Sunday, November 25, 2012

Devils on Horseback and Other Odd Journeys

Devils on Horseback
And Other Odd Journeys
CD Review
Stories written and performed by Geraldine Buckley

$15.00 for the CD or $12.00 for the MP3 download at

CD Reviewed by Linda Goodman

Those listeners who have heard Geraldine Buckley’s first CD, Destination Slammer, will welcome this new recording, which invites us to join her on yet more of her “hilarious, true, inadvertent adventures.”

Devils on Horseback, the title track, holds forth lovely memories of Geraldine’s Aunt Eileen, a loveable eccentric who shares Geraldine’s love of wrestling. Ringside excitement and, curiously, a new restaurant menu item combine to create a new family “character.”

A quest for a fabled Midnight Feast at a convent boarding school leads to hilarious escapades with results quite different from those found in Enid Blyton novels. Lemons are made out of lemonade, however, and adventure still wins the day.

Those of you who saw Geraldine win the National Storytelling Festival’s first slam have already heard a piece of Hitchhiking, in which her mother’s desire for her to have adventures leads to a strange ride. What you did not hear were the tender moments between mother and daughter that followed. Sweet memories linger long after the story ends.

Dinner With Bob recalls Geraldine’s attempt to get over a bad break-up by turning her attention to a new romance, even though she knows that “men are not like socks. You can’t just exchange them one for the other.” The replacement relationship fairs no better than the first one, but years later, a random meeting produces new understanding that makes for a lasting friendship.

Daddy’s Ashes introduces the listener to Geraldine’s father, a man who loves the Mediterranean; who lives to laugh and to make others do the same. Discoveries of forfeited dreams produce sad realizations, yet deepen appreciation for opportunities resulting from such sacrifice. Even a soap opera-like turn at life’s end cannot prevent a woman on a mission from carrying out her father’s wishes.

The stories end too soon (have 75 minutes really passed?) with Celtic Blessings for God’s protection and peace. This CD is part hilarity, part heartbreak, and 100 percent truth. Geraldine’s talent as a writer and performer leaves listeners who have never heard her before feeling like they intimately know this woman. What a wonderful gift!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I Love My People

Stories and Songs
CD Review

Oba William King, the Poetic Storyteller

$15.00 + $2.50 shipping and handling. To order, email

Reviewed by Linda Goodman

            This CD begins with The Creation, a James Weldon Johnson sermon that I have heard numerous times, but never with the depth of feeling given it by Oba William King. A dramatic teller, King becomes one with the story, his deep, full voice painting God as practical, artistic, wise, and loving. 

            King accompanies himself on the drum as he sings Red, Black, and Green, a song meant to teach children the colors of the flag of the African people. In a call and response format, we learn the significance of the colors: red is for the blood; black is for the people; and green is for the land.

            I Love My People is a multi-voice anthem celebrating the courage and spirit of the African People:
            “No matter what the world puts us through
             We come out on top in all we do.”
This self-affirming testimony is sung to a catchy tune that makes those who hear it listen twice, so that they can sing along.

            In Emma Young’s poem Kimberly Ann Elizabeth Hall, a young girl discovers on her first day of school that other children have skin that is a different color from her own. On the advice of her mother, she reaches out to those children and learns that they have much in common. King is the voice of wisdom here, counseling that skin color is not as important as a person’s heart.

            The Sad Girl features a child, much like Cinderella, whose step-mother is mean to her. As the girl cries at her mother’s grave, she is given the comfort of material things, but her step-mother destroys them. Can true love release her mother’s spirit so that the girl can be saved and live happily? King tells this story with just the right touch of sentimentality and hope.

            The Bridge, a story about two loving brothers who somehow become enemies, is a favorite of mine. An unexpected visit from a wise carpenter teaches them both a valuable lesson.

            Would eagles who were raised with chickens think that they were chickens? That is the case in The Eagles Who Thought They Were Chickens, until a wise older eagle teaches them that if they spread their wings they can fly, if they really want to.

            Other tracks on this CD include a drum solo (Imani), a Muddy Waters song (Signifying Monkey in Blue), and an ode to playing in the snow (I want to Play in the Snow).

            This charming album will appeal to all ages. Oba William King knows how to use his voice to best effect, changing it with each character and encompassing the emotions that draw the listener deep into the stories. Whether he is being playful or somber, he hits the perfect notes. With his undeniable talent, he makes the stories his own.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Halos in the Darkroom

This is the story that I will tell if I am selected to tell at the Secretly Y'all Story Slam tonight. The theme is Behind the Scenes: Unauthorized Transgressions and Expressions.

Halos in the Darkroom
©Linda Goodman 11/2/2012
                I was newly separated with a child to raise. The ad in the Help Wanted section said “Staff needed for Virginia Studio, a new photography venture at Triangle Shopping Center, Portsmouth, Virginia.”
                I needed a job. If the place was new and needed to hire an entire staff, there must be something I could do. I called and made an appointment for an interview.
                The owner’s name was Gerald. “I have only a sixth grade education and I make $100,000 a year,” he told me, adding "and I can make money off of anything. A friend of mine bet me $1,000 me I couldn’t make money on a photography studio. That’s why I’m opening this place. I’m planning to win that money. I only have to stay in business three months to do it.”
                Gerald decided to hire me for the front desk because I was well-spoken and looked cute. Men might see me through the front window, he said, and come in to get their picture taken just to get to know me. He hired a friend of his, Bill Henry, someone with experience, to be the photographer. He then hired two other “girls” to work the phones (telephone solicitors) and his staff was complete.
                We got a few walk-ins the first couple of days, but the serious business started coming in after we ran a newspaper ad offering a free 8 X 10 portrait to anyone who walked through the door. The ad ran on Saturday and, since the Blue Laws had just been rescinded, announced that we would be open on Sunday so that folks could get photographed in their “Sunday go to meeting clothes. “ That’s when the business starting pouring in.
                A few weeks passed and the studio was succeeding beyond Gerald’s wildest dreams. The great majority of our clients bought packages that cost $35 or more (a small fortune for photos in those days), and the money was piling up.
                While Bill and I were having lunch one day, I mentioned to him that I wished that I had more marketable skills so that I could earn a better paycheck (I had seen Bill’s paycheck stub, which he had left on his desk – WOW!).
                “There’s no reason for you not to have marketing skills,” he advised me. “Tell you what – I’ll teach you to shoot portraits.”
                “Really?” I asked.
                “Sure,” he replied. “Just don’t let anyone know. No one is supposed to get near that camera but me. Gerald paid a lot of money for it.”
                The next afternoon, when business was slow, Bill started teaching me his craft. I, who had never held a camera before in my life, learned to focus the camera, pose the subject, set the lights, and put folks at ease so that their smiles would look natural. Thanks to the tripod, my shaking hands were not an issue.
                The next day, Bill did not come to work. I called and left a message for Gerald.  When Clients began arriving for their appointments, and the lobby was filled to capacity, I decided to shoot some portraits myself. Bill could always offer retakes later, if necessary.
                Gerald showed up the next morning. “I got your message about Bill. I checked around and found out he was arrested. He’s in jail.” Bill, it seems, had broken into the appliance store next door , one of Gerald’s competitors, and stolen two televisions. 
                Gerald was a nervous wreck. “I’m gonna lose that bet for sure!” he complained.
                I thought for a moment. “Maybe not,” I said hesitantly. “I shot the portraits for our clients yesterday.”
                “Are you kidding me?  Bill let a rank amateur use that expensive equipment! He was NOT authorized to dot that!” Gerald was about to explode.
                “Don’t get mad at Bill,” I protested. “He was just trying to help me learn some new skills.”
                “Well, Miss Know-It-All, we’ll just see if those portraits you took sell. Who the hell learns to be a photographer in one afternoon?” he scolded.
                That afternoon the proofs of the portraits that I had taken the day before came in. I must have forgotten to check the light meter. My first session had been with a handsome African American family. They were all wearing dark clothes and I had used a black background for them. I had forgotten to set the lights. All you could see in the proofs was their eyeballs. Other portraits that I had taken had similar issues.
                To my surprise, however, the clients were thrilled! “Highlighting our eyes like that!” they exclaimed. “What a brilliant idea! We have never seen anything like it! It’s art!”  Gerald was both surprised and delighted. “A star is born!” he proclaimed. “I knew the minute I hired you that I had struck a goldmine.”
                The next day, knowing that eyeball pictures would eventually grow old, I remembered to check the lights and set them properly. I centered each of my subjects’ heads in the center of the lights behind them.  When I received the proofs the next day, all the family photos were fine, but the individual photos caused a near riot. Every one of them showed a halo around the head of the subject.
                “You’ve made my baby look like the angel that she is!” one mother gleefully shouted.
                “Now I know what I will look like in heaven,” sighed another happy client.
                “You have a gift, young lady,” said another.
                I started getting appointments specifically for halo photos. They were so popular, I had a waiting list.
               All good things come to an end, however. An elderly lung cancer patient died shortly after purchasing his halo photo. Two weeks after that, a little girl that I had photographed was struck and killed by a car. My once satisfied customers were now making frantic phone calls, wanting to know if I could remove the halos from their photos. The local newspaper even ran a story about these “pictures of death.”  Once that happened, business came to a complete standstill. People were afraid to walk past our shop, much less come inside and, God forbid, have their portraits taken.
                Gerald could not be consoled.  “I can’t believe I’m gonna lose that bet!” he moaned. “I have to stay in business at least 3 months to win. We still have a month and a half to go. I can’t believe I trusted you to be my photographer.”
                We were bringing in no income. The only thing we could do was lower expenses.  From the middle of July until the end of August, the air conditioner was shut down. Our telephone solicitors were let go. The lights we used for atmosphere were turned off. Office supplies were not ordered when inventory became low. No more ads were placed and no flyers were created or mailed.
                At the end of August we closed shop. I subtracted our expenses from our income, and we ended up with a net profit of $245.94.
                Gerald slapped me on the back. “Well, kid,” he said, “we didn’t make a killing, but I won the bet. For a while there, I thought you were going to make me a millionaire.”
                He locked the door for the last time and handed me an envelope. “Just my way of saying thanks,” he grinned before walking away.
                I opened the envelope. Inside was a button that had “Gerald’s Little Helper” stamped over top of a photo of a voluptuous woman dressed as an elf. There was also a coupon for 10% off of a new refrigerator at his appliance store. I threw them both in trash barrel and went to look for a real job.