Thursday, November 20, 2014

PEACHES

The wife and I had just returned from an evening of taking her to the walk in clinic at the hospital for a terrible illness she has been fighting for almost two weeks now.  Turns out it is bronchitis and she is starting to feel better I think.  They had given her a breathing treatment at the hospital and after dropping her off at the house I had gone out to pick up her newly prescribed meds at the pharmacy.  It was kind of late in the evening when I finally was able to sit and relax unwinding from the day.

The television was on because the WE network shows Law and Order reruns all night long and I am truly addicted to that show.  I simply love it.  I am to the point now that when I watch an episode of any of the various Law and Order originals or spin offs, I talk the characters through the plot.  For example last night, when in the court room, Hang em high McCoy, as Kevin Smith refers him as, was about to push the guilty party over the edge on cross examination.  The defendant had a machete in his hand and McCoy was trying to get him to show how he had held it when cutting his wife into pieces.  The guy was about to break and I knew that Jack had to be careful, because at any moment the man would lose it and stand up raising the machete in his hands and I didn't want McCoy to be too close.  So during the "Jack Attack" as I have come to call it in every episode, I would tell McCoy "Don't turn your back..... back off a little... he is going to lose it ..." and so forth.  You have no idea how many times I have saved Jack from getting in trouble with the judge or other lawyers or how many times that Jack and I would agree that when Shiff says "Make a deal ... move on" that we could get this conviction done without the deal.

After the "Jack Attack" of that episode and before the next episode started, a commercial came on.  I am not sure what the product was that the commercial was pushing but I did notice the song the ad was using.  It was a cover of an old Robert Palmer song called "Addicted To Love".   When Palmer released the song off of his "Riptide" album in 1985 it shot up the charts so fast that it seemed like it was closing in on the number one spot before it even hit the airwaves.  It was upbeat, and it rocked.  The lyrics were catching as well and the song was an instant classic.  The video he released with the song (it was in the old MTV days when MTV was REALLY Music Television) became an instant classic as well.  It featured emotionless women in black mini dresses pretending to be his back up band while he rocked the song out.  I encourage you to check it as it is one of the true classics of the MTV generation.  ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcATvu5f9vE )  .

What caught my attention in the commercial is that it was a complete opposite version of the song that Palmer did.  It had a female vocal singing with an airy vocal and was being played at a deliberately slow and steady beat.  I listened to it for a a bit and told the wife that I wasn't sure if I approved of that version or not.  I have this thing that there are some songs that should never be covered by anyone because the original was about as good as it would ever get.  I hold this theory on all Beatles songs, except a few of the Ringo tunes, and a lot of the Rolling Stones songs.  As far as I am concerned, once Frank Sinatra has recorded a song, it is hands off for the rest of history.  "Addicted To Love" falls into that category as well as a couple of other Robert Palmer tunes.

Barb asked me why I wasn't sure and so I told her that the Robert Palmer version was, well, it was a classic, and I don't think this stacks up to the bar that Palmer set with his recording of it.  Barb thought for a bit and then asked me What Robert Palmer had died of.  Barb and I both liked Palmer a lot when we were younger and the day that the news broke that he had died and been kind of branded into our collective memory.  I did a little googling on Palmer to refresh my memory and it was sad indeed.  I remember thinking when he died that he was young, another of those artists who were just too young to leave the world when they had so much more to offer.  Palmer had died in France of a heart attack in 2003 at the young age of 54.  His heart attack wasn't brought about by hard partying and drugs, he was pretty much on top of things in his life.  He gave the world of music so much more than we realized at the time.  He would record anything from reggae to the blues, to pop and throw in some good rock and roll to big band covers, truth was you never knew what Palmer would come out with next but you knew it would be good.  He was extremely talented and did leave this earth far too soon.  I thought about that song for a bit and the original version began to play in my head as I headed for bed.  Seems odd, but even though I have some Robert Palmer recordings on my MP3 player, I didn't go to sleep listening to Palmer last night, choosing to listen to some Boz Scaggs instead.

It was when I finally settled at my desk after an early morning meeting on a new product that I decided to revisit some of my Robert Palmer music while I worked.  As I listened to those tunes I remembered a store I use to frequent on a regular basis.  The store would have these huge paintings of the covers of the current albums at the time mounted on the outside of the store.  These paintings were, oh I am guessing between 6 ft square and 8 ft square. They would have five or six album covers depicted on the outside of the store and would put up new ones about every two months or so.  One of the album covers that I distinctly remember was one of Robert Palmer's albums.  I can still see that handsome face and soft smile that Robert Palmer always seemed to carry with him.  As I thought of that album cover of Palmer's on displayed, I remembered other album covers that the store had mounted on display over the years.  I use to gaze at those things in the parking lot as I walked into the store.  They were wonderful and gave a person an idea of how important of a music store this really was.

It was the mid-seventies to mid-eighties and so it was the big hay day of the huge shopping malls.  It seemed that every mall had at least one record store, Musicland, if not two or three record stores.  Now, you have to understand the fascination I have with music.  Actually music and books.  If I went to the mall you would no doubt find me in a bookstore ore a record store.  These two things fascinated me and my mind would soak in all that it could.  I could easily spend between an hour to two hours in either of these places.  I would go to a book store and just walk up and down the aisles look at the binding of the books and reading the titles of them.  Every once in a while I would pull a book out and open it and read a little before continuing with my stroll among the written word.  Chances are I knew I wasn't going to buy a book, but I just loved looking at them, the different topics and titles and make a mental note of a book that I would buy in the future.  It was the same way with record stores only worse. 

Musicland was what I guess you could consider a fairly large record store in the days when the small record shops were slowly disappearing.  I would walk into that store and just start at the first rack that I came to and start thumbing through the records.  Seldom were there records that I hadn't look at hundreds of times before but I looked at them again, one after another after another.  The old LP 12 inch records were special.  The jackets that housed that precious vinyl was a work of art on each of them.  In essence, the jackets were as much of the over all product as the groves that contained the music.  I learned what songs were on what album.  I learned the producers of each album and the track order of the songs on each side of the album. I knew what year they were released, what label they were on, the length of each song and who wrote the songs contained within.  Even after absorbing all of that knowledge, I would still walk into Musicland and thumb through the same albums, never tiring of the magic that they held for me.  When I went to Peaches, you had might as well write my whole day off though.

If Musicland was a fairly large record store, then Peaches was a mammoth record store.  It was the Sam's Club of record stores.  Imagine going to do a little shopping at a Walgreen's versus doing a little shopping at a Target.  There is no way I can describe the magic of Peaches.  It was in Kansas, but that was okay with me.  Peaches could be anywhere they wanted to be and I would go.  If I remember right it was on the corner of 75th and Metcalf.  That is quite a ways from where I live so I didn't get there as often as I would have liked but once there, I was there to make the time worthwhile.  It would take literally most of a Saturday from the time I stepped foot in that store until the time I left, and I usually left with something new in tow.

Peaches was large enough and dedicated to the music enough that there were albums in those racks that you would not see anywhere else in the city.  Many times I would come across an album that I didn't know existed from groups that I thought I knew their discography fairly well.  Peaces was the one place that you could go and find recordings from someone you never knew existed.  It was where I was introduced to the fabulous blues talent of John Mayall and the various bands that he fronted.  It was where I bought my first Willie Nelson album and where I discovered a little band who called themselves the Electric Light Orchestra.  The inventory of Peaches was so varied and so new that I dare not miss going through any of the racks looking at every single album that was there.  Going into that store sent excitement coursing through my veins and, on occasion, would make me dizzy from all of the new groups and records that I was discovering.  It truly was like being on a big game hunt, looking for just the right game to spear and take home with pride.

I didn't realize what a big part of my life a store could be until I started thinking about Peaches this morning.  It was so special, so magical.  Peaches was like a museum of sorts with the new music of the day sitting along side albums of a by gone era. Peaches was a temple dedicated to the art of music.

In this day and age of downloading music in digital format, i am restricted to just browsing through Amazon.com looking at pictures of albums.  Not quite the same as flipping through thousands of records, holding them in your hands, reading all the information on the back that was in tiny print that I probably wouldn't be able to read these days anyway.

I loved the book stores and the record stores.  Deep down inside me, I really miss them.

Friday, October 17, 2014

JUST FACTS, NOT A "WOE IS ME" ENTRY



I don’t push people away …. I have got to be the most misunderstood person around.  Misunderstood or not known.  People don’t me.  Not the real me, the me that is deep inside, the me that they hurt without realizing it, the me that is taken advantage of constantly, the real me.

Sometimes, a lot of times, I just want to disappear.  I don’t like people.  I don’t like noise.  I don’t like being told what to do by ungrateful people.  I don’t like being ignored until it is convenient not to ignore me for a few minutes.

But it is ME that is at fault.  I don’t get it.  I do whatever I am asked and more.  “It is what it is”.  Things are what they are.  I didn’t see things evolving with people the way they have turned out to be.  It isn’t my fault that things are the way they are.  It isn’t my fault but I pay the price as though it were.

But I push people away.  I am there at the snap of a finger whenever anyone snaps their finger at me.  Is the fact that I really don’t ask anyone for anything mean I am pushing them away?  No.  It means I want to live and die on my own.  On my own conditions, time table, and where I want to.

“I ain’t asking nobody for nothing if I can get it on my own.  If you don’t like the way that I’m living, you just leave this long haired country boy alone.” (Charlie Daniels)  What is wrong with not enjoying getting my hair cut?  I have ALWAYS hated to get my hair cut.  Not because I want it long or am trying to make a statement, I just do not like the feeling of getting my hair cut.  It means nothing more than that.  I don’t like to shave.  Does that make me a mountain man or something because I don’t like to shave?  It simply means I do not like to shave.  Hate it.

Who am I kidding, they won’t miss me one bit.  No one will. And I don’t care if they do or not.

“From now on all my friends are gonna be strangers.  I'm all through, ever trusting anyone.  The only thing I can count on now is my fingers,  I was a fool …” (Haggard)

Is it strange that I use music to do a lot of my talking for me?  Probably is, but I don’t care.  I can relate to some of these songwriters, philosophers …. They say some pretty honest things in their songs.  Brutally honest.  So honest it makes you think … “wow .. oh man … he knows me …”  The people that seem to know me best are people that don’t know I exist, and I mean they actually don’t know I am around, not like those that know I am around but until they need something, don’t know I exist.   The people that know me best … let’s see… Hank of course, Haggard, Willie, Paul Simon, Dylan, Lennon, Seger, Chapin, Kristofferson, Kooper,  the boss, Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson,  David Gates and James Griffin,  Billy Joel to a degree, Cat Stevens, Neil Young,  McLean, Don Henly, Greg Lake, Clapton,  Jackson Browne,  Mellencamp, Leon, Zevon … list could go on forever.

This sounds like a “Woe is me..” thing.  It isn’t.  It is fact.  Pure logical fact.

The time that I feel I can be truly me, without judgment from others, when I can find that solace that I crave, is late at night by myself either reading, watching a documentary or a movie, or lying in my little bed with the earbuds on.  Most times I listen to music, but a lot of times I listen to Supreme Court Arguments, or Kevin and Mosh, or TESD.  I love documentaries and I love movies and something by Charlyne Yi or an episode of House or one of the Law and Orders.  It is sad to think that Bruce, Carlin and Hicks are gone.  They were able to use fact, logic, and tell the truth about how crazy this world, or life can be.  A lot of the things that those three said are funny on the surface, but if you really break it down to what they are saying, it is kind of sad in a way.  The truth seems to always be sad.

My grandfather.  Oscar Laclede Hill.  The closest thing to perfect as a man can be, right?  We all look up to him and his life and what we knew about him and his wisdom.  He was far from the picture that we paint of him in our memories.  He once told me that even as much as we talked, there were things in his life he was ashamed of.  Things he would never tell another human being.  There were a lot of things that I would never know about him and that was just the way it was going to be.  I often wonder about the afternoon he told me that.  Why he told me that and what some of those things could be.  I don’t have a clue, and that was how he wanted it.  Doesn’t mean he was a fake or lived a lie, he still was a very good man, but there was that part of the REAL Oscar Hill that nobody knew, or would ever know.  I wonder if his wife even knew.

As I get older, there seems to be less and less people to look up to.  When I was a young boy, I looked up to my grandfather and my dad and a host of baseball players that I knew only from watching them on the field.  They were classy men, these ball players.  Dick Green, Campy Campanaris, Carl Yastrzemski, Brooks and Frank Robison, Hank Aaron, Noland Ryan, Roger Maris, Curt Flood and Bob Gibson, Al Kaline and Bill Freehan, Rick Monday and again, the list could go on and on.  I don’t look up to sport figures anymore.  I admire their ability and talent and the way they act on the field, but over the years the reality that they are just ordinary people that has a part of them hidden away that no one knows, has come to be reality for me.

Now who do I look up to … well, my grandfather and my father.  Some those song writers mentioned earlier who had the guts to post about reality as they saw it.  I don’t look up to politicians and especially Presidents.  Everyone is hiding something.  Nobody is fully themselves.  Nobody really knows anybody.  I suppose that is one way we all get along.  Hide a lot of ourselves so people only see the best we can put out there.  Sometimes, for some of us, even the best we can put out there is pretty bad.

I’ll tell you who I look up to.  One person I look up to is Rachel Gibson.  A fine young lady who left this world far before the world was ready for her to leave.  She was brave.  She was strong.  She kept her faith. And she comforted those who she was preparing to leave behind.  I admired that young lady long before she entered into the last phase of her life here on earth.   Now I am sure that Rachel had her faults just as all of us do, she was human after all.  But her being human was surpassed by her ability to be humane.

Another person I look up to is Caleb Hill.  Caleb is my cousin’s son.  Caleb was born with Down Syndrome which is what makes Caleb even more of a person to look up to then he would have been if he had not been born with the syndrome.  Caleb is intelligent.  Caleb is caring and loving.  Caleb is honest.  Caleb looks at life with thankfulness and lives life the way life should probably be lived by all of us.  Caleb has found inner strength to bypass the syndrome as best as he can and he does a great job of it.  Honesty like Caleb’s is something all of us could strive for, but we don’t and we won’t.

I look up to my niece Kimberly Porter, her husband Shawne and two wonderful kids that they adopted from China, Joshua and Mei.  The challenges that happen on a daily basis for Kimberly and especially Mei, would wear the normal person out and have an urge to just give up.  Not Kim though.  She is unbeatable when it comes to raising her kids and helping them face each day on a day to day basis.  Shawne is just as strong as Kim and just as dedicated to those two kids.  I admire both of them.  All four of them.

There are other people out there that I could say I look up to for various reasons.  One thing they all have in common though is that there is a part of them the world will never ever see.

Okay.  Stop and re-read what I have written so I know how I got to where I am in this thing.  Took a HUGE left turn back there somewhere.

Well, it turned into a bunch of rambling.  People do not understand why I feel or think the way I do.  I don’t either.  I try to be a good person, I try to live up to the ideals I see as making a person good, but I fall short.  We all do.  We all will.   I am not a happy person.  I find less joy in life than most people and I don’t understand it.  When something bad or not so good does happen to me, it seems to affect me a lot harder than it would other people.  I don’t understand it.  I feel it.  I know it is there.  But I don’t understand it.

There are times, many times, when I just want to go to my bed and just sleep.  Sleep more, and more and more.  Just sleep so I don’t have to deal with anything or anyone. Just sleep and let time flow by without me being aware of it passing.  Forever.