Saturday, November 22, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Last American Hero Is Junior Johnson. Yes! By Tom Wolfe

"It is a long, very gradual climb from Greensboro to Wilkes County.
Wilkes County is all hills, ridges, woods and underbrush, full of pin
oaks, sweet-gum maples, ash, birch, apple trees, rhododendron, rocks,
vines, tin roofs, little clapboard places like the Mount Olive Baptist
Church, signs for things like Double Cola, Sherrill's Ice Cream,
Eckard's Grocery, Dr. Pepper, Diel's Apples, Google's Place, Suddith's
Place and -- yes! -- cars. Up onto the highway, out of a side road from
a hollow, here comes a 1947 Hudson. To almost anybody it would look
like just some old piece of junk left over from God knows when, rolling
down a country road . . . the 1947 Hudson was one of the first real
"hot" cars made after the war. Some of the others were the 1946
Chrysler, which had a "kick-down" gear for sudden bursts of speed, the
1955 Pontiac and a lot of the Fords. To a great many good old boys a
hot car was a symbol of heating up life itself. The war! Money even for
country boys! And the money bought cars. In California they suddenly
found kids of all sorts involved in vast drag racing orgies and
couldn't figure out what was going on. But in the South the mania for
cars was even more intense, although much less publicized. To millions
of good old boys, and girls, the automobile represented not only
liberation from what was still pretty much a land -- bound form of
social organization but also a great leap forward into
twentieth-century glamor, an idea that was being dinned in on the South
like everywhere else. It got so that one of the typical rural sights,
in addition to the red rooster, the gray split-rail fence, the
Edgeworth Tobacco sign and the rusted-out harrow, one of the typical
rural sights would be . . . you would be driving along the dirt roads
and there beside the house would be an automobile up on blocks or
something, with a rope over the tree for hoisting up the motor or some
other heavy part, and a couple of good old boys would be practically
disappearing into its innards, from below and from above, draped over
the side under the hood. It got so that on Sundays there wouldn't be a
safe straight stretch of road in the county, because so many wild
country boys would be out racing or just raising hell on the roads. A
lot of other kids, who weren't basically wild, would be driving like
hell every morning and every night, driving to jobs perhaps thirty or
forty miles away, jobs that were available only because of automobiles.
In the morning they would be driving through the dapple shadows like
madmen. In the hollows, sometimes one would come upon the most
incredible tarpaper hovels, down near the stream, and out front would
be an incredible automobile creation, a late-model car with aerials,
Continental kit overhangs in the back, mudguards studded with
reflectors, fender skirts, spotlights, God knows what all, with a girl
and perhaps a couple of good old boys communing over it and giving you
rotten looks as you drive by. On Saturday night everybody would drive
into town and park under the lights on the main street and neck. Yes!
There was something about being right in there in town underneath the
lights and having them reflecting off the baked enamel on the hood.
Then if a good old boy insinuated his hands here and there on the front
seat with a girl and began . . . necking . . somehow it was all more
complete. After the war there was a great deal of stout -- burgher talk
about people who lived in hovels and bought big -- yacht cars to park
out front. This was one of the symbols of a new, spendthrift age. But
there was a great deal of unconscious resentment buried in the talk. It
was resentment against (a) the fact that the good old boy had his money
at all and (b) the fact that the car symbolized freedom, a slightly
wild, careening emancipation from the old social order. Stock-car
racing got started about this time, right after the war, and it was
immediately regarded as some kind of manifestation of the animal
irresponsibility of the lower orders. It had a truly terrible
reputation. It was -- well, it looked rowdy or something. The cars were
likely to be used cars, the tracks were dirt, the stands were rickety
wood, the drivers were country boys, and they had regular feuds out
there, putting each other "up against the wall" and "cutting tires" and
everything else. Those country boys would drive into the curves full
tilt, then slide maniacally, sometimes coming around the curve
sideways, with red dirt showering up. Sometimes they would race at
night, under those weak-eyed yellow-ochre lights they have at small
tracks and baseball fields, and the clay dust would start showering up
in the air, where the evening dew would catch it, and all evening long
you would be sitting in the stands or standing out in the infield with
a fine clay mud drizzle coming down on you, not that anybody gave a
damn -- except for the Southern upper and middle classes, who never
attended in those days, but spoke of the "rowdiness."

But mainly it was the fact that stock-car racing was something
that was welling up out of the lower orders. From somewhere these
country boys and urban proles were getting the money and starting this

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"Participants fortified themselves with coffee and Subway sandwiches. Another English professor contributed a devil's-food cake and a pair of devil's horns. Somebody drew a picture of the archangel Michael on the chalkboard..."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

these photos of the Budapest String Quartet in Vancouver in 1957 from the new LIFE photo archive hosted by Google

Vancouver trees

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Books of the States: Florida (27 electoral votes; Guest: Maud Newton)

gets immediate cred for including Charles Willeford's immortal Hoke Mosely novels....

farewell Grace Hartigan (above w/ Helen Frankenthaler)

For Grace, After a Party

You do not always know what I am feeling.
Last night in the warm spring air while I was
blazing my tirade against someone who doesn't
me, it was love for you that set me
and isn't it odd? for in rooms full of
strangers my most tender feelings
writhe and
bear the fruit of screaming. Put out your hand,
isn't there
an ashtray, suddenly, there? beside
the bed? And someone you love enters the room
and says wouldn't
you like the eggs a little
different today?
And when they arrive they are
just plain scrambled eggs and the warm weather
is holding.

Frank O'Hara

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Funk My Soul" blog remembers Levi Stubbs & The Four Tops with two of their great post-Motown albums Keeper of the Castle & Meeting of the Minds---

("Castle" one of the albums that got me through Grade 10--have a vivid memory of walking home with it (purchased, remaindered, a dime size hole punched in the right corner, at the furniture store downtown) through the woods behind the hospital, on a school day...