Lady Gaga and Beyoncé: A Contrast Between Bling and Soul

In the last ten days, I watched Lady Gaga perform at Super Bowl 2017 and Beyoncé at the Grammys. I also watched Beyoncé perform at Super Bowl 2016. What a contrast between bling and soul.

Lady Gaga: Bling

Lady Gaga literally dropped from a parachute onto the stage of the Super Bowl, dressed in glitter, supported by a pageant of fireworks and drones. Her quintessential cheerleading performance, complete with multi-cultural dancers, perfectly complemented the all-American sport of football: fabulous athleticism and teamwork. Lady Gaga was in full strut boogie. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txXwg712zw4

But after the show was over, I couldn’t remember what she sang. The songs were forgettable. Her advocacy for LGBT rights was so subtle, I never got it. The show was glitz with a lot of hard surfaces. She played it safe.

I respect her artistry and her passion for LGBT rights, but would find it difficult to love this woman or her songs.

 

Beyonce: Soul

From the moment Beyoncé uttered the words “Do you remember being born,” (an excerpt from Lemonade) at Grammys 2017, she wrapped her audience in a universal embrace. Her show was an epic paeon to motherhood, complete with nude shots of her pregnant belly carrying twins.

Her sedate and stately voice carried the performance, with none of the fabulous dance moves audiences are accustomed to seeing. Her final words were a triumphant overcoming of the emotional shattering and struggles that are poignantly described in the album and film Lemonade after Beyoncé discovered Jay Z’s infidelity—“Now that reconciliation is possible, if we’re gonna heal, let it be glorious.” Jay Z and daughter Blue Ivy beamed.

Many termed Beyoncé’s performance “too political.” what is political about baring your pregnant belly and championing motherhood?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fJGRsurPPI

Nothing was stately or subtle about Beyoncé’s performance (with Bruno Mars) at Super Bowl 2016 of her venomously political song Formation (also part of the album Lemonade), which castigated police brutality against black men and women. The music video of the same name won the Grammy for best music video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_Hgh7sPDLM

Did Beyoncé’s politics as a champion of black rights prevent Lemonade from being awarded as best album of the year? (The album did win best urban contemporary). Perhaps this was what led Adele (who did win the Grammy for best album/best song of the year) to make her surprising and passionate on-stage outcry: “I felt like it was her time to win…What the f— does she have to do to win Album of the Year?”

Beyoncé will be remembered for championing the beauty of black womanhood and the aspirations of black women and men to have the freedom to shine.  She has a lot of soul.

Diane Sward Rapaport is the producer of The Musician’s Business and Legal Guide; the author of Home Sweet Jerome; and the publisher of Adulterer’s Wife: How to Thrive Whether you Stay or Not by C. J. Grace. http://www.jeromeheadlandspress.com

Walter Rapaport: Music, Audio and the Poetic

Guest post by Walter Rapaport, my husband of 42 years, continuing my posts about the old music business days of the seventies.

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Portrait of Walter at age 74 at home in Hines Oregon.  Photo by Laurie O’Connor.

“I’ve done some wrong things,

While livin’ my life

Made some wrong moves

You could criticize …”

(Barbara Mauritz, Lamb, A Sign of Change)

Sign of change was one of Lamb's finest album, a work of magical originality..

A Sign of Change, a work of magical originality, was Lamb’s first album, produced by David Rubinson for Fillmore Records.

For me, it’s about the emotional sum of words plus music.

Musicals were the start. Classical got to me with or without words. Great NYC DJ’s. Folk music drew me into the club scene in New York. Jazz came along and changed all the relationships in my mind. Then rock ‘n roll codified longings I did not voice until then:  Stones. Beatles, and acid pulled me westward!

I was 25 and a hi-fi nut.  Worked with Ampex tape recorders in language labs. By then I was a complete stoner, and the straight job was too restricting.  Enter Lamb! in San Francisco. My good friend Bob Swanson was a principal in that group and sent me tapes.  Needed a sound guy.  Called me on the night Nixon was elected and said they had a regular gig and would pay me a share. The Ribeltad Vorden bar paid the band $35 a week. Color me gone.

“When hardly a trace of love could I find.

Was a blind hearted woman.

Almost lost my mind.”

(Barbara Mauritz, Lamb, A Sign of Change)

Bill Douglas on bass, Bob Swanson on git., Barbara Mauritz sings, pianos. and gits. Walt finds a calling. And what a life.  No money, but poetry. I entered the universe of poetry and music. Live gig, rehearsal and eventually recording. Producer David Rubinson picked Lamb up for Fillmore Records and got Bill Graham, the godfather of rock ‘n roll, on board at Flllmore Managment. And Walter was still lost in the poetic.

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Singer Barbara Mauritz and guitarist of Lamb. Back cover of their second album, Cross Between. Co-producers: David Rubinson and Walter Rapaport.  Photo by Peter Olwyler.

“And I know, yes I know, praying for the light.

Down on my knees, alone in the night

Cryin’ Oh. look down here on me,

That I may see the way, yeah!”

(Barbara Mauritz, Lamb, A Sign of Change)

Lamb’s first album, A Sign of Change was pure jazz, with a dose of mysticism and another of gospel. I co-produced their second album, Cross Between. The gospel of studio recording was handed to me by the great engineer Fred Catero. 45 years later my mind distills the lessons, and when I am fortunate enough to record, I TRY TO FOLLOW THEM.

  • Be Positive!
  • Listen to each instrument and amp to find the sweet spot—put the mic. there!
  • Listen to the control room chatter and filter for meaning and direction.
  • Evaluate input for useful ideas.
  • When the talk gets to serious band business:  disappear—if not recording.
  • Be positive and, when required, be funny.

    fred catero

    Recording engineer Fred Catero.

“And it’s in gettin’ down to earth

That we can recognize our worth

We were all put here together

For the worse or for the better

And I believe, and I say I believe

Until my dyin’ day

I just wanna say…yeah

We’re gonna have a party!”

(Barbara Mauritz, Lamb, A Sign of Change)

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Barbara Mauritz. Photo by Peter Olwyler.

Just before Lamb’s fourth album, the new producer fired me. Business reality caught up with me. The music went downhill from there. Ego? Not me!

Getting bumped off the poetic caused a hard landing. A lawyer’s letter informed me that I owed a share of partnership losses. I was depressed and out of money. My lawyer said I was responsible for my share. Oy vey!  Revelation: Wait, I ain’t got shit!  Call Bill Graham in the a.m. to laugh and suggest that I had about $2 and he was welcome to it, to which he replied, “It took you way too long to get it.” Thanks for the lesson, Bill!

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Joined a band called Bittersweet as sound guy, road manager. It did not “go.” Eventually got a job as a sound man at a nightclub called the “Orphanage.”  Good music by and large. A good time of life.  Reconnect with my love Diane, now 42 years married and counting. Have child, what a gas, often being parent at work, often with baby Max.

Became adept at multiple to 2-track mixes (house, stage, sound truck, and for Van Morrison a video feed). Founded White Noise Sound with Barret Bassick.  Did live sound and live broadcast, direct to 2-channel to air.  And this totally shaped my idea of how one recorded and produced sessions. Get the performance!  Go to it if necessary.  Walt and his A77 Revox got a surprising amount of work. NPR producer Tim Owens (“Jazz Alive”) kept us working. Found out I was not a good studio engineer.

Tim was promoted to Washington D.C.  Barret and I had a falling out.  I went to work as production mgr. at FRAP (Flat Response Audio Pickup), the most rewarding job I ever had.  I contracted for a year. Company looked like it might go…

Diane was done with the Bay Area. Took my van, my dog and my son to Jerome AZ. Suddenly I needed a complete life change. Returned to work after winter vacation, and found that FRAP product on the shipping table was still there, and knew that I didn’t want to go through the lack of cash that was sure to follow. Joined family in Jerome AZ and decided that house wiring is just a variation on balanced electronics wiring (it is!) and called myself a house wirer. Did whatever recording-live sound work that I could. Katie Lee and Major Lingo stand out. Still with the old A77!  Perhaps the most fulfilling tracks came from Katie in the form of a folk opera called Billy, Maude and Mr. D.

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Katie Lee’s folk opera. Available at http://www.katydoodit.com

She performed the first act flawlessly (23 min) and beautifully. Second act required one edit!  This was recorded using a Shure 58 mic for vocal, Shure 53 mic for guitar, both through transformers directly into A77 pre-amps.  (The CD is available thru Katydid Books and Music— http://katydoodit.com)

KT Western Garb

Photo of Katie Lee by M.L. Lincoln. (Katydodit.com)

Friends like Katie taught us to enjoy hiking, camping and rafting. This  “getting down to earth“ stuff became a solid track of its own, and the poetry continued.

Walter and Richard

Walter Rapaport and Richard Martin on the Colorado River in the eighties. For both, music and the life of the poetic guided their passions. Photo by Diane Rapaport

Farewell Barbara Blackburn. Rest in Peace.

Barbara Blackburn was the reason Walt, Max and I moved to Jerome, Arizona. Greg Driver called today to say she had ‘passed.’

Barbara came to Jerome, AZ  when she left San Francisco in the arms of Dean, who was ‘throwing’ tires—vernacular for someone who repaired them. He was a handsome con man who convinced Barbara he was a talented photographer. She sold her home, bought a little travel trailer, some photo equipment for him, and off they went, landing in Sedona some months after, the money gone up their noses in a lot of cocaine.

A Sedona bartender told her she should look into Jerome. The first day in Jerome, Barbara put $15,000, the last of her money, into buying the Old Bakery and adjacent duplex, where she lived while she began to remodel the old Bakery building. It took her another six months or so to get rid of Dean.

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The old bakery ovens are still hanging around in the back yard of one of my friends. (Photo by Bob Swanson)

No Turkeys

We arrived in Jerome at 5 a.m. No cars on Main Street. No people. No sun. No nada. We’re dead-tired, think to catch a ‘motel’ in Clarkdale, which was a empty as Jerome. Turn around to explore Jerome’s ramshackle, twisty streets, for some sign of where Barbara might live. And after about ten minutes we notice a ‘NoTurkeys’ sign in a window.

Barbara greets us with a big smile and a joint. It’s nonstop party for the next three days with the hippies of Jerome. We were enchanted and totally exhausted by the time we left. Barbara invited us to stay with her when we moved.

A Magnanimous Dual Personality

Barbara was the only person I knew who had a dual  personality that she successfully kept together for years and years in San Francisco and Jerome: a banker/CEO/financial wizard by day and at night, a hippie that drank, smoke and dropped LSD, only to show up in straight work clothes the next day for whatever job she held. She was magnanimous, welcoming,  and inclusive to all she met, ready with a smile, cup of coffee, a joint, a meal.

She became CEO for John McNerney’s Jerome Instrument Corporation, and helped propel it into a four million dollar business.  Her special gift was knowing how to make a workplace easy for people to be in

JIC Circa 1980

Front step left: Nell Moffett Second Step: L-R: Paul Nonnast, Ester Burton, Darrell Fellers (Karen Fellers’ son) Third step: L-R: Iris McNerney, Kathy Davidson Fifth Step: L-R Ron Ballatore’s daughter Stephanie; Karen Gorman, Mary Nickerson, Susan Kinsella, Barbara Blackburn/ Sixth step: Lindsey Waddell (John Waddell’s son); Ed Dowling; Randy Murdock; Upper step: Sandra Strong, Carol Nesselrode, Pat Montreuil, Roger Davis Photo taken just after JIC moved from Earl Bell’s old lab near the Douglas Mansion in late 1980.

Barbara’s Acid Punch

She had a gift for making instant friends and weaving them into her life. She was a great hostess and her Bakery home became party central, for any occasion, for any friend that visited.

She was known for her acid (LSD) punch, a special for parties. Two very memorable ones were a JIC company party down at the river and a Valentines Party to commemorate a new office Barbara and I shared.

4 cans large Frozen Pink Lemonade

2 quarts gingerale

2 quarts club soda

2 bottles cheap champagne

1/2 gallon raspberry sherbert

100 hits of acid

The Great Outdoors

Many of our friends will tell you about rafting and backpacking with Barbara into many wildernesses. But our personal favorite was a ten-day backpack down Red Canyon in the Grand Canyon, with Walt and Greg Driver, to whom she was married for ten years. We hiked in the early morning hours; found a shaded cubbyholes to hide in during the heat of the day, played bridge, smoked joint after joint, and yes, dropped acid.

Would love if readers of this memorial would share favorite stories in the ‘comments’ section.

The Jerome Defense Fund

Barbara, Sue Kinsella and I formed “The Jerome Defense Fund” association and solicited donations for defendants of the Big Bust of 1985 to help them pay bail bond and legal fees. We held regular meetings, attended by many of those accused and their friends, and it became something between an information conduit and outlet for grief. We held a benefit dance, called Jail House Rock, with the help of 127 volunteers (twenty-seven of them musicians).

The Main Street stores, without exception, and many artists, made contributions for the large raffle that was held at the dance. We raised over $4,500 and split it among the defendants that needed money, including those who did not live in Jerome. Although it made a very small dent in what amounted to more than $75,000 in legal fees, the heart and solidarity behind it meant a great deal to the defendants.

Leaving Jerome
Barbara left Jerome the way she came in to it, in the arms of a con man that she met in a bar in Baja California. He claimed he was wealthy and owned a helicopter company in Tahoe that removed old growth trees. He had a special gift for cutting her off from her friends. John McNerney commented that he didn’t know any wealthy guys who had bad teeth.What was amazing was that Barbara didn’t find out just how strange he was until two years later when she got a phone call from the cops in Colorado who had arrested him with a car stolen from a dealership in Cottonwood, which he presented to her as a gift.

Last Communication: June 2016

“I have changed my life recently – moved from the mountains of Colorado to a more hospitable climate and one I could afford to live in: Albuquerque.  The medical services and doctors I can get here are wonderful and I am so in need.

Have had 4 stents placed -2 in femoral arteries and 2 in main aorta but yet have I have pulmonary arterial disease and congestive heart failure- both of which will not be corrected –-  “too much damage not enough benefit “-   have bought a sweet little home here in the old residential section of Albuquerque – and no snow!  Am on oxygen 24/7 and will always be – just trying to get my self strong enough  to walk more than ¼ block… it is a different life for me – but as an 82 year old said to me recently “at my age you do one day at a time”  ……. damn smoking finally took its toll

It’s been nice remembering the good days in Jerome.  Greg Driver called a couple of days ago – just to say hello – that was sweet.

Think of you and Walter often – hope life is still good in Oregon….hugs and kisses to you both.”

Razing the T.F Miller Building: Jerome, AZ 1953

In early 1953, speculation ran high that the entire town of Jerome, AZ would be razed. According to a former official of Phelps Dodge, “WITHIN A YEAR – GRASS WILL GROW ON THE MAIN STREET OF JEROME—JEROME IS FINISHED.”[1]

It was an easy time for the mining companies that abandoned Jerome to begin bulldozing town buildings. Phelps Dodge Corporation (PD) and United Verde Exploration (UVX) owned the land underneath Jerome, many lots and buildings on Main Street, the schools and hospital and much of the land surrounding the town for many miles.

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The iconic T.F. Miller building was ordered to be torn down by Phelps Dodge in 1953. “Jerome is finished,” a mine official said. Kids were paid a penny a piece to clean the bricks. (Photo courtesy: Jerome Historical Society)

In early 1953, bulldozing began. First to go was the T.F. Miller company store, which held sentinel at the top of town, facing down Main Street, a handsome four-story building, with its brick and sandstone façade. The building was the lifeblood of the mining community—a symbol of the dominant place it occupied in the lives of its residents. William Andrews Clark, founder of the United Verde Mine, built it in 1899 at a cost of $100,000, a grand price in those days. The large fire of 1899 caused only some warping of the I-Beams on the fourth floor and these were quickly repaired. It had been handsomely maintained. Jerome resident Joe Selna was still operating the commissary in the first part of 1953.

By the end of 1953, only rubble remained.

In October, Phelps Dodge Corporation sold the building to Joel Baldwin, Yavapai County Assessor in Prescott, AZ, for fifty dollars with the agreement that he tear it down. PD said the building was a ‘fire trap’ and that the Con OKeefe building next to was pushing dangerously against it. The Town of Jerome granted Baldwin a demolition permit with the agreement that he clean up the lot after the building was torn down and asked for $200 check as a guarantee. Baldwin sold the materials at salvage prices to a company in Los Angeles.

Baldwin also demolished the Ewing Transfer Building on Lower Main Street. Verde Exploration Ltd. pulled down The Con O’Keefe Building . It looked like the gloomy prophecy about uptown Jerome turning to grass might be coming to pass.

Although the O’Keefe building lot was cleaned up to the satisfaction of the town, Baldwin left a large rubble at the site of the T.F. Miller and Ewing buildings. Town letters of complaint to Baldwin and PD were stonewalled and the Town had to eventually clean up the rubble. To add insult to injury, Baldwin’s cleanup guarantee check bounced.[2]

Robert Sandoval, who was born in Jerome, had this to say in an interview with me: “When the Miller building was demolished, my brother Jesse and me cleaned bricks. They were stacked on pallets, 500 per pallet. We got a penny a brick. We’d use a small hatchet to get the mortar off. We got so we could clean a pallet of bricks an hour. I remember ten to fifteen kids cleaning bricks., even some girls. Everyone had their own pallet

The demolition of those buildings served as a wakeup call for the Jerome Historical Society. During the Society’s December 5 meeting, “Mr. McMillan moved that the secretary write the Verde Exploration[3] and the Phelps Dodge Corporation asking that we be given a chance to discuss the sale of any building that may be put up for sale in Jerome. We don’t want to remove them, but will assume taxation and liability for any damage.”[4] The society also appointed a committee to investigate acquiring buildings in Jerome.

In February 1954, The Society wrote to Verde Exploration asking if they could purchase the Mine Museum building, which they had been renting for fifteen dollars a month. Verde Exploration Manager, Clarence J. Beale wrote that the company would be willing to sell the building at a salvage price of seventy-five dollars and the paid-up rentals would be considered as payment for the lot. The Society voted to send $150.00 to purchase the building.

For the first time, Society took a giant step towards leveraging itself into becoming stewards of Main Street buildings. Board members worked closely together in signage, repairs, promotion, welded together strongly by a single goal— community building on a scale they hardly imagined when they began the society. Night after night, members met to rescue a shipwreck of a town and, at the same time, sail themselves out of the doldrums.

The Society began to replace PD’s threat of grass growing on Main Street with their motto, “The Past is our Future.”

In those days, neither money nor power drove their dreams forward, particularly remarkable when you look at a very wealthy town whose values today seem to be solely defined by money and power.

Excerpts from Home Sweet Jerome: Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City by Diane Sward Rapaport

[1] News Bulletin, Jerome Historical Society newsletter, 1955.

[2] The Jerome Chronicle, Summer 1987, ‘The T.F. Miller company Building; Margaret Heyer Mason, “The 1950’s, “Jerome in Transition”, paper presented for the Jerome Historical Society Symposium, 1982.

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12 Christmas Gifts for a Cheating Ex

C. J. Grace, the author of this post, gave me permission to reprint it as a guest blog. It is a wicked, but very funny shopping list for Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, and Huffington Post also published it. My company published  C. J.’s book because it provides very good advice for women who want to know how to deal with a cheating partner. Although adultery isn’t funny, sometimes humor can help you get through it. C. J. must have had a good time thinking these up. Diane Rapaport

I’m being horribly hypocritical writing this list of 12 gifts to mock the man in your life who has let you down. The mantra of my book, Adulterer’s Wife: How to Thrive Whether You Stay or Not is that revenge is not sweet and the best revenge is to get past the need for it. But I’m not recommending smashing his prized Ming vase or shooting him in the nuts—just some gently sardonic humor at his expense.

  1. Bathroom set to wash away his sins. He probably has a lot of them, so you might need to give him a bunch of these packs.Wash Away Your Sins
  2. Can of crap. He landed you in it when he strayed. Now give him some. Crap is the Romanian word for carp. Plenty of omega 3s. Served in tomato sauce, this stuff might actually taste quite good, which is more than I can say for some of the later items in this list.Can of Crap
  3. Australian 20 cent coin commemorating the centenary of the Australian Taxation Authority. Now there’s something to celebrate. A must for any serious coin collector that is sure to go up in price….or at the very least, retain its face value if you’re in Australia.Tax Centenary Coin
  4. Toilet and chamber pot condiment set. A great place to keep his mustard, or maybe his ED pills.Toilet Mustard Pot
  5. Durian praline chocolates. Described by one taster as “like sucking on sewage,” quite possibly these win the prize for the candies with the world’s worst flavor. Durian is a tropical fruit known for its pungent aroma of smelly socks. If your ex doesn’t like these pralines, just smile sweetly and say, “Oh I’m sorry—I thought I gave you the mango ones.”Durian Pralines
  6. Hawaii Cooks with SPAM: Local Recipes Featuring Our Favorite Canned Meat by Muriel Miura. Does he like to cook? Does he hate to cook? Does he want to add some ethnic flavor to his cuisine to impress his latest lady? If yes is the answer to any of these questions, get him this book. Monty Python fans would love it.Spam Cookbook
  7. American Diner Hot Dog Maker. Spam cookery won’t work? Instead give him American convenience food at its best. Is he into health food? He’ll love the gloriously deep red color of the hot dogs they suggest you use.Hot Dog Maker
  8. Pink pig neck pillow. Perfect for all that air travel he has to do to visit his various mistresses around the world. The bright color means that he’s less likely to leave it behind by mistake. If you think he’s acted like a pig, why not give him one? At the same time you will be showing him that although he might have been a pain in the neck, you care about preventing his neck pain.Pig Pillow
  9. Tastefully carved door stop reflecting his appreciation of the female form. Any females visiting him will be able to appreciate his appreciation of this too.Bottom Door Stop
  10. Global warming mug. Just as he is disappearing from your life, he can watch the coastlines disappear as he drinks his morning coffee. Certain people insist that climate change is a Chinese hoax and indeed this mug is made in China.Global Warming Mug
  11. Southpaw mug. Another drinking vessel to consider if climate change doesn’t warm you up with Christmas cheer. Is he left-handed? Is his current squeeze? Most likely not. Only 10% of the population are lefties, although it is slightly more common in males than females. If you’ve ever had the desire to pour coffee all over either of them, this mug can do it for you!Southpaw Mug
  12. Jumbo-sized eraser for BIG mistakes. He was unfaithful. He’s your ex. Of course he makes big mistakes.Big Mistakes Eraser

Am I being a Grinch-like and spoiling the spirit of Christmas here? Well, you may notice that I haven’t given you Amazon links and the like to make it easy for you to buy all these items online. That’s because it might be best to simply read this list and just imagine giving a promiscuous ex some of the things I mention. I’m also not suggesting a gift of a dead rat or stinking fish—that wouldn’t show any class at all. Instead, just think what you would like to present him with and smirk about it in private. It is important to remember that taking the high ground with an ex and behaving with cordial dignity is likely to make your dealings with him go considerably more smoothly and protect your best interests in the long run. Even so, if you have any snarky ideas on Xmas gifts for Exes, I’d love to hear from you. Please let me know in a comment to this article.

All photos © C. J. Grace, 2016.

Visit http://www.Adulterer’sWife.com for more information on C.J. Grace’s book and read some of her other blogs. You might know of someone who needs her book, and you may become a fan. Diane

Dealing with Fear of Apocalypse

(Posted many months ago, but apropos post election)

Once again, history began at breakfast. A new world. Four horsemen trumpet apocalypse: conquest, war, famine and death. Yesterday’s news has already been eclipsed. Shocking surprises; the potential for disillusion. “Life is changing fast,” I say to myself. “Can’t keep up.”

The Four Horsemen: Conquest, War, Famine and Death

“Four Horsemen of Apocalypse” by the Russian artist Viktor Vasnetsov (1887)

Months ago, at a vista in Canyonlands National Park, the slow changes that sculpted this wilderness of pinnacles, canyons and rivers occured long before the creation of the four horsemen from the last book of the New Testament. The rocks I stood on were once ocean.

The doll'shouse formation was sculpted in slow time

View of the Dollhouse formations from the Golden Stairs in Canyonlands National Park. Photo by Hanna Flagg

In this scale, whatever legacies that ancient races left behind are lost in the detritus of petroglyphs and ruins—symbols of greatness and transience. Here, whatever news is brought to me at breakfast disappears into the breath of the wind.

On these pinnacles,  I start the slow movements of tai chi. The roots of the juniper and pinon coil downwards, forging pathways into sandstone. In the chalky dirt, I move carefully around the petrified logs of a pine forest that existed some 200 million years ago. The cataclysm that buried it happened quickly; yet the processes that mineralized the wood occurred particularly slowly.

Petrified wood and juniper forest

Petrified wood and juniper forest in Canyonlands National Park. Photo by Hanna Flagg/

Tai chi slows down my internal rhythms and grounds me into this present moment. The twin forests of death and rebirth at my feet remind me about the yin and yang cycles of change and the rhythms of fast and slow time. These will continue beyond any future I can project and any fears of apocalypse that bring knots to my stomach

If this wilderness, in its pristine and natural disarray, had not been preserved so that I could visit and quiet myself down, it would be more difficult not to give in to primal bewilderment. History would always begin at breakfast with visits of the four horsemen to fill me with dread. I would protect myself by hoarding my treasures, arming myself with guns, and guarding my larders full of food and water. Greed and loneliness would become constant companions.

Instead, tai chi purges me of meanness; restores my enthusiasm and curiosity; helps me recover equilibrium in times of strong changes.

This afternoon in Hines, Oregon, students and I practiced tai chi, with the tall pines and yellow leafed aspens for companions.  It helped quell anxiety; reminded us to try and follow a path of peace, compassion and balance.

It’s what I can do.

The doll'shouse formation was sculpted in slow time

View of the Dollhouse formations from the Golden Stairs in Canyonlands National Park. Photo by Hanna Flagg

Adios, John McNerney

Note: Trying to move posts around. Put Malheur Siege and Music Biz blogs on “Pages.”  Want to have just Home Sweet Jerome blogs appear here.  Also: will be doing a digital version of the book and will include a few blogs that did not appear in the book.  Any favorites?

John McNerney, founder of Jerome Instrument Corporation (JIC), Jerome, Arizona in 1979, died on May 20 at his home in Todos Santos, Baja, Mexico. Iris, his wife was with him, as were a few of his closest friends. The lung infection he had battled with for many years finally caught up with him. He was 78 years old.

He was a 40-year friend. The sadness I feel is compounded with the recognition that as we grow old, our friends disappear around us. They become memories we carry in our hearts, but they cannot substitute for the comradeship, wisdom, stories and laughter that wove in and out of our histories as friends.

John and Iris moved to Jerome in 1973: “We bought a house for $13,000 in a desolate and empty town,” John told me. “It was all we could afford and the view was astounding. The first winter was brutal, there was one wood stove for four rooms, and no insulation. When the wind blew, the upstairs floor rippled. The cast of characters was astounding, old school bohemians and hordes of hippies that always seemed to be talking about how stoned they were. I had a patent on a mercury detector I couldn’t sell, my geology pick, and an old rusty saw. I bought a few tools and set myself up as a furniture maker.”  (Excert from “Arrival Tales” in the book Home Sweet Jerome: http://www.amazon.com/Home-Sweet-Jerome-Rebirth-Arizonas/dp/1555664547/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1463867069&sr=8-1&keywords=home+sweet+jerome

John volunteered to help re-invent the planning and design policies and reorganize the fire department. Iris took a job waitressing at the old Candy Kitchen restaurant (now Mile High).

JIC: Lifting Jerome out of Economic Depression

JIC was one of the catalysts that lifted Jerome out its economic depression and ghost town ‘appearance.’ (The others were the beginnings of a burgeoning art colony and a guerilla marijuana growing business.)

JIC Circa 1980

Photo of John and Iris and JIC’s employees in 1980, just after they moved into the old Jeorme high school. Front step left: Nell Moffett Second Step: L-R: Paul Nonnast, Ester Burton, Darrell Fellers (Karen Fellers’ son) Third step: L-R: Iris McNerney, John McNerney, Kathy Davidson Fifth Step: L-R Ron Ballatore’s daughter Stephanie; Karen Gorman, Mary Nickerson, Susan Kinsella, Barbara Blackburn Sixth step: Lindsey Waddell (John Waddell’s son); Ed Dowling; Randy Murdock; Upper step: Sandra Strong, Carol Nesselrode, Pat Montreuil, Roger Davis. Photo courtesy John McNerney collection.

John invented and began manufacturing a superior mercury vapor detector. One of JIC’s biggest buyers was the US Navy, which installed them on its submarines. Their closed air environment meant that breakage of mercury-filled instrumentation could cause nerve disease. “There’s a reason for that ‘mad hatter,’ John used to joke. ‘The reason those hatters got shaking fits is they used mercury-laden felt. “

Between 1981 and 1983, John recruited fifty employees and many sub-contractors from the four hundred people living in Jerome. The need for paying jobs was enormous, particularly for many people who stayed on the sidelines of Jerome’s burgeoning pot industry, participated in town politics and wanted to find a way to support themselves and their eccentric life styles in this quirk of a town.

John had an instinctive knack for recognizing someone’s skills in one field and assuming they could adapt them to another. “Maybe tourists only saw hippies, but in the four years I had lived here, I knew that many of my employees would be those so-called hippies. Many were geniuses. This tiny town was able to spit out all the talent I needed.”

Barbara Blackburn was a former VP of Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco, with special skills in managing personnel and setting up computer systems for tracking them. When John hired her, the only job she had been able to find was bartending for less than minimum wage. She became president of JIC. “She was a cut-loose hippie on weekends; but an extremely sophisticated financial professional during the week. She helped us grow into a first-rate company.”

Artist Paul Nonnast designed the detector’s instrument case on the basis of a hamster cage that he designed for a child’s pet hamster—an incredible labyrinth full of spinning balls and intricate ramps all done with phenomenal craftsmanship and imagination. “I didn’t know much about Paul,” John said, “but that cage made me want to. It was as though he had gotten inside the head of a hamster and designed from there.”

JIC hired my company to write their manuals and provide advertising and public relations services. (I got my promotional and writing skills in the music business when I worked as an artist’s manager for Bill Graham’s Fillmore Management.) My business partner was artist Gary Romig, my partner, who was known for his watercolors of birds (http://www.artofbirds.com/Gary-Romig.html).

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The poster for Jerome Instrument Corporation was created by my advertising agency and illustrated by Pam Fullerton (pamelajeanpress.com). The Einstein quote fit John McNerney’s philosophy throughout his life.

Jamie Moffett, a renegade computer engineer, put together wiring harnesses and internal software. Jewelers and artists were hired for assembly work. “Engineers who visited JIC and looked inside the instrument were always amazed at the meticulousness of the work,” John said. “Many commented it looked like a piece of art.”

Hiring an all-Jerome crew did have an unexpected downside. “I soon found that I was hiring not just their skills but their idiosyncrasies, many of which I couldn’t even have imagined existed,” John said. “Nothing was secret; everyone hung out their eccentricities like so much laundry on a line. After work I’d meet my employees and their friends in one of the town’s two bars. A few hours later, I’d be at a meeting to figure out how to raise money for fire safety equipment. To live and work in Jerome was to experience togetherness on a scale you’ve never even dreamed of.”

In 1989 John sold his company to Arizona Instrument Corporation in Phoenix. They continue to sell the mercury analyzer: http://www.azic.com

New Life for the McNerneys

After selling JIC, John pursued his dream of building a sailboat to use on the bays near Seattle, Washington and Baja, California. I wish I had a photo of that beautiful hand-made boat. My husband and I sailed on it when we went ‘boat camping’ with John and Iris on some of the islands near La Paz. That’s where I learned the term, ‘ fishing with pesetas. ‘ John would approach a fishermen camped out on one of the shores and ask to buy one of the fish they caught for our dinner.

In the nineties, John built a new home in Todos Santos, now a somewhat quirky tourist and art haven, not unlike Jerome. Many of the old timers that still live in Jerome knew of the beaches there as surfer heaven. We knew them for their emptiness and for the whales that would come up close to shore and say hello if we stood on the beach long enough. It was as though we had summoned them.

McNerney the Activist Against Gold Mining 

While living in Todos Santos, John and Iris became activists against two major threats to the well-being of Todos Santos. One was a gold mine that would have been built close to the location of the water sources for the town and in a biosphere reserve. “The proposed mine near Todos Santos was a preposterous idea: the mine would have needed to move a million pounds of rock to get a pound of gold,” said John. The ‘rallying’ slogan was Agua Vale Mas Que Oro!” (Water is Worth more than Gold!).” Carlos Mendoza Davis, the governor of Baja Sur, who was elected in October 2015, put the final governmental kabash on the mine. He agreed with protesters that it threatened to suck up water reserves and potentially pollute the aquifer with processing chemicals and mining wastes.

The other was an ambitious building development that proposes to double to size of Todos Santos. The audacious plan began with the bulldozing of thousands of mangroves flanking the beautiful crescent shaped beach at Punta Lobos and flattening the sloping dunes. Developers built a 1000-foot long, low concrete sea wall and buttressed it with large rocks on the ocean side. Not twenty-five feet from the sea wall, they began constructing the hotel and a few homes.

The beach all but disappeared. In less than a day, hundreds of years of nature’s work was destroyed by a construction boondoggle, and with it, the livelihood that had sustained many generations of fishermen and their families. The damage is irreversible. The fishermen refer to the developers as ‘tres cucarachas’ (three cockroaches).

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The old beach at Punta Lobos, Todos Santos, Baja CA

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No more beach. Walls and rock. The proposed development at Punta Lobos.

Last October, a strong storm surge—not unusual there— washed away the beach right up to the large rocks and wall. “The sea wall is like the Footprint of Godzilla—blocking the drainage from a large watershed to the east and interrupting the natural ebb and flow of the sea,” said John McNerney. “Thirty foot waves from new storms will wash away the sea wall and surge right into the new hotel. Hotel owners will need to supply life preservers in the guest rooms.”

That was John: he had an uncanny ability to capsulize the absurdity of the developers in a pithy, funny statement. 

Adios

Adios, amigo. I like to think you are floating somewhere up there among the giants in the Milky Way and have found some landing for your great soul among the stars. Muchos besos. Que te vaya bien.

During the early nineteen seventies, John McNerney prospected for gold in the northern Nevada deserts during summers. He came up with an idea to use accurate measurements of mercury vapor to find gold. “Mercury and gold ore often exist near one another,” John said. “Mercury is easier to detect because it lets off gasses— volatilizes—in the soil. Under a hot desert sun, the soil heats up, causing the mercury vapor to rise upward. If I figure out how to accurately measure the amount of mercury vapor, I would have a window deep down into the earth that could lead to a deeply buried gold deposit.” After many experiments, he wasn’t having any luck translating his idea into a practical system.

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Audrey Headframe, Jerome, AZ. In the nineten eighties, a small gold strike deep under this head frame cause new mining to occur for a very brief few year.

John’s chance encounter with an entomologist in a bar in Tuscarora, Nevada supplied a possible solution. “He was counting bug populations by driving down the highway with a large tube stuck out of the window of his truck,” John said. “At the end of the tube was an electrified screen. As bugs stuck to the screen, the electrical resistance of the screen increased and he was able to measure their concentrations. Who knows how he came up with this novel idea. I got to thinking about it when it occurred to me that the bugs were like the mercury gas atoms. Maybe their adsorption onto a gold-plated screen would cause an electrical interference that could be measured.”

It was John’s eureka moment.

With the help of some Arizona State University (ASU) professors, John put together some gold-plated screens and headed back out into the desert. He would use the screens to collect mercury vapor. As he headed into the desert on his motorbike, he had the ingenious idea for collecting higher concentrations of mercury vapor over the soil by hooking up the gold screens to a portable car vacuum cleaner.

“This seemed to be working quite well,” John told me. “I’m out there vaccuming the desert, looking for mercury vapor. “

Then, out in the distance I notice two cowboys on horses. I figure they’re looking for stray cattle. They notice me on my hands and knees and start coming closer. Maybe they think I need help. Maybe they’re flashing on those Western movies where some bedraggled guy is dragging his ass across a sandy desert because he’s out of water. They urge their horses closer.

“That’s when the cowboys notice I have a vacuum cleaner in my hands and seem to be hosing the desert. The cowboys are dumbfounded. Nobody could think of anything to say. There is no common language for what is happening. The cowboys turn and ride away.”

(Excerpted from my book: Home Sweet Jerome: Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City http://www.amazon.com/Home-Sweet-Jerome-Rebirth-Arizonas/dp/1555664547/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1463867069&sr=8-1&keywords=home+sweet+jerome

The Incredible Hamster Cage

The previous blog told about how John noticed qualities in people that would help him with his manufacturing processes. John hired artist Paul Nonnast to design the detector’s case based on a hamster cage that Paul had designed for a child’s pet—an incredible labyrinth full of spinning balls and intricate ramps all done with phenomenal craftsmanship and imagination. “I didn’t know much about Paul,” John said, “but that cage made me want to. It was as though he had gotten inside the head of a hamster and designed from there.”

Paul was working as an apprentice for master sculptor John Waddell in Cornville www.artbywaddell.com/  His daughter Amy tells this story.

“Ah, that hamster cage,” said Amy Waddell. “You don’t know how many times I’ve told this story of a tall man—whose intensity scared me as a kid—eyes fixed on whatever he was working on, always sweating a little from that innate focus. I remember tiptoeing up the steep narrow splintered steps to his apprentice studio and pushed open the trap door to see all of his colorful spheres floating above me. He created magic worlds.

“Perhaps it was his idea to make it, perhaps mine, and perhaps I knew nothing about it until the moment I walked upstairs to his room one day and he unveiled it. I was very young, maybe seven or eight years old. The circular cage was a thing of beauty—about two feet in height and two and a half feet in diameter. A thin mesh ran all the way around the circular top and bottom plywood plates. There was a pole up the middle of the cage, and tiny pegs created a circular staircase from top to bottom with little kidney bean-shaped platforms that extended out at various levels. there was a large gourd strung up about an inch from the bottom, acting as a little womblike screen. Paul made a rather large habit trail in there, as well. A find ramp start at floor level, then wound up all the way around the cage.

“I was beyond thrilled. It was so beautiful. I couldn’t wait to put my hamster inside.

The hamster was in Nonnast heaven. It ran the habit-trail, drank from the large botle ffixrd to the side of his cage, ventured up the rap I rmember his little black eye and his ktle pik ears and the little fuzzy body as he traispe around his magnificangt  new digs—from pauper to royalty for no apparent reason.” https://www.flickr.com/people/paulnonnast/

 Prospecting for Gold

Two ironies  here. The first is that although John’s mercury detector was useful as a prospecting tool, the market wasn’t large enough to bring in big sales. Nor was the market dentistry, where John’s brother Rick thought the detector might sell. In those years dentists used a lot of mercury in their fillings, and there was a big suicide rate among them. The big market turned out to be U.S. Navy submarines.

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First ad created when JIC rigured the market was dentists and gold prospectors.

The second irony was that when John retired from Jerome Instrument Corporation, he turned against gold mining. One of his biggest regrets is finding the Jerritt gold mining prospect near Elko, Nevada, which John described as a most beautiful canyon that began filling with mining waste as soon as the mine opened. The Jerritt mine was shut down after it contaminated the Owyhee River and other streams with atmospheric mercury used in gold processing. The mine could re-open when it installed better mercury emission control equipment. “By that time the damage was done,” said John.

And by that time, John was living in Todos Santos, Baja, Mexico, where a large corporation wanted to mine for gold. John helped spearhead a successful grass roots movement against it. https://homesweetjeromedrapaport.wordpress.com/tag/john-mcnerney-mercury-manufacturing-jerome-az/ “You could say that my life has come full circle,” John McNerney said. “I used to be involved in helping mining companies find new sources of gold. The world needs metals, but mined responsibly. No one needs any more gold.”

(If you like this story,you may want to read about the Jerome that John helped rebuild: Home Sweet Jerome: http://www.amazon.com/Home-Sweet-Jerome-Rebirth-Arizonas/dp/1555664547/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1463867069&sr=8-1&keywords=home+sweet+jerome