Bang The News Slowly ► Unpacking The Writer

Here we go again, readers! Unpacking The Writer is a monthly pulling-back-of-the-curtain to reveal the inner-workings of a one-man news operation. Let’s get right to it.

The most exciting news of the last month is the campaign to put Harry Nilsson in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Every year when the RnRHoF nominees are announced I scream, “What about Harry?” Then when I see who is finally inducted, I just shake my head in despair. This year I decided to do something about it.

Just a few days before last month’s Unpacking The Writer, I fired up a facebookery called Harry Nilsson for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was only a few days later that I discovered there was a similar page started much earlier than mine. Had I known, I would have signed onto Harry Nilsson belongs in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, started by Todd Lawrence, instead. Todd and I connected soon afterwards in IM. I assured him that I didn’t consider my page competition to his and that we should cooperate for the greater good. It can’t hurt that there are two such pages because we travel in different circles.

It wasn’t long before Todd asked we could add Gabriel Szoke, moderator of the Harry Nilsson facebook fan page, to our IMs. Then the 3 of us started kicking around various ideas to put #HarryintheHall. None of our plans are ripe enough to be revealed, but I can assure you that they are grandiose.

There are 3 ways you can help, dear readers: 1). Stay tuned; 2). Join our facebook pages; 3). And, watch this. A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night is a sublime BBC production of the LP of the same name. It is one of the few times in his entire career that Harry Nilsson sang live, even though there was no audience and it’s certainly not Rock and Roll:

This is definitely not Rock and Roll

Meanwhile, the Not Now Silly Newsroom has been busy breaking actual news during the past month. 

Since our last exciting episode I’ve written [in chronological order] about Richard Nixon (once again); attended and reported on the campaign kick-off of District Two Candidate Javier Gonzalez; finally told my Sally Kellerman story, which I had been threatening to do for years; wrote about the Bicycle Shop (again), which resulted in a $1,000 fine against Aries Development; and, if that isn’t enough, wrote about a rip off of Miami taxpayers by the valet parking companies — connected to Aries Development through family — and alerted the Miami Parking Authority to this scam. [What’s more is that I’ve been constructing longer and longer sentences.] I’ve been busy little writer.

I make no bones about it: I’m always delighted when I can score points against Gino Falsetto, the rapacious owner/developer of Aries Development. Rather than go through all the reasons why, just read Happy Birthday Coconut Grove!!! Now Honour Your Past. Then join Save the E.W.F. Stirrup House on the facebookery and help me make this campaign go viral.

A PERSONAL MESSAGE TO GINO FALSETTO: When I began writing about the E.W.F. Stirrup House more than 5 years ago, I phoned and emailed several times to get your side of the story. You never gave me the decency of a response, even if it were to tell me it was none of my business and to get lost. However, that did not deter me from trying to save the 120-year old house and the amazing legacy of Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup. However, I’d still love to hear your side of the story. Contact me. I promise to be as fair to you as you have been to Coconut Grove history.

This month’s Top Ten Posts

Tangent over, dear readers.

Those are the writings that appear above the surface. What’s below the surface? Well, to start with, there’s always the ongoing research on other stories still to be written. Then there are those stories only partially written. On those I’m either stalled because I’m looking for additional information or have hit the wall on that topic, hoping I’ll eventually return to it. Writer’s Block is a cruel mistress.

But, that’s only what’s just immediately beneath the surface. That’s what will, in all probability (but only if things go well), rise to the surface and eventually appear on these pages. Not everything does. There are currently 23 posts in draft form and I know that not all will make it to the front page of the Not Now Silly Newsroom. To compare: there are 747 posts here, not including this one.

Of course, there are deeper layers. F’rinstance, my continued exploration of Drum Circles. I am trying to solve — in an intellectual way — why I feel such an unworldly attraction to them. The fact of the matter is I’ve never been a joiner. Most of my adult life I’ve eschewed groups the same way Groucho said he wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have him as a member. However, since my first encounter with a drum circle (a story I tell in The 32nd Annual King Mango Strut), I try to join them whenever I get the chance. I’ll even drive an hour to go to a drum circle.

I play the claves, mostly, but occasionally will play the wood block and, even more occasionally, the cowbell. When I’m playing cowbell nobody shouts, “More cowbell!” because I’m terrible at the cowbell, which takes far more rhythm and wrist than I’ve got. When I play cowbell, I play real quietly, hoping I’ll eventually find the groove. I never seem to.

I was recently discussing my attraction to the claves with one of my drumming buddies. It actually started with mutual book recommendations. I suggested she read Dr. Oliver SacksMusicophilia; Tales of Music and the Brain. I’ve read Sacks books for years, loving his case histories. Reading Musicophilia explained part of my attraction to drum circles and my relationship to music. From the book blurb:

Our exquisite sensitivity to music can sometimes go wrong: Sacks explores how catchy tunes can subject us to hours of mental replay, and how a surprising number of people acquire nonstop musical hallucinations that assault them night and day. Yet far more frequently, music goes right: Sacks describes how music can animate people with Parkinson’s disease who cannot otherwise move, give words to stroke patients who cannot otherwise speak, and calm and organize people whose memories are ravaged by Alzheimer’s or amnesia.

Music is irresistible, haunting, and unforgettable, and in Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks tells us why.

Here’s a true confession: When I was growing up I was constantly told, “Stop fidgeting.”

However, I wasn’t fidgeting. I was keeping an internal rhythm with my feet or hands. I would be tapping my fingers and toes to the music I heard playing in my head all the time.

However, it took me a very long time to realize that not everybody hears music in their head all the time. I’m always hearing music in my head, but only when there is no music; especially if there is no music. Sometimes the machinery I hear on the streets is converted to song as it passes through my ears to other receptors in my brain. Leaf blowers cease droning to become a background pipe organ to a brand new song my grey matter invented on the spot.

there’s no music playing, I can have entire swing bands playing my own
arrangements in my own head. Or a Blues band rocking out to a tune
that’s being made up on the spot. I used to do this more often when I
was in my late teens. In fact I remember several hitchhiking trips
when I composed entire tunes in my head. I would write down the lyrics as soon
as I got the chance. I can still remember some of them, which have become far more elaborate in my head over the years.

When there’s actual music playing, my head, hands, and feet keep a counter-rhythm to it, or add trumpet parts, or other vocals. But, only in my head, translating those complexities into seemingly spasmodic jerking of my fingers and toes.

Maybe I should have been a composer/arranger, but I play no instruments and can’t read or write music. However, when I am at drum circles, that part of my psyche seems to get a workout. When I’m in a drum circle I play what I think of as the accents with my claves. Sometimes (in my head) it’s what Ella would sing when she was scatting. Other times I hear my little rat-tat-tat bursts as the parts for a brass section.

I know I have entered my personal groove at a drum circle when what I hear is melody and not strictly rhythm. While I’m not sure I described it so that it makes sense to my readers, it makes perfect sense to me, which is what counts.

If you’ve been following along at home, you’ll recognize Pops, to the left. After my mother died a decade ago, I came down to help Pops. It’s not that Pops really needed my help. He played golf 4-5 days a week. However, he’s of a generation that knows where the kitchen is, but never mastered the magic required to get a meal on the table, unless it came out of a microwave. That’s has always been my main role here.

Pops turned turned 89 on Valentine’s Day and, for the most part, he’s been healthy. But, he’s slowing down. There are fewer chores around the house I’ll let him do. However, it’s hard. I remember how sad he was when I told him that I was taking the laundry away from him. It was one of the household jobs he had to learn when my mother went into the hospital, and he was so proud of himself. He argued for a while, but finally gave in.

Two weeks ago, during a routine pacemaker check-up, it was discovered that it was not getting any signals to his heart. One of the wire leads became corroded some time since his last check-up 3 months ago.

That was the bad news. The good news was that his heart was beating well enough on its own that he didn’t require an immediate operation. We scheduled a pacemaker procedure for the following week, after adjusting some of his meds. This past Thursday he went in for the operation to replace his pacemaker.

Normally, this is an outpatient procedure; a quick in and out. However, because of Pops’ age, they thought it was a good idea that he be kept overnight. I spent about 15 hours at the hospital last week, split over 2 days. I brought Pops home on Friday and he’s been taking it easy ever since.

Now you’re all caught up until next month.

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.