Kermit Ladd Journalism: Pilgrimage


In the past, when we’ve seen Kermit Ladd on these pages, he’s been run in circles by the boys in the band. That ShapeShifter band, that is (for you who don’t know just who rules the roost around here). Kermit, however, isn’t the amateur you may think he is. Nope. The man’s won awards for his journalism, and is generally well-regarded in the field. Here’s why, in a piece inspired by both this week’s Sunday Scribblings prompt and a comment made at a new blog I’ve recently found, Metalblog.

No matter how loathesome everything else around this strip mall where the end of the line trickles into place, its beige façade faded by the blazing Arizona sun, trash bleaching in the fire lane like a dead fish washed up by a red tide, there is always something worthy of one’s attention. In this case, it is three young men, maybe as young as eighteen, maybe as old as twenty-six, who crawl out from behind the artificially green bushes near building’s side.

They are dirty. Their black hair wears a layer of brown dust, as do their tattered-in-places clothing. Their shoes haven’t escaped; rather, they bear the brunt of the damage. Holes in the soles and at the toes haven’t seen attempts at repair. Nor have the revealed nails seen a clipper, much as they need to.

Foot sore, weary, and hungry, they ask where they might refill their water bottles. They lick their lips as they eye the snacks others munch, oblivious to the new arrivals who need their money for the precious few tickets that remain.

No one jumps to help them, offer advice, or point them to a spicket. In fact, the thick crowd assembled to see Sammy Spencer perform across the street pretends these three simply don’t exist. The three are, to an extent, relieved. To be seen, noticed, acknowledged by the wrong people will mean that instead of the inside of a theater, they will be treated to the inside of a police car. Instead of the music they came so far to hear, they will hear a judge issuing the order that they be deported back home.

A reasonable person would bemoan the other side of what attention can bring: the helping hand that can shelter them, help them, provide them with what they need. Not these three.

“We used to it, man,” one of them tells this intrepid journalist once contact is made and safe identity established. “No one want help the Spics. Let these Spics tell you sumpin’, man. When Sammy Spencer get done and walk off that stage, we start our own walk back home. We don’t want to be part of no society that so mean to us.”

“We work hard at home,” the second one says. “But Sammy, he cancelled show in Mexico. This his farewell tour. We can’t miss the farewell tour.”

It is pointed out that Sammy’s already held two farewell tours, and no one has been fool enough to label this one the same. It seems that Sammy Spencer’s latest idea of retirement means three months on tour and one off, summers spent with the reunited and reconfigured Scarred Heart, and grandiose statements about unplugging the microphone that keep the fans pouring through the doors the moment they open. He now limits the countries he visits, and no longer seeks to gain visas for the many he’s been banned from. Perhaps there is even some taming of the famed Sammy Spencer, the man who once gave an interview while dining upon what he still, to this day, maintains was a dog, a delicacy in some of those countries in which the man is no longer welcome — and a few in which he never was.

These three Mexican men, who snuck across the border between our countries simply to say farewell to their musical hero, are the epitome of Sammy Spencer and the rebellious ways he seems to have, finally, thirty years later, matured beyond.

Yet it is clear to this journalist, at least, that he continues to inspire a flaunting disregard of the law, of simple things like visas and passports and lawful entry into another country.

These three young men, covered in dirt, stomachs audibly growling, are the essence of rock and roll.




    January 18, 2009 9:12 pm

    Cool take on the prompt. I went to Metalblog and read the post that inspired this. Living in America, one doesn’t always think of the people living in places that artists skip on tour.

  2. Thomma Lyn

    January 18, 2009 11:26 pm

    Touching, and excellently done. You write reportage very well, Susan! 🙂 Kermit Ladd’s voice is so distinctive as is his compassion for the young Mexican men.

  3. Susan

    January 18, 2009 11:27 pm

    Actually, Ann, you’d be surprised at how one’s perspective changes when you live in a frequently-skipped city…

  4. julia

    January 19, 2009 10:23 am

    ‘Frequently-skipped city’ – oh, I hear you on that one. How about frequently-skipped region? When I was growing up, absolutely no one made it to the Maritimes. No one. We had a thriving home-grown scene, but no one ever came here.

    Life is totally different now. Artists actually make it all the way to Halifax. Like Lenny Kravitz!! They’re always bowled over by the reception they get from the audiences here – but their concerts are like a rope thrown to a drowning person. How can we not adore the ones who find us here?

    And I love your Kermit post – I don’t think I’ve read anything by him before.

  5. Robin

    January 19, 2009 12:33 pm

    Great descriptive writing – you really made the scene come alive.

    PS There’s a little something for you (or Trevor – your choice) on my blog :).

  6. Alice Audrey

    January 19, 2009 1:14 pm

    I live in “fly over land.” To get to a rock concert generally takes a day’s drive, sometimes more. To get to one I really want to see can involve way more time and money than I want to part with. But now and then…. I understand these kids quite well.

  7. Ravyn

    January 20, 2009 1:47 am

    It’s amazing what people will do when they consider the reward great enough–and it says a lot about the music that it’s a big enough reward.

    This post is beautiful.

  8. Toni

    January 21, 2009 11:17 am

    Hey Susan,

    Stopping by to catch up on my reading but because of the font color I can’t really see the print. Not sure if it is on my side or not.

  9. Dave

    January 21, 2009 11:50 am

    Wow. I’m honored my blog post inspired you to write this.

  10. david, tree house man

    January 21, 2009 7:15 pm

    hello susan,
    how are you ?
    today I kayaked for 2 hours on lake. It was glorious. Tomorrow I get a massage for my sore muscles…. Life is good, sorry, no pics, as it was raining at the start – so I left the camera in the car. Only pleasant memories.

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