A hippie's hippie from Umbilo
Baa baa black dog, have you any fleas?
Yes sir, yes sir, behind my knees.
THE lines come not from one of his "zinc" albums (no gold, no platinum) or one of his hundreds of gigs. He was entertaining the children of a musician friend now living in Los Angeles, on a visit to their home. (They fell about laughing). The lines somehow capture the mercurial temperament of Syd Kitchen, the lad from Umbilo who became a household name in local folk music, suffered unbelievable hardship in daily life and never gave up.
It's all brought together in a biography, Scars That Shine, by Donve Lee (Tracey McDonald Publishers) that takes us from Kitchen's early days in Umbilo, son of a poorly paid railwayman, his dogged pursuit, against all the odds, of a hippie-style career in music until his strangely heroic death from lung cancer almost exactly seven years ago.
Kitchen operated in the most difficult circumstances. There were the apartheid security police constantly leaning on local folk musicians for the subversive "communist filth" they were supposedly pouring forth. There were the cultural boycotts in Britain and the US because of apartheid (spot the contradiction), which cut them off, deprived them of any overseas exposure and turned them in on themselves. And there was the almost total lack of interest by the local recording industry in local artists, preferring to market overseas work (spot the other contradiction).
Under the circumstances it's perhaps understandable that Kitchen should have taken refuge in a barely believable intake of drugs of all kinds, topped up by a steady daily smoking of zol. This was a hippie's hippie. One absorbs it all with a sense of exhaustion.
Some respite came with the end of apartheid, but it was too late for Kitchen's generation. And in his personal life, whisky and vodka took over from drugs. Yet he played on.
Heroic death? Against all medical advice, Kitchen flies to Scotland to keep a recording arrangement. Then he's playing at the Catalina, a physical wreck. Then soon it's all over. In his own lyrics:
Sometimes we fly too close to the sun
Sometimes we climb too high
Sometimes it's over before it's begun
And there's nothing left but to ask why …
ASTONISHING stuff continues to emerge from the Trump presidency. The Donald uses Twitter to accuse his predecessor, Barack Obama, of ordering the wiretapping of his phone at Trump Towers, in New York, during the election campaign.
Obama flatly denies it. The FBI (who would have done the tapping) deny it.
Yet a fundi on spook stuff says on TV that the FBI do routinely wiretap such people as the Russian ambassador. Now if the Russian ambassador should have phoned Trump Towers there could well have been somebody listening…
You couldn't make it up.
Meanwhile, Andy Borowitz reports in the New Yorker that "in a frenzy of early-morning activity" last Saturday, President Trump ordered every telephone in the White House to be covered with tin foil.
Once that installation was complete, he ordered the Secret Service to check every room in the White House to make sure Barack Obama wasn't still there.
I suppose Borowitz did make that up, he's a satirist. But the rest? The mind, senor, she boggles.
IS COLONEL Sanders a colonial? So asks investment analyst Dr James Greener in his latest grumpy newsletter.
"No matter what the economic environment might be, businesses that provide catering and clothing to political parties must be doing well. Event organisers understand clearly that policies and rhetoric are rarely enough to ensure a decent turnout and that hand-outs and feeding are expected.
"Every day there are pictures of folk wearing garments that reflect their allegiances and the purpose and date of their current exciting gathering.
"Later in the day either pieces of a brightly decorated cake the size of a house or buckets of deep-fried battered chicken from Kentucky signal the end of proceedings. It is puzzling to outsiders that government didn't play a more prominent role in the job-destroying squabble about the chicken industry."
SHAKESPEARE walks into a bar and asks for a beer.
Barman: "I can't serve you. You're bard."
Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theatre.