Thursday, May 31, 2012

For A Dancer - Jackson Browne

Keep a fire burning in your eye
Pay attention to the open sky
You never know what will be coming down
I don't remember losing track of you
You were always dancing in and out of view
I must've always thought you'd be around
Always keeping things real by playing the clown
Now you're nowhere to be found

I don't know what happens when people die
Can't seem to grasp it as hard as I try
It's like a song playing right in my ear
That I can't sing
I can't help listening

I can't help feeling stupid standing 'round
Crying as they ease you down
Cause I know that you'd rather we were dancing
Dancing our sorrow away
(Right on dancing)
No matter what fate chooses to play
(There's nothing you can do about it anyway)

Just do the steps that you've been shown
By everyone you've ever known
Until the dance becomes your very own
No matter how close to yours another's steps have grown
In the end there is one dance you'll do alone

Keep a fire for the human race
And let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know will be coming down

Perhaps a better world is drawing near
And just as easily, it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found
Don't let the uncertainty turn you around
(The world keeps turning around and around)
Go on and make a joyful sound

Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive and the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive but you'll never know


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

MY GRANDPA'S HANDS

My grandpa had a couple of the most interesting and special hands and arms that I ever saw. They were strong.  They reflected the hard work that he did on the railroad.  They were rough but he had a way of making them feel soft when they needed to be.

Those hands would work all day in a grimy dirty atmosphere working with metal and repairing the old steam engines and the newer diesel engines as his years wore on working on the railroad.  Those hands would then come home and work in his large garden most of the evening.

He was an ace with the garden tools.  He could swing a scythe all day on a Saturday without them giving out.  His forearms would fill with blood and the muscles in those forearms and biceps would harden like a rock.  He would take a hoe and and pound at the earth hitting precisely where he wanted to hit, ripping up the soil and loosening weeds without missing a beat.

He had a heavy big axe that he would chop firewood for his beautiful fireplace and stockpile enough wood to last a whole winter.  You put a tool in those hands, any kind of tool, and he knew how to use it and would make it look so easy doing whatever chore he was doing.

One day that I remember was when I was out picking up and stacking the wood that he was splitting.  I was about ten years old and the wood seemed so very heavy to me.  I watched him pick up the logs with a single hand and whip them up on the chopping block and then raising that axe high over his head, bring it down and split that log in one swing.  then he would wait for me to pick up the split wood and get out of the way before he slung another log up to be split.  He stopped in the middle of all this splitting and held his forearm out to me.  "Feel that.." he almost seemed to order me.  I reached out and grabbed a hold of that rock solid forearm.  I couldn't hardly make a dent into the skin his muscles were pumped up so much.  "That's what work gets you" he said proudly.

Then there were times when those same arms were so soft and gentle.  He would gently put a necklace on my grand mother's neck and then kiss her on the cheek so easily.  He would take grandma gently in his arms and do a little dance with her in the living room of the old house.  His mighty hands and arms holding her so lightly.

At the celebration of their fiftieth wedding anniversary, those big strong hands held my grandmother's hands with a soft touch as he recited his wedding vows to her once again.  He had that special sparkle in his eyes as he said those vows so quietly and sincere to her with those big strong hands.

He could hold a book firmly but gently as he read and educated himself through the whole of his life.  He would walk up behind Grandma while she was cooking and gently put those hands on her waist while he was looking at what she was cooking and he always kissed her on the cheek while he hold her in those hands.

When Brett joined our family, I took Brett to see grandma and grandpa right before Christmas.  Grandpa took that little eleven month old boy in his hands and talked to him almost in baby talk.  He fiddled with the bells that Barb had put on Brett;s shoes and talked to him about them.  The whole time he was holding Brett as gentle as he would a china doll.  He told Brett and a couple of his cousins "A Visit From Saint Nick" otherwise known as "The Night before Christmas."  Grandpa had a gold tooth and Brett became very interested in it.  I saw those big strong hands hold Brett's little tiny hands and let him explore the tooth talking to him the whole time.

Grandpa had a firm handshake that gripped solid but never squeezed.  It was a proper handshake that many men strive for but never achieve.

He did have one flaw on his hands.  He had lost half of his index finger while changing a tire.  He turned that flaw into a tool of its own.  He would use that finger to pack his pipe.  It was that finger that he always pointed at you when he was trying to make a point.  The half finger never held him back from doing the jobs that those strong hands had always done.  If anything, it made his hands that much more impressive.

You could feel safe when he wrapped those strong hands and arms around you.  I have never seen a man with stronger hands and arms then my grandfather's.  My dad's hands were much the same way but then again, grandpa was SO much older than dad.

Towards the end of his life, as the rest of his body began to weaken and fail, his hands and arms were not immune to the weakening.  His arms became skinny and his hands lost some of that firm grip they use to have.

But for the record, I have never seen a man with such strong arms and hands that could do what they could do and in the next second be so gentle and easy and soft, handling things like glass.

My grandpa's hands were one of his most impressive features, and I will never forget them.

Monday, May 28, 2012

MEMORIAL DAY - VIETNAM

Every year when either Memorial Day or Veteran's Day roll around my first thought goes to the men and women who served in the Vietnam War.  I know that usually the first thought is to the Americans who fought and served in World War Two and my mind also goes to them, as well as all the wars from the the Revolutionary War to the current war in Afghanistan.

Vietnam stands from the other wars in a painful and shameful way.  It was not a popular war as both the World Wars were and even though the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not particularly popular, The vets serving and dying in those wars have a measure of support that rivals the support given to our armed forces in the popular wars.

The Vietnam veterans did not have that level of support.  Even though the majority of those who served in Vietnam were drafted  by the government and had no choice but to serve or leave the country or go the prison, they faced an unimaginable hostile public throughout the term of the war.

It was one of the most deadly wars in the history of the United States.  Two and a half million men and women served in Vietnam over the course of the war with nearly sixty thousand giving their lives.  The public did not show appreciation for the sacrifices made by these men and women on behalf of freedom for an oppressed people so that they would have a chance to live with the same freedoms we enjoy here in the United States.

That wasn't the only reason we fought that war.  We also wanted to have a presence in southeast Asia to counter act the presence of China military machine that was backing the Vietcong.  Compared to the wars of recent history where we are not only fighting for the freedom of peoples in foreign countries but also fighting a war to keep terrorism from our shores.  In Vietnam, it did not seem to the public that we were fighting to protect ourselves, but basically fighting another man's fight, so to speak.

Still, even with all of that, these men and women were putting their lives on the line every day in the name of the United States.  They were dying just as the men and women in Europe and the Pacific were during World War Two and Iraq and Afghanistan.  If anything, those in Vietnam faced a much more dangerous situation being that the war was fought in a jungle area with gorilla tactics.  Just as the men and women serving today are facing a foe that keeps on coming and expect to die, so did the Veterans of Vietnam.  The Vietcong had a seemingly non ending supply of soldiers that would go into neighboring countries and attack us and then go back through Laos and Cambodia where we were not allowed to go because they were considered neutral countries.

I am tempted to get into the whole Nixon going into Laos and Cambodia and getting in trouble for chasing our enemies in an attempt to end the war, I won't.  I want to keep this focused on the men and women on the ground and in the air.

The forces in Vietnam saw some horrific things.  They had suicide bombers in Vietnam too.  The problem with Vietnam was that you never knew of you were facing friend or foe as you came across these little villages.  Want to talk about PTSD?  There must have been hundreds if not thousands of un diagnosed PTSD.  It wasn't nearly recognized as much as it is today and a lot of the Vietnam vets were not provided benefits for it.

The Vietnam vets were expected to deal with that on there own and the result were many men having flashbacks that resulted in dangerous situations after they came home.  There were not a large number of volunteers to help the Veterans coming back from Vietnam as there is today.

Coming home from Vietnam was usually not  pleasant experience.  Today if a citizen sees a member of the service in an airport or out and about they are usually smiled at and sometimes even thanked for serving our country, and that is a good thing.  It was a different story for the Vietnam service member though.  They often were ignored, and that was a good outcome for them.  They faced curses, charges of "baby killer", spat upon and just yelled at and harassed.  It was not pleasant.

I think that one of the main reasons the public reacted in this manor to the Vietnam Veterans as opposed top any of the other  Veterans coming home from other wars is that this was the first war that the American people actually saw.  There were television reports every night with film footage from the war front and a nightly tally of wounded and killed.  Night after night for ten years the American people watched this.  It was the first time that most Americans had been exposed to the true horrors of war.

In the past we were always the good guys, and the stories coming from the war were words that could not convey the true ugliness of a war no matter what side you are on.  War is an ugly and brutal thing and you have to do what you can to survive and meet the goals that you are sent there to meet.  For the first time the general public saw good Americans doing what they had to do and this included setting huts and villages afire,  taking prisoners of which a lot were women who were used to fight.

The public saw the massive defoliation of jungle areas to make it safer for the American troops to enter into an area.  A lot of times theses defoliation missions caught innocent Vietnamese in the wake and they died.

All of this and much more added to the American public's attitude towards the men and women coming home from Vietnam.

Since those days in the late sixties and early to mid seventies, we have learned a lot.  The country has realized the mistakes it made by not giving the kind of support that the Vietnam veterans needed and deserved.  The general public has taken a new attitude as well.  I think the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have helped the public realize what war really is and the danger of not knowing what lies around the corner.

My brother in law served in Vietnam and he never talked about it, not to me anyway.  He didn't feel comfortable talking about it.  After his death, I was going through some pictures with my sister and we came across a lot of pictures that he had from Vietnam.  Except for the landscape, the pictures looked much like the pictures of our young men and women that we see from Iraq.  They were there to do a job, but when they had time, they tried to make life as normal as possible for themselves.

Mistakes were made in Vietnam.  I won't argue that.  I will argue that mistakes were made in previous wars that we do not know about and may never know about.  Today we try to fight a war with cameras on the troops twenty-four seven.  I personally don't think you can fight a war with cameras looking over your shoulder every second.  War is not pretty.  Things are done in the name of war that is not considered proper in the public arena.  But you know what I think?  You can't fight a war where you do everything with kid gloves on while your enemy will do anything no matter how horrendous to kill you.  Sometimes I think they should have a press pool back behind the lines and let the soldiers do what they are there to do.

These were not evil men that went to Vietnam and they should not be remembered as such.  I don't think they will be remembered that way.  I certainly hope they aren't remembered like that.  They were just as brave as any soldier in any other war.  They were just as determined as any other soldier in any war.

I want to take this time on Memorial Day to remember all of those men and women through the history of this country to defend us as well as others.  I think of pictures of Arlington Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  I look at pictures of the cemetery at Normandy France and the thousands of lives of soldiers who went into D-Day knowing it would probably be their last day.  I remember the U.S.S. Arizona in Pearl Harbor and hundreds of men who fought the first battle of United States forces in World War Two on a Sunday morning totally caught by surprise.

I think about a trip I took to Boston and seeing A spot in front of the Old State House where British Troops fired upon unarmed Americans in what would become known as the Boston Massacre and I remember seeing Bunker Hill where Americans fought one of the bloodiest battles in the Revolutionary War.  I think of trench warfare in World War One and the poison gasses that were used during that war.

This is Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember in our hearts to thank those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to keep this country free and to help others feel the same pride and freedom that we have.  It is also right to remember and to thank those who went to war and came home alive after seeing buddies and friends killed within feet of themselves, thank them for putting it all out there and putting their lives on the line.  Thank you, each and everyone of those who served in the history of this country.

I wanted to give a special thank you to those who served in Vietnam, without a lot of thanks, without a lot of appreciation.  To those who came home to be ridiculed and not treated the way someone who has spent a year with their life on the line.

A special thanks to the Vietnam Veterans and may this country never treat members of our military service the way they were treated again.  We are off to a good start, fighting two somewhat unpopular wars now and respecting the members who come home from Iraq and Afghanistan.  We can't make it up to the Vietnam Vets, but we can still thank them.  It is never too late for that.

Monday, May 21, 2012

MIDNIGHT RIDER RIDES ON BY

I think that a little background needs to be explained here before I get into the story so that you can appreciate what I was feeling at the time.  It involves a band that made a new sound and became a band like no other.

Duane and Gregg Allman were raised in Florida eventually moving to Tennessee and landing finally in Macon, Georgia.  Their father had been murdered when they were very young so the boys were left to fend for themselves.  They picked up on music and older brother Duane became one of the best known studio guitarists around.  He would hang around the recording studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama playing for anyone he could.  You can find his sounds on albums by Wilson Pickett, Eric Clapton and just about anyone else who came to Muscale Shoals to record and that was a lot of musicians that came through there.

Meanwhile, Gregg was learning how to play the guitar himself and wasn't too bad.  He didn't compare to his brother but he could hold his own.  In the mid sixties, the brothers began trying to put a band together themselves.  They went through a lot of names with a lot of different personnel before settling into The Allman Brothers Band.  It was a big band.  Two lead guitarists, Duane being joined by Dicky Betts, Gregg had learned to play the organ, they had jazz pianist Chuck Levell , two full trap drummers, a percussionist and a few horns.

They began playing the clubs in the southeastern part of the country and developed a sound that no one had heard before.  It was a mix, a true mix of blues, country, jazz, soul, and rock.  Each song had elements of each of these sounds.  Before long the Allman Brothers Band was a staple in the south selling out halls and clubs everywhere they went.  They weren't well known in the rest of the country though and so they recorded their first two albums.  The albums sold hot in the south but was basically ignored everywhere else.

Then they came across an idea.  People were coming out in droves to hear them play live.  Could it be that they were better live than in studio?  ordinarily this would be a definite no.  You can do things in the studio that you can't do live, but it seemed that this band did not have the energy in the studio that they could bring up live on stage.  They decided to release a live album and see what happened.

"The Allman Brothers Band - Live At The Fillmore East was released in 1971.  It became a best seller almost over night and worked it's way out of the southeast and into other parts of the country.  It was a live album that would soar to the top ten within weeks.  They had found their niche.

Then tragedy happened.  A few weeks after they released the Filmore  album, Duane was killed in a motorcycle accident.  The band took a little time off then made a small tour off of the Filmore album.  They were starting to get known and arenas and clubs outside the south were starting to fill up to see this great live band.  They followed up the Fillmore album with an double album called "Eat A Peach"  They included a lot of the Filmore recordings that weren't on the Filmore album plus a few new studio recording.  While Eat a Peach did not get the success that the Filmore album did, it did make it to the top ten as well.  The Allman Brothers Band had established themselves as one of the best live acts around.  Today, forty years after the Release of "Live At the Filmore East" it is still considered one of the best live albums ever released and is the cornerstone of the Allman Brothers Library.

They went back into the studio in 1973 and recorded what I think is their studio masterpiece entitled "Brothers and Sisters"  At the same time Gregg Allman recorded a solo Album called "Laid Back" which is still regarded as his best solo effort.  He re-recorded some songs from the first two albums along with some standards.  And that brings us to the story.

I had become acquainted with the Allman Brothers when I purchased "Brothers and Sisters".  This album was full of great songs, all having that country, rock, bluesy soul sound to it.  It had become such a unique sound that it had acquired it's own genre.  .They called it Southern Rock and in the years to come many many bands would come out of the south influenced by the Allman Brothers Sound.  After hearing and loving Brothers and Sisters, I went out and got a copy of Laid Back.  I was totally in love with the music of this band.

One song in particular caught my ear on the Laid Back album.  Midnight Rider was a tune from  the second studio album that they had recorded.  Gregg re arranged it and recorded it and it was perfect.  Gregg had a rough gravelly slow blues type of voice and Midnight Rider was meant just for that kind of voice.  Dicky Betts had a twangy country type voice and his big hit that came from these two studio albums was a song called Ramblin' Man.

One day I was reading my copy of Rolling Stone when they reviewed both albums.  They got good reviews but the reviewer ended up by saying something to the effect that if you REALLY want to hear how good this band is, get the Filmore East album or better yet, go see the band live.  They would blow your socks off.  And so that is what I did.

The Allman Brothers came to Kansas City with the Marshall Tucker Band in the spring of 1974.  They were going to be playing at Royals stadium and I immediately told Barb that we were going.  One of my best friends, Larry, had grown to love the southern rock sound and he wanted to go as well.  No problem.  He would probably enjoy it more than Barb would anyway.

Barb found herself facing the fact that she was going to be going to a concert of a band that she did not know that much about and she would be alone with Larry and myself.  I guess she decided she wanted some company as well because before we knew it, she had set Larry up with a blind date to go see the Allman Brothers live at the stadium.  Larry agreed to take this blind date and so we set out on a lovely evening to see one of the best live shows ever.

The Stadium was pretty full as The Allman Brothers took the stage and opened with Statesboro Blues.  Now rock concerts in the seventies pretty much served as a full out smoking pot party.  I had been to them before and they never seemed to bother me.  It wasn't bothering me on this night either nor was it bothering Larry.

Now I'll admit that the haze of smoke that hung over the stadium that night was pretty heavy.  There wasn't any wind to blow it away so it just hung there over the crowd.  I will concede that point.  It ended up being too much for Larry's blind date to handle though.  To the shock of me and Larry, this blind date wanted to go walk around the concourse for some "fresh air".  Some fresh air at an outdoor concert????  Not only that but right in the middle of the Allman Brothers set?  I was stunned and Larry was shocked but the date insisted she needed to get out an get some air.

And so the four of us got up and walked outside the stadium.  The sound was muffled out there and you could barely tell which song was being played .... until the opening strains of Midnight Rider began.  I looked at Barb and she hadn't noticed.  I looked at Larry and he HAD noticed but what were we to do?  We had this girl who obviously did not appreciate southern rock and we were just walking around the outside of the stadium while THE song was being sang by Gregg Allman.  I could here his bluesy voice off in the distance.

We continued to walk and then well after Midnight Rider had come and gone we returned to our seats.  It wasn't the same though.  I had missed my opportunity to see Gregg Allman at his peak sing his best song.  To say I was disappointed is understating it.  To say I was a little ticked is more like it.  Well maybe a little more than a little ticked.

I survived it though.  I did get to see the greatest live band of its time perform and really just missed a few songs, one of which happened to be Midnight Rider.  As Barb and I went through life and we got our son, I began to teach him appreciation of music.  Of course one of the groups he learned to appreciate was The Allman Brothers Band.  It became a habit with me each time that Midnight Rider came on the radio or on my tape deck or wherever, I would ask Brett "Did I ever tell you about the time I missed the Midnight Rider?"  After a few years of this Barb would sigh every time the song came on because she knew what was coming next. "Hey Brett, did I ever tell you about the time I missed the Midnight Rider." and even though he would answer in the affirmative after several years of hearing the story I would tell it to him again.  I still do as a matter of fact.  He finds humor in it now and so does Barb.  Well she sees a little humor in it, not as much as Brett and myself do though.

So that was the one and only time I saw the Allman Brothers.  That was the one and only time I heard the distant strains of the Midnight Rider.  But I will never quit telling my son about the night the Midnight Rider rode on by.

Midnight Rider - Gregg Allman

Well, I've got to run to keep from hiding,
And I'm bound to keep on riding.
And I've got one more silver dollar,
But I'm not gonna let them catch me, no,
Not gonna let 'em catch the Midnight Rider.

And I don't own the clothes I'm wearing,
And the road goes on forever,
And I've got one more silver dollar,
But I'm not gonna let them catch me, no
Not gonna let 'em catch the Midnight Rider.

And I've gone by the point of caring,
Some old bed I'll soon be sharing,
And I've got one more silver dollar,

But I'm not gonna let 'em catch me, no
Not gonna let them catch the Midnight Rider.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

DEATH VISITS ANYONE, ANYWHERE, ANYTIME

Death is a fact of life.  Everyone of us will die sometime.  We don't know when.  We don't know how.  We don't know where.  It is out there in front of us though, a constant that we can not make go away.

Sometimes it is a quick, sudden unexpected death.  A slip of the steering will or a foot slipping off of a brake and suddenly Death visits.  A person could simply be walking down the street when a car drives buy with a gun hanging out of the window and discharges. Death makes another visit.

Death can be a long and drawn out affair.  Disease attacks a body and slowly eats away until there is nothing left for the body to continue to function.  It is painful to watch a person exit life this way and in the end, when we have had time to get our thoughts together, we realize that death visiting was a mercy visit.  It doesn't make it any easier to deal with, but at least we can look back and talk ourselves into believing that at least Death took the pain away from body that is left.

There are times when death visits suddenly and while one moment a person is sitting reading a paper, the next second, death has visited and shut the body down.  We talk ourselves into thinking at least death took them quickly without any pain although we don't really know if pain was present or not.

Then there are times when a person is so tortured inside, maybe body wise or sometimes mind wise, that a person invites death to visit them and do what needs to be done to get the visit they feel they need so badly.

I have seen and felt the pain left behind by all of these scenarios of a visit by death.  None of them are pleasant.  All of them are difficult to understand at the time and for many years after the event.  Nothing can be said to ease the shock and sadness that death leaves with the ones that he did not take.

I came to a time myself when I was asking death to visit me.  I still sometimes wonder when death will visit me and take me.  I know that it is not easy to understand, and even I have a difficult time understanding why my thoughts take me there.

I watched three of my Uncles and two Aunts go through a long process of facing death and trying to put off the inevitable visit that death would make.

Friends of mine have had loved ones visited by death suddenly, drawn out, and asking for a visit to themselves.  I can not comfort my friends.  I do not have the insight or the wisdom to bring words of encouragement to those whose loved ones have been visited by death.  I so wish I did possess that knowledge though.

I often wonder why and how death will visit me.  I have came to the brink of asking for a visit from death but was saved from making that invitation by special people.  Seldom do we have a choice in whether death will visit us or not.  Death makes a visit without anyone wanting a visit.  These are the visits that are difficult to understand.

About the best way to make sense of visits from death is by holding onto faith.  Faith that God will take care of those who have been visited by death.  Faith that God will take care of us when death makes a visit to us as individuals.  Faith that God will calm you and allow you to go ahead with life after death has visited a loved one without forgetting our loved ones or why they were loved ones.

Death need not be the end but the beginning of another part of existence.  Faith is the only weapon we have against death.  May all of us be able to hold onto that weapon of faith as we face visits of death to our loved ones as well as when death visits us.

I know that this isn't a very bright, funny, or interesting topic for a blog such as mine.  I felt like I needed to say something about it though.  Too often we don't think about visits from death.  In reality we should always be prepared with faith for a visit from death without being obsessed by the fact.  This isn't easy to do, I know.

I write this thinking about family members, friends, myself and the human race in general. 

Live life as well as you can because life can be changed or taken within a second in time.

WHC

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

FRESHMAN BASKETBALL CUT SHORT

A classmate of mine posted on Facebook last week a picture of the Smith-Hale freshman basketball team.  I was on that team but you won't find a likeness of me in that photograph.  I can look at that photo with fondness at my team mates looking so very proud.  They had a right to look proud.  They were good.  My season was cut short however about a week and a half before that picture was taken. This is the first time I have ever told anyone the facts behind my sudden disappearance from that team.

I loved the game of basketball.  I played in elementary school both fifth and sixth grade years.  If I say so myself, I was a pretty good ball player.  I had a decent shot but it was my defense that I was most proud of.  I played intramural basketball my seventh grade year at Ervin Junior High.  Our team wore orange shirts and I think we did fairly well although I couldn't tell you for sure.  What that seventh grade experience gave me was the taste of playing basketball seriously competitive for the first time.  The freshmen ball players coached each of our teams and there was a lot of pride between those coaches to beat each other.  It was fun and I found it exciting.

When I entered the eighth grade at Smith-Hale I did not hesitate to try out for the team.  It was a large team with many players better than myself on it.  I think I made the team because during practice one day I drove the lane hard and put up a shot.  I don't know if I made the basket or not but I do know I came out of it with a bloody nose.  After a couple of trips up and down the floor, coach Mitchell began to notice that there was blood being spread around on the court so he stopped the practice.  When I was found to be the bloody culprit, he made me sit out for a while over my protests.  I believe that coach Mitchell saw in me that day a basketball player that I could be and I truly think that he never forgot that one drive.

We went through the eighth grade season and played very well.  We were a cohesive team loaded with guards and a couple of tall centers and some strong forwards that weren't afraid to  mix it up on the inside.  This was the kind of basketball that coach Mitchell wanted to see and we responded very well.

 During the summer between eighth grade and my freshman year, I worked on basketball everyday.  I was trying to improve my shot and keep myself in shape.  The freshman team would be about half the size of the team we had the previous year so I knew I would have to really work hard to make the cut.

The former freshman basketball coach, coach Elston, had moved up to coach at the high school level and so coach Mitchell moved up to coach the freshman team.  I think it did a world of good having that move made.  We had the same coach for the second straight year, an advantage that the other schools that we played did not have.  We knew what coach Mitchell wanted and what he expected and in turn, he knew each of us and what we were capable of.  Still it was with great trepidation that I approached the bulletin board in the locker room each day to see if my name was still on the list.  Each time I checked, I found my name until the final cut of tryouts.  I was very nervous that day.  I felt like I was on the bubble to make the team.  When I got to the board and saw "CLARK" written up there with all those other fine players, I let out a huge sigh of relief.

It turned out that I was on the lower part of the "A" team and started many "B" team games.  I was put into and got to play in most of the "A" team games.  They were good.  The freshman team the year before us went to Center South for the Center South tournament and brought back a beautiful trophy.  We too were heading to Center South and were hoping to match the feat of the team the year before.  We came up just a little bit shy losing to Center South in the championship game and brought home a second place trophy.  That trophy is in the photo that my classmate posted.

We were about halfway through the season when one of my teachers approached me with some not so good news.  I did not like this teacher and I don't even remember his name.  I am not even going to bother to look up his name because I couldn't care less what his name was and I don't want it on my blog.  He was tall with blonde hair, and he didn't like me.  That is all I remember of him.  He told me that as we were coming close to the mid quarter grades. I was flunking his class.

I was stunned.  His class was mostly a composition class and I always did my homework.  He never cared for my writing for some reason though.  I remember he took points off of one of my papers because he didn't think I had titled it right.  HE thought a better title would be ... whatever.... the point is he didn't like me and I didn't like him, and now I found myself in the middle of a very good basketball season with a flunking grade staring me in the face.

I realized that there was no way this was going to turn out good for me.  There were too many paths for things to go wrong.  If I did receive a failing slip at mid quarter, then it was possible that I would be taken off of the team by the school.  If the school didn't take me off of the team then my parents surely would.  Grades came before anything in our house, even basketball.

I thought it over very deeply.  I was convinced that if I had a different teacher or if this guys eyes were not so blind towards me, I would at least be getting a "C" in the class if not better.  I thought about that and realized that it was of no use to even think about it.  What was done was done.  I would in all probability be given a failing notice the next week.  Either way, My time on the freshman team would come to an end.  It would be a cold and embarrassing end to my career in school athletics.

I did not want to have to face coach Mitchell and have to stand there while he asked for my uniform back because I was on probation the rest of the season.  He probably would let me still be part of the team, but there is no way I would be able to practice or dress out for the games.  I would just be there, in the way and embarrassed because I couldn't pass a simple composition course.

If I did take the chance with coach Mitchell and he decided that I could continue to dress out and practice, maybe just not play in any games, I still had my parents to deal with.  They would insist that I drop basketball and concentrate on my grades.  I had seen it happen before with my oldest sister.  She had brought home an "F" in History one time and had been grounded until her grade was pulled up, which took about a month.  No, if I waited on my parents then I would have to go face coach Mitchell and tell him that about my grade anyway and then explain that no matter what the rules were, I wouldn't be able to play anyway.  It was very plain to me that it was a lose/lose situation.

That is when I made my decision.  It was a decision to save my pride and not have to face anyone with the facts.  One of my friends, Kenny, was one of the managers of the team.  I decided the best way I could save face was to just quit on my own.  I asked Kenny to relay the message to coach Mitchell that I had this problem with my grade and that my parents were pulling me from the team.  He agreed to do so and so that afternoon I went straight home from school instead of going to basketball practice.

I don't think my parents even knew I had quit the team.  I don't recall them asking about it or anything.  I did work on my grades, and I guess the composition teacher must have been pleased that he got me kicked off of the team because he raised my grade in that class shortly after I had quit.

It wasn't a pleasant feeling quitting the team.  They went on without me without skipping a beat and had an awesome season.  I wasn't as important as I thought I could have been.  The events that had gone down though, soured me on school athletics.  It would be the last time I played for a school of any kind..  I did go and watch my team mates play on into high school though.  They did very well.  During the basketball part of gym class every year I would get a chance to play with them once again.  It never was the same though as being a part of a team with a common goal.

It was my pride that talked me into quitting basketball my freshman year.  I was okay with it until the year books came out.  I was leafing through the pages and came across the picture of that freshman team minus myself.  That's the way it goes I remember thinking.

When I saw that Mark had posted that picture on Facebook, all of those feelings came back.  The turning of my stomach as I realized that I wasn't there and it was my own fault.  The fun I missed out on as they headed down the home stretch of that season.

The worst part was knowing that this was now history, forever preserved in the history of Smith-Hale Junior High and that history would read that I was not a member of that freshman team.  That kind of hurts.

What started out as something to save my pride from being hurt, now hurts my pride more than it ever would have been hurt my freshman year, no matter what the outcome of getting that failing slip might have caused.

I owe a big apology to coach Mitchell for suddenly not showing up, and I owe a big apology to my team mates at the time.  I did it all wrong.  From beginning to end I messed it up.  I messed it up a little for them, but a lot for myself.  That will never be one of my prouder moments.

Man In Black - Johnny Cash

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there's a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you'd think He's talking straight to you and me.

Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen' that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen' that we all were on their side.

Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black.

Friday, May 11, 2012

MARRIAGE, CIVIL UNIONS AND THE CONSTITUTION

This is a volatile subject that this country needs to address.  I am not going to hide where I stand on the issue, rather I want to be up front about where I stand before diving into the subject.  I stand for the right of any two people to be joined in a partnership that gives everyone equal access to the law no matter what the sexual preference of the couple may be.  I do not go as far as approving of plural partnerships or partnerships with other species.  That opens up a whole new can of worms, so to speak.  Okay, needed to get that set out front so that the reader can read my blog from their own perspective knowing where I am coming from.

The way that I understand it,  my LGBT friends desire the approval of lawful same sex marriages, which give them all of the rights that a straight couple being married has.  I, personally, can understand that argument and I think it is the way that this country should hold to from a governmental stand point.  It is not my business who is in love with who and who one wants to marry.  I don't want to be told what I can or can not do in my own house and who I can live with and share my life with as well as my assets.  I don't want to have my wife barred from my hospital room because we are not blood relatives nor do I want my parents to be able to demand that my wife be barred from my hospital room for the same reason.

The problem as I see it is one of semantics.  There are two different words that can state a couple's state of partnership.  One is for the straights and one seems to be for the gays.  Right there you have a problem.  Marriage vs Civil Unions.  Straights get married while gays, in very few states, can get a civil union.  If this country were to do as it says it is set up to do, there would not be two words for the same act.  Everyone should be married or have a civil union.

I have given this a lot of thought, and I know that a lot of my friends both in and outside the church will disagree with me on this.  I think "marriage" is unconstitutional based on the first amendment.  The first amendment to our constitution reads as such :

 "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Okay the first thing that stands out is the fact that "separation of Church and State is not mentioned in either of the clauses in the amendment.  I have studied cases from the Supreme Court  of this country and listened to a lot of arguments concerning the different amendments.   The one thing that all of the amendments have in common is that they are very broad and do not have a limiting scope.  I feel that the amendments were structured loosely so that each state can mold the law into how a particular states requirements are.  In this case, the amendment prohibits the government from making a law that establishes a religion that is seen as the official religion of the government.  It also bars the government from allowing people to practice their own chosen religion."  In other words, the state can not force a religion on us and the state can not keep us from practicing the religion we choose to.

So why do I bring up the first amendment?  I bring it up because of the standard definition of what marriage is understood to be.  I used several references for a definition and they all pretty much said the same thing giving Marriage a definition as such:


"the social institution under which a man and woman establish their decision  to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies, etc. ( http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/marriage )" 

The way I see it is that anytime a member of the clergy is permitted to sign his name to a government issued license or document in the course of being a member of the clergy and the government accepts the signature of the clergy as a lawful representative of the government, then it violates the first amendment.  While the government is not saying that the religion that the member of the clergy is a national religion, the government by accepting the clergy's signature puts it's stamp of acknowledgement that the particular religion is recognized by the state.  That is my own personal take on it.  To clarify, I simply believe that no member of the clergy should be allowed to sign a state document while acting as a clergy because that makes the clergy a Representative of the state.  Ergo, any marriage whose Marriage license has a member of the clergy's signature attached to it is un-constitutional per the first amendment. 

Meanwhile the definition of a Civil Union is just as discriminatory: 

"a relationship between a same-sex couple that is legally recognized by a state authority and has the rights and responsibilities of marriage." ( http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/civil+union?s=t ) 

A civil union is a new concept that started making it's way around the LGBT community in the early nineties.  What this definition means is that a civil union is the same thing as a marriage except not between a man and a woman.   This is pretty self explanatory I think.  Simply put, any relationship that does not fit the legal definition of marriage should receive a Civil union which carries all of the same legal rights as a marriage but just using a different word.  Also, notice the lack of "religious ceremony" in the definition and yet it is not recognized by law in the vast majority of states. 

Okay, so here is my point.  The LGBT community wants to legalize same sex marriages.  Why?  Because everyone else in the country can be married with all the lawful rights that go along with it.  If everyone else can have a marriage, then they should be as well to keep things equal.  The definition of marriage, however, states that it is between a man and a woman and can be performed by a religion representing the state.   In my thinking, and I am not a lawyer by a long shot, neither am I close to being a member of the clergy, we have got it backwards.  Marriage should be written off the books because, in essence, it violates the first amendment.  

In place of "marriage" the law should be changed to allow Civil Unions instead.  Civil unions for EVERYONE.  Everyone should get a civil union certificate from the state that is signed by official representatives of the state.  All civil unions should carry the same benefits of the law no matter who is getting a civil union.

There is a place for traditional marriage though.  There is still the religious ceremony that can be carried out to publicly display the act of entering into a lawful relationship.  A minister can perform the ceremony and the couple can be recognized within their religious community as being married.  The state, however, will recognize the couple as having a civil union.

If this country does believe in the fact that all are created equal and all of it's citizens are afforded the same protection of the law, then there should not be two different words or definitions for the same action based on what a couple believes in.  We should all be allowed to the same rights as a legally sanctioned couple under the same basic law and that law, as I see it is that of Civil Unions.

So there it is.  A lot of people will not agree with me.  I may even be shunned by some people.  Barred from a church?  It is possible.  I have seen that happen before.  But you know what?  That's okay.  Like I said, I am not a lawyer or a member of the clergy.  I am a Christian though and have been practically my whole life and yes there are many in my Christian family who don't agree with me on this topic.  I respect their viewpoints, but I don't have to agree that their viewpoint is correct.

I am just writing what I think is right.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hurricane - Bob Dylan

Pistol shots ring out in the barroom night
Enter Patty Valentine from the upper hall
She sees the bartender in a pool of blood
Cries out, “My God, they killed them all!”
Here comes the story of the Hurricane
The man the authorities came to blame
For somethin’ that he never done
Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been
The champion of the world
Three bodies lyin’ there does Patty see
And another man named Bello, movin’ around mysteriously
“I didn’t do it,” he says, and he throws up his hands
“I was only robbin’ the register, I hope you understand
I saw them leavin’,” he says, and he stops
“One of us had better call up the cops”
And so Patty calls the cops
And they arrive on the scene with their red lights flashin’
In the hot New Jersey night
Meanwhile, far away in another part of town
Rubin Carter and a couple of friends are drivin’ around
Number one contender for the middleweight crown
Had no idea what kinda shit was about to go down
When a cop pulled him over to the side of the road
Just like the time before and the time before that
In Paterson that’s just the way things go
If you’re black you might as well not show up on the street
’Less you wanna draw the heat
Alfred Bello had a partner and he had a rap for the cops
Him and Arthur Dexter Bradley were just out prowlin’ around
He said, “I saw two men runnin’ out, they looked like middleweights
They jumped into a white car with out-of-state plates”
And Miss Patty Valentine just nodded her head
Cop said, “Wait a minute, boys, this one’s not dead”
So they took him to the infirmary
And though this man could hardly see
They told him that he could identify the guilty men
Four in the mornin’ and they haul Rubin in
Take him to the hospital and they bring him upstairs
The wounded man looks up through his one dyin’ eye
Says, “Wha’d you bring him in here for? He ain’t the guy!”
Yes, here’s the story of the Hurricane
The man the authorities came to blame
For somethin’ that he never done
Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been
The champion of the world
Four months later, the ghettos are in flame
Rubin’s in South America, fightin’ for his name
While Arthur Dexter Bradley’s still in the robbery game
And the cops are puttin’ the screws to him, lookin’ for somebody to blame
“Remember that murder that happened in a bar?”
“Remember you said you saw the getaway car?”
“You think you’d like to play ball with the law?”
“Think it might-a been that fighter that you saw runnin’ that night?”
“Don’t forget that you are white”
Arthur Dexter Bradley said, “I’m really not sure”
Cops said, “A poor boy like you could use a break
We got you for the motel job and we’re talkin’ to your friend Bello
Now you don’t wanta have to go back to jail, be a nice fellow
You’ll be doin’ society a favor
That sonofabitch is brave and gettin’ braver
We want to put his ass in stir
We want to pin this triple murder on him
He ain’t no Gentleman Jim”
Rubin could take a man out with just one punch
But he never did like to talk about it all that much
It’s my work, he’d say, and I do it for pay
And when it’s over I’d just as soon go on my way
Up to some paradise
Where the trout streams flow and the air is nice
And ride a horse along a trail
But then they took him to the jailhouse
Where they try to turn a man into a mouse
All of Rubin’s cards were marked in advance
The trial was a pig-circus, he never had a chance
The judge made Rubin’s witnesses drunkards from the slums
To the white folks who watched he was a revolutionary bum
And to the black folks he was just a crazy nigger
No one doubted that he pulled the trigger
And though they could not produce the gun
The D.A. said he was the one who did the deed
And the all-white jury agreed
Rubin Carter was falsely tried
The crime was murder “one,” guess who testified?
Bello and Bradley and they both baldly lied
And the newspapers, they all went along for the ride
How can the life of such a man
Be in the palm of some fool’s hand?
To see him obviously framed
Couldn’t help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land
Where justice is a game
Now all the criminals in their coats and their ties
Are free to drink martinis and watch the sun rise
While Rubin sits like Buddha in a ten-foot cell
An innocent man in a living hell
That’s the story of the Hurricane
But it won’t be over till they clear his name
And give him back the time he’s done
Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been
The champion of the world

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

RED SOX ARE IN TOWN - YASTRZEMSKI MEMORIES

The Boston Red Sox are in town this week.  After my Royals and my beloved Cubs, There are several teams that I am a pseudo fan of.  Growing up I use to love to watch Detroit, Baltimore, Minnesota, California and of course the Yankees whenever they would come to town.  Each of these teams had power players that would make you dream that if only you could be that good.

The Red Sox were a special team that I liked to watch.  And it was mainly based on the play of one player.  He wasn't a big man, standing only five foot eleven, but he was one of the greatest left fielders that I personally ever saw play the game.  Perhaps it was the name.  "Yastrzemski".  It just sounded like an old baseball name from long years ago.  He had a nickname that rolled off the tongue so easily in a time when nick names were pretty well a remnant of the past.  They would never announce him by his nickname in Kansas City always saying "Playing left field, number eight, Carl Yastrzemski."  when those words were spoken I got a chill up my spine.  YAZ was on the field.

He played from 1961 to 1983 with the Sox.  It was back in the day when a player stayed with one team most of the time.  Kansas City had Brett, Detroit had Kaline, The orioles had the Robinsons and the Ripkens, Minnesota had Carew, and Boston had YAZ.

I watched Yaz many times on television on saturdays.  No one could play the green monster in Boston the way Yaz did.  He was fast and to watch him chase down a ball was a thing of beauty.  Seldom did I see a ball get by him and he was rewarded by winning several gold gloves for left field.

He could hit too.  I am too young to have seen Ted Williams play for the Red Sox, so I am not sure how good a comparison Yaz makes to the great one, but I can tell you I have never seen a left fielder hit the ball as hard as Yaz could.  He was the last major league player to win the triple crown in the last century.  The triple crown in baseball is leading the league in Home Runs, Batting average, and runs batted in.  It is not an easy feat to achieve, but YAZ did it.

He would walk up to the plate and I could just tell something was going to happen.  He was not afraid to speak his mind to the umpires and would throw little tantrum shows every now and then.  Baseball players use to get by with that kind of stuff.  Billy Martin kicking dirt on the umpire's shoes or Earl Weaver turning his baseball cap around and bumping up to the unpire as close as he could yelling the whole time, or YAZ figuring the umpire wasn't paying attention to the plate as a strike zone measure after calling him out, getting down on his hands and knees and spreading dirt over the plate til it had completely disappeared.  No, baseball has lost it's sense of humor that it once had.. 

Of course baseball back in those times was not filled with multi million dollar prima donna's either.  These were hard core baseball players who not only played the game for money or because they were good, but because they loved the game.  Yaz certainly put on exhibit his love for the game.

He was fast on the base paths too. .... okay ... hold on a minute....

You know, I am sitting here writing this and I realize that it is sounding boring.  I am just rattling off facts about this player and there was so much more to seeing that number eight out on the field or in the batters box.  You could tell he was special.  He not only loved baseball, he loved Boston and he loved the Red Sox.  He loved playing for the Red Sox.  He was proud of the fact that he wore that uniform.  You could tell by the way he walked.

He played with a passion that a lot of players use to have back in the sixties and seventies.  Pete Rose and Yaz were almost two of a kind.  Pushing their abilities to the limit.  The passion for the game and his team and his own abilities that allowed Yaz to get down on the ground and cover home plate with dirt.

He would stand out in left field and kind of walk front and back, pounding his fist into his glove, waiting for the next pitch to be delivered and being ready for it to be hit to left field.  He was intense but relaxed.  He would wave to the people in the stadium that came to see him play.  He stood his ground against other players and the umpires.

There is just so much to Yaz that is hard to put into words.  It was watching him.  Seeing his attitude.  Seeing his concentration whether chasing down a fly ball or swinging that powerful bat.  But seeing all those things that Yaz exhibited gave me a feeling inside about what it was to truly love the game of baseball.

Oh, I would see other players that loved the game just as much, but none in the same way.  Yaz was number eight for the Red Sox.  That was all you really needed to know.  Keep your eye on the left fielder when the Sox were in the field and on number eight when he came to bat. 

That is about the best I can do to describe the feeling I had everytime we saw the Red Sox play.  I still like the Red Sox and I watch them a lot and the reason I do is because sometimes, when a ball is hit into left field at Fenway, I get this flash of a picture in my mind of Yaz, of number eight, chasing it down and making a fantastic catch.

Andre Dawson was one of my son's favorite players.  He wore number eight through all the years he was playing with the Cubs.  Towards the end of his career, he left Chicago to come play for the Red Sox and so I took Brett out to see Andre play.  Brett noticed right off that Dawson was not wearing number eight but rather was wearing a ten on his uniform.  This kind of irritated my son and he asked me why Andre wasn't wearing number eight.

"Son," I said matter of factly, "There will never be another number eight play for the Red Sox.  Fact of life."

And there won't be and that is the way it should be.  In Fenway Park they have the numbers of all the great players who played for that great franchise.  Right next to the "nine" of Ted Williams is the number eight.  Yaz's eight. It belongs there.  And when they do tear Fenway down and build a new park, the number eight will be displayed in that park as well and for the remainder of the history of Boston baseball.

I loved to watch Yaz play.  I loved to watch him hit.  I loved his passion.  I just loved Yaz and everytime I see the Red Sox are in town or see them on television, thoughts of Yaz slide through my mind, and they always will. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

THE PROPOSAL

I met Barb a couple of years before our first date.  I was dating Debbie than and I was more than happy with her. Debbie and I had been together for awhile and we knew each other really well.  Her parents liked me a lot and I was always welcome at their house.  Debbie's dad was the preacher at my church I attended and so during our years together we behaved very well.  Debbie was not your stereotypical "preacher's kid".

One night, Debbie and I were in her basement playing ping pong and afterwards sat down to talk.  It was one of those "we have to talk" talks.  Debbie wanted to loosen up her ties and one of those ties was me.  I was hurt for a little bit, but as we talked I realized that it was probably best for the both of us.  I have no doubt that her mother had a big influence on Debbie's decision, but I agreed to her request and we were able to remain friends after the split.  Eventually she moved to West Virginia with her family and I lost track of her.  I have no idea what happened to her or where where ended up but I am sure she did well.

That was in the middle of our sophomore year in high school.  Suddenly I found myself without Debbie to talk to and I reacquainted myself with friends that had been close to me for many years.  I started hanging out with the guys.  The guys being some that you know as I have written about them here before.  Ronnie, Larry and Scott and myself began our terror on the church by being the teenage boys that we were meant to be.

I took up as a locker partner a friend of mine who was a senior that year.  There was nothing between me and Val, but we were extremely good friends.  She was my first kiss and it was not a romantic kiss, but an experimental kiss.  Val had some girlfriends that she hung around a lot with while I was hanging around with the guys.  Her friends included Donna, Sheryl and Barb.

I am not sure how it happened but either Barb asked Val about me or Val pushed the notion of Barb and me together to Barb.  At any rate Val came up to me one day and pointed Barb out to me.  She wanted to know if I would be interested in going out with Barb on a date?  I hadn't thought about it but I told Val, sure, why not.  I hadn't been out on an actual date for a while.

Our first date was Barb's graduation night.  The class of '73 was having a big  class party over at King Louie West, a building that housed pool tables, an ice skating rink and a huge bowling alley.  It was an almost all night date and so we spent a lot of hours together on that first date.  Those hours went by very quickly.  I was just a sophomore in a crowd of a lot of seniors, some of who I knew, and it ended up being a good time.  By the end of the night I had decided that I would maybe want to see her again.

After a few days I called and asked her out.  It was the beginning of a life time together.  With every date we went out on, the more comfortable we became with each other.  Her dad did not care too much for me at first knowing I was still in high school for another two years while his daughter was out in the world.  He learned to like me though and eventually went with me to buy my first car.  As the years went by, I grew to respect her dad a lot.  He was a good and honest man who thought I was just a plain guy who was very quiet and didn't cause too much trouble as far as his daughter was concerned.

Of course, he didn't know about the time I got a speeding ticket in his car  for drag racing down Blue Ridge one night.  He didn't know that most of my free time was spent playing basketball and baseball instead of working.  I did have a job, but it wasn't a career job.  I was picking up trash after school at my dad's place of business.  Not a big pay check there.

Eventually I did work up into the drafting department so I was able to tell him that I had a REAL job which made a big difference in his mind.  All the while Barb and I were growing closer and closer.  She managed to make friends with the guys plus a few others.  The guys all liked her a lot.  Not once did one of my friends ask me if we go somewhere without Barb.  They loved having her around.

As that first year went by we found that we were spending every spare moment together, that is if I wasn't out playing ball which was almost everyday after work and usually most of the weekends.  She was patient with me on the basketball though.  She knew I was good and that I loved playing those pick up games all the time up at the church parking lot.

During the summer between my junior and senior years, and a little ways into my senior year, we decided that maybe we should date some other people just every once in awhile to be sure we wanted to be together.  I know she went out a couple of times and she knows I went out a few times.  I spent a bit of time with one of the guy's sister, Pam.  I also went out on a few other dates and enjoyed them to a degree.  I didn't know where everything was leading to but eventually, slowly Barb and I became a pair again that could not be parted.

As I started my senior year I began to think about how I really felt about Barb. and came to realize that I did indeed love her.  We were spending weekends together.  Spending more time with each others families.  I had to start thinking hard about where this was heading.

I gave it a lot of thought.  It was an important decision.  I was sitting out on the front porch late one night when my mom came out and sat next to me.  She wanted to know what I was thinking about.  I took a deep breath and the said for the first time to anyone, "I am going to ask Barb to marry me."  My mom was quiet for a while before starting into a dialogue with me about marrying Barb.  A lot of things were said between us that I will keep to myself here, but let me say I don't think mom was convinced that the timing was right for getting married.  As usual I didn't agree with her and decided to go ahead and ask Barb anyway.

It took me a while to get up the guts but finally one night I decided to ask her THE question.  We were sitting in front of my parents house in her little Nova.  I decided to do it right no matter how uncomfortable it might be.  I worked my way down to one knee on the floor board trying to get comfortable or at least be able to balance myself.  She was watching me asking "what are you doing?"  I responded with a "just a sec" and when I finally got in the correct position I took her hand and said those words that been said by millions of people all through time.  "Barb, will you marry me?"  I was more sincere than I have ever been before about anything  She smiled.  She tilted her head.  She squeezed my hand. and then she gave me her answer.  She looked me straight in the eyes and said "I thought that was understood....".  Well, that response kind of through me off balance in how I saw this night going down.  I worked my way back on to the seat and looked at her, and I kissed her.  It wasn't the exact answer I was looking for but it meant the same thing.  She wanted to marry me.

We told my parents and got the reaction I expected.  They were glad for us but a little concerned about the timing.

Then the next weekend I went to talk to her dad to ask him permission to marry his daughter.  It was the proper thing to do in my mind.  He was in his garage working on his lawn mower when Barb and I pulled up.  I walked up to the garage holding Barb's hand.  I shyly told him I wanted to marry Barb.  He didn't smile, but then again he seldom did smile when matters of importance were being discussed.  HE simply said "wee, that doesn't surprise me.." and he went on working a little bit.  Then he stopped and looked me straight in the eye and asked a question I never saw coming.  "You're going to finish high school aren't you?"  This set me back a bit.  I didn't know that was ever in question.  I answered in the affirmative and he said, "well, that is the important thing, that you finish school.." then he turned and went back to work on his mower.

Both the families eventually came around to accepting the fact that Barb and I were indeed going to get married and attitudes softened up a bit.  The wedding did go off very well and on our first anniversary, Barb sat home alone waiting for me to get home from playing basketball with the guys at the church parking lot.  She was a good sport.

And so even though I tried to do everything right, I did not receive one response that I was expecting in getting approved by Barb, by my family or by her dad to marry her.  The important thing is though that in spite of the surprise reactions to my questions, it all worked out.  We have been married a little more than 36 years now and it seems like we will be together until the day one of us passes.

I kept my word to her dad and we were married the November after I graduated from high school.  Been a pretty good ride with a few trouble spots that we worked our way through and will continue to work our way through.  Marriage isn't easy, but it is worth it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

POST NUMBER 300 !!!

This is the 300th time I have posted to this blog since I started it in October of 2010.  Since I have started I have received over 9,000 hits which works out to each entry being read approximately 30 times.  Personally, I don't think that is too bad, but I wish it were better.  I thought about this and it brought to mind how Paul Molitor of the Brewers must have felt like when he smacked his 3,000 major league hit.  The Brewers were in Kansas City playing the Royals and it was early September.  The season was coming to a close and once again the Royals had nothing at stake in the ballgame.  There were more empty seats then filled ones that night when Molitor passed that great milestone that only a handful of players do.  I imagine as he crossed first base and he heard the small spattering of applause that here he was at the top of his game, his 3,000 hit and there wasn't hardly anyone there to see it or appreciate it.

Don't get me wrong.  I enjoy writing and it has been good for me.  It has given me an outlet to express myself and to recall times in my life and to share them.  Posting one writing at a time and getting 30 hits per entry is pretty good.  It hasn't been easy writing 300 items though.

Since I started this blog I have introduced you to some of my Uncles and Aunts, to some cousins and to my siblings.  I have told stories about my parents and grandparents as well as my nephews and nieces.

I have shared songs that seem to speak to me with their lyrics.  Knowing that not everyone has the same taste in music as what some of the songs may be played, I included the lyrics so that who ever is reading the song can get a feel for how I feel and why this song means something to me.  Songwriters such as John Lennon, Paul Simon and Don McLean were included with many others as they expressed their feelings and experiences in song.

I have tried to give some philosophy of some of the "comedians" in my life that took the truth and showed us how ridiculous the truth can be at times.  George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Lewis Black, Lenny Bruce are but a few of these that I have grown up listening to and appreciating their special outlook on life.

I have written a few poems of my own that have been published here and a few short stories of mine.  They are a little dark, I''ll admit, but that is how I feel a lot of the time.

Through this blog I have been able to pay homage to some people that were very important to me in my life.  My father and grandfather topping the list.  I don't think Grandpa ever really knew how much of an influence he had upon me.  He taught me how to think and how to express myself in a manner that was respectful of others views.  Okay, to be honest when he would talk he would sometimes raise his voice and express concern about how the person he was talking with could ever think the way they do, because he knew that his thinking was correct.  He listened though.  He would always listen to what his opponent had to say.  That is where the respect comes in.  He would show respect to others by giving them the courtesy of listening to them even if they were wrong, which I seemed to be most of the time.  I hope my dad knows how much he has meant to me.  He taught me so many things about life.  He taught me about not giving up.  Baseball games were never over until the last out of the last inning, you don't give up because anything can happen up to that point.  Dad taught me how to take pride in my work and to always, ALWAYS do the best you can.  He also taught me that when you are employed by somebody you give them eight hours work for eight hours pay.  HE showed me that you can work through things even when the pain of working through them is too much to bear. Both he and Grandpa taught me the value of honesty.  They both taught me the value of being able to be counted on.  They taught me a man is as good as his word, and both of them lived under that rule and people could count on them.  These two men were, without a doubt the most influential people in my life out of ALL the other influential people.  I consider myself so lucky to have had them in my life.

I have shared things about my home life, both as an adult and as a child growing up.  I have shared some of my interactions with others, some good, others not so good.  I have tried, but feel I come up short, of describing who I am, How I am and why I am that way.  I have a feeling I'll be opening up a little more as I continue with this blog.

I have expressed the love I have for Kansas City, the love I have for Missouri and the love I have for this great nation that we call The United States Of America.  I have also expressed concerns I have for my city, state and country.

I have written entries and then deleted them, censoring myself or being censored by others.  I try to remember that "words mean things" and to put that into practice with every piece I write.

I have a lot of stories left to tell and a lot more thoughts to express.  These first 300 entries is only the beginning I hope.  I do appreciate all that read this little space.  It isn't very well written and certainly not the most exciting blog there is.  There isn't a lot of controversy here or a lot of excitement.  This thing is just stories of life, feelings of life, and thoughts of life.

I hope you have gotten at least a little something out of reading it as I have gotten a little something out of writing it.  I hope you stick around and read some more.  I am not use to opening myself up like I do on this blog.  It is your best chance to get to really know me.

Hopefully the next 300 entries will at least match the past 300 entries.  I promise to do my best in being open, honest and to dig a little deeper into myself to share it with those that hang around here once in a while.

Thanks for sticking with me this long.  My next goal is to get to 500 entries.  I think I can do it.

WHC