Hit Like A Hammer

Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions were a short live jug band that included Jerry Garcia, Pigpen and Bob Weir.  That group formed in the Spring of 1964 and played through the Summer of that year with the line-up of Jerry Garcia on guitar, kazoo, banjo and vocals, Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan played harmonica, footcrasher, a hi-hat cymbal and sang vocals, Bob Weir played guitar, washtub bass, jug, kazoo, and sang vocals, Dave Parker played washboard, kazoo, tin cup, and vocals, Tom Stone played banjo, mandolin, guitar, vocals and Mike Garbett played washtub bass, guitar, and kazoo.

The Warlocks were formed in Palo Alto at the end of 1964 when the original members of Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions decided to plug in and try rock and roll at the urging of McKernan, as the Beatles and the Stones were doing good with this, instead of continuing with their folk music.  They added a rhythm section that included Dana Morgan Jr. on bass and Bill Kreutzmann on drums.  Dana owned a music store so the band got to use the instruments and amplifiers that they otherwise couldn’t have afforded.  Their camaraderie was strong, because they all lived together in a house in Height Ashbury, San Francisco.  Their first performance was in May of 1965 at Magoo’s Pizza in Menlo Park. Dana couldn’t keep up with both the music store and the band, so Phil Lesh who was an old friend of Garcia’s stepped in one night to play bass.  Bill Kreutzmann was taking drum lessons at the music store, and at this time they were essentially the Grateful Dead, although they didn’t actually change the name for a couple of months.

In early 1965, the Warlocks were playing a mixture of folk, blues, and rock and roll in San Francisco, which eventually melted into their own unique sound.  They began to attend parties thrown by Ken Kesey, and they performed at what was to become known as the first ‘Acid Test’ (ritual gathering to experiment with drugs) in November 1965. Garcia became known as ‘Captain Trips’, as the Acid Test planted the seeds from which the Grateful Dead grew like Jack’s beanstalk.  This event proved to be the most profound building block of the band’s early days.  Jerry Garcia said, “The whole world just went kablooey”, recalling his first experiences being stoned on acid.  The second Acid Test was held on Dec. 4, with the third set for the 11th.  In between those dates, the Warlocks had agreed to perform a benefit concert for the San Francisco Mime Troupe.

The benefit was turning into a genuine happening.  The bill also included Jefferson Airplane, the Great Society, John Handy Quintet, the Mystery Trend and the Gentlemen’s Band.  Because of the attendance of a different benefit show the band had recently played, and the buzz surrounding this one, promoter Bill Graham decided to hold this event in a larger venue, one that would soon become legendary.  Graham secured the use of the Fillmore auditorium, and nearly all the pieces were in place.

Phil Lesh thought that their group should change their name from the Warlocks, because there were two other bands also using that name, one in El Paso and one in New York.  In the end, neither of those other bands kept the name Warlocks, they switched to ZZ Top and The Velvet Underground, respectively.  The Warlocks were over at Phil’s house, when Garcia opened a massive two volume old Britannica World Language Dictionary (however others describe this as the Funk & Wagnalls Folklore Dictionary and others say it was an Oxford Dictionary).  I guess it really does not matter, as it all amounts to Garcia focusing on the words ‘Grateful Dead’ that he saw.  This chance encounter was one of those moments for him, it was like everything else went blank, and just sort of oozed away, and there it was GRATEFUL DEAD in big, black letters edged all around in gold, a stunning combination of words blasting out at him.  Garcia said that seeing the words Grateful Dead on the page was astonishing and truly weird, but he found it to be really powerful.  So Garcia said, “How about Grateful Dead?”, and that was it.  Everyone recognized that power, and the name struck a chord of mythic resonance, with a contemporary ring, echoing the past and rippling the future.  Phil Lesh remembered that it hit him like a hammer and it seemed to describe their group so perfectly that he started jumping up and down, shouting, “That’s it!  That’s it!”  Kreutzmann and Weir were more skeptical, but Garcia and Lesh’s relentless enthusiasm banished any qualms, and in December, the Grateful Dead made their formal debut.

The dictionary entry read something like this:

GRATEFUL DEAD: The motif of a cycle of folk tales which begin with the hero coming upon a group of people ill-treating or refusing to bury the corpse of a man who had died without paying his debts. He gives his last penny, either to pay the man’s debts or to give him a decent burial.  Within a few hours he meets with a travelling companion who aids him in some impossible task, gets him a fortune or saves his life.  The story ends with the companion disclosing himself as the man whose corpse the hero had befriended.  The name has also been attributed to this quote, though it’s generally believed that they came across this one later:
“We now return our souls to the creator,
as we stand on the edge of eternal darkness.
Let our chant fill the void
in order that others may know.
In the land of the night
the ship of the sun
is drawn by the grateful dead.”

Graham was not happy about the new name, because they were already an established band called the Warlocks.  Graham told them that the Grateful Dead gave him the creeps.  Bassist Phil Lesh told Graham, “I’m sorry.  This is the decision we’ve made.  Here’s what you do, put ‘Formerly the Warlocks’ in the space where the poster picture would go.”  This would be the first in a long series of clashes between Graham and the Dead for many years to come.  The name Grateful Dead is a reflection of the universal belief that we should honor the bonds of humanity, and the underlying idea of the Grateful Dead motif resonated strongly with the Haight-Ashbury counterculture.  At its simplest, the idea expresses karma, reflected in the Deadhead mantra “what goes around, comes around”, or more simply, give with no thought of reward, and you will be rewarded.

It is interesting to contemplate the simple serendipity of Garcia’s discovery, about a hero who meets a group of people who refuse to bury the corpse of a loafer.  When this hero pays the debts of the deceased, he is rewarded with good fortune and the ripples that act of gratitude became the origin of the Grateful Dead.  Choosing that entry placed the Grateful Dead’s art and achievement alongside the deeper meanings and implications of the folk motif itself.  The imagery evoked by those two words has had a huge impact on pop culture and it is quite fitting that the music has never stopped.

Written for FOWC with Fandango – Grateful.

Mental Care Institution

The psychiatric hospital was secluded away on the edge of a lake surrounded by hillsAn old castle was converted into this state of the art insane asylum.  Dr. Joseph B. Strange was the director of this mental facility and he believed in treating all the patients with cannabis, till they developed acatalepsy.  He thought that since human knowledge never amounts to certainty, but only to probability, that treatment should go no further than to appear as being a therapy and verisimilitude was acceptable, as long as the patients were happy.  The only bad side effect of using the cannabis seemed to be the irrational disorder known as eleutheromania that certain long term patients developed.  These patients that craved their freedom would try to escape every now and then saying that when they thought they were being followed by a moon shadow, so they didn’t like being cooped up.

This situation always got worse when there was a full moon, and if a patient was caught trying to escape the loony bin, then they would have to spend three days in a padded cell.  Today the institution would hold a beauty pageant for teenage girls between 15-19 years, allowing the budding beauties from ward C to compete against each other to see who was superior.  Dr. Strange saw merit in holding these beauty pageants, as he felt it was good for their personal development and it let them shed their innocence.  Each girl was allowed to dance to their own original music and they were given five minutes to say how they would improve the world.  Crazy Kate really wanted to win this year, so during her speech she started to hike her skirt all the way up.  I guess it is poetic justice that Dr. Strange was arrested after the show and his license was taken away so he could never practice psychiatry again.

Written for Sheryl’s Daily Word Prompt – Superior, for the Daily Spur prompt – Innocence, for FOWC with Fandango – Poetic, for July Monthly Writing Prompts – Budding beauties, for Ragtag Community – Hike, for Reena’s Exploration Challenge #95 – Acatalepsy and Eleutheromania, for Sue Vincent’s July 4, 2019 Thursday Photo Prompt – Castle, for Rachel Poli I Read I Write I Create – Time To Write Creative Writing prompt Random Words 16 – Shadow, Bin, Merit and for Word of the Day Challenge Prompt – Original.

Plight Of The Bumblebee

The American Bumblebee is a critically endangered species.  Many bumblebee species are rapidly declining, even though they are important pollinators needed to grow crops including apples, tomatoes, pumpkins, blueberries and legumes, as well as countless types of trees, shrubs, and wildflowers.  This species is at risk of extinction and it’s currently not protected in any way despite the drastic decline.  Bumblebees pollinate many plants and crops and they’re particularly effective because they “buzz-pollinate”, vibrating their wings fast to release lots of pollen.  To extract the pollen necessary for fertilization, the blossom needs to be shaken vigorously, and bumblebees are experts at vibrating the flowers to shake out the pollen.  Their large size means that they can fly in weather that keeps honeybees, which pollinate some of the same plants, in their hives.  Honeybees stay in their hives on rainy days and also when the temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.  Many scientists are focused on the decline of honey bees, but relatively few study bumblebees.

High losses are alarming because bumblebees are the most ecologically dominant and economically valuable group of wild pollinators.  Human-induced drivers of bee declines include climate change, land degradation, and pesticide exposure.  Natural threats also lurk and are reminiscent of the 1956 classic horror film Invasion of the Body Snatchers coming from parasites known as conopid flies.  Conopids aggressively intercept foraging bumblebees and insert their eggs inside the bees’ abdomen, which becomes a bizarre nightmare for the bumblebee as it internally consumed.

Research found the American bumblebee is on the decline in parts of the United States and the American bumblebee is also declining in Canada, as recent stats show that they have decreased by 70% from historical rates.  Scientists don’t yet know exactly what is causing the bee population to decline.  Bumblebees, like the closely-related honey bees, can activate their hive mates to forage for nectar.  However, little is known about pollen foraging activation and colony-level responses of how a bumblebee colony regulates pollen collection.  I always wondered if bees buzz because they are orgulous, showing off to the others how much nectar they have collected.

The bumblebee is familiar to everyone, being large, plump, and fuzzy, having black and yellow stripes.  They have relatively small wings when compared to their large bodies, making one wonder at their ability to fly.  To overcome this, the wings move in a complicated figure-eight pattern that provides more lift because of re-used airflow.  The amiable, jolly bumblebee is in a death spiral now, although its plight has not seeped into the public’s consciousness yet and this must not continue being ignored.  An insect Armageddon is under way, which is the result of a multiple whammy of environmental impacts including pollution, habitat changes, overuse of pesticides, and global warming.  The decline of our creepy crawlers is unsettling as sometimes things slip away so gradually that you don’t realize they’ve disappeared.  Even the jumping June bugs seem to be disappearing, maybe because there aren’t enough natural areas for them to thrive in or because we’ve sprayed them to near extinction.

Written for Sheryl’s Daily Word Prompt – Activation, for the Daily Spur prompt – Horror, for FOWC with Fandango – Stats, for July Monthly Writing Prompts – Jumping June bugs, for Ragtag Community – Orgulous, for GC and SueW Weekly Word Prompt – Rainy days and for Word of the Day Challenge Prompt – Jolly.

Cupcake Affair

The wheel, the compass, paper, gunpowder, the printing press, the light bulb, the steam engine, the internal combustion engine, the telephone and the airplane were all great inventions and fire and electricity are also great discoveries, but cupcakes in my opinion must rank up there with all of these things.  Cupcakes have been around since the late 1700’s.   The first mention of the cupcake can be traced as far back as 1796, when a recipe notation of “a cake to be baked in small cups” was written in American Cookery by Amelia Simms.  The earliest documentation of the term “cupcake” was in “Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats” in 1828 in Eliza Leslie’s Receipts cookbook.  The cupcake rose to prominence because they saved preparation time and they weren’t as likely to burn in hearth ovens.

My name is Kyle and my friends call me the cupcake kingpin, because of my love for this desert.  I went to the annual Cupcake Extravaganza which was held at the Javits Center in NYC and that is where I met this lovely woman named Chris, who shared my excitement for cupcakes.  More than 2,000 different cupcakes were featured and our eyes met while we were both looking at the espresso cupcakes.  I was uncertain about approaching her, as I saw an engagement ring on her finger, which made me act dilatory.  I lost my nerve seeing that engagement ring on her finger, but I said, “I am glad that you saved one for me” just to start a conversation that was free and playful.  She replied, “Uh, I didn’t save this cupcake for you” and I responded, “then why does it have my name on it?”

She smiled at me and said that she did not see my name written on the cupcake and she had no idea what my name was.  I introduced myself and told her that I was a baker from Milwaukee and that I have always been fond of cupcakes.  She told me that her name was Chris and that all of her friends called her Cupcake Chris because she worked in a cupcake shop in Detroit.  She said that this was her first time being here in NYC and she was enjoying herself seeing all the sights and going to some Broadway plays.  I asked her if she was here with her fiancée as I pointed to her ring.  Chris told me that she was single and that she only wears that ring to confuse men that try to pick her up.  She said that she was open to dating, but it’s certainly not her top priority and the ring is helpful to keep random guys away, who try to approach her.

I turned our conversation back to the cupcake, by saying, “Cupcakes seem uniquely suited for almost any occasion, being portion-controlled, portable, easy to make in batches, open to lots of decorating strategies, tasty and they can be inexpensive to make.”  Chris said, “Did you know that where I work, we make a nightly batch in advance and freeze them.  The cupcakes freeze well and defrost quickly, and we just set them out for an hour and then add frosting for a simple, quick dessert.  Sometimes at home, I make a cannabis strain cupcake, which is so good it is to die for.  One day after eating a batch of these special cupcakes, I had a reflection about my Dad who used to call me his cupcake, because he considered me to be non-threatening and adorable.”

Written for Sheryl’s Daily Word Prompt – Dilatory, for the Daily Spur prompt – Reflection, for FOWC with Fandango – Kingpin, for July Monthly Writing Prompts – Espresso cupcakes, for Ragtag Community – Strain and for Word of the Day Challenge Prompt – Nightly.

Unstoppable Force

A man invented a remarkable spear and a shield for fighting the dragon.  He then developed a deceive strategy to try and sell these items.  He built a granite firewall that was capable of stopping the flow path of any fire produced from his imitation fire-breathing dragon which he named Puff.  His dragon was pretty cool as it actually moved, flapped its wings and blew fire from a torch out of its mouth.  Many people stopped by to see his amazing creature, but he always became barking mad when they showed more interest in his dragon than his spear and shield.

When people stopped by, he would say, “Behold these tools that I made to protect you from the beast and give you the ability to slay him.”  At first the people thought that he was being pretentious, that is until they saw how well his shield would work against fire and also protect against a dragon claw, as well as defend from all spear attacks.  They started to ask how good his spear was, and he would argue that his spear could pierce any shield.  Then, one person asked him what would happen if he were to take his spear to strike his shield and he started to mutter that it would be just like when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.

This person tried to fluster the inventor, so he picked up the spear and just as he was about to hurl it at the shield, he slipped and took a tumble.  The inventor did not want to press his luck by letting this man use his spear or his shield and seeing either one fail, so he went back to his office so his new products would not be traded for trouble.

Written for Sheryl’s Daily Word Prompt – Behold, for the Daily Spur prompt – Strategy, for FOWC with Fandango – Firewall, for July Monthly Writing Prompts – Traded for trouble, for Ragtag Community – Flow, for Word of the Day Challenge Prompt – Dragon and for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Wordle #141, hosted by Yves.


Now I lay me down to sleep
Twilight dreams begin to creep
Frankenstein says hay
Where do the children play
A noise went bump in the night
And gave me such a fright
It made me writhe and shriek
The sick puppy started to reek
A match made in hell
Had that awful smell

Written for Sheryl’s Daily Word Prompt – Noise, for the Daily Spur prompt – Play, for FOWC with Fandango – Writhe, for July Monthly Writing Prompts – Twilight dreams, for Ragtag Community – Sick and for Word of the Day Challenge Prompt – Match.

The Dangling Participle

Cool beans, but first we must know what a participle is.  A participle will tell you something about a noun.  A participle is a word that is formed from a verb and used as an adjective, or a noun and it can also be used to make compound verb forms.  A participle is a form of a verb that is used in a sentence to modify a noun, noun phrase, verb, or verb phrase, and it plays a role similar to an adjective or adverb.  It is one of the types of nonfinite verb forms.  The two main types of participles are the present participle and the past participle.  A present participle is created by adding the suffix “ing” to the base form of a verb.  In the sentence, “All members of the winning team got trophies”, the present participle winning describes the noun team.  A past participle is created by adding the suffix “ed” to the base form of a verb and it is used in forming perfect and passive tenses and sometimes as an adjective.  These are a bit trickier, as some past participles remain the same as the base forms of irregular verbs, like set and cut, because in English we do not say seted or cuted.  Past participles can also end with -d, -t, -en, or –n, besides –ed.   In the sentence, “My heart is wracked with sorrow”, the past participle wracked describes the noun heart.

The easiest way to tell the difference between a verb and a past or present participle is see how the word is used in the sentence.  If it is used as an adjective, it is a participle.  If it is used as the verb of the subject of the sentence, then it is a simple verb.  The perfect participle is a compound verb form that depends on the past participle for its forms, which allows us to use a verb as an adjective.  The perfect participle indicates a completed action and it is formed by putting the present participle ‘having’ (gerund form of have) in front of the past participle.  In the sentence, “Having saved the cat, the firefighter felt happy”, the word ‘having’ is coupled with the past participle saved.  This sentence contains two clauses and the first (the perfect participle clause) influences, and is before, the second.  When the fireman saved the cat, this resulted in the fireman feeling happy, thus a prior action influenced a later action.

Next up is the participle phrase which will always function as an adjective, adding description to the sentence.  Participial phrases function as adjectives that modify the subjects or other nouns in sentences.  In the sentence, “Wearing his new suit, Bill went to work” the participial phrase wearing his new suit acts like an adjective to describe the subject of the sentence, which is Bill.  They can include words besides the participle, such as prepositions, pronouns, and nouns.  The way they modify the subject isn’t as straightforward as a single adjective modifying a single noun, but the participial phrase is still modifying a noun or noun phrase being the subject.

Participle phrases are the most common modifier that will dangle.  A dangling modifier or misplaced modifier is a type of ambiguous grammatical construct whereby a grammatical modifier could be misinterpreted as being associated with a word other than the one intended, or with no particular word at all.  When you dangle a participle, it means your participial phrase is hanging there in your sentence with no proper subject in sight.  They hate that being left out to dry, or put out in left field just as much as you hate it when a friend stands you up for lunch.  The modifier is misplaced, if you don’t control the distance separates a modifier and its target.  The participle must modify a noun or a pronoun that is capable of performing or receiving the participle’s action.

A dangling modifier walks into a bar.  After finishing a drink, the bartender asks it to leave.  In that previous sentence, there is no clear grammatical subject, so it is hard to determine who finished the drink and it certainly wasn’t the bartender.  Metropolis Police negotiated with him, minutes before being shot dead by marksmen.  If the police were shot dead, then why were they involved in negotiating.  You have to assume that a rebel was shot dead, but he is never mentioned in the story.  It would have been nice if the police tried to capture him, instead of letting the marksmen kill him.

Returning to our camp after a day of salmon fishing, a bear had eaten our food.  Since we returned to the camp and not the bear, this sentence can be corrected in either of the two following ways.  You can place the word that the participial phrase modifies next to the participial phrase.  “Returning to our camp after a day of salmon fishing, we discovered (or some other verb) that a bear had eaten our food.”  The other way would be to turn the participial phrase into an adverb clause.  “When we returned to our camp after a day of salmon fishing, a bear had eaten our food.”

There is a whole lot more to know about participles and how to use them properly than I can cover in this post.  I am not an expert on the English language and it would take an eternity to explain everything there is to know on this subject, but I hope that this helped some of you and that now you have a decent understanding of what a participle is.  Tomorrow we will discuss other verb forms like gerunds and infinitives (nope just kidding).

Written for Sheryl’s Daily Word Prompt – Eternity, for the Daily Spur prompt – Metropolis, for FOWC with Fandango – Rebel, for Ragtag Community – Camp and for Word of the Day Challenge Prompt – Capture.