Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bunko Kelly's Music Video

I needed to get this done so I could spend more time on my newest book (due in March). I still don't feel like publicizing the topic, since it is a little weird for me to show interest in such goings on.

So, I wanted a string band, or a jug band, or a skiffle band to help me along, but instead it did it myself. I didn't practice, I just did it, and recorded it--in spite of having shattered my wrist some time back, and severing my left rotator cuff a few months ago, and having not sung since my early forties. Now I will stop making excuses and cough up the details.

The new video: How the Flying Prince Got its Crew, has been uploaded and can now be viewed here:

 For those wishing to sing along, here are the lyrics:

The Ballad of the Flying Prince

Come gather round you Portland boys
And I will sing to you,
How that low down Bunko Kelly
Got the Flying Prince her crew.

The ship was moored at Ainsworth Dock
For six long weeks and more,
Loading sacks of golden wheat
For England's pleasant shore.

The time came for departure
One evening's rising tide,
The cargo was all battened down
The tug was alongside.

But the captain and the carpenter
Were the only souls aboard,
So they called in Bunko Kelly
Who they offered a reward.

Oh Bunko Kelly,
Oh Lord what shall we do?
The Flying Prince is set to sail
But I fear she has no crew.

So Kelly searched the waterfront
Top down and end to end,
For loggers, loafers, hoboes,
Or able-bodied men.

He searched the dives, he searched the dens,
Alcoves and alleys too,
But he could not find a single man
Who would sign aboard as crew.

He searched through Erickson's resort
Down on Burnside street,
T'was then he thought his luck was gone
And he might face defeat .

He went to the Snug Harbor
The last of the saloons,
Where his heart was chilled by an eerie sound
Like the warbling of the loons.

Oh Bunko Kelly,
Oh Lord what shall we do?
The Flying Prince is set to sail
But I fear she has no crew.

It seemed to come from somewhere near
Behind the basement door,
That belonged to Johnson and Son
Undertakers shop next door.

Then Bunko the shanghaier
Quaked and shook with fright,
As he traveled down the basement steps
He beheld a ghastly sight.

In the dark he nearly stepped upon
A corpse in death's dark throes,
Just then its bulging eyes turned white
And blood ran out its nose.

As his eyes adjusted to the dark,
Of that dank and loathsome den,
It filled with the writhing forms
Of dead and dying men.

Oh Bunko Kelly,
Oh Lord what shall we do?
The Flying Prince is set to sail
But I fear she has no crew.

The ghastly scene did tell a tale
Of foolishness and ruin,
Of men too dumb to realize
The Snug Harbor Saloon

Was the next door down, and this,
The undertaker's side,
Instead of gin they had imbibed
Straight up formaldehyde.

Two dozen men of middle age,
All winos to the core,
Lay writhing in the throes of death
Or dead upon the floor.

Bunko Kelly's eyes lit up
And off he went with haste,
To find some boys to help him keep
This chance from going to waste.

Oh Bunko Kelly,
Oh Lord what shall we do?
The Flying Prince is set to sail
But I fear she has no crew.

The livery stable boys hitched up
Some wagons for the task,
For what Bunko was paying them
No questions would be asked.

They wrapped the stiffs in canvas sheets
And carried them off thence,
To the waiting ship at Ainsworth Dock
The aforementioned Flying Prince.

When the captain saw our Bunko crimp,
Relieved and overjoyed,
Was he to see two dozen men,
Intent to be employed.

Though they were drunk and senseless,
Wrapped up like a cocoon,
As he supposed, from drinking at
The Snug Harbor Saloon.

Oh Bunko Kelly,
Oh Lord what shall we do?
The Flying Prince is set to sail
With a dead and dying crew.

The  boys stowed the men below
In the fo'castle and midship,
Then the captain loosed the ropes that tied
The vessel to the slip.

The steam tug Oklahama
Pushed the Flying Prince along,
Down the rivers to the sea
Suspecting nothing wrong.

Once in the wild Pacific surge
The tug whistled farewell,
And left the Flying Prince to lurch
Upon the bounding swell.

Some say she sails the oceans still
Her ragged sails askew
The captain, and the carpenter,
And a ghostly skeleton crew.

Oh Bunko Kelly,
Oh Lord what have you done?
The Flying Prince has lost its course
Since Portland, Oregon.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Embracing Fakelore

Having seeing the old Stewart Holbrook chestnut, “How the Flying Prince Got its Crew” treated like authentic history by people who should know better, I decided to get into this “fakelore” business myself. For those unfamiliar with the word, the neologism was invented for a 1950 article in the American Mercury by an American collector of real folklore, Richard Dorson. He spends much of the article skewering the likes of one Paul Bunyan as being mostly the invention of a writer hired by a lumber corporation.

There is another interesting article on the subject by Alan Dundes with the overdone title: Nationalistic Inferiority Complexes and the Fabrication of Fakelore: A Reconsideration of Ossian, the Kinder- und Hausmarchen, the Kalevala, and Paul Bunyan. Dundes doesn’t seem to get the picture that lots of fakelore is invented to make some money—to sell a story to a magazine, create a tourist trap with some ghostly tale of evil deeds, or to land an episode on the History Channel.

As most of my readers know by now, I am of the opinion that the city fathers and mothers of an older Portland, Oregon were so ashamed of the wide open past, corrupt cops, and teeming red light districts that they allowed for none of the old tales to take root. Until Stewart Holdbrook Portland history was a collection of bearded and boring men, doing boring deeds, while stealing the public blind (as in the case of the large section of land belonging to the Stevens family) and slapping each other on the back as jolly good fellows.

Holbrook unashamedly rewrote the city’s history in ways that would not be easy to forget. In Holbrook’s little booklet, The Portland Story (written for the Lippman & Wolfe 50th birthday celebration) he starts with the earliest pioneers, rolls in the railroads and the 20th century, and gives his imaginary nutshell history. Holbrook was awarded financial well-being and national notoriety, and all for being an ex-logger who could tell a good tale about the old Northwest.

When I think of all the places around the country—especially the “Wild West”—that increase the tourist income in their area by cashing in on a good piece of fakelore, it appears that this fakelore lark is a good cash cow. So I, not wanting to miss out on an opportunity to fatten my wallet, am sticking my toe in the Portland fakelore business.

Awhile back I penned a bit of verse (whether good or bad, you be the judge) called, “The Ballad of the Flying Prince,” which I foisted on the gentle readers of this blog. I sent the verse to my multitalented friend, J.D. Chandler, to see if he could make it into a song (my own banjolele fingering arm being busted up). He graciously sent me an MP3 of his mouth harp version. As soon as my fingers could caress the strings of my antique banjolele I set to work making the lyric into a song. I was planning to overtrack harmonies and all sorts of fancy things, but upon completion of the first track I saw, to my dismay, the song was too long for my purpose—almost 8 minutes.

I wanted a nice, compact piece of fakelore, which I could turn into a cartoon through the magic of graphics and animation software. The various sections of the cartoon are finished, all I need is song to narrate the story so I can edit the parts to fit—but the song was too long, If I can ever stop blogging, or working on my new book, or taking care of other business long enough I will narrate a Holbrook style version of the tale to go with the images and make a little, 4 minute cartoon for the attention-deprived Youtube generation.

At least that is the plan.

Below are a few stills from the coming cartoon to whet your desire to devote 4 minutes of your life for a little uplifting fakelore.

Bunko Kelly ponders his dilemma

Bunko Kelly leaves the Snug Harbor Saloon to look for the source of the moaning sound

What they were drinking
Bunko Kelly almost steps on a dying wino

The time in the train station tower shows that the tide is high

Bunko Kelly finds the lads at the livery stables ready to help

Coming Soon! How the Flying Prince Got Its Crew

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hacking, 1883 Style

In the days when the telegraph was the primary medium of information exchange there would be, in certain cities, saloons with names like, "The Turf Exchange" where bets could be placed on far off horse races. The sportsmen would then sit around smoking cigars and drinking until the results arrived via Western Union.

As I was researching details on my latest book, my eyes happened to light on the following news item in the Morning Oregonian from October 16, 1883, which has to be one of the earliest instances of hacking for profit that I have seen:

New York, Oct. 14.--The tapping of the wires of the Western Union Saturday, by means of which bogus dispatches were sent all over the country, announcing false results of the Jerome park races, and through which nearly $100,000 was lost by pool sellers throughout the United States, remains as much of a mystery as ever.