arlo Guthrie never heard of a dump being closed on Thanksgiving... remember Arlo Guthrie? We're going to get back to him in a minute... I had never heard of a record store being closed on Monday. So with tears in my eyes I drove off to find another place to look for records. Didn't find one. Until I came to Ernie November's, which is usually a dependable place for at least one score. And that's all I came away with. A compilation of performances from the 1963 Newport Folk Festival, including a Bob Dylan - Joan Baez duet and a couple Tom Paxton songs. Not a great find, but not bad.


Now, about Arlo. He is the original reason I made the trip. He was doing a show that night as part of the Alice's Restaurant 50th Anniversary Tour. 50 years. That's a long time. I don't think many people realize what a career he's had, recording twenty five albums containing a number of hits. Most may be familiar with "City of New Orleans." (No...Willie Nelson's version was later). I figured this might be my last chance to see him. It was a good show in spite of the fact that at one point he forgot the words! He recovered nicely and the rest of the concert went on without a hitch. The crowd was somewhat different than I expected. I only observed a few obviously old hippies. You know - the ones with gray hair tied up in a pony tail. Otherwise there were a lot of hipsters, men over 50 in Tommy Bahama shirts and Dockers, ladies dressed up in the latest fashions, even a few suits. I was pleased, though, during the song "Coming Into Los Angeles" to see a thirty-something chick jump up and begin dancing in the aisle. She didn't start a movement, however, as nobody else joined her. So she sat back down before the song ended. It was a valiant effort appreciated by me and perhaps only me judging from a few whispers and furrowed brows that I observed. It was then I realized a lot of people who came out for the show were there for a social event and to be seen, rather than to see a music legend...in my mind anyway. At least I hope they appreciated his stories of growing up with a famous father and him being very thankful for his good fortune in being able to hang out with some very colorful characters in a very interesting time in American history. 
It was a good trip, but I always like coming back to my Black Hills. I say that for many reasons, including the fact that the record stores here are so much better than in that other state over there...the one we call East River.

Roger O'Dea     5/3/2015







Sunday, March 29, 2015

Alice's Garden (A True Story)

 WITH APOLOGIES TO ARLO GUTHRIE

This is a story called Alice's Garden, and it's about me and my friend Alice. But Alice is not the name of my friend. That's just the name of the garden. I changed her real name to protect her innocence, and that's why I call this story Alice's Garden.

You can get anything you want at Alice's Garden
Walk right over it's easily found
Just a short stroll from the Round-Up Ground
You can get anything you want at Alice's Garden 

Now it all started over 40 years ago, it was over 40 years ago in the summer when my friend and I decided to start a garden in our town. But it wasn't actually in town, it was on the edge of town, by the river. So we took some shovels and rakes and other implements of destruction and put them in the back of a red 1963 Chevy Impala and went to work digging up the ground and planting vegetables. Well somebody saw us working in the garden and called the cops because they thought we were planting marijuana down there by the river, but we weren't. We were planting carrots. And peas. And radishes. Carrots and peas and radishes right there in that garden! But nobody got to enjoy the harvest because we had to abandon the garden due to the fact that the rumor spread and some people thought a couple of hippies were trying to grow an illegal substance in their little town.

But that's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about a wreck. It happened a couple of years later on New Year's Eve when a bunch of us were at a party and found out just a few minutes before midnight that some girls were at another party in another part of town and wanted to come to our party. So I volunteered to get in my car and go get them to bring them to our party. I raced across town, picked up the girls, and was racing to make it back before midnight when the car hit an ice patch, spun around and crashed head-on into a telephone pole in front of a church. Nobody was hurt, except the car. Somebody saw the accident and called the cops (again) and soon Officer Franke showed up. Officer Franke looked at the car. Then he looked at the telephone pole. Then he looked at the car again. Then he said, "What happened, Rog?" (He knew my name from some previous encounters).  I said, "Officer Franke, I cannot tell a lie, I swerved to miss a deer." He said, "You swerved to miss a deer...at midnight...on New Year's Eve...in the middle of town?" I said, "Yes sir." He said, "Well, alright then, I'll call the tow truck and in the meantime can I take you all to where you were going?" So we all got in the police car and were dropped off at the party. A few of the cops would cut a kid some slack back then. No ticket required. None given.

So if you want to let kids be kids and encourage cops to give a break once in a while...all you have to do is walk up to a cop and sing You can get anything you want at Alice's Garden. If just one person does this they'll think he's sick and leave him alone. And if two people do it, in harmony, they might think it's an organization. And if 50 people walk up to a cop and sing one line of Alice's Garden...well friends, they may think it's a movement. And that's what it is, the Alice's Garden Anti-Massacree Movement. And all you got to do to join is just sing it anytime you get the feeling. Here comes the feeling -

You can get anything you want at Alice's Garden
Walk right over it's easily found
Just a short stroll from the Round-Up Ground
You can get anything you want at Alice's Garden 

Da da da da da da da dum

 Roger O'Dea   3-28-15


**Footnote - "Alice" is in this class reunion photo...but that's the only clue you get.










Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Gravel Roads

Nearly every day I have off in the summer is a day you will find me in the Black Hills. Hiking, mountain biking or cruising on my classic Valkyrie F6 on some winding road lined by pine trees. Well, I'm sure you noticed - this isn't summer.  It's February. And it's cold. I don't ski or ride a snowmobile or participate in any type of winter sports, so I decided to go for a drive...not south into the hills, but north and east into the flatlands. My plan was to stay off the highway and stick to the back roads. Having lived in this area for many years, it's amazing there are still places that are unfamiliar to me and so many things I haven't seen before. Actually, I'm sure I have passed by many of those places but never slowed down enough to really see them. For example, this country church -

I've been by it many times but never stopped to notice the wonderful colors and shapes. It has been maintained meticulously in stark contrast to some of the other buildings and homes scattered nearby.

I was completely ignorant of the fact that there used to be a school out here in the middle of nowhere, which was probably somewhere 100 years ago. Who or what was "Beam" and what did the school look like before it was abandoned and swallowed up by the prairie?

It's fun for me to find old rundown buildings in my travels and I enjoy taking photos of them. This one was only a few miles from town and once again I was surprised that I haven't noticed it before.
 I wonder what this scene would look like in June when the tree is in full bloom and the grass is green? I will find out in June.

On down the road a ways was a tiny little town with no businesses remaining and only a few residents. I remember coming to this place many years ago... a friend lived here. I don't remember a store, but there obviously was one. And you could buy bread. Not just any bread. Sunbeam bread.

I don't know if it's just luck or my self-induced heightened state of awareness during these journeys of discovery I take myself on but I always seem to notice at least one unusual, out of place, or just plain odd thing. This time it was a toy Volkswagen Micro Bus hanging from a tree in the yard of a resident living right next to the store where a long time ago you could get Sunbeam bread.
A red and yellow Volkswagen Micro Bus model car hanging from a tree. In February. In Fruitdale, South Dakota. I'm sure there's a good explanation. I just don't know what it is. And I guess it doesn't matter.

It was a pretty good day. I have a lot of those. And I would encourage you to head out some time on your own "road to find out."  Wherever you are there is an unpaved road close by. Take it. You may find an interesting piece of lost America. But, it's not really lost. I found it. So can you.

Roger O'Dea     2-17-2015

Saturday, January 24, 2015

(Not) Just Another Day

It was like a lot of days I have off work. Started out kind of lazy and uneventful, but ended up being a pretty good day. I actually slept in, something I don't often do, even in winter and never during summer. I started off working on a photo project I've had in mind for a while, and was pleased with the outcome. You can see the results on my Facebook page under "Album Cover Portraits" or at www.rodea.weebly.com . Nothing uniquely original or visually stunning, just an idea about looking at music history in slightly different way. And I'm happy to incorporate photography into my day any time I get a chance.
And I had another chance to do that as the result of  a meetup for lunch with a friend. She showed up with three old cameras and a Nat King Cole record. The cameras were to show and the record was to keep. I have some very awesome friends. She even let me take two of the cameras home on loan so I could check them out more closely. I just love these old vintage cameras! They're both German and date back to the early to mid 50s. One of them takes 135 film so no problem there, but the other uses 120. I do have a few spools of 620 for my old Kodak Duaflex but it may not be compatible with this Agfa camera so I might have to concentrate on the Voightlander Vito II. I found a manual online so I plan to familiarize myself as much as possible with this camera, then go out and find some usual (and hopefully some unusual) suspects to test it out.

Next it was on to one of my favorite places to just browse around. The Spearfish Main Street Antique and Collectibles Mini Mall. There is always something new and different to see, and always something that was there last time but that I missed seeing for some reason. Well, not for some reason, the reason is that there is just so much. I don't always buy something, but this time I did.

It wasn't this -

Or any of these -

Or this (even though instructions were included) -



It was this -
It's a poster of Polaroids taken by Linda McCartney, and was included with the 1973 Wings album Band On The Run. Believe it or not ... I don't have that record and didn't even know this poster was from that album. I had to look it up when I got home. I know! Right? But I guess I can't have them all. I just saw it on a metal stand in a cheap plastic frame and thought, "how cool is this." I think I even said that out loud.  Definitely worth the five bucks I paid for it. I'm thinking it might be perfect for another project similar to the album cover portraits mentioned above. The wheels are turning.
One other thing about that place ... there's a section about half way back that's like it's own little store. It's called GASP Studio. It's always decorated up nicely and always has some great antiques and art for sale. Check it out.

And if by any chance you want to... you know... check out the records, just turn left when you enter and go all the way to the back. That Hula album is probably still there. And it's a bargain at only $5.00. Who knows - you might even be able to talk them down a buck or two. Now that would be a deal.

   Roger O'Dea  1/24/2015

Sunday, December 28, 2014

On The Road At 60

Traveled by car to Denver, Spirit Airlines to Phoenix, I-17 north to Arizona 179, which took me into Sedona, Arizona - a place like no other. I had heard so much about this location that I had to experience it for myself. And my 60th birthday seemed like a good occasion to do it. The fact that my son was able to fly in from New York to join me made it even better. He is a rather private person but I managed to snap a picture of him that I'm sure he won't object to me using here -

Ahhh..the Blue Moon Cafe. The World Famous Blue Moon Cafe. Our first introduction to the local flavor. I noticed there was a lot of "world famous" on this trip. The Sultana Saloon, Pink Jeep Tours, Rod's Steak House, Grand Canyon Hotel,  Moon Dogs Pizza ... the list goes on. But none are more famous than Sedona itself. It really is an amazing place. So much to see. And do. And feel. Very powerful and spiritual in addition to being incredibly beautiful. 
These aren't just formations to be admired at a distance, there are many trails that take you right into the landscape.



















During a solo trek one afternoon a strong feeling came over me to go off the trail through a stand of Juniper and Pinyon which led me to a clearing that had a particular attraction to me for some reason. I sat down amidst a feeling of calmness and clarity. I have trouble being still. It's hard for me. So I have to work at it, through meditation and physically putting myself in locations that lend themselves to thoughtful contemplation. There are several special locations in and around the Black Hills where I can go to do this, but this place on this day gave me an instant feeling of sanctuary. It may have been one of the vortexes people talk about in that area, or it may have just been that I was open to the experience of pure primordial nature and the positive energy that can be felt if you are ready to receive it. Time passed slowly, and I'm not sure how long I was there. Quite a while, though, because by the time I got back to the trailhead it was near dusk in the late afternoon. I left a small totem as a token of my appreciation. Not a quality structure for sure, but then it wasn't meant to be a permanent offering, and I trust it's gone by now.
We spent most of another day driving through the beautiful (and world famous) Oak Creek Canyon up to I-40 and old Route 66. Near Williams, Arizona we spotted a sign that read "Grand Canyon - 56 Miles." Why not? So we made a hard right and headed on up. It's another place that is really indescribable. We were there near dusk and the setting sun, cloudy sky and late day shadows made the view absolutely magnificent!

Another memorable experience on this trip was meeting Banya, a spiritual intuitive guide and healer located in Sedona. It was already too late to schedule a full session, but I was intrigued by an offer to have my aura photographed. I am definitely not a disbeliever, but sometimes I am skeptical of these things. The large number of positive testimonials regarding her practice made me feel good about going through with the process. I had hoped for a different result but must say I was not surprised at what showed up in the photo.
Apparently I have some work to do. This photo shows an imbalance that I would like to correct. I won't go into the details (those of you who know about such things will see what's going on) but will say I am taking seriously an action plan suggested by her, and am already underway with phase one. 
It really was a wonderful trip, and one I will remember always. I'm sure I'll go back. There is so much more I'd like to see and do. If you've been there, you know. If you haven't, I enthusiastically encourage you to go. And be sure to stop by the Blue Moon Cafe, especially for breakfast. I suggest you try the Paul Bunyan Pancake. I hear it's world famous.

 Roger O'Dea   12/28/2014

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanks For The Memories

On this day of thanks it occurred to me that almost everything I have to be thankful for is connected to a memory. Every morning I pause and give thanks for my blessings, of which there are many. They say it's good to write things down, and I believe that to be true. So I thought I would take just a moment to list a few things I am thankful for ---

MY PARENTS.  I had a wonderful childhood. We didn't always have everything we wanted. But we always had everything we needed.

MY WIFE AND SON. For ... well ... everything.

VOLUNTEERS.  My dad taught me how to fish, but it was Boy Scout leaders who taught me how to make fire, pitch a tent and put a pebble in my mouth on long hikes to stimulate saliva and lessen my thirst, which helped to conserve the water in my canteen. Thanks Ernie, Ronnie and Roger for giving your time, experience and knowledge.



FAMILY VACATIONS.  Just up the road a ways, or a thousand miles. Quality time.

SUMMER OF 1972.  The best of times.

WINTER OF 2004.  The worst of times.

DOCTORS AND NURSES WHO WORK NIGHTS AND WEEKENDS.  Saved my life in the winter of 2004.

EDWIN LAND.  Your Polaroid cameras have given me much joy for many years and an outlet for my creative energy. Even still today.

THE IMPOSSIBLE PROJECT.  For stepping in and making instant film when Polaroid stopped.

JOHN DENVER.  You wrote my life.

JOE KOPP.  For giving me my first break in radio. And for not firing me when I played The Ballad of John and Yoko.

MY BEST FRIEND.  We rock.

MY OTHER BEST FRIEND.  The miles between us have not drawn us any further apart. 

FRENCH ONION SOUP.  It's pretty much the only thing French I like.

MY HOME TOWN.  It has changed, and mostly not in a good way, but some of my best memories are here.

MUSIC.  Can't sing, can't play a note. But I love music.

GOD AND THE UNIVERSE.  There but for the grace of you go I.

There is so much more. But this seems like a good place to stop.

I wish you all the best for a great life and good fortune. Be nice to each other. Pray for peace.




  Roger O'Dea     11/27/2014
 


















Saturday, November 8, 2014

Nobody's Right If Everybody's Wrong

The election is over. It's been over for days. But the amount of silly, sarcastic, bitter, and sometimes even mean and hateful comments and images being posted on social media is really quite astounding. I shouldn't be surprised. It was expected to a certain degree. But people go too far, as evidenced in this political cartoon -
Does anyone truly believe that any segment of business or society wants dirty air and polluted water? Or that the president actually wants this country to fail? Seriously. Who is so delusional or twisted to go to that extreme in their thinking? Sure we have problems. That's a fact. But to lay the blame all on one political party or one person or a particular group of people is just ridiculous. 
If you blame the Republicans for the Iraq war and for getting us into Afghanistan, then remember it was a Democratic administration that was responsible for escalating the Vietnam War. And a Republican ended it... in a very tragic and messy way.
If it was Republican financial policies that led to the economic slump and bailouts during Bush's (the younger) administration, then remember it was during the Democrat Carter's term that mortgage rates hit 19% and gas rationing was enacted.
There have been good times and not so good times. Most have, and will have, nothing to do with which political party is in power. Sometimes it's just about bad people doing bad things. And those bad people can come from all races, religions, political organizations, cultures, societies... anywhere. And at any time. That's why it's important to have leaders. True leaders who have earned our trust and have a sincere honest desire to do the right thing. We don't have that now. We have partisans. We have egomaniacs. Or occasionally we elect someone who is simply not qualified. They don't have the experience, temperament, compassion or common sense to handle or even understand the tasks which they have been given. In other words - they are in way over their heads.  A sad side note to this is that we keep putting them back in!  It's madness.
I had lunch the other day with a friend who is older and wiser than me. He said something rather profound, in my opinion. He said, "I remember when there were Republicans and Democrats, and they tried to work together for the overall good. Now it's liberals and conservatives. They can't find any common ground and there's no compromise."  I agree with his observation. This is what we've come to. And it's kind of sad.
Maybe we should hope that somehow we can get back to simpler times when campaigns weren't filled with hollow promises. A time when fewer words were spoken but they had more meaning. A time of action. Maybe we need more people like Senator Stephens -

He does things. Simple. To the point. My kind of guy. I'd vote for him. How about you?


Roger O'Dea       11/8/2014