A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Sri Satyanarayana Temple

Took a ride to the Sri Satyanarayana Temple in Middletown, Connecticut to meet a Hindu priest today. I'm charged with delivering him next week to a Hindu friend's Upanayana, or Thread Ceremony, to be held for her grandson.

She's a Brahmin, and this will be the boy's introduction into his varna, or caste. Many Hindu families today, especially outside of India, perform this ceremony themselves, with the father officiating, but Priya is not one to do things half-cocked. Hence the fetching of a priest from one state over.

Whereas in India every corner would have a temple, dedicated to a particular god, the Sri Satyanarayana Temple is a kind of Grand Central for many sects. Ganesha is next to Shiva is next to Hanuman; there's a Jain section, a North and a South Indian section. You just go to whichever part of the temple you feel comfortable in and do your thing.

It's a good thing we made a dry run, because there was some mix-up as to which priest would be available, and when he would need to be scooped up. Luckily for me, the original priest has jumped ship in favor of a wedding (and probably a larger donation), so Priya gets priest #2. Priest #2 speaks a little English at least. My Hindi is nonexistent. And if I screw up, there'll be no Upanayana next week.

Mojo and Superharp

Great, great concert tonight. Grammy-award-winning "Superharp" James Cotton and his band with George "Mojo" Buford. Charles Mack on bass, his brother Mark Mack on drums, Tom Holland on rhythm guitar, and some mystery man from Tokyo, Japan on guitar--I couldn't catch his name over the din, and he doesn't seem to be a regular. But boy, could he play.

Cotton's been doing his thing, alone, with a back-up band, with Muddy Waters, with Howlin' Wolf, with name-your-great-Chicago-blues-style band, for over 60 years, and he really knows how to get a crowd going. This Springfield audience of mostly middle-aged overweight white folks usually sit on beach chairs, holding beers, and maybe nodding their heads or tapping their feet to the beat. A few crazies dance in the front or stand off to the side, right in front of the speakers (that would be me). Or stand way in the back if they haven't brought chairs.

But not tonight. The band opened with about three numbers, and by the time Cotton lumbered onstage and eased his bulk into a straight chair, nearly everyone was standing and shouting. And then pretty soon he was joined by Mojo Buford, and then things really started to cook. Mojo sang--"Blow Wind, Blow Wind," "I Got My Mojo Workin'"--Cotton blew, and the crowd went wild.

What surprises me is the sea of white faces at these concerts, especially the bluesy ones. As I drove to Connecticut after the concert, a column of motorcycles thundered past and over the Memorial Bridge, while another rounded the corner onto Columbus Avenue and headed up the ramp to Route 91. All out-of-towners. Why don't the residents--overwhelmingly people of color, who own the freaking blues--take advantage of their own city's spectacular free offerings? I don't get it.