Category - Digest

Appomattox 150 (+5)

Today, kids, Cohesion Arts has a history lesson for you:

On April 9, 1865,  Union General Ulysses S. Grant accepted the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in the drawing room of a house near the village of Appomattox Court House in western Virgnia.  There are no actual photographs of this historic occasion, though most people familiar with the history have probably seen artistic renderings like this one:

An (unknown) artists rendering of Lee’s surrender to Grant – April 9, 1865

For most people who know a little American history, this is presumed to be the moment that marked the end of the American Civil War.

What most people don’t know is that there were two meetings between Grant and Lee.  The second took place  the following morning – April 10, 1865 – 155 years ago today.

When Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9th, Lee had only the authority to surrender his own Army of Northern Virginia.  He did not have the authority to surrender the rest of the Confederacy, or the other armies that remained in the field.

Realizing that the war was not yet fully over despite Lee’s surrender, Grant summoned Lee to a second meeting. At this second “interview,” Grant implored Lee to use his considerable influence over the other generals to likewise surrender.   They met for roughly 30 minutes, first doffing their hats to each other, then shaking hands, but never leaving their horses.

Once contacted, the other generals complied and the war was, within a few days, effectively over.

From late 2010 until mid 2015, I was privileged to be part of “The 186 Project” – a musical commemoration of the Civil War Sesquicentennial produced by Americana songwriter and guitarist Thomm Jutz.  I formed a partnership with Thomm and songwriter Peter Cronin, and acted as an Executive Producer on the project. Thomm and Peter did most of the songwriting along with a host of some of Nashville’s finest, and I did all the photography for the cover art and inserts for the three CDs the project delivered between 2011 and 2014.

That assignment took me to several Civil War re-enactments over the course of of the following four years – culminating in the re-enactment of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox in April of 2015.

I did not get to enter the McLean House, where Lee’s surrender was re-enacted the morning of April 9.  That plumb assignment went to a photographer working with the National Park Service.

But the following morning, I did  manage to get myself into the catbird seat for the re-enactment of that ‘second interview’.  I ignored the NPS ropes and pushed my way through to a small rise, across the road from the ridge where my friend Curt Fields,  portraying General Grant, and Thomas Jessee, portraying General Lee, met: at the exact same spot, and at the exact same time that their predecessors had met 150 years earlier.

I was the only photographer at that vantage point, and I believe that I shot the defining photo of the Civil War Sesquicentennial.

There is more to be told of the event, and the final “tintype” rendering of the photo above (available for purchase, duh) can be found at

This “tintype” rendering suggests how an actual photo of the event might have turned out in 1865

There are links on that page to some of the other photography I shot during the Sesquicentennial.

While you are perusing those images, let me suggest you also listen to this moving to tribute to Grant and Lee co-written and performed here by Dana Cooper, from The 1861 Project Volume 1: From Farmers to Foot Soldiers.

And…. funny story:  I really felt this was a special image from the Sesquicentennial.  I imagined all kinds of products that would go well in the National Park Service gift shop at Appomattox.  I called the manager there, they sounded really interested, but would have to clear it with the Park Historian.  I sent some mounted prints.  A couple of weeks later the manager got back to me and said that the Historian didn’t like the picture – because the horses are too fat.

Go figger.

#HomeAlone – Day 27

At 9AM I placed the scheduled FaceTime breakfast call.  

No answer. 

I ate my bagel with cream cheese and orange juice alone at the table, looking out he window at the backyard, skimming the news and Facebook on my iPad 

Incoming text message: “Overslept… lemme walk the dogs…*” 

I’m watching John Prine videos.   

Hello In There. 

A wave of sadness overwhelms me. 

This is the saddest I have felt in years. 

I almost cried. 


I don’t want to wind up like the old people in this song. 






*the call came through about 45 minutes later.  I’m better now.

Ignore All the “Productivity Porn”

“…ignore everyone who is posting productivity porn on social media right now….Let go of all of the profoundly daft ideas you have about what you should be doing right now.”

––Aisha S. Ahmad, from The Chronicle of Higher Education 

– – – – –

Update from West Bumfuque, StarDate 200330

I have basically not left my house for 18 days now.

My employer () closed all its stores on March 14 and there is no re-open date even on the horizon. I am beyond fortunate to work for a company large and prosperous enough to continue compensating its employees through the closure. I’ve had several video conferences with my colleagues. There is not much news but the virtual gatherings are a welcome respite. They like that I wear my silly top-hot with the rainbow ribbon.

I went to a “virtual AA meeting” via Zoom yesterday and was surprised how well that worked. #32years!

Instacart delivers my groceries (which I handle with rubber gloves and disinfect before storing); Amazon drops something on my doorstep a couple of times a week (nothing new there, really).

I have all the toilet paper I need, but the Publix where my Instacart order gets filled is completely out of ketchup. Of all brands and varieties. Gone, empty, nada. Civilization is treading on very thin ice indeed.

I haven’t taken cash out of my wallet for nearly three weeks.

I shower… most days. I wear clean clothes. Little victories.

I go for twice-daily walks around my neighborhood. If it’s sunny and warm in the late afternoon, I go for a “21st Century horseback ride” – I take my Mustang convertible out for a 40 minute spin over some of the backroads out here in West Bumfuque. “Sport mode” is great for curve-straightening. Giddyap, little pony car.

Riding around the countryside alone still qualifies as “social distancing,” right?

In the evenings. my go-to binges right now are “Outlander” Season 4 on Starz (via Amazon Prime) and “Cheers” on Netflix” (only 269 episodes to go; think that will get me through the pandemic?) On HBO I’m following along with “Westworld” – which is gorgeous and brilliant, but also incomprehensible without podcasts and recaps. “The Plot Against America” is equally brilliant, timely, and much easier to follow. “Plot’s” vision of a dystopian past run by humans is much more terrifying than “Westworld’s” vision of dystopian future run by robots.

I miss Colbert’s monologues.  This week he has resumed his shows from his home, but the tone is different. I’m glad John Oliver is doing what he can from home, his monologue/diatribes work better without a studio audience.

I finished “Portnoy’s Complaint” and have queued up Phillip Roth’s “The Great American Novel,” which is about baseball, which we will otherwise be doing without for the foreseeable future.

The rest of the time I am #HomeAlone, trying to do the things – and then trying not to be too hard on myself for mostly not doing them. I have fallen into the bottomless pit of the #InfiniteScroll.

So this was a welcome relief:

“…ignore everyone who is posting productivity porn on social media right now….Let go of all of the profoundly daft ideas you have about what you should be doing right now.”

Ah, there’s the doorbell. Instacart has  dropped my groceries off at the front door Lord, bless those souls for being on the front lines, they are every bit as vital as the nurses and doctors but not nearly as well compensated.

I’m going to put my rubber gloves on now…


As seen on my walk through the neighborhood this morning – Self-Incarceration Day 15

#Pandemic #Coronavirius #Quarantine #MorningWalk #Flowers #Nature #Nashville

©2020 via Instagram

What To Wear in A #Coronapocalypse


I found something to wear during the #Coronapocalypse.

There is only one god,
His name is Death.
And there is only one thing we say to Death:
“Not Today” –Syrio Ferrel, First Sword of Bravos
Introducing the unofficial Game of Thrones Quarantine T-Shirt. I may wear this until Danaerys and Drogon fry the bug.

©2020 via Instagram

I Made A Music

Like the rest or the country/world right now, I’m trying to make meaningful use of the abundance free time that fate and the Coronavirus has bestowed upon me/us.

What to do… what to do…

This morning I picked up my electric guitar for the first time in… well, months.  It’s a Gibson ES-335 – the electric guitar that I had wanted for decades but only finally got about 8 years ago  (but that’s a whole other story.)

It had been so long since I’d played it, it took me a couple of minutes to remember how it all fit together, to get the amp set up and the guitar plugged in and tuned.  Then I tried to recall what I used to play on it – really, it’s been that long.

Then I remembered Albatross.  Except I didn’t really remember it.  I just recalled that it was something I learned from Nashville Guitar Guru David Isaacs when I took a workshop with him a couple of years ago  (January, 2018).

Albatross is a dreamy guitar instrumental first recorded in 1969 by an up-and-coming little band from England called Fleetwood Mac.  Maybe you’ve heard of the them?  Probably so,  but you probably haven’t heard Albatross, which was composed by the band’s lead guitarist at the time, somebody named Peter Green (click the link if you want to know more about his brilliant/tragic story).

OK, I thought, let’s see if I can remember how to play Albatross.  So I went digging around in my hard drive to find the file that Dave had given us for the workshop.

Thinking I had found the original recording, I listened to an MP3 file that I found.  It was the right tune but… it didn’t sound like I remembered the original.  For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what I was listening to or who was playing the layered guitar parts.

Until it finally dawned on me:  it was me.

I slowly recalled that I’d been dorking around with GarageBand at the time.  There are a couple of sections of Albatross that feature bendy melodies played on two guitars a third apart.  I’d completely forgotten that I  played and recorded all the parts on my ES-335 over a backing track that Dave had given us to practice with.

And as I’m listening to it for the first time in two years, I’m thinking, “damn, that sounds pretty good!” (except for one slipped-string clam somewhere in the middle).

So here, use this to fill up about 3-1/2 minutes of your quarantine time.  It’s the first music I’ve ever recorded and put online.

It only took 69 years (OK, only 25 years since I got on the Internet…but… that, too… is a whole other story).

Podcast Review:
The Long Ride w The Wild Ponies

Clearly there are not enough podcasts in the world, so what’s not to like about just one more?? (#sarcasm) 

Funny thing is, despite the virtually infinite selection of podcasts available nowadays (which nomenclature I find ironic, since who uses an actual iPod anymore?) it can actually be hard to find a new one that you want to subscribe to.  

The vast universe of podcasts is perhaps rivaled only by the vast universe of independent singer-songwriters, so I guess it makes some kind of Ven-diagram sense that I would actually find a lot to like about a new podcast created by a couple of singer-songwriters.  

I am speaking of “The Long Ride with The Wild Ponies.”

Hosts Doug and Telisha Williams (aka “The Wild Ponies“)  have come up with what seems like a fairly original format.  The first episode features a solo performance by singer/songwriter extraordinaire (really) Will Kimbrough, peppered with conversational breaks about life as traveling and performing artists.  I can’t say whether it’s because Will is such a tremendous (phenomenal, really) solo performer, or because the hosts do such a great job of keeping the conversational interludes brief and on-point, but between those elements the whole format just sorta works.  

Since the profusion of podcasts offered up lately are mostly just two people talking and pretending to laugh at each other’s lame attempts at humor, this format is a welcome relief.  I found it thoroughly engaging from start fo 46-minutes-later finish – although Will Kimbrough – have I mentioned how exceptional he is? – has placed a rather high bar for future guests to rise to.  

Of particular note is the “Speed Bump” segment near the end where Doug and Telisha ask a series of quick either/or questions, like:  

Telisha:  “Sunrise or sunset?”  

Will:  “Sun Ra. “ 

Such depth of insight is rarely found this side of Malcolm Gladwell. And Gladwell can’t sing or play guitar.  

So get ye over to your Podcast app and listen to “The Long Ride.” It will make your next long ride go faster. 

Aso: H/T to Laura Schneider, who had to mention this several times before I finally took the hint.