Wisconsinite Frank Stemper goes Euro on us with a new orchestral piece, “Protest.”

 

Composer-pianist Frank Stemper. Courtesy frankstemper.com

Pound-it-out-piano player? Erstwhile composer? Slightly obsessive golfer with a chip shot on his shoulder? Whatever he is, Frank Stemper’s done gone Euro on us, proving his composer’s erst is a while around now, or ‘Round Midnight, or whatever time it is in Austria.

Best known recently in Milwaukee as a jazz pianist, most often with the brilliant bassist Hal Miller, Frank Stemper is actually a longtime composer of “legit” music, heavy on the quotation marks. That’s not because he’s not really a legit composer, as he’s highly honored in that realm. It’s because, since returning to his hometown, Stemper reclaimed jazz as his personal “classical” music, thus we look at his history in the “modern” Euro-classical tradition a tad more from the vernacular perspective.

But no doubt about it. When Beethoven hit his muse — like a musical linebacker crashing head-on — in the 1970s, Stemper was sent reeling, but soon steadied himself with a composer’s pen in hand. 1

Here’s the Beethoven bobble head Stemper received recently from your blogger for a milestone birthday. Look at that middle linebacker’s mug. Plus, Beethoven is one “middle linebacker” who, in his later years, never would’ve been drawn offside by an Aaron Rodgers “hard count,” as he was stone deaf! How he composed his late-career masterworks remains one of the miracles of the ages. Courtesy eBay 2

A Stemper friend since grade school, I wrote the poetry libretto for his doctoral dissertation work, for soprano and chamber orchestra, Seamaster, premiered in Milwaukee by Marlee Sabo and the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra.

But Stemper has ventured oe’r rough seas to far reaches of orchestral tidal waves and islandic chamber work, since then. He spent several decades as professor of composition at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where he first hooked up with bassist Miller, who spent a residency there, some years ago.

Stemper’s composing style, generally speaking, is post-Schoenberg expressionistic, often with almost compulsive modulations, and extreme dynamic ambushes.

He tries to harness sound, broken free from tonality, and flying. It’s usually bracing stuff and can be stimulating fun for those in the grappling mood. Among his most impressive works was a vividly-imagined piece called Secrets of War, written in response to the Illegitimate Iraq War, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

A cursory look at the score of Symphony Number 4 (Protest), shared by the composer, suggests, amid muscular scoring, plenty of space, or grace notes, with small chamber-like details and interplays. This may reflect Mahler’s influence, though his model (such as it may remain), The Second Viennese school, employed plenty of chamber-like moments in larger orchestral scores. Beethoven’s propulsive dynamics and tempi seem inherent to Stemper’s language. Characteristically he’s more concerned with ensemble players arriving at the end of phrases or passages in rhythmic unison, rather than on pitch, allowing for freedom and ambiguity of tonality. Swift sequences of tonally chromatic sharps and flats abound, and improvised moments are invited.

Similarly, bass clef passages seem to work more for dramatic effect, than tonal grounding. One extended passage of bass clarinet and clarinet tangling with each another amidst similar byplay from bass trombone and trombone promises quasi-comical (or dangerous?) effect. Ah, such squabbling occurs in social-movement protests, certainly on the left, and most certainly on live battle lines of opposing political camps, as I’ve personally witnessed.

(The program also included Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Smetana’s woozy, stirring and nationalistic Le Moldau, two pieces which faintly befit Stemper’s influences and American-oriented programmatics.)

Stemper’s oeuvre amounts to ultimately a personal, and original style of new music. sometimes delving into wit-leavened, honest sentiment, mined from his remarkable memory for historical details and contours. 

By the way, his scored piano music reveals jazz influences yet often super-charged in intensity or with harmonic density and piston-like rhythms akin to Dave Brubeck, but in concentrated samples. It’s powerfully realized in the latest recording of his music, Blue 13: The Complete Piano Music of Frank Stemper, by Junghwa Lee.

The new piece, an orchestral work titled “Protest” reviewed below, also shares some qualities with “Secrets,” i.e. extra-musical sounds, bumps-in-the-night, rattles, and vocal-isms from orchestra players.

Stemper had been coy about the programmatic aspects of “Protest,” having referred to it as simply “Symphony No. 4” to his golfing buddies, perhaps fearing it might not live up to explanations even to himself, before the piece was born in performance.

As a score, the 16-minute piece seems subversive of classical symphonic notions of sonata-allegro form, based on major-minor key interplay and traditional three-part, long form. But I’ve hardly studied it extensively. The score includes instructions for ensemble players to “whisper” even at the very end. This might conveniently obscure the possibility of distracted audience members doing same, by then. But I doubt you’ll find Stemper’s music boring, though perhaps provocative of instant comment. So it goes. 3

Slaughterhouse Five: Book Analysis | bulb

However, the piece hardly bombed. Stemper claims it received four or five curtain calls. Nevertheless, I was told by a semi-reliable concert witness to “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” (opening and closing it with convenient alacrity).

Before departing overseas, Stemper betrayed natural, if comical, anxiety about the trip, since he hadn’t had an orchestral piece premiered in quite some time. So I can’t wait to actually hear it, and/or protest it.

Stemper’s music has found happy homes (though perhaps as a “problem child”) in a number of European and other foreign orchestras, including previously with conductor Guntram Simma, who commissioned this work (with funding from the city of Dornbirn) and debuted it with the Collegium Instrumentale Dornbirn.

American composer Frank Stemper (right) confers with conductor Guntram Simma during rehearsal for Stemper’s Symphony No. 4 (Protest), in Dornbirn, Austria. Photo by Nancy Stemper.

For now, we have a substantially appreciative and not overly judgmental review, by a German critic. Stemper is pictured after the performance in the bottom photo of the review layout.

If this review page opens in a German text, a mouse right click should allow you a translation function: https://www.kulturzeitschrift.at/kritiken/musik-konzert/guntram-simma-und-das-collegium-instrumentale-verstroemten-bei-dornbirn-klassik-viel-energie-und-aussagekraft

p.s. Qualifiers aside, I really do like most Stemper music that I’ve heard over the years. I’m not sure whether it likes me as much.

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1 The rough-and-tumble analogy to demanding modern music holds true in that pianist Stemper — a high school footballer and amateur rugby player — once badly injured one of his hands playing the “impossible” piano part of Schoenberg’s song cycle Pierrot Lunaire. Old Schoenberg clearly won that arm-wrestling match — from his grave.

2. However, I did not purchase the Beethoven bobble head from eBay, rather it came from Art Smart’s Dart Mart and Juggling Emporium, on Brady Street. in Milwaukee.

3. The Kurt Vonnegut reference above, to his famous philosophical phrase “So It goes,” from the novel Slaughterhouse Five is quoted in hopes that at least part of the implicit “protest” evoked in Stemper’s piece is anti-war, and especially meaningful for Europeans who still honor the allied D-Day invasion that turned WWII. After the performance, composer Stemper and his spouse Nancy visited Normandy Beach, France, site of D-Day in World War II. The visit to Omaha Beach prompted these reflections by composer Frank Stemper:

“I cannot imagine what it was like to be part of something so grotesque, and I am glad that I cannot imagine it.  And thankful.  I had to go there, I guess to thank those that had to do it. Nancy’s dad was in the Pacific building air fields on islands. The CBs.  My dad was in rural Georgia taking care of German POWs – he never made it to any war zone.  He was scheduled to go to serve as a shrink at the Nuremberg trials, but his points ran out and he was discharged…Gus (Valent) paid at (Guadalcanal)  

Anyway, it’s life.  It’s our flawed species…Link below to one of the many D-Day videos – although this is mostly just the old soldiers remembering.  
The bad news is that D-Day and war in Europe was the so-called “Conventional War,” by the rules – as absurd as that sounds.  But it does have some validity and meaning when compared to the war in the Pacific.  The Japanese didn’t know the rules, and, I’m afraid, that THAT part of WWII made D-Day look like a picnic.  Damnit.”

The Stempers also provided these photos, including of another artist’s work, honoring that occasion (footnote photos by Nancy Stemper, unless otherwise indicated):

 

Omaha Beach, Normandy. 

“Les Braves” Normandy beach memorial sculpture, to the fallen and the victorious, by Anilore Banon.

 

 

 

NPR American Masters question: What single work of art changed your life?

This is the colorized cover of the Kindle edition of Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick” as illustrated by Rockwell Kent for the 1930 edition, but with the author’s name added. (see below) 
Well, I gotta right to sing the blues, Or to sing praises, like a fool, to the earthly heavens where art might come from. And if it is the blues, it’s the kind that inspires you rather than keeps your head just above water.
You see, my song sort of went on and on (by Facebook comment standards), spilling over the 12-bar blues form like water in a sinking ship. But the editors at PBS American Masters Facebook page didn’t jettison any of my load of responses to the provocative question: What single work of art changed your life?
They’ve received 247 responses and counting. Here’s my response. I couldn’t quite help myself. I have even expanded on it here, with a bit more text and imagery.
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As a long-time generalist arts journalist, I’ve encountered so much extraordinary art in all its forms. How to pick one? I might say seeing Picasso’s “Guernica,” but it was an oddly truncated experience, as the Metropolitan Museum of Art closed before I could see all of it. I’d literally been stopped in my tracks on the staircase for long minutes because the center of Guernica filled the doorway view at the top. Then the doors closed. It moved to Spain a short time later, in 1981. So, I live with a reproduction of it, and that oddly but profoundly unfulfilled experience. 1
Imagine seeing, through a doorway, the middle of this astonishing political mural by Picasso, being stopped in your tracks by it on a museum staircase — and then the gallery doors closing on you at 5 p.m. That’s my sadly truncated but unforgettable experience of seeing the mighty “Guernica.” Courtesy Magazine Artsper
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“Guernica,” of course was named for the Spanish town bombed in 1937 by Nazi planes, complicit with Fascist dictator Franco  — the first act of modern war terrorism on a civilian population of nascent World War II.
And then, seeing Arshile Gorky’s often-gorgeous metamorphosis from surrealism to abstract-expressionism — closely reflecting my own artistic sensibilities — at the Guggenheim Museum of Art is another life-changing moment.
The plow and the song - Digital Remastered Edition Painting by Arshile Gorky
Arshile Gorky’s 1946 painting “The Plow and the Song,” (above) lyrically transmutes his memories of homeland Armenia to the modernist present. The memories were rooted in his long, desperate childhood escape, by foot, with his sister Vartoosh and mother, from the Armenian holocaust conducted by the Ottoman Empire. Their mother, Sushan der Marderosian pictured below — in this wrenchingly poignant Gorky painting from about 1926, with the artist at the age of their exodus — died of starvation in 1918. (Courtesy pixels.)
Pleased with my Milwaukee Journal review of the Guggenheim show, Gorky’s nephew Karlen Mooradian contacted me. I was fortunate enough to obtain an in-person interview with him and Gorky’s sister Vartoosh Adoian Mooradian (Gorky’s original name was Vosdanig Adoian) in Chicago, but I was never able to publish anything from the interview. I did glean great insight from Mooradian’s 1980 book The Many Worlds of Arshile Gorky, about his artist uncle, who committed suicide in 1948. He profoundly influenced many abstract expressionists, none more than Willem de Kooning. 2
The Artist and His Mother, 1926 - 1936 - Arshile Gorky - WikiArt.org
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Then, music vibrates on and on in my life, where the single transforming moment could be the Butterfield Blues Band’s ground-breaking East-West album, or first hearing John Coltrane’s achingly eloquent and exalting A Love Supreme suite, or his searing Live at Birdland, and imaging being there, in that fire.
John Coltrane “Live at Birdland.” Courtesy deep groove mono
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Or, by contrast to such earnest passion, the lacerating sneer of Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” which helped pinpoint the existential waywardness of the freedom my generation declared from bourgeois convention and responsibility. Or, by another contrast, Dylan’s affirmatively flashing “Chimes of Freedom,” here now, poetry aflame in music
Or, hearing Beethoven or Mahler in fearless, heaving performances, in Milwaukee and Madison. Grammy-winning conductor John DeMain especially unlocked much of Mahler’s glorious might with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, in a full Mahler symphonic cycle in the 1990s and 2000s.
In theater, a darkly, full-chested staging of Macbeth at American Platers Theater, and a thunderbolt-raging King Lear at UW-Milwaukee. So, yes, the commonality here seems an appetite for grand gestures, of many sorts.
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That’s why I finally must land on the experience of reading Moby-Dick for the first time (as some might’ve guessed). I was already in my ‘40s and, knowing its reputation and having seen Huston’s movie version, I remained unprepared for how inexorably the book swept me away, even though many understandably turn back to the shore. And yet, there’s so much you’d miss. Even the cetology, I gobbled up like so much krill going down a cavernous throat.
Yet the haunting had begun several decades earlier when I found a copy of the 1930 Random House edition which brought the book to widespread readership.
My plastic-covered copy of the 1930 Random House edition of Moby-Dick, what I still believe is the definitive version of an illustrated edition of the book, with art by Rockwell Kent. Photo by Kevin Lynch
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The visual artist in me responded to this powerfully. I knew then, my day of reckoning with the book loomed somewhere in the future. There have been many illustrated editions of this book since, and some are steeped in their own fiery inspiration. But none so eloquently captures the spirit of the book as it manifest itself in the Depression era, as does that 1930 edition.
Rockwell Kent, in his way, approaches Melville’s genius in his numerous woodblock prints. The black and white Deco-influenced imagery is proto-noir, capturing the sense of lost-at-sea and impending doom and, in deft knife strokes, the essence of characters lurking inside their ravaged, or mortally infected, souls. 3
Infected by what? The blood-lust fervor of Ahab, akin to a demagogue manufacturing an enemy, in the whale that took his leg. The expansively stentorian Ahab, recalling Lear, captivates the whole crew in his questing rage — except for first mate Starbuck and, to a degree, Ishmael, who remains somewhat remote, and “aloft.”
Alas, Random House jumped on their perceived marketing coup with the new edition so strongly that they failed to put Melville’s name anywhere on the cover, only including “Illustrated by Rockwell Kent” on the spine. It was yet another of countless insults to the great and long-forsaken writer, right at the emergence of his genius to broader acceptance. The current Kindle version (at top), at least, corrects that “oversight” with the original cover (colorized though it is).
Captain Ahab — Rockwell Kent – Biblioklept
Here’s a brooding but burning portrait of Captain Ahab, by Rockwell Kent. 
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So, back to Melville’s text:
The extraordinarily antiphonal voices of Ishmael and Ahab echoed through my head and psyche, across the oceanic expanses of poetic writing, gritty details, and surprising humor, which might make some virtually sea-sick, but hang onto the horizon as the crow’s nest sways!
It was indeed postmodern in 1851, in how Melville strangely constructed it, and summed up his own creation as well as anyone: “It is the horrible texture of a fabric that should be woven of ships’ cables and hawsers. A Polar wind blows through it, and birds of prey hover over it.”
History of Art: Masterpieces of World Literature-Herman Melville
“Thar she blows!” from “Moby Dick,” 1930, illustrated by Kent. 
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Yet it stays afloat as a metaphor and allegory for America, in the tall, creaking bones of The Pequod, manned by people from many races. And what else did it all mean? Defying fate? Or God? Or nature? Or Nature? Hubris as delusion, or the destiny of grace embraced, one storyteller’s backward glance into timelessness?
Rockwell Kent Ishmael Going Abroad Giclee Art Print | Etsy
Here, Pequod first harpoonist Queequeg, who deeply befriends Ishmael early in the novel, remains vigilant for the White Whale, even while down in the forecastle where the crew bunks. Illustration by Kent. Courtesy Etsy.
Rockwell Kent does Moby Dick – Dimdays
Ahab’s covert mercenary harpoonist Fedallah suffers a terrible fate in the novel, here illustrated by Kent. The John Huston movie version of “Moby-Dick” inaccurately makes this scene out as Ahab so affixed to the whale, to melodramatic effect. 
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From childhood, oceanic depths had always scared me. In time, Melville’s mounting whorl of words, and his own extraordinary life story, compelled me to begin writing a novel about its author.
These days, people critique the book’s scarcity of women characters. Yet, as Saschaa squeeze of the hand Morrell comments. “On the other hand, the novel makes numerous appeals to the maternal forces of nature. It also breaks down gender norms and boundaries, from Ishmael’s surrender to Queequeg’s ‘bridegroom clasp,’ to Ahab’s boasting of his ‘queenly personality’ to the ambiguous mingling of ‘milk and sperm’ in the infamously erotic chapter ‘A Squeeze of the Hand.’”
Another she doesn’t mention is one of my favorite chapters, the stunning awe of gigantic maternal nursing in “The Grand Armada.” For that matter, tell (the late) Elizabeth Hardwick, author of a brilliantly concise and empathetic Melville biography, how much it lacks for a human female presence. Or Laurie Robertson-Lorant, author of a comprehensive Melville biography. Or Elizabeth Schultz, the doyenne of visual art about “The Great American Novel.”
Moby Dick breaches like a god reaching for the stars, (or to “kiss the sky,” as Jimi Hendrix would exult in the 1960s). in this image by Kent from 1930.
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On the other hand, one could quote any number of astute observers on the book’s magnificence: Hardwick, F. O. Matthiessen, Harold Bloom, Leslie Fiedler, Alfred Kazin, and Lewis Mumford all come to mind, worth looking up. Most recently, I revisited D.H. Lawrence on Moby-Dick and he says: “A wonderful, wonderful voyage. And a beauty that is so surpassing only because of the author’s awful flounderings in mystical waters. He wanted to get metaphysically deep. And he got deeper than metaphysics. It is a surpassingly beautiful book, with an awful meaning, and bad jolts.” Read his essay in Studies in Classic American Literature for more. 4
So, living on the Heartland edge of a Great Lake, I remain haunted by this and more, by Saint Elmo’s Fire and the diabolical blood ritual, by Pip’s foot on the treadle of the loom, by the Catskill Eagle emerging from the woe that is madness, by Ahab’s burning obsession, by the massive will and long, mysterious memory – is it consciousness? — of the white whale and, of course, by Queequeg’s coffin, a miraculous, sacred offering from a brotherly friend, somehow rising, just free of the hellish vortex.
“Now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf…”
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1 Picasso was adamant that Guernica remain at the Met until Spain re-established a democratic republic. It would not be until 1981, after both the artist’s and Franco’s deaths, that Spanish negotiators were finally able to bring the mural home.
2 Mooradian’s The Many Worlds of Arshile Gorky includes 70 illustrations, a Q& A interview with Willem DeKooning about Gorky, as well as interviews with Alexander Calder, Lee Krasner Pollock, Malcolm Cowley, Reuben Nakian, Barnett Newman, Peter Blume, Meyer Schapiro, Saul Steinberg and other important figures in modern art and criticism.
3 The edition of Moby-Dick with Kent’s illustrations remains in print. I recommend the version with an introduction by Elizabeth Hardwick, published by The Modern Library, in paperback 2000.
4. Studies in Classic American Literature, DH Lawrence, Penguin, 1923, 1977, 159

A Two Rivers trip: a luminous lakeside and nature preserve, football glory, and the original ice cream sundae

The twin rivers of Two Rivers surround the central city. Courtesy Pinterest.org. 

A Trip to Two Rivers, Wisconsin: nature abounds, football glory and the original ice cream sundae 

 

PHOTO ESSAY Part 1 The Lighthouse Inn Embraces the Edge of Lake Michigan.

Two Rivers, Wisconsin, is a Lake Michigan coast community that sits somewhat inauspiciously between Milwaukee and the far-more-desired coastal destination of Door County. But this small city — also always somewhat in the shadow of the larger Manitowoc, about nine miles south — has plenty of charm, beauty, atmosphere, and history.

The West Twin River of Two Rivers. Courtesy two-rivers.org

With a population of 11,700, Two Rivers is largely situated between its nominal two rivers, which creates a virtual island for the central city proper (see photo at top). The lakeside and waterways make for a bountifully green environment (photo above).

The city also holds a natural interest for me, as both my parents grew up there, met, and became high school sweethearts destined to marry. Yet I have too belatedly partook of the city’s allure, after having visited here only once, in the late 1990s, since a family reunion a handful of decades ago, which included the extended families of the four Two Rivers Lynch siblings: My father Norm Lynch (and his wife Sharon, a Two Rivers native), and my uncles Jim and Jack (and his spouse Barbara), and my aunt Eileen.

Travel partner Ann Peterson and I were staying in The Lighthouse Inn, the very place the Lynch families stayed at back then for the reunion. Memories bubbled up as we sat in the hotel’s bar.

A highlight of the reunion for me was when Jack Lynch, our hip California uncle, summoned brother Norm Lynch’s three oldest children — me, Nancy and Maureen — to his hotel room. Then, with a cagey grin, he pulled out a pipe filled with marijuana. We proceeded to get high and float through the rest of the day in a refracted, altered state.:Like, zowsville, man. My mother detected us and determined the cause, and was less than pleased with Jack for “corrupting” her children.

An animated moment at the Lynch family reunion, in the mid-1980s, in the bar of the Lighthouse Inn. From left are my mother, Sharon Lynch (seated), my uncle Jack Lynch (standing in navy and white jacket), my Aunt Eileen Lynch, my sister Sheila Lynch, and Eileen’s old Two Rivers friend Joyce Amman.

One more of 1980s Lynch family reunion at Lighthouse Inn in Two Rivers. (L-R) Uncle Jack, the surgeon, with Uncle Jim who, after a distinguished career as a Colonel in the Air Force, earned a degree in art and reinvented himself as a visual artist in Seattle. Next to Jim is his second wife, Sherri.

Yet so much time had now passed that all four of the Two Rivers Lynch children, raised by the family matriarch Frances Lynch, have now passed as well.

So, settling in at The Lighthouse Inn, with its reunion memories, I had a slight feeling of bittersweet remorse. The rarity of such reunions derived from the four Lynch children being so scattered: Norm in Milwaukee, Eileen in Austin, Texas; Jack in Sacramento, California and Jim, the oldest and the one with the strongest ties to the family’s original home, in Seattle.

The Lighthouse Inn, on Lake Michigan in Two Rivers. Courtesy trip101

A big part of the history and mythology of Two Rivers for me personally also has to do with my father’s exploits as quarterback of a remarkable high school football team, for The Two Rivers Purple Raiders of Washington High School. From 1943 to 1946-47, the team, also known as “The Golden Air Patrol,” went undefeated 24 consecutive games over the three years my father quarterbacked. However, dad always emphasized to me, it’s very much the story of a talented and dedicated team and a brilliant head coach, Harry O’Mealy (more on that below, in Part 4).

But  Ann and I had also wanted to explore the Woodland Dunes Nature Preserve, not far from the hotel.

And the hotel provided quite a romantic vista, with the magnificently setting sun on the horizon accompanying my vague awareness of the shipwrecks that haunt the Two Rivers shoreline. A few years ago, a new monument was erected to commemorate one of the state’s deadliest shipwrecks ever, of The Vernon, in the treacherous waters of Lake Michigan near Two Rivers, on October 28, 1887, coming from Frankfurt, MI. We missed the anniversary by one week, being there on Oct 22-23. But as the photos hopefully show, the Great Lakefront was plenty evocative of whatever the imagination might summon. See feature story link, here, followed by my photos of the lake from The Lighthouse Inn.

Two Rivers monument honors lives lost in one of Wisconsin’s deadliest shipwrecks

Print of dramatic seafaring scene painting in restaurant of Lighthouse Inn in Two Rivers.

The Lighthouse Inn Bar overlooking Lake Michigan in Two Rivers

 

The mutating dusk sky in two views looking south towards Manitowoc (on the distant horizon) from Lighthouse Inn.

Looking north towards the Two Rivers lighthouse on the breakwater, from Lighthouse Inn

 

Sunset on Lake Michigan, from The Lighthouse Inn 

The next morning, the moon lingered above Two Rivers, not quite ready to let go of its nocturnal domain.

 

Part 2  — The Woodland Dunes Nature Preserve, in Two Rivers 

The entrance to the woods of the Woodland Dunes Nature Preserve

At first, I though maybe this little fella might’ve been “playing possum.” We came back his way later. Sadly, he wasn’t.

Here’s a rare photo of the semi-mythical Woodlands Pharting Ogre which audibly followed us for a short while on our hike through the preserve

 

Part 3 — Two Rivers history, including its distinction as the Birthplace of the Ice Cream Sundae.

Inscription beneath Civil War soldier statue (below) outside Two Rivers City Hall (formerly Washington High School): “In memory of those who fought in defense of the Union.”

Two Rivers City Hall (formerly the site of Washington High School). The original school was a larger red brick building (since razed) but visible in the yearbook photo below.

And what of the birth of the ice cream sundae? Well worth pondering as National Sundae Day is about to arrive on November 11th. Here’s the lowdown:

“In 1881, George Hallauer asked Ed Berner, owner of a soda fountain (in Two Rivers), to top his dish of ice cream with chocolate sauce, hitherto used only for ice cream sodas. It became a popular concoction, but was only sold on Sundays. One day, a little girl asked for one, saying they could pretend it was Sunday. Voila — sundae (the spelling is attributed to a mistranscription on the check).” 1

Ann Peterson at the site of Berner’s Ice Cream Parlor, established 1881, the legendary

birthplace of the ice cream sundae, in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. It’s now a museum and ice cream parlor (below).

 

Part 4 — Gridiron glory of the undefeated Two Rivers Raiders

Evan Gagnon describes the unparalleled era of Two Rivers’ Washington High football coach Harry O’Mealy, in his book Neshota: The Story of Two Rivers, Wisconsin:

” ‘It’s never too late.’

A pat phrase, maybe, but it pretty well sums up the philosophy of Harry O’Mealy, the winningest football coach ever to tear up the turf at two Rivers Washington high school.

“Clever, articulate, highly competitive and always a jump ahead of the opposition, O’Mealy pushed his Golden Air Patrol in about the same fashion that Vince Lombardi drove his Packers and the results on a comparative basis were about the same.” 1

I love O’Mealy’s philosophy, “It’s never too late” (to win a game), even if mathematically there comes a time. Still, with onside kicks, and sideline passes etc., great teams and quarterbacks can make it seem like they’re bending the arc of time towards improbable victory. That stirs the souls of faithful, hanging onto the chance for a great comeback win.

At top is a print of a well-known Two Rivers Reporter action photo that ran (lower) as the featured photo in the news story of the team’s final 1946 game against arch-rival Manitowoc. Norm Lynch, an up back on the return team, returns the opening kick-off for a big gain, but he was tackled by Shipbuilder No 30 downfield.

Pictured above is the starting offensive lineup for the Two Rivers Raiders of Washington High in 1946. The team went undefeated for three consecutive seasons from 1943 to 1964. My father, Norman Lynch, is the quarterback (32) behind center and in front of the T-formation of three running backs. The second partial photo is of a 50-year team reunion, posing in the same configuration. Norm Lynch is the guy in the dark sport coat.

There was no playoff system to determine a state championship for Division 3 high school football in 1947, but this team would’ve been a prime contender. The Washington High Raiders of 1980 did win their division’s state championship.

This page from my father’s yearbook (above) documents the scores for the 1946-47 year, including the season-opening 40-0 blowout of Pius XI, one of the state’s biggest private schools. The Pius players were also physically much bigger than the Raiders. Note also the remarkable disparity of total season points between Two Rivers and its opponents (260-39). The Raiders specialized in head-spinning plays to deceive the defense, including their version of the fabled “Statue of Liberty” play which required precise timing and execution. The team’s brilliant, innovative head coach and play-caller Harry O’Mealy (standing at left in photo at right) is pictured with his assistant coach. O’Mealy signed his quarterback Norm Lynch’s yearbook there, with the inscription: “Get that pitching arm in shape for St. Nobert’s next fall. Harry O’Mealy.”

Curiously, my father went to St. Norbert’s College on a football scholarship but did not pursue football in college. Why, he never really explained, though I think he was already thinking about marriage and a family with his betrothed, Sharon Jann. In his junior year, they moved to Milwaukee when he transferred to Marquette University, where he received his bachelor’s degree. I was born a short time afterward.

So part of my little quest was to visit the football field where the photo of my father ‘s kick return took place. Though the high school is now in suburban Two Rivers, the original football field is still there, though the goal posts are long gone. It’s very spacious, far bigger than a single football field.

In fact, during the 1930s and 1940s, the original Washington High’s facilities were used for summer training by a number of professional football teams, including the Philadelphia Eagles in 1941 and 1942.

Sadly the glorious field’s fall season has now been taken over by a loose-knit “team” we might call The Two Rivers Honkers, who line up in several directions at once, as the photo of me below shows. The Honkers specialize in the “double-wing formation,” but are especially skilled at leaving lumpy “yard markers” in the grass, which one now encounters at least every yard or so. The field is right beside the East Twin River, as you can see the street bridge at the right.

But all I could do was invoke an old expletive from a Marquette High Jesuit:

“Cripes Mini-Manure!!”

For all the forsaken past, I summoned the spirit to pose in a football runner’s manner, following in the old man’s footsteps, to recalled to glorious days of yore (below).

Photos above and below by Ann Peterson.

Other photos by Kevin Lynch, unless otherwise indicated.

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1. Birthplace of the ice cream sundae: https://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/11967

 

 

 

Jim Glynn as educator — addendum (Milwaukee Journal feature article from 1984)

The Late Jim Glynn as educator

Wanting to do full justice to the remarkable man and seeker Jim Glynn, an artist in his own right, I am sharing one further item.

It’s an article I wrote in 1984 for The Milwaukee Journal about Jim Glynn’s music appreciation course at Alverno College. It conveys his special abilities as an educator. I hope this helps clarify his legacy.

PS. The scale of the article scan may not be readable. If you download the article image (or simply save the article image — right mouse click) into a file of your own, you should be able to magnify and read it. Thanks for your interest (and memories of Jim).

 

 

 

Jim Glynn, Restless Seeker, Part 2

 

Ed. note, This “Jim Glynn Part 2,” was accidentally posted a few days ago, even though obviously unfinished. I discovered that belately, after being out of town. Thanks for the generous “likes,” but here is the finished post. 

It was gratifying, but no great surprise, that many people responded to my last Culture Currents posting, with a vast array of comments and stories and appreciation of the late Jim Glynn. I now realize I can’t leave this subject at that. I need to add more to this man’s story and legacy, in my small way. Thus, this follow-up blog post.

What dawned on me today was about what Jim signified and how he functioned in our lives, meaning those who knew and were truly touched by him. In retrospect, it seems that for me, and I suspect a number of our other people, that this extraordinary Irishman may have been his own sort of “guru.” I believe he came to his wisdom the hard way, as perhaps most wisdom arrives, through the extraordinary trials, suffering and indignities that his paraplegia visited upon him over the course of most of his adult life.

I never really thought of him that way when he was alive, and I realize the “guru” notion may prompt a few eye rolls, but I doubt much among those who knew the man. Thinking back, I always felt somewhat blessed by his presence, and inspired, and perhaps, if I was lucky, even enlightened a bit by the restless seeker in him, in all its manifestations, towards what I recently called “enlightened serenity.”

This got me to thinking about a book I own and cherish, written by perhaps the most brilliant teacher I have ever had: Professor Ihab Hassan, an acclaimed literary critic, whom I had the privilege to study with in a graduate English lit seminar at UW-Milwaukee in the mid-1980s. And the notion of Jim’s seeking, or his quest in life — quiet as it may have seemed — led me back to Hassan’s superb book Selves at Risk: Patterns of Quest in Contemporary American Letters.

I also thought part of Hassan’s rather poetic rigor (no oxymoron with him) and perspective came from being an Egyptian, emigrated to America at age 20, then specializing in American literature (His 1961 book Radical Innocence: The Contemporary American Novel, made his name in the literary world). Jim responded to the culture and wisdoms of the East, and Egypt is perhaps the most mystical (as in Eastern, more than Arabic) of Middle Eastern cultures.

In his introduction, Hassan characterizes “the seeker” he is trying to illuminate in his book, and, the more I recall Jim and his spirit, the more I feel that he was something of the kind of seeker Hassan contemplates and investigates in his book. I will quote from it:

“The seeker, as I hope to show, has many faces. But he is not characterless or faceless. He is certainly self-reliant, tolerant of risk. He is mobile. He seeks a meaning, even if danger must attend his pursuit; he intuits that individuals need and consume meanings far more than products. And he suspects that the sacred…camouflages itself in that pursuit…he disdains vicarious jeopardy, pseudo-risks, packaged by prurient media or proffered by amusement parks. He knows unreal America. He knows, therefore that in venturous quests he may recover reality, constitute significance, maintain his vigor, all in those privileged moments of being when life vouchsafes its most secret rewards (my italics). Is this not the whole sense of Emersonian experience?” 1

This photo illustrates how Jim Glynn could transform risk into reward with quick, deft wit and charm. I believe he had double-parked in Chicago’s Loop with some friends and, sure enough, the cops pulled up. Jim swiftly disarmed them (not literally) and, before we knew it, he’d “borrowed” their squad car for this crazy scene! Jim’s in the car at right, in his psychedelic shirt, wearing a Chicago cop’s hat, with our bemused friend Mitch (Mitar) Covic, to Jim’s left. The woman below was Jim’s current girlfriend (name escapes me) and the two to the far left were Jim’s friends who I didn’t really know. Photo by Kevin Lynch

Hassan’s characterization of an American archetype (especially that which I italicize), seems to fit Jim Glynn perfectly. As my first post indicated, he was amazingly mobile, despite his paraplegia and, man, did he seek meaning more than products (musical recordings aside), even despite danger.

His questing was largely manifest culturally, beyond good friends and acquaintances (“brothers and “sisters”) through his long-time radio show’s expansively “out there” musical variety: Not simply esoteric, but capable of gracefully bringing back in the general listener by integrating popular, or at least vernacular music, of many sorts. Few disk jockeys I’ve heard did this as well. Not even the great Milwaukee DJ Ron Cuzner, to compare another jazz-oriented programmer, who really “limited” himself to jazz. WMSE today still does have some arguably comparable like “Tom Wanderer” or Paul Cebar, and to a degree “Dr. Sushi,” for those with strong jazz tastes. WUWM’s Bob Reitman remains great, but with largely a ’60s-’70s throwback show.

Clearly Jim’s questing, and ability, to swim across mile-wide and unpredictable Elkhart Lake with arms, signifies that quest. This swim was beyond my ability, by contrast to a few more-capable swimmer/amigos, like Harvey Taylor, Tom Truel, Heiko Eggers, and perhaps Tim Reichart, at a genuine level of physical danger and risk. Truel admits he needed professional scuba fins to “pull this off” with Jim, and just barely.

Truel’s generous and detailed e-mail response to me, a remembrance/tribute of it’s own, underscores what I’m driving at here.

Time, as Tom notes, was a profoundly relative term in Jim’s seemingly timeless quest” Tom writes:.

“I call it ‘Jimmy Glynn Time’. You might get together with Jim for a swim day and to truly enjoy it, one needed to clear the calendar for the day. ‘We will leave at 10AM from my house.’, would become 11 or 11:30. Time was never wasted. Many preparations. Plenty of yuks (eg. see photo above) and endless chat of music, great women and sacred herb. Not a boring delay to say the least, as long as one made no plans for the day and if you knew what you were getting into — no plans were made. With Jim –‘The Journey Was The Adventure’.”
(I’ll add that Jim wasn’t above transgression. I know that he drove his car many times under the influence of herb. Illegal yes, but, as with most comparative aspects of herb consumption, I consider that far less dangerous than drunken driving. Also, in his early radio years at WUWM, Jim would invite friends to the studio during his late night show, and everyone would partake of the “sacred herb,” whether toking or “indirectly,” amid the celestial cloud-offering to the bodiless goddess Mary Jane, suffusing the studio on high.)
Then, Tom Truel recalls: “(Jim, the DJ, is getting ready to play Dylan’s “Time Out Of Mind” in its entirety, one of his favorites, to set the mood and leave a clue in regard to shadow elements as well.)”

So I’m trying to work my way out of the “shadow elements” before they recede too far into the mists of time, or transcendence?

Another even more dramatic example of Jim’s seeking, regardless of danger, may have led directly to the accident that disabled him. I’m going to speculate here a bit, as Jim never told me the full details of the accident in any self-dramatizing or aggrandizing way. But consider the very fact that he was driving a Jeep (still infamously unsafe vehicles in the 1960s) through the Alps on a trip from Germany to France. Perhaps it was a personal trip but more likely military duty which, as a soldier, he would probably have volunteered for — given the risk and isolated, extended nature of it.

There was GI Jim Glynn, in the process attaining the sort of ultimate natural high he would strive to later simulate, or somewhat achieve, through exploratory creative music, simpatico friendship and marijuana. And then, in a sudden fated instant, he was tumbling, but also flying, through the air, in the mountains. This recalls a great Herman Melville notion of “a Catskill eagle in some souls” 3

Or, less exaltedly, Townes Van Zandt’s simpler image of “to live’s to fly, both low and high,” in his masterful song, “To Live’s to Fly.”

The last two-part chapter of Jim Glynn’s life-mission, finally was to leave Milwaukee — the city where many people loved him to varying degrees and to which he’d given so much — and embark on a late-life quest, by himself. He said he felt this city had grown stale for him. To the shock of many friends, he moved to Portland, Oregon, while a paraplegic in his early 60s.

It all soon fell apart. A “friend” who helped Jim move in, then ripped off a couple of boxes of “personal papers,” Jim said, which really had little value except to Jim himself.

He did some radio shows for the local Portland community station and the NPR outlet. Then one day he fell, probably on a rainy Portland street, and broke his leg, and found himself laid up with a large cast for quite a while.

Then he was diagnosed with bladder cancer, possibly the result of his constant need for a catheter, and being out there without a girlfriend/caretaker his hygiene likely suffered. .To say the least, Jim never really found his mojo in Portland.

Another person who addressed his quest was writer Doug Hissom, in his excellent 2004 Shepherd Express feature on Jim when he returned home. Hissom opens simply and directly, “Jim Glynn has come home to die.” He’d found the Portland jazz scene amazingly similar to Milwaukee,  “I found that jazz has a precarious toehold these days. To my horror. The extensive music scene (in Portland) Is aimed at people under 25.”

Yet, amid loneliness in the Northwest, his painful seeking earned wisdom and serenity. “I suddenly found myself a man without a country. I just realized one day, that yeah, it’s time to come back for my people. Where my roots are. It’s just time to come back to Milwaukee.

“They say you can’t come home again and some of that is right. But my rhythm’s gotten back. I’ve got back into a natural rhythm

“It’s the Zen feeling and Zen quality in Milwaukee where you can move at what I thought was a slow pace before, but now it’s about right.” Hissom writes that Jim was going to try to get back on the radio and spend some time in the clubs. “It’s like a whole world opened up to me when I came back,” Jim continued.

Then he told Hissom the same thing he said to me. “I really don’t know how much time I have. They say I’m really sick, but I don’t act sick. They told me today it’s a short time, maybe. But I’ve no idea.”

Hissom’s article ran in the Shepherd Express September 30-October 6, 2004 edition. Now, please note the photograph of Jim (at the top) from his memorial brochure. The photo was taken October 2, and there he is, with his rhythm back, paradiddling his conga drum, at a jam in a club.

On October 18, Jim took his restless quest for enlightened serenity out, to the greatest unknown of all.

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  1. Ihab Hassan, Selves at Risk: Patterns of Quest in Contemporary American Letters, University of Wisconsin Press, 1990, 13
  2. ““There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he forever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than the other birds upon the plain, even though they soar.” — Herman Melville, Chapter 96, “The Try-Works,” Moby-Dick.

 

 

The Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts finds its “Auteur”

New JGCA executive director Kai Simone on the center’s legendary stage, inherited from the original Milwaukee Jazz Gallery. Photos by Kevin Lynch

A new critical biography of the brilliant film director Alfred Hitchcock inevitably examines how he became the first American embodiment of an auteur. 1 The term, originally coined and used by French director-critics, refers to the artist who controls her work’s vision and process, in a group artistic endeavor.

In a significant change, the Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts may have found it’s auteur, Kai Simone. The organization’s mission statement strives for “community…strengthened by creativity.” As the Riverwest Artists Association, the center was a dedicated but collective endeavor. Yet one board member characterized board meetings as sometimes “painful” and, despite the center’s considerable accomplishments, president Mark Lawson commented, perhaps only half-jokingly, ”We really didn’t know what we were doing.”

The RAA is visual arts-oriented, but the JGCA is about diversity in the arts and audience.

JGCA Executive Director Kai Simone (left) will bring diverse experience to the venue’s dedicated board of directors, which includes (standing beside Simone) president Mark Lawson and artist Bennie Higgins. 

That’s where Simone, the first-ever executive director, steps in. “I have a very special relationship to jazz,” said the former Chicagoan with an abundance of connections to that city’s rich jazz community, as did the founder of center’s nominal inspiration, the original Milwaukee Jazz Gallery, Chuck LaPaglia. Strong allies of Simone include Heather Ireland Robinson, ED of The Jazz Institute of Chicago, and Emmy Award-winning trumpeter Orbert Davis, artistic director of the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic. A source of inspiration is Ralph Bass, an influential R&B and jazz producer at Chicago’s legendary Chess Records. Such factors should help sustain the jazz/creative music tradition JGCA has provided The Second City’s “second city,” if you will.

The center took a step forward a few years ago with the hiring of Program Manager Amy Schmutte, who leads the successful O.W.L. program, an arts presentations and activities program geared to senior members of the Riverwest community. And as gallery director, Schmutte has dramatically boosted the center’s sales of artwork, especially online sales during the financially tenuous period of the COVID pandemic.

Simone will develop from that success, and look far further afield.

“I also want to build on the legacy of the Milwaukee Jazz Gallery, develop more educational and historical programs, and scholarships.”  Simone’s eyes are firmly fixed on the future — and the venue’s distinctive checkerboard stage. She feels the center needs much more outreach to youth culture, a specialty of hers.

The center showed that potential with a monthly performance series geared to hip-hop culture which — before the pandemic — developed a strong youth following almost on its own self-directed momentum.

Simone is an experienced theater director and herein the auteur analogy strengthens. In an interview, this truly seemed a woman of embracing vision, but also fully capable of handling practical operations of a multi-arts center. “I love mentoring, leading, and teaching.” she says. She’s also a performer, a writer, and a singer-songwriter. She founded the arts-ed Skai Academy, an MPS affiliate until the pandemic led to system fund cuts. That circumstance helped lead her to the center’s new opportunity.

For all her educational bona-fides, Simone values ultimately allowing students liberty to think “outside the box.” She relates how she once hid herself inside a cardboard box onstage before an unsuspecting young audience and, when she finally burst out, she had them “hooked.” Such engaging ingenuity should help strengthen the JGCA. Simone also envisions doing more with the WXRW radio programming already benefitting the center, as well as “virtual reality presentations, even animated films.” 2

She also thinks she can combine the center’s non-profit status with indirect profiting strategies, through partnerships, with MPS and Arts @ Large, among other organizations. “We own the building, so rent helps. So, it’s a business approach. I like problem-solving and talking to people about visions and passions. I want to take it to another level.” Regarding diverse community outreach and audience-building, Milwaukee has, besides African-Americans and Latinx, “a huge Hmong community, as well as Japanese, Burmese, and Ghanaian,” said Simone, whose daughter is half-Ghanaian. “I want to think globally and act locally.”

________

This article was originally published in slightly shorter form in the Neighborhoods section of The Shepherd Express https://shepherdexpress.com/neighborhoods/riverwest/jazz-gallery-center-for-the-arts-finds-its-auteur/

1 The critical biography is The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock: An Anatomy of the Master of Suspense, by Edward White, published in March 2021.

2. Saturdays at 10 a.m., JGCA board member Elizabeth Vogt hosts WXRW 104.1 FM Riverwest Radio’s weekly Artful Lives, an interview and arts profile program, on behalf of the Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts. It’s a low-power station, but all programs are available to stream live — and in the station’s archives. (The archives include several interviews with this blogger, Kevernacular (Kevin Lynch), about famous jazz musicians I interviewed and reviewed at the original Milwaukee Jazz Gallery run by Chuck LaPaglia.)

Restlessly seeking enlightened serenity, Jim Glynn carried his gift to humanity far and wide

Jim Glynn served as best man for my second wedding to Beth Bartoszek, in Madison Wisconsin, at the Unitarian Meeting House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Photo by wedding photograper. All other photos by Kevin Lynch 

Without the power of his legs, Jim Glynn often seemed to soar through life on wings of passion, love, charisma, and a gift for serenity. He was perhaps the most extraordinary man I’ve ever known to call a friend.

I’m honoring him on the anniversary of his death, October 18, 2004. Coincidentally, I myself became disabled that same year, but in my upper limbs, with a severe neuropathy that continues today.

So, it wasn’t until the year he died that I could perhaps begin to fully relate to the challenges that he overcame with rare and inspiring grace. But it’s always different when you are no longer ambulatory. Jim never simply fell back on the use of a wheelchair, as he regularly used crutches for decades, bolstered by the strong athletic upper body that he kept in superb shape as a swimmer and arm-powered cyclist. “He was a marathon swimmer,” said Harvey Taylor, the poet and singer-songwriter with a truly amphibious relationship with Jim. They swam in the Racine quarry together hundreds of times. “He was a magnificent athlete.”

I too swam with Jim in that quarry, which he seemed to especially value for the serenity that its glasslike water surface signified. 1 And yet he often also swam across Elkhart Lake, which can get feisty and treacherous.

Jim gets ready to take a swim in the Racine quarry, a favorite refuge of his.

Harvey may have been Jim’s best friend, but I held him as dearly a friend as any person I’ve ever known. He was the best man at my second wedding. Jim and I bonded over our love of music, with tastes that were similarly wide-ranging. I met him when I was working as album buyer at Radio Doctor’s “Soul Shop” at Third and North Avenue, in Milwaukee, back in the mid-1970s. 2

Only the hippest white music lovers frequented the soul shop, in the “downtown” of Milwaukee’s inner city. Jim knew and loved jazz — our greatest shared passion —  as a connoisseur, but without pretension. He also craved classical music, from baroque to contemporary, and had a supremely selective taste for the best of all American vernacular musics, as well as emerging world musics.

An avid fan of many musics, including avant-garde Jazz, Jim Glynn (left) joins a reception at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music for the renowned jazz pianist Cecil Taylor (center in sport jacket) along with Cecil’s longtime friend and collaborator Ken Miller, with hand around Taylor.

And despite his apparent physical limits, Jim often seemed capable of morphing into multiples of himself. He showed up at most every notable music event in town. After attending maybe three events in one evening, he’d say, “Well, we did it all, tonight.”

What did I learn from him? One thing is this. More than I, he also gravitated to the sort of musically unadorned kinds of music that emerge from Eastern classical music partly because, perhaps once he became paraplegic, he became a hand drummer like the great Indian tabla players. I’m talking about so-called New Age or what mutual musician friend Mitar Covic called “bliss music.” The harmonic simplicity of “New Age” can be traced somewhat to the modal music of John Coltrane, as well as Eastern classical music. But I felt the new music often insipidly exploited those modalities without their profundities and passion, at best turning potential beauty into prettiness.

Now perhaps I can see more Jim’s perspective, throughout his decades of disabled suffering. He always strove for healing, replenishing and enlightened serenity in life, and that included artistic vibrations. Amid contemporary life’s onslaught of stresses and ugliness, his search for musical beauty and rhythmic vitality, which some of the NA musicians achieve, is something I can still learn and benefit from. It ties in to Zen disciplines and meditational practices, the latter which I have partaken off since college, but with no consistency.

Jim may be imparting a tidbit of wisdom to girlfriend Yovanka Dajkovic in this scene (top photo) from Holy Hill in Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine. In the lower photo, the two of them wave picturesquely from below the great cathedral’s tall steeples.

Jim might have been a “guru” of sorts, though I never realized that at the time. But the man’s rare,  aura, his alluring friendliness frequently suggested a tacit invitation to most anyone into his life, to do what he often did with his best friends: Hang, talk, listen and do little jam sessions with a few hand drums and some of his flute playing thrown in. The meditative quality of a Jim Glynn hang-out was often generously enhanced with marijuana. Yet, in later years, he bemoaned the diminishing experience that blended music, camaraderie and marijuana had provided. “I really miss the transcendent experience of a great high,” he said, something that, for whatever reasons, changing times stole from him. Perhaps we had less sense of discovery and revelation after hearing so much music, as well as the oft-discussed damaged idealism and and fading visions of our generation.

The last photo I took of Jim, (playing drums, at far right) at a farewell party for him before he moved from Milwaukee to Portland, Oregon. The other players include (L-R) percussionist Tony Finlayson, pianist Steve Tilton, and harmonica player Steve Cohen (of the blues band Leroy Airmaster). .

But the fact that he could attain such transcendent moments long after he lost the use of his legs speaks volumes for the man’s spiritual capacities. That’s something that people seemed to intuitively sense from him, as he was one of the most effortlessly charismatic people I’ve ever known. It’s as if he made something of his seated posture, implicitly inviting many a stranger into an imaginary crib.  So he befriended people time and again, and quickly called them “brother” or “sister,” often before he really even knew their name.

A good-looking Irishman with a low, naturally-seductive voice, an easy smile and a sly wit, Jim was something of a ladies man. Any number of women over the years eagerly befriended and romanced him, while activating their caretaking instinct. Perhaps his best and most loyal woman friend was Pat Graue, who ended up honoring his wish that his ashes be strewn in Sedona, Arizona — with its mysteriously looming rock formations, like permanent sentinels of ghosts — which he considered the most Nirvana-like place in America.

The other end of Nirvana on earth was the hellish day, during the Vietnam War, when his Army jeep swerved in the French Alps, to avoid a blocking car. Flung from the vehicle, Jim fell hundreds of feet, but somehow survived, though this leg functions did not.

For me, he is now a quietly great figure who built up a strong and loyal following of listeners on his mind-expandingly eclectic music programs on WUWM and WMSE radio. And this greatness he wore with the grace of a bird’s wing. The quote of Harvey Taylor above is from Amy Rabideau Silvers’ superb obituary on Jim in The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel upon his death. Reading it again, I’m amazed at the humility of the man, despite all that he added up to, which seems now the essence of cool.  Some of the most remarkable aspects of his life detailed in Silvers obituary were revelations to me, even though I thought I knew Jim intimately for over three decades.

For example, while in the service he worked in Army intelligence, including the Cold War’s most famous espionage event. He tracked U-2 spy plane flights by pilot Francis Gary Powers, including the one in which Powers was shot down and captured by the Soviet Union in 1960.

And despite our shared love of jazz, he never told me that long ago, as a fully functioning drummer before his accident, he had played with Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Johnny Cash, and the Everly Brothers when they would visit Wisconsin.

On that October day in 2004, my mother called to tell me Jim was dying. I was living in Madison and jumped on a Badger Bus to meet my folks (also great friends of Jim’s) at the Milwaukee bus station. When I got there, they told me he was gone. Harvey had been there with him. I melted into tears.

Jim bequeathed his huge CD collection to me. I couldn’t practically accept it, as my own collection was nearly as big already. But the gesture deeply moved me. After being cherry-picked by me and a couple friends and WMSE disk jockeys, the recordings were donated to that radio station by his sister .

Something of a philosopher, Jim also helped counsel paraplegic veterans in Milwaukee, Chicago, and Washington D.C. in how to “take a fall and get back up” as his brother Steve Glynn explained to Silvers. That included, “you can still have an active sex life.”

I’m sure he delivered that assurance with an offhanded air akin to Paul Newman’s title character in “Cool Hand Luke,” with “that old Luke smile.” Like Luke, Jim Glynn lived in a sort of prison, but he could break away from that trap with the same kind of uncanny ease.

(One of three post parts on Jim Glynn)

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1 Our Racine Quarry swimming inspired a poem I wrote in about 1985. I would never had such an experience of nature, and nature interrupted, but for my friendship with Jim Glynn.

2. Jim actually knew two of my six sisters before he met me. He became a great Lynch family friend — my parents were big jazz and classical music fans — and attended a number of our family’s Thanksgiving meals. In the photo below, he’s seen with his girlfriend Pat Graue in the foreground. (Pictured, L-R, Norm Lynch, Nancy Aldrich, Erik Aldrich, The Turkey of Honor, Lauren Aldrich, Jim Glynn, Pat Graue, and Anne Lynch).

(Pat Graue now goes by the name Zoe Daniels)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tedeschi-Trucks Band turn Clapton’s “Anyday” into pure timelessness

BRIDGEVIEW, ILLINOIS – JULY 28: Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi perform at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007 to benefit the Crossroads Centre in Antigua July 28, 2007 in Bridgeview, Illinois (Photo by Lyle A. Waisman/FilmMagic)

Throwback Thursday:

I’ve been a big Tedeschi-Trucks Band fan since before their break-out album, Revelator, and I came across a video of a performance which may have been what originally turned up my radar on them, very high.

Here they perform Eric Clapton’s song “Anyday” from the iconic Derek and the Dominos Layla album. Susan Tedeschi, then a sparkling and blazingly soulful redhead, shares lead vocals with the band’s lead and back-up singer and songwriter Mike Mattison. The searing guitar solos are, of course, by Susan’s musical and life mate, Derek Trucks

The performance is from Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007. I first saw this from the video concert of that festival and, playing it cranked up, this was a powerhouse. There is something incredibly infectious about the band’s performance and that’s heartily evident when you see Clapton himself, on side stage, singing along with gusto to one of the lines. A few moments later. you see the festival’s emcee, comedian Bill Murray, who appears pretty knocked out by the music.

I think you might be too, and if you’re familiar with this, I hope it’s as enjoyable of a revisit as it was from me today.

“You believe in me, like I believe in you-hooooo!”

Regarding the self-caricature as my latest blog cover image

I explained the genesis and story of this drawing in a recent blog but I decided to make it my current blog header image because the Facebook posting of it was well-received. Plus, it may be the only depiction of me as a writer in action, aside from the shot of me interviewing singer Asha Puthli, from a few years later (below).

The drawing caricatures me in the 1980s when I was writing for The Milwaukee Journal (and freelancing for Down Beat, the occasion of the photo with Asha) but looking for a full-time newspaper staff position, thus I created this drawing as a catchy job-pitch stationary header.

As I remain an arts & entertainment writer, the 1980s images remain apt, if graced — more than baggaged — I hope, by time.

What’s happening? The dazzling new/old Bradley Symphony Center

This is what’s happening with downtown culture right now. The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra unveiled its long-anticipated new home the Bradley Symphony Center. The venue, dripping with sumptuous art deco adornments, has morphed like a grand monarch butterfly, from the 1920s Warner Theater, perhaps the grandest of the city’s “movie palaces.”

My article in The Shepherd Express, actually scooped my old employer, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which published a story today, but I’m a bit slow posting mine on my blog.

Here it is, along with a few additional photos all taken by Ann K. Peterson, including the ones in the Shep Ex article, credited incorrectly to me:

https://shepherdexpress.com/culture/ae-feature/bradley-symphony-center-gives-mso-a-gorgeous-new-home/

A huge Tiffany-style lamp illuminates the Bradley concert hall

Elaboratelow-releifonamentationcharacterizestherenoatedorchetrahall

Elaborate ornamentation characterizes the renovated orchestra hall (above and below).

Bucolic murals enliven the hall’s walls.