It’s In The Cards

Some stuff you might not know.
And it’s sure not political.
That first job.
We all had one.
In 1966, my first job was at the U.S. Playing Card Company, Norwood, Ohio.
I was 18 and didn’t know dit-squat or even pinochle.
I was entering the University of Cincinnati part time.
I walked up the street from my grandmother’s house
and applied at the world famous U.S. Playing Card Company.
I dreaded getting up at 7 a.m.
I dreaded working with the nosie-body ladies transplanted from Kentucky and Appalachia (like my own grandmother) to Norwood, to work at the huge factories (Ford Motor Co., Globe Wernicke Furniture, and U.S. Playing Card).
Those ladies scrutinized every paisley and bell-bottomed outfit I’d wear to work. They ‘tsk-tsked’ everything all day.
The company had an archive on the premises….and I’d wander the halls leading to it gazing over framed 18th century French decks of cards with Harlequins, witches, medieval symbology. The bookshelves in the archive lined with magic books in other languages, books on the Occult, Books on Witchery and Voo Doo.
Stunning…and that is a tasty collection today, still owned by the company.
I hated the scratchy, dusty velour drawer-pull Bridge sets.
I despised the Canasta sets…
Do not ask about the Samba decks. Don’t.
The gold-flake paint on the Aladdin decks, bound for Las Vegas filled our nostrils, eyelashes and hair until we looked like the Midas family walking out the door at 4 o’clock. Our fingertips glowed!
I hated the stamps….the mini-decks, the guys staring when I’d have to go thru the printing department.
My skills repairing stamping machines was profound. I could push that ‘stop’ hammer like nobody’s business..and who’d wait for the mechanic Jimmy….I’d do it myself.
We younger women would hang on the same 3-person stamping machine as best we could. Sometimes we’d put our names and addresses in a deck, if we knew it would be traveling overseas….and not Las Vegas, or Air Force One or Viet Nam. Yes, we got letters back. I still have one, from some guys in Scotland who worked at a potato factory. Go figure.
The cafeteria was a pale-mint green, in a window-less, basement environment nearly out of “Oliver Twist’!
Our ‘time clock’ was also from Charles Dickens…dated around 1915, way after the founding of the USPC.
I hated it yes, but time will have its way with you after so many decades….and the magic, the cards, the superstitions…they’re still on board…and now, as fate would have it..the ladies from Kentucky, now mostly gone, who ran those cello machines, fanned the card decks out for inspection, and generally kept the place going….
the U.S.Playing Card Co. moved to Erlanger, Ky. as fate would have it.
I think those ladies would clear the decks.

Loudermilk Still Louder


By 1966, bar none for strange, songwriter John D. Loudermilk had a passel of hits in his pocket. That ended recently; he died September 21, 2016.
Loudermilk’s legend is solid in pop, folk and country.
Many know him for ‘Indian Reservation‘ ‘Norman‘, ‘Tobacco Road‘ (Nashville Teens), ‘Ebony Eyes‘ (Everly Bros.), ‘Break My Mind‘ (Ronstadt), ‘Turn Me On‘ (Norah Jones), Sittin’ In The Balcony‘ (Eddie Cochran) and scores more.
I go back to the year I first heard of Loudermilk; 1966.
Fifty years ago my art-school boyfriend was a huge fan of Loudermilk’s nontraditional approach to life, love and romance in his lyrics.
Toss this up with my first job e.v.e.r. that same year, making Bicycle Playing Cards in Norwood, Ohio. Lots of young women going to college, newly-wed and otherwise, found a job there. Good pay, 19th-century Draconian architecture, a hierarchy of transplanted Appalachian ladies too strong-headed to be reckoned with.
A newly-wed named Judy Hughes working at the U.S. Playing Card Company with me would talk a lot about her husband who was in a singing group. But we knew lots of guys in singing groups….and well, we humored her at first. She’d come in every week and tell us that The Casinos “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” (Loudermilk’s tune) had hit #30 on the Billboard Charts. We were impressed, considering it was 1966 and we were living in the age of music explosions everywhere.
Judy said her husband’s group was going to really make it, she knew. He and his brothers had grown up singing in The Church of God, Over The Rhine, in Cincinnati. Church music, it always helps. And to note here: for years, even today….many thought and still think, The Casinos were a black singing group. Many more black performers are influenced by their church music than white performers. But The Casinos were their own. Once a day..and about every day, Judy would nicely remind us at work that her husband  was going to hit it big up there. She’d tell us their shows were gaining in fame and popularity. We started to think the same…radio stations were playing it.
The last months of the year  of 1966 went like this. Shows, charts, shows, charts, shows. We’d hear the Loudermilk tune constantly on local radio….Judy was the music weather-vane; reporting to us about the soar to fame across the nation.
In January, 1967, The Casinos’ song hit #6 on the Billboard charts.
High 5’s all day for Judy at work were in order.
We loved hearing the tune played on the radio; we were unabashedly smug knowing it was a hit from our Cincinnati. The next 3 years at my first job ever were a small dose of different after one of our own had hit the big time. Eventually The Casinos were inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame ‘One Hit Wonders’.
There’s a reason for that category. I get it.
I eventually married the art-student that first loved Loudermilk.
That same year Loudermilk’s 1969 funky, Steve Goodman, Jacques Brel-esque album, complete with a skull on the cover, was released.
Loudermilk achieved Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, gold records, and lauds and credits over his 82 years.
After that, the next thing we knew we were living on the land ourselves, wearing denim and planting seeds;  Loudermilk wrote ‘Indian Reservation‘, an anthem for a people over and above the usual call of a song-writer.
Gene Hughes, the lead Casinos singer, died in 2004.
We all rise, float and yield; knowing music makes a claim on us in all its shapes and forms. Don’t forget that…take it with you. Fifty years is a long time ago.
Think on it a while; after that “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye“.

Fried Pies

Monday, September 12…
Sometimes things come in waves…they appear to come out of the blue.
But really, at times those six degrees of separation narrow to nearly nothing.
I get in my car in the evening, the weather has turned autumn-nice.
I decide to drive and roll over the hills of Grant and Owen County; as I do from time to time.
When I get to Gold(s) Valley (somebody with deep dreams once thought they’d found gold in the creek, it wasn’t true. But why not name the lowest point for something really high in the sky?), I think about my ancestors; and exactly what was it all about. The earliest of years, far from the lights of anything resembling modern transportation, appliances or even telephones; tenant farmers; how did they make it?
This time arriving…..I found myself thinking about my cousin Connie….how though we were close in age, we’d not gotten to spend every holiday together as children. I thought about my maternal relatives not taking to my paternal-side folks, the Kinman side were ‘lamp-shade-wearing-party-ers’ of the family. But I didn’t know that….if anything I’d always loved my grandmother Clara…thinking her sincere, and straightforward. I thought about her sister Cozy, the same genuineness and even more so (she didn’t own a mink coat like her sister Clara).
Driving in the near dusk on Gold(s) Valley, I thought of Clayton, the second to youngest of four brothers.
Clayton was tall and Lincolnesque in appearance; to my mind’s eye. My grandmother certainly had this same figure; statuesque back in the day. Clayton was a man of few words in my experience. As I drove by several typical abandoned Kentucky bungalows on Gold(s) Valley the other night; I wondered if the Kinmans lived high or low on the Pike. There’s a Stevens Creek, and it’s a deep descent, then back up again to the height of the Pike.
Did the Kinman kids walk through all this green, views nothing short of Tennessee small mountain tops?
Clayton must have remembered it, as he and his family returned to visit the part of Kentucky he came from when we all lived in Ohio, and I’d hear via a visit, that they’d gone back down. I’d never been taken; and that’s why I go so much today.
Because I can.
The last time I saw Uncle Clayton was with my brother Len; who had the equally angular height from this Kinman side. Uncle Clayton was frail, but loving the visit. I don’t know how we got on the subject…but it was fried pies from down in Kentucky. He then described how they were made, in an iron skillet. I wished they could have magically appeared in front of us.
Clayton drew out the two words: “Fr-i-i-e-d p-i-e-s” he’d say; looking right at us, as if we were required to remember these words.
And we did.



David, Happy 75th Birthday, man!

Fifty years ago, even in a dream, I couldn’t have made up what has come about in our collective lives, a generation in music, life, the cosmos.


David Crosby look-alike at a Tom Rush concert/Ludlow Garage, 2016.



In the mid-60’s my girlfriend Debby and I would hitch rides to Sunset Boulevard to the Hullabaloo Club any weekend we could do it, from our Brady Bunch suburban existence in Whittier, Orange County. She and I loved to dance, and did it at every rec center, dance party TV show (Lloyd Thaxton, Shivaree, more)….and for a 17-year old this was the maxed out, ultimate pop-head-trip for an American teenager wanting to run away from home, but the time wasn’t right yet. I did that a bit later. Everywhere, music…things were happening fast in the youth culture, all the stuff you know.


The Hullabaloo 1967
Hullabaloo Club, 1965 Sunset Boulevard



Dave Hull, a local, and still alive, DJ for KRLA had brought The Beatles to the Hollywood Bowl during this time period; Hull was super popular and the Hullabaloo was named for him, setting up residency in the old Earl Carroll Theater that only lasted as Hullabaloo Club into 1968….this place oozed of celebrity fafare, the likes of Sinatra, pinky-rings, stogies cigars, plush carpeted floors, tiny tables-for-two and tealamps with fringe on the shade, still on some of the tables. There we were, in our pop orange and yellow English girls dresses, bowed gillie shoes and kind of pseudo-groupie teased out hairdos; clamoring for the constantly juicy performances of the known (Freddy Cannon, The Yardbirds) and the unknown (The Turtles, The Palace Guard now lost in time).






On February 13, 1965 Deb and I went to Hullabaloo. A new act was playing; The Byrds. If you read this KRLA Beat carefully…you’ll see no one could keep up with the music, the acts playing there every week, en masse. The Animals…The Searchers, Tom Jones, Sam the Sham, The Shangri-las, The Newbeats. Really?

Time has stolen the memory of immediate days before we saw The Byrds onstage that night, as to whether their distinct and new folk-rock, no name yet, had ever hit us before on the airwaves of KRLA (might take more research)…but that night, February 13, “One day only” of 1965, will forever be a stunner…because the original Byrds played just feet from us. Though they’d set up a residency at Ciro’s Le Disc Night Club on the Strip, for March and April…..they’d gotten a gig at Hullabaloo for February.  Materializing onstage, they were instantly attractive in any gorgeous way a group of folk-rock soon-to-be-stars might want to be…and we fell hard. OMG I had the Brownie camera!  Deb and I were so excited we swooned, the sound; it was heavenly…their voices strong, but angelic…mystical. The Byrds.

Hullabaloo Club, February 13, 1965



We didn’t even know the names of the guys standing before us, giving us lyrics and a sweet sound to die for (yes, at 17 you kinda wanna). Two tunes they played that night, and marked on the back of the glossy black and whites: Bells of Rhymney …and Mr. Tambourine Man. (I scrawled the song David and Gene were singing in this photo in pen on the back of the 50-year old photo).  Crosby, and we did not even know who he was, wore this leather cape that left us spellbound for days. Why? Likely because it was the beginning of a revolution in many ways for a generation; the chapter for many books in the future, now past. Though we cannot see facial detail in this time-worn photo, it’s David Crosby alright…cape and all. He was to wear this thing for many photo sessions, album covers and the rest. I’m pretty sure he’ll remember the cape, even at a cool 75-years of age.

So, hey….Happy Birthday David Crosby. Back in February, 1965 I didn’t think to shake your hand or give you a hug of thanks, David. None of us knew what was coming, did we?  But now, today…….your voice, music..echoes and resonates of times and places so powerful I sometimes find myself having to walk away from the sounds. I have to tune out instead of tune in…because poetry/stuff like Wooden ShipsEight Miles High, Teach Your Children, are histories unto themselves now…and percolate and swirl in my heart and create a redundancy I can’t manage out-loud right now. That’s how powerful it all can become, you know, I’m betting on that. And it’s this, David….a hot summer birthday you’ve survived one more time, and lived many lives through and still seem to be holding your own. I’m pleased with that….and I can picture you doing the same as we all watch the progression we’re sailors on the sea of, and why I write today with pictures and words……given your enormous capacity for life and what it reveals, though surreal, one half and one quarter century in; isn’t that obvious?



Baldwin, Watts, Zappa

It’s exhausting, watching hordes of strangers and at times familiars, find their tensions rising. We know at every turn, disenfranchised groups of misbegottens, their tempers on fire; rubbing up against more of the same. People can feel they don’t matter as much in the cresting number of a world population.  How can we keep reaching for the light, if all we see are cannons to the left of us, cannons to the right? Call this a balm offering for what ails us.
A half century ago in Los Angeles I was stolen from my everyday sunshine, along with millions of others across the nation, to squirm in a chair in front of a TV with Walter Cronkite. The riots that began in Watts, that swelled from a minor traffic stop and escalated into one more horrible human tragedy, would end. By that hot summer in Watts of 1965…our nation had been through living hell for a number of years. Fear ignited by anger ignited by more.
It’s an unfriendly proposition to imagine what sort of people can take in the reality of August, 1965. The burning, mean-hot week resonates from back there to right here. And it’s re-purposed into the current unbearable social condition; violence, racism, prejudice…waging a war against good old humanity.
The steam and heat greeted us all in Los Angeles that too hot summer.
In 1965, 34 people died in the Watts Riots. Thousands were arrested. Millions of dollars of loss of property; personal and commercial.
 It was serious-hot that August in 1965……I was a no more than a slow-strutting high school junior, living outside downtown L.A.; swinging along with Hispanic, Italian and Japanese and bleached surfers at school. In a sea of pale yellow, I sauntered around in black fish-net stockings; barely tolerating anything else. My je ne sais quoi had set in.
My own temperature would rise at the slightest provocation; given the mother was not to be found, and a father adapting to California instead of Indiana and a new wife who did not like large families; of which we were seven. What to do with that?
Exposure can mean everything in small pockets. It can keep things snug while there’s a hurricane outside. It happened in that city; expansive thought that caught me on fire. Seeing a first live play, at 16 in Hollywood THE AMEN CORNER,  by James Baldwin at the Theatre of Being Workshop; produced by Frank Silvera, starring an incomparable Bea Richards put its hooks into me and held on…… The most human of narratives, with the pellets of the repressed human condition, set a tone that would partly shape my entire life, the impact that profound.
Smart African-American writing; a voice of reason.
What could possibly go wrong in L.A?
My 40-year old father worked in the heart of Los Angeles with fellow engineers from around the world. Simmering shades of caramel, yellow, black, brown, red (India, Finland, Russia, rural America, Detroit) showed up at work to draw plans for pumps; big red fire-truck pumps, oil pumps, hydraulic stuff. It was a very big deal back then.
But the day the riots began August 11, a safety curfew was immediately enacted; this caused the working men of every color in Los Angeles to not return home to their suppers and kids. Instead, they raced along with my Dad to the rooftop of the Byron Jackson Pump Company on Third Street; they held up there for 7 days with the riots that burned, killed, and terrorized the thousands impacted by racial injustice. This incident, echoing today’s news, was a remarkable half century ago. My father, a WWII submarine veteran/survivor…never spoke of the Watts Riots the rest of his life.
3rd and Traction Aerial and Parcel map
Our Midwestern transplanted, double-jointed family lived 20 miles east of the Watts Riots epicenter that summer of ’65. We older teens were left at home to fend for ourselves in the Quaker-settled suburb of Whittier (birthplace of President Nixon and 1/2 hour from the surreal, dream-come-true-ville: Disneyland). Brady Bunch lawns sprawled endlessly. Our step-mother was all but invisible: a fact. Summer lunches were the quintessential flour-corn tortillas and fried salami, in-between watching the news on KTLA; not so much terrified, but alarmed with hope our dad and his buddies of color would still be on the rooftops. Everyone  in the country was experiencing that stunned feel we knew too well as a nation watching for  years riots, violence and terror on TV, or getting a dose ourselves..
Back in 1962 we five children had already been On The Road, and I do not mean good Mr. Charles Kuralt. Near vagabonds, we’d traveled on the same highways the Trailways buses took the Freedom Riders…we’d already been introduced to startling drama on the road….our renegade mother conducting her own personal journey; what she called her independence.  Living month by month in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Florida, we were running neck and neck with the Freedom Riders’ buses arriving at stations, we kids and the other bus travelers on their journeys, would stand frozen in front of the segregated restrooms and drinking fountains.  A super travesty on humanity…I could see that even at age 14. The Best Gift Ever was given to our nation in the form of a full-length film on Christmas Day, 1962; ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ was released. A story lesson by Harper Lee in human relations, reminding us of what we knew is the best civility for the ailing nation. Regrettably, at our palmetto-laden Florida backroad/cementblock house, we were too strapped for money to see it. In adult time I own a copy; for an annual check-up on good humans of saintly proportions.
The summer of 1963 demanded the March on Washington, D.C. Dr. King led the passion of a society gone very wrong into enlightenment, for a gathering that would seal the cause. The civil rights movement (in agonizing slow motion) was still unfolding and being incredibly resisted. In those days, lynchings were still what happened in the South, and we all knew it. We’d seen churches bombed in the impoverished South (kind of since the Civil War more or less)…little girls in their crisp Sunday dresses never making it home from Bible Class. We dug in and developed some hope; but it drifted into fail. The autumn of 1963, we’d barely caught our collective breaths when our JFK was fatally shot through the head by a sniper bullet in Dallas, in front of thousands of people in a parade; kind of sound familiar?
Fast forward back again (deja vu this) to the Watts Riot, 1965, twenty miles north of my Whittier home; in Echo Park, 25-year old Frank Zappa grabbed a writing pad and wrote his epic “Trouble Every Day”. A rant-rap tune written from poetic frustration and alarm, that resonates so exquisitely in our nation today, I can barely discern between my Los Angeles fifty years ago there, from my Ohio July present-tense on my keyboard here.
Here’s the first of  many verses Zappa penned on “Trouble Every Day”.  A real stream of consciousness this one; certainly a candidate at Columbia University for a lecture titled:  Full-Tilt Angst in Contemporary American Rock n’ Roll Sociology.
Courtesy of Watts Riots
August, 1965
“Trouble Every Day”
Well I’m about to get sick
From watchin’ my TV
Been checkin’ out the news
Until my eyeballs fail to see
I mean to say that every day
Is just another rotten mess
And when it’s gonna change, my friend
Is anybody’s guess
Those lyrics reads like some disgruntled Facebook comments, media headlines, hive-mind talk, you’ve checked out today, don’t they?
Well they’re not……it’s Frank Zappa, full of angst a half century back from this day, which beckons anyone with a discerning temperament backward and forward.
I see the media and our nation reeling from shooting incidents that have warranted the presence of our President at a commemoration for the dead. I ache for this…what is different from the hot-tempered summers in other cities in the 60’s and 70’s? The very same scenes I’ve stood and watched a half century ago. I had such trust that violence, oppression and divisions in our nation would have come to a stand still over time; through collaborative efforts and everyone bowing to the peace and understanding of it all. But no, we’re still in the streets with torches and guns at each other’s throats.
I’m nearly ready to give it up in thinking change is but a subtle thing the climate does.
Circling round events, fires, gunfire, mobs and tears, I see and feel a zillion years of events and human stories orbiting back toward a point of origin inside my mind; I trust it’s headed for a slightly tarnished landing of solace, peace, love and understanding. After all these decades with no end in sight, the prevailing human travesty is running a nasty river through all our lives; town and country, shore to shore.
Don’t we all feel this if  we just glance over our shoulders into the past?
Reeling back to other hot days and tensions in our nation’s history (because what I write here is one of thousands of accounts on hundreds of intolerable human ills in this nation we inherited, (I’m 68, let me past) I see the circle just meets itself. We can’t just stand back, but we can put what we know into the equation of what happens next.
In short:
Where we’ve been is where we’re going all over again”. 
The lesson here is you want to make sure you put out the best part of what you’ve got to give when the present tense/future comes knocking; because it’s going to come back like a big shiny boomerang.
James Baldwin and Zappa are on this, both behind us and ahead of us.