Living

After Hours: Picking locks with pen and ink

There are no prison bars that can confine the fertile imagination of John Charles Griffin.

His book of poetry, “After the Meltdown,” debuted July 11 at Gallery West on Third Street with a reception for a poet who bares his soul, ruefully laughs at time-honored tradition and memorializes the ordinary like a reactionary whose mind never rests. Griffin’s poetry eludes definition. It has staccato rhythm but does not necessarily rhyme.

After a little jamming on his harmonica with Randy Wesson on guitar, he read a few selections from his book. Like Dotty Hibbert, visiting with her son from Atlanta, the audience was quiet, but the cadence -- the rapid, breathless expression -- had his listeners, many of whom probably never read poetry, poised on the edges of their chairs.

“Directory Assistance” brought laughter and nods about the frustration of being on hold, forced to use a menu to get results from an automated operator. “Dog Tag” evoked the raw emotion of witnessing the ravages of a war zone, just as Griffin did when he served with the Navy in the mid 1970s.

Persistence in following his muse is matched only by Griffin’s fervor in supporting Macon’s music scene. “Honky Tonk,” full of restrained anger and attitude, close to the edge of madness, is dedicated to the late country singer Randy Howard. “Mama Louise” is a tribute to the quiet strength of a woman who has imparted wisdom with a healthy helping of soul food to a diverse stream of patrons at the H&H Restaurant, which is synonymous with her name.

Published by Snake Nation Press in Valdosta, the book’s cover is wrapped in the artwork of internationally known artist Flournoy Holmes, whose indelible album covers include the Allman Brothers Band’s “Eat a Peach.”

BLUEGRASS AND WATERMELON BEER?

On Cherry Street, that Saturday night, the 567 Center for Renewal held its inaugural Beer and Bluegrass event where Johnny Roquemore and the Apostles of Bluegrass played for the disciples of an ancient brew.

Handcrafted beers from Macon Beer Company, one of the sponsors for the evening, were served from the vats in which they are brewed and challenged the eager patrons to try unusual recipes like Creature Comforts Tropicalia, a fruit and citrus flavored beverage. It was fun to watch the reaction of some seasoned beer drinkers as they tossed back Terrapin Liquid Lunch Peanut Butter and Jelly -- the ideal lunchtime snack.

Melinda and Bill McGinness joined suds enthusiasts moving from one station to another to try the new generation of beer. Food was plentiful and spicy but could be cooled off with a swig of 21st Amendment Brewing Hell or High Watermelon -- yes, watermelon.

Obviously, those warnings about mixing beer and melon were just scare tactics to keep teenagers away from the devil’s potion.

RIGHTEOUS JAZZ

Keith Fitzgerald’s number one fan stood on her mother’s lap, eyes fixed on her father the minute he lifted his trombone. Isabel is barely a tot, but the music was not wasted on her last Sunday when Ed Clark’s jazz ensemble, EKC Quartet and Friends, performed at Vineville United Methodist Church for the monthly Music and the Arts Series.

The concert was dedicated to the memory of former member Rodney Floyd, whose widow, Mary Jo, was in the audience and was recognized by Clark, a neighbor of the Floyds when they lived in Macon.

The quartet opened with renditions of Latin jazz numbers that made it difficult to sit still in the pews. Had this not been a sanctuary, a lot of those well churched people would have been dancing in the aisles. Susan McDuffie, accomplished jazz pianist, could barely keep her feet still.

The selections were familiar, some as jazz standards like “Wade in the Water” and “Take the A Train,” others, such as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” transposed to a tune Dorothy would not recognize, but through the language of jazz -- splendid!

Dave Brubeck’s long track, “Take Five,” was one of the numbers that featured solos by each musician. Clark showed off his talent for scat in “Get Your Kicks on Route 66,” a virtual instrument duel which had Trish and George Barfield smiling.

Neil Rigole, keyboard player for the EKC Quartet, was just as comfortable on the concert grand accompanying vocalist Mystee Wilcox for “Blue Skies.” Considered a master in jazz, blues and R&B, KMO (pronounced Kaymo), leaned on his upright bass, bantering with drummer Jim Blanton on “Mambo.”

Not wanting this special afternoon to end, the audience wanted an encore and the quartet obliged with “This Little Light of Mine,” which segued to “Amazing Grace,” with Clark on saxophone for a bluesy finale to a sunny afternoon.

Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or kwaldenint@aol.com.

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