Kevin to Alan, 9/16/97

From: Kevin
To: Alan
Date: 9/16/97
Subject: News Shmooz

Hafa Adai! This is the traditional Chamorro greeting. It is also the name of hotels, bake shops, and is the anthem of countless billboards. Some people also opine that it is a description of how much of a day's work one can expect out of the local laborers, especially those charged with the task of maintaining Government Housing. But I would never digress to such petty idle chatter.

I enjoyed the instructions on how to write a Blues. I have been working on a 12 bar about going down to Yap to buy me some betelnut, but the typhoon washed all the pods away. Lord have Mercy! Betelnut is one of the things that may be a cultural distinction which is nearly unreconcilable with American mainland culture, even though I do not consider myself especially squeamish nor unused to those who chew tobacco. Betelnut is a seed about the size of a pecan that grows on many Pacific islands, especially Yap. The locals crack the nut in half, and smear some lime (the mineral, not the fruit) on the inside, which is a creamy white color. They then put some tobacco in the seed, and wrap it in a green pepper leaf . They then chew it as one would tobacco, spitting the juice wherever. The bizarre thing is that the spit is a red-orange color. They don't seem to mind where they spit, and one finds occasional reddish splotches frequently. It is not unusual to see drivers cracking open the door of a car to let 'er fly. Some places, like the wide sidewalk leading up to the Nauru Building near my office, or the entire airport in Yap have painted the sidewalks the same shade of color so the stain is not so obvious. Glad you asked?

I may be the only steel guitar player on Saipan . I went to the local music store and asked if they knew of anyone playing steel, and the clerk did not know of anyone. He said there are a lot of slack key guitarists, but we have not gotten out to hear any yet. We listen to KCMI "Coconut Country", which plays a lot of the better country, not schlock Nashville sound stuff. They also devote some of their programming to what they call "Chamollinian" music, which is country-influenced music with lyrics in Chomorro and Carolinian. The arrangements are basic but adequate, but the sound is very tinny - I don't know if it is the station, the car radio, or the disks, but it is reminiscent of hearing music in a Quonset hut - a large tin can. I used to play in one at the Navy Club at Selfridge ANG base - the Telecaster notes hit the wall and bounced back like an echo at the speed of sound. Not so great. But at least there is decent radio, and Violet loves to listen to Country Music Television, which we get on cable.

Supertyphoon Winnie was an adventure - the houses are not water tight and they leak around the walls and floors. They shut off the electricity in case a powerline blows down, and for some inexplicable reason shut off the water, too. We made do with fuel oil lamps and a small propane stove, and weren't too uncomfortable, in retrospect. The worst part of it was that I was in the middle of jury selection on a serious assault case, and had a huge appeals project due in the Supreme Court that same week - a do or die assignment. Everything worked out in the end, but I was a pretty preoccupied fellow when the storm was blowing 70 mph outside, and there was no electricity to run the computer. Luckily, my trusty Chevrolet made it through the puddles and had enough traction to climb these slick roads during the height of it. Afterward, the whole island was like an enormous vegetable stew. The winds and rain knocked the leaves off everything, and rubbed branches against each other until the bark was gone. All our beautiful tropical flowers were gone, and some of the flowering bushes were uprooted and blown across the yard. I went out the next Saturday and gave each plant about a gallon of Miracle Grow. That did the trick, like botanical defribulation. Now, a month later, the flora is totally confused. Having lost all their leaves, the bushes and trees think it is Spring again, and have started blossoming as they did four months ago. Even the Flame Trees, whose fire-colored blossoms were waning in late July, have rekindeled.

Sounds like you are on track to getting a Friday afternoon gig going again! What fun!!! I will be very interested to know how it goes. By the way, how were all the gigs this summer? I read on your web page that you did 3 shows. How was the reception? Do you think Ann Arbor is ready for a new tradition? The music is probably the thing I miss most about being out here, so disconnected from even the possibility of any serious playing now that I actually have some time to do it. So I'll have to enjoy it vicariously through your reports.

Write back soon and let me know how things are going, especially with the new musical ventures. Give our love to Liene and Alex. Best always,

et al.

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