Friday, September 28, 2007

Seven Bridges Road

The oft-covered "Seven Bridges Road" was written and originally recorded in 1969 by Steve Young, not to be confused with the former NFL quarterbacking great. This Steve Young was a well-traveled young man. His family moved around throughout the South as he grew up. He moved away to New York City where for awhile he was part of the Greenwich Village scene that included Bob Dylan, and in the mid-60's moved to Los Angeles where he was in a band with Stephen Stills.

In between those coastal jaunts, Young lived for a time in Montgomery, Alabama, where he received the inspiration for "Seven Bridges Road". From Young's recollections, the "Seven Bridges Road" was a popular Montgomery hangout, although he couldn't remember the road's actual name:

I lived in Montgomery , Alabama in the early 60's and had a group of friends there that showed me the road. It led out of town and after you had crossed 7 Bridges you found yourself out in the country on a dirt road. Spanish Moss hung in the trees and there were old farms with old fences and graveyards and churches and streams. A high bank dirt road with trees. It seemed like a Disney Fantasy at times. People went there to park or get stoned or just to get away from it all. I thought my friends had made up the name "7 Bridges Road" . I found out later that it had been called by that name for over a 100 years. That people had been struck by the beauty of the road for a long time, however , this is not the official name of the road. It is a "folk name".

Hank Williams Jr. has said that the "Seven Bridges Road" is the road that leads to Oakwood Annex Cemetery, where his father is buried. This doesn't seem likely, though, as Oakwood Annex is located in a residential neighborhood in north Montgomery. Another suggestion is that the reference is to Woodley Road, a road leading from Montgomery's southern outskirts into the countryside. Upon this road are seven bridges.

Steve Young recorded "Seven Bridges Road" for his debut LP, Rock, Salt, and Nails, which today is considered to be a classic of the "outlaw country" genre. The song was almost instantly recognized as a classic, and it soon was covered by Joan Baez, Rita Coolidge, and Tracy Nelson. The best of the early versions, though, was the one Fairport Convention alum Ian Matthews recorded in 1973 on his Valley Hi album, produced by ex-Monkee Michael Nesmith. Matthews and Nesmith came up with an arrangement that featured an a capella introduction, as well as a gorgeous steel guitar solo.

In 1980, the Eagles sped up Matthews' version and in so doing came up with a major hit single; this is the "Seven Bridges Road" everybody knows today. The covers slowed as the Eagles' version came to be acknowledged as definitive, though artists as diverse as Firehouse, Ricochet and Dolly Parton have all released versions of "Seven Bridges Road" in recent years. To my ears, though, Ian Matthews still takes first prize. Valley Hi is a disc well worth seeking out for fans of country-rock and folk-rock.

Steve Young is still writing and recording today. As is often the case, Young never became a star. He spent much of the 70's battling drug and alcohol problems, yet he overcame those difficulties and remains a vital artist. Young recorded this live version of "Seven Bridges Road" in 1991. In Young's hands, the song is a wistful, melancholy remembrance of times past, and a haunting counterpoint to the version that album rock radio has burnt into our heads over the years.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Buddi system

I'm sure some of you folks will think that this is a good idea.

The Buddi is the brainchild of British tech entrepreneur Sara Murray. One day, Murray's young daughter got lost at the grocery store, and from that experience she decided that there was a need for a personal tracking device using GPS technology. It's a plausible idea - provide children, the elderly, and anyone else who might be vulnerable with a small device worn around the neck that enables them to be found anytime using GPS tracking, and also has buttons that can be used to alert the Buddi staff in an emergency situation. The Buddi is currently on the market in the UK, and a US version will be out soon.

Forgive me, though, if the Buddi concept makes my tinfoil hat twitch a bit. Although the Buddi is voluntary now (and fairly expensive), our concern to protect children from would-be abductors could at some point lead to some sort of mandatory Buddi program. Technology will also continue to make GPS devices smaller, and without the need for periodic recharging. Perhaps someday they'll have one small enough that it can be implanted in babies at birth. I suspect many parents would consider such an implant to be a godsend. Trouble is, the government would then have the ability to track your every step for life.

Friday, September 21, 2007

One, in blog years

Today marks the official first anniversary of Pole Hill Sanitarium. Sharp-eyed observers might notice that the archives contain a post from August, but that's just a Haloscan test post. People started commenting on it, so I left it up. I figured at that point I had no choice but to start a blog.

The first sentence I wrote was "I don't know what the hell I'm doing", and in some sense I feel that still applies. In the end, all I've done so far is start down the path and follow it wherever it leads, and it's led to some pretty interesting places so far. I've been pleasantly surprised by the responses to many of my posts, and somewhat amused by some posts that I thought were interesting but drew hardly any response at all.

Most surprising of all to me is that people actually read this stuff. I'm not an internets superstar and never will be. Yet I've built up a fair number of regular readers during the first year here, in addition to gaining access to blogs that generate a considerable amount of traffic. I look forward to moving Pole Hill in directions that you good people continue to find interesting.

One of the best things about blogging is the people you meet online. Through our blogs, each of us form a unique community, and all of us together epitomize what free speech is about. I appreciate that you folks take the time to come here and interact with me and each other, and I especially appreciate the kind words you have had for my wife and I as we continue to deal with her health problems.

Taking my cue from Christie (stealing other people's ideas is one thing I'm good at), I'd like to pay tribute to all of you who have left a comment during the first year of Pole Hill's existence. All of you are listed in the order in which you arrived - the good friends, the passers-by, the big-time bloggers, the complainers, the people who got bored and left early, the folks who stuck around - as long as you weren't trying to sell something, you're here:

The farmer (Pole Hill's most prolific commenter the past year)
Jeremie Jordan
Sonia Sunshine (the first to blogroll Pole Hill)
Lambert Strether
Blue Girl, in her various incarnations
Christie Fermicat
Vast Left
The Reverend Jerry Harris
Brent Andrews
Gloria Shiraef
Mike John
Manifesto Joe
Badtux the Snarky Penguin
24 Crayons
Mr. T.
Jeni Hill Ertmer
Chris Wilcox
Holland's Comet
Kelley B.

My sincere thanks to each and every one of you. Let us raise a toast to another year of blogging.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The fate of Number 756

Barry Bonds' record-setting 756th home run ball was sold at auction Saturday for over $750,000. Marc Ecko, the ball's new owner, is now asking the public what he should do with it. Go to and cast your vote for Marc to give the ball to the Hall of Fame, brand it with an asterisk, or blast it into outer space.

I say go ahead and send the ball to Cooperstown. As I implied in a lengthy exposition on the matter, I see no point in punishing Bonds for something that half of baseball was doing. Baseball should have dealt with this problem ten years ago, but at that time the owners were too enthralled with Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa selling tickets, and they didn't seem too bothered by the singles hitters who were turning into sluggers. We wouldn't be talking about slapping the all-time home run record with an asterisk today had baseball dealt aggressively with the problem when it first appeared. Of course, there was money to be made, so the owners chose to look the other way. The fans are also showing their displeasure at Bonds, one of the most unpopular players the game has ever seen, setting one of baseball's most cherished records. Barry Bonds set the record using tools that were considered acceptable at the time; there's no sense in denying him his accomplishment because he is a supreme jerk of a human being, or because baseball retroactively decided to make steroid use taboo.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Coffee break's over - back on your heads

I took last week off from the internets, having real life to attend to. I barely had time to check my e-mail, let alone make the rounds of the blogs.

A good portion of that week was spent in my continuing education class, a requirement for keeping my state water treatment license. This involves 6-7 hours of classes daily, along with a 40 mile commute across the Nashville metro area to and from the class site. The sessions were best described as part information and part sales pitch, as most of the speakers were vendors for various treatment industry firms. The main exception was the state investigator who comes to all these things threatening to throw us in jail if we falsify government records. The rest was uneventful, unless you consider stuff like ultraviolet disinfection, on-site chlorine generation, and water tank inspection to be exciting subjects.

Mrs. S.' toe is healing well. She can now put her shoes on. We had to go Thursday to have two more stitches removed from her stomach area. These stitches are left over from a failed reconstructive surgery related to her breast cancer treatment. There are still stitches from the surgery that were supposed to have been absorbed by her body, but instead they work their way up through her skin and have to be surgically removed before they become infected. We spent a good portion of the weekend keeping an eye on those holes, keeping them clean and drained to make sure there's no infection. It's often difficult for me to write about my wife's health - it's a story that began over 20 years ago that you're coming in during the middle of, and I haven't yet figured out a way to write about how all this got started that I feel comfortable with.

I started making the rounds last night, and will continue to do so later today, trying to catch up with the e-mail and other goings on in the wonderful world of cyberspace. I was shocked to find that over the weekend the statcounter dropped into single digits for the first time since the early, early days. (Speaking of the early, early days, the Hill's first anniversary is coming up soon!) Y'all can come back now.

Oh yeah, about that title...

A guy dies and goes to hell. The devil meets him at the gate and says, "Alright, you have died and come to hell. You will spend eternity here, but you get to choose how to spend it. You may choose one of these three doorways. Once you choose a door, you may not change it. So let's get started."

The devil opens Door One. The guy looks in and sees a couple of people standing in cow manure up to their waist. The guy says, "No way, let's move on."

The devil opens Door Two. The guy sees a few more people standing neck-deep in cow manure. The guy says, "No way, let's move on."

The devil opens Door Three. The guy sees a bunch of people standing knee-deep in cow manure drinking coffee. The guy says, "Great, this is the one I will chose." The devil says, "OK, wait right here, I will get you some coffee."

The guy settles in with his coffee thinking that this isn't so bad. What's the big deal?

After a few minutes the Devil's voice booms over the loud speaker: "Coffee break's over. Back on your heads!"

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Go read something else

That's an odd request from a blogger. I've been busy with real life, though, so I don't have much to offer you folks at the moment.

I've spent a good deal of time outside the last few days. Mrs. S. dropped a tabletop on her big toe. Not a big table, it was a small portable table maybe two feet in diameter, but the top was heavy and it smashed her toe good - the toenail fell off, and she hasn't been able to wear a shoe. This has left me to do all of the watering, weeding, and other outdoor chores lately - watering takes almost three hours in itself. I hoped to get caught up some at work, but instead we walked into a mess last night. It turned out to be one of those nights where the treatment process had to be watched closely since we had little room for error. This didn't leave much time for web-surfing.

For now, some suggestions for you to check out:

With the anniversary of 9/11 approaching, you'll be interested in reading Dave's firsthand account of his experiences at Rather Than Working. The basics are that Dave had business in New York City on 9/11/01. Dave's appointment was canceled, and he couldn't get home. He's written three parts to his story so far; read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Or help Beth propagate her meme. Beth asks about a series of topics, and she wants to know what one thing you would answer with (favorite book, favorite song, to give a couple of examples). She's had it up for a while, but there's still some of you who haven't seen it who might be interested in participating. (I know, Beth, I still owe you.)

Check out some bloggers I've started reading recently who have some interesting things to say: Jeni (Down River Drivel), Magnetbabe (Field Lines), Brian Holland (Holland's Comet), Posolxstvo (Niagaran Pebbles), and Chris Wilcox (Red Hog Diary).

Read something serious. Find out how the Internet changed the world, and how Facebook is changing relationships. At the very least there's some insight as to why I want nothing to do with MySpace or Facebook.

Of course, you can always read Watching Those We Chose, the groupblog in which I hold a 1/18th share. The good thing about so many bloggers is that there's always something fresh and interesting up whenever you visit.

Next week is continuing education week, where I spend a few days in the classroom in return for the privilege of keeping the water treatment operators license bestowed upon me by the State of Tennessee. I may not be back here for a few more days.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


(H/T to Dave for this one. Original meme from here. I tweaked it a little bit, but that's what memes are for. Anyone who figures out what I'm up to is welcome to have a go at this.)

The Cosmic Cat was out walking in search of a good buzz, out where the buses don't run, along a dirt road where strands of corrente wire fence marked off the field lines. He knocked on the door of a weathered old farmhouse back off the road, in hopes that his buddy the Farmer might be growing something righteous out back.

The Farmer answered the door. "Well, if it isn't the ol' Cosmic Cat himself! Seems like I haven't seen you since Jesus left Chicago!"

"Tough to get out here since the car broke down. What's goin' on, Farmer?"

"Nothin' much, just another day around the ol' patch. Whatcha up to, Cat?"

"Oh, just out musing and meandering, y'know, anything rather than working. Got anything good?"

"Nope, the drought pretty much killed everything around here."

"I know what you mean, man. It's been tough findin' anything in town. Last night I wound up snortin' 24 crayons."

"Crayons?!?" The Farmer shook his head. "Man, that ain't my idea of findin' utopia."

"It wasn't so bad. Ran 'em through the mixter first. A little harsh, but I copped a little buzz."

"Whatever. Anything towards the pursuit of happiness, I suppose. Ya see the news this morning?"

"Naw, I had a wicked headache from the damn crayons. Last thing I remember on the tube, they were talkin' about somethin' called Holland's Comet."

"That's Hailley's Comet, you doofus. Anyway, they were talking about illegal wiretaps, data mining, all kinda scary stuff. We're losing our freedoms, y'know."

"I don't worry about none of that crap. You always were a perfect neurotic."

"Y'know, Cat, you oughta pick up a newspaper and read it once in a while, instead of spending all your time playin' with your teeny manolo."

"Hey, that's the other white meat there, buddy. Stop talkin' like a horse's ass."

"OK, OK. Seriously, you need to spend more time watching those we chose. Tell ya what. Why don't ya stay for dinner? We roasted this big ol' red hog on the spit out back over the weekend, an' we got plenty of leftovers."

"Naw, I'm gonna hike my way back into town. If I'm not too late I'll try to catch the Bible study for atheists down at the megachurch tonight."

"Bible study? You goin' Christianist or somethin'?"

"Naw, I just figure that if what everybody's sayin' is true, I better learn to start prayin', cause our government's sellin' us down the river."

"Welcome to the revolution, brother."

Monday, September 03, 2007

Labor Day

The first Labor Day celebration was a parade organized in 1882 by New York City's Knights of Labor. By 1894, it had become a federal holiday, and is perhaps better known today as sort of a traditional end to summer, although the autumn equinox is still almost three weeks away.

In over 20 years of being active in labor unions, I have become convinced that most American workers have little sense of their own history, which has resulted in an attitude that you can't fight management, that the boss has always won and always will, which in turn has led to the belief that any benefits workers receive is due almost totally to the benevolence of management, and also to skepticism that workers can make any gains from organized action. I present this brief list of events in American labor history as a reminder that you can fight the boss, and sometimes even win, and also as a tribute to the struggles of those before us who sacrificed so we could enjoy this long weekend of leisure.

Tompkins Square Riot (1874). Thousands of unemployed New Yorkers demonstrating in Tompkins Square Park were brutally dispersed by police.

Pennsylvania coal mine strikes (1870's). A series of strikes plagued the Pennsylvania coal-mining region in the 1870's. Authorities blamed an Irish immigrant group, the Molly Maguires. In 1877, ten of the group were hanged.

Haymarket Riot (1886). In Chicago on May 3, 1886, violence broke out between union workers at McCormick Reaper and police. The incident left a union worker dead and many others injured. 3,000 assembled in Haymarket Square the next day to protest the actions of the police. Towards the end of the demonstration, a bomb was thrown in the direction of policemen there to keep order; eight policemen were killed in the blast. Authorities rounded up eight anarchists and charged them with the murders, although there was no evidence that any of them actually threw the bomb. Four were eventually executed. To this day no one knows the identity of who threw the Haymarket Square bomb.

Thibodaux Massacre (1887). 35 unarmed black sugar cane workers striking for a dollar-a-day wage were shot by Louisiana militiamen.

Homestead Strike (1892). In Homestead, Pennsylvania, striking union steelworkers engaged in an all-day battle with Pinkerton strikebreakers. Three Pinkertons and seven steelworkers were killed in the violence.

Pullman Strike (1894) After the Pullman Company slashed worker's wages, the membership of the American Railway Union refused to work trains that included Pullman cars. The Army was called in to get the trains running again, with considerable violence and vandalism resulting.

Virden miner's strike (1898). Virden, Illinois coal mine owners attempt to break a strike by importing 200 nonunion black workers. The resulting violence left 14 dead and 25 wounded.

Idaho miners' strikes (1899). A series of miners strikes in Idaho led to President McKinley calling in the Army to restore order.

Cripple Creek strike (1903). A series of miner's strikes led to martial law imposed upon the Cripple Creek region in Colorado during 1903-04.

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire (1911). 146 people, mostly women and young girls, died in a New York garment factory fire. The doors were kept locked at the factory in order to keep the workers from leaving the job site. The factory owners were eventually indicted for manslaughter.

Bread And Roses Strike (1912). Female garment workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts went on strike to protest a pay cut. The resulting police violence led to an international outcry, and the strikers won a major pay raise as a result.

Henry Ford gives a raise (1914). Henry Ford raises the pay of his assembly line workers to $5 for an eight-hour day, saying that anyone who builds a Ford should have enough money to pay for one.

Ludlow Massacre (1914). Colorado militiamen attack a striking miner's camp at Ludlow, Colorado, killing five men, two women, and 12 children.

Joe Hill arrested (1915). Labor leader Joe Hill was arrested in Salt Lake City on trumped-up charges of murder. Despite worldwide protests and the efforts of President Wilson to intervene, he was executed 21 months later.

Bisbee Copper Strike (1917). Over 1000 copper miners in Bisbee, Arizona were herded into boxcars and "deported" into the New Mexico desert in response to a strike calling for better wages, safer working conditions, and an end to discrimination against foreign and minority workers.

Adamson Act upheld by Supreme Court (1917). This act, giving railroad workers the right to an eight-hour workday, was passed by Congress to avert a strike. This law was the forerunner of legislation creating the standard eight-hour workday.

The Battle of Matewan (1920). When the United Mine Workers organized the mines around Matewan, West Virginia, the mining company responded by hiring armed detectives to drive the miners from their homes. Miners responded with gunfire, leading to the death of the mayor, two miners, and seven detectives. Fifteen months later, detectives assassinated the pro-union police chief, leading over 5000 miners to take up arms, confronting state troopers and federal authorities in what became known as "The Battle Of Blair Mountain".

Auto-Lite Strike (1934). In Toledo, Ohio, workers at the Auto-Lite plant seeking recognition for the UAW were met by National Guardsmen. Two strikers were killed and over 200 wounded.

The Wagner Act (1935). The federal government establishes the right of workers to join a union.

Battle Of The Overpass (1937). Walter Reuther and other UAW supporters attempting to distribute leaflets at Ford's River Rouge plant are beaten up by security men from the Ford Service Department.

Fair Labor Standards Act (1938). This legislation establishes the eight-hour day, overtime pay, and the minimum wage.

Taft-Hartley Act (1947). This act greatly broadened the power of the federal government to intervene in strikes. President Truman vetoed it, but Congress overrode his veto.

Truman seizes the steel mills (1952). In order to avert a strike, President Truman orders the Army to seize America's steel mills. The Supreme Court rules that Truman overstepped his authority.

AFL-CIO merger (1955). The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations merge to form the nation's largest labor organization.

Equal Pay Act (1963). This act requires that men and women working in the same job within the same workplace be paid equally for their labor.

Delano Grape Strike (1965-70). Workers in the California grape fields, led by Cesar Chavez, battle grape growers for their rights. The growers eventually recognize the United Farm Workers as their bargaining agent.

PATCO strike (1981). Striking air traffic control workers are fired by President Reagan.

Pittston strike (1989). Miners strike the Pittston Coal Company for over a year after new owners attempt to break the union.

That's only some of the highlights; a search of American labor history will reveal many more rich stories.

In closing, a few words from Abraham Lincoln:

Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.

Those words were radical at the time Lincoln delivered them to Congress in 1861. I cannot imagine a major American political leader who would be willing to make such a statement today.

Happy Labor Day.

(Crossposted at Watching Those We Chose.)