Tuesday, March 13, 2018


I've been aware of the time going by
They say in the end it's the wink of an eye
When the morning light comes streaming in
You'll get up and do it again

"The Pretender"  -Jackson Browne- 

A few weeks ago in a gastronomical clinic I lay on a gurney awaiting my turn to be taken into the procedure room for my colonoscopy.  I noticed the pattern on the curtains that protected my privacy, I listened to the chatter between the nurses on the other side of that curtain and I looked about the little room.  I looked down at my left wrist and noticed the plastic bracelet that had been placed there with all my information needed so they would know for sure who they were doing the procedure on, which is a pretty good idea I think.

I looked at and read all of the information that was contained on that band.  As I read who I was my eyes landed on the last line of text that was written there.  "Age: 61 years".  Maybe it was being by myself with nothing to distract me, I am not sure, but seeing that number "61" suddenly brought to my mind the question of where the time had gone.

I have always heard that as you age the time seems to go by faster and faster and seeing my age printed out brought it all home to me.  They are right, the time does start to fly by as you age.  When I was a boy it seemed like a decade between Christmas' and over the last few years it feels like there is only a month or two between each Christmas.  Time is flying by and nothing I can do will slow it down.

One summer day, I was working in the garden with my Grandpa Hill when he suddenly stopped and looked up into the sky with a far away look in his eye.  He was quiet for a few seconds before telling me that if he could choose anytime in which to live, he would choose the time in which he had lived.  During those seconds of gazing into the hot summer sky, I suppose he was looking back on his life, where he had been, what he had done and where life had taken him.  He went on to explain that his time here on earth had allowed him to see horse and buggy days turn into seeing a man walk on the moon.  He had gone from working on steam engines to diesel locomotives.  His main source of news had gone from newspapers and radio to television and on to not just television, but color television.  I have thought about that afternoon often over the years.  This July will mark the 110th anniversary of his birth.

As I lay there seeing my age in print, I thought of that day once again.  I wonder how old Grandpa was on that summer day.  I imagine he probably wasn't much older then than I am now.  Grandpa passed away at the age of 82 in July of 1990, twenty eight years ago.  He was only twenty one years older than I am now.  I think back to the day we laid him to rest on that hot July day.  I remember the thoughts that went through my mind as I contemplated a future without the old man to go visit at least once a week throughout the year.  I remember that day so very clear and as I think back on it, it does not seem like it has been even close to twenty eight years ago.  The first year without him seemed like forever but now, July first and July eighth come around so very quickly anymore and this July seems to be approaching much fast than last July did.

This weekend members of the family will gather in Alabama to celebrate my father's ninetieth birthday.  Ninety years.  For my dad to reach the age of ninety is almost a miracle.  No, it is a miracle.  To understand why I say this I encourage you to read my entry My Dad: A Special Life .  It is a long complicated story of which I have written a few times and so I won't go into the details here.  Suffice it to say that dad has lived around sixty years past what they thought he would.  Our sixty one years as father and son have, well let's say, had some rocky times, some very rocky times.  But as each of us has grown over the years and we notice the years going by, I think both of us have come to realize what a special relationship we do have together.  The times are not rocky any more, not at all these days.  I feel there is a mutual respect and love for one another that we had a little trouble expressing when I was younger.  That isn't to say we didn't have great times as well.  Over the last sixty one years, me and my dad have had more good times than bad.  Looking back over the years I can easily and honestly say there were many more good , if not great, times than rocky ones.

I remember a photograph that use to be in mom and dad's house.  I must have been about fourteen, maybe a little younger.  It was a picture of a baseball game taken at Jay Allard's ball fields.  A game was being played that I remember very well.  It was kind of a father/son game.  The picture shows me at bat in mid swing.  I was a fairly good hitter and the form that is depicted in this picture shows why.  Not to brag or anything, but I always thought my form shown in that picture looked like a young right handed George Brett or Carl Yastrzemski (I know... dreamer.  I can almost see my dad, Uncle Jim and Jay Allard rolling their eyes at this description of my swing).  Back foot planted solid, front foot stepping into the pitch and straight with the arms extended, the bat level and my head down looking at the ball.  Beautiful form.  Of course, I don't know if I actually hit the ball or totally missed it when that picture was taken.  The special part of that picture though is not the perfect swing of the bat by me, but rather squatting behind me, trusting me not to bash in his head with the bat, is my father.  He is also in perfect form, just as he had taught my little brother to do when he was catching.  Glove is stretched out towards the plate, the ungloved hand is fisted, and his head is tilted down a bit with his eye spot on the ball.  It was just a moment in time but as I look back all those years ago, what a special moment it was. A dad and his son, playing the great American game on a dusty dirty ball field in the middle of a pasture.

That picture was taken so many years ago.  If I was fourteen or so, dad would have been early forties.  Could it really have been forty five or fifty years ago that picture was taken?  It is times like that when you realize how fast time does go by.

So what have I learned as time continues to speed up?  Time is so very precious.  Time is wasted all too easily.  People I have loved for a lifetime are gone and all I have are memories of the time spent with them.  Grandparents, Uncles. Aunts, Siblings, Cousins, Nieces and Nephews are special people.  They are family and one of the most important commodities we have in our lives are our families. Friends, close friends are the same way.  Some friends are so close and you have spent so many years being friends that they are just as important as family.  They pass away eventually and once they are gone, you are out of time to let them know how important they are to you.  We shouldn't think that we have an eternity to let them know because although time is infinite, time in the form of life is very short and finite.

Time will go by fast.  That is a given.  The trick is to take advantage of that time.

Monday, February 19, 2018


There once was a time, a long long time ago, when performers sang the national anthem as it was written and it was good.  Then we were forced to endure a couple of decades of these singers creating their own arrangements of The Star Spangled Banner that left the listener wondering if it was indeed the national anthem they were listening to.  It was horrible.

One of these performances stood out as worse than any other public performance of the song and it was sung with the original arrangement.  In July of 1990, Roseanne Barr performed the song before a Padres/Reds baseball game in San Diego.  Now, Roseanne is a comedian, not a singer.  She went out and more or less yelled the song with a bit of a tune to make it recognizable and upon finishing the song, she grabbed her crotch and then spit before walking off the field.

There have been a lot of bad performances of the song but Roseanne's became known as the absolutely worst ever and a case could be made for that opinion.  Here is what Roseanne's version sounded like on that day:

So for 28 years Roseanne bore the title of the worst national anthem singer of all time... that is, until yesterday.

Roseanne received some competition for the title at the NBA All-Star game.  Fergie, of Black Eyed Peas fame, brought back the old self arrangements of the song and brought the bar to a new high for the title.  As Fergie sang The Star Spangled Banner, you could see not only fans at the game, but the players themselves trying very hard not to break out in laughter.  See if you can keep from at least a little chuckle while listening to her performance:

To compare an example of a great performance of the national anthem, one has only to look a year after Roseanne butchered it.  It was the Super Bowl when the late Whitney Houston set the bar for one of the greatest public performances of the song of all time.  To many, it is the standard by which all other performances should be compared:

So I decided to try to decide which version was worse,  Roseanne or Fergie.  This was not an esay excersize to work through.   For one thing, I put my brain through listening to each version several times.

Let's take quick comparison of these two performances.  We can look at Roseanne and say "She is a comedian, not a singer" and we can look at Fergie and say the opposite "She is a singer, not a comedian."  That is all well and good but a strange thing happened.  When Roseanne, the comedian, sang the song the crowd let out a chorus of boos even before the crotch grap and spit.  When Fergie, the singer, was performing the work it took for everyone to not burst out in laughter was quite evident.  Shouldn't it be the other way around?

Roseanne was herself during her performance.  She did not arrange the song differently, but sang it more or less the way it was written (I use the word "sang" loosely here).  Fergie took all of her musical talent and ability to arrange the song to her liking and performed it intentionally to a horrible outcome.  She put a lot of theatrics into her performance in order to make it more dramatic? I suppose.

After the the performance was finished Roseanne grabbed her crotch and spit on the ground.  Fergie on the other hand shouted out "Let's play some basketball!!!"  Now we could take Roseanne's gestures as disrespectful to the anthem and to the country.  I choose not to.  Looking at the two performances, grabbing of the crotch and spitting are an integral part of baseball.  Next time you watch a baseball game, try to count how many times players spit and "adjust" their pants.  I promise you it is a lot.  So I choose to see Roseanne's gestures as her way of saying "Play Ball" which is far more American than the announcer at a basketball game saying "Let's play some basketball".  I don't think I have ever heard that at a basketball game but 99.999% of the time at a baseball game, the umpire or the announcer will say "PLAY BALL".

The booing of the crowd in San Diego makes me think that perhaps the fans were not taking Roseanne as a comedian doing a bit, but rather as someone who was trying to sing the anthem the way it was written and failed miserably.  However the laughter at Fergie's serious attempt at performing the song made the crowd see her as a musician making a fool of herself.

MY conclusion ... congratulations Roseanne,  you are no longer the worst performer ever to sing the Star Spangled Banner in a public forum.  You aren't Whitney Houston of course, but you sure aren't Fergie either.