moods

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Many years ago, while enjoying the hospitality of America, and furthering my education in the US, I fell in love with American music. First, I discovered the blues… and that led eventually to jazz, which is my favorite music to this day. What I loved about the blues was that they offered a catharsis and perspective, both to artists and listeners, often including a hint of humor. For one of the most difficult challenges we face, is trying to work our way out of sadness and depression.

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There are so many great artists and fine songs in that genre, that one could easily spend his whole life studying the culture. Being an outsider, I wouldn’t take it upon myself to be your guide. Yet I do remember one song that I consider an excellent example of the genre because of two lines that have amused me since I first heard them. And that’s ‘I Will Turn Your Money Green’ by Furry Lewis first recorded in 1928. They are: ‘If the river was whiskey, baby, and I was a duck, I’d dive to the bottom, Lord, and I’d never come up’. And later in the song, he sings, ‘I been down so long, it seems like up to me’. This line served as the name of a novel written by Richard Fariña, published in 1966, and was later the title of a song by the Doors.

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What had me thinking about the blues was a combination of listening to bad news on the radio here, all of this week, and reading a touching blog post by John Hayden, called Retirement, Depression, And Blogging. The week before that, there had been an incident here in my country, of a man biting a dog. Now, those of us who’ve studied Journalism 101 know that such an incident is a legitimate news item. But our local journalists who fear that the public has grown tired of exposés of the dire poverty of half the population, and intimidated by the encroaching competition of the internet, fell upon this story as if they’d just discovered a gold nugget in the drain of the kitchen sink. The story was seen as an example of the fallibility and decadence of mankind, and we were berated on countless in-depth studies of what happened, from morning to night, day after day.

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Of course, most folks swore up and down that they had never bitten any dog… but others, like myself you know, who don’t have such a good memory anymore, just weren’t sure. There are things you don’t think about till you’re accused. One of my friends, for instance, when asked if he’d ever spoken out against biting dogs, remained silent for a few seconds more than might be expected. And then, when the reporter mentioned that while males were 40% more likely to bite dogs than other members of the population, he was seen blushing. So hell yes, I was thinking of the blues… I was even thinking of maybe writing a blues song…

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And then I started thinking about how to get up. It’s been unusually hot here in Jerusalem for the last week. Like today, they said it would be 36° during the day, and then go up to 37° at night! So while it’s been that hot, I haven’t been walking that much. But I know that a brisk walk can really improve my mood. It usually stimulates a stream of consciousness which in turn improves my perspective. I thought if I’d go out towards evening and have a long walk, I might have more positive thoughts. Another thing I’ve noticed, is that though I don’t really like getting together with people when I’m down in the dumps, sometimes it is encouraging to see others having a good time, oblivious to the evils of this world.

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So I called up a very tolerant friend of mine, and asked him if he’d care to accompany me in my blue black mood as I walked from Talpiot to the German Colony and back. Despite the heat, it was really a beautiful day. The grass was green, and the sky was blue… and after we got back to the ‘First Station’ in Talpiot… I noticed that the beer was yellow. On our way, we stumbled across a ‘street library’ which was offering free books. You remember how I told you about finding those bus stops in Tzur Hadasah, where people donated their old books, and anyone could just pick one up for free. This street library was much the same, only more elaborate… with a lot more books. I tell you, I’d gotten kind of used to being blue, but after I found a weathered copy of ‘The Island’ by Aldous Huxley, I couldn’t help it… I was starting to feel better.

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The ‘first station’ is what they call the old railroad station in central Jerusalem. It was abandoned when they built the new one at the edge of town. But in the last few years it’s been redeveloped as a popular entertainment center, including bars and restaurants, toy stores, art galleries and jewelry and vegetable stores. We were sitting at the outside tables of a bar restaurant listening to some good Greek music and drinking that yellow beer when the waitress suggested we try their Arak. And would you believe it, it went well with the beer! In fact, I had another. And though I had no appetite to begin with… after a while… it occurred to me that it might be nutritious to eat something.

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Now if that hadn’t happened yesterday evening, I might be as blue today as I was most of the week. I might even have written a blues verse or two for the blog today… and I certainly don’t know what sort of pictures I would have published today. But now, you’ll just have to wait for that, ‘cause right now, ‘it looks like up to me’.

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47 responses to “moods

  1. some days, some moods… it happens to me too… But I can see how amazing music in our life… I love jazz too, dear Shimon, you described so nicely… The photographs, as always nice to see from your eyes, this is life in there, life in the streets, and people… I loved them all… There is a strong wind in here now, believe me as if racing with the music that I play 🙂 Thank you, have a nice weekend, love, nia

  2. Very nice Shimonz! I am going to look for “Turn Your Money Green. I have been thinking about Jazz lately, but still have not listened to any. I was going to attend a jazz show in Amsterdam, but the guy I was going to go with got too drunk.
    Also love your photos of Jerusalem, it has been 57 years since I was there. Much must have changed since then.
    Looking forward to your next post.

    • Ah, Bruce. jazz is such a wide category, that one can find a lot… sometimes too much.. when poking around there. Since people know I love it, I get a lot of recommendations… and often it’s not at all to my taste. I love John Coltrane early albums, when he played with Miles Davis too. Like Oscar Peterson, and Dave McKenna, Earl Hines, Gerry Mulligan, Art Pepper, Ben Webster… There is so much out there… There is also an internet station called Accujazz. If you click on their piano category, you might like what you hear.

  3. I enjoyed your post Shimon as I always do on a Friday morning. I’m so glad your stroll turned into such a positive one for you. I enjoyed your photographs very much. It’s nice to see the sunshine although I certainly couldn’t take the heat. Once more our summer here in the UK is turning into a rather wet, cold, grey affair and I know for sure that this is having a huge impact on people’s moods here. The sunshine helps.
    שַׁבָּת שָׁלוֹם

    • That’s what makes it difficult at times, Chillbrook. I don’t care that much for the intense heat which we do see now and then in summer… but I couldn’t take the wet, cold, grey weather of the UK. So I guess we all end up compromising somewhere. Thank you so much for your greeting in Hebrew! All my best.

  4. Wonderful. So much depends on whether we are friends with our blue moods, or addicts, or just temporary hosts … in which case, we know how to show them the door.

    • I like your imagery, Gill. Sometimes we have to show our guests the door. Though some of us are so over-polite, that they have to suffer a while before they actually go to such extremes. But you’re right, right, right! Thanks for the comment.

  5. Good company, good food, good location, and good memories has a way of banishing the blues. Thanks for sharing your lovely day and musings.

    • Yes, Judy. I suppose we have to actively seek out what lifts our spirits… otherwise we’re more than likely to to ache more than necessary. Thanks.

  6. I’m glad you’re out of your funk, Shimon….it’s probably the damn heat! 😀

    • I was just saying to Chillbrook, if it’s between heat and cold, I’ll take the heat. But often we have to compromise. The weather is much better today. Thanks, Scott. A very pleasant summer to you.

  7. It can sometimes feel as if it requires an impossible amount of effort to take that first step towards up, but if we manage to step over all the protests and distractions, and we find ourselves in that space where down is nothing more than an aching echo, then we’ve done the impossible. We’ve made the impossible possible again, and the light touches our cheek, reflecting all the beauty towards us, all at once. And the beer? Well, it just helps smooth away any of those rough edges.

    Anything that gets you out of the house is a good thing, and thanks for sharing some of your journey with us. A walk, a beer, a friend, and a camera. Sounds like down is moving up. Good to see you, Shimon. Always good to see you.

    • Yes, sometimes we can get overwhelmed by a bit of bad news, or things not going the way we wanted them to. But you know, Nancy, I’ve had something go wrong, and ruin my mood… and then something really bad happened. And I thought, what was I so upset over that little thing? Most important is just keeping our balance. Wishing you very good days.

  8. I’m glad you were able to go for that walk to get out of the blues. It happens to me, too. In the winter (well in late fall) I get the blues and it is so cold and wet out that I don’t want to go out. That’s when it is tougher to get rid of the blues. I’m glad that was not the case for you.

    I like hearing about your walks and I always love the photos. I’m also pretty sure that I would like that yellow beer!

    • I do like having a beer or two in summer, when it’s hot outside… very refreshing, especially after a nice walk. It was a very nice day. And I just finished another book by your favorite author. Made me think of you. It was quite enjoyable. Sending you my best, Corina.

  9. You and I have talked Depression before and I’m happy to see this post. Unfortunately I am now unable to take even a short walk. Love the association with the “blues” that you’ve mentioned. Were you ever to New Orleans? I have a learning disability or brain disorder that prevents me from hearing most voice in music. It’s very rare for me to understand most vocals as I hear the instruments instead. So, blues, as such are not heard and I know I am missing something. If I force myself to hear the voice part I can hear some of them, blues or otherwise.
    I’ve never heard of Arak and my wife doesn’t like anise but I can hardly wait to try it. The expression of “yellow beer” also strikes me strange as beer, to me, is mostly always yellow or honey colored. Doubt that I will try that.
    Fun post from you this time Shimon. Glad to hear you are treating your depression. Wish I could share it with you.

    • I suppose I was just carried away by the colors when I wrote that Bob… there was nothing very special about the beer being yellow. Arak is clear of color, looks something like water or vodka. But it does have that licorice taste, and is quite popular around here. I too wish we were able to share some time together.

  10. I also feel better going for a walk and it seems everything conspire to cheer you up. Thanks for sharing.

    • It’s so simple, and it works so well, I am forever amazed by the advantages of just taking a walk. It’s probably the healthiest thing I do… though I’ll admit, I don’t go out of my way, usually, to seek health. Thanks for your comment, Olga.

  11. Walking and taking in what surrounds you on the way can be very helpful. I enjoyed seeing your photos- they brought the streets to life! Shabbat Shalom

    • very glad you enjoyed these Jerusalem scenes, Lisa Elisheva. Actually, though I’ve lived all my life in this city, just walking around and watching people enjoy themselves is enough to put me in a good mood. Thanks for your comment.

  12. I feel like I was walk along the streets through your beautiful photos. Sunshine can be helpful, walking in the park and trail always cheers me up.

    • It’s sp easy to take things for granted, Amy. We really have very good weather here in Jerusalem. Because we’re on a mountain, it doesn’t usually get very hot, and for most of the year, we do have sunny days a lot. But you know, the moment things aren’t perfect, we start complaining. Right now the weather is vastly improved. And I’m really enjoying it. thanks for your comment.

  13. You had me laughing out loud here….I just LOVE your humour!!!
    The dog biting part will have me chortling for a long while….especially thinking about the guy who delayed his response ….and what with all that blushing and all….and your memory being what it is!!! Just BRILLIANT!
    A quick story, my late uncle, who was built like a tank, was always in trouble with the police, and unfortunately he possessed an unholy temper, and a strong dislike of policemaen…at the same time he was the most interesting character I have ever met….there are thousands of stories I could tell you about him!
    One day he was chased down and cornered by several police officers for some misdemeanor or other, and he put up his usual fight…..when the police finally managed to subdue him, they then threw him in the back of a police van and let the German Shepherd dogs loose. When they arrived at the police station, a doctor was called, along with a vet! There was no doubt that human and canine biting had occurred!
    Glad you went out and about, and feel happier, your post got me out of the dumps for sure!
    I listened to that song…..wonderful! Also googled Arak…..the things I learn from you eh? Thanks for the laughs!xxx

    • Oh Dina, it’s so good to get your comment! I was beginning to think I hadn’t gotten the point across at all. Everyone was consoling me on having a bad mood. I thought I might have to apologize for complaining too much. Really, I was just contemplating the way the news media leads us around by the nose. Now I got a chance to laugh too, imagining your uncle giving the police a little something to think about. I’ve gotten spoiled over the years, and found I do like my whisky. But arak is still very popular here. Definitely worth a try. Thanks. xxx

  14. I so enjoyed reading about your wonderful walk with your tolerant friend. I’m so glad that your mood and appetite was improved by the end of your stroll. I could never imagine biting a dog, except maybe a hotdog. 🙂

    • That was exactly my point… there not many people who would bite a dog around here, and being that it’s so rare, it seemed rather lame on the part of journalists to start making generalizations about the population, and berating us day and night. Now, a hot dog would be a lot more popular here. Especially since they don’t bark and don’t bite… But I should mention that we do have what is called a Moroccan hot dog. They’re very spicy. Some folks can’t eat them, they’re so sharp… now some people might see that as a biting hot dog. Thanks so much for your comment, Sylvia.

  15. I loved how you talked yourself right out of the blues with this post, Shimon. Good music, though!

  16. Glad things are looking up. I’d love to hear a blues song you might write when you’re down again, but hope that’s not too soon. And a beer! What better to go out for a walk with a friend, and then enjoy a couple of beers together. Life can be sweet after all.

  17. What a great post and evidence that when we move away from ourselves into the great unknown – all manner of things can happen to change the day and indeed our mood.
    The news story about man biting dog….would go down like hot cakes in this country…anything to distract from what matters.
    As for the blues and Jazz…you know I am a great fan….and more than anything so pleased to hear that ‘it looks like up to you’:)
    Thank you dear Shimon….Janet. xx

    • Yes, bad enough, Janet, that the commercial interests are constantly trying to distract us, and tempt us to buy still more. But lately, I’ve really lost patience with the news media that are always trying to lead us around by the nose. So I was just having a bit of fun (based on a true story). Seems though, that I got some friends worried I might be suffering from depression. It’s really not so bad. Thanks very much for your comment, and best wishes to you for a great time with your visitors, xxx

  18. Fantastic! Everything sings in this post, even your ups and downs.

    As you described the station and the surrounding venues, I was transported back to the area, remembering a couple of visits and who we were with. (I enlarged your picture, in case I spotted any familiar faces…not this time).

    Like you, I find getting out amongst people and their activities can be very uplifting.

    Delightful post Shimon.

    • Yes it is… very uplifting, to see people out on the town in the middle of summer and enjoying themselves. The first station has gotten better and better. By the time you get back here, you won’t recognize it. Last night, I was out on the town again, and it was really beautiful. I might share some shots this Friday. Thanks for the comment, menhir.

  19. Given your temperatures, I’m not surprised you’ve been a bit sluggish and devoid of enthusiasm. We’re just as hot, and it’s draining. It can take the cheer and enthusiasm right out of a person, and make everything seem a struggle. But slowing the pace can be a great help, and that’s just what you did.

    I was pleased to discover that you, too, enjoy the blues. I’m not so much a fan of jazz (although I’ll listen to Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli any time of the day or night), but I love the blues, and have traveled to Mississippi to some of the spots famous in blues lore. One of the most famous Mississippi blues record labels is called “Fat Possum.” What’s not to like about that?

    I laughed at your man-bites-dog story, but only because the dynamic is so obvious. Our media insists on giving us the same, presumably to distract us from real issues that are pretty darned depressing. It’s hard to walk that fine line between legitimate concern with substantive issues and obsessing over fluff. Generally, the best approach is a nice walk, a good beer, and some fine music. As a friend used to say, “Do what you can, not what you can’t” — and we always can have a walk!

    Given your man-bites-dog story, it tickles me that one of the earliest and most famous examples of the blues is “Yellow Dog Blues.” W. C. Handy immortalized the crossing of the Southern Railway and the Yazoo Delta (“Yellow Dog”) Railroad at Moorhead, MS, in his 1914 song “Yellow Dog Rag,” better known under its later title, “Yellow Dog Blues.” Handy wrote that he first heard the line “Goin’ where the Southern cross the Dog” sung by a guitarist at the Tutwiler train station around 1903, and Moorhead soon became a hub of blues activity.

    Gosh, I wish I could take you on a prowl of Mississippi juke joints!

    • I do like Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, but my favorites are sax players and piano pounders. Art Pepper and John Coltrane, Gerry Mulligan, Oscar Peterson, Dave McKenna and Art Tatum. There are really so many that I love… But even so, they’re just a small wedge in the great world of jazz. Sometimes, people who know I love jazz recommend something, and it’s not at all my taste… because so much is included in that category. Glad you enjoyed the man-bites-dog story. It was based on something that actually happened here, and it was exasperating to see how many fell for this outlandish red herring. I just love W. C. Handy. You’re so right when you say, immortalized… because that funny man has really kept living long after he departed from our world. You wish, and I wish too. Linda… How good it would be to check out some good places together. Thank you so much for your comment.

  20. Most interesting post Shimon. Biting a dog, the hair of a dog and all the other doggy things. Have a great week.

  21. I so enjoy your writing, and the unique rhythm you develop in your posts by alternating photos and text that aren’t tethered to one another very tightly, but always work together.
    No doubt a great blues song can be written about the low down man who bites the dog….I appreciate your observation about the usefulness of blues music in tough times – I think it cuts past the words in the mind – the negative self-talk, as the current parlance calls it. And that music empathizes!
    The news can surely get one down. I’m glad you followed your instinct and took that walk. We were on an enforced news holiday for a few days this week, being out of reach of TV except one old station we didn’t want to watch, our phones didn’t work, the internet was sporadic, so we didn’t even try to connect. That was good!
    We have those “libraries” around here, too – they’re usually quite small, like a snug kiosk with a bit of roof to keep the Seattle drizzle out. Can’t see it working so well in New York…

    • Such a sweet comment, bluebrightly. Thank you very much. That news holiday you enjoyed recently sounds like just the thing for me. I do want to know what’s going on in the world, and in my country. But there is so much nonsense reported, that sometimes it seems like masochism, following it all. Very pleased to hear that there are street libraries in your part of the world too. It could be that this is one of the side effects of books moving from paper to digital. But even so, it really is nice seeing people exchange books without any money involved. Besty wishes to you.

  22. In my late teens, I discovered and fell in love with the sounds of Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Thelonious Monk, And that’s funny because here I was, a girl who grew up in Asia all her life, in an environment where hard bop and jazz is not quite what people listen to.
    How magical is the universality of music!

    • Yes, plumerainbow, those are the very artists that I especially love. Jazz is such a wide category, that often friends recommend some piece that is considered ‘jazz’ and it leaves me cold. But I did find an area of the genre which provided me with inspiration. Music certainly transcends all boundaries. Thank you very much for your comment.

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