The Chris Chandler Show

  • The Muse and Whirled Retort 2012

    The Muse and Whirled Retort February 2012

    This is a new Video I made for David Rovics
    I could do this for you!

    Vol. XIII issue v

    February 2012
    Oakland, CA

    Hey everybody... it's that time of the month again.  When fireworks woke me up at the end of last month - I realized I had never lived in such an asian neighborhood.  For year (largely based on looking at Chinese Restaurant place-mats) I had thought that I was a dragon.  But no.  I was born in mid January and chinese new year is in late january/ early February.  I am - a rabbit.  "What's up, Doc?"

    Well - The Dragon is the symbol upon the Welsh flag - and even after winning the Ameri-Cymru Eisteddfod I still did not have any Celtic tales.  I have always feared having to wear Spock ears and telling tales of the wee-folk.  I figured the only way around that was to write my own retelling of some Celtic stories.

    This is my first attempt so I really encourage some feed back.  It is longish so I recommend printing it out and reading it at your leasure.  I really look forward to hearing from you this month - especially those of you familiar with Celtic tales.

    As Jen would say, "Blwyddwyn Newydd Dda."
    The Muse and Whirled Retrot
    chandler 1705
    The Legend of Y Ddraig Gochby Chris Chandler
    (for Chinese New Year 2012)

    To this day know one can prove if it happened accidentally or if perhaps it was carefully planed out, but legend has it that is was divine intervention.

    Sam Samwell was no relation to the Samwell Circus Dynasty that employed him, but no one at the Cockaigne Island Carnival knew that.  This fluke of fortune gave him a faint feeling of security as he watched jobs being cut with less accuracy than the great Throwdini, whose knife throwing mishap last month had actually increased ticket sales --  for a while.

    The band had been fired the week before - replaced by the steam age's latest contrivance -  the calliope.

    "Now Calliope is a peculiar name for the glamorized gadget," Sam said in an effort to console his young friend Piccolo Joe who had just been sacked.

    Sam was surprisingly well read for a man who had resigned himself to operating a carousel some 25 years ago. "Calliope is, as you must know, the Muse of poetry and this convoluted contraption is anything but poetic."

    Joe replied with youthful optimism, "Don't worry... in the long run this band will out live that contraption.  It will fall to the ground and never be rebuilt. We however, may have to take to the hills, but we will rise again - and people all over the world will know our name Y Ddraig Goch."

    "I never thought that was a particularly catchy name."

    "Yea, me neither."

    The year before, the calliope had been bought by the carnival as a novelty in the hopes of putting a brighter face on the circus' nefarious reputation by appealing to children - or more importantly,  the parents of children - or more importantly than that,  the wallets of the parents of children.   It sat proud atop a bright red surrey with yellow wagon wheels drawn by a team of white stallions. Pillars of Black smoke fumed from the smokestack - filling her pipe organ with steam.  Louvered doors popped open mechanically and hand carved monkeys in Fezzes clanged cymbals as a brass drum music-box spun the melody to "Pop Goes the Weasel." She marched at the end of the Parade prompting rubes to follow as it entered the big top.

    But after only a year, the goody had been licked off the lolly pop, and the babies to steal candy from were becoming fewer and farther between.  Or so the locals said.  It seemed that every candy stealing, adulterating, pickpocketing, lying, cheating dastardly deed in the county was blamed on the circus.  Politicians wanted it gone - and with the failure of the calliope investment, now the banks did too.

    The struggling sideshow was coming under increasing pressure from the nearby town of Wyn.  However, while the locals publicly decried the fair grounds, privately they would venture across the moat and pay homage to the dark side.

    Cockaigne Island was not so much of an island as it was a patch of land on the outskirts of town.  They would have said it was on the other side of the tracks but the railroad did not yet make it to Wyn.  Instead, it was separated from the town by a manmade moat.  Technically, it was not a part of the town and the Chamber of Commerce liked it that way.  Anything that happened there would not be counted in the regional statistics and that helped Wyn keep her squeaky clean image.  The local constable  made great efforts to funnel any crime in the town across the moat.

    While its citizenry mostly lived in tents and carriages it was technically its own municipality.  A century earlier a horse-drawn side show of gypsies, tramps and thieves had descended on the town and the local magistrate ordered a nut to be put on the wagons until their bills were paid.  The carnival never made its nut and had settled into being a convenient  red light district the locals could enjoy with out any of the repercussions.  That's when it was bought by the Samwell Circus Dynasty which was now threatened by the bad investment of the calliope.

    New economic decisions had to be made.  Buckminster Huck, the manager of the King's First Royal Bank of Wyn was determined to close the carnival and give the tiny patch of land to more "lucrative" investors. Napoleon Samwell himself came to the tiny town to intervene. His first move was to set the meeting at the carnival instead of the office in Wyn. It was the first time Buckmister Huck had been on the island - at least not in a disguise.

    His perfect politician hair shimmered in the sun. The clouds seemed to part as he strode across the moat, and the performers greeted him with all the fanfare usually reserved for more dignified dignitaries.  Aireola debuted her vaunted  Grand-volants Retourner to the highest audience accolade - higher than  standing ovation -  the holy gasp. A truly great performer is lucky to get two in a lifetime.

    The jaw dropping spectacle softened the bank's demands. Pip, Petunia,  Airieola, and the great Throwdinini would stay.  Their performance, for the moment, had kept the conference concerns to just the calliope and the carousel.

    But there, big changes were in store.  

    It's hot water burner was to be converted and her steam used to power the Merry-Go-Round.  The band stand was to be modified and the glorified gizmo was to be hoisted onto the gazebo above the center of the ride.  

    Piccolo Joe and the other band members stayed for a few days working as carpenters and plumbers connecting all of the hoses and fittings necessary to create the monstrosity. Barry the banjo player put the giant music maker together.    It is the only time in history the banjo player literally made the band.

    The stallions were sold to the army.

    Sam loved the horses.  He had been the carrousel barker since the Merry-Go-Round used actual ponies.

    Now even the colorful carved wooden horses that had replaced the ponies were sold. They were succeeded by cheaper, fanciful creatures -  unicorns, flying zebras, sea monsters made of latest vogue -  Vulcanized Rubber.

    "Vulcan and Calliope." Sam muttered to Joe as not to be heard.  

    "Why not Beli Mawr, or Taliesin?"

    "Yea, we drive the Romans off this island 1500 years ago - and does anyone name anything after our Gods?"

    "Oh, go to Annwyn."

    Circling the outside of the ride were a Pegasus, a Centaur and a Minotaur followed by other mythological creatures.  At the center were two long dragons that chased each other as the Merry-Go-Round went round.  One white - the other red.  Big Bellows of steam snorted through their noses as it pushed the lumbering leviathans on a pivot. As the ride reached its climax - their hind quarters haunched and a blast of steam shot through a tea kettle creating cacophony against the calliope.

    The big Brass drum - which served as the modern music box flipping switches and levers to make the organ play - was melted down and replaced with a paper spindle serving the same function, but its serpentine structure was capable of playing songs much longer than "Pop Goes the Weasel."

    It was Sam's new job to replace the spindles with different ditties. Most of them he nor anyone else really recognized - but they had elaborate orchestrations with mechanical drums, train whistles and bells playing in tandem with the pipe organ calypso. There was even a mechanical slide trombone to which a comical boxing glove was affixed that occasionally walloped one of the monkeys as a coo coo clock cried.

    There was no banjo. That would be overkill.

    The band had worked hard assembling the gadgetry.  In some ways harder than they did each Beltane. But by the end of the week the band had worked themselves out of a job and there were no dance halls or taverns in Wyn.

    Sam Samwell spent much of his morning between rides learning to feed the paper spindles through the contraption.  He missed the band but the new variety of songs gave him a little solace.

    Amidst the variety of calypso and soca were military marches - many by an American named John Phillip Sousa. Sam wondered if that is why they called it a Sousaphone.  The lines for the ride grew longer and their demand for a new song grew louder.  

    Even in this lowly a role Sam was ever the showman.  He found that when he shoveled more coal the fire grew hotter and the song spun faster.  He learned that by speeding up the marches to a fevered pitch it turned them from military anthems to slapstick farce and after-all what is a carnival but a certain amount of buffoonery.

    He spooled the paper of yet another number and shoveled a fresh scoop of coal.  Another military March with its title stenciled on the side -  "Entrance of the Gladiators."

    He recognized this one - though not by its title. (you would too - only you call it something like "You know, that circus song.") It was from his days in Prague.  It was a military marching song celebrating a government that no one - including its duel-monarchs were happy with.  He liked it sped up this way. He pictured Pip and Petunia chasing the soldiers with bottles of seltzer.  

    Another scoop of coal.  Who could forget the composers name?  Julius Fucik. (pronounced Fuk-it)  It seemed fitting somehow.  Perhaps it wasn't that funny if you spoke Hungarian, but it made him laugh when he thought of people in Prague forced to wave flags of an unholy alliance as soldiers they despised marched through the streets giving rise to chants of, "Fucik!  Fucik! Fucik!"

    Another scoop of coal.  "What if they called it a Fucik-phone," he snickered to himself.

    He pictured the whole army aiming their rifles at Petunia and Pip but when they pulled their trigger out popped flags that read "BANG!" as they surrendered to the clowns.  The whole tableau unfurled in his mind as he shoveled.

    More coal. Faster. Cheers. Some in fear.  Some in glee.

    The Red Dragon and the White Dragon screeched and kicked as if they were fighting each other.  Cheers turned to screams as their slow rolling sleigh ride turned to a bucking bronco. Steam snorted through their noses as riders began to panic.

    Sam was forced to shout, "Hey Rube!"  The carnival's code for "I need help here!"  but the calliope was too loud.  He began pulling levers and switches - it only made matters worse - the mechanical monkeys popped in and out of banging louvered doors clanging their cymbals like a Gatling gun. The ride was spinning too fast. The slide trombone broke away with its boxing glove swinging wildly like a prize fighter clobbering a banking executive in the maw as the clock cried,  "Coo-coo."

    The end of the paper spindle zipped through the device and its loose end flapped with the monkeys but the machine kept spinning.  He tried feeding another roll through the device - but nothing seemed to work.

    The local gilly ran this way and that as the dragons began to destroy everything in site.  The red tail whipped round and clanged into one of the pillars holding the gazebo aloft.  The White snorted a horrible hiss and haunched his hips as his head lunged into the side wall.  The whole calliope crashed down onto the menagerie of mythic beasts.

    There was nothing even Napoleon Samwell could do. The White Dragon, it seemed had won.  The land inside the moat was sold to Buckmisnter Huck. Petunia, Pip and the Great Throwdini were forced to find "honest" work. Piccolo Joe and Barry the Banjo player already had.  They were brought in to bury the mess and begin building a market for cheap machine made imports from the smoke-stack cities.

    In an effort to expedite the process, a team of ponies towed in another invention of the steam era - the steam shovel.  The whole town of Wyn came out for the ground breaking ceremony.

    The pageantry was nothing compared to the worst day at the circus - but Mr Huck did try. I guess banker has never been synonymous with fun.

    He had the entire town as an eager audience and the most he could muster was a countdown. To his credit - the locals chimed in half enthusiastically.  "10 - 9 - 8..."

    Buckminster Huck's hand griped the switch,  "6 - 5 - 4..."  

    A polite 'Hoorah' radiated from the crowd,  "3 - 2 - 1..."

    The lever was thrown... and then...

    and then...

    To this day know one can prove if it happened accidentally or if perhaps it was carefully planed out, but legend has it that is was divine intervention.

    Some how in the connecting and reconnecting of hoses that ran the steam shovel Piccolo Joe managed to connect some of the old lines still buried in the rubble.

    Those lines led directly to the broken remains of the calliope.  A sinister hiss burped from beneath the ground followed by a familiar melody.  It seems that the last paper spindle Sam Samwell thread through the contraption was still connected.  An ancient song not heard in many years emanated from the cracks in the ground.

    The folks of Wyn began to sing.

    "The land of my fathers, the land of my choice,

    The land in which poets and minstrels rejoice;

    The land whose stern warriors were true to the core,

    While bleeding for freedom of yore."

    As they got to the chorus the ground shook, and right next to Buckminster Huck himself -  up rose the head of a mighty Red Dragon.  They stared eye ball to eye ball.  Steam shot through its nose sending his toupee off into the wind.

    Many laughed and cheered. Others,  horrified, ran for their lives.  But most - perhaps those that secretly admired the carnival - linked arms and sang.

    "Old mountainous Cambria, the Eden of bards,

    Each hill and each valley, excite my regards;
To the ears of her patriots how charming still seems

    The music that flows in her streams."

    The ground burped again with another burst of steam as if to punctuate insult and injury.  The slide trombone slid its slide through the ground rocketing the boxing glove upward socking Buckminster Huck right in the manhood. The collar to his bow tie popped open like a cartoon. He sang in harmony as a soprano with the clock that cried,  "Coo coo.  Coo coo.  Coo coo."

    The curtain descended.

    The show was over, the crowds went home.  

    In the end, the Red Dragon had defeated the White.  The land was condemned and no one ever attempted to build their again.

    Except Sam Samwell - who was of course no relation to the famous Samwell Circus Dynasty.  

    He returned not long afterwards along with Piccolo Joe and the team of ponies that had been used to haul the massive steam shovel across the moat.  They placed a pole in the ground and made a sign.  "Merry-Go-Round Rides: 1 Bob"

    Piccolo Joe began to play.

    Sam Samwell thought fondly of the old myth, "Y Ddraig Goch Ddyry Cychwyn - The Red Dragon will rise again,"  as he began to work barking, "Step right up!"

    Things are tooling along at Celtic Art Studio.
    Please check out the latest:
    I made a new video for David Rovics
    he says it is my best.
    The Last Lincoln Veteran:
    New DVD package I am working on for Anne Feeney coming soon
    I am working on late spring early summer on the west coast:
    get your requests in.
    If ya want a copy of the new album "Matadors"
    please visit:
    Jen Delyth, Shirley Myers, The Western Workers Labor Heritage Festival,  Hali Hammer, Avotcja Jiltonilro, Megan McLaughlin, Tom Payne, Fred and Mair Clough, Ira Marlow, Magi Forti, Eric Alan, Michelle Sellers, Portia Bettis, Maggie Forti, Judith Barnet.
    with Jen Delyth
    Seattle Convention Center
    Feb 10, 11, 12

    March TBA
    Jack Kerouac's 90th Birthday Party
    The Beat Museum
    San Francisco, CA

    nothing else on the books in the immediate future but stay tuned for lots of dates in May June July August and Septemeber.

    If you are in the bay area and want me to throw down for an event soon - let me know.

    updated: 10 years ago