Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ebey Slough

As mentioned in earlier posts, I read a book about a guy who paddled down the entire Mississippi River in a canoe. That inspired a daydream to one day paddle in Ebey Slough just east of Everett Washington.

Today that "dream" was realized....

I put the canoe on top of the truck, tied it down and headed east on the Highway 2 bridge over the Snohomish River a couple of miles. That portion of Highway 2 is called "the trestle." The viaduct and bridge are used by more than 37,000 vehicles everyday.

This version of the trestle is about 40 years old and had to be repaired in 2007. Crews sandblasted rust, dirt and loose concrete from the girders and then used a carbon fiber mesh to repair them. Once the mesh was in place, crews used hand trowels to apply concrete over the exposed steel.

Hmmm.... I decided to get off the trestle and onto some side roads, looking for a spot to "put in" the canoe. As soon as I pulled off the main highway I saw what I suspected to be remnants of an old "hobo" village. I'd forgotten about that. Transients used to live on a small swampy patch of western Ebey Island, and today it looked like they still do. I seem to recall that more than 20 years ago a couple of public defenders represented a guy charged with a murder at that camp.

In the early 1980s I myself had defended a guy named Charles Long who, on this very same Ebey Island, repeatedly stabbed a guy named Freeman with a knife-- partially severing his jugular vein, collapsing a lung and lacerating his heart-- in the presence of two witnesses. As I was searching for one of the eyewitnesses, the deputy prosecutor found the witness and literally had her hypnotized so she could no longer support Long's claim of self-defense. After the jury convicted Long, I got the verdict overturned on appeal in State v. Long, 32 Wn.App. 732 (1982).

Ebey Island is named for Colonel Isaac Neff Ebey (1818–1857), one of the earliest settlers in the Pacific Nortwest. Col. Ebey was the first permanent white resident on Whidbey Island. In 1857, a party of Haida and Tlingits from British Columbia travelled by canoe into Puget Sound on a mission of vengeance. Following the murder of one of their chiefs by white men the previous year, the Haida party was searching for a white chief to kill in retaliation. The original intended victim was Dr. John Kellogg. But when the Haida were unable to locate Kellogg, they went to Ebey's house, called him out, shot him dead, and beheaded him. Three years after the killing, Isaac Ebey's scalp was recovered by Captain Charles Dodd of the Hudson's Bay Company and given to Ebey's brother. Cpt. Dodd traded the scalp for the price of "Six Blankets, 3 pipes, 1 cotton handkerchief, 6 heads of Tobacco, 1 fthm. Cotton".

This canoe trip on Ebey Island had the potential to create a lot of memories.

After driving around awhile, I finally found a spot to park, though I'd have to portage the canoe a short distance to the slough. Only a couple of obstacles to get around--

Can you imagine what this guy's key ring must look like?

Once in the canoe on the water the cliff swallows started going crazy. There were hundreds of mud swallow nests under the trestle on all the pilings. Creepy.

Oh well. I shook that off and decided to enjoy the pleasing sights on the slough.

Deciding to go the opposite direction, I paddled upon what I imagined to be the Ebey Island Yacht Club. I wondered if that was the guest dock.

I'm not entirely sure what I think and feel now about Ebey Slough. But I am truly thankful I got a chance to outlive this particular dream. Next canoe trip-- another peaceful neighborhood lake.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hammond B-3

When you hear the organ sound in jazz, blues, gospel, rock and even country music, it's usually the sound of a Hammond, and more particularly, a vintage Hammond B-3 "tone wheel" amplified through a Leslie Speaker with rotating horn in a wood cabinet. There's nothing like that sound. Even digital samples don't quite measure up.

For the purist, it helps if the amplifiers in both the Hammond and the Leslie have vacuum tubes, rather than transistors or digital chips. It's the old-fashioned heat and distortion in the tubes that makes the character and warmth of the sound.

Before electricity, mechanical organs used to be comprised a lot of metal pipes (each shaped like the old metal boatswain's whistle) in incremental sizes from short lengths (for the higher pitches) to about 16 feet (for the lower bass notes). Some of the pipes were made of wood. Air was pumped through a particular pipe as a corresponding key on the organ keyboard was pressed. All these pipes and blowers required a lot of space-- sometimes a separate room. You can still see and hear "pipe organs" in older churches.

The Hammond organ was invented by clockmaker Laurens Hammond in 1934 and was originally sold to churches as a lower-cost alternative to the wind-driven pipe organ. The Hammond is a mechanical organ (as compared to transistor, solid-state and digital). There's a "tone wheel" which has a number of metal disks attached to a revolving metal shaft coming out of an electric motor. The tonewheel actually has to be oiled through a wick (cotton string). Magnets pick up the electric impulse produced by the revolving disks, which is converted into a signal to be amplified into sound. There are several additional mechanical parts which can change the sound, such as "draw bars."

In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s it became a standard keyboard instrument for jazz, blues, gospel and rock music. Jimmy Smith is probably the originator and best known of jazz organists. Growing up in the early 1960s, my Dad had a couple of 33 rpm vinyl albums of Bill Doggett, who was more of a swing and blues organist. More recently, I had a chance to meet Joey De Francesco. There are lots of other super organists and I've heard a couple of them live.

Hammond had its own set of speakers, but inventor Donald Leslie (1913–2004) came up with what's now commonly known as the Leslie Speaker. Sound is emitted by a rotating horn over a stationary treble driver and a rotating baffle beneath a stationary bass woofer. The sound has a constantly changing pitch that results from the Doppler effect created by the moving sound sources. It was originally designed to mimic the complex tones in a pipe organ. The effect varies depending on the speed of the rotors.

A few years ago I saw and heard Ray Charles perform at the Paramount in Seattle. Of course he was great! The organist on stage had a Hammond and two Leslie speakers. That was a premier setup.

The Hammond C-3 is essentially the same organ as the B-3, but the cabinet has a wooden enclosure or "skirt" around the legs of the organ. The C-3 was marketed for church use because of its "modesty" or "privacy" panels, which hid the organist's—often a woman's—legs when the organ was positioned in front of the congregation. The B-3 was marketed for musicians who wanted to use a separate Hammond tone cabinet or Leslie Speaker. The B-3 and C-3 were produced between 1954 and 1974. A vintage tonewheel Hammond in good condition is a pleasure to play, but it weighs about 500 pounds, and a Leslie Speaker weighs about 100 pounds. They can be hauled for gigging, but it's pretty hard on them.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Salem Massachusetts

We went to the Boston area the last week in May. One part of the trip was to Salem, Massachusetts-- home to the famous "Salem Witch Trials" in 1692. Three young women started exhibiting bizarre behavior, which led to suspicion and accusations of witchcraft in the Puritan town. Suspects were accused, examined and imprisoned by local magistrates. By the time the hysteria was over 24 people had died-- 19 were hanged on Gallows Hill in Salem Town. Some died in prison and one man who refused to confess was crushed to death.

We got there a little late in the evening, but managed to connect with a tour guide, who claimed to be a witch. He wore a top hat and carried an umbrella. There was something vaguely familiar about our guide.

He walked us past the old county jail, a couple of graveyards, taverns and other places claimed to be haunted. The guide suggested that we closely examine our photographs later for "white orbs," green slime, and ghost-like mist. Such would be evidence of ghosts that only a camera could capture-- the unaided human eye just wouldn't see them. I thought the white orbs were reflections from the camera flash bouncing off of rain drops (as the guide did have an umbrella).

Later, when I examined the digital photos I'd taken a little more closely, I did see. . .

Fishing Scenes

Here are some pictures taken during various fishing trips to some local lakes. It's relaxing and beautiful out on the lake in the canoe. Some of the scenes are from the shore. It's a good way to get away from the old grind in a matter of minutes.The pictures should be pretty self-explanatory. (That's one of several swimmers wearing wetsuits who were working out on the glass-smooth lake, swimming its length and back).