Sunday, November 30, 2008
I spent many a summer Sunday afternoon there in shorts, no shoes, and no shirt blitzed out of my mind selling cans of beer for a buck each out of a metal trashcan filled with ice. Sometimes I traded a beer for a joint. Sometimes I insisted on the buck. Sometimes I didn't. Seems as the afternoon wore out, the freer the beer became. Yeah, I was breaking the law. But as I remember it, the cops were nowhere to be seen. I think they were just happy we weren't hanging out at the Lincoln Memorial and scaring the uptight tourists from upper New York and Omaha.
One of my first exposures to Bluegrass was at the "P Street Beach". David Bromberg was there. Only he did not play straight Bluegrass. I remember some excellent Blues in between the standard Bluegrass fare. He and local band made good, "Grin" are the only artists I remember from those substance hazed hot summer days of my late teens at the Beach.
In the next five or six years I saw Bromberg at bars, in concert halls, and once on the street in Pennsylvania somewhere. He was hard to miss. A big man with wild hair, rail thin, and thick glasses like I used to have to wear. Every time I saw him, it was a completely different experience. Once he came out solo. Sometimes he had three or four people playing with him. One tour he had everything from fiddles to saxophones and trombones. One thing was for sure, he made sure he played just about every stringed instrument there was at each show.
I bought his albums. I bought his tapes. His music kept me company for the million plus miles I suffered behind the wheel of eighteen wheelers on the superslabs of this country. To this day, "New Lee Highway Blues" is about the best get you in the right mood to hammer on the highway music I know of. It is also a tune he closed many a show with.
And he did it again tonight. Tried to close with that song. But I am getting ahead of myself here.
We went to see David Bromberg last night or would it be early this evening? Alpha One, an advocacy group for folks with disabilities put on the concert at the South Portland High School Auditorium. When I googled the concert for information, I was puzzled. David's name was in front, but he was supposedly going to be playing more of a support role for a band called "The Angel Band". I knew nothing about them. I will now. I came home from the concert with two of their CDs. Actually I now own a complete collection of their work.
South Portland Auditorium is a wonderful venue. A small 780 seat hall with no bad seats anywhere. I looked over the crowd filtering in and was struck by their overall ancientness. Folks around my age that had that 'We used to be wild people but we aren't anymore" look. Lots of big bellies hanging out under bodacious beards with aging Mother Earths at their side. Almost on time, some guy in a wheel chair came out and briefly told us about Alpha One and the good works they did. He also introduced a woman who would be signing for the those with impaired hearing. I will admit I thought this was odd. But then much of Life strikes me odd.
David, some musicians and three women came out. Looking like some aging accountant in his Sunday grunge clothes he explained he was really here in support of The Angel Band. As I remember from before, David did not hesitate. The music came hard and came fast. Those three women tore the roof off that hall. Once again I knew that the best use of the female voice is when it is used in threes. A trio of ladies belting out gospel, blues and country did indeed, as the program promised, make the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
The show was split into two parts with an intermission between. The first salvo was all Angel Band with David and his "Chum" Band backing them up. The second part was mostly David and his band. Classics and tunes I had never heard. All the while, David would insist on each musician stepping up and hot dogging his talent. When He tried to close with "New Lee Highway Blues", the audience would have none of it. They had to perform two more encores before the audience was happy.
Yeah, I guess you could say I enjoyed the concert. But "enjoy" might not be a strong enough word. The two plus hours I spent went by as if only five minutes passed. I walked out numb with echoes of wonderful lady voices ringing in my head.
PS - I could not understand the connection to the Angel Band and David's intense support of them. It seems that Nancy Josephson, the lead lady, is David's wife of many years. Ah ha I think. They met when she played bass for him many years ago. They both now own and operate a fiddle repair shop somewhere in the wilds of Wilmington, Delaware when they are not out on the road making beautiful music together.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Randal over to L'ENNUI MELODIEUX once again commented on his inability to come up with anything clever. So he offered up his usual. Excellent use of the language to fill space and kill time as his last hours were suffered toiling at work he would soon be taking a four day break from.
I sometimes wonder about the "work place bloggers". I would lay into them for their personal use of company time. But I cannot. I am just jealous I think. I would be more than happy to waste time blogging from my workplace, but my cheap ass employer(me) has not antied up and bought a connection to the Internet. Not even dial up, the cheap bastard. Oh he claims he has good reason. Something to the effect that it costs money he does not have. I believe him, but still he pisses me off when he says shit like this.
A bike shop can be a lonely space to inhabit during the colder months in Maine. Boredom creeps in like a cold draft and hangs in the air sucking any enthusiasm out, leaving the occupants lethargic and listless. The occasional phone call often ends up being a wrong number or another vendor wondering where that last payment is. But as bad as it gets in the Bike Shop, there is no lonelier time than the days right after Thanksgiving.
The Friday after Happy Gluttony Day has become Happy Mall Day, Happy Walmart Day, Happy Big Box Store Day. Millions of Americans get the exercise they need to burn off that turkey dinner they had yesterday by sprints through aisles filled with bargains and deals. Small retailers depending on warm weather and minds turned to fitness often miss out on this gluttonous spending that follows gluttonous eating. Don't get me wrong. I accept this as part of my chosen profession. I understand that on the day after Thanksgiving, Jesus conditioned responses kick in and folks begin the brutal hunt for deals on books, wide screen TVs, games of every kind and description, and clothes from Aunt Betty.
So I sat all alone in my empty store and played Free Cell, read some cycling articles in Dirt Rag and tried to stay warm. (That cheap ass employer of mine won't turn the thermostat up past 55'F) Constant checking of the clock indicated time had slowed down. Damn, it was only 5 minutes later and I was sure an hour has passed by. I am positive the evil entity that forces us to the malls on Black Friday adds seconds to my minutes in the Bike Shop. In order to nurture and develop the necessary urgency to create riotous spending, shoppers have to know they have little time to satisfy their buying Jones. This evil entity steals their time and shortens their day. As they rush through crowd filled and bag filled spaces, they will wonder where the time went. Well, I'll tell you where their time went. Right here to Springvale, Maine. To a time and place that remained empty and waiting for something to fill it up. So my day slowed down as more minutes were crammed into my shop hours. The way I look at it now is all it did was give me more time to waste.
PS - I did not have a clue what I would write today. I had even less of a clue just after I started. My wife did indeed blow my early attempt. Our conversation about the David Bromberg Concert tonight drove out what was probably a more useless post than what you just read. Maybe it did not. Regardless, below find a taste of a very huge but under rated talent. David Bromberg was responsible for much of the music I would embrace through the years I have had so far. It will be a real treat to see him one more time.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
My brief foray into the world of food prep was the month and a half I spent at McDonalds as a first job in 1965, maybe 1966. I was paid $1.10 per hour to be whatever type of bitch the manager wanted me to be. Lot bitch. Fry bitch. Burger and bun bitch. I absolutely hated it. I realized my talents were not in the preparing of food, but more in line with making food disappear. I found employment elsewhere. I went to work for Marriott Corp., working on the landscape crew who kept all the Hot Shoppes in DC sharp looking on the outside. That was my type of labor. Pushing a lawn mower and raking. Suited me perfectly.
So I get to college some years later. I need to find another source of fun money. My parents were not believers in providing more than the minimum which covered housing, tuition, and books. Beer and pot money had to come from somewhere else. So I went to work in the Cafeteria. Being a dumb ass about food before it was on my plate indicated my abilities were more suited to dealing with the leavings. I became the rinse bitch. I sat on a stool with gloves on and received the trays of half eaten food on nasty plates. I would toss the solids, sort the dishware into specific racks and set them up to go into the industrial sized dishwasher found down at the end of a long conveyor system. It was a very nasty job. College students are such slobs. And it seems that throwing their trays at me was a sport more than a few enjoyed. Especially when the meal was particularly unsatisfying. When I complained, I was fired. So I went to work in the college bowling alley setting pins. That was a great job.
By age twenty I have established the fact that any part of eating other than consumption holds no interest for me. I pursue other venues to find income and job satisfaction. I get married and sometimes cook at first, but it soon becomes apparent, my wife has a better handle and a keener interest in doing it than I do. So she becomes head cook. Again no ego deflation, just the right person for the job. For twenty eight years now we have existed this way. I have often considered cooking, but I get the distinct impression I should not bother. So I haven't.
Yesterday, I participated in my first volunteer effort to help with a Thanksgiving Dinner for folks who are in need. A local Pizza joint, Pat's Pizza in South Sanford decided to sponsor the effort. They provided the kitchen and the space to have it. They wanted volunteers and my wife volunteered us. She is their accountant.
Now the owners of Pat's have never done this. It was obvious as soon as we arrived. No one in charge, just find something to do and do it. Now remember I have over twenty five years of not being involved in food prep. They already had carvers carving. They already had dishwashers washing. I stood there awkward wondering just where I would fit in. A nice lady came by and said I looked like just the guy to mash potatoes.
"Cool", I thought. Something I could handle. Give me one of those mashing tools and turn me loose. Instead of handing me a masher, she guided me to ......the Hobart Mixer. Woah. Now that was a machine. I stood in front of it in wonderment over the industrial-ness of it. The over whelming size of this drill press looking thing found me gazing at it with humility and respect. Look at the size of that mixing bowl. See the monstrous blade that mixed stuff up in that huge stainless steel bowl. It even had speeds and a crank to raise and lower the bowl. Serious kitchen equipment. A Man Mixer.
I guess I never considered that if we were cooking forty turkeys, a substantial amount of mashed potatoes would be needed to accompany said turkeys. Tommy Thomas (He actually prefers his given name, Elias, but well that was what my mom called him back in the day so)...anyway, Elias comes over with the first batch of boiled potatoes and we dump them into the mixing bowl. Between the two of us, we figure out how to make it work. He throws in a pound stick of butter and a pint of milk. He walks away. I flip on the machine on setting two. Immediately I understand this is not a machine to be trifled with. This machine will tear your arm off if you hang too close.
The first batch came out lumpier and drier than Elias liked, so we did it again. With a look that said "Yeah, I guess this will do, Elias scooped it into the first stainless tray and I mashed the next batch. I must have watched that machine mash over a hundred pounds of potatoes in space of maybe a half hour. And though I know it was dummy work, I felt I had contributed. I had found something in that madness of volunteers I could handle. I was not useless as I feared I might be. I enjoyed the brief time I spent there immensely.
So went my first volunteer Thanksgiving meal. I was done before the first plate was served. As a matter of fact as I write this, the first folks to eat are just sitting down I think. My wife, daughter and I had planned to stay for the duration, but there were so many volunteers, it was obvious some of us had to leave so others could contribute their time and effort. The turnout for help was overwhelming. And I have found some serious pride in my community for that. This last minute meal because another more established one had been cancelled has apparently filled the gap just fine. Again many folks get a Thanksgiving meal they would not have otherwise. A local tradition like so many across this land is saved by the efforts of well meaning and capable people.
I hope your Thanksgiving went as well as mine did. This one really drove home the point of this day for me.
Now I am off to help some good folks do good things for folks less fortunate than they are. Damned if I can understand why they invited me.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Lessons are there to be learned. But not by the plaintiffs. Responsibility for one's mistakes lost as another couple decide that what happened to them was someone else's fault.
This mild mannered couple sit down to have a sumptuous meal of grease served up on foreign beef and bleached flour buns. They pick a favorite eatery for this handsome repast. They are sure their privacy will not be violated in this public space. Per usual, one of them sets their cell phone within easy reach. Missing a phone call, any phone call would certainly ruin the rest of their day. How they ever got by without being hooked up and tapped in every waking moment often runs through their minds.
Small conversations pass between this idyllic modern couple as the juice runs down their chins and they reach for those over sized sodas filled with ice by their own hands at the sparkling soda dispensing station just to their right. Here in the space of a ten foot stainless steel counter, the impressive variety of different flavored carbonated water to pick from lets them know the true meaning of being an American. Freedom of choice laid out in front of them and reinforcing their assertion they do indeed live in the grandest of all places.
Smiling sometimes at each other's humorous repartee, they enjoy their brief break from the frantic existence that is their life. Satiated and composed, the couple deposit their trays dutifully at the tray depository found above the numerous plastic bins that say, "We recycle" on them. Happy and content, they leave and proceed with their day. Like any other day. As they push towards the exit through crowds waiting in line for their own slice of burger heaven, they do not realize that their lives will soon be part of the public domain.
Some days later or sooner, a friend, a colleague, or casual acquaintance relays some horrifying news to this couple. In their haste or mindless satisfaction upon leaving the famous eatery the other day, they must have left their cell phone on the table. And because of their fascination with anything electronic, they had naturally utilized all the options on said cell phone. Of these options, the one that would later haunt them and force them to take their case to court, was the capacity of the phone to take and hold any image they so desired.
Now I am of the mind that what people view on their own time is their business. The fact that this couple's phone had been utilized to store images of the Missus in various states of undress is between them. Who am I to pass judgement on the need for the Mister to have these images at hand every waking hour? The why of it is again, between them. But now and forever, the naked pictures have made it to...........the Internet! For as long as electricity flows through the grid of Mankind, these images will be there for any or all to view at the click of a mouse.
Imagine their embarrassment. Consider their intimate secrets now part of the World Wide Web. Put yourself in their shoes. Oh the horror and shame. Not being able to face your co-workers. Always wondering if the Internet time they poach while in their cubicles is not the porn from some site in LA, but the pictures of your wife taken in the bedroom down the street. It would be awful. (Forgive me a moment............I just blew coffee through my nose. Uh, wait a second.....okay, I am better now)
Feeling violated, this couple has sought comfort in the loving hands of lawyers. Seeking to find some emotional and fiscal compensation for their self inflicted embarrassment. They have indicated their lives have been ruined and now must move to avoid the awkward moments at the grocery store, the hardware store , and of course that famous eatery they so enjoyed much of the time. It would be logical and their right in suing the burger joint. Looking for the deepest pockets to pick to smooth out the ruffled edges of their lives is the American thing to do. Finding fault somewhere else instead of looking inside.
I have tried for at least a moment to find some sympathy inside myself for this couple's unfortunate situation. I was not successful. I had to find it between shit and syphilis in the dictionary.
Monday, November 24, 2008
" “Santa” did not bring me what I wanted, but left me a note, explaining why I couldn’t have what I really wanted. ..........
I am sorry I cannot give you the things you asked for this year, but I’m giving you the things you need. Even though you have been a good girl, for the most part, you can’t always have what you want.
Sincerely, Santa "
(I am not sure if Utah Savage will mind me poaching this small drib from her chapter, "Christmas Tradition", but well, I would assume positive attention from a stranger far away might not be a problem. I will attempt to secure her permission before posting though.)
Do we ever outgrow this? This disregard for what we need against the things we want? And why do we seem determined to force our idea of what another person in our lives needs over what they claim they want.? Somehow, we know better than they what they should have and then proceed to follow up with unrequested action.
A Rolling Stones tune immediately came to mind.
"For you're own good" comes to mind.
Yet as a child I remember sitting there wondering what was so wrong about wanting that unicycle. I knew there must be something wrong after finding a game, clothes and another sweater from my Aunt Helen instead under the tree.
I wanted that unicycle. It went way beyond selfish gratification. To complete the picture I had of my immediate future, a unicycle was an integral part. To know that my parents did think of me as more than just an inconvenience and reminder of how unhappy they ended up. I had clothes, games and trains. I needed no more. I had lobbied hard for that unicycle starting months earlier providing the brand, model, and the store where Santa could find it. I wanted to feel that the presents I found under the tree had been given the consideration of a loving parent not just a parent going through the motions.
I was not a child to voice my displeasure in overt tantrum like ways. That tendency had been smacked and brow beaten out of me years earlier. We were a stoic family. Suck it up type clan. If Life didn't go your way, you might sulk. But only as long as Mom did not notice.
That Christmas I flew off the handle. Lost it. I laid into them with intense anger and hate. I will always remember the shock on the half in the bag faces of my parents as they nursed their fourth or fifth drink. I stomped out into the cold Christmas Eve night and did not return for several hours. They may have turned me towards stoicism, but in the process I learned to shoulder a big chip also. A chip that would haunt me for many years to come. It was an ugly scene.
It was a night I remember well when something pops up that digs it out from the suppression file.
As I shivered outside without a jacket and walked random circuits in the neighborhood, I realized it was more than the damn unicycle. I was angry because Christmas was always a sad time for me. My father never handled it well. His functional alcoholism seemed to reach some kind of pinnacle, some threshold he crossed into mean depression. The scenario was always the same. We celebrated Christmas carefully and without authentic cheer. The normal good tidings replaced with a process of building defenses for what I knew would be coming.
I remember a 12 year old's tears freezing on cheeks chapped and numb. I remember watching and then lurking as some carolers full of joy sang off tune in front of houses occupied by people I would never know. I followed them for a short while. Their spirited singing did not help. What I wanted and what I needed were the same. And their happy singing was not it. I realized for the first time... No, I came to grips with the notion that both what we want and what we need are not always there for us. I grew up some that night.
As the days progressed and I got over the idea that the World revolved around me, I came to understand two things. I was not to expect anything handed to me anymore. And the fact my father was not handling retirement from the Air Force very well had more to do with my situation than my presence in his life. For he had opened up to me when I came home from my cold walk. Sure he was shitfaced but he was coherent. He was always coherent. He told me it was not me, but him. He told me it was the relationship he had with my mother, it was not me. He felt bad I had to be there, but there it was. I had to suck it up and deal with it.
At what age do we start acting as adults and stop acting as children? I have tried to pinpoint the seminal moments in my life when this process moved forward. I think this was one of them. And though it was not a pleasant experience, I am grateful it came sooner than later.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
This will make some sense to you and maybe me in a moment or two. And connections to the point of this post will be made clear.
So Stick mentions "War Pigs". It fires up a memory of a post of mine from last year and I go searching the blog archive. I find my post. Titling it "War Pigs" did make it easier to find among the 600 plus posts in this over filled bag of words. In short, in case and most likely because you do not want to visit that post, in a nutshell it was a stroll down memory lane and comments in general about the tune "War Pigs" and other related and semi related garbage. The usual drivel.
Of course I could not re-visit an old post that had not one but at least two links to music videos without running through them one more time. I watched the Cake version of "War Pigs". Yes, I was right. It is a very good cover and the video was appropriate given the lyrics. Then I punched up Black Sabbath's studio version with more up to date war film attached. Proof the tune will stand the test of time and go down as a wonderful condemnation of War and those who wage it. The final scenes in the video were of funerals, soldiers and Arlington Cemetery.
Though I spent good portion of my youth at different times living and existing in and around the DC area, I have only visited Arlington Cemetery twice in my life. I once almost died at what many consider it's entrance when the car we were in did not stop after coming off the Arlington Memorial Bridge. My friend was driving his brand new GTO and wanted to see how fast he could go before we hit the end of the bridge. Up onto the circle, throwing grass and making ruts, we somehow escaped death, the cops and our own stupidity. But that is another tale.
I have been to Arlington twice. Both times to bury loved ones. First my father in 1981 with full honors. Ten years later I put my mom to rest next to him. As a general officer he and his surviving spouse were entitled to this honor.
I have mixed feelings about this. My father did not want to be interred anywhere. He said on numerous occasions he wanted his lifeless body donated to some medical school somewhere. But as it was not stipulated in his will, my mom did what she felt would get her through this I guess. Placing his remains in Arlington was one way to find some closure for her. And she insisted we put her next to the man she fought with for my whole lifetime when the time came. Hmm. I always wondered if this was just so she could continue to irritate him in the afterlife.
I have been to more than a few memorials, funerals and wakes. A military funeral is like no other. There is no celebration. No emotional hysteria. Quiet tears of friends and family while soldiers high and tight stand at attention and fire their rifles. Somber patriotism with respectful but no bullshit "get er done" competency. The words spoken are brief and to the point. Flags are removed from caskets, folded with precision and handed to grieving widows. For some reason, I witnessed this and pride for my father and my country spilled forth. Tears ran down my face in streams. Quiet streams. Falling apart emotionally would be disrespectful to the military and the man we were honoring. I could feel my back straighten up some when the rifles were shouldered to fire the first salvo. I could feel some great weight leave me as the sound of those final shots died over the Potomac. I was sure that the man I knew who wrestled with demons every day of his life was now put to rest with the honor he deserved by the country he loved.
Friday, November 21, 2008
As it often goes with conspiracies, there is always that one weak link, the guy who blows it. The guy who pisses his pants and runs away. David was that guy apparently. While Lewis Powell was busy stabbing Secretary Seward with I imagine a very big knife (Seward would survive), Herold panicked and beat feet. He later hooked up with Booth and they were both surrounded in that infamous barn where John Wilkes Booth met his death. Herold decided to surrender. He was later hanged. As was Powell.
John Surrat who was neck deep in this historic screw up escaped. He spent many years in Canada, then Europe before finally being captured in Egypt and extradited to stand trial. After a mistrial, he was released and lived out his days peacefully. That his actual participation could not be proven was what saved him I guess. That and the number of years that had passed since the actual events of the assassination
I don't know why this fascinates me, but it does. I am not sure why I even made a post up about it. But in light of how much I know and did not know about the actual people involved with the assassination of Lincoln, I figured I would share my pleasure at learning more about it. I also find it fascinating in light of the connections found in a college prep military academy, that two of the main actors in this incident hooked up while attending the same school I did. I also find it interesting that at no time during my time at Charlotte Hall were these two even mentioned. And another skeleton is released.
While I never heard of David Herold during my years at Charlotte Hall, I heard more than I cared to about the school's involvement in the Civil War on the side of the South, even though Maryland was the unwilling property of the North. Cadets actually formed up ranks and shot at Union troops. The folks who were into the school's legacy always mentioned that. But nothing about David Herold or John Surrat. Interesting.
I searched the Charlotte Hall Alumni records for John and David but their records do not go back that far. And now that the school has been closed for over thirty years, I imagine any more information will be had by accident like what I found this morning on the Internet.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
"I've been hassling with the boneheads at the hotel and the cops. I guess that vending machine we destroyed last night is a bigger deal than I thought it would be. You know it's gonna cost me $1500 to straighten it out."
"Yeah, Yeah, yeah. You should have never knocked it over in the first place you idiot. You know how crazed everyone was. And why in Hell did you tell them you did it?"
I looked at Masher. He was dressed in his normal Showco Tee and the same jeans he wore everyday. I always wondered if he had more than one pair of jeans. Or just four or five identical pairs torn and frayed in the same places. His face showed real concern. That was not like him. If anyone kept his cool usually, it was The Masher. I was going to fill him in on the idea of guilt and what it did to some of us. Share my experience learned the hard way that a pre-emptive confession always seemed to illicit punishment less severe. But I could tell he was not on the same page anymore. I skipped it and got to the point.
"So, what's up? After the hotel raped me, they got all nicey nice and told me I had a message. A message from you. By the way, that coke machine stole my money."
"Look out at the crowd. They just got word the concert's been canceled. By the governor no less. We need all hands on deck. I think the whackos are going to rush the stage."
I walked onto the stage and gazed out toward the stadium. That high falutin custom built portable security wall set in place to keep back the crazies at outdoor gigs looked like a black wave. One end would lift and then fall. The next section would rise and then fall. So on down the line like a black snake wiggling in front of the stage. The sound of the people in the crowd was an ugly sound. 50,000 fans not happy that they would not see Led Zeppelin this day. Many had become a mob intent on getting revenge. The rest just seemed to hang out as if they had nowhere else to go. A bottle landed near me and exploded into thousand pieces covering my Chuck Taylors with what I hoped was beer or pale wine. Jumping back I tripped on the bull dick cable taped down on the stage floor and fell on my ass.
Still seated, I turned and looked over to Masher. "So why was the concert cancelled?" More objects began to rain onto the stage. Bottles, cans, even someone's hash pipe. I scrambled back out of the way.
"Look up." Masher's eyes drifted skyward and he pointed to the fabric canopy hung over the stage. "We had a screamer of a thunder storm an hour or so ago. The fire Marshall came through and said if we couldn't get rid of the water, the show was done. He was not impressed with the scaffolding fix we came up with. And then he called his guys who then called their guys and now the damn governor is involved. We need to start loading everything up before the crowd breaks through and starts destroying stuff. Get your truck backed in ASAP. And then get back here to help Security keep the crowd back."
Above me the canopy erected to keep the hot Florida sun off the pasty faces of the band was filled with water. It looked like a swimming pool's worth of water. And to be fair to the fire marshall, I was not impressed with that scaffolding fix either. Water dripped down at a steady pace right where the monitor board would normally be. The monitor board had been yanked as had everything else on the stage. Just the lights, a couple of lonely looking mic stands and speaker stacks remained. Water dripped on a bare stage and pooled under the dead cables that connected nothing anymore.
I had not been hired to be a head breaker. I was a truck driver. I didn't mess with sound. I didn't do lights. I drove trucks. Busting on poor drunken or drugged slobs definitely did not fit into my perception of my job description.
I began to run all this concern by Masher, when Bob, the head engineer on the tour came over and roared, "Get your fuckin truck and back it in. Let's move!"
I beat a hasty retreat. No one argued with Bob. He was lead engineer for a reason.
Outside behind the stadium, I was impressed with the calm compared to the anarchy I had just left. No irate fans, no tense roadies or security guys. All there was to indicate pandemonium inside the stadium was the roar of thousands of voices as if cheering a continuous touchdown or never ending home run. The trouble was inside not out here in the real World. Outside the Sun was shining, cars drove by and seagulls stood on the dumpsters next to a chainlink fence near my truck.
Backing up to the gate, I did not have to get out to find someone to open it. It opened as if by remote by two security guys wearing their standard black security Tee shirts. I backed in until Masher popped out in front of the mirror and jerked his hand in a halt kind of way. Before I even had a chance to get out and unlatch my ramp, it had been removed and I saw two roadies running with it towards the rear of my trailer. By the time I had walked back my doors were open, the ramp was down and the first piece of equipment was almost on the trailer.
I stood there considering the tense vibes all around me. My musing lasted but a moment when Dave, the new driver with the biker attitude, walked over and handed me a mic stand. "Let's kick some ass."
I stood holding this mic stand and looked at him. He was enjoying this. I don't know who made me more nervous, the out of control crowd or this maniac waiting with bated breath to lay into someone. But I kept quiet and followed him over to stage left.
Just then the barricade broke. The crowd had finally found a weak spot and quickly threw it to the side. A sea of long haired fans streamed through the opening. They jumped on the stage. Several were more intent on the victory of the breach than paying attention to the defense mounted against them. A few danced in circles with arms raised. Dave laid into the closest one with his mic stand. Caught the poor bastard right in the kidneys. He went down and Dave moved onto engage his next unlucky target.
I looked over to stage right and two security guys were having their way with another fan. It was mayhem. Violent and instant mayhem. All I could do was stand there, mic stand in hand, and watch.
"Where were the cops", I wondered? "And why were our guys so damn violent?" It just did not make sense to me. Any of it. It was then something solid sailed right at me. I turned but not quick enough. I felt the blow but adrenalin had kicked in. I turned back and looked for the source. All I saw were people in various states of grappling violence. Anger came in a flash. Tossing down the mic stand, I ran to Dave's rescue. I pulled two guys off him and kicked another one hard. Dave extricated himself and all he said was, "I had it under control bud." And he was off again rushing another fan who had violated our space.
I threw up my hands in retreat and backed up to where a group of roadies and stage hands had gathered just outside the circle of pandemonium. If I had to guess, I would say we all stood there with the same thing on our minds. How crazy was this? Just look at those guys. They are beating people because they like it. What the fuck?
Wanting nothing more to do with this stupidity, I retreated towards the Green Room. On the way, one of the light roadies popped out of the bathroom and walked by me. "Hey Mike, there's some chick in the men's room giving everyone head. Get in line."
I shook my head and continued to where I knew food and hopefully some quiet place could be found for me to escape this day that had started so wrong for me. Finding the the Green Room I quickly filled a paper plate with leftovers and plopped into one of the over stuffed chairs. All the while the noise outside the door continued unabated.
At some point I noticed it was not as loud as it had been. I figured the worst was over and I left the Green Room's false security. Back behind the stage I saw cops streaming by and people in handcuffs with bloody parts trickling blood being led away. A whiff of Tear Gas lingered. The crowd had been controlled. The security barrier lay in ruins in front of the stage. And the bulging canopy continued it's steady drip drip drip of water. Out in the stadium, riot cops were busy clearing the fans determined to hang out. There was no hitting, just determined lines of uniforms moving everyone towards the exits.
Masher found me. "I had Mountain Boy pull your truck out. Are you okay? I saw that shot you took. I don't blame you for leaving. Find the ambulance, they'll fix you up."
"What shot?" I looked at Masher. I had no clue what he was talking about.
"Feel the back of your head Mike." He turned and left.
I reached back and felt my head. A large bump had formed. My hand came away red. I found the ambulance. They cleaned me up and cut me loose.
I sat in my truck numb. I tried to digest and come to grips with what I had just witnessed. What I had just been part of. All I could do was think about that damn roadie coming out of the bathroom and informing me some chick was giving everyone head. And I started to laugh. Deep chuckles that started at my asshole and purged all the anger and fear built up over the last 30 minutes. In all the chaos, hate and discontent, Life still moved in predictable ways. The flow of what was normal, SSDD, always found a way to coexist with any upheaval placed in it's way. No matter what madness existed, people still ate, people still got head. Some parts of Life just happened naturally paying no mind to whatever else was going on. It was then I realized this business of rock n roll was going to be one of the most memorable times of my life.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Today I tore into several dark nooks that had not seen the light of day for at least 20 years. I found some slides. The many prints I took are still missing in action. At least there is some photographic record of my time behind the wheel of a rock n roll truck. It really was not a fig newton of my imagination.
The above picture is my truck backed up to some stage somewhere and either unloading or loading. It looks like a stage call (unload). Many of the halls were able to accommodate our rigs inside.
What was interesting and challenging about getting this picture and many more from slides to digital is the rube goldberg way I did it. The end product gets the point of the picture across, but lacks the rich color and sharp focus of the original pictures.
How I did it-
I plugged in the floor lamp with the 3 power light bulb. Took the shade off so just the translucent glass globe was exposed. I set up my tripod and screwed my digital camera on it with the camera about 6 inches from the light. Using a single slide viewer, I put a slide in and then held it up to the digital camera. I snapped the picture. It worked better than I expected.
Now that I have found the slides, I am going to pick the best of the bunch and have them digitized professionally. Until then, this is as good as it gets.
I do believe this is the Electric Light Orchestra Show at The Spectrum in Philadelphia. Looking from the stage into the crowd. Tough tour. Long - 3 months long. 70 shows or so in 90 days? I also jack knifed on some black ice heading into Erie, Pa. Went over a guard rail and down into a ravine. I still made the show though. Hired every wrecker I could find and we yanked my truck out of there. The show in Erie started 2 hours late, but it did happen. I went from being a scum sucking loser to hero in the space of a few hours. The Green Shingle Truck Stop just outside of Erie had a great 6 egg omelet. I insisted we stop on our way out of town. The other drivers were impressed.
I also found what remained of the thousands of slides my father took not ruined in the "Great Basement Flood of 1964". Below are some samples.
My dad in Alaska in 1954
Main Street - Anchorage, Alaska - 1954
Yours truly decked out in his finest and whupping up on the Mann's daughter in a game of cards. Probably at our house in Hawaii around 1957 or 1958. I had to adjust the color to B&W as this slide really did not take kindly to being copied as crudely as I copied it. Please take note of the careful and correct use of the holster lashing.
My mom at one of the many cocktail parties she enjoyed so much. There are few pictures of her without a butt in her hand or in her mouth. She eventually quit in the 1970s, but this is how I remember her. Colorado Springs around 1953 I would guess.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
After the spasms of laughter had died and tears had been wiped from my eyes, I looked at this image without humor and seriously considered it. It is not a funny picture. I find it sobering. It underscores that no matter how far we think we have come, white people have some serious racial flotsam to rid ourselves of. The insidious boil that is racism still festers out there. No matter how much we deny our racist roots and prove it by passing laws and opening our homes and our hearts, there will always be assholes like this guy to remind us there is still stupid hatred out there. Hatred that erupts for no other reason than someone does not fit into some narrow view of who is acceptable. And I guess what bothers me, is I would be considered acceptable by this guy based on my race and Euro/Christian background. I don't want to be considered anything but the enemy by this guy. He is not doing me any favors. His goal to purify the race is more akin to wishing it to become putrefied.
I feel that anyone who would discriminate based on any reason is not furthering any cause that will benefit Mankind in the end. We are comprised of different colors. We are comprised of different religions. We are a species comprised of differences. That we allow these differences dictate how we interact only points out how much more needs to be done before we all can truly be free.
Afterthought - This post has been simmering for a week or so now. Hanging out in Draft limbo. Each time I re-read it and considered whether I should post it or not, something bothered me. Where was my tolerance for boneheads like this? Was I not feeding the racist stereotype by judging this fellow based on appearances? Yes I was. Yes I am. He could be a choir boy now who was unfortunate to have been led astray earlier in his life. He could be full of remorse now. A reformed and now tolerant skinhead. So I will make no assumptions about this fellow specifically, just the signs he so carelessly tattooed on his noggin. That alone makes him the dumbest white boy on the planet.
Friday, November 14, 2008
I pulled open the naughahyde curtain of the sleeper. Rubbing my eyes with one hand and checking my crotch for whatever it was I always checked for when waking up with the other, I tried to focus on what world I was waking up to. A wondrous winter scene of swirling snow greeted my unfocused glance through the windshield. This ain't Baton Rouge. There's snow on the ground. Shit. There's snow everywhere.
Bam! Bam! "Hey driver! Time to back her in. Show’s over. Let's go! Let's go!"
Really irritated now, I jumped out of the sleeper and slid behind the wheel. I Rolled down the window. Cold wind and snow blew in making my bare nipples contract.
"Settle the Fuck down bud. Give me a chance to wake up. Hey man, where are we anyway?"
I looked down to a face squinting up into the snow as if squinting would lessen the impact of the small hard flakes blowing hard into his face. It was a puzzled squint and then he smiled. "You are in South Bend driver. Notre Dame. Dammit, we got 5 more trucks to load out. The band truck's almost loaded. You're next. Come on driver, get it in gear."
"Yeah, yeah. Be with you in a minute." He turned and ran back to the loading dock. I noticed he was kicking up at least 10 inches of snow. I rolled up the window. And immediately laid my head on the wheel and fell asleep.
Bam! Bam! Bam! I brought my head up off the steering wheel. Looked in my mirror and was sure I had fallen asleep at the wheel. Nothing but white in the mirror. Throwing the door open, I bailed.
Now it is a well known fact among drivers that more of us live when we ride it out with the truck than if we try to jump clear. But in the fog of my semi awake state and still feeling the effects of some driving nightmare, that basic fear instinct kicked in. I jumped because I was convinced my life depended on it.
Landing butt first on the frozen ground at the feet of the an obviously stunned stagehand, I noticed immediately the cold infiltrating areas of my body I usually kept covered up. It was then the previous hours of my day came into focus and settled into my befuddled mind. I was buck naked and the snow covered ground immediately started to shrink my naughty bits. The stagehand stood there with the oddest look on his face. I guess he had never seen a truck driver jump out of a truck naked before. Well that made at least two of us who up to this point, had missed that particular pleasure.
For the longest moment I can remember I sat there at his feet and he stood looking down at me. I finally struggled to my feet and began to get back in the truck. Damn that snow was blowing hard and all of it seemed to be aiming for all my tender parts. Before I could make a safe reentry into the cab, another body slipped out of the sleeper and blocked me from getting in.
"Mike? Why are you outside in the snow naked?" Standing on the metal loop step of the cab half in and half out exposed to the elements and the World at large, I came face to face with the reason I was naked in the first place. I turned and looked at the stagehand. He just shook his head and ambled off back to the loading dock. Did I see his shoulders shaking? Sitting in the driver's seat was the co-ed I had become friends with earlier in the day. And she had the advantage right now. She was not naked and she knew my name. For the life of me I was drawing a blank regarding hers.
"Hey darling, climb over the dog house and get in the passenger seat. I need to get to work."
"But why were you outside without any clothes on? It's blowing hard out there."
I didn't reply. I just climbed back into the sleeper and went about the task of finding some clothes to put on. All the while Miss Chatty Kathy was running her mouth about whatever seemed to come to mind. Once she figured out I was not going to answer the why I was naked question, without dropping a beat, she started in about how much she had enjoyed her day with me. The big lunch backstage, meeting all the roadies and watching sound check with the band. Jeez she was sorry she missed the show but what we did instead was fun also. Blah, blah, blah. My head was pounding. I had embarrassed myself, sullied my tough guy truck driver image and I had to be punished by Miss Chatty Kathy to boot.
I stopped searching for that other shoe. Threw open the curtain and looked at her hard. She might be chatty, but she was no dummy. She caught on. Her mouth shut and she looked out the window. I closed the curtain and continued my search. A moment later in a subdued voice, "Well you don't have to be such an asshole. I thought we had some fun. I talk like this when I am nervous. I don't even really know you and ....." and she was off again on a new tangent.
I found my shoe and found my jacket. Dropping into the driver's seat, I finally spoke. "Sorry ah,...... but what just happened was well ...not something I ah...."
"You don't remember my name do you?" The hurt on her face cut through me hard.
"Darling, I'm sorry, but I don't. I forget a lot of things when I drink that much."
"My name is Mindy and we met at the Student Union."
"Well Mindy, I have to back this trailer in now. I hope you had some fun. I am guessing I did. But well, I have a long drive ahead of me and..."
"Wait a minute there buddy. You promised me you'd take me to Cleveland with you. Don't you remember that was how all this started in the first place. I was at the Student Union checking the ride board to find a way home for the long weekend. You said you'd give me a ride and show me around. You showed me around alright. Flipped me around is more like it."
I had been looking straight out into the snowy night. I turned and looked at her. No hurt on her face now. Serious attitude was painted on it instead. She started to open her door.
"Woah Mindy, calm down." I immediately felt terrible. I had started my hunt earlier that day to find a normal girl. Not another groupie who used me as much as I used them. But here after two years on the Rock and Roll road, I had forgotten how to treat a normal woman. I even remember the plan did not include some sexual score, just normal companionship. A simple date. I wanted to eat a meal and maybe go to a movie. But it had gotten out of control when I bought that first bottle of Jack Daniels and then bought another bottle of Jack Daniels.
"Please close the door. Let me back this trailer in and we can go inside and talk, okay."
Shooting me dead with her dark eyes, she hesitated. She closed the door and sat back stiff and hard. "Okay, but only because you promised. Don't be expecting anything more than the ride okay? I don’t usually screw a guy the first time I meet him. But well when we met, you seemed so down. And of course what you do is, well, what girl could resist a back stage pass. Which I might remind you we never used.”
There was more. She just kept at it. I stopped listening and concentrated on doing my job. I had not counted on facing snow for the load out. I had not been careful about where I had parked. The slight incline combined with no weight on the trailer made my initial attempts to move the rig fail. I clicked in all the drive wheels and threw the truck into reverse. Released the clutch and rolled back. Quickly like being on a swing, I threw it in first and rocked the truck forward. Yeah, almost, lets go. Shit. Back into reverse for another swing and then forward. On the fifth or sixth effort, I felt the truck shudder as the wheels finally found the ground through the ten inches of snow. The truck began to inch forward.
All the while Mouthy Mindy’s nonstop commentary punished my right ear. Nothing she said registered, just the noise of her voice. Swinging around the circle in unplowed snow, I knew I had to keep moving and find the hole in one shot. I remembered the bitch of a back in from stage call when we got there. Now it was not daylight. Snow was coming so hard, whiteouts came and went. Like some surreal natural strobe light, the windshield went from white to clear every few seconds. And still Mindy would not shut up.
The band truck had just pulled clear of the dock. Jackson was looking miserable as he stood behind the trailer trying to get his doors closed. I had told him not to keep the trailer backed in with the doors open. At least pull off the dock far enough so the runoff from the roof would not hit the trailer. What I said might happen did happen. Frozen runoff had settled onto locking mechanisms of his doors and encrusted them with ice. I chuckled and found my cigarettes. Lit one up and and got out of the truck. I reached up beside my seat and grabbed my tire thumper. I headed over to help out poor Jackson.
“Jackson my man. How you liking the North now? Beautiful night ain’t it?”
Jackson pounded his partially latched door and cussed. “Goddammit Mike, I will never understand you Yankees and how you can live in this crap. What the Fuck.”
“Stand aside Jackson, let this Yankee straighten you out.” Jackson stepped back obviously grateful for the help. I re-opened both doors and re-latched them open. I handed him my tire thumper.
“Pull the damn truck out of the way. I need to back in. Use the thumper to beat the ice off best as you can. I’ll be out in a minute to help you out.”
As I climbed back into my truck, I looked and between the whiteouts, I saw Jackson looking dumb down at the tire thumper and then up to the encrusted ice at the top of his doors. With shoulders slouched he disappeared around the side of his trailer. In a minute his truck began to slowly move forward and out of my way.
Jackson’s little emergency had allowed me time to find the automatic mode of my job. I fell into the routine I had come to hate over the last two years. This night however, I found comfort in finding my groove again. I pulled out and positioned the truck for a straight shot back to the dock. Like there was no snow or dark to hinder my efforts, I backed in without hesitation, stopping clean and straight 3 inches off the dock. Some back-ins just work out I guess.
Mindy had grown silent. I was guessing she had tuckered herself out with all her talking. She sat small in the buddy seat looking straight ahead.
“Mindy”. No response. She just stared straight ahead. “Mindy, let’s get that cup of coffee.” Still no movement, no acknowledgement I even existed. I shrugged and got out of the truck. I needed food and coffee. The day’s drinking binge had left me ravenous. I knew some food and a couple of aspirins would make my world and my stomach happy places again.
The bright lights and bustle of the loading dock made my head thump even louder. I stood for a minute watching the first light truss get slammed into the trailer wall. “Dammit guys, take it easy. I have to answer for any damages. It’s a lease trailer ferchrisakes.” A big stage hand came walking out of the trailer. He stopped in front of me.
“Hey look guys, it’s Mr Buck Naked. Hey Mr Buck Naked, where’s that sweet young thing you had stashed in the sleeper?”
“Asshole.” I turned my back and walked into the building. All I heard was laughter.
Hoping my little accident had not made the rounds, I worked my way through the show equipment waiting to be loaded. Where was the damn Green Room? There were always great treats left over in the Green Room. The bands expected the best and most promoters provided the best. Shrimp Cocktails, Hienekin bottles cooling in trashcans of ice. Big industrial sized coffee pots filled with coffee. Rolls, crackers, cheese and the best deli meats in town. And what made it a sure thing I would find sustenance, I knew from experience, most Rock n Roll bands didn’t hit the food much. But they expected it as their due.
I found the Green Room. I poured two cups of coffee, grabbed some rolls and cheese, and made my way back to the truck. I walked down the narrow hallway created by my truck and the loading dock wall on the passenger side. I looked up to the window expecting to see Mindy sitting there. No Mindy.
Shit. My hands were full. I set the coffee down on the frame behind the tractor. The incline of the loading dock drive made most of the coffee spill. I opened the passenger door and climbed in.
“Mindy. You in here?”
From the sleeper, “What?”
“Got you some coffee. Drink coffee? Some rolls and cheese maybe? I could run for a soda or a beer if you’d like.”
“No thanks. When are we leaving?”
I had no time for this shit. Getting all the trucks loaded and on their way was what I was here to do. Nursing the hurt feelings of a stranger was not in the game plan.
“In awhile, maybe an hour or so. I have to make sure all the trucks get loaded. I’m the lead driver. It’s my job. Once we have them loaded, I’ll take you to Cleveland. Here’s the rolls. If you want anything else, just head inside and ask someone where the Green Room is. I gotta go now and bail out another dumass Texan who can’t handle the snow.” I jumped out of the truck.
I knew Jackson was not going to get that massive chunk of ice off the top of his doors. I knew it would have to be done from the top. I also knew these halls had all kinds of equipment to get up high. And even if they didn’t, we carried ladders with us. I headed to the dock and right there waiting to be loaded onto my truck was one of the ten foot step ladders with the extension in the middle we all carried on our trucks. A stage hand was leaning on it.
“Hey bud, I need that. Gotta get some ice off the band truck so we can close the doors.”
“But it’s supposed to go in this trailer friend, Cant’ let you have it.” He was big and looked like he was going to give me a hard time.
“Back off bud. Gimme the damn ladder. I’ll find room for it on the band truck. We’re all heading for the same place.”
He wouldn’t take his hand off the ladder. Just then Rat, the roadie in charge of loading the light equipment came out of my trailer. “Give him the ladder. If Mr. Buck Naked says he needs it, he needs it. He might just take off his clothes if you don’t.” Rat said this with a straight face. The stage hand looked perplexed but released his grip on the ladder.
“You’re an asshole Rat, You know that?” I grabbed the ladder and headed out to save Jackson.
As I expected, I found Jackson sitting in his truck. He figured out quickly pounding the door at the bottom would have no effect on the ice at the top. The right door had what must have been a 40 pound chunk of ice hanging off of it.
I pounded on his door and he jerked.
“Come on Jackson, hold the ladder for me. We’ll get you fixed up. Next time, listen to me okay? Not all of us Yankees are dumb fucks.”
Jackson held the ladder and I pounded on the ice with the thumper. It was slow going but I finally freed the ice and we shut his doors.
By 2:00 AM we had all the trailers loaded and everyone lined up ready to convoy to Cleveland. Another couple of inches of snow had fallen and it was a sure thing it would be a slow trek. I figured we would be lucky to make Cleveland by stage call. So I called Dispatch in Dallas and had them put the wheels in motion to delay stage call. Having 20 or 30 stage hands standing around making union wages with nothing to do was one expense my company loved to avoid.
I jumped in my truck and made sure everyone was on channel 17 on their CBs. I turned to the sleeper. “Mindy?” No answer. I pulled back the curtain of the sleeper.
A beautiful sight is watching a woman sleep. I gazed at her calm face laid gently on hands as if in prayer. I knew the show had to go on and sooner was better than later what with the blizzard here in Indiana. But I could not help taking a few moments to drink in this tranquil image. Her breath was even. Her neck pulsed ever so slightly. For that moment I was in Love. I hated to disturb her. So I didn’t. I closed the curtain. Found first gear and we headed to Cleveland.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Former director of speech writing for Bill Clinton, Mr Edmonds is also a black who managed a "first" for his race. He was the first Black director of presidential speech writing ever. An older black who dealt with, witnessed and I am sure felt the racial hatred from years ago admitted he was wrong. Wrong because he never thought America could rise above it's petty prejudices and step outside of their box. Apparently he was stepping outside of his box also when he wrote this. Good for him.
But what I focused on was his insinuation that the blame these last 40 plus years was an all white cross to bear.
"And if we really wanted to know what the majority of Americans thought about us, we only had to look at the bulging black prison population, the double rate of black unemployment, and the portrayal of African-Americans on TV shows like Flavor Flav's Flavor of Love ."
I hold to the idea that no matter what cards we are dealt, how we turn out is mostly up to us. And rhetoric like this only feeds the idea that everything is someone else's fault. I have always considered this racial crap as a two way problem and not so one sided as many on both sides would have us believe. If the majority of Americans think that all blacks are rapping wannabes, gangstas, and jocks, it is only because up until now, that is the image they have chosen to push to the front. Anybody of any worth, white or black, knows that a culture is not defined by it's stars unless that culture decides to embrace the image.
A majority of Americans following the lives and habits of a Flavor Flav is not a white thing or a black thing. It is an American thing. We have become enamored by the lifestyles and habits of people who live lives outside of the norm of our culture. Our culture has become saturated with meaningless heroes who do nothing to better our self image or the image we project abroad. The useless hero list is endless and I am sure if we broke it down, the majority of them would not be Black, Latino, or Asian. The majority would be White folks who have no business being held in such high regard.
On the fourth of November, something happened. Yeah we elected a black president for the first time. That unique and historical moment cannot be understated. But something else happened. For the first time in my life I witnessed our country stepping up and deciding at least for a moment that it was time to look for a hero of worth. Barack may or may not be that hero. But he certainly represents our faith that one does exist. And because of that I think maybe we are a country that can still be great even though for most of my lifetime we have been trying hard not to be.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Hmm. Yeah that's right, just hmm.
I often begin this way when I have no clue where to begin. Sometimes it is because the brain pan is vacant, the cupboard is bare. No subject comes to mind. Other times like this one are that I have something to say, but have no clue how I feel or how to say it until I write it down. So bear with me here.
Early this morning I was rifling through one of those drawers we all have kicking around our homes. One of those receptacles we fill with past memories. Old photos, awards, news paper clippings it made sense at the time to clip and save. A drawer filled and promptly forgotten. Like a time capsule, it sat patiently for me to rediscover it's whereabouts. Today I did.
I pulled everything out of it. I was looking for something, I just did not know what. Forty thousand ga-gillion pictures of my daughter as a wee one being a wee one. Some made me smile and reflect about how much I miss her being a wee one. Pictures of me and my wife sporting different bodies and darker hair. A shoe box of swimming ribbons and awards for breaking this team record or that team record. My daughter was and still is quite a jock. Old pictures of ancestors I don't even know or recognize. Pictures of family distant and close. The memories spread out on the couch reinforcing my existence.
And then I found what it was I must have been looking for. One of my old report cards from the Third grade. The school was Gorrie Elementary School in Tampa, Florida. I had transferred there mid year from some school I cannot remember in Maryland. Swapping schools was no big deal for me. By this time in my short life I had already attended four or five different schools.
So I opened the report card. My teacher was one Mrs Gillette. I'd like to say we called her Razor, but I can't. My memory is not that sharp. My grades were fine. It was her rather detailed documentation of my progress or lack thereof I found interesting. When I first got there she found me mouthy, I couldn't/wouldn't follow directions, but I was decent in math and I loved to read. Her final entry for the last quarter seemed to indicate that I had won her over. I was passed on to fourth grade (another school again). I had learned to follow directions and she was impressed with my writing. She said I just loved writing assignments.
It was odd reading comments about me from so long ago. I do not remember much from my time at Gorrie School other than it was an old three story school surrounded by a dirt playground in the middle of Tampa. Shooting Marbles was hip and I had a silent crush on the cute girl who sat next to me. The stuff Mrs Gillette was concerned with had long ago been lost in my not important file of memories. That was school work. The stuff I had to do to please the adults around me.
I put the report card, all the pictures and awards back into the drawer and forgot about it. Forgot about it until some minutes ago when I visited Randal's blog, l'ennui melodieux.
Randal Graves is a superior wordsmith. His writing often blows me away. He is scatterbrained, plays loosy goosy with the mother tongue, and is creative to point of making me jealous. I like his blog. It always entertains me. Imagine my surprise when I found he had bestowed upon me the award you find at the top of this not yet real long post.
This is where my quandary begins. This blogging culture often confounds me. Umpteen million "look at me" people all trying to get someone to pay attention to them. All sorts of tricks to secure an audience abound. Meme's, Polls, Link lists, Follower lists, comments, and yes awards. All of them seem to be part of someones strategy to gain a larger piece of the audience pie. The thing is though, at some point, these tricks become more than bait and take on a life of their own. They become part of the culture. Instead of casting a jaundiced eye on them now, I realize what they are after their release into the Internet ether. They are compliments. They are another blogger telling you they like what you do. To ignore them in my opinion is not only rude, ignoring them or worse dissing them detracts from the idea of blogging. Bloggers like to connect with people.
So with this in mind and my teacher's assertion that I do enjoy writing reading and yeah even 'Rithmetic, I gratefully accept Randal's nod in my direction and a nod to Mrs Gillette who recognized my infatuation with the written word. Coming from someone whose writing I admire is indeed more than a trick. Randal doesn't need to draw more folks in. They seem to find him. But don't tell him that. His noggin is already pumped up big enough as it is. And he's from Cleveland. That should tell you all you need to know.
Naturally there are rules in accepting this award. Another one of those blogging things that confound me. But there it is. So here they are taken from the host site, The Scolastic Scribe:
~Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
~Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
~Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
~Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
~Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.
Okay, three of the five rules have been met. Site giving award linked, award displayed, and rules dutifully posted for all to see. Now I have to pick five deserving souls whose blogs I enjoy for whatever reasons. This is the hard part. This demand that I be exclusive instead of inclusive. But in the spirit of the game, I always follow the rules.
Middle Ditch - Monique has one of the most interesting blogs out there. An audio-serial blog about life in a small English Village. She has been at it for quite awhile and each post tickles me to no end. The work in producing it must be tremendous.
Weldable Cookies - Wonderful writing with an in your face attitude I find refreshing
El Cerdo Ignatius - A real Conservative. A man who keeps my lefty pinko leanings in check on a regular basis. His comments and blog cut through the crap but with class and no animosity.
Demeur - Tenacious Liberal( I can call you that I hope. Obama says it is not a dirty word anymore) dedicated to progressing our station in life.
Snave - Another Liberal (again consider this tag a compliment) who presents liberal ideas without spewing and drooling with his eyes all bugged out. Moderate in his approach, but definite in his points.
I believe I have now completed the necessary requirements to call this puppy spanked. All I need do is visit Scolastic Scribe and link to their list of others who have been graced with this award to end all awards. Yeah right.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I have other relatives/friends, close and otherwise, who have served. But of them all, Bobby, my nephew strikes deep into my soul. He died in 2005 serving our country in the recent conflict in Iraq. My father(pictured here as a new full colonel in the mid 1940s) stands tall in my mind because he not only gave 31 years of his life defending our nation, he is my father.
I honor them today by remembering them not for their connection to me but for the duty they performed in the name of our country. No matter how I feel about the stupidity of war, I cannot be anything but grateful and proud of their sacrifice.
Soldiers die in wars. Soldiers kill in wars. That we even need them in our World is a sad statement on how we humans interact with each other. But they do exist and to not take a few minutes once in awhile to remember them without judgement or rancor is the very least I could do.
Take moment of silence. Or be loud and be proud. But on this Veteran's Day thank any vet you know for what they gave up in the service to our country.
I am absolutely floored by what ordinary Canadians do for it's fallen soldiers. The War is unpopular up there also, but at least the government allows the citizenry the right to honor the dead by announcing their return. People by the thousands line Highway 401 and stand silent as the procession takes the dead from the airport to the morgue. What a nice gesture for the loved ones who have just lost a son, a daughter, a friend. In my opinion, Canada does it right. We could take a lesson from them. We could take quite a few lessons from our friends up north I guess.
Monday, November 10, 2008
That I feel I have done nothing to justify losing their trust, their trust in me has diminished. And because I feel I did not deserve to lose their trust, my trust in them has taken a hit. The whole idea of trust has been dealt a blow from both sides now. There is indeed something to the idea that if you cannot trust me enough to even tell me why you do not trust me, then it makes me wonder how far I should be trusting you.
Lack of communication
It would seem that by not communicating we have both allowed this negative crap to invade our friendship, our relationship, whatever it is we have between us. I am guilty here for sure. I haven't aired my concerns or questions. But I never withheld my trust. Now I find out you have. Or maybe I just percieve it.
My question is this. Should I reciprocate? I mean, without bringing it up for us to chew on together, should I also withhold my trust in you now?
Obviously I should not if I feel there is anything worth salvaging. I should not if I consider regaining your trust is of any importance to me. The ball is in my court. What should I do I wonder?
I have been chewing on this more than I should I guess. I cannot force someone to trust me. I cannot fix it if I have no clue why it happened in the first place. Yes, a distance has come between us. But why it seeped into and spoiled the trust we had indicates the result has been more profound for you than me.
This is an odd post I almost did not post. But this blog is a vehicle I use to find my way through thorny issues besides the normal drivel I usually come up with. Since beginning this blog I have found that writing about Life's oddities and concerns makes the process of understanding where I have been and where I am going a bit easier to comprehend. And yeah, I could have just written this and left it unpublished. But I didn't. I needed to get back on the blogging horse and this post is the one I am using for that purpose.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
It has only been an hour or so since Fox News called the game. I figured if Fox News conceded, then it was definitely over. Barack Obama, the first black to be nominated for President, has won the Presidential election.
A few minutes ago I watched as John McCain manned up and got his concession speech out of the way quickly. In my opinion a very good speech. I would say the best one I heard from him this whole campaign. Gone were the idiotic talking points, accusations, and denigrating commentary. It was a classy speech and John made me feel he meant every word. John almost looked relieved as he spoke. I honestly do not think he ran the campaign he wanted to, but was part of one he never felt at home in.
I am in wonder now. I am more than a little befuddled. Just about the time I am sure this country has really gone off the deep end, we pull a stunt like this election. I was sure we would elect a woman as President long before we elected a Black. I was sure we would probably vote in a Latino before a Black also. As it turns out I had a more negative view of White America than Barack did. He has proven to be a better man than I this day. He refused to buy into the race card when many if not most of us, white and black, had resigned ourselves to tolerance without inclusion. Obama would have none of it.
By not buying, using, or pandering to the Race Card, Barack Obama figured out how to make many of us forget his color and listen to what he was saying. He didn't care that he was Black. He expected us to not care either. And somehow he pulled it off. He convinced enough of us that his vision could be our vision. I sit here convinced that this truly Historic event is but a beginning. And even though I am not all that comfortable with one party in control of the whole ship so to speak, maybe it is time for us to throw our support behind just one for awhile. If they are smart and lucky, America may be in for good times once again.
When I was in sixth grade living in Tallahassee, Florida in the early 1960s, everything was segregated. I went to an all white public school, all fancy and new. Yet I lived just on the right side of the tracks so to speak and not far from me was the black school that taught the blacks in my area. Run down wooden building with dirt dooryard and broken playground equipment.
The Blacks had their own movie theater. I discovered this the hard way. The theater was just up the street and shortly after we moved there I went to the movies. I went in and sat down. Just about the time I noticed there seemed to be no other white folks there but me, a deep black voice behind me said, "Boy, you might want to leave this theater. I wouldn't want you to get hurt." I turned and every black face in the row was looking at me hard. They were not friendly faces. I left quickly. My racial education was just beginning.
I was ostracized at school for several reasons. One was I was the new kid. That one I could handle. I grew up always being the new kid. But the one that really got me was I had been caught hanging out with a black kid on the FSU campus by one of my classmates. The black kid was the son of one of the maids who worked at the motel my dad managed. I had to dot a couple of eyes before they let me alone over that one.
Since I lived outside the school district lines and theoretically in the black distric, I had to take public buses to school. It meant a 45 minute plus ride to and from school every day. The back of the bus was where I wanted to ride but couldn't. It was explained to me by the bus driver (a black) that white folk sat up front. "Why?" I asked him. He shrugged and mumbled something about it being the way it was. Needless to say, when I left Tallahassee I never looked back. Bigotry had been forced down my throat and I did not like it.
I discovered that every facet of life in Tallahassee was broken down into two cultures. The two cultures did not interact with each other except in the work place and very few public buildings. The Library had white fountains and black fountains. White bathrooms and black bathrooms. Even the State Capitol building was segregated. For a white boy raised in the integrated military, my year plus in Tallahassee was an eye opener.
I lived with the shame of segregation. I felt the hate of both races as I tried to understand in my 12 year old mind just what the Hell was the problem. I did not understand it then and I still don't. To me, the worst indicator of a man's character is the color of his skin. And finally a man has shown up and rammed this point home throughout all of America. Finally a man has emerged who has taken our stupid stratified society and shaken it to it's core.
So this election has special meaning to me. I never thought I would see this day in my lifetime. No matter what side of the aisle you sit on, be proud of what America did this day. That's it. Just be proud America.