Key to the Highway

images-3Key to the Highway, written by the great Bill Broonzy, is a classic blues which I’ve always played. The progression is a bit different from the classic 12 bar blues, as it goes straight to the fifth and then to the fourth, although after that fifth, not to mention the twelve bars, I suppose you probably don’t care too much about the chords anymore.


Bumbastories’ Semi-Annual May Magazine: Third Edition?and mass transportation update

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A pedestrian promenade of sorts has been made to connect the station to the Santa Monica pier.
Long lines of people waited at the Santa Monica station on 5th and Colorado.
L.A. Police sheriff at his post. BYW there’s no need to salute this Officer, but some of his colleagues like to raise their leg when they see him. This fine, and quite good-looking (for a cop) specimen of a sheriff helps keep us safe, and does his duty every day.

Hurray Hurray! Today was the official opening of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s long-awaited light-rail Silver Line! George Packard, roving and remarkably far-ranging reporter for Bumbastories was there on the scene of course. And he was not alone, as there were tons of people on the scene to welcome the new train, many no doubt encouraged by MTA’s very fair no-fare offer that day. There were slews of MTA employees with their neon-colored vests, and a strikingly large security presence at every stop, including one bomb-sniffing sheriff who was a German Shepard. The trains were off schedule on this first day of service (yikes! already!), and there were huge delays and lines at the Santa Monica terminal. George Packard, resourceful roving reporter that he is, took the bus back home.  

Laura J. Nelson of the Los Angeles Times ran a fine front-page story on the Silver Line Opening, recounting a bit of the L.A. train system’s checkered and none-too proud history. She clearly points out that street-level light-rail trains, albeit cheaper to build than subways or elevated tracks, are not much faster than the bus or car and present a useful, but not particularly effective alternative to L.A.’s traffic problem. Los Angeles, what with all its earthquake faults is not exactly subway friendly. So, how ’bout more buses?

Bumbastories lends its unflagging support (we have no flags anyway) to all attempts to reduce gasoline emissions, reduce atmospheric warming, and reduce the wasting of the earth’s valuable resources. Hurray for the Silver Line! Take the train to Santa Monica!

See yesterday’s George Packard column for additional mass transit updates!

Finally, a song to celebrate. Maybank and Bumba perform the Choo Choo Che-boogie.


Bumbastories’ Semi-Annual May Magazine: Second Edition


Tomorrow, May 19, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation will open another rail line – an extension of the current Silver Line – from Culver City out to Santa Monica. The long months of construction are over and the trains are ready to roll. Hurray for the Los Angeles mass transportation system, such as it is.

Meanwhile, hot on the mass transportation trail, our roving reporter George Packard was out roving, probing and digging for news about the subway tunnel construction on Wilshire Blvd – an extension of the MTA Purple Line – also out to the beach. However this current stage of the construction process, unfortunately, will only take us to the VA hospital (a bit past Westwood). Originally, way back in the 1980’s, the Purple Line was slated to extend to Santa Monica. But the tunnel was only half completed due to huge unexplained, over-budget costs. And instead of finding where all the money had disappeared, (a big hole) our city’s leaders simply stopped the construction at Western Bl and called it a day. I remember that after the fiasco, a new contractor completed the Red Line out to North Hollywood under budget in record time.

So, George Packard, roving reporter for Bumbastories was out roving. Roving for a scoop, busy with his investigations. (Actually, George was simply peeking through the fence at another big construction site – one of many on Wilshire – to see what the heck they were doing. IMG_1399

And there was old friend Bill Ruiz, engineer for the project. Bill, who George met earlier this year while doing some other intense investigative reporting, had talked about his love for his job. “I love digging tunnels,” he had said with a grin.

Although it was nice to see Bill and to talk with him again, George Packard was nonetheless professional and hard-hitting in his interviewing style.

PACKARD: “So tell me, Bill. Why is this construction taken so long? Why are you guys so effin behind schedule?

IMG_2043 BILL: No. It’s not that bad. We’re not so far behind schedule.

Hard-working, serious people like Bill Ruiz inspire confidence. Ruiz further explained some technical aspects of the construction plans. Bill happens to be a man who loves his work. His business that day was to extract a buried 20 ft. long steel-reinforced concrete stantion from the ground. His team had a cable looped around the stantion, which they then attached to their derrick in an attempt to shake loose and lift out the stantion.

George Packard, who was strangely reminded of childhood tooth-pullings, walked on in search of further breaking news stories. But not before wishing Bill Ruiz and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation the very best! Three Cheers for the subway!

On Samuel Beckett, Editing, and It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing

As a writer (please forgive me if I call myself a writer) I spend an inordinate amount of time editing. You know, the punctuation, the spelling, the typing errors. I don’t use spellcheck and I’ve never hired an editor to proof my work. Proofing and editing are not glamorous activities I must admit. Not much fun, all those re-reads, those endless deconstructions and reconstructions. But it’s crucial to my writing, such as my writing be. Why? you ask. Because it makes me focus on the grammar! Grammar is important! Grammar creates the flow, the pace, it’s your voice, it’s your way to communicate. Grammar dictates the rhythm of the words and sentences. And, as Mr. Ellington once said, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.”

Which brings me to the subject of Samuel Beckett’s prose. Last week I opened his novel Watt once again. The book is such a delight. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but I am always captured by the rhythms and the sense of the words. The Nobel Prize-winning Beckett is best known as a playwright and dramatist, but he also wrote a goodly number of these little novels and stories. They are all quite similar; and they are all spectacular. Besides Watt, he penned Murphy, Malloy, Malone Dies, The End, The Unnamable, and a number of other prose selections. And, as I say,  they’re all about the same. Beckett is often heavy and overly repetitive, and sometimes requires some effort, but I find I read and re-read these Beckett novellas all the time, albeit in small doses. I nearly always have a good, laugh-out-loud-laugh when I read Beckett. Like poetry it’s great to read out loud.

As I say, they’re all about the same story-wise. Nothing much ever happens. Yet somehow the story is magnificent. Beckett’s prose is generally a long-winded affair, with ridiculously long, long sentences, and occasionally some very short ones. In the Joycian tradition, Beckett is always playing with us. Always we have the same hapless and hopeless protagonist, the confused cripple hobbling and shuffling across the harsh Irish isle. It’s such a bleak and bleary landscape. It’s sublimely sad. Ah, sometimes it’s just magnificent, so sonorous. And then again, it’s always so ridiculous and absurd that you can’t help but laugh. I am sure that I am missing that dark and gloomy side of Beckett, but for me Beckett has been a joy to read, and I recommend him highly.

I think I aspired to throw in a bit of Beckett into my writing, my two novels, and especially in The Phantom Speaks novella. (Check out Bumba Books)

Anyhoo, we wes talking about de gramma…..

As promised, here’s a recording of Duke Ellington’s It Don’t Mean a Thing if It Ain’t Got That Swing that I made using a metronome-ish rhythm machine and a guitar and a piano track. 

Gimme Five: The Bumbastories May Magazine (Semi-Annual Edition)

The Bumbastories Semi-Annual May Magazine

Welcome to the merry month of May! Happy Spring! Yes, these are the happy months, the wake-up-and-be-happy months of spring, the time of growth, of blossoms, and new beginnings. Here in Los Angeles we are finally reconciling ourselves to the fact that spring is here, because we’re still kinda waiting for winter to arrive, and that’s to say it barely rained. So, I ask you, how can you have spring if you didn’t have winter yet? Huh? Nevertheless, time marches on whether we like it or not. …..And speaking of marches, why don’t you ever hear of someone calling their son or daughter March? How about February as a first name? It just doesn’t happen. With almost no exceptions (except for a woman I once went out with in Brooklyn whose name was October Moskowitz) the months we use for names, the ones we apparently like to hear – and it’s a girl thing – are….that’s right, the spring months: April, May and June. What lovely names they be! The three nymphs/graces spring come to mind. Ah, spring is in the air! (And don’t say, like Groucho Marx in Horsefeathers, “I wish you’d spring in the air and jump in the lake”)

May I say a few more words about the word may? May I begin with a personal association

May-I is the name of a card game, a ten-card rummy game played with two decks of cards. My parents used to play May-I all the time with their good friends Irwin and Eva. They were always in the kitchen playing that game. Often you’d hear someone say “May I?”, as you needed to say May I? in order to pick a card. That’s why they call the game May-I! I learned to play May-I too, just by osmosis. I was a teen-ager by that time, and sometimes I would fill in for a hand or two. So I guess I served some purpose after all during the teen years. For some reason they all just delighted in that May-I game. However, the card game, the real game, that we played in our house was cribbage – which my father had learned in the Navy. When it comes to card games, cribbage, in my humble opinion, is a peg or two above the others!

May I continue? May I? Because, if I recall correctly, “May I?” was a key phrase in the classic children’s game of “Red Light, Green Light”. I must confess that even as a kid I thought “Red Light Green Light” was a stupid game.

Now, the name May, a variation on Maria, is a very pretty one, and pops up like, well, May flowers wherever you look. There’s the great Mae West.images Hurray for Mae West, who said “Is that a pickle in yer pocket, or are yer glad ta see me?” And then there’s the writer and comedienne Elaine May, the psychologist Rollo May, and Cape May North Carolina. There’s May Britt, Mai Zetterling, Seven Days in May, and images-1Chuck Berry’s Maybelline. “Oh Maybelline, why can’t cha be true?” Not to mention, the may fly, mayhem, and the May Pole ceremonies (which I never understood, but mention just for good measure)

Then there’s the Pilgrims’ ship the Mayflower, Mayflower Day, and May 1, May Day, (Workers of the World Unite!). And then of course, there’s Willie Mays, the Say Hey Kid. And guess what? Willie Mays birhtday is in May. Happy Birthday, Willie! I think that’s number 85 or 86 for the Giant great.images

There’s the five pointed star, the Pentagon, images-2gimme five, 5 card stud, images-1the circle of fifths in music, the fifth in the bottle, and Five Corners in the Bronx. And don’t forget, that Cinqo de Mayo is the fifth day of the fifth month, so, while we’re at it, let’s raise a glass to Cinqo de Mayo. 

May, being the fifth month leads us to another discussion of the number five. I’ve already talked about the number five a number of times. See the Numbers Game Category. Five is the most interesting and intriguing of the numbers – at least to me. Its symmetry is the most subtle. It is the framework, the nuts and bolts, of the DNA molecule. The five underlies the Golden Proportion, our sense of beauty. We can’t helimages-1p but like five-fold symmetry. It’s in our genes.

So here’s to the number 5! Hopefully (we have all of our five fingers crossed here at Bumbastories) Marina Kanavaki will design us some new 5-based designs for the month of May.

Musical interlude: A song that uses the word five: Five Hundred Miles to be exact. Maybank and Bumba finished a fifth of it (well, we sure were finished after that fifth) to get through this sappy, but popular folk classic. Sing along if you must.

Hey it’s May! Gimme Five!images


Rare Recording Unearthed

imagesIn its relentless search for a scoop, the Bumbastories investigative team has unearthed a rare 78 rpm recording of the House of the Rising Sun performed by Wild Willie, a piano player from Wisconsin. Experts believe the recording was made “sometime in the 20th century”. Interestingly, Willie plays House of the Rising Sun in major key – as does the great Doc Watson. The song is most often heard in minor key. The Bumbastories staff believes it’s a beautiful song either way

Note: for additional information on The House of the Rising Sun song, please see the House of the Rising Sun Compendium that’s located in the Original Music and Songs Category on your left if you’re in the northern hemisphere.