A to Z Theme 2016

For my 2016 A to Z theme I used a meme that I ran across on the blog of Bridget Straub who first saw it on the blog of Paula Acton. This meme is a natural for me to use on my memoir blog. It's an A to Z concept and it's about me. No research and nothing complicated. I'm given twenty six questions or topics to discuss that are about me.

In April I kept my posts short and uncomplicated. In the midst of it all you might learn a few things about me that you didn't previously know.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Cherry River (Soundtrack of My Life)

Have you ever searched for something only to find it when you weren't looking for it?

       This post is a continuation of sorts from my previous post so you might want to start there if you didn't read it--it's short.   The following post will likely be short as well.

Cherry River

        In 1975 I ran away with the circus--or actually it was a stage magic show.  That would be my lifestyle for the most part for the next 15 years.  There were a few diversionary periods that involved a first marriage, having a kid, getting divorced, being depressed for a while, meeting a new woman and getting married again and having three more kids.  Throughout it all I was working on first a magic show and then a theatrical stage production for over a decade.

        That's not this story though since what I'll be relating is not so much a story as it has to do with the incidents that are interspersed throughout our lives, how we feel about our life incidents, and how they can affect us later.  And maybe in the end what I'll be telling will only appear to relate to any of these things other than only the most remote ways.   An impressionistic memoir perhaps?  Or merely thoughts passing from my mind's memory to your computer screen.

          Spending so much time on the road meant my record collection sat at my parents' house gathering dust.   Now I would be spending much of my time in my vehicle or in motel rooms.  The music medium of choice during this period was no longer vinyl, but now it was cassette tape.  Hours were often passed on the road so that meant I was continually building a cassette tape collection.  If there was time that needed to be killed in towns that were new to me then I mass murdered minutes in record stores wherever I happened to be.  

          I would peruse the cassette bins searching for albums that I might have recently read about or for new releases by old favorite artists.   Sometimes when I'd get to the G section I might think about my old favorite group The Good Rats with little expectancy of actually finding anything by the group.  I was certain that they had disbanded, but it never hurt to look anyway.

           Another record store section I always checked out was the cut out bins.  Since many of my favorite vinyl albums had been discovered in the cut-outs, I was always ready for a bargain price spent on some new-to-me discovery or some old favorite that I was happy to add to my tape collection.   Typically I would come away from my searches with a few selections to while away future travelling time.  Besides, I always had money to blow when I was working on the road.  To me, new music seemed vital to my sanity in a sense.

          It was in 1985 I think it was and, if I remember correctly, I was in Louisiana--Lafayette I believe--when in a mall music store cut-out cassette bin I found a treasure trove that I had never expected to find.  There were something like five different Good Rats releases from 1975 until more recent dates.  I was elated with my find and bought them all along with some other interesting albums.   Upon later listening I discovered that The Good Rats were even better than that first vinyl album by them that I had purchased in the University of Tennessee student center bookstore.  Now The Good Rats were officially one of my number one favorite rock and roll groups.

         The first cassette that I listened to was the 1979 release Birth Comes to Us All.   The song that really hit me and stuck with me was "Cherry River"--a song that in some strange way tapped into everything my road life represented to me.   It's a druggie song from the way I interpret it, but in the more metaphorical sense the song symbolized the hypnotic effect of constant travel and my continual quest for the next perfect experience.   I could especially relate to the image of driving outside of Butte, Montana listening to Johnnie Ray.   Not that I had any Johnnie Ray cassettes, but I had plenty of music that represented all eras of recorded music and beyond back into the eras of classical music.  A Johnnie Ray cassette could have easily fit into my eclectic collection.

         Listening to Johnnie Ray at night on a winding road outside of someplace like Butte, Montana epitomized so much of road life.  Sometimes weary after having put many miles behind us, waiting to get to the next motel or wherever we were heading at the time.  In retrospect it all does seem like some kind of crazy drug-induced dream experience.  So much remembered with even more forgotten. They were the good years, or some of the best at least.  Or maybe they were just vastly different and strange in a life that has been mostly good.

        I can't complain.  I feel as though at some time--or times--in my past I have drunk deeply from the Cherry River of imagination and reality and memory and contemplation of more miles to one day be traveled.  I want more.   More than I can ever drink in one lifetime.  More than any life can hold.  The river of experience and life is worth the search that it takes to find it.

          Have you ever searched for something for a long, long time and then found it later on when you weren't even looking for it?     What is one big experience that you would like to relive?   What one thing that you haven't done yet are you still looking forward to doing eventually?

In this post I offer another in my Soundtrack of My Life series.    Robin at Your Daily Dose has been doing the Soundtrack of my Life posts on her blog for a while now.   I had done a few of my own "life soundtracks" on my Tossing It Out blog as well as the song series (starting at this post) I did for my 2014 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge on Wrote By Rote. Be sure to visit and follow Your Daily Dose for more Life Soundtrack info.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Anybody Got the Time (Soundtrack of My Life)

        Once spent, time is a commodity that can never be replaced.  I've squandered more than a few precious hours in my life with television or other similarly idle pursuits.  Agreed that rest and relaxation are important--a necessity--to each of us so I won't condemn all the idle time that I've spent.   Still though, I could have done better in the past.  And likely I will waste more time in the future.  That's the nature of life for most of us.

Anybody Got the Time

          In the fall of 1969 I entered college at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville as a shy young man after having spent the previous twelve years as a shy guy in public schools.  I always had friends so I can't necessarily say that I was lonely even though I spent a lot of time being alone--that was often by choice.  After entering puberty the one thing that I probably wanted most was a girlfriend.

         Being in college didn't change my love life to much extent and any dating that I did do had no relationship to anyone I knew at the university.   Since I didn't live on campus, but instead still lived at home with my parents, it was almost as though I lived two separate lives--one in the daytime as a student and one in the evenings with my friends, most of whom were not going to school or not going to school where I was going.

         My friends at the university were not many and at such a large school as I was attending it was very rare that I even saw anyone that I knew as a friend during the daytime hours.  I might see some of them on the hour-long ride to and from school where we might engage in conversation, but those were for the most part bus friends whom I rarely encountered in any other setting.   To put it plainly, I had essentially no social life at college.

          However this is not the real story that I wanted to tell here.   What I wanted to tell about is how I spent my free time during the school day when I wasn't in class.  I spent a lot of time in the undergraduate library reading books and magazines or occasionally studying or listening to music.  I was especially passionate about music during those years.  When I wasn't listening to music I was looking for new music that I could buy or plan on buying at some later time.  My wish list was long, but money for music was not in great abundance.

         The library was free.  Spending time there was well within my monetary budget while time spent there studying was better than time spent watching television and the passing parade of people at the student center.  My hours at the library were a cerebral adventure especially when I got sidetracked exploring things that were interesting to me.

        For example in early 1970 I found a classical music magazine on the shelves.  What drew me to that magazine is unclear since I was neither an audiophile nor a buyer of new releases in classical music.  I did buy a fair amount of classical music albums, but they tended to be older releases I found in the cut-out bins.  Whatever it was that made me pick up this magazine, I began to read through it and discovered a section where rock and pop albums were being reviewed for the first time.  I suppose they were trying to expand their readership.  Unsuccessfully I would guess judging from their odd album picks--in other words, unknown artists that would probably never get mentioned in the mainstream rock music magazines.

         One album review that caught my eyes was the debut album by a New York group called the Good Rats.  I immediately recalled having seen this album in the record section of the university center book store--a place where I spent a good amount of free time.  The album sounded interesting enough for me to actually go to the book store and spring for the full price of a new album.  After I took the album home and gave it a listen I was pleased that I had gotten it.  Perhaps the album wasn't the most unique music in my collection, but it held a place in my heart.  Maybe it was because I read about the album in that classical music magazine at the library.

           The magazine had taken a chance on reviewing a genre other than classical and jazz so I had taken a chance on purchasing an album based on that review.   Over the next few years the album received many spins on my turntable.  Even if none of my friends seemed to notice the album, I liked it and that was what mattered most to me.

           For a while I watched the record bins for a new Good Rats album release, but I never ran across any more after that first one.  Eventually I stopped thinking about the group.    When I happen to see the first album in my collection I'd ponder whatever happened to the group, but I figured they had disbanded and faded away.

            That was until years later...

 (to be continued next week...)

        In this post I offer another in my Soundtrack of My Life series.    Robin at Your Daily Dose has been doing the Soundtrack of my Life posts on her blog for a while now.   I had done a few of my own "life soundtracks" on my Tossing It Out blog as well as the song series (starting at this post) I did for my 2014 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge on Wrote By Rote. Be sure to visit and follow Your Daily Dose for more Life Soundtrack info.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Halloween Memories (from Tossing It Out)

The following post originally appeared at Tossing It Out on October 29th, 2009...

Halloween Memories

Jack-o-lantern (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
        Halloween undoubtedly evokes many different memories for different people. Some of you may have special memories from your own childhood or perhaps memories from when your own children celebrated Halloween. Maybe there is a special person or place that you will think of when you think of Halloween. Today I'm going to share some of my memories.

        The most recent memories certainly have to do with my previous job managing a warehouse for a Halloween wholesale distributor that this year closed the regional operation where I was located. Having been there for nearly 20 years, it felt like home to me. When my daughters were young, I would pick them up from school and sometimes bring them to the warehouse. Once they had finished their homework I would let them pull orders. It was like a game to them and they enjoyed it. But it was also training. When they were in high school they all were on the payroll at one time or another and were my most valuable employees. I enjoyed working with my daughters.

        Later, after my daughters moved away, the company started downsizing partly due to heightened efficiency but also due to diminished business at our location. But we were still busy at Halloween. Often leaving the house well before sunrise, I would stop by a 24 hour donut shop for some pastries and a large coffee and go to my office to prepare things for when the employees would arrive. I particularly liked that peaceful time of solitude, having my coffee and donuts and organizing the orders. When I finished the prep work, then I would usually go back into the frigid warehouse and pull several orders to get the packers started when they arrived. Alone in a big empty warehouse for me is a special time for thought and introspection.

        In the last few days before Halloween, work would slow down for the distributers like us. This is when the retail stores kick into high gear. We would have special orders to be shipped by air-- 3 day, 2 day, and then next day. We might have a few local last minute pick ups. But mostly it was time to wind down, reorganize the warehouse, and come to work later and go home at the regular time. When Halloween came it was like a holiday for us. I'd treat my employees to a pizza party and Halloween goodies and let everyone leave early. Then I would leave early so I could get ready for the trick-or-treaters.

      One memorable Halloween was in 1979. My wife, two year old son and I were touring with a stage production at the time. On tour with us was one of my good friends, his wife and their daughter who was about to turn three. We were not performing that night -- Halloween was typically not a good night for the show--and travelling a goodly distance that day from someplace in Texas to Lafayette, LA. As it started to get dark we decided to pull into the next town we came to along I-10 and take the kids trick-or-treating. The town was a quaint place called Jennings, LA. We stopped in the parking lot of a small shopping center and dressed the kids in makeshift costumes. We then drove to a fine neighborhood of older stately homes. We took our children door to door to give them their first experience with trick-or-treat. I don't think they really understood what was going on, but it didn't take long for them to get caught up in the spirit of the event. After we had completed our round of the street where we had stopped, we got back into the van and continued on to Lafayette to our motel. I'm sure that neither of our kids remember that night, but for me it was kind of special to drop into a place where I had never been before and feel like we were part of the community just as though we were back home.

       And home is what I really think of when I think of Halloween now. Aside from the years when I was on the road at Halloween, most Halloween nights I have been at home. In the parts of the U.S. where the air has started turning cooler and night comes sooner, Halloween has a special feel that means another year is drawing closer to an end. The autumn palette of changing leaves, big orange pumpkins ready for carving, and the smell of wood fires and leaves burning evokes a certain sadness that will soon be replaced by the warmth and excitement of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Halloween, like all of the holidays, has lost much of the old fashioned simplicity and has become industrial, has become big business. It may be good for the economic climate so far as business goes, but not so much for the economy of the heart and soul. Sometimes it seems as we become more wealthy in what we own, we become poorer in who we are.

       Make the best of what you have. And have a good time.

       What are you going to do this Halloween? What are you going to be?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Yard Work I Never Had to Do

         It's time for the leaves to change though here in California you wouldn't notice much.

English: Roller at Cockington A lawn roller le...
 Roller at Cockington A lawn roller leans against an oak tree at the side of 49773. Keywords: Cockington Court, autumn leaves (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

        In my lifetime I've put many a mile behind me while pushing a lawnmower.  We had a huge lawn when we lived in Tennessee and since I was a teenager when we moved there, the job of mowing that lawn fell upon me.   After I moved away from home my parents bought a riding lawnmower, but I guess they figured that since I was young and healthy I would be just fine pushing a lawnmower for a few hours on a hot summer day.   That story changed when they didn't have me to push the mower.  I'm not sure why my younger brothers didn't have to push a mower, but apparently my father ended up mowing much of the time and that was enough to inspire him to buy a riding mower.

          One job that I never had to do was rake leaves.  There weren't any leaves back then in the late sixties and early seventies when I was living there.  In the years after I moved away the trees in the yard grew bigger.  Hence in fall there were leaves on the ground and somebody must have had to rake them up.   Since I've rarely been in Tennessee during the fall since I left my parents' house, I haven't seen much in the way of fallen leaves.

            That is until late fall of 2014 after my mother died.   I stayed at my mother's house for a while in order to help get affairs settled.  As a matter of fact I was there nearly a month in November and December.  Since the young man who cut grass during the summer when the grass was growing didn't come during the winter, someone need to rake up the leaves that had accumulated in the yard. There was a leaf blower at the house, but I couldn't get it to work.  So I found a rake and began raking.  In that large yard raking was a formidable task.

             I raked once while I was there and because it was so late in fall and there were no more leaves in the trees to fall onto the ground, that was the one and only time I had to rake.  Raking was easier than pushing the mower on a hot day.  Still I'm glad that I didn't have to do any raking back then.  I would have done it if I had been given the chore, but thankfully the chore didn't exist when I lived there.

            Let's face it--I'm not a fan of yard work.  Even now I have somebody come over to cut my lawn where I live now.  Not that it's a big job--our lawn is about the same size as our living room and that's not especially big.  Our lawn guy has a blower and all the other lawn care tools to keep a well-manicured lawn for us.   I don't need to buy tools or exert any effort.   A few bucks twice a month is worth it to me.

            Mowing the lawn when I lived with my parents was fine.  It not only didn't kill me, it was also good exercise and a time to escape into my own mind while I walked in circles for a few hours.  Mowing was my job after all.   Raking leaves was the yard work I never had to do.

            What kinds of household chores did you have to do when you were younger?  Do you currently have a yard that you keep up yourself?     Have you ever jumped into a pile of leaves?


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Of Footballs and Falling Leaves

Front of a yellow school bus.
Front of a yellow school bus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

        After summer is abruptly interrupted by the start of another school year, an almost imperceptible change occurs as students go to classes and daylight hours grow too short for lingering outside.   Besides, there is homework to be done and the new television season to sample.  Tree leaves turn from green to a myriad splash of yellows, reds, oranges, and eventually, brown.  Another summer gone as fall signals the end of another year.

         But first comes football season.   As in small towns all across America, Everett High School in Maryville, Tennessee is all about football.   The cheerleaders lead the student body in pep rallies during home room period.  It's all about the game on Friday night for most of the students.  Well, except for the non-sports-minded students like me.  I never got into football or any sports for that matter.  It just wasn't my thing.

          My sister thought that I should go to the games and become more involved.  Maybe find a girlfriend.  I would have liked that too, but going to the football game didn't seem like the way that I would have wanted to do it.

          When we hear that there is an away game scheduled in Cleveland, Tennessee some 80 miles away, I figure maybe this would be a time to go to a game.  I've got a friend living in Cleveland whom I can meet up with.  I call to make arrangements to meet up with him.  He's glad to hear this and so am I.  Secretly I'm hoping to see a girl who I had met over the summer when I stayed in Cleveland for a couple of weeks with my friend.

           On the Friday of the game, my sister and I are dropped off at the school by my mother in order to join the others who will be taking the bus ride to Cleveland.   It's one of the yellow school buses that take students to and from school every day.  Now a caravan of yellow buses will be taking a small army of Everett High students to the rival team's field.

          There's not much I can remember about the night other than I met up with my friend.  There was a crispness in the air with a faint smell of burning leaves wafting about.  An enticing aroma of popcorn and hot dogs emanated from  the refreshment stand.  We get snacks and hang out around the bleachers.  I hardly watch the game and neither does my friend since like me he doesn't seem to be much into football.  Maybe that's why we feel a kinship.  After the game we said our good-byes and parted ways.

        It's a lonely bus ride home.  I don't really have any friends who have gone to the game.  I sit by the window gazing out at the darkened landscape passing by.  I didn't see the girl I had hoped I would see at the game.  And truth be told I hadn't really expected to see her.  She probably had no idea that she'd even met me back in the summer.

        My mind starts wandering as I wish I had a girl to sit with on the bus ride home.  As I often do when I'm lost in my own thoughts, I begin composing a song in my head and my imaginary voice begins to sing,  "It's so lonely in the back of the bus."  That's the only line in the song for now but I sing it over and over in my head.  Not a bad song I think to myself.

          I don't remember much more about that night except that song which I can still sing those repeated lines, "It's so lonely in the back of the bus...It's so lonely in the back of the bus."  In fact that's the only football game I remember going to.  Never a home game.  No more football games after that.

         Did you go to the sporting events at your school?   Did you ever ride the bus to the away games?    What is your favorite fall high school memory?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

School Days

English: A pic i took during my last days at s...
A pic i took during my last days at school (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

         When September comes I invariably think about school.  It's not just the store back-to-school specials or seeing the kids hitting the sidewalks with their backpacks or even my teacher wife returning to work after her summer vacation.   After all I spent a goodly part of my first 18 years attending school.  The cycle of years has ingrained that innate sense of the school season arriving.

         Now September seems to fly faster than I can grasp, like a playground merry-go-round that is revolving in child time leaving an older less agile me unable to jump onto it.   These days I am more content to watch the darn thing spinning than actually ride.  Still, ride I do.   My mind and body feel slower but the time keeps getting ahead of me just dragging me along with it.

          But when I was a child and then later a teen, September seemed like a thousand months.  At least while the month was passing.    There was so much to do and so much to absorb.  New faces in the classroom, some who might become friends.   New teachers and new curricula.  Homework and tests.  In high school there were the football games that I never attended but was well aware were going on because everyone else seemed interested and the evidence was everywhere in the hallways and around the campus.    Days grew shorter and nights became cooler.

           Soon September was over and I had adapted into the routine of another school year.  With the arrival of fall came the burst of color of the turning leaves.   November was on its way and that heralded the coming of Christmas with another long vacation.   Still, before we allow October to get away there is one more thing that was especially important in my life during grade school...

            Halloween was coming!

            And now with September nearly gone, once again I'm about to arrive at October.  This year, as in the past seven years, Halloween doesn't mean that much to me.  Oh sure, there are the advertisements about seasonal costume shops popping up here and there.   There are the special candy displays in the stores.   I've been seeing Halloween decorations in various yards and business establishments.  None of it matters now--not like it once did...

...to be continued

           Do you still associate September with the start of school?    What was your favorite time of  the school season?    How involved were you in school activities?

Saturday, September 17, 2016

January 23-30, 1978 (Soundtrack of My Life)

       It's often said that life is strange, but compared to what?

Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory (1931...
Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory (1931), Museum of Modern Art (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

       Time can be a very precise measurement of the present, but it is often inaccurate when looking at the past.   Memories can meld together or get placed out of chronological order.  The memory can be an unreliable narrator regarding past events as it conveniently discards the unpleasant while exaggerating the importance of relatively insignificant events.   In the following post I question my memory in regards to a song that is among my favorites.

         In this post I offer another in my Soundtrack of My Life series. Robin at Your Daily Dose has been doing the Soundtrack of my Life posts on her blog for a while now. I had done a few of my own "life soundtracks" on my Tossing It Out blog as well as the song series (starting at this post) I did for my 2014 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge on Wrote By Rote. Be sure to visit and follow Your Daily Dose for more Life Soundtrack info. For my current back to the past post, I'm using the song "January 23-30, 1978" by Steve Forbert as my inspiration. If you like you can listen as you read the story that follows...

"January 23-30, 1978"

          What seems to be a somewhat odd title for a song actually is a time period described by the narrator of a song story by Steve Forbert.   While this date range can fit easily into my own life, there is no special significance to my knowledge that would be applicable in my personal history.  During that January week in 1978 I was getting ready to set out on tour with The World of Fantasy Players with my wife and our six month old baby.  I would have celebrated my birthday sometime that week since it comes on January 30th, but I can't recall any special thing that happened in connection with that event.

         But it's not anything about the song title that impacts me--it's the content of the lyrics, the events Forbert describes.   This song seems so akin to my own life experience that the story told within those lyrics touches the heart of my memory and reminds me of things that I too have lived through.  With a few changes this could be my song--a snippet of my own life history.  I am stirred within each time I hear this song as it has become part of my own life soundtrack.

         After I'd essentially moved away from my hometown in Tennessee to run away with a magic show in 1975, my visits home became fewer as time went on and my show biz life meant more time on the road away from home.  As each year passed I became less close to my old circle of friends thus less aware of what their lives were like.  Old friends were getting married, starting families, and embarking upon careers or other endeavors.  When I would go back to stay with my parents for short visits I would try to hang out with friends and catch up with their lives.  The fact was though that we were growing apart, they in their small town world and me traipsing about the country.

          Now some nearly 40 years later my memory is faulty about when I first heard the Forbert song.  Somehow I came to associate first noticing this song in early 1980 when I was separated from my wife and staying with my parents in Tennessee.  I had taken a job driving for the limousine shuttle service at the Knoxville Airport.  My shift started early so I would drive to work at about 4 AM.

            In my hazy memory I seem to recall driving through Alcoa, the town where the airport is located, early one icy cold morning and listening to my cassette copy of Steve Forbert's Jackrabbit Slim album.  When "January 23-30, 1978" came on the lyrics really hit me as describing how my visits home had started to feel.   I got a sense that soon I would be gone to another town and living a life far away from my home that held so many fond memories for me.

          However, thinking back I'm not sure I had that cassette copy until a few years after the date that stood in my memory.  Perhaps my listening to this song driving through Alcoa early one morning reminded me of driving to my airport limousine job and all of the other events of my life.   Maybe it was another visit.   It's kind of crazy how mixed up my memory is about this minor incident in my life.  From the standpoint of the scope of my entire life, hearing this song at some specific but some unknown time shouldn't have meant that much and yet that drive and that song at that moment vividly stands out in my memory.

        I'm reminded of that famous Salvador Dali painting "Persistence of Memory"--you know the one with the melting watches on the surreal landscape.  That depiction of time flowing and melding into the wholeness of everything is symbolic of the fluidity of all that I've been and where I've ended up in my life, a life where the past is not perfectly cataloged.  Not my life at least.  My mind seems to pick out certain things to remember even if they are not in the correct order.

        It doesn't really matter that much I suppose.   I understand what memory is telling me.   And yet I could be misinterpreting things as a matter of convenience.  

         What I do know is this:  There was a time when I was younger, when responsibility was a debate that I held within myself and consequences primarily affected only me.  We were all young, my friends and I, and then we moved on to other things and other people and other lives.  In other words we grew up--or pretended to.  

           Rarely do we capture the magic of the past in our tangible everyday lives.  Oh, sometimes we might get together with old friends for a few fleeting hours and everything seems as it once was.   Most of the past is only accessible by memory.  The memory might be spurred by a song such as this song from my own life soundtrack.  A song that might mean little to someone else, but something vast, strange, and maybe even unknowable to my mind.    A mystery that is really no mystery at all when I think about it, but a mystery nonetheless.

           Do you have a song that is attached to a memory so strongly that it haunts you when you hear it?    Did you drift away from most of your old friends from youth?    Do you have a disconnect with certain memories where you are no longer certain of when exactly they occurred?