Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table

Live Music Capital – or City of Crime? – an outsider’s view of Austin

Filing your tax return - American style. Make no mistake, this is an act of terrorism.

The Austin leg of our trip was one that I’d particularly looked forward to – its reputation as the live music capital of America, its hosting of the South by South West music festival, and its legendary son Stevie Ray Vaughan were just some of the reasons we were excited.  But a different view of the city, a darker side, has emerged during our time here.

There is a huge Police presence for one thing, and the local news is reporting murder and acts of vandalism on a regular basis. But when you add to that the lunatic Joe Stack who decided his complaint against the IRS would take the form of a terrorist attack on their building, only a few blocks away from us, things really took a downturn.  What is it in the American psyche that turns a part-time bass player in a country rock band into a kamikaze pilot?  -and just how much problem could he have had with tax, given that he had the luxury of a $300,000 house to set fire to – AND HIS OWN PLANE?????  Am I missing something here? Is it the American dream? Are you entitled to blow your countrymen away if you don’t have excessive wealth? 

That sorry episode aside, as we left to go out last night, we noticed a gas station being taped off as a crime scene with Police and Ambulance in attendance, and wondered at what had occurred. But that was nothing compared to our return. We discovered that our Motel had been turned into a taped off crime scene also, and we were stopped and interrogated before being allowed to drive in. After ducking under our very own crime scene tape, Two doors down, the apartment had been taped off, and the place was crawling  with Police and a Crime Scene van was parked outside our window for the entire night. We were assured that we were in no danger, which we naturally didn’t believe for one second. If they were screening visitors to the site, who were they looking for?

Our Motel- includee in the price, a coffee machine, TV, and the thrill of sleeping in the middle of a crime scene.

It saddens me that a country that has such an open-hearted, friendly and generous side seems to be infected with such a high percentage of bloody lunatics that give it a bad name. Let us not forget, only a little way to the North is the town of Waco, or perhaps it should be called Wacko, given the events that unfolded there some years ago, following the catastrophic ‘meeting of minds’ between the FBI and a bunch of religious nuts.

Texas tourist industry take note, our view of Austin has been tainted by what we have seen here.

Let us hope that someone, some day, cleanses this cancer from society before twilight’s last gleaming.

February 21, 2010 Posted by | culture, death, events, life, media, politics, travel, writing | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tell me where did they lay you down? (Originally posted in moore:music)

Tell me where did they lay you down

Tell me where did they lay you down?

Two graves in Mississippi, and nobody knows,

 Tell me where did they lay you down?

– “Robert Johnson’s Tombstone, by Thunder

 

On our way from Clarksdale to Jackson, we went in search of the final resting place of perhaps the most legendary, and certainly the most mysterious of all the Delta bluesmen.  There were three sites of interest, though one is simply a memorial stone commemorating his life and work, and though it rests in a churchyard, it has never laid claim to being his final resting place.

Between the other two, however, there is some contention. We set off from the Crossroads memorial (where else?) and made our way down Highway 49 south to Greenwood. Outside of the town, on Money Road, there stands Little Zion Church.  At the Roadside there is a blues trail marker. The unassuming little wooden church has a graveyard to the left, and there towards the back under a tree was Robert Johnson’s Grave.

There was a small collection of ‘tribute’ surrounding the headstone, from beer bottles and whisky bottles (toasts, no doubt, drunk to his memory) to CD’s and guitar picks. We added our own, one of Miki’s leaflets and a photo of Christie.

Our next stop was Payne Chapel in Quito to the West. It was originally thought Johnson was buried here due to its proximity to the Juke joint behind Three Forks store where he was allegedly poisoned.  There is a small marker in the graveyard there, and we were quickly welcomed by the guy ‘in charge’ of the graveyard who managed to finagle a couple of dollars out of us towards graveyard upkeep. Nice one!  In a curious coincidence, his brother is the Pastor at Little Zion church. Looks like a family business…..

Our third and final stop on the Robert Johnson trail was the marker erected in recognition of Robert Johnson’s legacy by the people of Mississippi. It takes the form of a small obelisk, situated in the graveyard  of the Zion Church north of Morgan City, and is notable in that it lists every one of his recorded songs on one of its faces.

 

                                                                               Hounded by Papparazzi – Even in Death
Our pilgrimage complete, we began to make our way south to Jackson, State capital of Mississippi.  I pondered on what we had seen. I believe, as do the majority, that he is buried in Little Zion Churchyard, and there were wintnesses who said they saw him being placed beneath the tree.  Once again, as with Elvis, I had such a deep emotion sat by that simple grave.  There is an inscription on the Little Zion headstone that says everything –
 
“He influenced millions beyond his time.” 
This was the closest I’d come to touching the blues.
Kev Moore

February 2, 2010 Posted by | culture, death, life, Music, photography, Sound recording, writing | , , , , | 2 Comments

In search of Elvis

First up, I need to get this on the table. I am not, nor ever have been, an Elvis fan. His voice never really spoke to me, and I viewed most of what he did as a watered-down version of the real thing.  I thought his manager’s desire to stick him in any second-rate movie that came along was decidely uncool, and he suffered the indignity of losing his image and looks in the months leading up to his death. There are notable exceptions, however. Heartbreak hotel is a classic – and his 68 ‘black leather’ comeback TV show presented him perfectly, and hinted at what he could be when he wanted. It remains my favourite Elvis moment.

All of that aside, it cannot be denied, he still is The King of Rock’n’ Roll, and unlike so many others, totally deserved the term living legend, for that he was. His place in music history cannot be understated, for whilst he took others music and made it his own, he brought it to an audience previously unaware. A white boy from Tupelo Mississippi singing black mans music in that era was earth shattering, groundbreaking, and worthy of respect. To describe him as a phenomenon would be falling short of the mark. Elvis was a seismic shift in culture, and things would never, ever be the same.  I would not be doing what I do without Elvis. As John Lennon famously said ( and it is displayed upon a sign on Elvis Presley Boulevard) “Before Elvis, there was nothing.”

Well, this was the day we were going to do the Graceland tour, Elvis’s planes, etc.  Our first shock was when we saw the prices. Clearly, Elvis earns more dead than alive.  We were biting the bullet prepared to pay, when we reached Graceland parking who wanted a further $10 dollars off us, in addition to the tour.  I couldn’t do it. I hate being taken for a mug, and it smacked of the giant industry of tasteless tat that has grown up around, and become synonymous with, Elvis since his death.  

There is a Taco Belle about 500 yards from the entrance to Gracelands and we parked up there, had a burrito and decided what to do.  I suggested we leave the car and just walk along to the entrance, take a couple of pictures of those famous gates, so we did. Once there, Miki said, why not ask if we can just walk up to the house?  Lo and behold, the lady in the little security hut at the end of the driveway said  that, although the house was closed, the meditation garden was open, and we were allowed up there. No ticket office, no charge, nothing. We walked the long curving driveway up to the house and marvelled at the history that had unfolded here. Off to the right was a small awning over an entrance to a garden. We wandered in, catching a glimpse of Elvis’s surprising ly small swimming pool. Either side of us were huge wreaths from allover the world, paying homage to the King, whose 75th birthday would have been  just a week or two ago. Then we were there, alone, in front of the final resting place of Elvis Aaron Presley.   Finally at peace alongside his Grandmother, his Father, his beloved Mother and tragic twin Jesse.  What fates had brought us here, alone, in such peaceful circumstances, without the razamatazz, and cheap exploitation of his memory, to pay our respects in such a profoundly personal way?

I was overjoyed that we were able to do this just like visiting ones own departed loved ones, and not as some tasteless sideshow. I don’t know if it happens like this generally, but I was profoundly grateful we had this opportunity, and that in this, at least, he was given respect.  I have stood before the embalmed body of Lenin, in his tomb beneath Red Square, marvelling at the seismic historic events his unseeing eyes must have witnessed throughout the 20th century while he, oblivious, slept on. But sitting here alongside this musical legend, who has been a worldwide phenomenon for my entire life, I was touched very deeply. Miki understood why, and I think she is right.It was because he was buried here, where he lived, with his family around him. At least in death he had achieved a peace that had so eluded him in the last years of his life.

Why not read about other musicians on Beale Street on my moore:music site HERE?

Kev Moore

January 20, 2010 Posted by | culture, death, Entertainment, events, life, Music, writing | , , , | 7 Comments

I have a dream

As fate would have it, we are in Memphis on Martin Luther King Day, and we just had to take a trip to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, which has been built upon the site of the Lorraine Motel, scene of Dr.King’s assasination in 1968. The motel has been preserved, and the museum built around it. On MLK day, there is a special $2 admission fee.

After a fortuitous wrong turn off Highway 55, we ended up in Tom Lee park, a lovely expanse of grass and pathways on the banks of the Mississippi, and we got our first glimpse of this mighty river.  The park is named after ” a very worthy Negro” -according to the quaintly-worded monument, who saved many lives in a steamer disaster in 1954. The parking there was free, so we decided to walk up to the civil rights museum from there.

Appointment with History

As we crested the rise and made our way towards it, the Lorraine motel, and that balcony and the fateful room came into view. Mahalia Jackson’s voice soared on the morning breeze and I was stopped dead in my tracks. I wasn’t prepared for it to look exactly as it did on that day in 1968. It was like being thrown back in time with the force of a hammer. I remembered this event as a 10 year old boy, and it’s repetition through the media as I was growing up. One bullet that altered the course of history. Such emotion welled up within me as I witnessed this scene, I almost broke down. A queue stretched into the distance along the sidewalk, a great ebony snake, for there were few white people here on this day, maybe half a dozen in addition to Miki and myself.  We joined the throng and waited our turn, paying our dollars to be confronted with the hard facts of oppression, bigotry, violence, ignorance, and plain stupidity. With mothers showing their children their history ahead and behind us, I got a feeling how Germans must feel who pluck up the courage to visit the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, where I have been.   What did surprise me was how recent segregation prevailed in American history, and I feel that Britain for all its faults , was enlightened a lot sooner than the U.S.

 

I learned about folk heroes such as Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, brave women who made their name as guardian of the Underground railroad and abolishionist respectively.

When we reached the glass case that displayed the ridiculous costume of a Ku Klux Klansman, I felt a wave of shame for the colour of my skin, and wondered “my god, what must they really think of us?”   I hope the vermin that started that despicable organisation and anyone who subsribed, or indeed still subscribes, to its beliefs – rot in hell.

We boarded a bus which told the story of the legendary Rosa Parks, who rightfully received an award for her actions as late as 1991.  When we finally reached that balcony, and looked out at the window across the street from where the shot is adjudged to have rang out, I felt a shudder of realization at just how easy it is to take out a figurehead. But, as history has proved, however many bullets you have, you will never shoot down a dream.

We crossed the road to explore the section that covered the life of the gunman James Earl Ray, and as I was reading a little about his life, Miki said “you know what? why are we spending our time on this guy? He is nothing, just a common criminal.” I pondered her words for a moment, and realized his ‘fame’ was indeed an illusion, a perverted, inverted version- courtesy of the greatness and the vision of his victim. James Earl Ray deserved not a minute more of our time, and we turned our backs on the detritus of his sorry little life.

As we left the Civil Rights museum to enjoy the rest of our day, I felt privileged to have had the chance to visit this place on this particular day. Happy Birthday MLK, I salute you.

"Take me to the River....."

Kev Moore

January 19, 2010 Posted by | culture, death, events, Festivals of the World, life, men, photography, writing | , , , , , | 7 Comments

God, Haiti, and the Americans. Observations.

Kev ponders buying drugs whose side effects may include DEATH!!!

What has become a grim fascination for us, is the terrible catastrophe in Haiti, seen through American eyes. I wanted to do a small stand alone piece to address this in the midst of our travelogue.  CNN’s coverage is extremely timely, in-depth, if not a little repetitive. The American networks also have a curious habit of cutting to ads not only relentlessly often, but also just prior to returning to the Larry King show for him to peer over his spectacles and simply say, “Good night.” Can’t the ads wait until he’s said good night? Or is it so they can cut to yet another load of ads?  Other fascinations include the amount of ads offering drugs, whilst calmly saying WARNING! Side effects may include DEATH!  To be fair, there is also a swathe of ads for lawyers, urging us to call 1-800 BAD DRUG, so I suppose it’s equal opportunity. In fact, on American TV, there seem to be cures for diseases I’ve never heard of. There are also many ads for Churches, which just borderline on the offensive to me, springboarding off the Haiti tragedy to aid recruitment, but perhaps that’s a cultural thing. As a Brit, I am stunned at the sheer number of clearly wealthy churches here in the Bible Belt, all with full car parks. Lil’ old English vicars would (dare I say it?) sell their soul for these buildings and congregations!

This brings me to the thorny issue of God. No-one in the Haiti television coverage has a bad word to say about the guy.  A woman saved after being trapped in a void in a collapsed market thinks she’s alive because of God. No, missus, you’re alive because of an Icelandic rescue team. You wanna talk to God about dropping the building on yo’ ass. This is the same God who saw fit to destroy the prison and spare all but 4 of the 4,500 inmates, who are now amongst the homeless and innocent. Nice one, God – suffer the little children and all that. I suppose it was too much to ask that you direct the epicentre over the terrorist camp in the Yemen? …what?  Have faith? Yeah.

Don’t get me wrong, I am full of admiration for people who use their faith to give them strength to go down there and help those people, not just after the quake, but the tireless work they do in the orphanages, etc for many years before. I truly admire and applaud them. But I would seriously want to have a strong word with a God that has heaped such misery time after time on this battered nation of Haiti. They crawl out, over the dead bodies of their Mothers and children, and they thank him.  I will never, ever understand this. 

I also want to address the use of emotive music on CNN.  This seems to be a very American thing to do. They come dangerously close to turning international catastrophe into The Bold and the Beautiful.  News is information. It is not entertainment.  If it was meant to be entertainment, the BBC News would have put “Drive” by The Cars as the musical backdrop to Michael Buerk’s stunning report on the Ethiopian famine, instead of waiting for the Live Aid concert to do so. I just feel that in their desire to ‘wring the emotion” out of this story, they cross the line, and leave me feeling a little uncomfortable, but once again, I guess it’s a cultural thing.

Watching the news tonight, I was shocked to see a number of Haitians complaining that the biscuits being handed out were ‘out of date’, unhelpfully shouting this at the crowd, causing them to drop the biscuits and the UN truck to leave. I had a series of conflicting emotions. Firstly, if  I’d been stuck in rubble for 72 hours with no food and water, I’d eat a scabby dog, and secondly, how about  a little bit of gratitude for the people who brought the biscuits to you? But perhaps, on reflection it just shows just what an  uneducated underclass form a large part of the population, and just how much work will be needed there to really rebuild and re-educate that poor country from the ground up.  If it’s not a majority, then the loudmouthed bullying minority need to be silenced by the UN forces so that the poor and the weak get the food they need.

I want to say a word about President Obama also. When he came out to address the people following the Earthquake. Miki and I were stunned at his eloquence, passion and determination. Seemingly speaking with no notes, he was strong, decisive and clear. What a great leader you have.

Now, on a daily basis, we have found (something I already knew but wanted Miki to experience) that Americans are friendly, outgoing and genuine. It is a pleasure to walk into a restaurant, or an IHOP and interact with people who have a smile on their face. This skill in the service industry is sadly lacking in Spain, and to a lesser extent in the UK. I also have two burning questions:

Can you, or can you not, turn right on a red light in the U.S.A?????

And who the hell would christen anybody Wolf Blitzer???

Kev Moore

January 16, 2010 Posted by | culture, death, education, events, God in our life, life, religion | , , , , | 8 Comments

Everi wan died off the boom

2009 The Bomb

by Macauley, 11 years old

Another young artist, called Macauley, 11 years old, has accepted to have some of his works published in Cafe Crem.

Macualey is the son of an English handworker living here, and who is actually building our little home sauna (yes, even in Spain, a sauna is useful, although here and right now any place without air conditioning is a sauna itself). School hasn’t started yet in Spain, Macauley comes with his father, to us, helping him with the building sometimes but spending most of his time in my gallery, drawing and painting.

As you know I am always curious about childrens art. As I saw that picture which he has just drawn, I thought it was worth sharing with you all.

I interviewed the young artist about his work, asking him if all these people are his friends. I got it quite wrong, as his answer was

“No, these are my enemies, and the boom kills them all!”

.. But as to the question of whether these enemies are all real and if he has really so many in life, he said:

“Some are my friends too…”

And then he pointed at Dany in the middle of the picture, and explained to me that he was a fat kid, and had to die first… On the back of the drawing is written:

“Everi wan died off the boom”

He also asked me if I paint “War pictures”. I said no, being more from the pacific kind…

PS: if you live around here, and need a carpenter, just ask me for a reference: Macauley’s father is doing a great job!

by Miki

September 9, 2009 Posted by | Art, children, death, humor, life, Macauley, The MiniBar | , | 7 Comments

Like Dominoes

domLike Dominoes

The days fall like dominoes
One, Two, Three, Four
They are relentless, until the last
A cascade, a waterfall of time, unslowing
Enjoy the moments in between
Enjoy the seldom seen
If we could stop an instant and hold it in our hand
But it ripples through our fingers like a grain of sand
And the days repeat and disappear
Too fast to seize the moment
Too quick to grasp the portent
Until the end of our toppled life comes into view
A pile of days, all used by you
Like dominoes.

© Kev Moore August 2009

August 21, 2009 Posted by | Cafe Literati, death, Kev Moore's Poetry, life, personal, poetry, writing | , , | 5 Comments

The Fairy Trees

The Faery Trees

The scent of the elder trees seemed to shimmer in the hot June sunshine, making a heat haze of aromatic oils and dust, as Becky flung herself down in the shade and buried her face in her hands and wept, loudly. The hard earth beneath the two bending bushes had been packed tight by the baking of the summer sun and by small feet, she noticed with some surprise. The worn footprints, made when last the ground here was muddy, were no bigger than her own would have made, and she saw for the first time that the two stunted trees leaned together to make an archway, and beyond it, she could see a narrow path, vanishing into the deeper woodland beyond. The path was barely more than a rabbit run and she wondered why she had never noticed it before.

She wished she had thought to bring a bottle of water; her throat was dry with the heat and it hurt through her wailing. A sob rose again unbidden and she scrubbed at her face as the tears began to course down her face again.

“Why are you crying?”

Becky jumped with shock, and saw to her intense surprise that a girl was standing over her, her face hidden in the mass of wild flaxen hair that tumbled round her shoulders. Becky’s own hair was tied back neatly in a tight plait to keep it from escaping and looking untidy.

“Nothing,” Becky said, gazing at the girl with awe, and rubbing the tears away hastily.

The girl came and sat next to her, her face still shaded a little by her hair and by the dappled shadows cast by the trees they sat beneath.

“You sound so unhappy,” said the girl. “Tell me about it.”

Becky drew a deep and shuddering breath.

“It’s my Gran,” she said. “She’s mean and nasty and she won’t let me have what I want.”

“That’s terrible,” said the girl, her voice sympathetic.

“So I have run away,” Becky continued. “Just for a little while, to scare her, the mean old bitch.”

“Why don’t your parents help you?” the girl asked.

“My parents are divorced,” Becky said. “Dad works abroad. Mum went back to live with her mum; that’s my Gran. So Mum goes out to work and Gran stays home with me. Only, today, we were going to get me new shoes after school, and this is what she made me get!”

Becky pointed dramatically at her feet. The sensible and comfortable shoes were coated in the fine white dust kicked up by these chalky fields in drought.

“They look…” the girl tailed off without finishing.

“Exactly,” said Becky triumphantly. “They’re hideous. I’m going to be a laughing stock at school tomorrow.”

The girl patted her arm.

“We could swap,” she said. “You look like the same size as me.”

Becky glanced at the girl suspiciously. The girl was wearing much the same clothes as herself, jeans and tee shirt, but while Becky’s jeans were a standard supermarket brand, ironed and laundered and ordinary, this girl wore designer jeans, with the artistic rips and chains Becky coveted. Her tee shirt had a neat little Chanel logo on it, and round her neck, where Becky wore a tacky Best Friends Forever pendant on a worn thong, this girl wore a heavy gold chain, bearing a suspiciously real looking diamond. And her shoes! Well, her shoes were the exact pair Becky had seen in a magazine and had begged her Gran to buy for her.

“Why would you want to?” Beck asked grudgingly.

“To make you happy,” said the girl, throwing back her hair and smiling a big broad, braces-free smile. Becky has stopped smiling properly the day they fixed her teeth with braces.

“OK,” said Becky, kicking off her shoes with speed, in case this strange girl changed her mind.

Within a few moments, the exchange was complete. The high-heeled red shores hurt Becky’s feet but after a few moments staggering around, she found she could walk just fine in them. The girl buckled her new sandals and smiled in a way that reminded Becky of her cat’s face when it had just stolen some cream.

“Drink?” said the girl sitting back down in the shade and proffered a bottle.

Becky took an experimental swig and nearly choked.

“But that’s cider!” she exclaimed.

“And?” said the girl shrugging.

“It’s nice,” Becky said meekly and took a long drink.

The sun peeped through the leaves and sparkled on the diamante trimmings of her new shoes; Becky felt the drowsy heat of late afternoon fill her and her eyes felt heavy.

She woke to hear her name being called and shivered. The sun was setting, blood red in the West and the fragrance of the elder trees had begun to smell like a tomcat had used the earth here for a toilet. She scrambled awkwardly to her feet and swayed out from under the shade of the two elder trees. Her grandmother was crossing the field, coming towards her fast.

As she caught sight of her granddaughter, her whole body seemed to spasm, as if with shock.

“Oh no you don’t,” she shouted and Becky cringed before realising that Gran was not shouting at her.

Gran seized her arm firmly and then bent to yank the glorious shoes off Becky’s feet.

“Not my granddaughter, not ever, you conniving little thieves,” she yelled and to Becky’s horror, she threw first one and then the second shoe at the narrow path between the elder trees.

“But Gran, we swapped shoes, they’re my shoes now!” Becky protested, but then stared open-mouthed, unable to believe what she’d seen.

The path had closed up, like a book shutting and now there was no trace of the way through between the two elder trees. Of either pair of shoes there was no trace at all.

Her Gran gave her a little shake, and pointed at the last rays of the sun as they dipped below the horizon.

“Just in time,” she said. “Another few minutes and I’d have been too late.”

Becky felt her tears returning but now they were tears of incomprehensible relief. Gran looked at her, and passed her a hankie.

“Well, losing your shoes is a fair price to pay, I guess,” she said. “You can walk home barefoot or I can give you a piggy back? Which is it to be?”

Becky went to school the next day in her old, worn out shoes and a much better frame of mind.

by Viv (c) 2009

February 27, 2009 Posted by | Cafe Literati, children, death, family, literature, nature, personal, random, Viv's Short Stories, women, writing | , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Thread

the-thread-s

By Miki

February 27, 2009 Posted by | Art, Cafe L'Arte, Cafe Literati, death, life, love, men, Miki's Paintings, Miki´s Poetry, personal, poetry, women | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Window

the-window-s

By Miki

February 26, 2009 Posted by | animals, Cafe Literati, death, life, love, men, Miki´s Poetry, personal, poetry, women, writing | , , , , , | 17 Comments