"The Grilled Cheese Incident of 2004"
September 14, 2004: To be honest I can't recall what exactly it was that sent me into town just before noon that Tuesday. That's a pity because one thing that still works pretty well for me is my memory. Whatever it was though, was really not important to the story and fairly mundane, like returning a library book. Anyway I found myself heading west on West End Avenue driving back to the house when I had an impulse to pull into Tower Records. Now one thing I pay pretty close attention to these days is impulses and hunches. They rarely let me down, and have provided untold adventures over the past decade.
So I'm sort of browsing through stuff at Tower, not really focusing and about to leave when I remembered Jamie Hartford's CD. As I was walking out the door with it I noticed a fellow standing there by the outside trash can struggling trying to open the shrink wrap on his new digital treasure. I mentioned to him "They sure make it hard to get at what matters don't they?" His glare told me he wasn't in any mood for wisecracks. Mine peeled right open with a single pass of the car key over the cellophane. I slipped it in the car CD player and the Jamie Hartford Band started right in groovin. As I pulled out of the lot I coudn't help but notice that guy was still struggling to the tune of "Who Am I To Change Your Mind". I think I got partly through to the title song which was written by Rodney Crowell & Guy Clark when I arrived home at about 1 PM.
Now I hadn't had anything to speak of for breakfast other than coffee and was getting kind of hungry. I put on Stuff That Works in the "Dodi Knapp Bimini Blue Big Fat Slob Boom Box" that's in the kitchen, Dodi Knapp is not the brand, He is the reason I have this certain player (it's a Memorex) and figures strongly into all of what happened next which will soon be revealed. Getting back to the food though and my growing need for it, I first thought of Peanut Butter and Jelly but we were out of milk so that was out. Looking through the fridge I pulled out a block of Kraft Extra Sharp NY Cheddar and proceeded to make some grilled cheese in the oven broiler. I had two slices of bread in there along with some Guldens Spicy Brown Mustard underneath it and McCormacks Paprika speckling the tops like freckles on an Irish maiden. Looked good and I bet was gonna taste better in matter of minutes... and the JH Band played on
Now before I tell you what happened next , I need to tell you a little about Marie Hartford as in retrospect I am fairly well convinced she might of had some unexplicable involvement in with what happened next. I only say this because I have had so many "para-normal" experiences over the last decade I tend to think of them as quite normal and what happened next seems to fit Marie's style. Especially after knowing what happened the first time that John brought home Shel Silverstein for dinner ! But I could be wrong...
The longest one on one conversation I ever had with Marie was the afternoon of John's memorial after it was officially over. We sat at her picnic table for about an hour and talked of many things. Some which we had in common like our dislike of the late Bill Monroe as a person (not an artist) but this certainly was not a day to speak ill of the dead, she just let me know that although John thought the world of Bill she couldn't stand him as a person (not an artist ) so hold your calls & e mails. It just re inforced my impression of her that I had formed when we first met in 1982. Marie was not afraid to speak her mind and was quite independant Thank You...kind of like Theresa Hienz Kerry but without the ketchup & pickle dough
Their Wedding Day December 28, 1980
"LET THEM EAT CAKE"
That was another Marie who said that wasn't it? .... Marie Antoinette I believe
GRANDPA & GRANDMA AT CHRISTMAS, CHRISTMAS WAS AN EXTRA SPECIAL HARTFORD HOLIDAY
along with the MAIN EVENT It also combined John's Birthday & their Wedding Day they usually celebrated with three day house party & jam session like the one below
That's Roy Acuff Getting Hartfordnaded In The Living Room They Say As Much As He Enjoyed The Music . He REALLY Liked Hangin' Out In Marie's Kitchen
OK.....BACK TO MY KITCHEN & MY GRILLED CHEESE
About the time I slid my lunch in the broiler , track 5 came up on the Dodi Knapp, Bimini Blue Big Fat Slob Boom Box.
It set my mind into multi tasking....as much as I was paying attention to how they were rendering it, the big question was ... Were They Really Going To Do The 4th Verse? I already knew that my being in the credits was reduced to a "Thanks to all our families, friends, and fans___you know who you are" not that that really mattered. Because if they did actually sing it..I knew how it got on there, and as I said before I always wanted to be on a Hartford album.
When I heard Jamie launch into the 4th verse ....I had an almost instantaneous brainstorm Eureka moment.... "I gotta bring it out to John and play it for him ! ".... at that very same time I opened the oven door to withdraw my molten cheddar lunch, that I was really looking forward to. As soon as the tray had cleared the oven...the slice ON THE RIGHT side went straight up in the air about a foot and a half, banked a hard right,turned over and came face down on the floor SPLAT! I was so startled at the sight I almost dropped the tray. The first thing that entered my mind was DAMN...that was the last piece of bread! The second was let it cool before you try and clean it up. I honestly hadn't given a seconds thought to what caused it to do that.....
Until after my light lunch that is..... while I'm thinking about how to tell you what went through my mind next, take a few seconds out and listen the 4th verse... BTW If you don't have the "Stuff That Works" CD yet, and your a Hartford Fan click on the Earwave Site or head out to your local record shop and get yourself one...Now John was John and Jamie is Jamie, but musically speaking The Hartford Apple did not fall too far from the tree.
Now at Marie's funeral in Jan of 2002 Jamie was no where to be seen. I thought he may of been out on the road and could not get back in time. Marie's death was very sudden as she was only diagnosed about a week before she passed away. I really didn't ask where Jamie was, and last thing I want to do here and now is cause any trouble with any Hartford or Barrett family survivors. Word got back to me that Jamie and Marie had a major falling out after John died. It does seem that deaths in the family always seem to have a way of bringing problems to the surface. In my own case, when our Mother died in February of 1985 it was the last either my sister or me would hear from our brother...he just withdrew...no words,no falling out,no nothing, but any attempts by either of us to contact him were met with silence.
I had sort of forgot about Marie and Jamie and really would not have connected their troubles to the grilled cheese incident, had it not been for a similar deal with the idea of playing a song for someone who is not physically around anymore. The "Dodi Knapp Bimini Blue Boom Box Big Fat Slob" deal started way back in 1935 between Ernest Hemingway and Joseph Knapp aka "Dodi". That was 12 years before I was born. It was very odd,somewhat spectacular what happened to me in October of 2003 to which there was a witness present. Even that was preceeded by other "incidents" that have happened to me over the decade of my getting a "bummer" diagnosis from the docs and my writing about other people who were either deceased or had passed away while I was writing about them. The one thing they all have in common is a song was attached to the incident. Now I make no claims to have any kind of powers or contact with the unknown,other side,call it what you will but I sure have had some strange things happen with songs, dead people and me over the last ten years starting back in 1994 with the death of Axel Anderson a race driver I was chronicling in my first book. I had a reluctant and somewhat terrified witness with that deal, but there was absolutely nothing to be scared about... it was just stuff no one can really explain and if your open to it I find it happens with more frequency (at least to me) than you would imagine. Trying to analyze it can be fun, but I don't think there's anyway to really know what it all means. It's like all art...open for interpertation.
CAN I GET A WITNESS?
Basically what happened last fall is this. When he was a teenager Nat Saunders a Bimini native, witnessed a fist fight between Hemingway & Knapp. He wrote a song about it called The Big Fat Slob which he has been performing in his bar there ever since. I heard about the song but never got to actually hear it until 2003 when a record company in Chicago went down to Bimini and recorded Nat. No one knows how old Nat really is...his nephew told me he is probably in his late 80's or early 90's. Anyway during a research trip last year I decided to take the CD to Dodi Knapp's grave in Southampton, Long Island.I was there on the actual day and date Oct 23 that he passed away in 1952 . I bought that CD Player specifically for this as no one on Long Island had one handy. Or perhaps they thought it might get struck by lightning. Anyway I steered into a Radio Shack in Shirley, LI then headed east to the Hamptons. I had a friend ride out there with me and as we pulled into the cemetary, it started to snow. Pretty unusual weather for October. October 23 is also Dodi's sister Claire's birthday 1889-1959 and she is buried next to him. To be fair and balanced, cover all bases and to just be nice, I also brought along the recording of their grandmothers beautiful hymn "Blessed Assurance". The CD you see in the photo above went flying off the player over to Claire's headstone. There was no wind and there are six foot hedges around the entire Knapp Plot. I looked at my friend and he looked at me....we both saw it, but had no explanation for it. Had I not had a witness, I probably would of never told anyone about it.
So now it's September 15, 2004 and I'm thinking well if I go out to the Hartford's to play John this song I better take someone with me. I actually called a friend but then decided ... Hey I don't really need anyone to witness anything. I'm not going there looking for anything to happen, what I'm going there for is the hope that perhaps some way, some how John can hear his son sing his song (I don't really know if he can, but I'd like to believe somehow he can and if Marie is not happy about it, she has to also know I'm not there to agitate her. I also feel comfortable enough that she knows I mean no harm. So I decide to go it alone when the mood strikes,and the weather is nice.
Well the mood struck on September 21 the following Tuesday. And the weather could of not been better. The fact that I had a week to think about it I also decided to bring a song or two for Roy Huskey who is also buried in Spring Hill, along with many others from the music industry, Roy Acuff, Hank Snow,etc.
Instead of Song For Roy which is somewhat chilling if you knew Roy and awfully sad, I brought Slap City a song about the upright bass and the music it made behind all the rock a billy's in the '50's. Roy and I recorded it at those early Elvis sessions in 1988. Roy is in a mausoleum building and I got to admit had someone else entered the building, I might of felt a little self concious (might of got run off too) but it played all the way through twice and I just thought a whole lot about him while it did.
TAKE A RIDE BACK TO OLD "SLAP CITY" WITH
Roy & The Boys , Russ Pahl, Roy Yeager, Joe Diffie & Me
Its just down the road about 200 miles west of Nashville
And then it was time to go down by the river....
Marie had the Gazebo built so people would hopefully come by and visit. She also landscaped it.
The River Is Just Beyond Those Trees
Across the bottom of the stone it says "Ever Gentle On Our Minds"
There was 15 cents (a dime & five pennies ) on Marie's side The Right Side BTW
(It was the right side grilled cheese that flipped over on the floor )
I had a Penny in my Pocket and placed it over on John's side.
I'm Still Here was followed by another song "Whole World" that seemed to be just right for the occasion.
I'm happy to say everything went just fine out there.