The sun was shining on Dauphin Island
photo courtesy of http://dibeachclub.com
Christmas morning but the wind was really whipping it. I swear I felt 40 mph gusts that sent sand blowing like a dust storm. It was blowing so bad the birds refused to fly. I herded a group of over 20 willets
photo courtesy of Arthur Morris- Birds As Art http://www.birdsasart.com/
up the beach for a long ways before they finally took to the air. Walking across the tops of the dunes behind Archie's place on Pequeno Street, I was reminded of a song lyric I wrote in the fall of '72:I'll run like a shorebird who's looking for footsteps,I'll hide in her sandpath to shield from the wind.I'll live between high tides.I'll love the Gulf's green waters but will my mind answer me the words I desire?Life answers no questions that come from outside it,Life will never tell us what comes further alongSo lay down sweet baby and love your poor bodyBecause a light in the tunnel might burn that sweet smile.
Noone was on the beach. Not one footprint in the sand; not near the pier, not on the west end or at Ft. Gaines.
photo courtesy of http://www.homepages.dsu.edu/jankej/images/civilwar/FtGaines
I saw one empty car parked at the Sea Lab.
photo courtesy of http://www.ag.auburn.edu/fish/
At the ferry landing, only one fisherman was walking around and he looked like he was thinking about not going out. Other than that cat, I had the whole world of Dauphin Island to myself.
Thousands of laughing gulls
found a snug harbor from the cold west wind by swimming in tight formations between the east end jetties in front of Ft. Gaines. The birds were so concentrated that they looked like islands of grey and white bobbing on top of the surf.
In the channel between the Ft. Morgan ferry landing and Little Dauphin Island, the laughing gulls bunched up on the water in the same way but they were accompanied by various ducks, terns, ring-billed gulls, cormorants, pelicans and loons. When the wind would suddenly die down, all the gulls would take off at the same time and immediately a grey cloud of laughing gulls darkened the sky for hundreds of yards.
To give you an idea of how bad the wind was, somebody ran over and killed a pelican and a gull on the Dauphin Island bridge Christmas morning. Not only that but water pushed by the wind washed all the way under the pilings of a house on the west end pushing a ladder and plywood out toward the sound and covering the side of the dumpster with sand.
By the middle of the morning I was getting hungry and I knew that nothing would open up until noon so I decided to get on the road and do a TOTAL OLD MOBILE IMMERSION. I headed up the parkway in my '94 Ford Exploder and soon enough I was rolling east on ancient, empty and pealing Dauphin Street.
photo courtesy of http://p.vtourist.com/1370564
The only sign of activity were a handful of the faithful leaving Christmas Mass at The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
photo courtesy of http://www.archives.state.al.us/mobile
and a lone inconceivably, incomprehensibly hostile soul brother on the deserted sidewalk of Bienville Square.
photo courtesy of http://p.vtourist.com/
I cut him some slack though because I figured he might be in mourning at the passing of "THE HARDEST WORKING MAN IN SHOW BUSINESS!", SOUL BROTHER #1, THE GODFATHER- James Brown.
photo courtesy of http://www.concertshots.com/
I never witnessed a James Brown show but I sure saw Sonny Grier of The Rockin' Gibraltars do his James Brown Review a few times when I was back in high school. The legacy of James Brown was at the top of the agenda last Thursday night in Montgomery. Bobby Dupree, drummer for the Rockin' Gibraltars[THE SOUTH'S #1 SOUL BAND-circa '66] http://heybabydays.com/photos_73.htm
invited me to the R.G.'s Christmas party at the City Grill, the best place to eat in Monkey Town. The R.G.'s made me feel like an honorary member of the band and it was cosmic sit down and have a wonderful supper ( for appetizers we had French bread, steamed mussels, tuna sushi and calimari. The lobster claw meat on my surf & turf covered my steak! Crumpton bitched about the price but since Dupree picked up my tab, I thought the excellent food was worth every penny of it),
to have them all sign my copy of THE HEEEY BABY DAYS OF BEACH MUSIChttp://heybabydays.com
, to have Kim Payne sign his photo on the album cover of the Allman Brothers' LIVE AT FILLMORE EAST
photo courtesy of Kim Payne http://www.myspace.com/robertkimpayne
and after almost 35 years to be able to rap again with my old Partlow buddy, Rockin' Gibraltars' guitarist Rusty Crumpton[I still got Rusty's entire '67-'68 Berkeley Barb collection with the exception of the Timothy Leary LSD, BABY! issue which I did xerox before I sold it on e-Bay]
I was also really blown away at meeting R.G.'s keyboardist Ed Sanford. Not only that, it was a SHOCK to actually make friends with him.
We all talked about Tippy Armstrong, Eddie Hinton and Joe Rudd. I told everybody what George Byrd said about Joe Rudd:"MAN! I TELL YOU THIS! He Could Find Them Chords!!!!"
That could have been said for all three of Tuscaloosa's late pioneer guitar slingers.
I'm looking forward to working with all of these great guys in the days ahead.
The food was superb and thank you so much for the monogramed R.G. shirt!MUCHAS MIS AMIGOS!!!!
Friday was going to be the night of Lee Pake's WORLD'S BIGGEST JEWISH CHRISTMAS PARTY in T-town so I had to get back but, believe or not, I avoided driving while blind back to Tuscaloosa Thursday night by setting things up local accomodations with my ole padnuh, Scott Gellerstedt. He bought his Daddy's 4 acre spread in the Wetumpka meteor crater
photo courtesy of http://www.auburnastro.org/trips/wetu
so I showed up and we rapped into the wee hours and drank coffee in the morning to the point to where I was late getting back to Pake Realty to get things ready for the big party.
Had lots of responsibility in Tuscaloosa on Friday. We had to get the office ready for STAR OF STAGE, SCREEN & RADIO LEE PAKE'S WORLD'S BIGGEST JEWISH CHRISTMAS PARTY. We finished up in the nick of time and it was exciting as usual but the highlight for me was walking into the kitchen while a big-time D.C. politician was holding court and I interrupted him by asking, "Well, y'all covered up all those years for Foley so how many more queers in Congress are y'all covering up for?"
"Probably about 36 men and women in the House," he immediately snapped,"and maybe 6 or 7 in the Senate but isn't that on par with the general population?"
Man, the crowd dropped their teeth! & after a moment of silence there was a ROAR of laughter!
I cleaned up after the party and then walked over to the Downtown Pub to wind down. I ran into an art professor who works at BAMA and ended up telling him about all the stuff my son, Christopher, was going to do on his trip to the Minnesota/Ontario border this week.
photo courtesy of http://www.awac.org/Website
He said,"I'd give a grad school recommendation to anyone who put down on their application that they knew how to build an igloo!"
I thought that was kewl.
I took care of my chores Saturday morning and headed south for The Island.
The trip down through the bare trees of winter was uneventful until I decided to wash some of the road dust down by pulling into the color TV monitored parking lot of the notorious Paradise Lounge in Kushla just about Prichard.
As usual, the barstools were occupied with a few fifty-something Vigor Wolves. I ordered a Bud in the bottle and sat down next to a weathered semi-conscious soul. His partner, a mean blondheaded Italian, immediately started cursing me in Italian.
"Don't pay no attention to him," said my new barmate,"You can't understand anything he says when he gets drunk and starts that Italian." I ignored the mean Italian, talked to the girl behind the bar and ordered another one.
Suddenly I was bumped in the back so hard that I was rocked on my barstool. I don't know what this big guy was up to but I tried to make friends with him and started talking about Vigor and about how Topper Price grew up in Plateau and he asked me when I graduated. I told him that I graduated from Dothan High School in '68.
He said, "Well, you must have known my sister Carlita."
I told him once more that I didn't go to Vigor but I did go to Dothan High. He was not impressed. In fact, he was pissed off.
He said,"So you're saying you graduated in '68 and you DON'T REMEMBER MY SISTER CARLITA?"
I finished my beer while looking at my vehicle on the bar's video monitor. Thank you Jesus, I got out of Paradise and safely made it through Mobile County to The Pelican Reef Bar at the Fowl River Marina on the north side of the bridge leading to Mon Luis Island.
I ordered a half pound of sauteed crab claws at the bar. It was really kicking at the Pelican Reef Saturday night with all the mariners challenging each other to do one armed pull ups on the rafters of the bar[The record was 7 and I swear he did it because I led the cheering].
It may have been kicking at Pelican Reef but it were sho' nuff off uv dah chain at the Pelican Pub on Dauphin Island. I get in there and about the time I get to say "Hi" to Paula the Bartender, Rhonda the Bar Back & Lisa , this gigantic shithead YELLS at this regular pub customer,"YOU'RE A QUEER! I'M GONNA WHIP YOUR ASS!"
The regular pub customer, mistaking his Skoal can for his cell phone, holds the round tin can above his head while yelling, " I'm calling the police right now!"
The "Hunting Trouble" Goliath immediately broke the neck off his beer bottle spewing beer and glass everywhere. Suddenly customers were holding their barstools high in the air and aiming them at the head of the big guy holding the broken bottle neck.
We had a Mexican standoff with Paula the Bartender squatting on top of the bar, banging and yelling at the top of her lungs. The cops arrived and took Mr. Big away, the crowd thinned and then things got freaky. Paula the Bartender,man,that girl know every hoochie coochie shimmy trick known to man. Lisa can bop like nobody's business so we would dance to the jukebox music anytime she wasn't doing some kind of devilment behind the bar with Paula and Rhonda. Lisa joins in on EVERYTHING and she likes to yell stuff like, "I ain't in love with a man. I'M IN LOVE WITH MANKIND!"
Rhonda is kinda the long straight blonde haired dominatrix with Betty Page bangs who loves getting behind the bar and pounding Paula's butt to the rhythm from the juke box.
What a night! Paula, Lisa and Rhonda: I shall always treasure those memories of last Saturday night!
Christmas Eve saw me rolling out of the sack a little bit before noon and I didn't really get moving until it was almost 2.
I wanted to do a little business at a local gift shop but they were closed so I headed over the bridge to Coden where I got to play Santa Claus for three little kids still living in a FEMA trailer on the bayou. I fitted all three of them out with gorgeous, colorful, Otavalo sweaters covered with handknit native symbols.
The warm cardigans fit 'em to a T.
Saw Greg Spies in Coden and showed him a bunch of my Aaron Burr stuff. We decided to go to Fort Stoddard on his truck. We had a couple of hours of daylight so me made it to the site before sundown. As we drove up to Mt. Vernon, the Magellan's satellite feed to Greg's truck's computer's Terrain Navigator Pro software was always showing our position at the center of the laptop's screen which rested on the center console. I learned more about Southwest Alabama geography in less time that at anytime in my life.
The Terrain Navigator Pro used a USGS map called STIGGINS LAKE, AL, 1983 while the Magellan satellite feed showed our position as a red arrow which moved the entire map so that the arrow was always at the center of the map no matter what direction we were going. The software also allowed Greg to draw on the map so he'd already drawn all the metes and bounds lines for the 1806 pre-emptions claims on his computer's map so now we got a headstart on locating the actual sites where the capture of Aaron Burr occurred 200 years ago this February. We will now begin to locate the routes of the early roads as well as the actual locations of Ft. Stoddard, the home and office of Nicholas Perkins, the home of Sheriff Brightwell, Colonel Hinson's farm, John Caller's house and other important territorial sites.
After the sun went down, Greg and I headed down to the Tillman's Corner Ruby Tuesday to eat a Christmas Eve steak. Unfortunately, we kept 'em open a little later than they wanted but it beeze dat way sometime.
We left the restaurant in an exploring state of mind so after leaving Belle Fontaine, we headed down Fowl River Road to the Bama Barn on Bellingrath Road for a Christmas Eve pool tournament. About 30 folks showed up and everybody commended The Bama Barn management for having the foresight to know that many people wanted to have a few drinks AWAY from their families on Christmas Eve.
I got home to the island safely and the next morning made my decision TO TOTALLY IMMERSE MYSELF IN OLD MOBILE.
My 2006 Christmas dinner consisted of smoked gouda, Trisquits and a Milwaukee's Beast consumed inside the Exploder while parked in front of the Winn-Dixie on the corner of Government Street and South Catherine Street in Mobile.
After dinner I explored the live oak canopied streets of Old Mobile
photo courtesy of http://www.dyestat.com
and ended up parking at the Oakleigh Mansion.
photo courtesy of http://www.historicmobile.org/Oakleigh
Par for the course, noone was there so I undertook a self guided tour of the grounds. Walking into the garden for the first time, I immediately noticed the same tree ferns I'd seen growing on the sides of the Andes in Ecuador.
As I stood there in the middle of first patio admiring the fountains, the camillias and the tree ferns, I looked down and noticed these words carved into the granite at my feet:ONE IS NEARER GOD'S HEART IN A GARDEN THAN ANYWHERE ELSE ON EARTH.Well, y'all, that's some of the stuff that happened during my Christmas vacation. By writing this I preserved some memories for myself and maybe some of y'all enjoyed it too. I hope so.
Mobile Cadets' section of Magnolia Cemetery photo courtesy of http://www.archives.state.al.us/mobileI sure did.