Claudia and I took the train down the Hudson to Manhattan. I thought about Pete Seeger’s song, “Sailing Down My Dirty Stream,” one of his contributions to the effort to clean up the Hudson. He lives on the way down, in Beacon, and I’d hoped to visit this time, but again the timing wasn’t right. Pete said the problem with the river clean-up was that some of the people who lived by the river and worked on the campaign got priced out of living there as the condition of the river improved. My singer/folklorist friend Eleanor Walden has started a petition to get him nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, for his efforts for peace, the environment, and intercultural understanding.
We only had two-and-a-half days in Manhattan this time. We stayed at the Washington Square Hotel again, in Claudia’s sister’s old neighborhood, and walked to our favorite restaurant (Cornelia Street Cafe) and coffee place (Reggio’s). Greenwich Village really is a village, and Susan was one of the people who made it so. In the short time we were there, we ran into six of her friends—at the dog run, on the street, at the hospital where we went to ask for more of Susan’s records. We walked by the Blue Note and Claudia noticed that Jane Mondheit, a jazz singer she’d heard good things about, would be there Sunday night. Neither of us had ever been there. We hurried over after dinner, paid the $35 admission, and were seated across from each other at one of the long narrow tables. The people on either side of us were not speaking English. Claudia identified the language to her right as French, and after listening a while I was pretty sure the two men on the other side were speaking Japanese. I asked, and they were. I told them I had been in Japan for six weeks in 1970, when my singer/songwriter mother was touring. They were politely interested until I said who she was touring with, then their eyes lit up. “Tsunehiko Kamijo???” they said, amazed. He was a fairly well-known folk singer then, but got really famous in musical theater and film afterwards, playing the title role in Pipin, among others.  The same thing happened at the Music EdVentures conference, when I was sitting with the Japanese teachers of English at the banquet. We were singing “Magic Penny” and I mentioned the tour and Kamijo’s magic name. He was a great guy to tour with, and his goofy accompanist, and the tour director who was also a champion whistler, and the whole Workers-Music crew. Mom wrote “Tokyo Farewell” about the tour.
The Blue Note is a restaurant as well as a club, so I could spend my minimum on sherbet and fresh fruit rather than alcohol. And the show was definitely worth the price of admission. Miss Mondheit’s rendition of “The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” was almost worth $35 all by itself.
Up in Hollowville, I’d read a review in the New York Times about an exhibit at the American Folk Art Museum that I wanted to see. It seems that Eastern European Jewish woodcarvers, who had made their livings carving Torah arks for synagogues, couldn’t get enough work when they immigrated here, so they branched out into carving carousel horses. Who knew? The exhibit was charming, and I was blown away by the Jewish paper-cutting also on display. In the museum store was a huge map of the US with each state’s shape cut out of its license plate. I wanted it! Luckily, it had been reproduced on place mats, so we bought two.
We came home to an email from Kris, who was taking care of Molly the dog while we were away:
“...the most interesting thing that happened today was that I dashed to the
store for a few minutes, leaving Molly in her crate "just in case."  
When I returned, all three dogs greeted me at the door, tails wagging,
and the door to the crate stood ajar.  It wasn't exactly rolling away
the rock, and no celestial choirs sang as on Easter morning, but...what
the hell?  I figure that Cheeni pushed the latch and let her out,
something like the parrot in "Winged Migration".  Oh...and when I
figured out what the shreds of paper all over the house were, I realized
that they had also gotten out the bag of organic venison jerky, and
shared it among themselves.  The bag of jerky had been on the kitchen
counter.  Go figure...
We are really going to miss Molly.  Such a huge spirit!  And the level
of cooperation between the three of them is amazing!
Cheers from the land of wagging happiness,
(I am going to have to write the dog-novel of Lord of the Flies...what
happens when three dogs are left alone for twenty minutes....)”
I went to the Monday morning assembly at Washington School to snag some teachers and find out which is the best morning for me to be available. A parent announced she had several sign-ups for the walkathon to raise money for school supplies, including Isis and Athena. Her cohort asked who they were. “Guinea pigs!” shouted a bunch of kids. I’m definitely back in Berkeley. If there were any doubt, I saw a bumper strip that said “Pluto—You’re still number nine with me.”
Breakfast with Carole, who had a Berkeley present for me: applesauce she made from the apples growing on her front yard. But these are not just any apples, they’re from the tree she planted when my mother died, prompted by that line from “If You Love Me,” “If you think you’ll love me for a long, long time, plant an apple tree.” Someone wrote me a note at the time saying she’d gone to a nursery to buy an apple tree and the guy said there’d been quite a run on apple trees in the previous couple of days.
 Women’s Peace Dragon
Carole and I were in this peace dragon...I think it was in 1978, the year my mother died, in the Berkeley Centennial parade. Different people and groups had made the cloth panels that were the sides of the dragon. We were carrying side panels, we weren’t inside the head. I wonder where it is now? And if there are any others in action around the country? We do need peace dragons now.
The Freedom Song Network had been asked to sing in the big peace demonstration in San Francisco on October 27, and normally I’d be with them, but my knee is bothering me too much to march, or even to be in crowds. Luckily, some folks at the co-op senior housing in Berkeley were planning to stand on a busy nearby corner with signs, so I joined them. Also luckily, there is an excellent bakery/restaurant on that corner, the Bread Workshop, so I could take a break in the middle for a latte. Good thing. When I started across the street, I found my right toes had fallen asleep. While I was standing there, I started writing the lyrics to a song. When I got home I finished it and wanted to make it a parody. The words fit “Wabash Cannonball,” as usual (I have at least three parodies to that tune), but the chorus wouldn’t work. The verse words did fit another railroad song, “Casey Jones,” and the chorus did too with a little re-writing.
Words: Nancy Schimmel
Tune: “Casey Jones”
I’m at the age when “energetic” changes into “spry”
I do not wear the latest style, but still I catch the eye,
People wave and smile at me as they go driving past,
I wear a sign says we should end the war, and fast.
Chorus: You and me, standing on the corner,
              You and me, loitering for peace,
              You and me, standing on the corner,
              May our singing, changing, graying tribe increase.
My knees are kinda gimpy, and I cannot walk too far,
So I’ll just take a stand against George Bush’s stupid war,
Leaning on a lamp post with a sign around my neck,
Saying “Get the troops home safely from Iraq, by heck."
Some of us drive wheel chairs, some of us are using canes,
What got us to this demonstration is, we use our brains.
We leave endurance marches to the younger folks than us,
But standing up or sitting down, we raise a fuss.
Old men run the government and send the young to fight,
And now they’re bombing old folks too, we know it isn’t right,
We’re ramping up our efforts as our faculties decrease;
We’re huffing and haranguing, handing out for peace.
Feel free to print these words out and use them at any peace demonstration; please give me credit. If you want to know just how stupid this war is, read TomDispatch, like I do. Tom Engelhardt is a smart writer himself, and interviews wise and informed people too.
I thought I’d be posting this on Tuesday morning from Jimmy Bean’s as I usually do, but their WiFi wasn’t working. When I called this morning to see if it had been fixed, the woman who answered said “No...are you the lady who gets a double latte and sits in the other room?” “Yes.” “Well, a man who sits in there too is piggybacking on somebody else’s connection.” “OK,” I said, but decided to go somewhere else. But see? Berkeley is a village too.
HAPPY HALLOWEEN! I put on my mom’s black wool cape and my partner’s velvet witch’s hat and my own black boots and went to the costume parade today at Washington School. I am glad to report both male and female pirates and both African-American and Caucasian Supergirls. Plenty of witches, a couple of Harry Potter look-alikes and two Pippi Longstockings, one a kid in a wig and the other a fifth-grade teacher with her own hair braided and wired. The scariest? A kid in a suit jacket and Bush mask.
©2007 by Nancy Schimmel
Malvina in Japan, 1970. A thirty-year-old Tsunehiko Kamijo far left.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007