Archive for the ‘Life As She Is’ Category

Gazing Out My Window

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019

I got to thinking this morning about June 1973, recalling that by the time the month’s second week rolled around, I’d likely settled into my summer routine on the campus of St. Cloud State:

In the mornings, I’d spend four hours wandering around campus with about three other fellows employed by the Learning Resources Center (the library, in the vernacular), lugging cases filled with cleaning supplies and projection lamps. We’d spend about a week in each classroom building, moving from room to room and doing maintenance on projectors, noting as well which pieces of equipment needed more care than we could provide.

In the afternoons, I’d head to the Education Building and be a janitor for four hours, vacuuming, sweeping, washing blackboards and whiteboards, emptying trash and doing all the other things that janitors do.

The two half-time jobs were increasing the balance of my savings account nicely, so that in September I could add my funds to the vastly larger sum my parents were contributing to my college year in Denmark. In June, that September departure still felt a little distant, though I increasingly found myself gazing out my bedroom window during the nighttime hours, wondering what I would find in Denmark and how it would all feel. As it turned out, very little of my nocturnal imaginings came close to the Danish reality.

As I sat at the window during those nighttime reveries, I’d have my clock radio playing low, probably tuned to WLS out of Chicago. As it happens, the collection at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive has a copy of the station’s Solid Rock Music survey released on June 11, 1973, forty-six years ago today. Here’s the top ten there:

“My Love” by Paul McCartney
“Pillow Talk” by Sylvia
“Daniel” by Elton John
“Frankenstein” by the Edgar Winter Group
“I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby” by Barry White
“Hocus Pocus” by Focus
“Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)” by George Harrison
“Playground In My Mind” by Clint Holmes
“One Of A Kind (Love Affair)” by the Spinners
“Right Place, Wrong Time” by Dr. John

The only one of those I don’t recall hearing as frequently as its position might indicate is the record by Sylvia. And the only one of those I would never want to hear again is the record by Clint Holmes. (I disliked “Playground In My Mind” from the moment I heard it, and I disliked it even more after there had been a self-made disaster in my life involving a girl named Cindy.)

The other eight, I liked, although the yodeling in “Hocus Pocus” had a short shelf life.

I should note the presence of “Right Place, Wrong Time” by the recently departed Dr. John. I loved the record, just as I came to love the bulk of the good doctor’s work through the years. (There were a few albums and tracks over the years that left me wanting, but only a few.) And I was lucky enough to see Dr. John in 1989 as a member of the first iteration of Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band. So the news of his passing last week was another grief-bearing reminder that time is getting short – short for my generation, yes, but even more so for the generation that preceded us and brought us our music. I won’t write much about him after this, as I’ve read too many tributes in the past few days to separate my thoughts from the things I’ve read, but I’m doing the second-best thing a music lover and writer can do: I’ve put Mac Rebennack’s work on heavy rotation here this week.

Back to WLS’ Solid Rock Music from forty-six years ago today and a few other favorite singles from the time:

No. 16: “I’m Doin’ Fine Now” by New York City
No. 18: “Shambala” by Three Dog Night
No. 27: “Diamond Girl” by Seals & Crofts
No. 31: “Natural High” by Bloodstone

And we’ll close with the record that was at No. 13 on WLS that long-ago week, a record by another now-departed performer who was also on stage with Ringo Starr in 1989. Here’s “Will It Go Round In Circles” by Billy Preston.

Saturday Single No. 644

Saturday, June 8th, 2019

I’m only briefly here today, as we’re taking a short excursion. We’re heading to a nearby casino to take in a show by Rob Thomas, who records on his own and as the lead singer of Matchbox Twenty (although as the band has not released a new album since 2012, I’m not certain if it’s still a going concern).

Anyway, we’re heading out to play.

Here’s the track that introduced me to Matchbox Twenty back in 2000, when the Texas Gal was still in Texas, I was still in south Minneapolis, and we were beginning to put together what has turned into the essential pairing of my lifetime. Here’s “If You’re Gone.” It’s on the group’s album Mad Season, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

How Many Junks?

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

Summer – in a cultural sense – starts this week, the last days of May. (In a meterological sense, summer starts with the solstice, which will take place here in the American Midwest at 10:54 a.m. on Friday, June 21.) But these days of dwindling May have been disappointing, with too many clouds and too much rain and very few sunny days.

And that’s been a problem, as the Texas Gal has taken this week off from work, and we’d like to play in the sunshine. (Well, it was just as well that yesterday was kind of ooky, as we both had dental appointments and neither of us – especially she – wants to waste a nice day with the mundane unpleasantness of that.) Today, however, promises better times with a high temperature of about 75 (Fahrenheit) and – if I am reading the forecast on my phone correctly – at least dappled sunshine for the day.

So we’re going to go play in a few hours, starting with a lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. Then we’re going to wander a little ways from St. Cloud, looking for antique stores or junk shoppes that we have not visited recently. How many junks we buy depends on both our moods and our assessments of our wallets.

I had thought about dropping in here a song with “summer” found somewhere in its title, but the last sentence of that last paragraph pushed me in a different direction. Here’s Paul McCartney’s lovely brief ballad “Junk.” It was written in India in 1968 and was passed over for inclusion on the White Album and Abbey Road, finally seeing release on the solo album McCartney in 1970.

Saturday Single No. 642

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

Here’s a piece that ran here in October 2015. I’m running it again today because of the number in the heading above. As you’ll see lower down, the minor mystery has been solved.

My sister and I had one of those “oh, my” moments last week at Mom’s storage unit when we found Dad’s alarm clock in a box of stuff. Every night he was home during his more than forty-six years on Kilian Boulevard, Dad had wound the little brown clock – Westclox? Timex? I don’t recall right now – and checked the alarm before setting it back on the nightstand and turning off the light for the evening.

It was that brown alarm clock that had started our weekdays during the school year, waking Mom and Dad at 6 a.m. They’d get dressed, and then Dad would rouse my sister and me while Mom headed downstairs to make breakfast for all of us.

When my second year of college started in September 1972, after my sister had decamped during the summer for marriage and a life in the Twin Cities, my mom decided to sleep in most mornings. That meant it was just Dad and me during the early morning, getting ready for our days across the river at St. Cloud State. He’d rise and dress, then wake me, and both of us would head out the door and drive off right around 7 a.m., he in his 1952 Ford and me in the 1961 Falcon I’d just inherited from my sister.

And for some reason, as the college quarter started during September 1972, Dad began waking me exactly at 6:42 a.m. Every day. Why that exact minute? I have no idea. But for some reason, that minute mattered.

There were days when I wasn’t quite sleeping, having surfaced from slumber to a half-waking state (a place between dreams and reality that I find quite pleasant), and I’d be aware of Dad standing next to my bed. Moments later, I’d hear the very faint click as the plastic tile in my clock radio flipped down, changing the time from 6:41 to 6:42, and Dad would shake my shoulder gently.

I’d nod, he’d head down the stairs to the kitchen, and I’d get out of bed and prepare for the day. By that time, neither of us ate breakfast at home, but when I got down to the kitchen, there would be a small glass of V-8 Juice and a larger glass of milk at my place at the table. I drank them standing up, and we’d head out.

And that’s how I started pretty much every school and work day from the autumn of 1972 until I moved away from Kilian Boulevard during the summer of 1976 (my time in Denmark excluded, although even there, I was an early riser). I never knew the significance of 6:42, and I never asked. I once mentioned it to my sister, and learned that before she left home, she was the 6:42 riser, with me following. Our conversation went elsewhere, so I never asked her the significance, if any, the minute had.

And I suppose I could have asked her last week, as she and I stood in the storage unit, looking at Dad’s clock with memories whirling in our heads. I didn’t think to do so.

She held up the clock and looked at me, as if to ask what to do with it. I shrugged; there are only so many things one can keep. She shrugged, too, and she placed Dad’s alarm clock into the box of things destined for an antique store.

In the time since I wrote this, I’ve asked my sister: Why 6:42? She said that she and Dad had learned that her rising at 6:42 gave her just enough morning preparation time to be ready to leave the house at 7 a.m. “That’s the only significance it had,” she said. And after my sister left Kilian Boulevard for her married life, I unknowingly inherited her schedule. As prosaic and utilitarian as that might have been, any time I see those three digits – whether as 6:42 or 642 – they bring me back to a time when I was much younger and my Dad was still here, winding his alarm clock every night.

And here’s an appropriately titled tune from the late Richie Havens: “Younger Men Grow Older.” It’s from an even more appropriately titled album, 1971’s Alarm Clock.

Time

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

A Facebook friend of mine posted this morning a photo of herself and her daughter from some decades ago, noting that, “Lately, the years of my life seem to be flying by so much faster. Telephone poles whizzing by my train window, the scenery just a blur.”

I understand, though I did not always. I’ve told the story before, back in 2007:

During my college days – it must have been in 1975 – Mom was away for a few days, and Dad and I were batching it. One evening, we headed downtown to the House of Pizza – without question my all-time favorite pizza place – for dinner and a couple of beers. As we sipped our beers after dinner, the conversation turned to the passage of time.

“You know,” he said, “for someone your age” – I was twenty-one – “time seems to go slowly. As you go on, you’ll see that it begins to speed up. And by the time you get to be my age” – he was fifty-five – “it begins to move so rapidly that the years just fly, and it’s hard to keep track of it.”

I’m sure I nodded, not comprehending. He’d had a heart attack the previous autumn, and it could be that he was feeling that first chill of mortality. Maybe not. But something spurred him to talk for one of the few times I recall about how he felt about at least a part of his life. And I guess that’s why it’s such a clear memory.

As it turned out, Dad had another twenty-eight years left. I’ll turn fifty-four next week, just one year younger than Dad was that evening when we had pizza and beer. . . . I have no conclusions to draw, just the observation that my father was right, and the days and months and years seem to be accelerating, carrying me and those I love along.

I’m sixty-five now, and each of the eleven years since I wrote that has flown more rapidly yet, sweet years flitting past. I never got the chance to tell Dad he was right.

A search for “time” among the 77,000-some tracks in the RealPlayer pulls up more than 2,800 results. That includes artists’ names and album titles, of course, so some of those go away. But there are plenty of tracks still from which to choose.

Having waded through about half of the options, I came across a song called “Of Time And Rivers Flowing” that showed up in 1998 on the album Where Have All The Flowers Gone – The Songs Of Pete Seeger. I’ve never mentioned it, which I find a little odd, as the performance on the tribute album came from Richie Havens.

Of time and rivers flowing
The seasons make a song
And we who live beside her
Still try to sing along
Of rivers, and fish, and men
And the season still a-comin’
When she’ll run clear again.

So many homeless sailors
So many winds that blow
I asked the half-blind scholars
Which way the currents go
So cast your nets below
And the gods of the moving waters
Will tell us all they know.

The circles of the planets
The circles of the moon
The circles of the atoms
All play a marching tune
And we who would join in
Stand aside no longer
Now let us all begin.

We can stand aside no longer
Now let us all begin.

Taking Time

Friday, May 10th, 2019

I haven’t been entirely lazy during the last week. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’ve been scanning old family pictures that my sister and I have found in various boxes, spending a couple hours each day at the desk sorting out the in-focus shots from those more fuzzy.

Along with that, I’ve been attaching the occasional scanned photo to the pages of appropriate relatives at my family tree at Ancestry.com, where I’ve been digging for a while.

The one thing I have not done this week is anything regarding blogging, whether about music or anything else. I general write early in the morning, but this week I’ve been sleeping in, perhaps because I still need down time. After all, the doctors did say when I had my surgery in January that, although I could resume normal activities in April, it would be about a year before I’d be fully recovered. And I do tire easily.

So I took a week for me. And in the past few days, I’ve been thinking about what I might write about when I come back to this space. I’ve got no major plans for today. I have an idea for tomorrow’s Saturday Single. And I think that next week, Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny and Richard and Linda Thompson will be featured here at least once, as I don’t think I’ve ever written much about them.

But for today, I’m just happy to open the file and put down some words. As for music, I took a look at the Billboard Hot 100 from fifty years ago today – May 10, 1969 – and found at No. 100 a record I featured here a little more than eight years ago, which is an eternity in blog time. Here’s Wilson Pickett’s not-entirely-successful cover of Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild,” which peaked at No. 64.

‘And they’re off!’

Friday, May 3rd, 2019

DerbyI’m not sure when I got the game. I might have been twelve. But at some store – Woolworth’s? Kresge’s? I don’t remember – I saw the Kentucky Derby Racing Game and wanted it enough to either wheedle its price out of one of my parents or pay for it with my own limited funds. (More likely the former.)

It really wasn’t much of a game, as a glance at the photo above reveals. The winner was the horse whose number came up on the spinner fifteen times. No favorites, no dark horses, no upsets. Just spins of a plastic arrow. I played it frequently for a while, then sporadically for a longer while, then not at all.

Eventually, it sat in a closet at the house on Kilian Boulevard waiting for its now-adult owner to deal with it. I think it was among the toys I took to a dealer at an antique mall out by the freeway a year or so after Dad died.

What did intrigue me about the game were the names of the seven horses: Swaps, Needles, Iron Liege, Tim Tam, Tomy Lee, Venetian Way, and Carry Back. Those, I learned after some time playing the game, were the winners of the Kentucky Derby from 1955 through 1961. Earlier versions of the game – and it seems to date back at least to the 1930s – seem to have had only five horses (based on listings at Ebay) and, of course, differing rosters of horses, including Citation, Seabiscuit, Whirlaway, Gallant Fox and likely more.

And I became fascinated for a time with the act of naming thoroughbred horses. The names seemed so odd and random. And since I was also deeply into naming sports teams (and designing their logos) in those days – a hobby I’ve mentioned before – I began compiling a short list of horse names. That list is long gone, and I recall only one of the names: Walter’s Warrior. (Even at 14 or so, I was a major fan of alliteration.)

I still find the breeding and naming of thoroughbreds interesting. I spent some time the other evening digging into the breeding line of this year’s Kentucky Derby favorite, Omaha Beach. (The horse was scratched from the race – and the other two Triple Crown races – yesterday because of a throat ailment.)

And I’m currently reading Christopher McGrath’s book Mr. Darley’s Arabian, which details the long lineage of a horse brought to England from Aleppo (in today’s Syria) in the early 1700s, a horse that McGrath says is the ancestor of nearly every thoroughbred raced today in England, North American and Australia. (Two other Arabians were also in the genetic mix early, but those lines, McGrath says, have nearly faded away.)

Beyond my general curiosity about a wide range of things, I know that one of the things that got me interested in thoroughbred racing, lineage and names was discovering the names of those seven horses in my Kentucky Derby Racing Game years ago. (The saga of Secretariat when I was nineteen did not hurt, either.) I don’t know if newer versions exist of the game (either as a board game or digital doodad), but it’s nice to think that some urchin somewhere will someday open a racing game that features Orb, California Chrome, American Pharoah, Nyquist, Always Dreaming, and Justify along with the winner of tomorrow’s 145th running of the Kentucky Derby.

Keeping to the topic (in terms of the title, at least), here’s Little Richard with “Last Year’s Race Horse (Can’t Run In This Year’s Race).” It was originally intended for the unreleased 1972 album Southern Child and showed up on the 2005 release King of Rock & Roll: Complete Reprise Recordings.

Saturday Single No. 638

Saturday, April 20th, 2019

As I’ve mentioned before, my sister and I have many boxes of stuff taken from the house at Kilian Boulevard to sort through. Most of those are at my sister’s home: In the months after Dad died and before she moved out to a patio home in Waite Park, Mom would send box after box with my sister to the Twin Cities’ suburb of Maple Grove to sort through someday.

Once the Texas Gal and I were living in the house on the East Side and Mom was in assisted living, she and I would go out to her storage units and she’d send boxes with me. By the time Mom was gone there was a pile of about fifteen boxes – mostly full of photos and genealogical materials – in my storage spaces, as well.

For numerous reasons, my sister and I hadn’t done much sorting over the winter. But the other day, she came up from Maple Grove, and we went through a couple of boxes. We found lots of photos, some shot by my dad, and others mailed over the years to Mom and Dad. We kept those of people we know, and I’m scanning them, with plans to make CD’s for our cousins.

We found some interesting things that might matter to the right audience. For instance, we found a high school annual-sized book detailing the history of the small town of Lamberton, Minnesota, where my grandparents lived – first on a farm and then in town – for forty years. I made a call this week to the Redwood County Historical Society, and the fellow I talked to said he knows about the book, but the only copy the group has is kind of beaten up. I told him I had a near-mint copy for him. He said that when I send it, I should include a page or two detailing my connection to the book and to Lamberton and include as detailed a list of ancestors as I can.

And then there was Dad’s stuff related to his college career, both as a student and a faculty member: his diplomas for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, several of his annual contracts, magazines with pieces he’d written about audio-visual education. I took it over to St. Cloud State’s archivist and spent most of an hour going through it. A lot of it will go into the file they keep there for Dad; some of it will go elsewhere in the archives as appropriate, and some, he said, they might not need.

And come Monday, after a week that didn’t quite go as expected. I’ll get back to sorting and scanning photos and then tying those photos to the appropriate pages at Ancestry.com as I dig further and further into my history (and that of the Texas Gal, too).

So I’ve been dealing – and will continue to do to box-by-box for some time – with history. That’s one of musician Al Stewart’s favorite topics, too, and he approaches it in a different way in his song “Tasting History.” It’s from his 2000 album Down In The Cellar, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Preparation Time

Thursday, April 18th, 2019

Over the past few weeks, as I’ve become more active, I’ve been running more and more errands, resuming one of my roles that was transferred to the Texas Gal in the weeks after my January surgery, And as has long been my habit, as I drive around town, I listen to full CDs by favorite performers. And the focus for the past couple weeks has been the music of the Freddy Jones Band.

A note here: Those duties have been temporarily interrupted by an early Wednesday morning visit to the Emergency Room. What I feared was a serious problem turned out to be a much-less-major concern, but the medical tests to determine that have left me fatigued and in some pain (compounded by the ongoing recovery from January’s back surgery). Still, I feel much better today than I did yesterday, and I assume that by the beginning of next week, I’ll be back on the errand trail with the Freddy Jones Band keeping me company.

As I noted once before here, I am likely one of the few people with a complete set of albums by the Freddy Jones Band. (Eight CDs from 1993 through 2015, one of them a compilation. There may be a stand-alone single or two that I do not have.) Why? Well, for a couple simple reasons: I like the band’s rootsy and generally happy sound. And that sound takes me back to the 1990s, the bulk of which I spent on Pleasant Avenue in south Minneapolis.

My main radio station during those years was Minneapolis’ Cities 97, playing an eclectic mix of mainstream rock, and several early tracks by the Freddy Jones Band came through my stereo speakers on quiet evenings: “Hold On To Midnight,” “In A Daydream,” “One World” and likely a few more.

Some of the music that pulls me back to those years from 1992 into 1999, tunes from other performers, is a little moody and reminds me of the less happy times I spent there. But the tunes of the Freddy Jones band remind me of the good things, the joys I found living in an urban environment: The butcher shop and barbershop I frequented on Thirty-Sixth Street and the nearby Vietnamese restaurant; Mojo’s coffeehouse on Grand Avenue, just a block away; and five blocks north (for the first few of those seven years, then a little bit farther away), Cheapo’s, the used record store where I spent inordinate amounts of time and money during those seven years.

And since one of the purposes of music in my life is to cement my memories in place, it’s been a little reaffirming to be reminded that the years I spent on Pleasant Avenue were not all lost time. I sometimes look back at those years and grieve for what I see as time spent trying – with only a little success – to figure out where I fit into the world. And then I think about a line I wrote in a song for a friend in the past year or so: “Time away is not time lost, and seasons always turn.”

So when I hear the Freddy Jones Band as I go about my errands, I realize that those years were better than I sometimes remember, and, if nothing else, they were preparation for the sweet years I’ve lived since. And that makes the Freddy Jones Band even more important to me.

Here’s “One World” from the band’s 1993 album Waiting For The Night, written by the group’s Marty Lloyd.

On the gypsies avenue tonight
Hundred lairs seem like a thousand candle lights
I do not read what the signs they have to say
In my soul there are riches locked away

One world within, one heart is beating still today
An open road, one love can carry you away

If you lost all of your obsessions
Could you part or would you cling to be your possessions?
I do believe in a sweet imagination
An open road paved by inspiration

One world within, one heart is beating still today
An open road, one love can carry you away

So many thorns wrapped around your ankles
Pretty gold that is taken by the banker
But I believe in a sweeter than sensation
An open path that’s not choking with temptation

One world within, one heart is beating still today
An open road, one love can carry you away
One world within, afraid of the gold
Unlock the doors in anger with the keys you hold

One world within, afraid to be sold

And the thorns around your ankle
Makes you bleed and bleed and bleed in gold

One world within, one heart is beating still today
An open road, one love can carry you away

Saturday Single No. 637

Saturday, April 13th, 2019

Last evening we attended a local production of Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the first production written years ago by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. It was lively, fun, well-done, and a good time. And it got us home relatively early as these things go, about 10. That gave us time enough to stay up late.

So after settling in, we watched a couple episodes of Season Six of Game of Thrones in advance of the premiere of Season Eight tomorrow evening. We watched a couple more this morning before beginning our Saturday chores. We might finish Season Six before tomorrow evening, but we won’t have time for Season Seven. That’s okay, as it’s still relatively fresh in our memories, I think.

Anyway, along with frittering away our time on fantasy, we’ve been keeping the household running. I’m doing more these days than I have since early January, although there are some tasks I cannot yet resume. I keep trying to remind myself as I sit at the computer or sit on the couch that healing of any kind – physical or emotional – takes time. I’d kind of forgotten that.

So, three paragraphs, all mentioning time. That’s a cue. The RealPlayer has more than 2,800-tracks that come up in a search for “time.” As usual, some go by the wayside, like all of Ronnie Aldrich’s All-Time Piano Hits and Big Maybelle’s Saga of the Good Life & Hard Times as well as everything but the title track from Anne Briggs’ The Time Has Come and many more.

Still, as one might expect, there’s a lot to work with. And I run across an easy listening version of “It’s Going To Take Some Time” by the Button-Down Brass (featuring the “funky trumpet” of Ray Davies). The song, written by Carole King and Toni Stern and first released in 1971 on King’s album Music, showed up here eight years ago when I waded through King’s work in the wake of my Ultimate Jukebox. Other than that, it’s been ignored.

Along with those two versions, the RealPlayer also offers the Carpenters’ cover of the tune, which went to No. 12 in 1972, the only version of the song ever to reach the Billboard Hot 100. (The Carpenters’ record also went to No. 2 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart.)

Now, I once referred to the Carpenters as sitting on the softest end of the pop-rock couch or something similar, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like their work, or at least some of it. And Karen Carpenter’s voice was a thing of beauty. So for all of the above reasons, here’s “It’s Going To Take Some Time,” today’s Saturday Single.