Climate change is so real I crash landed in the January grass

I had no anticipation except for perhaps a few pretty pictures when I brought my camera along on my cross-country skiing outing yesterday at Lincoln Park in Milwaukee. And yet, I almost gave up before I started. I drove up and saw that the front of the course and practice green were all literally green in January. The temperature hovered around 40 and, wearing my Christmas present – a long “Weatheredge Plus” Eddie Bauer jacket  with hood – I was actually overdressed, as the recent snow was melting very fast. I walked further onto the course and realized enough negotiable snow remained, and embarked on my first skiing outing of the year.

However my body and brain were not ready for the odd patchwork quilt of snow and thatchy grass I was skiing on. A fairly substantial downward incline from the woods on the right side of the golf course’s Par 1 hole, down to the fairway, looked like an enjoyable glide. So I pushed over the precipice and let the skis carry me down the snow and to the edge of a bare grass patch halfway down the hill. Caught by the grass, the skis slowed precipitously, but my body’s speed and momentum did not. I tumbled forward over the skis and down onto the mess of snow and muddy grass. One ski pole flew about eight feet away.
DOH! I might have thought for a moment and anticipated this.

But, no, I learned the hard way, and gradually. I actually fell a couple more times under similar circumstances, but this is partly due to being a little out of practice in cross-country skiing. Normally I do not fall on this nine-hole ski tour, or perhaps just once.

I soon realized this was a literal punch-in-the-gut example of climate change, or global warming. Last year and the year before, when I also took a few pictures here, there had been plenty of snow on mild and amenable winter days. See the two pictures below to compare, first the selfies both taken on the same 6th hole tee vista, and then the views from there of the fifth and six fairways at Lincoln, in 2018 and 2016.

Weather patterns here and around the continent seem in a full regression to a sorrier distance from environmental normalcy and balance. Most all scientists, of course, have plenty of explanation for all this, with consumption of fossil fuels as a primary culprit in this global crisis. Donald Trump’s rejection of the Paris Accord also pushes planet Earth on a long slippery slope in the wrong direction. Virtually all the world’s nations, activists and worthy legislators carry on against climate change, regardless. But this is a tough, tough battle, which environmental scholar/activist Bill McKibbon calls plausibly “World War III.” This post will lead you to his recent essay in The New Republic:

World War III is here and it’s not with North Korea or Russia or any human enemy…

As for my ski outing, I’ll let the pictures do the talking (mostly) from here.

Even the brilliant sun didn’t diminish the snow two years ago on the 6th hole’s playable ground (February 16, 2016, above). Compare to the 2018 selfie scene above.

Likewise, see the snowy 5th green and fairway from the tee of the 6th hole at Lincoln Park, on February 16, 2016

Here’s the same 5th green and fairway from the tee of the 6th hole at Lincoln Park yesterday, January 19, 2018

Here’s the view looking down on Lincoln’s par-3 6th hole yesterday where, two years ago, this scene was covered in snow in February.

As the sun set, I had a long ski hike back (above) from the 6th hole to the club house and parking lot, but the relatively treacherous patches of grass forced me to not build up too much speed on the snow, at least for this out-of-practice cross-country skiier.

But I learned a thing or two while getting plenty of good exercise.

p.s. Monday: Jan 22: The drizzling rain has reduced the snow to a few measly shrinking islands. I was lucky to get that ski outing in. How many more skiiable days will we get this year? Much more importantly, northerly environments need a certain amount of snow yearly to protect flora and fauna from harsh, crippling cold snaps.

Best jazz albums of 2017 often found the big picture in all its ugly beauty

Best jazz albums 2017

Jazz musicians thought big in 2017, perhaps realizing that if a reality TV/star/oft-bankrupted real estate developer could be president, certainly a thoughtful jazz musician could reach for a large statement, beyond the notes and chords. And thus, many notable albums writ large, whether culturally or politically. In my choices for the year’s best, I strove, as always, to judge an album on the intentions –  and the merits that arose thereof.

Nevertheless, if an ambitious thematic work persuaded, and with compelling music, the impact was hard to deny. So you had albums with social or political agendas such as Nicole Mitchell’s future-vision Mandorla Awakening: Emerging Worlds; Ted Nash’s orchestral Presidential Suite, with accompanied readings of presidents and prime ministers by other well-known leaders; and the always activist-minded Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra’s Time/Life, emerging as perhaps the final statement of one of our most beloved musicians, who died a few years ago.

Less overtly political, but as musically ambitious in content and scale as any was Brian Lynch’s Madera Latino, (pictured above) a Latin jazz reinterpretation of one of the still under-sung masters of modern music, trumpeter Woody Shaw.

In contrast to Lynch’s muscular front lines, often with three brilliant trumpets riding clave rhythms, was the comparative intimacy of the duet album Masters in Bordeaux by French pianist Martial Solal and American saxophonist/flutist Dave Liebman. This showed that ultimately jazz is about dialogue, whether between two (here from different continents) or, by extension, ever-increasing groups of speakers, implying a template for the democratic process, as I have written about in depth in my forthcoming book, Voices in the River: The Jazz Message to Democracy.

Another album “bubbling under” my top ten with a capacious concept is tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger’s Meditations on Freedom. It’s redolent of Charles Mingus’ great “meditations,” though perhaps more studied. Hear sax-trumpet-bass-drums interpreting Dylan’s magnificent “Only a Pawn in their Game,” Bruce Hornsby’s “Just the Way It Is,” Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come,” and George Harrison’s”Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth).” Plus there’s original tributes to “Mother Earth”, “Women’s March,” “The 99%,” and more. I also loved how the deeply rootsy concept of Adam Nussbaum’s The Leadbelly Project played out.

So I encourage you to explore at least some of these titles for their layers –  musical, textual and political. You’ll be a richer, more-informed arts patron and citizen. I hope that an informed citizen and one flying with culture-vulture wings are two sides of the same coin. They might fly high enough to catch the sun’s fiery natural energy — to expand our powers of healing, production and progress in these uncertain and often-dismaying political times. In that spirit, how do we learn — without suffering the fate of Icarus — what is possible and what might be self-destructive? True collective power and compassion will usually trump narcissistic grandiosity.

Here are my choices for best jazz albums of 2017, in order of preference. I include links to my reviews of albums I covered in some depth during the year:

Brian Lynch – Presents Madera Latino: A Latin Jazz Perspective on the Music of Woody Shaw (Hollistic MusicWorks) The Milwaukee native has reached the jazz mountaintop after a humbly serious career of historically-minded music making with a dazzling two-disc set, which Illuminated one of his great models, trumpeter Woody Shaw. It ranged from the late elder’s inherent lyricism in “Sweet Love of Mine” to a wide expanse of Shaw’s meatiest, most forward-thinking post-bop jazz: “Song of Songs,” “Zoltan, “In a Capricornian Way,” and very hip Lynch originals like “Blues for Woody and Khalid” (for the recently passed Khalid Larry Young, the innovative organist perhaps best known for his classic album Unity! with Woody, The Tony Williams Lifetime, Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew etc.).  Accordingly, The Jazz Journalists Association chose this as album of the year and Lynch as trumpeter of the year. Kudos to Brian (no relation to the writer).

Here’s a nifty video on the Madera Latino recording sessions:

Nicole Mitchell  – Mandorla Awakening: Emerging Worlds (FPE)

Flutist-composer Nicole Mitchell brings her utopian vision to Milwaukee

Tom Harrell – Moving Picture (High Note) review/preview:

As the days dwindle down, jazz heats up in Milwaukee

Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra – Time/Life (Impulse!)

Ted Nash Big Band  – Presidential Suite (Motema)

Chris Potter – The Dreamer is the Dream (ECM)

Martial Solal & Dave Liebman – Masters in Bordeaux (Sunnyside)

Miguel Zenon – Tipico (Miel Music)

Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band –  Body and Shadow (Blue Note)

Fred Hersch – Open Book (Palmetto)

BEST JAZZ VOCAL ALBUM

Jackie Allen – Rose Fingered Dawn: The Songs of Hans Sturm (Avant Bass)

Jackie Allen mesmerises with personal vision and poetic music

BEST VOCAL RUNNER-UPS:

Dominique Eade and Ran Blake – Town & Country (Sunnyside)

Gregory Porter – Nat “King” Cole & Me (Blue Note)

Father Sky – Father Sky (Self-released) Sleeper album of the year.

Father Sky is soulful music to your ears and to the earth

BEST HISTORICAL ALBUM

Thelonious Monk – Les Liasons Dangereuses 1960 (Sam) If anyone ever understood, “ugly beauty” – as we hope to put a palatable face on contemporary America – it was Monk, who built an aesthetic on the notion, and even wrote a tune titled “Ugly Beauty.” Here he’s in his prime, hard-swinging but ever-cubistic and melodic, for a soundtrack that was never used — probably because it’s too strong and arresting to be movie background music.

HISTORICAL RUNNER-UP

Idrees Sulieman Quartet – The Four American Jazzmen in Tangier, featuring Oscar Dennard (Sunnyside)

On “Dog,” bluesman Charlie Parr sees canines on a par with humans

Charlie Parr  Dog  (Red House Records) 

The great contemporary country blues artist Charlie Parr manages a trick of sly self-portraiture in his new album. His ingenious title song emanates from a dog’s point of view. The hound objects to a human-centric injustice, as Parr sings, “You say that I need to be trained/ when I’m only doing what nature demands.”

That could also be Parr, seemingly born to play nothing more schooled than the most elemental blues, often a one-chord vamp adorned with a repeated fingerstyle arabesque,.three chords at the most. At song’s end, he lets on: Rain down the water that created us both/ My old man’s soul in this old dog’s coat/ And a soul is a soul is a soul.

Image result for charlie parr dog

Charlie Parr’s album “Dog” is available both as a CD and a vinyl LP, from Red House Records.

Most every song has such a verse of rough-hewn poetry, like several in the naked lament of a failed, perhaps suicidal, father in “Hobo.” This feels like Parr’s most personal album, with most songs either in the first person or, as in “Rich Food and Easy Living,” he enters at the song’s last moment to possibly save the indulgent, prodigal woman from herself.

He can also project others’ plights authentically, as in “Salt Water,” which conveys the utter desolation of so many hurricane-flooded people still hanging on today in Texas, Miami and Puerto Rico:

Heavy air has invaded my past/ and stolen my family / they’re swirling above me / high in the mist / but I don’t know if I’ll see them again

Here and elsewhere, Parr’s plaintively mangy voice wholly befits his material. On the stunning “Sometimes I’m Alright,” his faltering pipes sound like his spirit is draining out of him with each exhalation. The Minnesotan knows all about the cold winter of a soul.– Parr admits he struggles with clinical depression, and did during the uphill making of the album. On “Lowdown” he tells the story of a deluded loser while inserting a one-line first-person refrain to embody Lowdown’s pathos. Parr’s own struggle only enhances an immensely impressive album, blessed with help from several excellent musicians who lend musical body without fleshiness. It’s just pointed, raw-to-the-bone, heartfelt blues.

Parr’s steel resonator guitar playing adds much of the earthy character and energy of his music, Courtesy sweetpeafestival

Among his uptempo songs, the defiantly scrambling “Another Dog” captures the essence of a high-spirited canine with a buzzing, Eastern-toned guitar mode; and “I Ain’t Dead Yet” bristles with Dylanesque attitude and wit:

Well I ain’t dead yet

Lemme have them flowers right now

I can’t smell ‘em so good

when I’m locked in that box

underneath the ground

I ain’t dead yet

gimme my flowers now 

Thank the god of dogs (or is it the dog of gods?) that down-in-the-dumps Charlie Parr ain’t dead yet, not by a long shot.

__________

This review was originally published in shorter form in The Shepherd Express

 

 

 

 

Searching for Harry Frishman, a splendid climber and mountain guide

The Middle Teton’s summit in winter of 2014, but probably similar to what it looked like when Harry Frishman climbed it in January of 1982. Courtesy splitdecisionsdotorg.wordpress.com

I recall Harry Frishman, for all his courage, as a man of almost Zen-like serenity. In the summer of 1980, he expertly guided his son Cullen, Mike Pellman and me up a climb that was the climax of my mountaineering experience. He instilled confidence in me with his forthright but calm demeanor. We were attempting to climb Peregrine’s Arete, only the third-party to ever tackle this peak in the Tetons. Because the great mountaineer Yvon Chouinard had discovered the peak not long beforehand, we had no very detailed information on the climb route.  Harry, an Exum mountain service guide, had never seen this rock before

“We may just end up doing a first climb ourselves,” Harry said at the time, stuffing the rough directions he’d received from Chouinard back that his pocket. He began climbing with a graceful poise (story continued below).

Exum climbing guide Harry Frishman muses quietly as we ride a boat across Jenny Lake to encounter rarely-climbed Peregrine’s Arete in the Tetons, in the summer of 1980. Perhaps he was contemplating the tragic climb in Nepal he was planning for three weeks later.

Guide Harry Frishman, right, and his teenage son Cullen pause atop the summit of Peregrine’s Arete.

Your disheveled blogger, Kevernacular, struggles to gather his wits atop Peregrine’s Arete, after two nasty falls which left him dangling over eternity at the end of a rope.

Natural foods store owner Mike Pellman was Harry Frishman’s other client on our climb in the summer of 1980. Here’s happy Mike on the summit. Photo by Kevin Lynch.

Peregrine’s Arete, in the foreground, isn’t as majestic as some of the  taller Teton peaks, but it was the most difficult climbing challenge of my life.

Here’s guide Harry Frishman at the top of a pitch on Peregrine’s Arete.The climb provided some excellent views, on the left is Hanging Canyon from the Arete, and on the right is a view of the ground of Grand Teton National Park, far below.

It was a memorable and really tough climb on which I took two nasty falls on the same pitch, a long vertical crack which is visible in the photo of the arete above. Something flashed before my eyes as I fell my death, unsurprisingly, but no one else. I recall saying out loud to myself and the mountain later, as we descended, “I’m thirty years old, I’m too old to be climbing this mountain!” I fully recount the climb in a long feature article I wrote about it for The Milwaukee Journal Discover section. You can access the full article below.

But why do I bring this up at this point in time? It certainly was a sort of happenstance, but I had to tell the story.
I had recently asked my girlfriend Ann Peterson if I had ever shown her the Journal article and she told me she had read it a few years ago, but she was disappointed because she never knew what happened to my guide Harry Frishman.
At the end of my Journal article I wrote an epilogue. Three weeks after our climb of Peregrine’s Arete, Frishman traveled to Chinese Nepal to climb 24,790-foot Mount Minya Konka, with Yvon Chouinard and several other climbers. An avalanche swept the climbers 1,500 feet down the mountainside. One of the climbers died of a broken neck.

But this was before the Internet, so I was unable to get further information about the climb at the time.
Yet now, Ann’s comment about Harry’s fate spurred me to Google his name recently. Sure enough, he had survived the avalanche in China. But I found an article about a climb he did in January 1982 on The Middle Teton, back in Wyoming.

The Middle Teton is the third tallest peak in The Tetons. A distinctive feature known as the black dike appears as a straight line running from near the top of the mountain down 800 feet.[6] (See photo below) The black dike is a basaltic intrusion that occurred long after the surrounding rock was formed.[5]

Here’s the Middle Teton in August in the mid-1970s. Note the large face, one of the most imposing in North America, and the distinctive black dike on the face. Photo by Kevin Lynch

This peak poses a special challenge, even to the most skilled and experienced climbers, like Harry and his companion, Mark Whitten. They decided to climb the Northwest Ice Couloir. The story gave me chills in more ways than one. I had always been intrigued by ice climbing but had never gotten around to doing it. The challenge, different from rock climbing, is that your body grapples not only with gravity but the vagaries of frozen water as a climbing surface.

In the story I discovered, Craig Patterson, a Grand Teton National Park Ranger, interviewed Mark Whitten after the climb. Patterson recounts:

“This route is described in Leigh Ortenburger’s A Climber’s Guide to the Teton Range as ‘a difficult high-angle snow and ice climb.’ It is rated at Grade II, F6. Both Frishman and Whitten had extensive mountaineering experience. That morning they left the Lower Saddle and began ascending the Northwest Couloir. They decided to climb unroped, although they carried a rope with them. They also had crampons and ice-climbing tools but no hard hats.

 

The Northwest Ice Couloir of The Middle Teton, where Harry Frishman and Mark Whitten climbed, without ropes, in January 1982. This photo shows a lead climber — a belay from below secures him, relatively speaking. Photo courtesy www.mountainproject.com

Around 11:15 a.m., Whitten successfully reached the top of the couloir, with Frishman close behind. A few feet from the top, Frishman slipped. He was unable to self-arrest on the steep ice and fell approximately 2,000 feet to his death. Whitten was unable to reach Frishman, so he ran out to the Moose Visitor Center for help.”

Reading the story, I felt the wind knocked out of me. My eyes welled up a bit. Harry Frisman had always remained a vivid memory, a quiet but gracious man.

(Here’s a link to Patterson’s story, including more details about Harry’s fall: Middle Teton ice climb )

I’ve read that Harry was also a big practical joker. So you can rarely capture a person with one charcterization, such as the uncanny calm I sensed in him as he led us up our climb, two years earlier.

Fate had played a practical joke on Harry, the biggest joke of all, bigger than any mountain he had ever climbed. Our Peregrine’s  Arete climb was graded an F6, like the Middle Teton, maybe a F7, Harry had speculated at the time. But that was in late summer. I wonder now why the two climbers decided not to use their ropes and belay up on the icy, treacherous coilour. Harry was 38, older than the 20-year-olds who typically feel invincible. He was also father and a husband. But his was the climber’s life and its awful, inevitable risk.
He had survived a far more ominous climb and avalanche in Nepal. So maybe he felt he had the upper hand on fate as as he came a few steps away from the Middle Teton summit that cold January day.

Harry Frishman and his bride Libby, also a climber, when they married in Kathmandu, Nepal in 1972. Photo courtesy http://stephenbodio.blogspot.com

____________________

Photos by Mike Pellman, unless otherwise indicated.

Here’s my article about the Peregrine’s Arete climb with Harry Frishman in 1980: