Friday, February 16, 2007

Cabin Fever in Kansas

Winter where I live in Kansas is about to end after thirty-six days of below freezing temperatures. There is a slight chance of another storm around the end of the month, according to the weather forecasters.
I have seen snow in March at various times in Kansas. These late-winter snows are of short duration before the southern winds and warmer temperatures return. The Kanza Indians, the indigenous people in this area before they were moved south to Oklahoma, were known as people of the south wind because it is this south wind that is most predominate in Kansas during all four seasons of the year.


A quick moving storm brought about four inches of snow to my area on Tuesday; it has proven more troublesome for those people living east of Missouri because it eventually acquired much more strength.

When not working and when not reading the news reports and commentary on the Internet relating to the next possible blunder in the Middle East, I have been feeding my head by rediscovering some of the jazz CDs I have collected, such as Jan Garbarek’s It’s OK to Listen to the Gray Voice, a collection of songs based on the poems of Tomas Transtromer. It’s a great album. Although unfamiliar with Tomas Transtromer, except for what Robert Bly said about him in Leaping Poetry, I find much pleasure in these songs based on his poems. I often compose on the computer keyboard when listening to this album; the music, however, causes me to stop and give it my full attention at times. I remember hearing this album when taking a shower before my evening poetry workshop on Wednesdays or Thursdays, depending on the semester, when I was at Oklahoma State and studying poetry with Mark Cox. I had just spent a couple of hours writing a poem and was usually intoxicated from having been engaged in the writing process.

Currently, I’m listening to Jan Garbarek-Bobo Stenson’s Witchi-Tai-To. It was released in 1974 and remains a timeless recording. I have been fascinated with the bass work of Palle Danielson since I heard this album yesterday for the first time in six months or a year. My stereo isn’t that great. I bought the Kenwood amplifier (KA 880D) and turntable through E-Bay a couple of years ago and then added a Kenwood double cassette player that I had gotten at a garage sale a year before and had been storing in a closet until the day I could afford a component system. Once I got the amplifier and turntable, I picked up an Audio Source equalizer for a hundred bucks at Best Buy. Originally, I had gotten speakers and a Sharp CD player with the amplifier and turntable through E-Bay, all for a hundred bucks before shipping. The speakers were damaged in shipment, so my wife was kind enough to let me have the Pioneer speakers that she had for the system she wanted to donate to Salvation Army. I also replaced the CD player last summer by ordering a more recent Pioneer player through E-Bay. Finally, at fifty-something years of age, I now have my own component system, what I had wanted for a good thirty-five years or so. Sometime in the future, barring the collapse of the American economy under the Bush administration, I plan on replacing the turntable, but it’s isn’t a top priority in my life.

Another example of excellent bass work is Coltrane’s Ole. The title track contains two basses, one plucked and one bowed. Long before the Beatles made their trip to India, Coltrane was influenced by the music of India and incorporated elements of traditional Indian music on this title track, despite the name of the song. The opening bass work to “Dahomey Dance” on this same album is particularly fascinating because of its complexity. I have not been successful in determining whether the opening bass line is maintained throughout the song.

Although it may seem otherwise, I am not a strong advocate of consumerism. When I was much younger, I rebelled against my parents’ affluence by seeking a life with few material comforts. If I had grown up during the 1930’s and had known extreme poverty, like my parents did, my attitude toward material things would have been much different. For the longest time, I didn’t know how to drive and relied on either public transportation or my own feet. Before I decided to return to college, I used to think nothing of walking away from a job, without giving notice and without a concern for when I might find another job. I once risked going homeless because I was out of work and couldn’t pay rent for two months.

One day I would like to have a few more creature comforts, such as a recent automobile and a house with a bit more room inside and outside. I also fantasize about one day creating my own home theater system, one that I put together myself, using various components like an amplifier, equalizer, DVD player, and multiple full-size speakers, instead of relying on the already created systems available at places like Wal-Mart. My current employment arrangement, the heavy weight of student loans, and the prospect of becoming too old to work or having to stop work because of ill-health makes me one of those people that James Howard Kunstler describes as “praying to Jesus (or, in my case, the pagan equivalent) for a winning lottery ticket.”

Maybe I practice escapism. Finding pleasure in music and dreaming of a more comfortable life while still attempting to use less of the earth’s resources than some Americans are coping mechanisms against the insanity of a country in which my voice is one of three hundred million.