Author Archives: Louis Galdieri

Bloodpot and Melting Pot: Woody Guthrie and “Old Man Trump”

atrumpfred
In 1950, Woody Guthrie leased an apartment from Donald Trump’s father, Fred, in the Beach Haven complex, near Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. As Woody’s biographer Will Kaufman writes in an article published today on The Conversation, it didn’t take too long before Woody “was already lamenting the bigotry that pervaded his new, lily-white neighborhood, which he’d taken to calling ‘Bitch Havens.'”

Fred Trump — Woody called him “Old Man Trump” — “came to personify all the viciousness of the racist codes that continued to put decent housing – both public and private – out of reach for so many of his fellow citizens,” Kaufman writes. As Woody put it, Trump had drawn a “color line” and “stirred up” hate “in the bloodpot of human hearts”:

In his notebooks, [Woody] conjured up a scenario of smashing the color line to transform the Trump complex into a diverse cornucopia, with “a face of every bright color laffing and joshing in these old darkly weeperish empty shadowed windows.” He imagined himself calling out in Whitman-esque free verse to the “negro girl yonder that walks along against this headwind / holding onto her purse and her fur coat”:

I welcome you here to live. I welcome
you and your man both here to Beach Haven to love in any
ways you please and to have some kind of a decent place to
get pregnant in and to have your kids raised up in. I’m
yelling out my own welcome to you

Woody’s “welcome” is echoed by what Arlo has to say about his father at one point in 1913 Massacre. Near the end of our first interview, I asked Arlo what he thought his father found out about being “American” in the course of his travels. The film doesn’t include Arlo’s full answer — how could it! — so here’s that moment from our interview transcripts.

Well, he found out that he was a human being. That he had shared feelings about the values of this country. He loved the idea that there would be a place in the world where people could come, people could be born, and it didn’t matter what color they were, what circumstances they were from, what religion they had, what traditions, who their parents were, who their girlfriends, boyfriends were — he loved the idea that people would rise above all these little petty things. That somewhere in the world there was a whole country of people who valued these ideas. Didn’t mean that not everybody in the government did by the way. It just meant that by in large most people understood, most ordinary people understood, that this was so. And not only that, he believed that if everybody spoke their own mind, and we actually had the tolerance to listen to everybody else speaking their mind, that the overall mind would lead us in the right direction. In other words he had faith in that if everybody could have their say, the country would be all right, and that we would go in the right direction, generation after generation.

Not everybody believes that, even today. There are people who want to cut short other people’s speech. There are people who are afraid that if they say the wrong thing they’d be foolish so they don’t say anything. There are people who believe all kinds of crazy things. But he was convinced that if you let everybody speak—often—and teach them that speaking is—by speaking I don’t mean just talking. I mean speak by what they do, by where they shop, by what they wear, by who they are, by their friends, by all of these things that define us. If we are free to be ourselves a little more in a country where people are not only encouraged to be themselves but love the idea of being in a place where everybody is being themselves. He loved that. That’s why he loved Coney Island. That’s why he loved being there in the midst of all these millions of people running around, everybody different, everybody — you couldn’t even understand half of them, it didn’t even matter. You could still buy something from them, you could still hang out with them, you could still goof off with them, you could still make music with them.

It wouldn’t be until the 1970s that the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department would bring two cases charging that “racially discriminatory conduct by Trump agents” had “created a substantial impediment to the full enjoyment of equal opportunity.” Twenty years previous, Woody issued a simpler indictment:

God dont
know much
about any color lines.

Joe Hill’s music in Chicago this week

If you’re in Chicago, don’t miss Bucky Halker at the Filament Theatre this Wednesday, November 18th at 7:30PM, performing songs from his new CD Anywhere But Utah: Songs of Joe Hill.  Bucky will share the stage with special guests the BS Brass Band and John Abbey.

More information here, at Bucky’s site and here, at the Filament Theatre site.

1913 Massacre in Marquette on 12/07/15

A Stark Reminder of Mining’s Toxic Legacy

In this Denver Post photograph, Kalyn Green, resident of Durango, stands on the edge of the Animas River

In this August 6th Denver Post photograph, Kalyn Green of Durango stands on the bank of the Animas River.

Ken and I sometimes present 1913 Massacre as a film about “mining’s toxic legacy.” Over the past week or so, that phrase has started to take on new meaning.

On Wednesday, August 4th, an EPA crew working with heavy digging machinery to install a drain in the abandoned and flooded Gold King Mine breached a debris dam and triggered the release of over three million gallons of toxic orange sulfide mining sludge into Cement Creek, which joins the Animas River at Silverton, Colorado. The Animas flows for about a hundred miles, through the San Juan National Forest and the town of Durango, to meet the San Juan River, a tributary of the Colorado River, in Farmington, New Mexico. Before the weekend, Farmington’s waters had turned orange. At the start of this week, the toxic plume of arsenic, lead, copper, cadmium and aluminum had reached Utah.

The Gold King is still draining, at an alarming rate of well over 500 gallons per minute. EPA crews have been working to construct settling ponds where the mine wastewater can be treated before it flows into Cement Creek; but the agency has otherwise stumbled in its efforts to handle the crisis and keep the public fully informed. EPA Region 8 officials were slow to acknowledge the magnitude of the Animas River disaster and they’ve appeared reluctant to share water quality data and issue appropriate advisories. That has invited some well-deserved criticism as well as some political grandstanding, with politicians from Colorado to New Mexico and Arizona lambasting the agency, urging that EPA hold itself to the same level of accountability as it would hold any private entity responsible for such a spill, and demanding compensation for damages. Colorado State Senator Ellen Roberts dubbed the Animas “the EPA Love Canal.”

Of course, there is much more to the story. The abandoned mines around Silverton — the Gold King, the Red and Bonita, and the American Tunnel — have been releasing hundreds of gallons of toxic wastewater every minute, every day, for nearly a decade. The Sunnyside Gold Corporation stopped treating the water in Cement Creek in 2003. The EPA was trying to remedy the problem; but the EPA and legal provisions in the Clean Water Act also stymied earlier efforts of good samaritan groups like the Animas River Stakeholders Group.

In truth, the Gold King catastrophe looks less like the result of a sudden breach and more like a slow-motion disaster that has been unfolding for decades, in Silverton and throughout the American West. Towns that historically depended on mining for their livelihood, or still hope for mining’s return, as Silverton did as late as 2013, tend to forgive, or turn a blind eye, to what one 2013 Durango Herald article calls “gross environmental malfeasance.” The problem is much more widespread than most people could ever have imagined: according to the federal government, “40 percent of the headwaters of Western waterways have been contaminated from mine runoff.”

Like it or not, this is our industrial heritage. We have a responsibility to deal with the toxic legacy of mining’s past. At the same time we ought to remember that mining, and especially non-ferrous or sulfide mining, still poses a serious threat to American waters. Sure, mining and water treatment technologies have improved. But “treating water,” as the EPA’s Steve Way put it in 2014, “is a forever decision”; and neither industry nor government demonstrate unwavering commitment to that decision. So we have yet to clean up the mess left by mining companies that operated in the last century; and we continue to permit risky mining operations that will contaminate groundwaters and are likely to kill rivers, decimate wetlands, and pollute our waters.

As people in the Lake Superior region — where our film is set, and which in recent years has witnessed a new run of exploration, leasing and mining activity — watched the Animas disaster unfold, many expressed the same thought: “imagine this coming down the St. Louis River.” “We can’t let this happen to the Boundary Waters.” In the Upper Peninsula, where Lundin Mining is now making a bid to expand sulfide mining operations to the headwaters of the Yellow Dog River, people are worried that today’s mining will irreparably damage waterways that managed to escape, or have just begun to recover from, yesterday’s destruction.

The Animas River disaster serves as a stark reminder of how extensive the damage already is, and how much we still have to lose.

A Long Postscript

Ever since Ken and I finished 1913 Massacre, I’ve been watching and learning about the resurgence of mining around Lake Superior. I’ve done some research, talked to some good people, and made a few informal scouting trips to the Lake Superior region, to see if I might perhaps produce a sequel to our 1913 documentary. So far, I haven’t discovered the film that I want to make, can make or must make about the new mining; and when it comes to independent documentary, all three of those, the will, the ability and the necessity are — for me, at least — essential.

Finding the film one must make probably matters most of all. So, after our first couple of trips to Calumet, it became imperative that Ken and I make 1913 Massacre. Our sense that this film had to be made, and that we were the ones to make it, was, at times, the only thing that kept us going. We were hooked, ensnared, done for, in the grip of an often wonderful and at times taxing necessity.

There’s already a lot of exploration, leasing and new mining activity around Lake Superior, and things are just getting underway. I am still finding my way, doing my best to keep up with the complex situation and trying to get hold of the narrative, and I’ve written somewhere in the neighborhood of forty or fifty blog posts about the new mining.

Stepping back for a moment, I have to admit I don’t know where exactly all this is leading, or if it’s heading anywhere definitive at all, but it’s in some way a continuation of the journey I started when I followed a Woody Guthrie song to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the work Ken and I did together to produce 1913 Massacre.

In fact, much of what I’ve written so far reads, at times, like a long postscript to our film, and I still think our film about 1913 speaks powerfully to the situation around the Lake today, so I thought I’d share those blog posts here, if only to connect formally the film and its postscript, past and present.

1913 Massacre in Albion on 02/24/15

1913 Massacre in Little Rock on 12/17/14

Palikari: A Film About the Ludlow Massacre

LouisTikas

Ludlow Tent Colony Leader Louis Tikas.

When Bob Dylan performed “1913 Massacre” at Carnegie Hall in 1961, he introduced the song as one of “a group of two” that he had learned from Woody Guthrie. The other song was “Ludlow Massacre.”

In treating the Calumet and Ludlow stories together, Woody was following the lead of Mother Bloor, who groups both stories in her book We Are Many under the single heading “Massacre of the Innocents.” (More on all that here.)

Now there is an independent documentary about the Ludlow Massacre. Palikari – Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre, directed by Nikos Ventouras and produced by Lamprini Thoma.

We haven’t yet seen the film,  but it sounds as if the filmmakers take an approach in Palikari akin to the one we took in 1913 Massacre, exploring the story of  the strike and the brutal murder of Ludlow Tent Colony Louis Tikas through oral histories and family traditions.

You can read an interview with producer Lamprini Thoma about Palikari here.

 

Labor Day – Enjoy Responsibly

Have a great Labor Day.
And don’t forget what it’s all about.

1913 Miners

Les Ross, 1923-2014

Les Ross passed away on Thursday, June 26th, just a month shy of his 91st birthday.

Read his obituary here: World War II (Navy) veteran. Accountant. Father, grandfather and great-grandfather. A Detroit Tigers fan. And a wonderful musician.

Les played lumberjack style harmonica, a Finnish-Scandinavian style in which the melody and a pronounced, rhythmic chording and bass line are played together at the same time.

Ken and I first met Les at the Covington Music Festival, where he appeared with Oren Tikkanen, Johnny Perona, Helmer Toyras and Randy Seppala. The performance we captured that day is featured in the strike scene of 1913 Massacre.

While Ken got up close for handheld portraits of each musician, I had the wider angle: Les against a field of flowers.

LesRossCovington1

For more about Les and his music, check out this Michigan Public Radio profile.

Author Archives: Louis Galdieri

Bloodpot and Melting Pot: Woody Guthrie and “Old Man Trump”

In 1950, Woody Guthrie leased an apartment from Donald Trump’s father, Fred, in the Beach Haven complex, near Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. As Woody’s biographer Will Kaufman writes in

Joe Hill’s music in Chicago this week

If you’re in Chicago, don’t miss Bucky Halker at the Filament Theatre this Wednesday, November 18th at 7:30PM, performing songs from his new CD Anywhere But Utah: Songs of Joe Hill.  Bucky…

1913 Massacre in Marquette on 12/07/15

A Stark Reminder of Mining’s Toxic Legacy

Ken and I sometimes present 1913 Massacre as a film about “mining’s toxic legacy.” Over the past week or so, that phrase has started to take on new meaning. On Wednesday, August…

A Long Postscript

Ever since Ken and I finished 1913 Massacre, I’ve been watching and learning about the resurgence of mining around Lake Superior. I’ve done some research, talked to some good people,…

1913 Massacre in Albion on 02/24/15

1913 Massacre in Little Rock on 12/17/14

Palikari: A Film About the Ludlow Massacre

When Bob Dylan performed “1913 Massacre” at Carnegie Hall in 1961, he introduced the song as one of “a group of two” that he had learned from Woody Guthrie. The…

Labor Day – Enjoy Responsibly

Have a great Labor Day. And don’t forget what it’s all about.

Les Ross, 1923-2014

Les Ross passed away on Thursday, June 26th, just a month shy of his 91st birthday. Read his obituary here: World War II (Navy) veteran. Accountant. Father, grandfather and great-grandfather….

Author Archives: Louis Galdieri

Bloodpot and Melting Pot: Woody Guthrie and “Old Man Trump”

In 1950, Woody Guthrie leased an apartment from Donald Trump’s father, Fred, in the Beach Haven complex, near Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. As Woody’s biographer Will Kaufman writes in

Joe Hill’s music in Chicago this week

If you’re in Chicago, don’t miss Bucky Halker at the Filament Theatre this Wednesday, November 18th at 7:30PM, performing songs from his new CD Anywhere But Utah: Songs of Joe Hill.  Bucky…

1913 Massacre in Marquette on 12/07/15

A Stark Reminder of Mining’s Toxic Legacy

Ken and I sometimes present 1913 Massacre as a film about “mining’s toxic legacy.” Over the past week or so, that phrase has started to take on new meaning. On Wednesday, August…

A Long Postscript

Ever since Ken and I finished 1913 Massacre, I’ve been watching and learning about the resurgence of mining around Lake Superior. I’ve done some research, talked to some good people,…

1913 Massacre in Albion on 02/24/15

1913 Massacre in Little Rock on 12/17/14

Palikari: A Film About the Ludlow Massacre

When Bob Dylan performed “1913 Massacre” at Carnegie Hall in 1961, he introduced the song as one of “a group of two” that he had learned from Woody Guthrie. The…

Labor Day – Enjoy Responsibly

Have a great Labor Day. And don’t forget what it’s all about.

Les Ross, 1923-2014

Les Ross passed away on Thursday, June 26th, just a month shy of his 91st birthday. Read his obituary here: World War II (Navy) veteran. Accountant. Father, grandfather and great-grandfather….

Author Archives: Louis Galdieri

Bloodpot and Melting Pot: Woody Guthrie and “Old Man Trump”

In 1950, Woody Guthrie leased an apartment from Donald Trump’s father, Fred, in the Beach Haven complex, near Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. As Woody’s biographer Will Kaufman writes in

Joe Hill’s music in Chicago this week

If you’re in Chicago, don’t miss Bucky Halker at the Filament Theatre this Wednesday, November 18th at 7:30PM, performing songs from his new CD Anywhere But Utah: Songs of Joe Hill.  Bucky…

1913 Massacre in Marquette on 12/07/15

A Stark Reminder of Mining’s Toxic Legacy

Ken and I sometimes present 1913 Massacre as a film about “mining’s toxic legacy.” Over the past week or so, that phrase has started to take on new meaning. On Wednesday, August…

A Long Postscript

Ever since Ken and I finished 1913 Massacre, I’ve been watching and learning about the resurgence of mining around Lake Superior. I’ve done some research, talked to some good people,…

1913 Massacre in Albion on 02/24/15

1913 Massacre in Little Rock on 12/17/14

Palikari: A Film About the Ludlow Massacre

When Bob Dylan performed “1913 Massacre” at Carnegie Hall in 1961, he introduced the song as one of “a group of two” that he had learned from Woody Guthrie. The…

Labor Day – Enjoy Responsibly

Have a great Labor Day. And don’t forget what it’s all about.

Les Ross, 1923-2014

Les Ross passed away on Thursday, June 26th, just a month shy of his 91st birthday. Read his obituary here: World War II (Navy) veteran. Accountant. Father, grandfather and great-grandfather….

Author Archives: Louis Galdieri

Bloodpot and Melting Pot: Woody Guthrie and “Old Man Trump”

In 1950, Woody Guthrie leased an apartment from Donald Trump’s father, Fred, in the Beach Haven complex, near Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. As Woody’s biographer Will Kaufman writes in

Joe Hill’s music in Chicago this week

If you’re in Chicago, don’t miss Bucky Halker at the Filament Theatre this Wednesday, November 18th at 7:30PM, performing songs from his new CD Anywhere But Utah: Songs of Joe Hill.  Bucky…

1913 Massacre in Marquette on 12/07/15

A Stark Reminder of Mining’s Toxic Legacy

Ken and I sometimes present 1913 Massacre as a film about “mining’s toxic legacy.” Over the past week or so, that phrase has started to take on new meaning. On Wednesday, August…

A Long Postscript

Ever since Ken and I finished 1913 Massacre, I’ve been watching and learning about the resurgence of mining around Lake Superior. I’ve done some research, talked to some good people,…

1913 Massacre in Albion on 02/24/15

1913 Massacre in Little Rock on 12/17/14

Palikari: A Film About the Ludlow Massacre

When Bob Dylan performed “1913 Massacre” at Carnegie Hall in 1961, he introduced the song as one of “a group of two” that he had learned from Woody Guthrie. The…

Labor Day – Enjoy Responsibly

Have a great Labor Day. And don’t forget what it’s all about.

Les Ross, 1923-2014

Les Ross passed away on Thursday, June 26th, just a month shy of his 91st birthday. Read his obituary here: World War II (Navy) veteran. Accountant. Father, grandfather and great-grandfather….