My friend Kevin told me of a saying he heard, I think when he was in Italy. It goes, " Those that eat alone, die alone." It sounds morbid but really it's just an Italian way of saying, "Hey man, how great does it feel to sit down with each other and feast?" I'm a big believer in food bringing people together. Perhaps one of the lonelier times in my life was that post-college apartment jumping stage where I was always sharing a place with people but always sitting down at different times and eating solo. I remember realizing that although I was by no means ready to start a family to remedy this I really wanted that experience back of sitting down with loved ones and kindreds and sharing a meal, sharing the end of a day together.
Anyhow, I thought of this tonight as I sat down with some friends to share a friday evening. Cooking has always been something that seemed just an extension of my creativity. I don't think I haven't met a passionate musician that wasn't also a passionate cook. Feel free to let me know about the exceptions in funny anecdotal character descriptions if you can. Now I'm drinking some bourbon while also licking fresh cookie dough off my finger and I'm sitting down at my desk while they play in the front room.
I'm excited to sit down right now cause I'm about to post photos from the Philly Opry I hosted at Johnny Brenda's a few weeks ago. It was our first one, an experiment of sorts, and I was getting nervous as the day came because of all the snow. I started acting like a fatalist and making all these nervous predictions that everyone wasn't going to come cause of no parking, etc. But it was as if someone opened the top of the club and poured them all in. I could only describe the crowd as giddy, rammy, and riotous with occasional bouts of slow dancing fever.
The broken bell republic was aglow. We would like to thank Johnny Brenda's for being such
a music institution, Lisa Schaffer for taking all the photos, Nick Miles and Veronica for building the barn out of salvaged cardboard (!), Angela Miles for homemade nudie suits, raffle prizes and more, and everyone who decided that that's where they needed to be that night. This may become a tradition.....Love, Birdie Busch
I'm woodshedding and drinking an apple cider tonic. I have this book called "Staying Healthy with the Seasons" that I trashpicked last year. It's one of those California New-Agey books about yin and yang and what season means what. Like we are in the water season, did you know that? And throughout time there has always maintained about the same amount of water on the planet, just shifting in its various states of vapor and ice and what have you. Did you know that? And we are as humans our own "earth" because we have about the same percentage of water in our body make-up, which should make us feel a connection in a way to the grandness. This is what the book says. This book is not an old blues song.
I stumbled upon a section all about karma in this book. Karma. I guess we all have images or ideas that come into our head when we say this word. For me, I see a Zappa-like looking man named Reverend Leroy Montana that used to come into the open mic I used to go to, singing his classic, "Karma Doesn't Visit the Wrong Door" to which he answers himself, "cause if it did, it wouldn't be karma". I always thought of karma as if doing something bad to someone, it's gonna come back around. I've messed up and made bad decisions and I think that bad things are going to get me for it, sometime, somewhere. But catch this definition from the book, I really like it,
"Karma is a process of learning from this natural law of the universe. Each life crisis has a lesson, which if we learn, we will not need to experience again. Yet, if we deny the potential learning this experience represents, the same lesson will present itself again and again, often more intensely, until we learn it."
Which, I guess, this is what I was trying to flesh out when watching Groundhog Day and writing the post before this, and then this came along....
For those of you that know my music you know my song about the Huff Singers on the album “Penny Arcade”. Mr. Huff, the only living original member, and quite alive I must say, lives in North Philly, one of the most impoverished areas of our city, maybe any city, in the United States as far as crime and decay. But that’s doesn’t change the fact that many folks live there and have lived nowhere else. This is someone’s life and world just as any other.
I befriended Mr. Huff upon meeting him at the World Café in Philadelphia at their gospel brunch series and Mr. Huff, upon first meeting, held up a Polaroid camera and took a picture of me and then handed it back to me have a picture of myself. From there, we became life-long friends. He means what he says and does what he says he’s going to do. He thought that my first record shouldn’t be called the “The Ways We Try” but rather “The Ways We Do” cause, as he put it, “Tryin’ never gets it, you’re doin’ Bird”.
The last visit I had to his house he was in the basement fixing a pipe in the bathroom down there so the guys could wash their hands during rehearsal and I walked in to find him on the ground, legs out from under the sink, like the Wicked Witch of the West. This basement is his sacred spot, and is, for all the decades and decades he’s spent singing gospel in churches, his church. I’ve never read The Subterraneans, so I don’t know what it’s about, but I think of him in this basement when I hear that word and it connotes a much lighter thing than what it typically refers to. This is where he can be himself and be at peace with his wonder; he can reflect without judgment. Mr. Huff was a young man in his twenties in the 1940’s and has seen this country through decades and decades since, but in some ways he still behaves as a man who has been wounded, not physically but mentally, from the racial boundaries of being a black man in the United States. He has sung at executions of believed to be falsely accused from his neighborhood, been stuck on the side of the road in the middle of the night in the deep South, and been chased out of town in Florida for courting the white girls. The fact that he and I can have such a deep close friendship is something I, white and so much younger, might never be able to fully grasp the wildness of, but that Mr. Huff points out at every meeting.
Anyhow, Mr. Huff has prevailed, in all his joyous glory. He is here to be open to the world and he’ll let you know it at every turn, with modesty and child-like true-isms. Over time he has compiled a treasure of visuals in this basement, putting up anything and everything that calls to him, as it comes, without discrimination or pattern or process. It is a juxtaposition jubilee that I feel was meant to see the light of day.
you can see all of the photos in the series at birdiebusch.com in the "view my pics" section!
Some other interesting things about my time in North Philly:
*Sister Rosetta Tharpe, gospel and electric guitar legend, is buried there and until recently, didn’t have a gravestone. Through the efforts of The Huff Singers and many other gospel greats, they raised the money in a tribute concert for her.
* I attended Ira Tucker’s, lead singer of The Dixie Hummingbirds, funeral at The Met, which is a massive church on North Broad St., last year. Halfway through the 3-hour funeral Stevie Wonder got up from a pew to sing “I'll Fly Away” with Mr. Huff and others. It is one of the most moving moments of my musical life to see the two of them trading off verses together.