Wednesday, September 21, 2011

SMITHSONIAN COMES TO TOWN

Several years ago the Smithsonian in Washington DC decided to take a few of it's artifacts and take them on the road.  The idea was to let people who do not go to Washington DC have a chance to experience some of the nation's treasures.  We were lucky enough to have the Smithsonian make Kansas City one of it's stops on the national tour.

We got tickets as soon as they became available.  You were assigned a certain day and time to be there to begin your experience.  This was done in order to space out the arrival of visitors so that there would not be a great throng of people all trying to get in at the same time.  It worked and made seeing the artifacts much more pleasant.

They brought things from all different parts of the museum.  A few of the items I saw made more of an impact on me than others.  So here are my greatest memories of what I saw that day.

Alan Shepard's Mercury capsule.  It was the craft that took America's first man into outer space.  Although he did not orbit the Earth and the flight didn't last very long at all, it was the crucial first step in what would be one of the greatest engineering feats of all time.  That feat was setting foot on the moon in less than ten years time.  I do not remember the Shepard flight really except from what I have seen in old film footage and read in history books.  As I looked at that tiny capsule though the thought of what the space program had accomplished from Shepard's first flight up to the Shuttle program and the building of the international space station flooded my American pride.  My grandfather told me once that he had been around to see the transits systems of the world go from horse and buggy to trains, to cars, to planes to seeing a man walk on the moon.  I wondered then what thoughts my grandfather had when Shepard did his solo flight way back in 1961.

The compass that Meriwether  Lewis carried in his pocket during the great Lewis and Clark exploration across the continent was on display that day.  It was nothing fancy and wasn't very big, about the size of a small pocket watch.  My thinking went to the fact that this little compass allowed a group of men to places where nothing was known.  Each day that the Lewis and Clark Expedition started out, they had no idea what they would find and this little compass kept them on the proper course for trying to find that northwest passage that didn't exist.  It was exploring into the frontier much the same way Alan Shepard had only with less knowledge.

In one part of the exhibit there sat the chairs and table that General Grant and General Lee sat on and at to bring an end to the Civil War at the Appomattox courthouse in 1865.  I have read several accounts of that meeting between the two great Generals and seeing the chairs and the table made the pictures IN my imagination more realistic.  I had read how each man respected the other at this critical juncture of our countries history.  The Union Soldiers that were there were instructed by General Grant to be respectful to the confederates and General Lee had ordered his troops to be humble but proud in defeat.  I look at this event and can see it repeated over and over in wars that have come to an end with the United States on the winning side.  The respect that the Untied States treated Japan with the signing of terms on the USS Missouri and how we helped rebuild Japan and all of Europe after the great war.  The meeting of Lee and Grant set an example that the world should follow when war's ugliness comes to an end.  Unfortunately many countries, including the United States forget the classiness and the respectfulness of what took place at Appomattox.  I think some of our leaders should head over to the Smithsonian sometime and take a good look at those chairs.  You can learn a lot from just looking at them.

The Wizard of Oz was and is one of the greatest films ever made.  It's production and direction used technology in a way that triggered the imagination of those who made that movie.  A prime example of how things have changed was set forth with the display of the Ruby Slippers that adorned the feet of Judy Garland during that movie.  This film starts in black and white, moves into color and then ends in black and white. That by itself is some pretty useful imagination that made the film special.  The ruby slippers tell a much larger story of the imagination that was required.  The slippers are ordinary shoes with red sequins attached to them.  When you watch the film you don't see that at all.  You are told they are rubies and they look like rubies on film.  They had to figure out that these little red sequins would be able to fool the child in all of us into thinking that they looked like rubies instead of sequins.  It worked.  Today they need not even bother with doing anything of the sort.  The computer graphic age has taken the imagination that film makers use to have and put it in the hands of graphic artists who are told what it is supposed to look like and simply do it on the computer.  To me, when I saw those shoes and the sequins I remember thinking "so THAT'S how they did it."  Technology has taken away a large part of our use of the imagination part of our brain.

The one item that made the largest impact upon me though was a simple hat.  Simple stove pipe hat.  The hat has become synonymous with Abraham Lincoln.  To look at the hat you would not think it anything special.  It was not fancy but rather plain much like it's owner.  Time had taken its toll on the hat.  There isn't a lot to say about the hat except for imagining all of the places that the hat had been to and all the speeches when the hat sat under its owners chair while he spoke.  I don't know how many of these hats President Lincoln had but to me it represented the President himself.  It was at Gettysburg.  It was there when the President made his second inaugural address to the nation.  It can be seen in numerous photographs by Mathew Brady as the President went out to his troops.  It is a humble hat for a humble man.  It was there possibly as a personal comfort for the President as he went out and tried to keep this country from blowing apart.  It was worn on a head that bore stress beyond belief.  A head that was disturbed by events that happened around him.  The death of his son, the troublesome mental health of his wife that effected his own mental health.  This hat covered the head of a wise man who saw things in a larger perspective than most men could see.  He did what he felt was best for the country no matter what the price.   The final price was the life of the President, leaving the hat without an owner.  The hat then became the property of the whole country representing what this country had survived.  Although there can be an argument made for President Washington, personally I don't think this country has had a greater President before or since Abraham Lincoln.  We are left with his hat as a memory of the great man.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Patterns - Paul Simon

The night sets softly
With the hush of falling leaves
Casting shivering shadows
On the houses through the trees

And the light from a streetlamp
Paints a pattern on my wall
Like the pieces of a puzzle
Or a child’s uneven scrawl

Up a narrow flight of stairs
In a narrow little room
As I lie upon my bed
In the early evening gloom

Impaled on my wall
My eyes can dimly see
The pattern of my life
And the puzzle that is me

From the moment of my birth
To the instant of my death
There are patterns I must follow
Just as I must breathe each breath

Like a rat in a maze
The path before me lies
And the pattern never alters
Until the rat dies

The patter still remains
On the wall where darkness fell
And it’s fitting that it should
For in darkness I must dwell

Like the color of my skin
Or the day that I grow old
My life is made of patterns
That can scarcely be controlled


Sunday, September 18, 2011

CONCERTS

I wanted to have a record of all the concerts I can remember attending so far in my life before I forget them all.  So this post is just a simple list of concerts attended over the years.

Brewer and Shipley
Doc Severison
Three Dog Night
Allman Brothers Band
Marshall Tucker Band
Charlie Daniels Band
Ozark Mountain Daredevils
Starcastle
Firefall
Doobie Brothers
Beach Boys
Mountain
Reuben and the Jets
T-Rex
Renaissance
Chuck Mangione
Rick Wakeman
Frank Sinatra
Moody Blues
Bad Company
Melissa Manchester
Charlie Rich
Frank Zappa
Harry Connick, Jr
America
Jeff Beck
Jan Hammer Group
Blood Sweat and Tears
Leon Russell
Herbie Hancock
Lionel Hamptom
Mills Brothers
Danny Thomas
Elvin Bishop
Grinderswitch
Maynard Ferguson
Gap Mangione
Gregg Allman
Head East
Molly Hatchet
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Poco
Rare Earth
Bread
Steppenwolf
Tom Johnston
Weather Report
Ten Years After
Robin Trower
Ernest Tubbs

Non-music Concerts:

Howie Mandel
David Sedaris
Kevin Smith

Friday, September 16, 2011

GREEN POTATOES

When I was young my siblings and I were given chores to do.  Homework took a front seat during the week so the chore list was light during those days.  Saturdays were the big chore day.  That was the day most of the house cleaning was done as well as outdoor chores concerning the lawn care.  My parents were fairly equal in dividing the chores up between the four of us.  There were exceptions that could get you out of chores.  Having a job was one of those exceptions so there was a period of time when I would look at my two sisters and see them not having to do as many chores as I had to do.  It might just be my imagination but being the baby of the family got you out of a lot of chores as well.

There was a time when I did not have a job and I wasn't the baby of the family and it felt like the chores were really piled up on me.  Of course, I have to hand it to my little brother as he was rather imaginative in the way he got out of a lot of chores.  He best move was getting out of helping with the dinner dish washing and cleanup.  It would seem that every night after dinner he would all of a sudden have to go to the bathroom for an hour or so until the dishes were done.

I would approach the chores in of three ways.  The first way to approach chores was doing them for approval from my mom and dad.  I could attack a chore with enthusiasm and get it over with in the correct way in a timely manner.  The second way would be to not attack the chore at all but rather just let time slide by while I hid somewhere to read a book or listen to some music.  This would stretch a chore out all day at times and usually ended up with me getting my self in trouble from a frustrated mother who just wanted me to dust the furniture, a chore that ordinarily would take about an hour if you did it right, thirty minutes if you tried to cut corners or all day of you just didn't want to do it.  The third and final way was to approach doing the chore with anger.  Usually this resulted in the chore getting done but at super speed with a lot of things being slung around in the course of doing the chore.  Usually the chore would not be done correctly and would have to be redone again and there was always the backlash attitude from my parents that came with doing a chore with an angry disposition.

It was this last approach to doing chores that I usually took when having to help fix dinner.  Helping with dinner chores just set wrong with me.  Maybe it was my sexist attitude what I had when I was growing up.  I could look and see plainly that my dad never had to do dinner chores nor did my grandfather.  Dinner chores or kitchen chores were for the women.  In spite of this belief I was constantly called on to do kitchen chores or help with dinner.

There were several times when having me do chores in the kitchen turned into somewhat of a time waster.  This was one of those times.

Back in the day, companies that made cookware discovered that making pots and pans out of aluminum might be a good idea.  Aluminum was inexpensive being far less expensive than stainless steel products.  Aluminum was lightweight making it easy for to handle pots and pans while cooking or washing.

The property of aluminum that I discovered in the kitchen was that it was also a very soft material.  I guess the companies that manufactured aluminum pats and pans didn't think testing what the softness of an aluminum pot could do when test under extreme conditions.  One of mom's aluminum pans was about to undergo an extra extreme condition testing and the hands of me.

The chore was not a difficult one.  It was given to me to mash the potatoes one day.  It wasn't a difficult chore to do.  You would simply drain the water from the potatoes, add a little salt to them along with some milk and use an electric hand held mixer to mash them up.  You didn't even have the inconvenience of using a hand masher to do it like my grandmother use to.  You just stand there and let the potatoes run through the beaters until they were creamy smooth.  Not difficult and certainly not a big deal.

For some reason though it was a big deal on the day in question.  I did not want to mash the potatoes. I don't think I was really angry when I started the chore but there certainly was a part of me that did not want to do it.  I mashed the potatoes for a short while and then, per the rules, had mom come over to check them.  They were lumpy.  I would have to stand there a little longer mashing these stupid things.  I went after them a little harder hoping to get them creamy enough but the next time mom checked, they were still lumpy.  More milk was added and I was told to mash them a little longer.

I began to attack the potatoes with the hand mixer.  I would make them creamy no matter how hard they resisted.  I started going at every angle I could think of to get the lumps lined up with the beaters to smooth them out.  No matter how hard I tried though, lumps were avoiding getting broken down into nice soft potatoes.  Once again mom checked and indicated a little more mixing was required.

It was time for an all out attack on the potatoes.  I went after every bit of potato I could find.  I scraped the potatoes off the side of the pot to get them all down into the mix.  I made sure I brought the potatoes that were resting lazily on the bottom of the pot up to the top by pushing those beaters as deep as I could until they were scraping bottom leaving no little piece of potato untouched.

It was a noisy operation but I could see that it was working.  The lumps were gradually disappearing under the assault I was throwing at them.  They wee turning a creamy smooth and so I kept going at it determined that I would not have to return to this chore again.  This would be the final time I would have to stand over this particular pot of potatoes and whip them.

After several minutes of grinding and mixing and pursuing any lumps that might be left I was satisfied that we had never had creamier potatoes than the ones I had just finished with.  So with confidence I called my mother over to inspect them one last time.

I watched her face as she inspected the pot.  Yes, they were creamy, nol lumps but there was something odd about these potatoes.  She carried the pot over to the sink and dipped out a spoonful of these lumpless potatoes.  Then in a tone of disbelief she told me in a soft voice that the potatoes were green.  She said it a couple of more times in part to convince herself that what she was seeing was real I think.  She had me look at them and asked me if they looked green to me.

I looked real close and I had to admit to her that yes, there was definitively a small touch of green to potatoes that should have been white. How could this happen?  What had happened?  One look at the sides of the soft aluminum pot told the story.  That pan was shinier than the day she had bought it.  Apparently when aluminum mixes with potatoes the chemical reaction is to turn the potatoes a slightly greenish color like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.

The more she looked at them the more she realized that we would not be able to consume these for dinner that night.  She got a little irritated with me for over doing it and for not being in the right frame of mind to mash the potatoes.  I was beginning to think that maybe there was something not so safe about cooking with aluminum.

The potatoes were thrown out and we did not have potatoes that night which did not make my dad very happy.  What made him even less happy was when mom explained to him why we were not having potatoes that night.

I can't remember for sure but I don't think I got in too much trouble that night over the potatoes.  Sure my attitude wasn't the best but then again, who would have suspected that a person could mash potatoes so hard as to turn them green?  The event was never forgotten and is often pulled up as one of the family stories.  I can deal with that.  I do think that the next set of pans that mom got were stainless steel instead of aluminum.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

PLANES IN THE AIR

The company I work for sits underneath one of the airline approach paths to Kansas City International Airport.  Because of this we have as many planes flying over the building as we do trains passing behind the building.  While approaching the airport the planes come from the southeast towards the northwest at a medium elevation.  They are low enough that you can tell what airline they belong to but not too low as to be able to see any windows or details such as that on the planes.

It was a beautiful day today in Kansas City and at noon I was outside enjoying the sun and the moderate temperatures.  As I was standing there a plane flew overhead on it's approach to the airport.  Maybe it is the engineer in me or just a natural curiosity but I love to watch trains, planes, boats and cars as they travel.  I turned my head upward and watched the plane make it's way across the blue sky heading to the northwest.  That was when I realized that ten years ago today, that plane would not have been in the air.

I wrestled with whether to write about the nightmare of September 11, 2001 or not.  What more can be said about it?  It was horrific and a day that will stay in all of our memories for the rest of our lives.  When I saw that plane on approach today though, I realized that ten years ago  today there were not any planes on approach to the airport.

Ten years and two days ago, I had received a phone call from my wife telling me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  A little while later she called again saying that the other tower had been hit as well.  The first thought in my mind was the same first thought of all Americans that day.  It was a terrorist attack.  As the towers collapsed into the ground in New York City it became clear that this was a much more successful attack than the one in 1993.

As word of a plane hitting the Pentagon started to be known the terror really began to set in my mind like no other attack before.  Then came word of another plane heading for Washington DC that had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.  I came to a realization of what Americans had felt back in 1941 when Pearl Harbor was bombed beyond recognition.  Our borders had been breached and we were under attack.

Nobody knew how many other rogue planes there might be flying around the country aiming for targets that would cripple the country.  All planes were ordered to land at the nearest airport and as soon as possible.  I remember that day watching plane after plane circle in a holding pattern over the airport in the northwest skies.  Then almost before we knew it, the skies were empty.

The planes that were a normal part of our day as they flew over us were no longer there and would not be there for several days after the attack.  Each day after that I remember going outside and looking in the skies at wonderment at the emptiness that filled them.

I could write more about the attacks but everyone knows how they felt.  They felt the same way I did.  For the first time since Pearl Harbor we were truly an united country.  There was a oneness that I had never seen in the country before.  It wouldn't last forever of course, but during that time there was a feeling of being truly a part of something bigger than myself. I was part of the greatest country  in the world and was united with all my fellow Americans.

The planes were eventually released to start flying again.  It was a slow start up as the planes were spread all over the country.  Some airports had more planes then they could handle and other cities did not have many planes grounded at all.  The logistics said that the planes had to be shuffled around the country before transportation by air could be done in a proper and correct way.


The first plane I saw in the air after the attacks and the national grounding of all planes was a welcome sight.  The country would never be the same, we all knew that and it hasn't been the same since that fateful day.  Seeing that first plane back in the air however became a sign of things beginning to work their back to somewhat close to normal.

Since that day ten years ago, the country has become more divided than it was before September 11, 2001.  It has not been a good decade for the United States.  It isn't because of one policy or another, one philosophy or another or one political party or another.  Two wars that started out popular and became a dividing point for the country has slowed the government and the country to a practical stand still.

Finger pointing by citizens and our government has led us no where but backwards.  I don't pretend to understand why this has happened and I make no pretense as to knowing how to fix it.  I do know one thing.  For awhile this country was united and was strong.  That is not the case any longer and it won't be until we the people and our government can get back to working together as a solid powerful nation that we have the resources to become.

There is an answer out there somewhere.  It seems lie no one knows how to find it though.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

DEALY PLAZA

My friend Dennis got a hold of some free tickets to the Indy Car race in Dallas several years ago and we decided to make the trip to the race.  We had a friend in the Dallas area so we had a place to stay when we went down there.  Our friend also would serve as an excellent tour guide of the Dallas area.

The major site we had our eyes on was Dealy Plaza where President Kennedy had been assassinated in 1963.  Like so many people the world over I had seen film footage of the assassination over and over again.  I had seen computer models of Dealy Plaza and had a picture in my mind what it would look like in person.

Television and film can make your mind play little tricks on you.  I had seen the Talladega Super Speedway dozens of times on television and thought I had a pretty good grip on what the track looked like.  Then I went to a race at Talledega with my niece and nephew and saw how huge that place was in reality.  It was a definite eye opener.   The facility is larger than life and the back straight looks like it was in another county it was so far away.  When the cars were on the back straight you could not make out the numbers on them.

I have been in baseball stadiums that look pretty large until you step into the place and the playing surface looks smaller than Kauffman Stadium here in Kansas City.  Things just get distorted in your mind when you are constantly watching things and places on television until you step into the reality of the situation and you see for yourself what the place is really like.

We entered Dealy Plaza coming in through the triple underpass. I couldn't really recognize it too well from this angle but in my mind knew I was entering into history.  We found a parking space next to the railroad yard that sat behind the picket fence that overlooked the grassy knoll area onto the assassination site.   Walking over to the fence, I stood where many people think a second gunman had stood and fired the fatal shot that ended the life of the President.


I was stunned at what I saw.  For the first time I realized how tiny of an area the plaza was. Standing behind the fence and looking out to the street was a very short distance.  The grassy knoll is extremely small.  I thought how easy it would be to get a good shot from there.

I walked over to the place where Zagruder had made stood making his famous 8mm film of the assassination.  His camera made it seem like he was a fairly good distance from the street but in reality the man had a great view of the motorcade and was not very far from where the President was killed.

Walking around Dealy Plaza and taking a look at where the old Bookstore Depository Building stood looking over the street and you realize that even the place where Oswald was said to have hid in a sniper nest was not that far of a shot either.

As I walked around the historic site I began to notice how tiny the whole area really was.  Two side of Dealy is lined with tall buildings that sit right on the street.  The other side is where the grassy knoll lies is a park like area which is small than some of our neighborhood parks.  The grassy park like area in the middle of the plaza is not much bigger.  I began to notice something that is a standard strategy when it comes to setting a trap.

It is called triangulation and this place was perfect for setting such a strategy.  Not only was triangulation easily set up but everything was so compact that there were not any long shots that would need to be taken.  It at least gave me a reason to consider the possibility of a conspiracy in the murder of President Kennedy.

To make it clear I do not believe in the conspiracy theory.  I feel that it has been proven more than a few times that Oswald acted on his own that fateful day. But of there was more than one gunmen, I could definitely see where it would be possible and understand the conspiracy theory base points of the argument.

There were paper sellers trying to sell papers that explained both sides of the theories.  One paper gave only the known facts while most of the other vendors were selling papers that promoted a conspiracy theory of one sort or another.

There was a special tourist service that was very interesting.  They had a car just as the one that Kennedy was riding in that day.  The tour started at Love Field, where the President and First Lady had arrived in Dallas and then drove the tourists along the actual motorcade route.  When the motorcade arrived at Dealy they had a recording in the car that sounded off the three shots that were fired that day.  As soon as the shots were played, the car picked up speed, racing under the triple over pass and onto Parkland Hospital where the President was pronounced dead.

When the limousine came driving through the plaza and then started to speed up,  Dennis decided it would be cool to run out and jump on the trunk of the car much as the Secret Service agents had on that day.  It was only the extra traffic and the speed of the limo that kept Dennis from accomplishing his goal.

All in all it was a very educating experience.  It was a day I will never forget, seeing that small part of Dallas in person.  There are certain places that contain so much history that the history seems to live on forever.  Ford's Theatre in Washington DC is one of those places.  Gettysburg and Appomattox qualify in that category as well as the Watergate hotel.  Dealy Plaza lives in that group of historic places.

Tomorrow the world will remember another historic moment at a site that will carry so much history it will never fade away.  They will remember GROUND ZERO in New York City.  It has been forty eight years since history visited Dealy Plaza.  It has been ten years since the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed.  Each of these places carry their own history that will never be forgotten.



 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

MUSIC

I was raised in a house that liked music.  My dad had a small collection of records that we use to listen to all the time.  There were several Jim Nabors Albums.  Jim Nabors used to play Gomer Pyle on the Andy Griffith series of shows.  He had a strange almost dumber than reality southern accent and played the part of the almost too honest town idiot.  His singing voice however was a rich baritone that sang songs and made them come alive.  I learned to love a lot of songs from those Jim Nabora Albums.

Dad also liked Jimmy dean and had a few of his records while I was growing up.  Different from Nabors, Jimmy Dean had a calm, soothing country voice that made stories come alive as he sang them.  I remember "Big John" was one of my favorites.  One of dad's favorites was "Yes, Patricia there is a Santa Clause" in which Dean answers a little girls letter to him explaining that some of her friends were telling her there was no such thing.  In the song Dean explains that Santa lives forever in the hearts of children and grown ups every where.  It is truly a masterpeice.

When the "Jimmy Dean's Christmas Card" album came out with that song on it, my dad decided he just had to have it.  This was back when stereo was just coming into the technology scene and record companies were selling both mono albums as well as stereo ones.  I remember that Christmas season going to store after store looking for that album with my dad.  We did not have a fancy stereo but rather a huge record player that played mono records.  Our search then was not only to find that particular album, but to find it in mono.  After spending what seemed to be the whole Christmas season that year searching, we finally found a mono copy of the album.  It became a staple of our holiday listening for years and years afterwards.

My mother also had a small collection.  It was a very small collection.  As a matter of fact I can only remeber one album that we considered to be moms.  It was a Frankie Avalon record with such great songs as "Venus", "From Bobby socks to Stockings", and "De De Dinah".  Strangely enough I learned to love those songs as well and when my sister bought a Frankie Avalon songbook with most of those songs included, I learned to play them on the piano.  I think I learned them not only because I liked them but in an attempt to please my mother as well.

My own record collection began at Christmas time one year when my Uncle Dan gave our family a membership to the American Music Club.  We would get three free albums and then be able to buy future ones through the mail.  Dan picked the first three albums for us.  That was the catch.  My uncle had his own idea of what was good music and come hell or high water we would learn what good music was.  For dad he chose a Tennessee Ernie Ford Album.  For mom, Joan Baez was called for and for us kids a Peter Paul and Mary album featuring "Puff the Magic Dragon" was the prime choice.

The problem with the record club was that I didn't have any money to spend to buy records.  None of us kids really did and so the membership quietly expired after I scraped up enough money to buy two albums from the ARC.  There will be snickers here but remember I was quite young and influenced heavily by my Aunt Sue when it came to music.  My first album that I ever owned of my very own was "Here Comes Bobby" by Bobby Sherman.  He played on a television showed called "Seattle" that was based on the Broadway play "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers".  He had a good voice and did sing some good songs.  Today I own a CD of that album and still enjoy it.  I ain't proud, I'll admit it.

The second album I was able to get was the greatest hits of the 5th Dimension.  That was good music.  The 5th Dimension was a soul/pop group that had wonderful voices and a great selection of songs.  I still have the album and have upgraded to a much more inclusive greatest hits package from the group on CD.  Then things started to get serious with my love of music.

After the American Record Club membership had expired and a few years later, my sister joined the Columbia Record Club.  She had some albums that I would despise and some that would shape my taste in music for years to come.  I did not care for her Cher album but she had gotten an album by a group called The Hollies that had a song entitled "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" on it.  It was the first time that words put to music really got me thinking.  She had also chosen James Taylor's masterpiece "Mud Slide Slim".  I still consider this one of the greatest albums ever recorded.  In her selection was also a record by a little band called Three Dog Night.  This would become my group even after Sgt Peppers came out and after I discovered the Rolling Stones.

Three Dog Night could do no wrong as far as I was concerned.  I began collecting their albums myself as I grew up and almost drove my mother crazy playing those albums over and over in the house.  The one particular saong that really irritated her was a little gem called "Joy To The World".  I played that song and the rest of that album over and over and over again.  Finally I found a Three Dog Night song book in a music store and guess what song was included?  I learned to play "Joy To The World" flawlessly much to my mother's chagrin.  Truth be told though, I kind of think she learned to like the song after about thirty years of hearing it over and over again.  I would go visit them and walk over to the piano and just play the opening bars of the song, just for her.  She still claims to despise it but I think deep down there is a soft place in her heart for the song.

As I grew older more and more of my money was spent on records.  I did not like listening to the radio but would rather listen to just the music.  To find the good new music though, radio listening was almost a must. WHB radio station would print out a weekly top forty list that they would place in dime stores across the area.  My aunt sue and me would study the top forty and decide which songs were worthy of truly being on the list.  I bought albums based on that list and discovered many new groups that way.

Then I started going to friends houses and listening to what they were listening to.  Ronnie had a couple of great albums.  It was Ronnie that introduced me to Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Harry Chapin.  Scott introduced me to a few bands as well.  Those included Chicago, The Who, and the Rolling Stones.  I was discovering music everywhere until the next huge thing that effected my listening pleasure was to come about.

That new thing was called the internet.  I can not tell you how much music I have discovered on the internet that I purely love.  The internet has brought me the blues, some old rock and roll, jazz and big band music.  I began to grab every bit of music that I could find that appealed to me.  My taste in music has expanded greatly and I feel I am the better for it.  Listening to music and having a broad range of tastes and knowledge is much like reading books.  It expands your horizons.  It makes you think of different ways to look at things.

I have a lot of music.  I probably have too much music but I wouldn't trade it for the world.  I listen to it when I drive, when I work and when I sleep.  I listen to music every chance I get and I am ALWAYS looking for something new to listen to.  I know that my music education started with my mom and dad.  I wonder if they realize how those old Jim Nabors, Jimmy Dean and Frankie Avalon records effected my life and made me much of who I am.

My guess is that they don't.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

BACK TO WRITING

After taking a few days off for a long Labor Day weekend like millions of other Americans, it is time to get back to some writing on a regular basis.  It was a good summer and I found myself slacking off a bit on the writing part of my life.

I did take up a couple of other projects during the summer to help fill the non-writing time.  The biggest thing was that I finally overcame my fear of wireless and bought me this little laptop that I am working on now and set up a wireless in house network.  This has been such a revelation to me.  I should have done this years ago.  Now I can sit here and sit in my favorite chair and comfortable write and not kick my wife off of the desktop computer that she enjoys so very much.

I can hook this thing up to the large screen television and use that monster as a monitor or stream movies from Amazon.com to it.  The ease of use and set up as well as the common sense of setting it up has made it well worth while.

The other project I did came about as a result of getting the laptop.  I have decided that this laptop is going to be my stereo as well as my portable go anywhere computer.  I have been ripping all of my CD's onto to the hard drive here so that I can find any album very quickly instead of sifting through piles and piles of CD's.  I have come across some music I had forgotten I had and what a joy it is to listen to it once again.  The music always stays in alphabetical order by artist or album title.  No longer will I have lost music hiding somewhere in the house.  It will always be here at my fingertips.

As for the summer itself, it wasn't too bad.  The weather got hot for a few weeks but that is not unusual for Missouri.  The river flooded up in Iowa and Nebraska as well as northern Kansas and Missouri but again, not too unusual for the area.  What was unusual was the amount of flooding that took place and the massive damage it did to Iowa.  They have a real mess up there with roads being completely destroyed and it will take a lot of cleanup to get it back into working order.  The infrustructure took a hard it to our good neighbors to the north of us.

Then there was the double whammy tornado season.  One of my favorite cities, Tuscaloosa, Alabama was torn to shreds by a massive tornado.  My sister and her family live down there and thankfully all were spared.  I donated a little money that week at the grocery store to go help the victims in Tuscaloosa.

While the nation was still concentrating on getting Tuscaloosaq up and running an even bigger tornado swept through a small city called Joplin in southern Missouri.  Joplin was devastated as bad if not worse than Tuscaloosa was.  Again I made a small donation to help my fellow Missourians in their effort to get their lives put back together.

Still today both cities are working hard to get back to normal.  Both tornadoes affected me in a way.  I consider the people of Tuscaloosa to be members of my adopted city in my adopted state  Of course the Joplin tornado hit my fellow citizens in my home state that I love dearly.  A lot of people died and were injured in those two major storms but I can only be thankful to God that none of my loved ones were a part of that number.

Now I have dear friends and family in Texas and wild fires are sweeping across the state.  I can only hope that those people that I care so much about come out of the firestorms without being effected by them.

Another project that I took up to fill time was trying to learn how to play the guitar on my own.  I have been at it for about four weeks now and I feel I am coming along fairly well with it.  I am learning the chords and trying to memorize the fingering for them.  I am trying to learn how to switch from chord to chord quickly so that there are not any unwanted pauses in songs that I might be trying to play.  I dug out my Neil Diamond Songbook and my Neil Young songbook to try to learn some songs that I am more familiar with.

I play the piano and I ahve discovered that it is much more difficult to play the guitar.  I have a new respect for those who play this instrument that is so very rough on the fingers and the hands.  My fingers are starting to develop a thickness to the fingertips as I continue to make it a point to practice at an hour a day.  One of these days I will get it.

I made a trip to the emergency room on the July Fourth weekend after falling on some concrete stairs that lead to my basement here.  Incredibly I did not have one broken bone or major injury.  I have fully recovered from that shock to the system.

Lastly, My Aunt June passed away a few weeks ago.  She will be missed by more people than one can imagine.  She had been sick a long time and had battled hard but the time came when she couldn't fight any longer.  I admired and respected her and loved her.  She was a good aunt that I was certainly lucky to have.  She loved books and she loved music.  Two things that I understand only all too well.

Her family will have a huge hole in it that she use to fill and it will never be filled.  While she was here on this earth though, she made an impact on so many lives, mine included.  You'll be missed June for a longtime to come.

So the summer season is finally over and we enter into the fall season.  This month the United States will spend a solemn day in remembrance of a day ten years ago in which terrorist attacked the World Trade Center, The Pentagon, and a third target that was never reached thanks to the bravery of ordinary citizens of this great country.  I am not sure if I will write about that day or not.  It is a day I will never forget though.

Before we know it we will be sitting at Thanksgiving dinners around the country and start the countdown to Christmas.  The cold will arrive along with the snows making us long for the warm days of summer that we just crawled out from under.  Weather in Missouri is never stable and we always seem to long for the season that we are not in.

So I am back again dear readers.  More time will be spent indoors which means more consistent writing.  Thanks for hanging in there with me during the long summer of 2011.

Bill Clark