Thursday, July 7, 2011

Lovesick Blues: The Life of Hank Williams

Nighttime had fallen in the Smoky Mountains

In today's excerpt - Hank Williams (1923 - 1953), the brightest light in country music history and a true avatar of America's rural roots, died in the back of a moving car in the early morning hours of New Year's Day, 1953, at twenty-nine. He lived hard - drugs and alcohol, his hardscrabble upbringing, health problems, and his stormy marriage to Audrey spilled out in his songs. The first unabashed country music sex symbol, his leg gyrations and other stage movements were radical for their day. He was overlooked by official Nashville, there were only four mentions of Hank Williams in the Nashville newspapers during his lifetime. They left the Opry and the burgeoning music business to their own devices in those days - it was only "hillbilly" music, after all, something the pooh-bahs of the "Athens of the South" still held with contempt. But the working classes had lost their poet, a proletarian prophet who had touched their souls with his simple heart-breaking lyrics. That was Hank's true audience, the waitresses and the route salesmen and the farmers and the truck drivers of the world, and they began to be heard from almost immediately in their clamor to buy his records in the aftermath of his passing. Of his ten No.1 records, four of them came in the six months following his death:

"Nighttime had fallen in the Smoky Mountains. Hank was worn out, partly from the beer and nips of bourbon and the residue of alcohol that by now was nearly always present in his system, and he and Charley Carr [the teenager he had hired for the night to drive him] arrived at the Andrew Johnson Hotel at seven o'clock, about the time the show would have been opening in Charleston [had the snowstorm not delayed them]. Two porters had to assist Hank to the room they shared.

"The teenaged driver now had a genuine crisis on his hands. They were more than five hundred miles from Canton, up in northern Ohio, and he assumed the weather was much the same between there and Knoxville. The first thing he did was order two steaks from room service, and Hank took only a few bites before going to steep, finally rolling off the bed and falling onto the floor. When Hank began hiccuping, sending his body into convulsions, Carr's call to the front desk summoned a doctor, who came to the room and injected two shots, one of vitamin B6 and one of B12.

"Then Carr managed to contact the promoter, one A.V. Bamford, who told him the Charleston show might be canceled and strongly advised that they get back into the car and continue driving to Canton; the two o'clock matinee was a sellout, four thousand tickets already sold at $2.50 each, and if Hank didn't make it he would owe $1,000 on a penalty clause. The doctor who had given Hank the vitamin shots said he was okay to travel, so at 10:30 a porter came to the room with a wheelchair, sat Hank in it, and delivered him to the car. Hank managed to get out of the wheelchair and crawl into the backseat without anyone's help, cuddling up with the blanket Carr wrapped around him, and off they lurched into the storm. ...

"[Three long hours into the trip], Carr presumed Hank was in a deep sleep as the two-lane highway twisted away from Bluefield, tires humming, telephone poles zipping past in the glare of the headlights. He happened to look over his shoulder for a glance at the form in the backseat - Hank was stretched out on his back, his hands folded across his chest, nothing unusual - and when he noticed that the blanket had fallen away he reached over with his right hand, still driving with his left, to fumble for the blanket and cover Hank with it. It was then that he inadvertently touched Hank's hand. It was stone cold.

"Terror hung in Carr's throat. This was more than he could handle alone. He needed help. Seeing a sign reading 'Oak Hill 6,' his heart pumping furiously, he floored the Cadillac. At the edge of the tiny town there was a cut-rate gas station. He brought the ear to a screeching stop, rushed inside the station, and asked the old man on duty if he would come take a look at the fellow in the backseat. 'Looks like you've got a problem,' the man drawled after he had done so, and directed Carr to the Oak Hill Hospital. There, he parked around back, walked into the hospital, and asked two interns to come out and check on his passenger. They followed him to the car and needed only a glance at Hank's rigid body. 'He's dead, all right,' one of them said. 'But isn't there something you can do to revive him?' said Carr. 'It's too late,' he was told. 'The man's dead.' ...

"[At the autopsy], The doctor almost casually noted that there were needle marks on the arms and that Hank had recently been severely beaten and kicked in the groin. No drugs were found in the blood, just traces of alcohol. A coroner's jury later confirmed that Hank died of 'a severe heart condition and hemorrhage,' and let it go at that."

Linda's Hearth note: I remember everything from the long morning of my childhood, from the moment my Daddy told me Hank Williams had died. This book excerpt from Delancy Place, a blog I like.

Author: Paul Hemphill

Title: Lovesick Blues
Publisher: Viking
Date: Copyright 2005 by Paul Hemphill

Pages: 181-185, 191-192

Hank Williams singing "Hey Good Lookin' "

Lovesick Blues: The Life of Hank Williams
by Paul Hemphill by Viking Adult
If you wish to read further: Buy Now

Should you use the above link to purchase a book, delanceyplace proceeds from your purchase will benefit a children's literacy project. Delanceyplace is a not-for-profit organization

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dreaming Of A Democracy

PeaceCamp2010: There's Much More Than Sleeping At This Free Speech Demonstration

by Linda Lemaster, for Linda's Hearth

When I first visited PeaceCamp2010, I was moved to offer my support-- however little it seemed I might have to share with the fluid group of protesters. Most of the people I met the first week were totally focused on bringing attention to the public about an insidious sleeping-camping ban used to banish homeless people from any public areas and into hiding.

And because I had recently been in court as an 'expert witness' about local homelessness, I had already met some new friends who also turned up at this "Fourth of July Demonstration" which, it turns out, kept on going like the Energizer Bunny. In early July nobody I met realized PeaceCamp2010 would continue for several months, and then be shredded by County Sheriff Deputies.

Local attorney and sovereignty philosopher Ed Frey was deemed a hero to many of the homeless people who found their way into camp. PeaceCamp2010 located itself in front of Santa Cruz County's Superior Court where traditionally citizens gather to share ideals and to bring concerns to their government.

Frey had found the means to provide a porta-potty nightly, and mounted the rented utility on a small trailer behind his pickup truck. He was right: "potty" was the missing ingredient for many earlier pro-homeless and anti-sleeping-ban rallies and protests and demonstrations, including several events held at this very same location.

PeaceCamp2010 was like a living kalidescope. While a number of folks stayed with it, those regulars you might say, a majority of peoples' faces changed every few days. It was run as though we were all adults -- most refreshing. Sure, leaders emerged, receded, emerged again. Yet there was a "live and let live" air to the sleep demonstration that seemed to welcome all comers. The demonstration with it's signs and bodies continued daily even as the nature of community nad safety, and a survival dialogue, evolved among the growing-larger group. And there was press coverage. Mostly negative, feeding off stereotypes and expressed fears of the general housed population, then later on, the antigonism and fears of County Building workers who did not appreciate having to see the artifacts of homeless living on their way to work.

It was apparent that sleeping as a legit mode of protest went far over the heads of most passers-by. We were following a longstanding tradition that reckons sleep in this context as necessary speech. So many other venues had not worked, some even backfiring -- as evidenced by troll-busting backlashes, and by our inability to get our message shared without extreme distortion.

It is a painful thing to meet again and again new groups of politically innocent homeless folks becoming enthused self-help activists. They will be crestfallen when they realize how things REALLY work in "the system." But this time, it was different. The people involved were all survivors already, also they had a handful of housed allies such as Ed Frey when the camp began. So it appeared to me when I visited PeaceCamp2010 the first time, four days into the demonstrating, that there was a chance to be effective, and that fewer broken hearts would fall out.

Sleeping as Demo had worked for Mitch Snyder and the Community for Creative Nonviolence in 1984, tho' the Supreme Court ruled later that park bosses have subsantial rights to limit the gross number of sleepers demonstrating, to whatever extent they are protecting park resources. It was a court whose majority were as anti-homeless as was the general Reagan-enchanted population at that time. But at least those Supreme Justices understood Freedom of Speech as a Constitutionally protected right. Not so in Santa Cruz, for Honorable John Gallagher recently defined California's Lodging 647(e) as "sleeping...", and ignored everything having to do with our demonstration.

I have been striving for over 30 years to educate folks about the horrific and deadly results that come to poor and homeless people due to shortsighted, ignorant, and sometimes even mean spirited policies. Obviously, people are not hearing me yet. At PeaceCamp2010 I felt, "maybe THIS time we will be heard and understood, and some few folks will better survive?" I remained convinced that American people are largely compassionate -- they must be trussed up by fear, not paying atention? So I brought fresh water to the camp and spent some time listening to people, mostly one-on-one, yet we ate together and both informal and intentional subgroups formed naturally .

These homeless folks kept feeding me, so I stayed longer and I kept coming back. Yet I was floored when a news reporter from Channel 8 came by with his cameraman one late afternoon, and the several homeless folks still at PeaceCamp2010 declined being interviewed on-camera. Reporter: "So, can you point me to a spokesperson?" and the kids pointed to me; too late to panic! Grateful I'd had some considerable experience with homelessness, because I hadn't been hanging out among the political pow-wows.

Those kids were actually very busy -- watching gear and bedding for almost a dozen other folks, and getting to know someone else's dog for the day, while the dozen were away at jobs or doing their survival chores.

I had a lot of fun working with folks at PeaceCamp2010. One evening the vibes and the music were so great, even I (with my crumpled-up joints and pain centers amuk) was dancing. Backlit by bright yellow courthouse corridor nightlights, serenaded by magnificent violin, flute and guitar. Another evening, three drums and a young woman singing transfixed our senses.

By the time most everybody went to sleep, most of us were truly relaxed and in tune with each other. The warp and woof of community was enchanting, and I felt deeply reassured that many people will survive no matter the predations of the state and no matter housed people's fear- constricted territorial instincts. Once again showing everyone "Homeless Not Helpless".

Sunday, July 3, 2011


"YOU CAN SLEEP IN JAIL," Said the Judge to the Homeless Man's Question: "Where Can I Legally Sleep?"

These are pictures taken on the last day of the "Lodging Five Trial." That's me, top photo, in the basement restaurant under the Santa Cruz County Building, which adjoins Superior Court, at 701 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz.

The bottom shot shows a reporter from the Santa Cruz Sentinel, local daily paper, interviewing Gary Johnson and attorney Ed Frey, right after the jurors left, post trial. Frey was attorney for four homeless defendants as well as for himself. He said he remains convinced that awakening sleeping homeless people to criminalize them is "cruel and unusual punishment."

Gary and Ed ended up jailed when they came back, early June, for sentencing. They had planned to talk with the judge about jury irregularities, but were not permitted to bring it up. The judge went overboard on their sentencing (see earlier reports on this blog or Indybay Santa Cruz for more details). So they were stuck directly into jail because the sentence was so extreme.

Our judicial system -- indeed, our Constitution -- provides that the punishment needs to fit the crime, but apparently there is no mechanism to appeal same when there's such a breakdown. It appears to me to be a system that can be manipulated by those with extra money, yet for those who must work to survive, it grinds them up more than it seeks justice, or even seeks information.

After a few weeks, attorney Frey was released from jail, with the help of longtime, reknown criminal-law attorney Peter Leeming ~ but still no mea culpa from Judge Gallagher. The judge lowered their bail from $50,000 to $110, the latter a figure "from the schedule?" said the judge.

The day after he was released, Ed hooked up with the DA to get Gary released as well. Frey said later, "I told her (the DA on this case) it's only fair."

I believe this reporter's name is Katherine Kelly, will double-check and correct here if not. So far the Sentinel's reportage has been heavily biased to reflect the D.A. perspective and thus ignoring the needs and rights of both demonstrators and homeless folks.

Ed and Gary will be allowed to present their request for appeal on August first. My trial, for getting similar ticket for "lodging 647(e)" almost a year ago, on August 7, at PeaceCamp2010, is set for either trial or another hearing about a week into August.

We are hoping to collaborate in an event to promote support for the attorneys involved, at the new India Joze restaurant on Front Street in Santa Cruz, by then. Want to help?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Free Meal and Overnight 'First Amendment' Vigil at City Hall, City of Santa Cruz

640_food-not-bombs.jpg original image ( 700x465)

Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs
Meal and Overnight Vigil
In Solidarity with Orlando Florida

Defend First Amendment Rights and Support Food Not Bombs Co-Founder
Keith McHenry

Tuesday June 28, 2011 (n below: July 1, 2011)
from Indybay Santa Cruz

The City of Orlando, home of Disney World in Florida, is being sued in court over a city law that has effectively made it illegal for any group to feed more than 25 people at a time in downtown parks without a permit. It also limits groups to no more than two permits per park, per year.

The group Food Not Bombs has refused to obey the new law—saying food is a right, not a privilege—and has continued to serve free meals to poor and homeless Floridians. Over the past month more than 20 members of the organization have been arrested. Keith McHenry, who helped found Food Not Bombs over 30 years ago, was arrested on June 22nd and remains in jail.

Acting in defense of First Amendment rights, in solidarity with Keith McHenry, and to end the criminalization of poverty, Food Not Bombs-Santa Cruz is planning a free meal, event and overnight vigil on Thursday, June 30th starting at 7pm outside Santa Cruz City Hall.

Overnight Success on Center Street

by Linda Ellen Lemaster, Linda's Hearth
July 1, 2011

I went to the Food Not Bombs solidarity meal, at a quarter of 8 pm last night. It was already a full fledged success -- having fed about three dozen folks, and several volunteers were beginning to talk about a sleepover.

Crow and Casey were the hosts and cooks and very remarkable energy centers for this event. A number of HUFF activists, and at least five survivors from last summer's PeaceCamp2010, including Ed Frey fresh from jail for Lodging, attended the event. HUFF's Norse provided signs linking both sleep and eats as human rights, and the blue lettered FOOD NOT BOMBS' twenty-foot long banner could be seen halfway down the block.

India Joze, longtime food ally of poor and homeless locals, contributed hearty vegetarian stew to the fare Food Not Bombs organizers had prepared: soup in clear broth, tons of fresh salad, and loaves of sourdough french bread. Somebody drove by to drop off a bag of fruit.

After eating and catching up with folks at the event, I spent the night nearby in a car I get to use, and there was at least one other car-sleeper. Seven other people spent the night at City Hall on the brick plaza that links this governmental center's garden campus with Center Street, wrapped illegally in sleeping bags and blankets.

I came back by at 7:30am, to find fresh coffee from a SubRosa collectivist and most of the sleepers making plans for the day and for a month from now.

Keith McHenry is my "stone soup" man. He's one of my major heroes, similar to 'India Joze'. He got me to stop whining and showed me I can make soup in almost any setting, as we joined energies and borrowed an old-fashioned coffee percolator from the City-County Library, across the street from another demonstration at same City Hall in the 1980s.

McHenry had a huge impact on this movement offering food to hungry people in the US of America, but it really IS a movement actually, and putting him in jail now cannot stop this movement. en it is so essentially simple to prevent; we all need to wake up and realize what's going on -- starving and criminalizing people for natural and unavoidable functions -- in our names and with our taxes.

The city of Orlando is an 'invented' city, built over the Everglades in the late 1960s and early 1970s, advertising jobs all over the state of Florida for their soon-to-materialize DisneyWorld. This shame of Orlando's government seems a microcosm of our economy. Starve them -- redistribute the now-unemployed victims of our Nation's entertainment addiction industry.

Last night I was very proud of Food Not Bombs.