Saturday, October 29, 2011

Funeral Hearse Benefits Haunted House

In 1905, a funeral hearse was built in Vienna, Austria as a carriage for the funeral ceremonies of wealthy and well–respected locals. In 1970, an antiques dealer from the Salt Lake area of Utah brought the hearse to Park City. He displayed it in his antique shop, and then put it aside. It sat neglected in a junkyard for thirty years, until it was discovered by a Park City resident. This was Bill Brown, at the time the president of the Glenwood Cemetery Association, who bought all the parts and started the process of renovating it. After a year and a half, the hearse was as good as new. He began to take part in parades around the country, and enter it in antique competitions. When he moved to Port Townsend last year, Brown brought the Hearse with him.

Like a darker version of the horse-drawn cart from Cinderella, the hearse is black and ornate with black roses carved into its exterior and lanterns. It has glass on three sides, and inside are red velvet curtains surrounding a replica coffin.

“It’s really unique,” Brown said. “I haven’t seen any others like it.”

Earlier this month the carriage was displayed in the parking lot of Safeway, as a fundraiser for the Hauntownsend “Carnival of the Twilight” haunted house, whose proceeds benefit the local Rotary club.

The haunted house, which takes place at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, is in its last weekend. It is open from 7pm to 10pm. Admission is $11.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Occupy Wall Street comes to Port Townsend

Occupy Wall Street has come to Port Townsend.

The movement, which officially began September 17 in New York City, has now spread around the world. People in cities from every corner of the world have taken to the streets to demonstrate their anger at their governments and the global financial system.

This list of cities now includes Port Townsend, as a large group of people gathered at the triangle park in front of the Chase Bank on Friday to wave signs that said things such as Make Jobs, Not War, Keep America’s Jobs in America, and Save the American Dream.

Linda Brewster, a regional organizer for MoveOn and the American Dream movement, who sponsored the event, said that she was delighted with the turnout, which she estimated at around 200 people.

She also added that Port Townsend’s reaction was great as well.

“There’s been a lot of honking and waving from passersby and just a huge amount of enthusiasm here today,” she said.

“This is a great turnout,” said Mark Twain Stevenson, another organizer for MoveOn, “people driving by seem to be pleased. I am very pleased with this turnout.”

Gretchen Brewer, of the PTAirwatchers, took part in the demonstration, and feels that the media plays a part in this movement as well.

“The media in general is playing it a little bit coy, claiming not to understand what the issue is, that (the demonstrators) are scattered and all that. But no, the underlying issue is corporate privilege. It’s about corporate dominance and the diminishing of our individual rights and individual abilities to conduct our lives as we see fit.”

The movement is now at day 29, and shows no sign of dissipating anytime soon. In fact, it's growing stronger as it reflects a worldwide dissatisfaction with the status quo.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Good Week for the Blues

This year’s Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival was hot.
Not only was this the case with the music played by this year’s faculty, but so was the weather. Some days started out overcast, but by afternoon the sun’s appearance sure helped keep spirits high.

As usual, building 204 was the place to be. Afternoons and nights would find a jam happening on the back porch. Someone would pull out a guitar or mandolin and one-by-one others would join in and soon the air was filled with the sound of fiddles, harmonicas, guitars, washboards, mandolins, and voices -- all coming together to form a melody that would draw more people.

There were some new additions to the year’s festival, the most mentionable one being the appearance of Taj Mahal, this year’s headliner. He performed to a sold- out crowd at McCurdy Pavilion on Wednesday, a show opened by third–year artistic director Corey Harris. It was a quick stop for the Taj Mahal Trio, who are currently on tour, but it was greeted with enthusiasm by Port Townsend and the faculty of the festival, many of whom say that Mahal has had a major impact on their Blues Career.

“The guy that was playing here Wednesday, Taj Mahal, is one of my main inspirations,” said Sule Greg Wilson, a percussionist/banjo player on the faculty.
“He was the one that really made me go into old-timey and blues music, from the country blues aspect.”

“Taj Mahal has always been one of my favorites,” said “Washboard Chaz” Leary, “I’ve known Taj for a long time.”

When asked what his favorite part of the festival had been that week, Cheick Hamala Diabate, a faculty member who plays banjo, guitar and the ngoni, a Malian traditional instrument, mentioned Taj Mahal as one of his highlights.

“Taj Mahal went to see my family a couple of times in Mali,” Cheick Hamala added.

Cheick Hamala was another important guest this year. He is a storyteller, historian, and musician in the 800-year-old tradition of the Griot, the storytellers of West Africa. Currently residing in Washington D.C, he grew up in Mali in a family where “all the men play music, and the women sing.”

At a young age, he mastered the ngoni.

“The ngoni is the grandfather of the American banjo,” the Grammy-nominee said. “It has a deep history: When people came from Africa as slaves, they didn’t bring the instrument, but they got the idea to make the banjo in America.”

Cheick Halama added that there are two other main traditional Malian instruments: the kora, a 21-stringed instrument that is the ancestor of the harp, and the balafon, which inspired the keyboard.

On Friday night, he played in a packed Boiler Room. With his colorful traditional Malian robes and hat, black and gray striped dress pants and shiny shoes, along with his ever–present smile, he created a magical atmosphere with his guitar and banjo and songs in his native tongue.

People of all ages came to the festival. There were young musicians, like Jerrone
“Blind-Boy” Paxton, a 23-year-old blues artist from South Central Los Angeles who has been coming here since he was 19. He wowed the audience at McCurdy Saturday as he played the piano, banjo, and guitar. Then there was Nat Reese, an 87-year-old musician from Virginia who has played music since he was a child. He started out playing music in church, and has since played the guitar, as well as the bass viola, concert harp, piano, and organ, among others.
It’s his second year at the festival.

“I’ve enjoyed it really well. Last year was the first time I was here from back northeast, and I’m enjoying it tremendously,” Reese said.

“I’ve always enjoyed the Blues Festival,” said Lightnin’ Wells, a ukulele, harmonica, and guitar player on the faculty. “I’ve been up here probably ten years, and I’m always happy in Port Townsend. It’s the highlight of my year to come up here and be part of the Blues Festival.”

The grounds of Fort Worden grew quiet as people packed up to leave, but many say that they took with them good memories of the past week.

“The Blues Fest is a joy from the first minute we land in Washington to the moment we leave,” said Henrique Prince, a fiddle player and the “lead Billie” of the Ebony Hillbillies, a New York -based string band. “We really had a lot of fun this year, and learned a lot.

Cheick Halama Diabate

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Magic of '11

I found out some cool things today. In the year 2011 there are four unusual dates: 1/1/11, 1/11/11, 11/1/11, 11/11/11. I also learned that if you take the last two digits of the year you were born and add the age you will be this year, the result is 111 for everybody that tries it. (I tried it on my mom, my brother, and myself, and it works!) Another cool fact: This October will have 5 Sundays, 5 Mondays and 5 Saturdays. This happens only every 823 years! These particular years are known as 'Moneybags' It is is said that if you send this to eight good friends, real money will appear in the next four days, supposedly as explained in Chinese feng-shui. Those who don't continue the chain won't receive money. That's how the story goes, anyway, and maybe it's worth a try.