Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Live Wire!

I have formed a minor and harmless addiction to going to Live Wire shows. It is a little like Prairie Home Companion perhaps, involving a radio show recorded before a live audience. Every week it seems to be at a different venue and Oregon Public Radio puts the show on and broadcasts it. It has variety acts, little skits, a couple of great musicians, and best of all, a really good poet. I am ever so fond of wordy modern American poetry delivered by its author. I have yet to find the "poetry scene" in Portland where I can reliably sit around in a beret while grooving to the poems of the locals, but Live Wire does the trick for me just as well. In the past couple of months, I saw Matthew Dickman and Derrick Brown read on the show. I am told the producers are very picky about which poets they choose. Good.

This week I went and did not get any poetry because instead, Live Wire had a bunch of comics on that were in town as part of the Bridgetown Comedy Festival. I do not have cable and am the last person on earth to hear of Maria Bamford and Tig Notaro. But I got to see them live and up close and that was a good introduction. The show also involves submitting an audience haiku based on the theme of the day and if they pick your haiku, you get to read it on the air. I'm going to keep going and writing haikus until it happens. If you are curious about this LiveWire business, episodes are free on itunes.
The photo above is Matthew Pidgeon's. He made me say it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Squirrel Holler (or something like that)

In my history mystery quest, I found out that one of my Danish great-grandmothers came to the United States around the turn of the century from a place called Eckernfoerde. It is in the peninsular part of northern Germany that connects to Denmark called Schleswig. Schleswig was a fiefdom of Denmark. Although this part of Denmark was considered part of Germany between 1864-1920, World War I resolved the issue, along with two other wars creatively titled First Schleswig War and Second Schleswig War. A little web research on why Danes were leaving Germany:

Denmark had been forced to surrender Schleswig to Prussia in 1864. Some 150,000 residents of North Schleswig were thoroughly Danish and many bitterly resented their area's new status. After Wilhelm I, King of Prussia, became Emperor of Germany in 1871, the policy of Prussia in Slesvig was essentially that of Germany. This meant the abolition of the Danish language in the schools and the conscription of young Danish men for the German military. Between 1864 and 1920, when North Schleswig was returned to Denmark as a result of a plebiscite following Germany's defeat in World War I, some 50,000 North Slesvigers immigrated to the United States. Ironically, most of these Danes appear in census statistics as immigrants from Germany rather than Denmark.

Fascinating. Although I guess Great Granny Hansen wasn't too flipped about it because she married my thoroughly German-named great-grandfather from the other side of the border (maybe near Hamburg), Fritz Droege. My great aunt told my mother he was bad news, whatever that means. At any rate, Great Granny Hansen spoke Danish along with my grandfather and his brothers, and she told the Census man she was Danish when he came around asking. Regarding the Schleswig Question, perhaps they all had an extra helping of aquavit (just before prohibition) when the matter was finally put to rest, placing Eckernfoerde on the German side in 1920.

But as veritable proof that these must be the ancestors of my homeland, I learned that the official crest of the town of Eckernfoerde (pictured above) is the squirrel. The sort of squirrel that stands on top of a castle on top of water. This must be my spirit animal. Eckernfoerde roughly translates as squirrel (eckern) and fjord (foerde), which is a bit like a holler. Squirrel Holler.

What if there was a submarine from Eckenforde that was full of squirrels? I can't understand the Russian over-dub of this video, but I think they have zeroed in on the question:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Children's Hour

The xx are from the UK and have a minimalist thing happening so there was a reasonable chance they were going to infiltrate my music collection one way or another. Tonight, I went to the big show with a pal to see them play live. They made a very interesting first record that is terribly whispery and off-the-cuff cool. I was skeptical of seeing them at the gigantic venue. The only problem was the crowd, so much as I can tell.

I pointed out to my friend that we were likely the oldest people in the room and she pointed out that it means we would have more basic space in the 21 and over designated area. For those readers outside of Oregon, its a double wide ropeline institution here that gets the youngsters in the door and against the stage while the liquor and beer is dispensed in a separate area back from the stage a bit more. The bifurcated grownups area was just more obnoxious from what I could tell. I heard a young woman with high maintenance hair say that she really hasn't curled it to go out since she was on dance team. She said it like I might say I haven't really worn a vest with a short sleeve shirt since the last time I shot pool at Cafe San Marcos.

But the XX were soft and charming. There was a coordinated light show that went along with the music that took me right on back to seeing Disintegration Tour on a warm May night in Dallas. Stacatto guitars and black clothes and thought-about-it song craft.

XX- Basic Space


I'm in the midst of a mystery history hunt. My mother mentioned some years ago that my great grandparents lived in Portland for a little while and that my grandmother ran a hotel and coffee shop someplace near the train station. Finding out about that has been on my to-do list for some time and this week I finally started looking into it.

According to the 1910 Census Record, my great-grandparents spoke German and Danish, were recent immigrants, and had two children. One was Victor and the other was listed as "Baby Droege." That would have been my grandfather. When the census people came around on April 17, 1910, he was just 9 days old and maybe they hadn't settled on a name yet. They spoke Danish at home and had a hotel that was lodging some theater performers, a swedish family, and telegraph and telephone engineers on the day of the recording. The sheet says the place was on Sixth Street and there is no Sixth Street in Portland's downtown now. I am going to go to the historical society so that I can look at old maps and hopefully figure out just where this place was and the name of it. I also found out that my grandfather is buried in Portland at the Willamette National Cemetery, pictured above.
Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Astoria Scum River Bridge from Jason Eppink on Vimeo.

Astoria, Queens, not Astoria, Oregon.

Monday, April 5, 2010


I knew about Joan Jett when I was a kid at the Skate Ranch roller skating rink, but I did not know of The Runaways until later. Tonight I went to the movie premiere in Portland to benefit the Rock n Roll Camp for Girls and Cherrie Currie from the band was there, which was pretty brave since the movie is somewhat about her personal destruction and drugged out lameness, followed by getting clean and becoming a chainsaw artist. She did an interesting Q and A afterwards and the movie was okay but sort of uncomfortable because it was about exploiting 15 year old girls as sex objects. And in telling that story they used 15 year old girl actresses and exploited them as sex objects. But after the screening there was a raffle! The winner got to meet Joan Jett at a nearby indian casino later this month. Speaking of which, one of the ways I can definitely tell i am getting older is that suddenly the casinos are booking musicians that I would like to see. The AARP and a Liz Phair musical at Chinook Winds are next. I have never been to Las Vegas but could be talked into it if Guided by Voices was going to be there.