I was relaxing in our spa on the porch under our deck after a long day. The spa jets were cranked up to high — I was trying to blast away the stress of work and the aches of the body. Suddenly the motion-sensing floodlights that scan our back yard clicked on. Earlier that day Ann had thrown some large chunks of stale homemade bread into the yard to feed the critters. A large “opossum” had smelled the lure and was chomping on a tasty piece of bread.
When the floodlights flashed on, the possum looked for a better place to dine. He ran behind the corner of the porch, where he was out of the light. Coincidentally, the corner of the porch was about four feet from where I was sitting in the spa. I watched the possum munching on the bread. He was a big, well-fed marsupial, about the size of a large cat. Since he didn’t have any water to drink with his hunk of bread and he didn’t want to get choked, he really had to chew his food well. Fortunately, he had some big jaws and strong teeth behind that long nose and legendary grin, well suited for chewing. As I sat in the spa and watched him enjoying his meal, I felt lucky to witness such a sight at such close proximity. For people who have house possums (my sister Billie, for instance) this is not a rare sight, but it was a real treat for me.
Watching those teethy jaws chomping on the bread, I flashed back many years to another close encounter. Two friends and I had been to a New Years Eve party at the Stanley residence in Virginia. At about 2am we left the party, in high spirits. I was driving, Scott was in the passenger seat, and Dee was in the back seat. As we were winding down the long driveway, a possum scurried across the road. Scott yelled to stop, so I pointed the lights in the direction of the critter and hit the brakes. Scott bailed out of the car and ran after the possum. Dee and I couldn’t believe what happened next – the possum started climbing a tree and Scott grabbed it by the tail and pulled it off the tree! Dee and I were rolling around in the car laughing at Scott’s bold move and the possum’s misfortune. Scott held the possum out as far as he could from his body and gave it a shake as it tried to curl up to bite him. He started walking back to the car.
Realizing what Scott was going to do, I yelled at Dee to lock the car door. Dee was laughing so hard that he didn’t hear me. I yelled again, desperate because Scott was very close to the car. Dee finally came to his senses and locked the door, just before Scott grabbed the door to open it. I was enjoying myself greatly but I didn’t see how having an enraged possum tossed into the car with us would have increased the fun. Scott walked to the front of the car and held the possum in the headlights. Very agitated, the possum was snapping his jaws and saliva was dripping out of his mouth. Every few seconds he would try to use his tail to curl up so he could bite his tormentor, but Scott would give him a shake and gravity would prevail. After a moment, Scott put the possum down, it ran off, and we were goin' down the road feelin' good.
Jimi Hendrix exploded our idea of what rock music could be: He manipulated the guitar, the whammy bar, the studio and the stage. On songs like "Machine Gun" or "Voodoo Chile," his instrument is like a divining rod of the turbulent Sixties – you can hear the riots in the streets and napalm bombs dropping in his "Star-Spangled Banner."
His playing was effortless. There's not one minute of his recorded career that feels like he's working hard at it – it feels like it's all flowing through him. The most beautiful song of the Jimi Hendrix canon is "Little Wing." It's just this gorgeous song that, as a guitar player, you can study your whole life and not get down, never get inside it the way that he does. He seamlessly weaves chords and single-note runs together and uses chord voicings that don't appear in any music book. His riffs were a pre-metal funk bulldozer, and his lead lines were an electric LSD trip down to the crossroads, where he pimp-slapped the devil.
There are arguments about who was the first guitar player to use feedback. It doesn't really matter, because Hendrix used it better than anyone; he took what was to become Seventies funk and put it through a Marshall stack, in a way that nobody's done since.
It's impossible to think of what Jimi would be doing now; he seemed like a pretty mercurial character. Would he be an elder statesman of rock? Would he be Sir Jimi Hendrix? Or would he be doing some residency off the Vegas Strip? The good news is his legacy is assured as the greatest guitar player of all time.
Valley Of Flowers Chamoli, Uttaranchal, India
The Valley of Flowers is an outstandingly beautiful high-altitude Himalayan valley that has been acknowledged as such by renowned mountaineers and botanists in literature for over a century and in Hindu mythology for much longer. Its ‘gentle’ landscape, breathtakingly beautiful meadows of alpine flowers and ease of access complement the rugged, moun
tain wilderness for which the inner basin of Nanda Devi National Park is renowned.
It is said about this valley of flowers that the fragrances of the flowers here is so exotic that if you pass from one end of the valley to the other end you will suffer from total memory loss. Only mystics and sages of the Himalayas are able to withstand it.