The Sound Of Music

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed music. My first exposure to music other than church music was country-western. That’s the kind of music my dad and mom listened to on the radio and subsequently on television when it was available. I guess my parents liked country music when country music wasn’t cool, but what was true for them was true for every adult I knew.

At our last family reunion, I mentioned to a couple of my cousins that I was really surprised when the pianist played “Your Cheatin’ Heart” at my uncle’s funeral. Of course that was twelve years ago, so I’ve remembered the piano rendition of the song for a very long time. The song was selected for inclusion in the prelude music at his service because from1952 forward, that song sung by Hank Williams got top billing with my uncle. It was his all-time favorite CW song.

My parents were family oriented. I remember throughout my childhood years, there were times we went as a family to live music performances. Even though my paternal grandparents lived next door and would gladly have provided child care for us, we were always included.   If my parents were going out for the evening, they took me and my brothers with them. Interestingly, that became the template that was characteristic of our family. Seldom were there exceptions.

I can promise you that despite my parent’s appreciation for country music, there is no way they would have enjoyed it inside a “honkey-tonk”.  That was not a frame of reference that defined our family.

My folks also like other kinds of music. For example, as a matter of routine, we watched the Ed Sullivan Show on television on Sunday nights. I don’t recall that he ever featured country western music, but the show was filled with performing artists. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, he featured the Beatles at one time.

That also brings to mind: “The Hit Parade.” Do you remember it?  It, too, made its way into our home via television. In fact, two of my favorite songs from that venue were Harry Belafonte singing “The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)” and Jim Lowe singing “Behind The Green Door”. I can hear both of those songs playing in my head as I write these words.

Talk about honky-tonk piano! I can almost hear the words with the piano pounding out the tune in the background:

“Midnight, one more night without sleeping,

Watching till the morning comes creeping.

Green door, what’s that secret you’re keeping?

There’s an old piano

And they play it hot behind the green door;

Don’t know what they’re doing

But they laugh a lot behind the green door.

Wish they’d let me in

So I could find out what’s behind the green door…”

Out of curiosity, I Googled: “Harry Belafonte – The Banana Boat Song (Dayo)” and found a link to the musician singing that song from 1956. I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. It was like turning the clock back sixty years. Check it out. It is authentic and it is Harry Belafonte. Wow! Wow! Wow! It is exactly as I remembered it from of “The Hit Parade”.

I’ve said all that to simply say, “I appreciate music, but I have absolutely no musical ability”. In the midst of adulthood, I took piano lessons for a little over a year. I wanted desperately to learn to play, but I had job that required travel and finding time to practice wasn’t easily accomplished. That being said, I’ve got such an appreciation for folks who are musically gifted and talented.  I also recognize that I am not one of them.

I have a friend I’ve known for twenty plus years. He never touched the piano until he was in college. He simply sat down one day in the student center at Texas Tech and started playing. He’s never taken a lesson, but he occasionally has a gig where he plays background music for special venues. He also sings. It is a winning combination.

I noticed on Facebook recently that a friend and neighbor referenced that she took up playing the guitar and singing about three years ago. She, too, apparently is very talented and at the top of her game. I gathered that she performs regularly at some venue near Drippin’.

One day last week, I had lunch with a friend. He mentioned that he and his wife had recently purchased a new home. They haven’t yet occupied the space, but the closing is set for the first of the year. The lady selling the house is ninety years of age and she was a little disheartened that none of her children or grandchildren had room in their homes for her Steinway Grand Piano. Consequently, the Steinway is staying with the house. He said: “There is also has an incredible chandelier hanging over the piano”. He couldn’t be more pleased and rightfully so.

What an incredible find! When I asked if he played the piano, his response took me totally by surprise. He said: “ I do play the piano. I’ve been playing the piano since March. I tinkered around with my sister’s piano a little bit to determine that I wanted to play. I subsequently started out with a weighted keyboard, but quickly determined I needed more. Consequently, I bought a grand piano for our home. You need to see it. It really looks nice.”

I was immediately filled with questions: “So did you take piano lessons?” He said, “No, I didn’t need to. I’ve been a pretty accomplished guitar player for many years. Consequently, I know all the chords. With that frame of reference, transitioning from guitar to piano wasn’t difficult for me. In fact, if anything, the piano is more forgiving than the guitar. I find playing very relaxing and I play every night.

He said, “After we get the kids to bed, I start playing and I play for three hours. That has become my routine and I find it both relaxing and very enjoyable.” I was blown away. Who would have thought? I’ve had lunch with the guy almost a dozen times since he took up playing the piano and he’s never mentioned it. I obviously need to ask more questions.

So when it comes to musical talent or the ability to play the piano, is there any hope for me?  Until recently I would have answered: “Absolutely not”.  Perhaps I need to modify that to say: “Probably not”.  I could accidentally fall into a situation that could alter my ability; although the chances are slim-to-none.  Recently there was a cover story in  Southwest Airline magazine about a man who dove into a swimming pool.  Unfortunately, he dove into the shallow water end of the pool and hit his head on the bottom.  The resultant head concussion was serious, but he recovered in about a week.  A short time after the experience, he was walking past a piano is some public venue and intuitively felt drawn to the keyboard.   To his surprise, he found he now had the innate ability to play beautifully.  To say that it is an anomaly is an understatement.  Could it happen to me?  “Maybe, maybe not is my best answer.  Only time will tell.”

All My Best!

Don

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Freedom

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What does it really mean to be free? Every time I think of the question, the lyrics to “Me and Bobby McGee” involuntarily start rolling around inside my head. Do you remember them?

 

Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose,

And nothin’ ain’t worth nothin’ but it’s free,

Feelin’ good was easy, Lord, when Bobby sang the blues,

And buddy, that was good enough for me,

Good enough for me and my Bobby

 

Out of curiosity, this morning I happened upon some comments folks (common folks – folks like you and me) have made about the concept that “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”. Insightful probably isn’t the word I’d use to describe them, but at some level there is a hint of truth in their observations:

 

  • I have a friend who says man is a slave to his posessions. If you have nothing left to lose, you’re not tied down to anything and you’re free. You can wander around anywhere, just pick up and go like the two hobos in the song.

 

  • I alway’s liked that line. I can really identify with it. I remember hitch hiking around Mexico with less than a hundred dollars in my pocket and a hammock in my pack to sleep in. I could do what I wanted, sleep on the beach, hang around the Zocalo, it was great. Nowdays I have a mortgage, health insurance to pay, a job to go to, etc. Being wealthy is better, but not necessarily “free-er”.

 

  • Actually, I think it’s a pretty insightful statement. When you’ve got nothing to lose, you can do whatever you damned well please. When I was young, single, and had no career to speak of, I could pack up and move to another city, or go backpacking on a whim, or really whatever I wanted.  Now I have a mortgage, a kid, a career, and I’m not free at all. I get up every morning, go to  work, do what the boss says, pick the kid up from school, etc. And if I decide to chuck the job, I’d lose the house, maybe the marriage, family… So I’m trapped.  Not that I’d trade it away, but the fact is we give up a lot of freedom when we take on the responsibility of a middle class life. We become slaves to our commitments and to the cost of losing what we’ve taken years to build up.

 

What is freedom? Isn’t it an experience that expresses itself through unlimited opportunity? I don’t know anyone who doesn’t desire freedom. Do you remember from childhood ever putting insects in a glass jar and puncturing the lid to contain them? The insects were intent on getting out.

 

If you want to disturb a sense of tranquility, try confining the General’s dog (Barnabas) to one room in the house while you are in another part of the house. Some of you are thinking, “Why would you want to do that?” I want bother to answer, but I guarantee you if he wants out, he will bark and bark and bark until you give up and open the door.

 

We are no different. We long to be free. In thinking of freedom, I thought of a long term friend and dear neighbor. He lived directly across the street from us until his death. John McCarty survived the Bataan Death March and was held for three years as a Prisoner of War in Cabanatuan. He knew first hand what it was like to live with a total absence of freedom. He also would have confirmed for you that freedom isn’t free.

 

In captivity, he was subjected to a steady diet of brutality and inhumane and horrific conditions.

    • He survived an environment where torture and execution were routine and commonplace,
    • Where illness was epidemic and untreated, and
    • Where starvation and cruelty were everyday occurrences.

 

John knew firsthand the value of freedom in a way that is foreign to most of us. Thankfully most of us have never known the contrast of what it means to live without freedom.

 

Actually, I need to modify that statement. I am not sure what I wrote about living without freedom is ultimately true. Let me say instead, Most of us have never been held as a prisoner of war and subjected to brutality and inhumane conditions. However, that doesn’t mean we live with an everyday concept that we are free. If it’s true that freedom expresses itself through unlimited opportunity, there are many who long for more.

 

Let me provide you a tongue-in-cheek example:

 

Our seven-year-old grandson has spent the week with us. He is an absolutely delightful kid who seems happy-go-lucky and is always in a good mood. His favorite shirt or shirts are his “Aggie” shirts. He’s either worn the same shirt everyday or his has a suitcase full of them. He doesn’t leave the house without his “Aggie” baseball cap. He sleeps with his favorite quilt (You got it – It has Texas A&M all over it) and his “Daddy Doll” (Made from using a picture of his dad in uniform and provided him while his dad was deployed to Afghanistan).

 

I’m not suggesting for a minute that the little tyke as been brain washed, but he does have a wall size poster of Kyle Field and Aggie memorabilia all over his room. My son once made the statement: My kids are so lucky to have Texas Aggies as parents”.

 

Trust me, it plays well for Craig’s children that they are like-minded. Although Craig and Becky didn’t send out birth announcements with “Class of ….” written on them, there doesn’t seem to be a question of where they are destined to attend college. On the other hand, Jake did really seem to enjoy riding in Uncle Kevin’s Porsche convertible this week. What if he decides that Uncle Kevin’s University of Texas alma mater has merit? How comfortable do you think my son will be writing that tuition check?

 

I think it is interesting that the Kris Kristofferson wrote and recorded the lyrics to “Me and Bobby McGee”. I suspect that his childhood years were pretty structured and that the concept of the kind of freedom expressed in the lyrics of the song were alien to the status quo he sings about. His dad was a career officer in the military. He actually retired as a Major General in the U.S. Air Force.

 

Did you know that Kris Kristofferson earned a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University where he studied at Merton College? He graduated with a master’s degree in English in 1960.

 

According to the record: “Kristofferson, under pressure from his family, ultimately joined the U.S. Army and attained the rank of Captain. He became a helicopter pilot after receiving flight training at Fort Rucker, Alabama. He also completed Ranger School. During the early 1960s, he was stationed in West Germany as a member of the 8th Infantry Division. During this time, he resumed his music career and formed a band. In 1965, when his tour of duty ended, Kristofferson was given an assignment to teach English literature at West Point. Instead, he decided to leave the Army and pursue songwriting”.

 

Without doubt, the saddest part of his story is his family’s response: “His family disowned him because of this decision and they never reconciled with him. They saw it as a rejection of everything they stood for, in spite of the fact that Kristofferson has said he is proud of his time in the military, and received the American Veteran’s Awards ‘Veteran of the Year Award’ in 2003”.

 

Reportedly, Kristofferson has said that he would like the first three lines of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on the Wire” on his tombstone:

 

“Like a bird on the wire

Like a drunk in a midnight choir

I have tried in my way to be free”

 

Freedom isn’t free, but it represents liberation from all that binds.

 

All My Best!

Don

Hold Your Horses

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The past four or five days have been interesting. The General has been in Odessa visiting her mother. Consequently, I’ve been home alone. A friend at church told me it would probably serve me well to stay in a hotel while the General was away. He naturally assumed that I’m a slovenly pig and that the place would be in shambles when the General returned. Consequently, the only logical approach was for me to vacate the premises. Otherwise, there’d be… (How did he express it? – “A penalty to pay”). That’s pretty close.

I don’t think an obsessive-compulsive disorder is contagious. However, there is enough German in the General’s heritage that she can at times resemble a neat freak. In addition, she also has Cherokee Indian in her DNA. Either way, her coming home to a cluttered house could result in her going on the warpath.

Just the thought reminds me of the Scripture: “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?” Trust me, it is easier for me to keep things tidy than it is to pay the consequences. Besides that, my mother taunted, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”. Truth be told, or at least my version of it, I was half grown before I learned that the shortest Scripture was “Jesus wept.” For years, my mother taught us that the shortest Scripture was “Be neat”. Consequently, I fell into the trap of an obsessive-compulsive persona long before the General was on the radar screen. I didn’t catch it from her.

The General came home yesterday, but she didn’t return to squalor. Okay, under the guise of reporting the facts, based on my perception, there is one glitch in my story. However, I’m drawing a line in the sand and I’m not accepting ownership for the problem. For the past five days the glitch has made me a crazy person (symptomology related to my OCD). Okay, I get it. I understand no one can make me anything; I have to choose to let it happen for it to be an issue. I’ll own that. It is an issue.

Last Thursday, a woman’s group from our church met at our home. I’m not sure who came up with the “service project”, but the group apparently busied themselves making artificial corsages for ladies at the nursing homes in Dripping Springs and Blanco. I’m not sure when they are going to be delivered; however, I can tell you where they are stored.

Actually, to say they are “stored” would carry with it the concept that they are neatly put away and placed out of sight. That would not be an accurate reflection of reality. They are scattered (yes, that’s a good word) all over the dinning room hutch on top of several pieces of Waterford crystal. Did I mention, “It is not a good look?” The minute my eyes laid hold of the image, I almost went into coronary arrest. What was the General thinking? When I offered the protest: “That can’t stay there”, the General rolled her eyes and said: “Hold your horses. They will be gone next Thursday.” She left town the next morning.

So the out-of-place artificial flowers on top of the crystal have made me a little crazy. My first thought was that our home now resembles a funeral home. I then had a flashback to a small country church were I served as pastor well over forty years ago. There was a lady in the congregation who routinely found plastic flowers at the cemetery and brought them to church. How convenient! That, too, was not a good look! I’m also fairly certain that the family members, who placed the flowers at different gravesites, had no idea they would eventually wind up in a bouquet at the Baptist Church.

The past two or three nights, I have mostly boycotted going into the room where the ladies’ corsages are on display. Instead, I’ve sat in my office content to hear the sounds of Patsy Cline and Adele coming through the Gramophone from another room. Great music! Monday night as I sat at my computer with the sounds of Patsy Cline in the background, I thought about a neighbor from the first place I lived in Austin.

Actually, it was an efficiency apartment. I rented it until the General and Craig joined me in Austin. It was a month-to-month rental and there was nothing about it that would resonate with an OCD persona. Okay, so I’m cheap. It was certainly nothing fancy, but it was clean. At the time I was working very long hours (so what’s changed). At any rate, there was a much older lady who lived next door. Each evening when I got home from work, she’d be standing on the second floor shared balcony drinking a beer with the sound of Patsy Cline blaring through the open door from inside her apartment. The only variation to Patsy Cline was the blaring sounds of religious music with a guitar accompaniment. Somehow it struck me as strange.

I guess you could say I went cold turkey. I didn’t need a beer to facilitate enjoying the sounds of Patsy Cline. However, the sounds of the music sounded better when I wasn’t looking directly at the collection of corsages scattered (yep- there goes that word again) all over the dining room hutch.

On Sunday morning during announcements at church, I affirmed that the Thursday morning meeting would be at our home again. I also expressed my strong desire not to find a collection of corsages scattered across the hutch when I get home. I guess it all gets back to the General’s expressed mandate that I hold my horses. Maybe she’s right, but it violates my sense of order.

All My Best!

Don

The Power of Music – There was no one like Patsy Cline Until Now

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Easy Listening Music” has changed, or so it seems. My son used to describe the music I listen to as “funeral home music”. I’m not sure how he came up with that description, but  twenty-plus years ago our music tastes were worlds apart. Back when he was alleging that my music genre of choice was funeral home music, he was listening to Robert Earl Keene. “Worlds apart” pretty well describe the gap in our music venue of choice. Enough said!

That’s not to say that I had totally boycotted country western music. You may find it difficult to believe, but during my high school and college years, I was drawn to the lyrics of country western music. There was something about the storyline as it resonated with the notes that captured my imagination and garnered my attention. Maybe it was a one-size-fits all approach, but the story lines seemed real and the narratives they told were compelling.

When I was a kid growing up, our family watched the Grand Ole Opry on television. Trust me, it captivated our attention the same way that many music fans track the weekly performances on American Idol. In addition, it wasn’t unusual for our family to attend music venues to hear live performances of recording artists or amateur singers. We liked music. We liked country music.

I took up the violin in elementary school. Did I mention I have absolutely no musical talent or ability? Actually, the mistake I made as a fourth grader is that I wanted to play the fiddle, not a violin. They may look like the same instrument, but the sound and music is entirely different.

Even as a kid, I had it figured out when it came to incredible music. She was without doubt my all-time favorite vocalist. Yet, on March 5, 1963, the same year that President Kennedy was assassinated, Pasty Cline, Lloyd “Cowboy” Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins and Randy Hughes perished in a plane crash in Camden, Tennessee. Yesterday marked the 53rd anniversary of their tragic deaths.

I never heard Patsy Cline sing in person. Yet, she was and has been my all-time-favorite vocalist for as long as I can remember. It wasn’t just that her voice reeled you in and held you fast. It was also the emotional impact of the story musically shared. It was the lyrics. The story that unfolds takes you captive and draws on your heartstrings.   If you question what I’m saying is true, go back and listen again to: “I Fall To Pieces”, “Crazy” and “She’s Got You”. Patsy Cline was an all-time great. She had the stuff to make it work: a storyline, vocal range and the delivery to make it all seem real and up close and personal.

Maybe my subsequent departure to “funeral home music” twenty years ago as my son calls it, was an attempt to replace verbal and emotional messaging with calming and soothing instrumental music. In fact, some might even more appropriately describe it as “elevator music”. But that was twenty years ago. Times have changed and so has the easy listening genre.

Earlier this week, I heard a recording artist I had not heard before. Wow! Wow! Wow! What she brings to the table is as impactful and captivating as the music of Patsy Cline. Am I overstating it to suggest her musical gift, the emotional story she crafts, and the play on the listener’s heartstrings is etched in stone? You can’t escape it. In fact, you find yourself not wanting to run from it, but run to it.   Perhaps her genre is more “soul” than “country”, but the emotional draw reels you in and holds you fast. Without even consciously being aware of what’s taking place, you are intrinsically crafted in the story line. Her story reminds you of your story or that of someone you know and of course, when your story is being shared, it has you full attention.

Let the sound, rhythm and storyline of “Hello”, sung by Adele, resonate in the fabric of your mind. We’ve all got stories. Sometimes our stories have a common tread. Adele has the ability to craft it in the most uncommon and powerful way.

“Hello, it’s me

I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet

To go over everything

They say that time’s supposed to heal ya

But I ain’t done much healing

 

“Hello, can you hear me?

I’m in California dreaming about who we used to be

When we were younger and free

I’ve forgotten how it felt before the world fell at our feet

 

“There’s such a difference between us

And a million miles

“Hello from the other side

I must have called a thousand times

To tell you I’m sorry for everything that I’ve done

But when I call you never seem to be home

 

Hello from the outside

At least I can say that I’ve tried

To tell you I’m sorry for breaking your heart

But it don’t matter. It clearly doesn’t tear you apart anymore

 

“Hello, how are you?

It’s so typical of me to talk about myself. I’m sorry

I hope that you’re well

Did you ever make it out of that town where nothing ever happened?”

All My Best!

Don

Why Can’t Every Day Be Like Christmas?

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I had the thought driving to work on Tuesday morning, “Why can’t everyday be like the week before Christmas?” I can sum it up with a borrowed line from Clement Clarke Moore’s poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” or as it was also called, “T’was the Night Before Christmas”. It will be obviously familiar to everyone. Simply stated: “Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” My fifty-one mile commute felt like nothing compared to what I’m regularly accustomed to experiencing on any workday morning. There was absolutely no traffic on the road as I made my way from Henly to Round Rock. I loved it! Why couldn’t every day be like the week of Christmas?

Initially, “A Visit From St. Nicholas” was published anonymously. A friend of the author, knowing that Clement Moore was from a prominent Episcopal family and that his father served as the Bishop of New York, opted to take no chances. She submitted Clement’s work for publication without crediting him with authorship of what would prove to be a masterpiece. After all, what if it was not well received? Actually, as you can imagine, it became widely read and loved almost overnight. Several years later, in the publication of Clement’s writings, the poem was published under the auspices of his name.

I was on top of my game as I made my way to work yesterday morning. Never had the traffic moved so flawlessly at an optimum rate of speed. I would be ecstatic if I could move that seamlessly through traffic on a daily basis. I could almost hear the sound of Elvis singing, “Why Can’t Everyday Be Like Christmas?” I agreed with Elvis. It was a great question!

The year was 1956. I was a fourth grader. I remember it almost as though it was yesterday. Elvis and the style of his music he introduced to the country was a lot like Clement Clarke Moore’s poem, “T’was The Night Before Christmas.” His music and style became an overnight sensation. He was on the fast track to becoming the King of Rock and Roll. What an incredible contrast to the country/western music I had been brought up hearing. Wow! It was great. I’d take it any day of the week in contrast to “Whispering Bill Anderson singing “Peanuts and Diamonds”.

Probably, his song “Heartbreak Hotel” was the first big hit for Elvis. It was released at the beginning of 1956. Elvis didn’t write the song. Tommy Durden and Mae Boren Axton wrote the song. The lyrics captured the essence of a newspaper article about a young man who committed suicide. He died as a result of jumping to his death out of a hotel window. It was a sad story and it was a sad song, but it became an overnight sensation.

At some level I’m weird. Every time I check into a hotel, I asked the clerk at the desk for a room on the highest available floor. I always appreciate the view and I suspect the floor is quieter. Whenever I ask for the highest available floor, I always add, “I promise to stay inside.” I don’t know if the commitment to be safe carries any leverage, but I knew a man in Houston who worked in an office where I also supervised staff. Sadly, he opted to do it differently. He borrowed money from a co-worker at lunch one day and took a taxi to the Hyatt Regency located on Louisiana Street in downtown Houston. The Hyatt had just opened. He took the elevator to one of the top floors and purposefully plummeted to his death by jumping over the protective railing into the atrium area.

Heartbreak Hotel was a sad song, but it was good news for Elvis. “The single topped Billboard’s Top 100 chart for seven weeks…and was number one on the Country and Western chart for seventeen weeks. It reached number three on the R&B chart, becoming Presley’s first million-seller and one of the best-selling singles of 1956. “Heartbreak Hotel” achieved unheard of feats as it reached the top 5 of Country and Western, pop, and Rhythm ‘n’ Blues charts simultaneously.

The following year, Elvis recorded “Why Can’t Everyday Be Like Christmas” on his Christmas album.

“Oh why can’t every day be like Christmas

Why can’t that feeling go on endlessly

For if everyday could be just like Christmas

What a wonderful world this would be”.

“Why can’t everyday be like Christmas”, is similar  to the question I asked related to the absence of traffic. Unfortunately, the Christmas season isn’t a trigger for wonderful memories for everyone. In fact, last night a Facebook friend posted:

“Some thoughts as we enter the holiday season. It is important to remember that not everyone is looking forward to Christmas. Some people are not surrounded by large wonderful families. Some of us have problems during the holidays and are overcome with great sadness when we remember the loved ones who are not with us. For many it is their first Christmas without a particular loved one and many others lost loved ones at Christmas. And, many people have no one to spend these times with and are besieged by loneliness. We all need caring, loving thoughts right now. If I don’t see your name, I’ll understand. May I ask my friends, family, wherever, whoever you might be, to kindly post this status for one hour to give a moment of support to all those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just need to know that someone cares. Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune. I hope to see this on the walls of all my friends just for moral support. I did it for a friend, for myself and you can too!”

My friend is right. Christmas is a time of high stress for many. Consequently, I am dedicating this post to everyone who needs encouragement, support, friendship and love. My the real reason for the season provide insulation from that which is debilitating and painful.

All My Best!

Don

 

 

 

Life Is Too Short To Be Condensed To Biscuits And Gravy

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On days when I spend six to seven hours in the car, I generally conclude that I am not the sharpest Crayola in the box. Yesterday was one of those days. That being said, it wasn’t that long of a day. I left the house around 6:30 a.m. to travel to Houston. I arrived earlier than needed. I knew that I would. I left the house too early, but it is always good to get ahead of the traffic. I haven’t yet totally figured out how to do that since the jaunt through Oakhill can be challenging at best. The intersection and stretch of road near the Y in Oakhill has been under construction for months. Who knows how it will eventually turn out, but shall I simply say, “Improvement is needed.”

As it turned out, I should have taken the time to work on today’s blog before I got on the road.  It would have been a good use of time.  Of course, that would have negated the “wait until the last minute and forfeit some sleep” approach that is mostly characteristic of the printing press that operates out of my home office. As I was passing the airport on my way out of town yesterday morning, I noticed an email while I was stopped for a red light (Note: I included that level of detail on the outside chance that my boss reads this blog. It is not likely, but you can’t be too careful.) A friend had sent an email alerting me that the Weebly blog only had a picture. It did not have an accompanying story. I found the information frustrating, even though I live with the on-going knowledge that I don’t always get it right. I don’t know what happened to the story. I posted it yesterday morning immediately after posting the same blog on WordPress. I made a mental note to get my computer out when I got to Houston and make the correction. Sadly, it is 10:00 p.m. on Thursday and I’m just now thinking about that again. You know what they say about good intentions.

Okay, I confess, I couldn’t continue with the draft of this blog until I ensured yesterday’s blog got posted. It took fifteen seconds. All I had to do was double click on the blank page and it automatically populated.

“Easy is as easy does”. Where did that expression come from? I’m not sure I’ve ever spoken or written the expression. A quick Google search rendered, “I think the phrase actually supports the idea that things (or a thing) is only as easy as we make it”.

“While scheduling a doctor’s appointment sounds simple, when you think about all the contributing things you need to do – (pick up the phone, find the doctor’s number, determine which doctor you need to schedule an appt with, find the best day for you, find the best day for the doctor, etc.) it can seem a daunting event/task”.

“Easy is as easy does says to me – call the doc and make an appointment. Don’t think about the small stuff too much, otherwise, you will get caught in all the details”.

I had hoped to arrive in Houston with enough time to have coffee with a friend I haven’t seen in a very long while. I told myself I’d have time to incorporate a brief visit on either side of the business meeting I was attending. The thought put a smile on my face. It has been way too long since we’ve had an opportunity to visit and catch up. My friend moved from Dallas to Houston several years ago to be near his daughter and her family. The opportunity for upward mobility within his daughter’s company subsequently was an appealing lure she couldn’t turn down. His daughter is now in the process of relocating to Denver. I have absolutely no idea what my friend will opt to do in light of those circumstances.

As I made my way to Houston yesterday morning, I thought I’d call and negotiate a time to visit. It then occurred to me, I couldn’t do that. I haven’t successfully negotiated a telephone call in the past two weeks. I have totally lost my voice. For the most part, the hacking incessant cough is gone until toward the end of the day when it re-emerges, but I can’t make a sound above a faint whisper regardless of the time of day.

Someone described me as a “fish out of water”. I’ve had the same thought this past week. The prior week I was too sick to care.  I’ve been in two or three large gatherings of people where the need to verbally communicate is really important to have in one’s toolbox.  Obviously, I came up short.

I actually contemplated texting my friend to ask if he’d like to visit. Then it occurred to me, “No one wants to hear me whisper.” Yesterday morning when I arrived in Houston, I had nothing but time on my hands. Why not? I got there early and by default opted to spend some time at Barnes and Noble.

At the gathering yesterday, my boss described me to someone as “whispering Don.” Linking whispering to my name took me back to the memory of “Whispering Bill Anderson”. He is a country music singer, songwriter and television personality. He is only about a decade older than me, so I’m choosing to think he is still alive.  I remember his music from my childhood. His composition of “City Lights” was written when he was nineteen years old and was recorded by Ray Price in 1958 and Mickey Gilley in 1975. Both versions went to the top of the country charts.

“Whisperin’ Bill”, Anderson’s autobiography was published in 1989 and made the best seller lists all across the South. His second book was a humorous look at the music business. He entitled it, “I Hope You’re Living As High On The Hog As The Pig You Turned Out To Be”. It was published in 1993 and is now in its fourth printing.

Getting back to the seven hours I spent in the car yesterday, I passed the time mostly listening to the radio. What was I thinking? When I made the decision to discontinue my subscription to satellite radio – SiriusXM Radio, it seemed like a prudent decision. I was paying for satellite radio in my work car, my truck and the General’s (aka – my wife) car.  Truthfully, there was only one station on Sirius XM that I listened to and it was “easy listening music.” Driving back to Austin yesterday afternoon, the radio station I had been listening to became out of range and I switched the station. It landed on a Country Western station. I couldn’t believe my ears. The lyrics to “Biscuit” went like this:

“…Nobody’s perfect, we’ve all lost and we’ve all lied                                                                                                                  Most of us have cheated the rest of us have tried                                                                                                                            The holiest of the holy even slip from time to time                                                                                                                      We’ve all got dirty laundry hanging on the line

So hoe your own row and raise your own babies                                                                                                                      Smoke your own smoke and grow your own daisies                                                                                                                   Mend your own fences and own your own crazy                                                                                                                         Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy                                                                                                                                Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy…”

I’m not refuting the truthfulness of the lyrics, but it was a bit much. Tomorrow I’m opting to reactive the Sirius radio in my car. Life is too short to be condensed to biscuits and gravy.

All My Best!

Don