Tuesday, November 30, 2021


I can hear the TV in the kitchen. Not enough to understand the words but well enough to know my wife is watching or was watching the morning news and commentary. 

For years we have been locked into an old couple ritual of watching the morning news together as we sip coffee from favorite cups, take our ever increasing regimen of pills, and decide whether or not the significant other is worthy of conversation this AM. 

Most days we agree the worth is there. So we'll discuss the madness that makes up the back ground noise in our lives. It will usually be a hot topic currently on the tube being swatted around a table by talking heads. If it is football season, we more often gravitate to talking about the New England Patriots and their prospects to make the play offs. Or we might share some local gossip, but that would be rare. Neither of us are inclined towards gossip mining nor are we regular purveyors of the unseemly and unlucky events in our town. Morning is when my wife and I talk the most. 

Yet, there have been some silent mornings in the last forty one years. Neither of us allowed them to go nuclear. Seldom any heated rhetoric. At worst, usually just snark and nasty inflection. And if one of us was really pissed, absenting the room in a huff would end it.

For my part, I treat disagreement with BA in a passive aggressive way I guess. My childhood was spent watching parents who would drop civility in an instant, cue up their nastiest rhetoric and try to beat the other into submission. I was eight when I decided they had to resolve their issues this way. It almost became bearable after that. I vowed to never do that in my own family. And I haven't.

I am not so naive I would say that the way we argue is responsible for our marriage lasting so long. I cannot even say our way of resolving conflict has been good for our marriage. It is how it has settled out. 

I will say though, sharing my life with someone for so long has been wonderful in spite of all the dumassery I inflicted on it.  I have come to a conclusion at just shy of forty one years with the same woman, a major cornerstone of our long marriage has been Tolerance, with my wife bearing the brunt of it. 

And that is what I was thinking about this morning.

Keep it 'tween the ditches ................................... 

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Paradise Revisited

Over the past several months I have not listened to "Paradise" by John Prine. Every time I tried to listen to John after he died, I would tear up. So I put his music on the bench for the foreseeable future.

This morning I was ripping a Nitty Gritty live album that featured acoustic Country and Blue Grass music from my past. Jerry Jeff Walker, Allison Krauss, Jackson Browne, John Prine and others joined the Nitty Gritty Band and rocked the house somewhere in front of some very lucky fans. And thankfully NPR taped it.

If I had remembered John Prine was on the CD, I might not have listened; just ripped it and walked away. But it caught me listening and I could not not listen. And yea dammit, I teared up one more time. 

Midway through the song though I realized around the second refrain or so it was not John's untimely death that made me turn on the tears now. It was images of strip mines, dead cities of the Rust Belt and Smog hovering over Los Angeles that created the deep sadness in my mind. The song just sparked my sadness. What are we doing to ourselves?

"And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away"

I am a card carrying member of the Boomer generation. My peers were instrumental in establishing the "Save the Planet" campaign sixty plus years ago that still chugs along today. While our efforts have been less than the success we had envisioned so many years ago, I cannot imagine where the collective we would be now without those early efforts. For my own sanity, I have to believe we helped even if it may not have been enough in the long run. 

Are we doing enough now? Or is it too little too late. 

Time and the planet will be sure to let us know. Bet on it.

Keep it 'tween the ditches ................................... 

Friday, November 26, 2021

Drawing a Last Breath

For me, watching someone draw their last breath was no small thing. 

It was my first tour with SHOWCO and only our third venue in October, 1976. This was my trial run. I was to co-drive with Ron W. to see if I had what it took to drive Rock n Roll.  Also, The Who wanted no issues with time and distance for this leg of their two year "By the Numbers Tour". They insisted on co-drivers in all the trucks.

Much of that tour comes back to me in smaller bits and pieces than the rest of my memories of my time with SHOWCO. I was fresh faced, naive, and had not yet become jaded and numb. The sensory overload I was experiencing came too fast and was too intense. This immersion into the business side of the Rock industry was the grandest thing in my little world to that point. That first tour went by in a blur.

We landed at Oakland Coliseum for a two show outdoor gig. Part of Bill Graham's "Day on the Green" series. Only two bands played. The Who headlined with the Grateful Dead pulling duty as the front band. The two shows were enjoyed by 94.000 people on Saturday and 110,000 people on Sunday. The gross for the two days was was over 1 million bucks ($4.8 million in 2021 dollars). Of course they had to split it with The Dead, Bill Graham, blah blah blah. Still an impressive turnout and payday for sure.

So here I was in Rock n Roll heaven, starry eyed and in a state of constant befuddlement. My first dose of Reality occurred after the second show on Sunday, October 10th. 

Ron had me get our truck ready to back in for load out. I was outside the 12 foot chain link fence behind the stage finishing up the safety check for the second time. Many folks were milling around so I leaned up against our White Freightliner to spark up a smoke and attempt to look as cool as I felt. No one from the milling hordes even took notice of me, my hip aviator sunglasses or SHOWCO Tee shirt. I wasn't crushed, but I remember a twinge of disappointment.

I watched the people filing out and was struck by how odd the group was. There were folks wearing suits, folks wearing tye-dyed shirts and ratty bell bottoms. Mixed in with this erratic group of people coming and going, four huge security guys passed through the gate carrying what I assumed was a rowdy fan. I quickly realized he was not being rowdy anymore. He was not moving. He just hung from their massive mitts like a sack of grain with four legs. Right on their heels, his hippie friend followed. He was hysterical and screaming about how his lover was going to die from an overdose and why isn't anyone doing something for him.

The security guys gently set Mr. OD down next to the fence and went back into the backstage area. I was shocked by their "this was nothing unusual, same shit, different day, it's part of the job dude" calm demeanor. In the meantime the sidekick was wailing, "Someone call an ambulance, he's dying..... I told him not to hit up .............. Please someone help him!" 

He was out of his mind with worry. 

The flow of milling people continued to pass in and out of the back stage gate with barely a glance at the life and death emergency unfolding next to the gate. I continued to smoke my cigarette and watch wide eyed as the hysterical buddy cradled Mr OD's head; all the while wailing and moaning. I was frozen in place by the whole episode. This was not something I expected to see, ever. I had no clue about what I could do. So I did nothing and became but a witness to humanity carrying on in its classic selfish ways while one of their own was expiring in front of them.

Ron showed up. His all business attitude brought me out of my shock and forced me to focus on the job at hand. He had no time for the drama unfolding near by. In a fog of sorts I went through the motions and backed the trailer in for load out. 

Focusing on my job interrupted my preoccupation with the OD just outside the fence. But while the stage hands and roadies were wheeling the sound equipment on the trailer that preoccupation turned into a kind of morbid fascination and I went out to check on the couple, one possibly dying and the other frantic with worry. 

The two of them were still outside the gate and no ambulance or medic of any kind had made an appearance. The concerned hippie sat cross legged, his back against the chain link fence and cradled Mr. OD's head in his lap.  He was leaning down and speaking softly. I could not hear what he was saying.  I walked closer and the hippie suddenly looked up at me with red eyes and tears streaming down his face. "He's dying you know. And no one cares." He bent down again and continued to whisper in Mr. OD"s ear.

I said nothing as I stared at this unnoticed tragedy unfolding to its apparently forgone conclusion.  I briefly looked down the lane that led to the parking lot. There was an ambulance coming. I turned back to the couple. Before I could say anything, I saw MR OD's chest heave and then he went limp. I knew he was dead in that moment. The hippie looked up at me. We did not exchange any words but his grief passed onto me as we stared at each other. I backed up and went back through the gate to my truck. I would never forget what I witnessed that bright October day behind the stage at the Oakland Coliseum.

Later .........................................


(994 words)

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Remembering a Note or Two

Every time I step away from the computer for any protracted period, I can find it difficult to jump back on the bus and slip smoothly back into a groove.  My mental abilities, such as they are, have no problem shutting down if they are not exercised without at the least the occasional stroll. 

My brain after all, is sixty-nine years old now and was never much to crow about when it was peaking and I had more hair on my noggin and lead in my pencil. Rust sets in faster on old steel and connections created seven decades ago tend towards some corrosion.  

Bringing this loose dog back up to speed is often slow, mind numbing drudgery. My first few knee jerk efforts are akin to running through the scales on musical instruments. No music comes out but I hope to still remember a note or two. There is no doubt about it. Stop writing for awhile and for me the road back can seem daunting.

I will often, like now for instance, crank up one of the many music playlists I have created and stashed deep inside my computer. I slap some earphones on, turn the tunes up to wow and do my best to write some sense. If music untwisted does not do it alone, I may call on the bench and the stimulating/stupefying effects of Demon rum and the Devil's weed to loosen my writing tongue and shock it into a composing frame of mind. The result is always a crap shoot, with an occasional bright nugget shining through the darkness.

So let's see. Where are we now after a great dinner, some beer, a couple of shots, and some sweet herb rolled up for the perfect after dinner joint. The 3 hour playlist is half over and I am pretty sure tonight's effort will remain in draft form in the future. 

Or not.

Keep it 'tween the ditches .............................................

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Stock Yard Animals

So I guess I am back now. For how long? Well, not that it matters, but I just do not know.  I became weary of existing in the crowd of nervous sheep milling around the stock yards of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  Everyone finally knows something is happening, and it is not a good something happening.

Some of us became uncomfortable with America’s path over forty years ago. Others, like the apathetic born to shop self serving reality show intelligentsia, have only in the last several years awakened from their brain dead creature comfort lifestyle and realized the USA is in trouble. In the meantime, the World managed a twenty year head start on the USA that began in 2000.

At first, the previously clueless didn’t know why our country was in trouble. Not really. They looked for easy answers and found them in the lies and false conspiracies involving boogie men pedophile/Alien consortiums whose ultimate goal is to turn us all into brain munching vampiric zombies. It is so much easier to cozy up to our fears. It comes naturally and cheap. It is harder I think to stifle fear and search for clarity in an ever growing atmosphere bombarded by doubt and false premises created with evil intent.

Our various leaders, who had seen and been advised the US was dropping into a huge shit hole decades ago, decided that taking advantage was a better play than trying to do something to stop the decline. For they too were trapped in the evil cycle of American Consumerism.  Only what they craved was power and they found keeping the citizenry on edge, off their game, and clueless was the easier path to power and glory.

They stepped up their fear campaigns, fed the conspiracy fires, and enthusiastically allowed doubt in our government to grow to alarming levels. And they did so easily. They convinced us our looming failure was not our fault but someone else’s. We were not to blame; we were innocent victims of the other side’s evil plans and efforts. In the meantime, their deep pocketed benefactors sewed deeper pockets into their Brooks Brothers suits.That both sides were and are actively involved in screwing us is the only true bipartisanship being practiced at the moment. Two sides of the same coin bending us over different tables.

And now here we are, a country of nervous barnyard animals waiting to see who Farmer Brown will slaughter next. Meanwhile, we all hope our leaders will do something positive, and hopefully do something "together". Instead, all we have is the small comfort of watching them piss on each other’s feet while sticking their tongues out at each other.

Later ……………………………..