Weekend Reads: “Meddling Kids”

Meddling KidsMeddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I first heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. I have been a fan of Scooby-Doo and his gang of teenage detectives since I was a little kid. This book brings forth the concept of a teenage detective gang all grown up — with the accompanying challenges, including mental illness — and the third generation of their beloved dog realizing they sent the wrong man to jail on a case.

Meddling Kids is Scooby Doo meets Cthulu, with references to Arkham and Miskatonic thrown in as Easter eggs.

The gang of teens – Andrea (who prefers to be called Andy), Kelli, and Nate — decide to go back to their home town of Blyton Hills to see if they can figure out what really happened in the Duboën mansion thirteen years previously. They found a guy in a suit there at the time, who “would have gotten away with it, if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids” … but they know they got it wrong. Accompanied by their Weimaraner, Tim — and the ghost of Peter, the fourth teen sleuth, whom only Nate can see, they retrace their footsteps with adult eyes.

There is a lot to love about this book, as the young adults battle demons both supernatural and real-world. One of the most amazing things I’ve ever read is a two-page run-on sentence describing a fight. Stylistically, this decision shows how the action never stopped to take a breath. Very clever indeed.

There is a completely unexpected twist at the very end that put a huge smile on my face. I highly recommend this unusual tale.

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Elvis Aaron Presley, 1/8/35-8/16/77

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By Uncredited [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
It’s summer 1977.  I’m 13 years old, and my freshman year of high school will be starting in just a couple of weeks (in those days, everyone went back to school the day after Labor Day).  We live in a trailer park.  I’m skinny, brainy, and have few friends.  My main refuge is music and books.  I hadn’t yet reached full puberty, and vaguely had an idea that boys might be cute.  That’s who I was when Elvis died.

 

In our house, the favored radio station was KGW AM (FM stations were a rarity back then, and those that were out there were hard to pick up).  They were a typical Top 40 station of the day, playing not only current hits but an occasional oldie.

Elvis Presley had just released his first album in ages, Moody Blue.  The big hit was “Way Down.”  I already liked Elvis’ music; my folks had records that I listened to all the time on the record player in my room.  In particular, there was a double album set that my mom ordered from television.  I would stack the two records on the player, Side 1 first, and them turn them over when both had played so I could hear the rest of the music.  I remember hearing “Way Down” only a few times on the radio.

And then, one day, it seemed to be all Elvis, all the time. I remember hearing the news that Elvis had died of a heart attack at age 42.  As I was 13, that seemed impossibly old to me.  My father, after all, was 40 … and we all know our parents are impossibly old.

Elvis’ death hit fans like the proverbial ton of bricks.  I don’t think I clearly understood how that felt until David Bowie passed away.  Like Bowie had been for me, Elvis felt like a family member to his fans.  He’d been in their living rooms on TV, had been on their record players and radios for twenty years, and many of them had seen him perform.

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By Uncredited [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
As I got older (and, frankly, puberty happened), I understood something else about Elvis.  He was a very sensual figure.  Those screaming fans back in the day were seeing something that had never been seen before, to be honest:  a man who understood how to use raw sexuality on stage.

And then there was that voice.  Elvis was a baritone with an extension into both tenor and bass.  He could sing blues, rock, ballads, and gospel with equal ease and sincerity.  It’s no wonder that Sam Phillips started paying attention when a 19-year-old Crown Electric truck driver came into Sun Studios to make a record for his mother.

 

Over and over, I have thought about how different music would be if that had never happened.  It’s impossible to say!

Fans always have “their Elvis” … by which they mean the period of music they prefer.  For me, it’s 1968.  Elvis was 33 years old, wearing a black leather suit, and exuding both humor and sensuality during what his management hoped would be a traditional Christmas special and was anything but.

On this day, in 1977, Elvis “left the building” for the very last time.   Needless to say, Moody Blue became the number one album for a while (this is common when an artist passes away).

But Elvis wasn’t done yet.  His most recent #1 hit was in 2002, when (for the first time ever) an Elvis song was licensed for remix.  “A Little Less Conversation,” remixed by JXL, hit the top of the charts.

I am going to visit Graceland next month, making a pilgrimage that many fans make on an annual basis but others do only once in their lives.  I will share photographs from my trip and talk about my experiences.  Right now, I want to share the music.

Here’s “my Elvis.”

Here are “Way Down” and the remixed “A Little Less Conversation” (complete with a nod to “Jailhouse Rock”).   Today, let’s enjoy the music.

Southern Pride in a Time of Terror

These words are beautifully spoken. I vividly remember my first visit to the deep South. I was in Atlanta for a conference. I was shocked at how many Confederate monuments there were, and it made me — a white woman — feel very uncomfortable. I could only imagine how those monuments made people of color feel every day. Because those monuments were a deliberate reminder to people of color that they had best not step out of line.

I can love New Orleans with all my heart (and I do) and still be glad that the Liberty Place monument (and many others) are now going into museums instead of standing on public streets.

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I’m a child of the American South.  I’m the Witch of this Southern place, this place here in Virginia, close-by the shores of Spout Run and the Potomac River.  I’m a woman whose spiritual life consists mainly of being in relationship with my Southern landbase.  And there’s a lot about the South that makes me proud.

I’m proud of our cooking, a melange, as Michael Twitty notes, of African, European, Island, and Native traditions.  Chef Twitty has called our cuisine a family affair and sometimes one full of family fights.  Give me ham biscuits, a mint julep, Old Bay, crawfish étouffée, fried catfish, my Aunt May’s hushpuppies, and a chess pie.

I’m proud of Southern writing, a genre not afraid to explore the shadows and the weird and to claim them, to claim them fully.

I’m proud of Southern gardens, Southern architecture, and Southern music.  Jazz, ya’ll.  Bluegrass.  Rock and…

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Music Monday: “Lean on Me,” by Playing for Change

I admit, after this weekend’s events in Charlottesville, Virginia, I have been struggling to find the right song for Music Monday.  I considered “Man in Black,” but I’ve used it twice (here and here).  I posted “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “If I Had a Hammer” just the other day.

My heart is sore.  I have been angry and concerned, by turns, pretty much since last November.  I feel like Cassandra, with people telling me I was “overreacting” … only to be proven 100 percent correct.

Over the weekend, a woman named Heather Heyer was murdered by a white supremacist who drove his automobile, at speed, into a group of peaceful counterprotestors.  Nineteen other people were injured.  A young Black man named Deandre Harris was cornered in a parking garage and beaten with bats and clubs by white supremacists; the images are eerily reminiscent of the Klansmen beating up Freedom Riders in the 1960s.  I don’t want to share the photos here; you’ve probably seen them anyway.

So, I say all of that to say this:  I struggled to figure out what to share today.  And finally, I realized that I wanted to share something by Playing For Change.  This group of musicians, from all around the world, make recordings and raise money to build music schools for disadvantaged kids — again, from all over the world.

We need to lean on one another during times like this.