Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy


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A Wareham Druids Freshman Tabor Musical Contest

Blue Flowers

 

I’m thinking of a song.

This is a song that reminds me of my hometown of Wareham, Massachusetts, in the US of A. I’ve been thinking about my hometown more than usual this week and posted in this Blog Tuesday about the good old days and some of the bad new ones. That post received quite a bit of attention and a number of comments, one of which, from Thom Laine, was musical in nature.

I replied to his comment and in my response mentioned that I had been for a brief period in time a member of a musical group in Wareham. We called ourselves The Druids (I don’t remember why) and consisted of Billy Fisher on guitar, Wayne Lavallee on drums, and a summer kid from Hyde Park (in Boston) named Roy (last name lost in the cobwebs of my mind), who played bass or rhythm guitar (again, the brain cell thing) and lived summers with his family in Swifts Beach – one of Wareham’s many and distinct and wondrously enchanting beach communities. Oh, I was the singer. Billy was a couple of years older than me and actually was on active duty in the Navy, stationed in Newport, Rhode Island. Wayne was a year older. Roy was around my age and had a brother and I hung out in their summer house. We held practices in Wayne’s garage, poured concrete floor and all, which – I believe – officially makes me a member of a garage band. Cool.

 

April Flowers

 

We got to play in public, at least two places I remember were a Wareham High School freshman dance (and my memory here in crystal clear of screams and wails from the female members in attendance, just like with The Beatles) and in a battle of the bands in next town over Marion at Tabor Academy (along with Wareham’s Table Scraps), said Academy so many years later serving as the slightly unreal Tabler Academy in my first book, “Ring Around The Rosy”.

We sang cover songs. Other groups’ songs. One of which I’m thinking of right now. And in the spirit of fond remembrances of days past, I’m offering a contest. This is it — correctly guess which song we covered – one guess only – and in my mind today and be the first to post your answer on the Blog itself or my Facebook page and you will win one of these three paintings I have recently created, your choice. Each is painted on 11 x 15 watercolor paper in acrylic, and will be packaged as safely as I can get it and mailed out tomorrow. I might even throw in a Wareham-related surprise.

 

Duck

 

The rules are simple: Guess the song (remember, one guess per person) and reply on the Blog or my FB page. And be the first with the correct guess. Of course, as there are probably 127, 555 songs in my mind from which I might be listening I’m going to give you three hints. I’m hesitant to do so in fear it will be way too easy. Heck, I’d only need one of these hints to make the correct guess. But in the spirit of fairness I feel obligated to help out. So, here they are.

  1. The song was originally released between 1962 and 1969. (Which you probably could of figured from the years of and around my high school life. Duh)
  2. The song was released on Capital Records. (Hmm, could this be any easier….Beach Boys, Beatles, Bobbie Gentry, The Lettermen, The Righteous Brothers, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Helen Reddy, Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps, Don Yute….a few others. Heck, I might as well just tell you.)
  3. This would have been a great song blasting in a convertible roaring down Route 66. (Sorry Helen Reddy.)

Okay, I’m sure I’ve given it away. Thank you Billy and Wayne and Roy and especially Wareham for the memories. Swifts Beach and Tabor and The Table Scraps and The Revolutionaries and  The Monday Club and summer crushes Roberta Magarian (Lexington) and Pattie Parent (Wakefield) and Elaine Flinkstrom (Easton) and Parkwood and High Street and  Royal’s front yard and Main Street and Onset Beach and plain old Route 6 – thank you too.

I bet you get the picture.

Call me. We’ll have lunch.

(Contest ends tonight, 7/13/17, at midnight.)

 

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Back In My Little Town

 

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Once upon a time, far away and long ago, I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts named Wareham. Hard by the Buzzards Bay inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, and no doubt a clone of sorts from Wareham, England, itself hard by Poole Harbour and its larger Atlantic mother. The “Gateway to Cape Cod”, that’s what it was called at times, that’s what the sign said out on Route 28 by the Chamber of Commerce. Situated just before the Bourne Bridge crossing over to The Cape, at the confluence of the Cape Cod Canal and Buzzards Bay.

I was lucky to have grown up there, for many reasons. It was a gentle place, mostly, dotted with beach communities and summer homes and summer days, Cape Verdean enclaves and culture, pine forests, and luscious ponds carved out by retreating ice-age glaciers. In the winter we skated those ponds, pushed against the sparkling frosty air, sometimes with a stick and a puck at our feet. In the spring, summers, and fall we fished, especially me and Donnie Sisson, usually Mill Pond – both sides of 28 – but others as well – Tihonet, the horseshoe mill, in West Wareham. Donnie had a hand-made net contraption thing, and we would wet it and rub damp Sunbeam white bread into the bottom and throw it in the Wareham River in back of Franconia Oil, just over the railroad tracks, and come back an hour later and haul it up, usually loaded with chubs and shiners, and these we would put in buckets of water and on our bikes create amazing acts of balance with buckets and fishing poles and tackle boxes and cruise to the spot of the day. In fact the Wareham River is, to this day, never far away for me, though I’m away 3000 and more miles as the red-winged blackbird flies. The River remains always in my mind and heart, I bet it’s in the blood that pumps and gravities through my body. Yes. I painted my feeling about it a few years ago. That green and gray thing up there.

Little Harbor Beach was another place of childhood summer days, with the folks and sisters and picnic lunch, blanket on the hot sand, and horse shoe crabs in the endless low tide wading and splashes, later on as a place to drink beer and park at night as the sun went down. With summer girls if we were lucky. I painted that too, actually a view away from the harbor and its Buzzards Bay supplier. This.

Little Harbor Lookaway

I write about my hometown today because yesterday on Facebook were links to a Wareham story of death threats against children and a militarized response and endless hours of parent and child anguish. Simon and Garfunkle sang about My Little Town. They also sang of a Mother and Child reunion. Here’s a link to a story about it all from a local news site.

 wareham-ma.villagesoup.com/p/wareham-students-evacuated-from-schools-following-pretty-specific-threat-of-shooting/1667706#.WWPKzCgT5ns.facebook

Reading the words, looking at the pictures, here in the Pacific Northwest, tears fell from my eyes. I couldn’t help it. They just fell. More water, like the Wareham River, like Little Harbor, like Buzzards Bay. More water, like my childhood.

Mary Hopkins sang a song back in my growing up time – “Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end.” The Kinks sang a song then too – “We had our good times pal, we thought they’d last forever. But nothing lasts forever.”

When I crawled into bed last night my wife Susan, still awake, asked me, because of the way I am these days, if I had lost all my hope for the planet. My answer was “Most of it.”

Forget all the miles. It’s a long way from flying down Lincoln Hill on our bikes, hanging at Jay’s and Minnicks, dreaming of summer girls on Parkwood Beach, working at the record store, growing up with friends – it’s a long way from there to here. Today. For me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, to look through those childhood eyes again.

 


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What If?

 

There are eight million artist stories in the city. This is mine. This is “What If”.

This is not a happy story. Not my usual uplifting, positive message, keep on keepin’ on story. If you are looking for fun and levity in your reading today I advise you to click off out of here and find something else. This is a tale from the dark side. And unlike my other blogs, all the names in this story have been changed. To protect the innocent. Except mine. That is still me – the head dunce – playing myself.

I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts – we will call it Nowhereham – just off of Cape Cod, almost equi-distant from Boston and Providence, Rhode Island. Simon and Garfunkle once sang “there was nothing but the dead of night in my little town.” I used to say there was nothing to do in my little town. Nothing to do but drink. Once I passed through the summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school I tried to be drinking whenever I could, and if there was some other activity planned, I tried to make drinking a part of it. Not falling down, passed out in the gutter drunk. But on that road. Of course other people, my friends and classmates, were doing other things, like sports and studying and dating and going up to Boston or something.. But I was living by my mantra: there’s nothing to do but…

Nowhereham was a real summer town. The winter population was under 10,000 for most of my childhood, but in the summers the population would swell near 40,000. There were little beach communities everywhere, and small cottages and summer homes and beach-side shacks in all of them, and those structures would be filled – sometimes for just two weeks on a rotating basis and sometimes all summer – by the summer people, people from western Mass and the suburbs south and west of Boston, even New York City. These people boosted the economy and caused hideous traffic jams and, best of all, brought their daughters. That’s what we used to say: “Tourists, leave you money and your daughters and get out.” I didn’t know any gay kids back then – or I didn’t know if I did – but it would have worked just as well for them; leave your money and your sons. The point being that we looked forward greatly to the summer and for more than just school being out. Plus there were all those great beaches to go drinking.

My fellow Nowhereham resident and friend Nate lived in one of those beach communities. We knew each other a little the first couple of years of high school, but got a lot friendlier when it turned out his parents were always working nights and we could go into his basement and play cards. And no one cared if we were drinking. We played a lot of cards and did a lot of drinking, usually anywhere from three to five of us, sometimes just me and Nate. We mostly played whist and it was great fun, though someone would occassionally fall sideways out of their chair. I know I did.

I do not remember if it was a Friday or a Saturday night, but Nate and me and our friend Brad, who was a year older and went to a Catholic High School and was good looking and more confident with the ladies, were out cruising. We were at Parktree Beach and we came upon some of the summer girls and we somehow managed – Brad – to talk them into following us back to Nate’s. We all went down in the basement and drank and played a little pool and generally goofed around, and an hour or so later I found myself upstairs in Nate’s bedroom with a girl named Jennie Harrison who was down for the summer from the Jamaica Plain section of Boston. Kissing occurred, and at one point I threw myself down onto the bed and stretched out in what I considered to be a very romantic, nearly irresistable pose. As I reached my arms back under the pillow I felt something, and a moment later I pulled out a handgun. Why Nate would have a gun under his pillow was way beyond me. But I didn’t really think about that. Instead, I pointed the gun directly at Jennie and said “Take off your clothes or else.” Buddy Cushman, sweet talker. And then I laughed and pointed the gun down at the floor and for kicks I pulled the trigger and almost dropped dead as the gun went off in a deafening roar and blew a hole in the floorboard. The gun I had just been pointing at Jennie, with my finger on the trigger. She began shrieking and crying and she ran out of the room just as Nate and Brad ran up the stairs and into the room. Brad started slapping me silly, Nate screaming at me, as the girls all ran out of the house and drove off. I deserved to be slapped and yelled at. I had ruined the party.

After a few moments I began yelling at Nate about what kind of an imbecile would keep a loaded gun under their pillow. I’m not sure if I ever got an answer, but it’s not the point. It’s not about personal choice, it’s not about gun rights, it’s not about underage drinking, or how summer people and their daughters come to Nowhereham every year, it’s not about high school, or cards games, or swimming in the dark, or friendship. Really. It’s only about – what if?

What if Buddy Cushman, more than half in the wrapper, had pulled the trigger of that gun when I was pointing it at Jennie Harrison from Jamaica Plain? What if the bullet hit Jennie and not the floorboard? What if her family had to live out their lives from that moment forward without her? And her friends, and her grandparents? What if my parents had to walk through the small everyone-knows-everyone streets of Nowhereham with their heads down from that night forward, shamed by the action of their 17 year old nothing-better-to-do in this little town son. What if I ended up in juvenile hall for four years, or Walpole or Concord prisons for longer? Would I be sitting in Portland writing this? Would I have a granddaughter in Alaska? Would my art hang in houses on both side of the country? Would I ever have picked up a paint brush? Would I be all about rage and remorse and resignation? And not hope, and joy?

What if?