I wait all day for 9 p.m. It used to be that 9 p.m. saw me tidying up after one day and getting ready for the next. Now 9 p.m. finds me donning shoes and a jacket for a short hike down the hill and out to the point. Once at the point, I sit on the edge of an old foundation [see OC’s Three Dot Friday Harbor post] left over from the days when the island was a fort. As I sit, I gaze across the water, watch the boats, the birds, the seal and whatever else catches my eye, and I listen to OC practice his trumpet.

While OC plays the day comes to a quiet close. First the sky fades from blue to pink to lavender and back to blue — this time a deep navy hue. The ocean does the same. One-by-one lights lumen the shore across the bay as the town of Friday Harbor settles in for the night.

Soon OC puts his horns away and we walk back up the hill. It is a peaceful time. A time of contentment. The perfect way to end the day.

The Gold Lawler

I’m in a big band. Debut performance, for the band and for me. We’re playing for 400 or more ballroom dancers on the shores of Waikiki. Used to do the same thing with the Bath Municipal Band, in Maine, for 16 people. Welcome to Paradise. And the guy sitting next to me has a gold Lawler.

No, that’s Lawler. Two “l”s, no “y”. Suppose I should explain. A Lawler is a custom made trumpet, produced by a guy out in Tennessee. Gold-plated, literally and figuratively – though, to be fair, Lawler’s trumpets are not as hard on the wallet as those by, say, Dave Monette.

Still, here I am with a Ph.D. and counting my blessings that I’ve not (yet) had to consign my old Yamaha to the local pawn shop, while my neighbor, who’s a panel beater, has a gold Lawler. Which he chose to bring (in a truck the size of downtown Cleveland) instead of his Blackburn or Olds Recording.

The gold Lawler sometimes has difficulty navigating the swing band tunes we’re playing. Its owner comments that he’s more used to church music. I’ve done a little church music, trumpet and organ before the small congregations of small-town Maine. No, he says, this is contemporary Christian, and not the easiest of stuff, either. And it’d better be right, ’cause it’s on television.

Television? Ayup. Evangelical Christianity’s big news in the 50th state right now. Services and other religious show are, together, the second most abundant and popular bits on Hawai’ian TV. Right behind “Paid Programming”. And these shows are slick, man. Sure ain’t your grandmother’s little brown church in the vale.

Reminds me of when I was in Berkeley, and the TV evangelists descended on the local seminary to tell the liberal preachers how they, too, could become TV stars and maybe get more than three people a week to come to church. I wrote about what I figured their message was:

    “Lesson 1. Bob Dylan and the Beatles electrified music in 1964. It has been electrified ever since. You are not going to get the attention of today’s Christian with an upright piano and an 80-year-old lady belting Leaning on the Everlasting Arms in a voice that would drive the mountain lion to extinction. Hymns? Those tunes were whack when Queen Victoria was a girl. And who reads music these days? You don’t want them singing anyway, shouting’s just fine. Give your ears a break.
    “There are Christian rock bands. Use them. There are Christian multimedia shows. Use them. There’s this thing called ‘production values’. Learn them. There are times when real people go out. Schedule your services at those times. Sunday morning at 9 AM is not one of them. Everyone not still asleep is hung over, or working. And keep the message simple. You want people to holler, not think. If they’re thinking, they’re not putting money in the plate. Capisce?”
    Now [I wrote at the time] I’m sitting there reading all this, and I’m cracking up. Why? Well, I remember when the liberal preachers were hippies. Until they discovered the media and turned the various forms to their own devices. What was their mantra? The media is the message. Talk about being strung up on your own rope!
    Then I look again. Where have I seen these techniques before? Advertising! Whose message is Stop thinking and buy! Where did advertising learn all its tricks? Propaganda! The message of which is Stop thinking and follow! Who pioneered mass-media propaganda techniques? A spindly, dweeby Ph.D. type with one leg shorter than the other and a massive inferiority complex, who talked of turning little worms into an omnipotent force with his production values.

The gold Lawler might be playing for the fastest-growing church on O’ahu, one counted among the 25 fastest growing, and 10 most influential, houses of worship in the United States. And I’m always looking for a place to play. But I think I’ll see if I can find a nice, small church instead. One with an organ, maybe. And little old Puritan ladies, whose voices may put wildlife on the endangered species list, but who also have neither time nor patience for production values. “I want a show, I can watch Oprah. I thought we were here to worship God.”

  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2007 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.

A Booming Tradition

It is 6 AM on the 4th of July, 1975. On the 48th parallel, North latitude, the sun has been up for nearly an hour, but in the San Juan Island town of Friday Harbor, Washington, there are few signs of human activity. The streets are deserted, no ferry will arrive for two hours, and the tiny marina is silent. In the rickety, World War II era dormitory complex of the Friday Harbor Laboratories, which is held together by the trails of the burrowing ants and the fervent prohibitions against stray sparks from the wood-burning stoves, the students are following through on their plan to honor the holiday by sleeping late. The horn that summons the marine-biologists-in-training to breakfast will sound at nine instead of the usual 6:45.

At the stroke of 6, all plans for a morning of uninterrupted quiet are exploded.


The blast rattles the ant colonies in the dormitory and reverberates across the harbor. Throughout the dorm, heads pop out of sleeping bags and blankets. “What the [insert favorite delete-able expletive here] was that?!?” Some of them peer around anxiously, listening for the sirens of emergency vehicles, or tuning radios in an effort to hear what sort of dire calamity has just been visited on their über-peaceful corner of America.

Nothing. No one seems to care except the rudely-awakened labbies. The silence following the explosion is as deafening as the explosion itself.

It is much later in the day when one of the lab’s veterans explains the mystery; a man familiar with the ways of the place, with Friday Harbor as a town of fishermen and farmers, of salmon canners and quarriers of sand and gravel. One of the quarrymen (he said), probably the owner, decided one year, no one could say how long ago, that he was going to be the first to announce to his neighbors the dawning of the American Independence Day. Fireworks he didn’t have, but he did have the dynamite he used to blast the hills on his land into the piles of sand he shipped away on trucks and barges. So he rigged a keg of the stuff at the bottom of one of his pits, and, at 6 AM on the Fourth of July, he set it off. Evidently, he could show his face at the town’s one tavern thereafter without getting it ripped off, so he did the same thing next year. And the year after that. And so on. It became a tradition …

It is 6 AM on the 4th of July, 2007. The sun has been up for nearly an hour, but in the town of Friday Harbor, there are few signs of human activity. The student who, in 1975, bolted out of a sleeping bag desperate to know who was bombing whom, and why, lies in a bed in one of the apartments on the Laboratory grounds that has appeared since 1975 (the ant-infested firetrap of a dormitory is no more; the horn that once summoned everyone to meals is silent) and awaits the stroke of the hour …




Hey, waitaminute …


Who the hell are all these other guys lighting off dynamite? Haven’t they heard of not gilding the lily?

Oh well. Friday Harbor’s a tourist town now. The sand and gravel quarry is still there, but the fishermen are gone (along with most of the fish), so are the canneries and the farmers. The marina that was once so tiny now stretches halfway to Seattle. There are yachts tied up to the docks that would have filled the entire harbor in 1975. The fireworks display tonight will rival anybody’s anywhere, and right up close and personal too. I hope these people are impressed.

I wish to return to a time when one blast was enough.

  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2007 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.

Washing Paper Plates

Life in a second language learner’s classroom:  

We are having a fund raiser spaghetti dinner at the school tonight.  The teachers are to be the wait-staff.  One of my students asked, “What’s wait-staff?”  I said, “You know, cooks, waiters, dishwashers — the folks that do the work so all you have to do is sit and eat.”

“Dishwashers!”  Jimmy exclaimed.  “You’re going to wash paper plates!?”

Before I could answer Jake chimed in, “Gross!  They’d better wash my plate or I’m not eating!”

The class cracked up laughing. Jake looked around in surprise.  Jimmy pulled a sheet of paper from his notebook and waved it him.  “Paper, Jake!  The plate is going to be made of paper!”

Jake looked at me and demanded incredulously, “We have to eat off paper?” At this point his classmates were all but rolling on the floor laughing and he was edging toward defensive.

I went to the cupboard and pulled out a paper plate.  I handed it to Jake.  He turned bright red and said, “Oh.”  Then he exclaimed, “Well why didn’t somebody just say so?”

Jimmy put his face in his hands and muttered, “Oi vey!”