Tag Archives: new york

Brooklyn Man Upcycles a Dumpster, Beats the System

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Brooklyn Man Upcycles a Dumpster, Beats the System

Brooklyn Man Upcycles a Dumpster, Beats the System

Posted by Yasha Wallin on August 15, 2013 at 3:00 AM

In New York City, if your apartment is larger than 300 square feet, then you’ve made it. The city is notorious for big rents and small spaces. That may be precisely why Brooklyn-based artist Gregory Kloehn took matters into his own hands when he purchased a dumpster for $2,000, and turned it into the most creative garbage container you’ve ever seen. The green-hued living space took Kloehn six months to trick out with a toilet, stove, sink, and a roof that can double as a deck for seating. It also has a barbecue, a mini bar, and a shower that sticks off the side of the dumpster and gives outdoor showering a whole new meaning.

Not only does this self-contained green living space have all the amenities of a regular apartment, but it’s also mobile, allowing Kloehn to roll it to new locations around Brooklyn when he needs a change of scenery. The whole thing is pretty quirky, yes, but as rents continue to rise in Brooklyn and Manhattan, kudos to Kloehn for finding a creative way to beat the system.

DAVID AMRAM REMEMBERS JACK KEROUAC

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DAVID AMRAM REMEMBERS JACK KEROUAC

DavidAmram, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac
from left to right: Larry Rivers, Jack Kerouac,
David Amram, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso (with back to camera)

 

DAVID AMRAM REMEMBERS
(Originally written for Evergreen Review in 1969, published early 1970 at the request of publisher Barney Rossett as an obituary for Kerouac)

I used to see Jack often at the old Five Spot in the beginning of 1957, when I was working there. I knew he was a writer, and all musicians knew that he loved music. You could tell by the way he sat and listened. He never tried to seem hip. He was too interested in life around him to ever think of how he appeared. Musicians understood this and were always glad to see him, because we knew that meant at least one person would be I listening. Jack was on the same wave-length as we were, so it was never necessary to talk.

A few months later, poets Howard Hart and Philip Lamantia came by my place with Jack. They had decided to read their poetry with music, and Jack said he would join in, reading, improvising, rapping with the audience and singing along. Our first performance was in December of 1957 at the Brata Art Gallery on East 10th Street. It was the first jazz-poetry reading in New York. There was no advertising and it was raining, but the place was packed. Jack had become the most important figure of the time. His name was magic. In spite of the carping, whining put-downs by the furious critics, and the jealousy of some of his contemporaries for his overnight success (he had written ten books in addition to On The Road with almost no recognition), Jack hadn’t changed. But people’s reaction to him was sometimes frightening.

He was suddenly being billed as the ‘King of The Beatniks’, and manufactured against his will, as some kind of public Guru for a movement that never existed. Jack was a private person, extremely shy, and dedicated to writing. When he drank, he became much more expansive, and this was the only part of his personality that became publicized. The people who came to the Brata Gallery weren’t taste makers; they were friends.

A few months later, we began some readings at the Circle In The Square. Everyone improvised, including the light man, who had his first chance to wail on the lighting board. The audience joined in, heckling, requesting Jack to read parts of On The Road, and asking him to expound on anything that came into his head. He also would sing while I was playing the horn, sometimes making up verses. He had a phenomenal ear. It was like playing duets with a great musician.

Jack was proud of his knowledge of music and of the musicians of his time. He used to come by and play the piano by ear for hours. He had some wonderful ideas for combining the spoken word with music. A few weeks later, jazz-poetry became ‘Official Entertainment’, and a few months later was discarded as another bit of refuse, added to the huge mound of our junk culture. It was harder to dispose of Jack. The same journalist and radio and TV personalities who had heralded him were now ripping him to shreds. Fortunately, they couldn’t rip up his manuscripts. His work was being published, more widely read, and translated.

In early 1958, all of us went to Brooklyn College, where Jack, Phillip and Howard read. Jack spent most of the time answering the student’s questions with questions of his own. He was the down-home Zen master, and the students finally realized he wasn’t putting them on. He was showing them himself. If they wanted to meet the Author Jack Kerouac, they would have to read his books.

His public appearances were never to promote his books. They were to share a state of mind and a way of being. The only journalist who picked up on this was Al Aronowitz. He saw Jack as an artist.

In the spring of 1959, the film Pull My Daisy was made. Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky, Larry Rivers and myself – the Third Avenue All-Stars as one wit described us – appeared in it. Alfred Leslie directed it and Robert Frank filmed it. Jack had written the scenario, and after the film had been edited, Jack saw it. Because it was a silent movie, Jack was to narrate it, and I was to write the music afterwards. He, Allen, and Neal Cassady also wrote the lyrics for the title song Pull My Daisy, for which I wrote the music and was sung in the film by Anita Ellis. Jack put on earphones and asked me to play, so that he could improvise the narration to music, the way we had done at our readings. He watched the film, and made up the narration on the spot. He did it two times through spontaneously, and that was it. He refused to do it again. He believed in spontaneity, and the narration turned out to be the very best thing about the film. We recorded it at Jerry Newman’s studio. Jerry was an old friend of Jack’s from the early forties and afterwards we had a party-jam session that lasted all night. Jack played the piano, sang, and improvised for hours.

In the early sixties I used to see Jack when he would come in from Northport to visit town. Once, he called up at one in the morning and told me I had to come over so that he could tell me a story. I brought over some music to copy, and Jack spoke non-stop until 8:30 a.m., describing a trip he had made through North Africa and Europe. It was like hearing a whole book of his being read aloud, and Jack was the best reader of his own work, with the exception of Dylan Thomas, that I ever heard.

“That’s a fantastic story.” I told him. “It sounds just like your books.”

“I try to make my writing sound just the way I talk.” he said. His ideal was not to display his literary skill, but to have a conversation with the reader.

I told Jack about an idea I had for a cantata about the four seasons in America, using the works of American authors. He launched into a travelogue of his voyages around the country, and referred to writers I might look into. I took notes, and ended up reading nearly fifty books, to find the texts. I included a passage from his book Lonesome Traveler. The concert was at Town Hall [in New York City], and Jack wrote that he couldn’t come. It was the Spring of 1965, and he didn’t like being in New York.

Sometimes he would call from different parts of the country just to talk, and we continued to write to each other. In one letter he said “Ug-g-h. Fame is such a drag.” He wanted time to work, but found that success robbed him of his freedom. At the same time, he felt that he was forgotten. I told him that all the young people I met when I toured colleges loved his books. To many, he was their favorite writer. But writer meant something different now. It was what was being said, not how it was said. It was content that counted, not style. Jacks’ message was a whole way of being, and he was becoming more an influence than ever.

Truman Capote dismissed Jack’s work as “typing.” I never heard Jack put down another writer. He went out of his way to encourage young writers. His work reflects this spirit of generosity, kindness and love. This is why his “typing” is so meaningful to young people today. Jack was ahead of his time spiritually. Like Charlie Parker, Lenny Bruce and Lord Buckley, his work is constantly being rediscovered.

Through knowing Jack, I wrote some of my best music. Without knowing him, I never would have written my book. More important, young people all over the world are reading and rereading his work. His death only means the beginning of a new life for everyone who shares in the joy of knowing him through his books.

David Amram, October 24th. 1969

Phil Ochs

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Phil Ochs

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PHIL OCHS SINGING “WE AINT MARCHING ANYMORE” 1975

AMERICAN MASTERS PBS- PHIL OCHS THE,FULL DOCUMENTARY-WELL WORTH WATCHING “THERE BUT FOR FORTUNE”

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/phil-ochs-there-but-for-fortune/watch-the-full-documentary/1962/

PHIL OCHS BIOGRAPHY

Singer-songwriter, protest music

Phil Ochs’ songs are on par with his contemporaries: Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Pete Seeger, as well as Woody Guthrie and Ramblin’ Jack.

Phil Ochs Biography:

Phil Ochs was born in El Paso, TX, in December, 1940. While studying journalism at the Ohio State University, he met and befriended Jim Glover, whose father was one of Phil’s mentors. However, after just three years at the University, Phil moved to New York City, where he quickly infiltrated the booming Greenwich Village folk music scene.
In 1964, he released his first record and, within two years, he had enough success to play to a sold out crowd at Carnegie Hall.

In 1967, he signed a contract with A&M Records, and began recording his fourth album, Pleasures of the Harbor. Pleasures was a bit of a departure, featuring more ornate arrangements and, as a result, was not received as well as his previous solo, acoustic efforts.

While traveling in Dar Es Salaam, Phil was mugged, resulting in the loss of the higher end of his vocal range. After returning from that trip, he seemed to go on a downward spiral, suffering from severe depression and anxiety. He committed suicide in 1976, at the age of 35.

Most of Phil Ochs’ music touches on some of the most difficult issues, raising important social and political questions. There have been two biographies written about him, and a number of tribute albums; his music continues to influence and inspire topical songwriters around the world.

“Draft Dodger Rag” – Phil Ochs

Phil Ochs live at Newport Folk Festival
© Robert Corwin

Phil Ochs was undeniably one of the greatest protest songwriters to have lived. This is only one of his great compositions, and it uses Ochs’ wry whit and humor to depict a soldier trying to get out of being drafted. Through the silliness of the lyrics, Ochs was able to paint a clear picture of the opposition to the draft so many men felt during the Vietnam war era.

I’ve got the weakness woes, I can’t touch my toes, I can hardly reach my knees / and when the enemy gets close to me I’ll probably start to sneeze
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SOME WELL KNOWN PROTEST SONGS
“Give Peace a Chance” – John Lennon
Peace
At the end of his week-long “bed-in” in 1969 with his new wife Yoko Ono, John Lennon had recording equipment brought into the hotel room. There, along with Timothy Leary, members of the Canadian Radha Krishna Temple, and a roomful of others, John recorded this song. It was the height of the Vietnam war, and this song became an anthem of the peace movement that summer. It has lived on in its anthemic quality since then during peace movements all over the world.

Everybody’s talking about Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism, This-ism, that-ism, ism ism ism / All we are saying is give peace a chance

“People Have the Power” – Patti Smith
Patti Smith
Calling Patti Smith a folksinger would surely upset fans in both Folk music and Rock circles. But her anthem, “People Have the Power,” is one of the most potent, lyrical, lovely protest songs I’ve ever heard. And it’s certainly a big part of what has taken her work to legendary status. Recorded in 1988, “People Have the Power” serves as a reminder that, as she sings at the end of the song, “everything we dream can come to pass through our union” including, presumably, a world without war.

I awakened to the cry that the people have the power / To redeem the work of fools upon the meek / the graces shower / Its decreed / the people rule
“Lyndon Johnson Told the Nation” – Tom Paxton

Tom Paxton
© Elektra Records

Tom Paxton is another one of those artists who has just penned song after song of exquisite empowerment and protest. His classic “Lyndon Johnson Told the Nation” was pointedly about being drafted to serve in Vietnam, but if you substitute any international conflict, the words still ring true. The song sings about being part of an escalation of troops, fighting a never-ending war, using force to proliferate peace: all topics as topical today (unfortunately) as they were when the song was penned.

Lyndon Johnson told the nation have no fear of escalation / I am trying everyone to please / Though it isn’t really war, I’m sending 50,000 more / to help save Vietnam from the Vietnamese

“If I Had a Hammer” – Pete Seeger, Lee Hays
Peter, Paul & Mary
© Rhino/WEA

This is one of those songs that has seeped so far into the public consciousness that it’s included in children’s songbooks. It’s a simple, easy song to remember. It so idealistic that people can’t help but sing along. Although this was a Pete Seeger composition, it’s most frequently linked to Peter, Paul & Mary, who helped popularize it.

I’d ring out “Danger!” / I’d ring out “Warning!” / I’d ring out love between my brothers and my sisters all over this land

“War” – Edwinn Starr
Edwin Starr
© Motown

Originally recorded by the Temptations, this song was popularized in 1970 by Edwin Starr. The Vietnam war was at the height of its conflict, and the peace movement was gaining speed. The song talks about war in general, not specifically the one in Vietnam. The lyrics raise the question of whether there must be a better way to resolve conflict.
War, I despise because it means destruction of innocent lives / War means tears to thousands of mothers eyes / when their sons go to fight and lose their lives

“I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore” – Phil Ochs
Phil Ochs – I Ain’t Marching Anymore album cover
© Elektra

Phil Ochs was one of the most prolific “protest song” writers on the scene in the 60s and 70s. This song takes the voice of a young soldier who is refusing to fight in any more wars, after having seen and participated in so many killings at war. It’s a poetic look into the inside of the ugliness of war, and a staunch claim for Och’s “War is Over” stance.

I marched in the battle of New Orleans at the end of the early British war / I killed my brothers and so many others, but I ain’t marching anymore
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“Where Have All the Flowers Gone” – Pete Seeger
Pete Seeger
© Sony

That Pete Seeger really knows how to write those protest songs. This is yet another classic by Woody’s protege. The simple recurring lyrics make it completely sing-along-able. The story is of the cycle of war, beginning with young girls picking flowers that eventually end up on the graves of their dead soldier husbands. The recanting of “When will they ever learn” is so pretty and catchy that it gets sung at peace demonstrations even still.

Jazz and the Beat Generation

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Jazz and the Beat Generation

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Jazz and the Beat Generation
As the Beat movement was getting underway, bebop was already going strong, especially in New York City, where 52nd Street was bustling with activity in jazz clubs up and down its length. Bebop was an innovative style of jazz which saw its heyday in the ’40s, characterized by smaller combos as opposed to big bands and a larger focus on virtuosity. Bebop’s renaissance came about in the heart of New York City, where musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Max Roach and Miles Davis were ushering in a new era for jazz music.
Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and friends spent much of their time in New York clubs such as the Red Drum, Minton’s, the Open Door and other hangouts, shooting the breeze and digging the music. Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis rapidly became what Allen Ginsberg dubbed “Secret Heroes” to this group of aesthetes.

Why did jazz suddenly become such a driving force behind the writings of the Beat authors? What similarities can we find between jazz musicians and the Beats? Perhaps the most obvious comparison we can make is indicated by the very word “beat.”

“The word ‘beat’ was primarily in use after World War II by jazz musicians and hustlers as a slang term meaning down and out, or poor and exhausted”. Kerouac went on to twist the meaning of the term “beat” to serve his own purposes, explaining that it meant “beatitude, not beat up. You feel this. You feel it in a beat, in jazz real cool jazz”.

The Beat authors borrowed many other terms from the jazz/hipster slang of the ’40s, peppering their works with words such as “square,” “cats,” “nowhere,” and “dig.” But jazz meant much more than just a vocabulary to the Beat writers. To them, jazz was a way of life, a completely different way to approach the creative process. In his book ‘Venice West’, John Arthur Maynard writes:

Jazz served as the ultimate point of reference, even though, or perhaps even because, few among them played it. From it they adopted the mythos of the brooding, tortured, solitary artist, performing with others but always alone. They talked the talk of jazz, built communal rites around using the jazzman’s drugs, and worshipped the dead jazz musicians most fervently. The musician whose music was fatal represented pure spontaneity.
In his only successful book, ‘Go’, Beat author John Clellon Holmes wrote:
In this modern jazz, they heard something rebel and nameless that spoke for them, and their lives knew a gospel for the first time. It was more than a music; it became an attitude toward life, a way of walking, a language and a costume; and these introverted kids… now felt somewhere at last.
Perhaps the best model to explain the artistic ideals of both the jazz musicians and the Beat writers would be the late 19th-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud. Rimbaud’s attitudes towards the artist’s duty to create was quite similar to that of the jazz musician and the typical Beat poet (though it is likely that the Beat poet would purposefully imitate Rimbaud while the jazz musician would be unaware of any similarities).
Rimbaud drank heavily, wrote poetry at a young age, and “burned out” much like a number of drug-using jazz musicians. Rimbaud’s dedication to his art was so fervent that, around the age of 21, he arrived at the point where he could do no more. Beats claimed Rimbaud as another “Secret Hero,” much like Parker or Davis. The “Rimbaud complex” was an attitude that both the jazz musicians and the Beats shared.

Many Beats used heroin, Benzedrine and other drugs in adulation of the jazz musicians which used them, hoping that the drugs would do for them what they supposedly did for greats like Parker. Kerouac wrote his most famous book On the Road, frequently heralded as the definitive prose work of the Beat era, on a three-day stretch fueled by a Benzedrine binge. William S. Burroughs used his dependency on heroin as an inspiration for books such as Junky and Naked Lunch.

Not only did the Beats foolhardily try to emulate the ways of life of bebop greats, they used the principal ideas of bebop playing and applied it to prose and poetry writing, creating a style sometimes called “bop prosody.” Beat prose, especially that of Jack Kerouac, is characterized by a style submerged in the stream of consciousness, words blurted out in vigorous bursts, rarely revised and often sparsely punctuated for lines and lines. “No periods… but the vigorous space dash separating rhetorical breathing (as jazz musician drawing breath between outblown phrases)” wrote Jack Kerouac in his “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose,” one of the few pieces he wrote which explained his method of writing. In a 1968 interview with Michael Aldrich, Ginsberg said:

Yeah. Kerouac learned his line from–directly from Charlie Parker, and Gillespie, and Monk. He was listening in ’43 to Symphony Sid and listening to “Night in Tunisia” and all the Bird-flight-noted things which he then adapted to prose line.
One of the governing maxims of the Beat style of writing was expressed by Allen Ginsberg when he paraphrased an old Zen Buddhist philosophy in his words, “First thought, best thought.” Ginsberg called this improvisational technique applied to writing “composing on the tongue,” and it was used in one way or another by many of the Beat writers. Gregory Corso wrote a poem about the sun which was entirely spontaneous. “Sun hypnotic! holy all protracted long and sure! firey goblet! day-babble!”, and so forth.
The rhythm, meter and length of verse was also distinctly more similar to jazz music than it was to traditionally European styles. Ted Joans, a poet and friend of the Beat authors, once said, “I could see that [Ginsberg] was picking up the language and rhythm of jazz, that he wasn’t following the European tradition”. Ginsberg fancied himself a poet in the style of a bebop musician because he lengthened the poetic line to fit the length of his own breath, paused for air, and launched another line, sometimes starting with the same word as the last line. Jazz music is distinct in its stressing of the second and fourth beats, as in traditional African music, as opposed to the stressing of the first and third beats, as in Western music. Beat poetry frequently has a much looser, more syncopated rhythm, similar to jazz.

This technique is perhaps best exemplified in Ginsberg’s classic poem ‘Howl’, which was to Beat poetry what Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ was to Beat prose. “I depended on the word ‘who’ to keep the beat, a base to keep measure, return to and take off again onto another streak of invention,” Ginsberg said in a 1959 essay about his approach to poetry. The verbal technique of ‘Howl’ can easily be compared to a Charlie Parker song, in which Parker plays a series of improvisational phrases upon the same theme, pausing for breath and starting another. But Ginsberg said, “Lester Young, actually, is what I was thinking about… ‘Howl’ is all “Lester Leaps In.” And I got that from Kerouac. Or paid attention to it on account of Kerouac, surely–he made me listen to it”.

Perhaps the Beat who felt the strongest racial empathy with the jazz world was Leroi Jones, who later changed his name to Amiri Baraka. Baraka was a very different sort of Beat poet, and he was never a big part of the previously discussed group of core writers. Baraka was primarly set apart from the other Beats due to his attitudes derived from his African-American heritage. Most of the Beat authors were white. Baraka used his race as the fuel for much of his poetry, and he was very extreme in his political and racial viewpoints.

In his poetry, Baraka achieved levels perhaps closest to the goals of jazz musicians, especially John Coltrane, whom Baraka admired deeply. Baraka even contributed writing to the liner notes of a recent Coltrane anthology, using elements of scat to write lines such as “aggeeewheeeuheageeeee.aeeegeheooouaaaa”. Baraka took note of Coltrane’s “inversions” of tunes written by whites, such as “My Favorite Things,” and their transformations in works such as Jack Kerouac’s ‘Desolation Angels’ or ‘On the Road’.

Kerouac was particularly into the bop scene, even outside of his works. In his book ‘Milestones: The Music and Times of Miles Davis’, Jack Chambers writes:

Kerouac was even booked into the Village Vanguard to “play” regular sets, reading poetry with jazz accompaniment… on his better nights, he dispensed with the poetry and took up scat singing, including a faithful rendering of a Miles Davis solo that… “was entirely accurate and something more than a simple imitation.”
According to Ted Joans, Kerouac “knew lots of jazz musicians”, and befriended musicians such as Zoot Sims, Al Cohn and Brue Moore.
As Ginsberg said that ‘Howl’ was all “Lester Leaps In,” Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ was partially inspired by Dexter Gordon’s and Wendell Gray’s “The Hunt”. From ‘On the Road':

[Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady) stands] bowed before the big phonograph listening to a wild bop record… “The Hunt,” with Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray blowing their tops before a screaming audience that gave the record fantastic frenzied volume.
Kerouac even tackles the role of jazz historian in another part of ‘On the Road’. Triggered by a jazz club performance in Chicago, Kerouac launches into this ambitious paragraph:
Once there was Louis Armstrong blowing his beautiful top in the muds of New Orleans; before him the mad musicians who had paraded on official days and broke up their Sousa marches into ragtime. Then there was swing, and Roy Eldridge, vigorous and virile, blasting the horn for everything it had in waves of power and subtlety–leaning to it with glittering eyes and a lovely smile and sending it out broadcast to rock the jazz world. Then had come Charlie Parker, a kid in his mother’s woodshed in Kansas City, blowing his taped-up alto among the logs, practicing on rainy days, coming out to watch the old swinging Basie and Benny Moten band that had Hot Lips Page and the rest Charlie Parker leaving home and coming to Harlem, and meeting mad Thelonious Monk and madder Gillespie–Charlie Parker in his early days when he was flipped and walked around in a circle while playing. Somewhat younger than Lester Young, also from KC, that gloomy, saintly goof in whom the history of jazz was wrapped; for when he held his horn high and horizontal from his mouth he blew the greatest; and as his hair grew longer and he got lazier and stretched-out, his horn came down halfway; till it finally fell all the way and today as he wears his thick-soled shoes so that he can’t feel the sidewalks of life his horn is held weakly against his chest, and he blows cool and easy getout phrases. Here were the children of the American bop night.
Kerouac was also a poet, and he used his poetic abilities to eulogize Charlie Parker upon his death in his book of poetry Mexico City Blues. Choruses 239 to 241 are dedicated to Parker.
Charlie Parker looked like Buddha
Charlie Parker, who recently died…
“Wail, Wop” Charlie burst
His lungs to reach the speed
Of what the speedsters wanted
And what they wanted
Was his eternal Slowdown.
New York beat Gregory Corso similarly eulogized Bird upon his death in a poem called “Requiem for ‘Bird’ Parker, Musician,” published in his 1955 book ‘The Vestal Lady on Brattle’.
first voice
hey, man, BIRD is dead
they got his horn locked up somewhere
put his horn in a corner somewhere
like where’s the horn, man, where?

second voice

screw the horn
like where’s BIRD?
Corso’s 1958 book ‘Gasoline’ also contains a poem entitled “For Miles.”
Poet whose sound is played
lost or recorded
but heard
can you recall that 54 night at the Open Door
when you & bird
wailed five in the morning some wondrous
yet unimaginable score? (Corso, 50)
But of all the Beats, it is probably John Clellon Holmes who admired jazz musicians the most. He dedicated an entire book to the story of a down-and-out tenor sax player named Edgar Pool, entitled ‘The Horn’. Holmes also extrapolated an incredible amount of meaning from the aforementioned Dexter Gordon song, “The Hunt,” saying “listen there for the anthem in which we jettisoned the intellectual Dixieland of atheism, rationalism, liberalism–and found our group’s rebel streak at last”. Holmes’ ‘Go’ is full of religious imagery linked to jazz; his use of words such as “testament,” “sacrament,” “holy,” “mystery,” “prophecy,” “ritual” and “altar” assign a divine quality to jazz.
All of this is rather ironic when we read a journal entry of Holmes’, written on December 15, 1948:

As far as bop: I have stayed up very late with Jack [Kerouac], listening to Symphony Sid (“the all-night, all-frantic one”), who plays six solid hours of bop “at your request and in our groove.” I’m still puzzled by it as music, although I hear plenty of fine things in Dizzy and Parker, and there is no doubt in my mind that it is a…response to this post-war period.
Not only does Holmes seem not to “get it,” he incorrectly dubs bebop a “reaction,” when in fact it slowly evolved from late swing and transition period jazz. Still, Holmes was undeniably influenced by the bebop musicians.
West Coast poets were so influenced by the jazz movement that they made radical strides in synthesizing the two for the sake of live performances. The two primary poets responsible for this movement were Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Kenneth Rexroth, who attempted to liberate poetry from the clutches of the academics “who wouldn’t know poetry if it came up and buggered them in broad daylight” in Ginsberg’s words. Incorporating jazz, they believed, would attract a wider audience and bring poetry down to the level of the average jazz-club patron.

Many of these poems were recited with jazz accompaniment at the Cellar, San Francisco’s foremost jazz club. The results were tape recorded and released on the Fantasy jazz label, with the music of an ensemble comprised of tenor saxophonist Bruce Lippincott, drummer Sonny Wayne, pianist Bill Weisjahns, bassists Jerry Goode and Bob Lewis, and trumpeter Dickie Mills. Rexroth performed his 20-minute poem “Thou Shalt Not Kill” with a free-jazz accompaniment. Ferlinghetti wrote seven poems published in his ‘A Coney Island of the Mind’ with the intention that they be read with jazz. The introduction to the “Oral Messages” section reads:

These seven poems were conceived specifically for jazz accompaniment and as such should be considered as spontaneously spoken “oral messages” rather than as poems written for the printed page. As a result of continued experimental reading with jazz, they are still in a state of change.
With this new wave in performance, jazz musicians also found a new challenge in assimilating to the vocal and emotional element of the reciting poet. “…[I]n the words of Lipppincott… “We… respond with our instruments as emotionally as possible to the words of the poem and also the pre-arranged form. Such as… for this many lines we will have the drums swelling and rolling and the bass will enter at the bottom and play bowed”.
Very few of the Beats were jazz musicians to any extent. Similarly, the jazz musicians of the time did not often have literary aspirations. Thus, the inspirational connection between the Beat authors and the musicians was not exactly a two-way street. There are some exceptions; Charles Mingus’ “Fables of Faubus” was occasionally performed with poetic accompaniment, and John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” was released with a poem penned by Coltrane himself in the liner notes. There was also a degree of interaction between the two artistic fields; as previously stated, Kerouac interacted with quite a few jazz musicians, including Miles Davis.

Thus, without the Beats, the jazz movement would probably have rolled right along. But, as we have seen, the Beat movement relied heavily upon the genius of great such as Charlie Parker and Miles Davis for the inspiration that produced such valuable works like Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ and Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’. How fortunate that the two movements coincided at just the right time.

– mike_janssen

my favorite female folk singer Joan Baez and her relationship with Dylan

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“DIAMONDS AND RUST”

http://youtu.be/GGMHSbcd_qI

Quick Facts
NAME: Joan Baez
OCCUPATION: Children’s Activist, Civil Rights Activist, Environmental Activist, Women’s Rights Activist, Anti-War Activist, Guitarist, Singer
BIRTH DATE: January 09, 1941 (Age: 72)
EDUCATION: Boston University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Staten Island, New York City, New York
Full Name: Joan Chandos Baez
ZODIAC SIGN: Capricorn

thD05L3R6KJoan Baez is an American folk singer, songwriter and activist who is best known for her distinctive voice and for her role in popularizing the music of Bob Dylan.
Synopsis
Joan Baez was born in Staten Island, New York, on January 9, 1941. Baez first became known as a folk singer after performing at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival. She is known for topical songs promoting social justice, civil rights and pacifism. Baez also played a critical role in popularizing Bob Dylan, with whom she performed regularly in the mid-1960s.

“FOREVER YOUNG”

Quotes
“I’ve never had a humble opinion in my life. If you’re going to have one, why bother to be humble about it?”

– Joan Baez

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Early Life

Singer, songwriter and social activist Joan Baez was born on January 9, 1941, in Staten Island, New York. Baez, a singer in the folk tradition, was a crucial part of the genre’s rebirth in the 1960s. She got her first guitar in 1956. Two years after her family moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, Baez delved into the city’s burgeoning folk scene. Soon she became a regular performer at a local club.

Commercial Success and Activism

The 1960s were a turbulent time in American history, and Baez often used her music to express her social and political views. Her self-titled first album was released in 1960 and not long after its release she met the then-unknown singer-songwriter Bob Dylan.

In the early to mid-1960s, Joan Baez became an established folk artist as well as a voice for social change. She sang “We Shall Overcome” at the March on Washington in 1963 organized by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In addition to supporting civil rights, Baez also participated in the antiwar movement, calling for an end to the conflict in Vietnam.

Beginning in 1964, she would refuse to pay part of her taxes to protest U.S. military spending for a decade. Baez was also arrested twice in 1967 in Oakland, California, for blocking an armed forces induction center. Near the decade’s end, her autobiography, Daybreak (1968), was released.

Baez continued to be active politically and musically in the 1970s. She helped establish the west coast branch of Amnesty International, a human rights organization, and released numerous albums, including the critically acclaimed Diamonds and Rust (1975). In addition to touring, she also performed at many benefits and fundraisers for social and political causes around the world.

Later Work

Her most recent studio album was 2003’s Dark Chords on a Big Guitar. She followed up with a collection of live tracks in 2005 on Bowery Songs, which featured songs by Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie as well as some traditional folk songs.

Personal Life

Once married to David Harris, Joan Baez has a son named Gabriel from that union. She lives in California and continues to speak out for causes that are important to her.

Folk Music

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez: The King and Queen of Folk

A story of the relationship between Joan Baez and Bob Dylan

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“BLOWING IN THE WIND” BOB DYLAN AND JOAN BAEZ

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Bob Dylan and Joan BaezBob Dylan and Joan Baez

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For many, when you utter the words “folk music,” the first two people that come to mind are Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, the biggest stars of the 1960s folk craze. When 19-year-old Bob Dylan arrived in Greenwich Village in January 1961, Joan Baez had long been crowned the “Queen of Folk,” but within two short years, Dylan would ascend the throne as King of this musical monarchy, with the two wowing audiences from coast to coast with their live duets.

Two Talents Collide

In his 2004 autobiography Chronicles: Volume One (compare prices), Dylan wrote that, back in Minnesota, the first time he saw Baez on TV, “I couldn’t stop looking at her, didn’t want to blink. . . . The sight of her made me sigh. All that and then there was the voice. A voice that drove out bad spirits . . . she sang in a voice straight to God. . . . Nothing she did didn’t work.”

Baez, on the other hand, was unfazed by what she heard when she first saw Dylan perform at Gerde’s Folk City in 1961. However, by the time they finally met at Boston’s Club 47 in April 1963, Dylan had evolved into the scene’s most promising singer-songwriter, and Baez was blown away. Several weeks later at the Monterey Folk Festival, she would join Dylan onstage for a duet of “With God on Our Side” (purchase/download), marking the beginning of one of popular music’s most legendary stage partnerships.

Bob Who?

In July 1963, a still-unknown Dylan debuted the Newport Folk Festival, performing two  duets with Baez, one in her set and one in his own. By now smitten, Baez then invited Dylan along on her August tour, where she would bring him out for duets and give him short solo spots to hawk his wares. As she later recalled, “I was getting audiences up to 10,000 at that point, and dragging my little vagabond out onto the stage was a grand experiment… The people who had not heard of Bob were often infuriated, and sometimes even booed him.”

As the Queen of Folk, Baez’s endorsement played a huge role in Dylan’s early rise to success. But once his second album The Freewheelin Bob Dylan caught on, Dylan’s career soared as he stole the fire from his stage mate and lover. Soon the tables would turn, with Baez needing Dylan’s endorsement, which he gave by way of his sleeve notes for her second live album, Joan Baez in Concert Part 2 (compare prices). In his typical verse/commentary, he wrote that the “iron bars an’ rattlin’ wheels’ are real, the nightingale sound of Joan Baez’s voice an alien, smooth opposite… The only beauty’s ugly, man / The crackin’ shakin’ breakin’ sounds’re / The only beauty I understand’’

Later, during his 1965 tour of Europe, with Baez’s career on the slide, Dylan invited her along, promising to reciprocate that early exposure with spots during his shows. After she flew over, though, Dylan never followed through, in the process breaking Baez’s heart and ending their two-year music-fueled romance.

The Rolling Thunder Reunion

Despite Dylan’s snub, in 1968 Baez went on to release the album, Any Day Now: Songs of Bob Dylan (compare prices). And in 1972 she would write a song for Dylan titled “To Bobby” (purchase/download), with lyrics beckoning her former stage mate to get back into the action and help solve the problems of humanity. Then in 1975, Baez called out to Dylan again with her romantic reminiscence, “Diamonds and Rust” (purchase/download), singing the lyrics:

Now you’re telling me You’re not nostalgic Well give me another word for it You who’re so good with words And at keeping things vague.

If it was nostalgia Baez was seeking, she would soon get it after joining his 1975-76 renaissance road show, the Rolling Thunder Revue. As part of the opening set, Baez would do a couple songs, and then Dylan would join her onstage for duets ranging from Merle Travis’s “Dark as a Dungeon” to the traditional song, “The Water is Wide.” On top of her role in the Revue, Baez was also cast as The Woman in White in what would become Dylan’s 1978 four-hour film, Renaldo and Clara, which was shot throughout the 30-show tour across New England and Canada.

The King and Queen’s Last Hurrah

On June 6, 1980, Dylan and Baez would reunite for the one-off “Peace Sunday” concert that took place in Pasadena, California, where they did duets of “With God on Our Side,” Jimmy Buffet’s “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” For hungry fans, a Dylan/Baez reunion tour had always been a sensational idea, and for some time, Baez had been urging Dylan to do just that. But Dylan wasn’t interested. That is, until 1984 when—most likely to amp up poor ticket sales—he invited her to join an already booked European Dylan/Santana package tour.

To get her on board, tour promoter Bill Graham promised Baez the world, but in the end delivered on nothing. To unsuspecting consumers, throwing Baez into the mix was to insinuate the much dreamed-of Dylan/Baez duet, but those who bought tickets on that basis would be as sadly disillusioned as Baez, who was promised not only top billing with Dylan, but a duet for each show.

With her name tacked onto concert posters as a mere “special guest,” Baez simply became the opening act for the headliners, Dylan and Santana. Livid and feeling used, Baez jumped ship halfway through the tour with Graham begging her to stay. But she’d had enough. “In the end I paid… a monetary forfeit, which I had expected to do,” wrote Baez in her 1988 autobiography, And a Voice to Sing With (compare prices). “But paying money was nothing compared to the battering my ego and spirit had taken for over a month.”

Dylan and Baez Today

Despite their ups and downs over the years, and the vitriol permeating Baez’s autobiography, when reminiscing today, both Dylan and Baez speak fondly of one another. Although very few of their duets have been released, Baez’s three-CD box set Rare, Live & Classic (compare prices) features “Troubled and I Don’t Know Why” from their August 1963 performance at Forest Hills. Previously unreleased duets of “It Ain’t Me Babe” and “With God on Our Side” can be heard on Baez’s 1997 disc, Live at Newport. For the visual experience, duets from all their Newport appearances can be seen in Murray Lerner’s The Other Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival.

man puts his virgin hair up for sale on Craig’s List!

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Man puts his ‘100% virgin’ hair up for sale
The New Yorker shows off his ‘jet black’ hair, which he is selling for £400 (Picture: Craigslist)

It looks like a bargain: One careful owner, it’s in great condition and can be sold to your specifications… but this is no second-hand car up for grabs.

Instead, anyone looking for 69cm (27in) of thick, long black hair is in luck. A New Yorker is selling his ’100 per cent virgin hair’ which has never been cut or messed with – all for just $600 (£400).

The seller in his early 30s claims on Craigslist that his locks have ‘never been dyed, permed, or chemically altered’.

And he boasts that the hair is ‘jet black, the way a raven shines in the moonlight, the color of a deep dark sleep’.

If that description doesn’t have you reaching for your debit card, he also assures any potential buyers that he never uses straighteners, curlers or hot rollers and always lets it dry naturally.

And the man, who insists he is a non-smoker who ‘says no to drugs’, said he would not sell his wonderful mane unless he received a high enough offer.

‘Only serious offer please,’ he declares.

‘Hair cutting can occur at the time/place/method of your choosing.’

See the full advert here.

AN ACT OF KINDNESS

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Cop who bought homeless man boots promoted

By Antonio Antenucci

November 26, 2013 | 4:26pm

The kind hearted cop who bought a pair of boots for a barefoot homeless man on a frigid night last year was promoted Tuesday to Detective.

Det. Larry DePrimo poses after the promotions ceremony at Police Headquarters.Photo: New York Post/Chad Rachman

Larry DePrimo, 26, made headlines in November for stopping to help Jeffrey Hillman, 54, in Times Square — buying him a pair of all-weather boots and thermal socks.

He was promoted to detective in an afternoon ceremony at 1 Police Plaza.

“It’s a dream come true, this shield is one of the most coveted shields I think in the country, maybe even the world.” DePrimo said. “I look down and it’s still unreal to me.”

DePrimo, who hasn’t seen Hillman since his act of kindness, would still like to meet up with him.

“Hopefully I’ll be able to meet him and see how’s he doing,” DePrimo said. “I’d shake his hand and ask him if he still wants to grab that coffee or some dinner.”

DePrimo was transferred from patrol in the 6th Precinct to the Queens Warrant Squad where the nick name “Boots” still sticks.

“The name tag in my office says, Larry Boots DePrimo, Queens Warrant Squad,” DePrimo said with a big smile.

Though he gained a lot of recognition for his good deed, his father, also Larry DePrimo, was quick to point out that his son’s charity wasn’t the only reason he was boosted up to detective.

“It’s important to remember Larry is not becoming detective today because he done something nice a year ago , his service record also speaks for itself too,” the senior DePrimo said.

His proud father also said that despite his son’s fame, he was just being a good person.

“He was arguably the most famous person in the world for 2 days,” the elder DePrimo said. “It still came down to Larry done something really nice for another person, that was the bottom line.”

DePrimo believes that even though he’s no longer in the public eye, he still has impacted people in a positive way.

“You know the attention has died down…I don’t think the effects it had on people has ever stopped,” DePrimo said. “I still will get ‘what you did inspired me to do a great thing for another person,’ that’s fantastic.“

Hillman, on the other hand, has been spotted as recently as March of this year still shoeless and having a sign on his back that reads “HOMELESS” while panhandling for money in the streets of Manhattan, even though he lives in a Bronx apartment.

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HIWAY AMERICA -ON A DUSTY MESA OUTSIDE OF ALBUQUERQUE N.M.

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ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL

NO WATER OR ELECTRICITY BUT BOUNDLESS SPACE

Monica Almeida/The New York Times

LIFE ON THE MESA VIDEO

http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/video/9jSfZk

The Pajarito Mesa, a treeless plateau never licensed for housing but home to more than 400 families, is one of the largest communities, other than some on the Mexican border, to exist off the grid. More Photos »

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By ERIK ECKHOLM
Published: April 18, 201

ALBUQUERQUE — Fermin Roman knew he was a pioneer when he bought his homestead on the Pajarito Mesa, a treeless plateau outside Albuquerque. But the seller assured him that water and power would arrive in a year or two.

Monica Almeida/The New York Times

Lacking electricity, Alicia Montes, with her grandson Jairo, relies on a wood-burning stove. More Photos »

Monica Almeida/The New York Times

Fermin Roman uses elevated water tanks to feed his showers, toilets and kitchen sink. More Photos »

The New York Times

This month, the mesa is to get a single metered water spigot. More Photos »

“I’m still waiting,” he said the other day, nearly 20 years later.

Now home to more than 400 families, the mesa is one of the largest communities, other than some along the Mexican border, to survive entirely off the grid — without running water, electricity, streets or mail. Here is a maze of unnamed dirt roads, with nary a grocery store or barbershop in sight. Adding to the sense of dislocation, Albuquerque’s skyline shimmers, Oz-like, on the horizon, a half-hour’s drive away.

Mr. Roman, like many of the hardy residents of the mesa, has improvised a frugal kind of comfort. Working evenings after his construction job, he wore out three wheelbarrows leveling an arroyo to build his cinder-block house. He hauls purchased water to elevated tanks that feed the kitchen sink, showers and flush toilets. Four solar panels run lights and television, while the refrigerator, stove and even his wife’s hair curler run on propane.

Many more recent arrivals are far less comfortable, crowding into dilapidated trailers, running noisy generators for electricity whenever they can afford the gasoline, using buckets for bathing and ice chests to keep milk.

The Pajarito Mesa community, scattered over 28 square miles, is 90 percent Hispanic and mostly poor, and includes an uncounted but large number of illegal immigrants. But they are not squatters: residents buy or rent their plots, and the owners pay property taxes, one of the many oddities of a community that is isolated in plain sight.

Access to water and electricity has been stymied by a legal mess and a lack of political power in the largely nonvoting community. The mesa was never legally subdivided, no streets or rights of way for power lines were set aside, and the area was never licensed for housing.

In a small step forward, this month the mesa will finally get its first water supply — a metered spigot at a single site where people can fill their barrels, instead of having to drive anywhere from 10 to 18 miles. Getting even this much took 10 years of organizing residents and pestering state and county officials, a campaign led by Sandra Montes, a former housewife who moved to the mesa in 1997 “without realizing how hard it was going to be,” she said.

In 2005, Ms. Montes, who now works for the Southwest Organizing Project in Albuquerque, corralled Gov. Bill Richardson during a public appearance in distant Las Cruces, describing the plight of the mesa and getting him to provide state aid for the water project.

Progress has come in small increments. Doctors from the University of New Mexico have started offering free medical care in a mobile clinic once a month. A new neighborhood association has worked with the county to give each home a Global Positioning System address so that sheriffs and ambulances can find their way to emergencies, rather than waiting for a guide at the base of the plateau.

Art De La Cruz, who was elected last year as a commissioner of Bernalillo County, has taken an interest in the mesa and hopes to straighten out land rights and eventually bring basic services. But no one has illusions about how quickly this will happen.

“In a nutshell, it’s an illegal community,” he said. “But I think that on a humanitarian level we have an obligation to help.”

“There’s no political capital for me in this at all,” Mr. De La Cruz added. Spending tax money on the mesa is not popular with many in the valley below, who feel that the settlers benefit by avoiding regulations and license fees that others have to pay, yet are now demanding equal services, he said.

Mr. De La Cruz hopes to get a federal grant to develop a master plan for the area. The dirt tracks used by mesa residents cross over neighbors’ properties, and the biggest expense of such a plan, he said, would be buying rights of way from landowners.

In meetings on the mesa, the commissioner has had a taste of the feisty individualism that could slow things down. “Almost certainly, some will say, ‘I don’t want a road splitting my 10 acres,’ ” Mr. De La Cruz said.

For all the hardships — including, in the spring, skin-stinging dust storms that turn the cobalt sky brown — many of the settlers like the remoteness, and they have adapted to life with minimal water and energy, conserving by necessity. Many love the stark vistas, the elbow room and the waking up to roosters, and are even feeling a bit wistful about the prospect of development.

While they want running water and roads that will not turn to slime in thunderstorms, some worry about the higher prices, traffic and crime that would follow.

“I’m very happy to be up here,” Ms. Montes said, expressing a typical sentiment. “We like the open spaces, and kids can wander safely.” Neighbors help one another, and the main crime problem, she said, is illegal dumping by outsiders — of trash, stolen cars and the occasional murder victim.

Maria Sandoval and her husband, who is from Mexico, bought two and a half acres here four years ago “to get away from utility bills and a big mortgage,” she said. “My husband loves it here,” she said. “If he got a job, he’d buy more animals.”

They share a trailer with their boys, 10 and 14, while her parents live in another trailer with a niece and a nephew.

While the extended family has created a homey compound, with chickens, goats and a vegetable garden, they cannot afford solar panels or a propane refrigerator, and the recession has pushed their thriftiness to a harsh extreme. Ms. Sandoval’s real estate job petered out, her husband cannot find carpentry work and her unemployment benefits will soon expire.

Ms. Sandoval, now studying to become a court reporter, said that nearly all their money goes for gas for the car and generator and for basic foods like corn, rice and beans. “It’s tough now,” she said, “and we seldom have meat.”

Bernadette Soto, who moved here four years ago to cut expenses, is less romantic about life on the Pajarito Mesa. She does not have an elevated water tank and must carry buckets to the sink and toilet. She runs a generator when she can afford the gas, burning up to four gallons a day “so I can watch my soap operas,” she said. Sometimes she uses a car battery, and “sometimes we just have candles.”

If offered a modern apartment in the city, “sure I’d move,” she said. “Then I could take a shower every day.”

HIWAY AMERICA -SECRET CAVERNS AT COBLESKILL NEW YORK

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The Caveman leads the way.

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The Art of Secret Caverns

Cobleskill, New York

 In Paleolithic times, artists went deep into Europe’s caves to mark the walls with cryptic and beautiful paintings. These masterpieces were hidden, unvisited, for thousands of years — and that’s probably because early humans had no concept of a billboard. In modern times, the evolved cave artists at Secret Caverns in Cobleskill, New York, know that the cave should be left in its pristine state, and that a better canvas is a 30×20-foot piece of plywood propped up along a highway.

Todd DelMarter in the bathroom.
Todd DelMarter in the bathroom.

While the subterranean Michelangelos of prehistory are nameless, we know precisely who to praise when it comes to Secret Caverns’ art-cosmology of spaceships, dinosaurs, yeti, and jackalopes: master painters Todd DelMarter and Kurt Piller, and bantam-rooster-of-a-cave-owner R.J. “Caveman” Mallery.

“R.J.’s lack of taste is fundamental in allowing us to do this,” said Kurt.

“Not only is it important to have a patron who will support your art, but who will support your crappy art.”

It began, as best as Todd and Kurt can remember, around 1989.

They were very young men, working as tour guides at Secret Caverns, when they talked R.J. into letting them hand-paint a billboard on nearby US 20. Titled, “Things You Won’t See at Secret Caverns,” it featured a bloody clown with a hatchet, a Grateful Dead skeleton, and a flying monkey.

Secret Caverns billboard appealing to recent busloads of Chinese tourists.
Secret Caverns billboard appealing to recent busloads of Chinese tourists.

“We’re a little business,” said R.J., justifying his decision, “so you gotta be different and interesting or you die.” He encouraged Todd and Kurt to paint more billboards, and they obliged by creating slogans so bad and imagery so incomprehensible that no corporate franchise would want to steal them.

“Like a Limestone Cowboy” proclaims one billboard. “Superior cavity protection… Now even cavier” promises another. “Extra Terrestrial… the Greatest Show in the Earth,” declares a third, whose iconography includes a parachuting cow, a prehistoric ammonite on a unicycle, a DEVO energy dome with feet, and the Secret Caverns Cool Caveman hoisting barbells labeled, “A Ton ‘O Fun.”

Wayward explorer cow at the discovery hole.
Wayward explorer cow at the discovery hole.

The Secret Caverns lodge itself, rebuilt after a mysterious fire in 1995, is one big work of art. Visitors enter through the mouth of a half-skeletal 80-foot-wide bat, and encounter a day-glo mural of earth’s prehistory and the mummified remains of Secret Caverns’ first visitor. Todd and Kurt have covered the bathrooms, floor through ceiling, with a menagerie of painted dinosaurs, Neanderthals, and cows. A floor grid in front of the men’s room urinal progressively extends: “Novice, Professional, Tour Guide” — or it did until worn away by corrosive overuse after only a couple of summer seasons.

“At this point you’d need a hazmat suit to repaint that floor,” said Todd. “We probably won’t be able to build there for another 20 years.”

Out back, life-size comic renderings of the cows “Floyd Cowlins” and “Emily Davis Moobly” flail in terror next to the hole into which they tumbled in 1928, revealing the entrance to the cave. Their gag-art bulging eyeballs and ragged teeth, said Todd, were inspired by his reading of too many Mad magazines as a child (Floyd is a nod to cave explorer Floyd Collins; Emily is a riff on a real spelunker with a broken leg rescued in 1991 from deep in a New Mexico cave).

Classic Rock tribute billboard is a
Classic Rock tribute billboard is a “Stairway to the Dark Side of the Earth.”

Secret Caverns billboards fan out along the surrounding highways, tempting travelers with a bedeviling array of bats, dragons, Space Invader aliens, renderings of the Secret Caverns “100 Foot Underground Waterfall,” and large arrows faithfully pointing the way. Some billboards are exclusively the work of Todd or Kurt, others are combined efforts.

Nuclear attack refuge sign in the lodge.
Nuclear attack refuge sign in the lodge.

“When it’s just one person it might be vaguely coherent,” said Kurt. “The collaborations are where it gets really weird. I never would have put pyramids with eyeballs floating on clouds, or a phalanx of General Lees from The Dukes of Hazzard flying over a volcano, if I hadn’t been working with Todd.”

Neither Kurt, Todd, nor R.J. know exactly how many Secret Cavern billboards are out there. Old ones collapse (or are obliterated by wayward cars), new ones are built in new spots, some of the smaller signs are stolen, many simply get repainted with new ideas. The greatest mass of signs stands along Caverns Road, winding two miles from Hwy 7 to the lodge, directly past arch-rival mega-cave Howe Caverns, providing a near-ceaseless barrage of imagery, slogans, and enticements, while deftly avoiding flavor-of-the-month pop culture references in favor of Todd and Kurt’s custom cosmology.

“Howe Caverns,” said Todd, “is the lovely bride at the wedding. Secret Caverns is the embarrassing drunken uncle at the reception. But that’s okay. We’ve got something they don’t have — a grid on the floor in front of the urinal.”

(Actually, touring the cave at Secret Caverns is a ton ‘o fun, too — we recommend it highly — with formations such as “Giant’s False Teeth” and “Bob Marley’s Evil Twin” and whatever else the guides can come up with on that day).

Cave Moses leads dinosaurs out of Babylon.
Cave Moses leads dinosaurs out of the Babylon passage.

“We have a symbiotic relationship with those signs,” said Kurt. “It’s 90 degrees, 100 percent humidity, and I’m out there scraping, sweating, getting sun burnt, and then I realize: there’s no place I would rather be right now than doing this, painting signs for Secret Caverns.”

Todd, remembering a dark time when he had a real job, expressed similar feelings. “Every day I was sitting behind a desk with a suit and tie, thinking about painting signs for R.J.,” he said. “It turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened in my life.”

Todd and Kurt labor on, creating outsider art ignored by the arbiters of outsider taste in places like New York and L.A. “It’s a remote location,” said Kurt of Secret Caverns, “on the forbidden plateau, forgotten by time, that is Schoharie County. But we’re okay with that. We long ago reconciled ourselves to being hell-bent for obscurity.”

“We did at one time look into trying to move the cave to a major metropolitan area,” said Todd. “But it was impractical.”