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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Story Behind the Song (in depth) "Seven Mile Bridge"

This song was an interesting song to write in that it tackled a couple of subjects at the same time. In the beginning of January 2006 a group of fifteen Cubans refugees sailed for a better life in the U.S.

In addressing this in the song the first lines are:

They left Cuba with freedom in their eyes, land of plenty is on the horizon, and you can hear them as they cross the straights, singing goodbye to the land of sugarcane.”

(at this point the chords to the ultra-famous Cuban song “Guantadamera” play, to give the subliminal impression that's the song they are singing)

The Cubans landed on the old, unused Seven Mile Bridge in the middle of the Florida Keys. At the time, the U.S. had the absolutely absurd rule that Cubans who landed in the U.S. had to be on dry land, in order to emigrate. Stranded on the bridge, the U.S. Government determined that they were not on dry land and re-repatriated the refugees back to Cuba.

I felt this was completely absurd on a number of levels. First and foremost, the policy, which was called “Wet Foot Dry Foot” requiring refugees from Cuba to be standing dry land to emigrate. It's a lot like a getting a touchdown. What were we doing, playing football with people's lives? Picture the Cubans floating along in the Florida Straights as the offense and U.S. Coast Guard as the defense.If the defense catches them on the water, they go back to Cuba. If they reach U.S. soil (or sand), they score and stay. It should be noted that during this aquatic bastardized football game, many Cubans died in their attempt to reach the U.S. as their boats were just not seaworthy and sank in the quest.

The other absurd part of the policy was that it pertained only to Cubans. If a group from anywhere else sailed and landed, it made no difference at all if they were on dry land or not, they were not welcome and sent back. The Cubans were the only “team” allowed in this hypothetical football game.

With this particular group of Cubans, they landed on the Seven-Mile Bridge. The U.S. didn't recognize that as part of the U.S. and sent them back to Cuba. Here I addressed that issue with the second verse:

And they rolled into the Florida Keys, washed up on that Seven-Mile Bridge. But federales said 'ain't no way, wet foot, dry foot, a bridge ain't no foot, it ain't USA so be on your way”

In addition to the policies that I found absurd regarding Cubans reaching the end-zone, on top of being the only players in this life and death game, There was also the issue of The Seven-Mile Bridge.

When the bridge was first opened in 1912, it was the longest bridge in existence. It was called “The Eighth Wonder Of The World” at the time! This was living history. This was a very important part of American culture. Henry Flagler built the bridge as part of his railroad complex of forty-five bridges, island hopping the Keys. The quest was to utilize Key West's deepwater harbor as an import hub for South American goods to be sent by his railroad to the U.S. mainland for distribution coast to coast.

Yet, here in 2006, it was viewed, with no significant character and actually, no significance whatsoever. It was scoffed at and disowned by the government. The play was sent up to the booth for review and after watching the “instant replay”, the call was sent to the referee on the field... or rather on the water in a Coast Guard vessel. Their view, within the context of a set of absurd rules of this aquatic football game played with human lives, was that there was no touchdown scored by the Cubans. The run down the sidelines ruling had the offense step “out of bounds” and they were sent back to Cuba. In doing so, they essentially said the Seven Mile Bridge was not part of the U.S.

The state of Florida wanted nothing to do with it and played a very good role of Pontius Pilote, earning an MVP for the game.

This was addressed in the song as such:

and they disowned the Seven-Mile Bridge they don't want it, neither does the state. Eighth wonder of the world when it began. Derelict bridge left to sun, sea, and wind”.

And so ends the first part of the song. It made a statement or two. It also gives food to the listener to think. There is a fair amount which is between the lines as well. It's also a very serious subject, for those curious to ponder. The intellect will ponder this, however, for those who don't care to do much thinking about a song's between the lines meanings, it has a good melody and chord changes, which provide a firm and original chassis for the song to ride on.

For me, this is the most important part of a song. Lyrics mean nothing if the music is a slug.

The next part of the song takes place after the Cuban have been sent back to Cuba.

On January 14, 2006, The Conch Republic's Sir Peter Anderson went to the Seven-Mile Bridge and boated out to where the Cubans has been. Raising a loaf of Cuban Bread (the weapon of choice in the whimsical Conch Republic) declared that as the U.S. Government doesn't want the bridge, the Conch Republic does! He also declared it the only piece of sovereign territory of the Conch Republic. (note: The rest of the Conch Republic, the Dry Tortugas – Elliot Key are joint U.S. - Conch Republic territories). One could always find the Keys-style absurd humor with Sir Peter!

Additionally, Sir Peter had plans to make Eco-friendly affordable housing that would be built on the old bridge! Affordable housing in the Keys has been a decades-long issue that is often spoken about but seldom acted on. Here he had plans for solar powered energy and bio-toilets/plumbing!

The last two verses address and close out the song

And to the rescue comes the Conch Republic. Loaded with laughter and a son of a gun. And housing here is much too insane, billionaires buy the millionaires out how are the common folk gonna settle down?

Now calls have been out for affordable housing, for years and years it's fallen on deaf ears. The Conch's got a fresh new idea, he wants to build on that Seven-Mile Bridge!

I want to live on that Seven Mile Bridge! I want the ocean in my front yard. Conch Republic let it fly your yarn....” add lib to end.

This was a fun song to write and a curious one at that. It covered two different social issues: Cuban immigration and affordable housing. It also brought attention to the Seven-Mile Bridge. The song came together quite quickly. One afternoon actually.

It's a bit funny, I realize for a songwriter who is classified as Trop Rock, to be dealing with social issues. It's not my usual, but it's an option I take when I feel the inspiration and I did when I wrote this song!

The example here is whats known as a demo. It's not really fit for airplay, but it clearly gets the song across. "Seven Mile Bridge" was written immediately after the event 1/17/2006. I hope you enjoy it!


Please check out my new book and support the blog at the same time!

 "Time Traveler - The Oddities and Adventures of a Key West time Traveler"!!

Follow Mark Straight, a Key West Bartender who suddenly finds himself as a time traveler in Key West.

Available from Amazon either download or paperback! Paperback comes with a free download!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

New Book!

New Book!

Time Traveler – The Oddities and Adventures of a Key West Bartender

With my new book out, it might be a fun to go to the root of how the ideas all came about.

It all started in 2015 when my friend and bartender at The Cork and Stogie, Mark Straiton, posted a new profile picture on Facebook. It was actually a very professional picture showing him in a jacket, tie, and neat haircut. Frankly, he looked like a college professor. So with that, my imagination started flowing and I made the following post:

Image may contain: 1 person
Image may contain: 1 person
Image may contain: 1 person

 "Time Magazine's Man of The Year, PhD. Mark Christopher Straiton, for his discoveries in the anthropological field of exploring and discovering little-known cultures through his expedient adventures in time traveling, to various hovels and bars. Doctor Straiton's intense research has enlightened the world of various previously unknown peoples in lost time periods, as has been well documented in his previous book, "Dirtbags, Sleazebags, and Vacuum Bags Encountered in Shit Holes 1800 - 1955". In his 2015 summer travel, Doctor Straiton ventured back to 1944 where he was a B17 bomber pilot based in Rattelsden Field, East Anglia, England. This was a chapter of his latest book, "Time Traveling to Historic Points and Places in Time." for which this award has been given. Other points of interest in his time traveling adventures in this latest work, Doctor Straiton lands as a Connecticut medical doctor in a Union regiment at the Battle of Shilo in1862, then seeks solitude in a Tennessee Tavern. On another adventure, this time in 1891, Doctor Straiton appears in San Francisco working as a brewmaster at the Anchor Brewing Company, where he managed to create what became known as Steam Beer, taking technology that he learned in the 2000 - 2010 era in brewing, and actually bringing it back in time creating America's only indigenous beer. When a keg's cork blew and erupted in a violent spray. Doctor Straiton named it Steam Beer "Because that mother fucker has some velocity!". Perhaps the most amazing story has Doctor Straiton going this time to Paris, France, in 1926 where this time he is a bartender at the Moulin Rouge and actually encounters himself from another time travel! The previous Time Traveling Dr. Straiton had been quite actively pursuing a Can Can floosie named Fanny, when a previous boyfriend of Mlle Fanny, Didier, disrupts the floor festivities and a physical altercation erupts involving the first Doctor Straiton, and Didier. The second Doctor Straiton comes to the aid of his previous self, by first throwing a glass of beer in Didier's face, then hosing him down with a bottle of highly carbonated club soda.Didier runs for his life. The two Doctor Straitons smile a smile that only a time traveler meeting one's self from another time travel, could understand, then retire to the bar where Doctor Straiton pours the other Doctor Straiton an elixir he doesn't have to ask if he wants or not. He knows. For Doctor Straiton's works, he is hereby named Time Magazine's Man Of The Year. The attached picture is one of Doctor Straiton's B17 1944 pictures."

That got me thinking and I was quite inspired by the concept of writing a book on time travel! The idea flourished for nearly a year and on October 12, 2016, I wrote the first chapter. Everyone, of course, knows that Mark Christopher Straiton is, in fact, a time traveler. This is not a well-kept secret and I must confess I did my share broadcasting it around The Cork and Stogie, if not around Key West, or the world, for that matter.

I recall when his mother was in town I said to her “You know Mark's a time traveler?” and without hesitation, she replied “Oh, yes! Of course!”

While Mark was the initial inspiration for the book, as it's being marketed as a science fiction book, the protagonist and his deeds would be fiction. After all, how would I, a mere non-time traveling writer/musician/songwriter know anything about a time traveler's adventures? It's not as though I'd get him completely zozzeled at the bar then pry him for time traveling anecdotes, would I?

So, therefore the protagonist's name is likewise fiction; Mark Straight.

In the beginning, when I was first pondering all of this, it dawned on me how much freedom there was writing about a time traveler. The possibilities were endless!

Consequently, I had the protagonist not only all over Key West but all over the world as well!

This is fun!

It must be stated that in writing the book, although fiction, I am a stickler for stating things accurately. So, if the protagonist went to a bar called, say, Freddy's Bar and Grill, Freddy's Bar and Grill actually existed in whatever time period the story takes place. It may be gone today, but in the time period, it did exist. In a case or two, I did have to improvise, as there really wasn't information available that suited the locale for the time period in question.

In contemporary times I take the writer's liberty and in some cases invent places that do not exist today at all, or I take contemporary places and change the names. Some I change their names. People who know Key West are already asking me if such and such a bar is actually a place they know! Others, such as the bar I co-own in real life, The Cork and Stogie, keep their real names.

Like the protagonist, whom I based on someone I know, many of those in the story are likewise based off characters I know in real life. I say based off of, as it's not a true assessment of the real-life individual. This, however, changes to suit the story. For instance, one character is very closely aligned to the real-life individual, while another shares their name only. The others fall in between, It goes without saying that some people in the book are purely fictional individuals. For some readers, this offers an intriguing quest to figure out which individuals fall into whatever of the aforementioned categories!

Likewise, many people in different time periods are often based on real people who lived in those time periods. These people have their real names and are noteworthy.

The book takes place in Key West, however, it is not exclusive to Key West. There are times the protagonist has to leave Key West, and again where and when he goes I've made a focus to be historically accurate to the time and place.

As it is assumed that none of the readers are Time Travelers, a large effort has been made to establish the how's and why things occur. Myself, when things are assumed and not addressed in a book, it leaves the reader with the question “Well, there's no answer, or reason explained”. Because of this, basic questions are answered, so the book is comfortable within itself. When writing, logistics were imperative for the sake of the book's integrity.

There is one fundamental question that does go unanswered. It is, however, addressed. Part of a said question being unanswered is an integral crux of the mystery of the book. Addressing the question was essential.

The book has already garnered requests for a follow-up story. I'm happy to say the follow up is underway!

On a funny/humorous note, back in March 2017, five months into writing the book, I learned that the 2017 Key West Fantasy Fest theme was based on... Time Traveling!

In conclusion, we have a bartender from Key West, time traveling to all sorts of wild, odd, crazy, funny, and fascinating adventures in time travel. He explores a Key West of decades past, as well as other places, which events and situations in the Key West of years past dictate him to do.

Available on Amazon as a download or paperback! The paperback includes a free digital download.

Thank you for reading the blog! I hope you love the book as well!