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July 30, 2007

Maurice "Mo" Lubee

My Mt. 'Rockwell' Childhood

My name is Maurice Lubee, living in Florida for the past 30 years, but was raised in the Norman Rockwell era of Mount Carmel. We moved into our new house on Sleeping Giant Drive in 1948 and enjoyed an incomparable view of the Sleeping Giant, so good in fact the Chamber of Commerce official photo was taken from our yard.

On Sunday mornings, the crystal-clear bells of our Mt. Carmel Congregational Church would peal welcoming encouragement as I trudged downhill across the open fields to attend Sunday morning worship. Our Boy Scout Troop also met for years in the church building next doo , before adopting the roomier amenities of the Mt. Carmel Grammar School gym.

How well I remember Mt Carmel Grammar School on School Street, just off Whitney Avenue. I can still feel the warmth and hear the creaking of those iron steam radiators as Mr. Trapee, our beloved custodian, sent heat up to warm our classrooms on winter days, as his wife labored preparing lunch in the school cafeteria. After school, officer Danny Liston would safely guide us across Whitney Avenue as we sometimes stopped at Harry's Super Market for an ice cream on the way home.

As seasons changed and summer heated the days, some of us boys would occasionally skip school and hike the short distance down to the Mill River where we had a pool, created by partially damming the small river with rocks and debris. After school we would frequently walk the short block to the Rexall Drugstore, run by Charlie Matas, and enjoy a vanilla Coke created by a real soda jerk at the store's soda fountain. Or catch up on Batman's activities at the funny book rack.

Then there was the time I set off a "2-incher" in fifth-grade. Back in those days, they didn't realize this was a case of "possession of explosives," so all I had to deal with was Mrs. Labelle, the principal, and her special little leather strap that my parents had endorsed as a training resource.

And the teachers at Mt. Carmel Grammar, such wonderful caring teachers they were. There was Miss Picket, Mrs. Metric, Miss Rich (my first crush), Mrs. Danzillio, Mrs. Gherke and my all-time favorite, Mrs. Danielson. They cared and they taught us well. I didn't always learn well, but they taught well.

We had a myriad of ponds, rivers and woods to explore. Summer vacation was a glorius event. There was Big Clark's Pond, Little Clark's Pond, the Figure Eight Pond, the Mill River and The Locks. Many lazy summer days were spent fishing for "sunnies," bullheads and later for bass and trout, with an occasional bike ride up to "the dam" near the head of the Sleeping Giant to jump off the rocks into the clear, cold water of the river behind the Twin Spruce Market.

Winters found those same ponds serving as impromptu afterschool hockey rinks, and weekend evenings often found a bonfire and skating party in full swing.

Every year at Halloween, we would all do doorbell night, then there was "trick or treat night" sans razor blades, and the big Halloween costume contest in the Mt. Carmel school gym. Afterwards, the volunteer firemen always set up cider and doughnuts on tables outside the firehouse in the schoolyard. Doughnuts came from Connecticut Donut Company, where more than one late-shift police officer was known to steal a few winks in the wee hours of the morning. And cider from apples was donated by Henry Engelhardt, manager of the Agricultural Experimental Station Farm on Kenwood Street. The doughnuts and cider always tasted special on a crisp, clear Halloween Night.

After the invigorating and increasingly chilly autumn nights of October then November, the smell of burning maple leaves gradually changed to the crunch of snow underfoot. Winter would set in and often create a winter wonderland, allowing us to use our Flexible Flyer sleds on the open areas of the cemetery hill stretching from Evergreen Avenue down to Whitney Avenue. The cemetery was sparsely used at that time, and we reasoned those buried there would probably enjoy having kids around enjoying themselves. When it got dark early on those winter nights, the old Dickerman House in the woods near the bottom of the hill did look a little forboding.

Many afternoons after school we would all meet at Ray Andrews' house, which was a former sewing machine factory with a big yard on Evergreen Avenue. At the top of the hill, we'd play whatever sport was in season. Mal Johnson, Mickey Loscalzo, Bobby Finn, John McKay, Bobby Weidenmann, Bill Masterson, Ray Andrews and myself were often in attendance for pickup baseball or football games. Bicycles -- everyone had an English bike -- were our transportation of choice and we rode them here, there and everywhere, even to school which supplied bike racks.

We rode with a freedom that today's kids can only dream of, and with an impunity from the security concerns facing today's kids.

Yes, Mount Carmel in the late '40s and '50s was a wonderful place to be a kid, a wonderful place to grow up in, a place exactly like Norman Rockwell immortalized in his Saturday Evening Post cover series. The kids I shared this wonderful experience with in grammar school included, in no special order: Carol Willis, Pete Wolonik, Patty Davin, Teresa Longobardi, Judy Engstrom, Lois Beyrle, Malcolm Johnson, Billy Masterson, Clinton Brooks, David Cleaver, Al Hobson, Don Clark, Gary Groman, Bobby Weidenmann, Letittia DeMaio, Richey Oertel, Abbie Mueller, Americo Sciarra, David Wright, Foster Clark, Jimmy Harrison, Tommy Cavalieri, Joan Lawlor, Charlie Jacobs, Barbara Griswald, Bobby Frazier, John McKay, Teddy Lundmark, Bill Lewis, Paul Hinman, Bobby Finn, Ray Andrews, David Hunter, Denny Ketchum and Sandy Wheatley. Apologies to the many others who meant just as much to me, but require a jogging of the memory.

If any of the above people are still in Mount Carmel and would like to chat about bygone days in the village that raised us, my e-mail is waterlubee2@yahoo.com.

Maurice "Mo" Lubee lives in Florida and pines for his childhood years in Mount Carmel.

"Guest Column" is open to readers of all ages, residents, local and state legislators, town and school employees and nonprofit agencies. It's a place to voice opinions on virtually anything. Click here to speak your mind.

July 18, 2007

Joseph McDonagh

‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’ -- Some Time

I was just 17, as the song goes, a second semester senior at BC High, the all-boy’s Jesuit high school in Boston. It was early 1967. One morning, Mr. Dempsey, my homeroom/chemistry teacher, announced to the class: “Gentlemen, if any one of you is caught with the Rolling Stones’ most recent record, it will be confiscated, and you will do a week of detention. Is that clear, gentlemen?”

It was perfectly clear to me. I had to get that record. The next day, I proudly (but covertly) showed my friends my copy of the Rolling Stones’ latest single, “Let’s Spend the Night Together/Ruby Tuesday.” I felt as though I had now joined the battle for freedom of speech. Mario Savio, Lenny Bruce and me. When, a few weeks later, the Rolling Stones appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” the program insisted that Mick Jagger replace the words “the night” with “some time.” The band obliged.

Some felt it was a sellout, but when Mick mugged for the camera, posing and exaggerating the words “Let’s spend some time together,” I knew that I was in on the joke, that he was putting something over on those who would stifle freedom. Mick, Keith, Charlie, Brian and Bill -- we were all in on the joke together.

Back then, singles were released with an A-side and a B-side. The A-side was the major song, the one intended to climb the charts; the B-side was considered the secondary song, often more raucous. It was a wonderful joke by the Rolling Stones to release “Let’s Spend the Night Together” as the A-side, and “Ruby Tuesday” as the B-side. Of course, few radio stations in the United States would play “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” but that made the single all the more attractive. “Ruby Tuesday” went on to become a hit, and was #1 on the Billboard charts for 12 weeks. “Ruby Tuesday” may have been the hit, but “Let’s Spend the Night Together” captured my attention.

The Rolling Stones were always rock ‘n’ roll’s bad boys. Heavily influenced by American blues and R&B, their roots were far raunchier than the Beatles’. That was their charm. We knew what satisfaction Mick was looking for. We understood when he warned his girlfriend that she was playing with fire. Well, OK, we didn’t really understand or know anything, but we certainly wanted to. The Beatles drew inspiration from Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry; the Rolling Stones drew on Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Robert Johnson.

The brilliance of “Let’s Spend the Night Together” was also in its production, its lyrics. The song opens with a solo piano, then the background voices come in, and then the drums. From that point forward, although the credits say that there are electric guitars and an organ, the song seems to consist of little besides Charlie Watts working furiously (as hard as he has ever had to work) and the piano. And that vocal.

Mick Jagger’s first words, “Oh my my my my,” might be more suggestive than any other words in the song. “Don’t you worry ‘bout what’s on your mind (oh my),” he comforts. “I’m in no hurry, I can take my time (oh my).” My friends and I considered that line carefully; as far as we were concerned, the song was a guide, a how-to song for teenage boys.

One line later, when he says, “My tongue’s getting tied,” well that was beyond belief. Certainly my tongue got tied, frequently. But Mick Jagger? The next line ends with “cha cha cha,” and thereby Mick proves himself to be incapable of being tongue-tied, for very long at least. In 1967, only Mick Jagger could make “cha cha cha” seem cool to a teenager.

“This doesn’t happen to me every day?” We didn’t believe that, not for a minute. Certainly, it had never happened to us, but even the way he sings that line suggests that Mick had said these words quite often. “We could have fun just groovin’ around and round and round (oh my my)” -- we had no idea what that meant, but his “oh my my” told us that it was something that shouldn’t be missed. “I’ll satisfy your every need (your every need), and now I know you will satisfy me” is followed by the longest series of -- “oh my my my my my my.”

In the meantime, the piano and drums are relentless, working a constant beat that is transcendent, hypnotizing. No letup ever, for Charlie Watts on this song.

On the face of it, “Let’s Spend the Night Together” is a teenager’s song, but its words were a message that no teenager of the time was likely ever to sing. Oddly, in a way it was a concept taken from a Bob Dylan song, “If You Gotta Go, Go Now (Or Else You’ve Got to Stay All Night).” That song was written for “Bringing It All Back Home,”but never released. Whereas Dylan’s song was more comic and even contemptuous (“It ain’t that I’m wanting/Anything you never gave before/It’s just that I’ll be sleepin’ soon/It’ll be too dark for you to find the door”), the Rolling Stones -- as befits a band with its reputation -- took the issue far more seriously.

A few months after the release of “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” both Jagger and Richards were arrested at Keith’s home for possession of drugs. Soon after, in a separate incident, Brian Jones was arrested as well. Perhaps a precursor to the recent Paris Hilton nonsense, all three were sentenced to jail time: three months for Jagger, a year for Richards, and nine months for Jones.

Jagger and Richards spent a few days in jail before their sentences were commuted. The sentences provoked a strong outcry, but the response that probably had the greatest impact was an editorial in The Times of London, entitled “Who Breaks a Butterfly on a Wheel?” written by William Rees-Mogg, who questioned why “a single figure becomes the focus for public concern about some aspect of public morality.” Adding to the public morality aspect of the case, when police raided Richards’ house, they found a “naked girl wrapped in a rug.” The girl was Marianne Faithful, Jagger’s girlfriend at the time. (This information comes from Rolling With the Stones, a coffee-table book written by Bill Wyman, the bass player for the Stones, who produced the book after leaving the band in 1993.)

There is another interesting footnote to the song. In 2006, for their visit to Beijing, the Rolling Stones had to submit a set list, and the Chinese government refused permission for them to sing some songs. Yes, of course, “Let’s Spend the Night Together” was banned. Again. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

By the way, the video of “The Ed Sullivan Show”performance can be seen at youtube.com with Brian Jones playing piano. For those who may wonder what appeal there is to a 65-plus-year-old prancing about on stage, this short clip shows Mick Jagger in his androgynous glory. Oh my, my, my, my.

Joseph McDonagh chairs the Hamden Democratic Town Committee and is quite passionate about his music.

"Guest Column" is open to readers of all ages, residents, local and state legislators, town and school employees and nonprofit agencies. It's a place to voice opinions on virtually anything. Click here to speak your mind.

June 22, 2007

Joseph McDonagh

‘I Should Have Known Better’

What most of us consider the Beatles’ first American album, “Meet the Beatles,” was actually their second. “Meet the Beatles” was released by Capitol Records in December 1964, but just 10 days earlier, Vee-Jay Records had released “Introducing … the Beatles.”That record included most of the songs from the Beatles’ first British album, “Please Please Me.”

According to rock critic David Marsh, Capitol Records gave up the rights to “Please Please Me.” Capitol was a pop music mainstream label; Jackie Gleason, Nancy Wilson, Dean Martin -- they were the artists Capitol felt comfortable with.

This was only the first of many mistakes that Capitol made regarding the Beatles, and as a result, the early American and British Beatles albums were quite different. In fact, it wasn’t until “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was released, 40 years ago this month, that the American and British albums had the same songs.

When “Meet the Beatles” became a huge hit, Capitol quickly grabbed songs from the first two British albums and B-sides of a few singles, and released “The Beatles Second Album.” Six of the 11 songs were covers, and the album remains one of my favorites. It tells a great deal about who the Beatles were, and what influenced their music. Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Smokey Robinson were the sources for the Beatles.

Including “Introducing …the Beatles,”the band released six American albums between December 1963 and December 1964 (including “Beatles ’65,” which was actually released in December 1964). Just think of that. Six albums in a 13-month period seems fantastic today. For 60 weeks during 1964 and 1965, one or another Beatles album was No. 1 on the pop charts, and they had 11 No. 1 singles.

The Beatles’ first noteworthy American release was “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” in December 1963, just a month after John Kennedy’s assassination. When they appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show”in February 1964, it was one of the most-watched TV performances in history. According to CNN, 45 percent of the country’s TV sets were tuned in, or 73 million viewers. It was the right time for a distraction, a bit of psychological uplift, and it didn’t hurt that the band was simply brilliant.

Sure, Bob Dylan’s music spoke more directly to world events, but even Dylan, while driving across the country in early 1964 (according to Howard Sounes in his fine biography of Dylan, “Down the Highway”), insisted on stopping the car whenever “I Want to Hold Your Hand” came on the radio. So captivated was he by the music.

Dylan wrote “Mr. Tambourine Man” partly in response to what he heard, and the freedom that he felt the Beatles’ music permitted him. Consider the message that Dylan conveyed with the title of his first electric album, “Bringing It All Back Home.” What was being brought “back home” was rock ’n’ roll, captured by the British but now rescued by Dylan.

Barely six years after that first single, in May 1970, the Beatles released their final album as a band, “Let It Be.” A few weeks earlier, Paul had announced he was leaving the band. The shootings at Kent State, precipitated by the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, occurred just two weeks before “Let It Be” was released. The Beatles’ history is intertwined, inseparably intertwined with all the events of the ’60s, a decade they were sometimes blamed for.

Their fourth U.S. album was “A Hard Day’s Night.”Another one not released on Capitol Records because the album was the soundtrack to the movie of the same name. It was released by United Artists in June 1964.

Capitol Records released an album at the same time called “Something New,”but it wasn’t entirely new. Although it included most of the songs from the film, it did not include the title song. The only place to get “A Hard Day’s Night” was either on the United Artists’ album or the single. The other song not on “Something New,”and only available on the United Artists album or the single, was the B-side, “I Should Have Known Better.”

There is something enormously personal about the Beatles. Consider that there are about 45 Beatles songs that begin with the letter “I.” If we add up all the songs that include the first person singular, we are approaching 100 songs whose subject is me. That includes “I Me Mine,” George Harrison’s song (and the title of his autobiography). Compare that to the Rolling Stones’ songbook, or Bob Dylan’s. It may not mean as much as I think it does, but the fact that the Beatles’ song titles were so often personal messages says a great deal about their music.

The subject for the Beatles was always first person. Their music was personal, dealing with everyday problems. If you consider all the “I”-titled songs, the titles themselves can tell a story: “I’ve just seen a face. I saw her standing there. I want to hold your hand. If I fell. I should have known better. I don’t want to spoil the party. I’ll cry instead. I’m a loser. I’ll be back. I’ll get you. If I needed someone. In my life.”

“I Should Have Known Better,” for me, was the first song that was distinctively John Lennon’s. The title is a twist, as clever as anything Lennon later wrote. It is a song that suggests that it will deal with disappointment, yet it is precisely the opposite. “I should have known better with a girl like you” is the first line, and anticipates a number of different alternatives. Instead of those we might expect, the next line, “that I would love everything that you do,” delivers a very different message.

The song also opens with John playing harmonica, something relatively rare in Beatles songs (“Please Please Me” and “Love Me Do” come to mind). Instead of “yeah, yeah, yeah,” John sings, “hey, hey, hey.” A bit of falsetto (“and when I ask you to be my-a-a-ine …”). And a casualness in lyrics that lets John sing, “I should have realized a lot of things be-fo’/if this is love you got to give me mo’, give me mo’, hey hey hey, give me mo’.” That second line, “If this is love you got to give me more,” is also a typical John line: fast-paced, and packing every note of the line with a word. His songs frequently seem to have more words per note than Paul’s or George’s.

“I Should Have Known Better” is a marvelous B-side song. Like “I Saw Her Standing There,” “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party,” “She’s a Woman,” and “I’m Happy Just to Dance with You,” it charted separately and was a modest hit on its own. It tends to get forgotten -- it is easy to be overshadowed by a song like “A Hard Day’s Night,” which may have the most distinctive first note in all rock ’n’ roll.

“I Should Have Known Better” was a modest song, but hinted at the wordplay that was still to come. It predicts “Rubber Soul” and “Revolver” as much as anything else the Beatles did in 1964. It deserves attention.

Joseph McDonagh chairs the Hamden Democratic Town Committee and is quite passionate about his music.

"Guest Column" is open to readers of all ages, residents, local and state legislators, town and school employees and nonprofit agencies. It's a place to voice opinions on virtually anything. Click here to speak your mind.

June 21, 2007

Abelardo J. Arias

Rell Balks at Medical Liberty

On June 19, Gov. M. Jodi Rell sent a message to cancer patients and others with chronic and terminal conditions: “Drop dead.”

That message was not just for patients. It was for children of parents who suffer, siblings of teenagers who suffer, and friends of those who already exhausted what Rell blandly and uncaringly called “legal alternatives.”

Rell stood on shifting sands of justification. She willfully ignored the mandate of the people. Eighty-three percent of Connecticut residents wanted our state servants to allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to sick patients, according to a 2004 UConn poll. Apparently, Rell has the interests of the other healthier 17 percent in mind.

A governor must use the veto power to protect our liberty at the hands of a state legislature -- not stand in the way of liberty. Whose freedom did Rell protect by denying patients the right to cope with excruciating pain? Or the right to spend those last few years of a terminal condition with the capacity to enjoy loved ones?

Was Rell carrying the Republican Party banner? Hardly. The main sponsor of the bill was Republican Rep. Penny Bacchiochi [Somers], whose husband suffered tremendous pain from the bone cancer that took his life. Many Republicans in the minority united with Democrats to push for a bill that made sense. That’s true bipartisanship.

HB 6715, the Compassionate Use Act, protected the rights of Connecticut patients. It was in line with the overwhelming majority of Connecticut residents. It did not harm children. It would have allowed licensed Connecticut doctors to prescribe treatments such as Marinol -- a proven safe and effective medicine for patients. One can find it listed in any Physicians Desk Reference (PDR).

So what went wrong? In the end, Rell balked at her role as the elected governor of our state. She hid herself behind federal law, while turning a blind eye to our own. She used the tired propaganda line that such a bill sends the wrong message to children.

Under our dual-sovereignty system, Connecticut has the right and duty to decide the state laws which send our neighbors and relatives to prison. Rell finds it fitting to tell kindergarteners and first-graders that we should take away Mom’s and Dad’s freedom to medicate their pain and force them into over-crowded prisons.

Is that liberty?

There is only one message that Rell sent to children, parents and family members throughout Connecticut. The message is that when it comes to the liberty to use doctor-prescribed medicine a patient most direly needs, there really is no liberty.

Abelardo J. Arias is a solo practice attorney in Hamden. He interned and later worked in Gov. Rell’s legal office in the fall of 2006. His can be contacted at arias.law@gmail.com.

"Guest Column" is open to readers of all ages, residents, local and state legislators, town and school employees and nonprofit agencies. It's a place to voice opinions on virtually anything. Click here to speak your mind.


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