- Essays: On The Road (And A Little Off)

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More essays
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Panama and the Live Sex Show

Soulful Trip Revealed:
Panama Red Plays Roosendaal

Welcome to Amsterdam, Buffy


Soulful trip synopsised. Panama comes home...

Nashville, TN, June 2, 2002
Hiya kids, hiya hiya.
Sorry I haven't written.
I got back to Nashville on Tuesday May 28, I guess. I've
been recovering.
When we last left our hero, he, with his newfound sidekick
Gloria Holloway, also known as NiceLady, were on their way
to meet with Panama's longstanding steadfast ally against
crime, Ronny Elliott.
Ronny and I did indeed get together, I spent the night at
his house, met his marvelous wife Jennifer I hope that's
how it's spelled, and got on famously. We talked about a
bunch of stuff, surely boring to all but us I'm sure, had
breakfast, talked, walked, talked, ate, talked, and then it
was time to go to Skipper's Smokehouse for the show.

Lots and lots of relatives, and along with them some very
kind and interested non-related people also. Gloria gave a
little speech, said now to introduce Panama is his very
good friend Ronny Elliott. So I'm standing back there
waiting for Ronny to tell about how I was like a huge
influence (as if) on him or something at least and Ronny
gets up and of course says Ladies and Gentlemen: Panama
Red. So there I was suddenly blinded by the lights.
But it was a good show...

Spent a couple nights with my friends the Landsmans at
their scholarly getaway at Pine Island, then
Thursday hooked back up with Gloria and drove to White
Springs for the Fiftieth Florida Folk Festival.

What ensued was four days of utter roasting debilitating
Hell, in which I came to understand the meaning ob dat ol
folk song Go Down Hannah Don' You Rise no more. De sun so
hot I froze to deaf. Et cetera.

The Suwannee River flows through White Springs. And it is
largely in part due to the Suwannee's presence that the
Festival is held in White Springs. For it was the Suwannee
that provided the name for the River in The Old Folks at
Home (Way Down upon the Swannee River), the immortal as
these things go song by the American songwriter, and maybe
even America's first popular songwriter, Stephen Collins
Foster, who though he never saw the Suwannee, did make it
famous. He had been working on the lyrics (he was using
"Pedee River" at first), and suddenly bolted into his
brother's printing shop in Pittsburg Pa demanding to see an
atlas, and from it he chose Suwannee, which he shortened to
Swannee, and somehow from that Florida named a State Park
after him, and the Folk Festival has been held there,
despite the most recent best efforts of Katharine Harris
(hint: Florida Secretary of State, threw the Election to
Dubya. Remember? Hate her, or pray for an epiphany) for
the past fifty years.

Not to belabour the point, but Foster is responsible for
just about every manic piano track in every saloon scene in
every oater you've ever seen: Camptown Races, Oh!
Susannah, Old Kentucky Home, Jeannie with the Light Brown
Hair, Clementine, it goes on and on. They have a carillon
which plays his tunes at the Stephen Foster State Park,
mercifully quiet during the festival, and in the nearby
museum the very desk on which he scratched out "Pedee" and
substituted "Swannee". Establishing the true songwriter
tradition, he got ripped off for just about all his
royalties and died, nearly penniless, in New York City
before he was fifty.

He never saw the South, but he so idealized the life where
darkies were gay, as in Old Kentucky Home, that a whole
generation of people grew up in absolute ignorance of the
dark realities of slave life. It may be said that Uncle
Tom's Cabin, the first million-seling American book, was in
part driven by a backlash to the success of Collins's
idealized pictures, as both occurred in the 1850's.

Anyway the Festival lasted four days, during which, in
addition to the blistering rays of the Florida sun, I was
also treated to the plank plank plankity plank of a hundred
banjos and the dow didi dow didi dow of twice that number
of fiddles, as well as about as much Piedmont blues on
guitar as I ever want to hear. Mostly, though, I baked,
roasted, broiled, sweated deliriously in the merciless heat
and blazing intensity of the sun. I did make some friends,

Monday rolled around, we rolled up camp and set out back to
Deerfield Beach, Ol Folkie Jim, his better half Ia, and me,
arriving at about six pm. I crashed all night long, got
up, caught my flight back to Nashburg the next day, and
I've been sleeping ever since.

When I haven't been sleeping I've been dealing with bus
stuff...mostly batteries, as The Phoenix has to be put in
shape again, and I don't yet have anything to do until the
end of July, for which my services as a picker have been
engaged by a party who shall be nameless for a while yet

Which brings me to this point: that since my internet
access will soon of necessity be curtailed, and since I
don't have anything really to do until two months away, I'm
probably gonna be less of a presence than I have been for a

What'll I do? I've been thinking about this character, a
German prince who wants to be a delta blues player, and I
think I'm gonna write a book. It's not gonna be a big
book, but a little book, and I think I can maybe get it
done in two months.

Maybe it'll be good all written out in longhand on legal
pads. On the other hand, maybe it'll be pure suction.
Major Electrolux. Hoover.

We'll see. And thanks to all who were so very kind to me
on the soulful Florida trip.