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Nora's News Archives

 

January/February 2002


Hoping Machines

THE NOTE OF HOPE IS THE ONLY NOTE THAT CAN HELP US OR SAVE US FROM FALLING TO THE BOTTOM OF THE HEAP OF EVOLUTION, BECAUSE, LARGELY, ABOUT ALL A HUMAN BEING IS, ANYWAY, IS JUST A HOPING MACHINE ..... Woody Guthrie

On that note, we begin the new year 2002. And we also begin the year that marks what would have been Woody's 90th Birthday! I know there's a lot of hoping machines out there. Some of you I've met. But most of you I haven't and probably never will. That's how many of you there are.

It's hard to tell at first glance who's a hoping machine and who's not, yet. Hoping machines come in all sizes and sexes. Some of them are sweet and kindly and some are grumpy curmudgeons. Some speak a language you understand but most probably don't. Some are overweight and some are underfed. Some are political activists and some are couch potatoes. Some believe in a god and some believe in a good. Some "act" hopeful while some "act" hopeless. Some are groupies and some are loners. Some you've all heard a lot about and some you've never heard of and never will.

The thing about us hoping machines, is that we know it doesn't matter if we run into each other or not. We all know we're out there doing what needs to be done to counteract the weight of falling to the bottom of the heap., We don't usually moan about it. We don't complain too much! We know that gravity exists. And we know we do too.

Just to give you an example of how many of these HM's there are out there, I thought I'd list just the few that I've run into in the last few days alone. And each of these knows a few more, who know a few more, etc. etc. Using this in your equation, you can figure out how many there might actually be all over the world at this very moment!


Day 1:
courtesy of John Cohen (johncohenworks.com)

John Cohen is a hoping machine. He's also a photographer, film maker and teacher. I was thrilled to see such a wonderful interview with him in the year's first issue of NO DEPRESSION magazine (#37 January-February). I met John a long, long time ago. He was one of the first young guys to come a'vistin' our house in the 50's, on the weekends when my dad was home from the hospital, way before the other (now famous) guy did. John was so kind to my father, always playing him music, offering help whenever, wherever, however. His magnificent photo of my dad graces the cover of his new book THERE IS NO EYE; JOHN COHEN PHOTOGRAPHS (PowerHouse Books) as well as the accompanying CD, THERE IS NO EYE: MUSIC FOR PHOTOGRAPHS built on songs recorded by people in the photos. (Smithsonian / Folkways).


Day 2:
courtesy of John Hammond
courtesy of John Hammond

John Hammond is a hoping machine. He's also a brilliant, classy blues guitarist and singer. I got to hear him the other night at the Towne Crier, a club up in Pawling, NY. Last year a small, devoted audience came to the show.. This year I had trouble getting tickets! John's finally getting more widely recognized thanks to his latest album of Tom Waits tunes. I've known John for a long, long time too. (I went to school with him and his brother in the 60's). Somewhere down the line I'd like to work with him on some of Woody's blues lyrics, written in New York City in the O40's, influenced by Woody's friendships with Leadbelly and Sonny Terry in particular.


Day 3:
Photo by Thomas Neumann, courtesy of Wenzel
Wenzel's CD Cover
Photo by Thomas Neumann, courtesy of Wenzel

Wenzel is a hoping machine. Hans-Eckardt Wenzel lives in Berlin. Although he's been in the forefront of German political, cabaret-style music for a decade, he got turned on to Woody last year following the publications of Joe Klein's biography WOODY GUTHRIE; A LIFE and Woody's autobiography BOUND FOR GLORY in the German language. He spent some time here in New York researching in the archives a few weeks ago, and is working on a new Guthrie CD which will be out next year, the first of its kind in Germany! His last CD was a tribute to the German composer Hanns Eisler, the same Eisler you'll find in Woody's lyric Eisler On The Go set to music by Billy Bragg on Mermaid Avenue. In the past, Wenzel has donned the persona of a clown, a persona Woody also toyed with often in his 'talking blues' songs and his Woody Sez newspaper columns. Both understand the power of the fool who sings the truth, the clown who makes you laugh, then cry.


Day 4:

Photo by Owen Stayner courtesy of Bonnie Christensen
Image from Poet of the People, courtesy of Bonnie Christensen

Bonnie Christensen is a hoping machine. Bonnie is so hopeful, she writes books for kids!! You can't get more hopeful than that! I met her a few weeks back when she came to visit the office following the publication of her new book for children, WOODY GUTHRIE, POET OF THE PEOPLE (Alfred Knopf). When she talks, she bounces. Her exuberance is all consuming and contagious. Bonnie will be speaking at a program at the Oklahoma Historical Society in Oklahoma City in the next few months while the traveling Smithsonian exhibit THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND; THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF WOODY GUTHRIE calls Oklahoma City home. (check the schedule on the News and Events page). Whenever I think of Bonnie now, I hear Woody's words from the song Howdi Do, "You brighten up my neighborhood". Bonnie brightens up every neighborhood she walks through.


Day 5:
Photo courtesy of Marianne Oppel
Photo courtesy of Marianne Oppel

The Blue Rock Bar in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands is a place where hoping machines go for a drink! It's on an island off the coast of Morroco, A friend of mine was vacationing there recently and went out one night for a drink. She sat down at the bar, looked up and there, placed right above the row of bottles was a picture of Woody! She asked everyone there how the picture got there, but nobody could remember who put it up or when. I'm gonna send them a book or something, so people can browse through it while sipping their rum and cokes.


Day 6:
Billy Bragg and Jeff Tweddy researching in the Archives, Courtesy of Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives
Fundraising Brochure, Courtesy of Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives

The Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives is definitely a hoping machine! A pretty well oiled machine that now churns out information and materials to people all over the world. Thanks to our staff we were able to get our 2nd annual fund raising brochure out last month to 3,000 friends now on our mailing list. You know, some people think there's nothing sexy about supporting an archives, but I beg to differ. Keeping Woody's ideas alive and available, poured over and researched is very sexy work. People need a place to come to, to confirm and nurture many of their own intuitions. Younger hoping machines in particular crave to learn about politics, about music and poetry, about ordinary people and their tough times, about calamities and recoveries. About citizenship. About how artists participate in all of this. Woody is a great teacher because he is all of this. There's nothing dry about Woody's words. In a time where everything seems to instantly come and go with no lasting impact or import, we can provide a room for the next generation to come with all their questions and new ideas. Their future is as much a part of the Woody Guthrie archives as his past is.


Day 7:

Arlo Guthrie, Courtesy of  Nora Guthrie

Arlo Guthrie is a hoping machine. Even the New York Times knows it now!

An interview with my beautiful brother appeared in Saturday's Metro section, Religion Journal, Jan. 5th. Arlo was able to learn directly from our parents and he refers to them in the interview.

"My parents are the ones who set the foundations of my spiritual life to be big enough to include 'all' and strong enough to say 'none.'" Touring for over 30 years now, Arlo continues to influence and gather people from all over the world who understand the "all or none" philosophy our parents spoke of and lived by.

My brother is right on the mark when he exclaims at the end of Alice's Restaurant, "... if three people do it! Can you imagine three people walkin' in, sing' a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walkin' out? They may think it's an organization!"

And can you imagine fifty people a day? I said FIFTY people a day... walkin' in, and singin' a bar of Alices Restaurant and walkin' out? Friends, they may think it's a MOVEMENT, and that's what it is.... and all you gotta do to join is to sing it the next time it comes around on the guitar.

With feelin.'"

Like I said at the top, this is just a glimpse at some of the hoping machines I've run into in the last few days. I often feel that working with Woody puts me at a crossroads where hundreds of these hopers travel each year. We get to give each other a quiet nod of recognition.

And Arlo's methodology also pretty much defines my approach to how to continue our work at the Archives. We've gone from One, to Two, to Fifty, to an Organization. Now we've got to get to a Movement. With Feelin'!!! So if you haven't already, I hope you'll consider becoming a member, or sending a 90th Birthday gift to the Woody Guthrie Foundation & Archives this coming year! (Check our Ways To Help page).

My father always signed off with these words; "Take it easy, but take it."
My mother always signed off with these words: "Love and Peace"
It's hard to top them. So I'll just say -
Take 'em both, with a note of hope,

Photo of John Cohen, courtesy from John Cohen (johncohenworks.com), Photo of John Hammond Courtesy of John Hammond, Jr., Photos of Wenzel by Thomas Neumann, Courtesy of Wenzel, Photo of Bonnie Christensen by Owen Stayner and Image from Poet of the People, courtesy of Bonnie Christensen, Photo of Blue Rock Cafe Courtesy of Marianne Oppel, Photo of Billy Bragg and Jeff Tweedy researching in the archives and Image from Archive's Brochure, Courtesy of the Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives, Photo of Arlo Guthrie, Courtesy of Nora Guthrie

All images on this page are copyrighted by the respective subjects.

 

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