Archive for the ‘Life As She Is’ Category

Saturday Single No. 578

Saturday, February 17th, 2018

I’ve hated change all my life.

Well, most of the time. When I’ve traveled, I’ve enjoyed seeing, doing, experiencing new things. Traveling was different.

But when I am home, I like my life, my days to be orderly. Even a minor change puts me off-kilter. Case in point: Monday is laundry day. When there’s a Monday holiday, I usually end up doing laundry on Tuesdays, and the whole week feels out of whack.

I know, I know. This is one of those things we call a first-world problem. But it’s true: Even the slightest change in my routines and patterns leaves me feeling out of place.

And here comes a major change as we move from our house on the East Side to the condo on the North Side.

(The truck comes Monday. I think we’ll be ready, although we have two very long days of work ahead of us, work I will get to as soon as I finish here.)

One would think that I’m apprehensive or put off balance by the prospect of moving, of going through one of the major changes we can have in our lives. Well, I was. For the past several years, as the Texas Gal has talked about finding a new place, I’ve been skittish. I’ve loved living here on the East Side, here with the thirty-four oak trees and the garden and the squirrels and the lilacs. Especially the lilacs.

But I’ve come to realize that my skittishness was when we talked about finding an apartment, some place that wasn’t ours. I didn’t want to leave my house, the place where I’d felt at home probably more than any other, for just another place that would feel temporary.

As soon as the Texas Gal brought up the idea of buying a place, there was a shift in me, one I didn’t see coming. Of course, I never saw our owning a place coming, either. And when we decided on the condo on the North Side, there was a major shift. I won’t say I looked forward to the packing, the work of moving, but the move itself, the idea of a place that was ours, felt right.

A little less than ten years ago, when we moved from the adjacent apartments into the house, I wasn’t sure it was the right thing. We were cramped, yes, but . . . well, I was set in a place and I knew where things were and all that. But moving to the house here under the oaks turned out to be the right thing. And I think our move to the North Side will be the right thing.

I think that’s been obvious in some of my work here. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago:

I know that it’s going to take some time, even after we move, for the condo to feel like home. Every move I’ve ever made – and this move will be my twenty-first since I left Kilian Boulevard during the summer of 1976 – has found me slowly acclimating to each new place, living there for maybe a month or two before it felt like home. There will be no “eureka” moment, I know, just an eventual recognition that the new place on the North Side is where we belong.

And it’s taken a couple of weeks since then to realize that for the first time in my life, I’m looking forward to a major change, and that’s something new for me, a reflection of a change in me that I never saw coming. And that’s an appropriate place to end this last epistle from the East Side.

Here, with their cover of one of Phil Ochs’ most lovely songs, are Ian & Sylvia with “Changes.” It’s from their 1966 album Ian & Sylvia Play One More, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Listen To The Wolf

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

Looking for a tune with the word “moving” in its title – trying to match our reality with a post for today – I came across Howlin’ Wolf’s “Moving.” It’s a basic Wolf joint, and I wondered as it played: How many Howlin’ Wolf tracks sit on the digital shelves?

The answer turns out to be 149, ranging temporally from some sides recorded to the RPM label in West Memphis, Tennessee, in 1951 to “Moving,” a track from The Back Door Wolf, which was released in 1973, just three years before the Wolf laid down his harp. The track, like many others on the digital shelves, came from the box set Chess put together in 1991.

And since we are moving, and because I have some duties along that line today – we are making progress, but Monday’s arrival of the moving van looms large – I’ll just offer “Moving” here and get out of the way. I hope to offer a post on Saturday, but we’ll see how things go.

Nervous Cats

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

The catboys are nervous. Their world is changing every day.

Boxes now block their preferred running paths through the house. The little enclosed cat bed on the sofa, which all three have normally used at one time or another throughout the day, is gone (taken to cushion something fragile when it was packed in a box).

Their world is disrupted, and they are, as I said, nervous. During the evenings, when the Texas Gal and I sit in the living room and watch TV (with me peering at the screen over a pile of boxes that will go to the Friends of the Library bookstore), all three cats come to us for lap time. That’s not new for Little Gus (who long ago gained enough excess weight to make his name ironic instead of cute), and not entirely new for Cubbie Cooper, but it is a new behavior for Oscar Charleston, whose preferred mode of contact with me until recently was “chase me until I fall down as if I’m exhausted, and then you may pet me.”

He hasn’t entirely given up the chase – or his rolling on the laundry rug in the basement until he’s so cute I have to pet him – but more often these days he paws at my leg as I sit in the living room, and once I’ve lifted him to my lap, he settles down quietly, as if seeking reassurance that there are still some certainties in his feline world.

We think they’ll like the new place. It will take some getting used to, and there will be some new – and thus unfamiliar – things. (Case in point: The makings of three beds – frames, box springs and mattresses – were delivered yesterday.) But many of the things that made up their home here on the East Side will be in their new place on the North Side.

And they’ll get their new home in one swoop: Early on February 19, moving day, we’ll be taking the three catboys to a pet spa just east of St. Cloud. Once the move is done – and Connor the mover estimates that it will take four to six hours to get everything moved and then unloaded at the new place – we’ll retrieve the cats.

Cats are notorious for being set in their ways. (I am the same, so I understand their anxiety.) Any change in their routine or their surroundings can distress them; the degree of distress depends entirely on the personality of the cat. We’re not too concerned about Oscar or Cubbie; they’re generally pretty mellow. Gus, on the other hand, is pretty insecure, and we expect that he may find a hidey-hole in the new place for a few days, coming out only when necessary. We’re pretty sure that when he learns that there are no monsters in the new place, he’ll settle in like the other two and once more be a happy cat.

And for a tune
today, we’re going to dip into the massive rockabilly/country compilation titled “That’ll Flat Git It,” where we find the McCoys’ “Full-Grown Cat” from 1958. The McCoys were Ronnie and Peggy McCoy, evidently brother and sister, and they recorded at least two singles for RCA Victor. The site Rockin’ Country Style notes that the McCoys were regular performers on Dallas’ KSKY in 1956 and regulars during 1959 on the Cowtown Hoedown that was broadcast on Fort Worth’s KCUL.

Saturday Single No. 576

Saturday, February 3rd, 2018

Let’s go back to 2007: After flailing around for a couple weeks in January and a couple of days in February – ripping LPs and a few singles to mp3s and then trying to figure out what to say about them – I stumbled across what I really wanted to do with this blog eleven years ago today.

We’d had a difficult night, the Texas Gal and I. An ailment of some sort – and I do not recall what it was, whether she’d been ill or if it had been something wrong with Mom – brought us to the emergency room after midnight and kept us there for a couple of hours. As morning came, I felt compelled to post something here, even if it could not be an album, as I had planned.

And after a paragraph of explanation, I wrote:

But I thought I’d at least show that I was still alive and still blogging by tossing a single out into the ether.

So as I was wandering through my music files, I came upon a single that was – for a few weeks, at least – omnipresent in Denmark during the nine months I spent there many years ago. No matter where my girlfriend of the time and I went that autumn, we heard – sometimes just off in the distance – Lecia & Lucienne singing “Rør Ved Mig” (which translates roughly, I think, into “Stay With Me”).

When I got back to the U.S. in the spring of 1974, I was startled to hear coming from my radio the same tune and nearly the same arrangement, but this time with the words in Spanish. I’ve never been able to determine whether Mocedades’ “Eres Tu,” was the original song and “Rør Ved Mig” was the second-language copycat, or the other way around. And it could be, I suppose, that there are other versions of the song out there in other languages, although in the more-than-thirty-years since I spent my time in Denmark, I’ve heard none.

A couple years after I came back to the U.S., my Danish brother visited, and during his visit, I mentioned “Rør Ved Mig” to him. After he got home, he mailed me a copy of the single. I don’t suppose I’ve played it often, but I did every once in a while. And then I got online about seven years ago and found an MP3 copy out there on the web. It pops up on the RealPlayer now and then.*

And whenever I hear “Rør Ved Mig,” it has the same effect: For just a few moments, it is the fall of 1973, and I am walking somewhere inside the old portion of the city of Fredericia, maybe heading to have a beer with a buddy, maybe walking with that long-ago girlfriend, or maybe just walking. It’s a golden day in October, and somewhere, not too far away, Lecia & Lucienne are singing “Rør ved mig. Så jeg føler at jeg lever . . .”

I headlined the post “Taking Me Somewhere Else,” and the following Saturday, I wrote about Cris Williamson’s “Like An Island Rising” and titled that “Saturday Single No. 1.” I’ve wished for a long time that I’d thought to call “Rør Ved Mig” the first in this long-running list of Saturday Singles, because it was with that post on February 3, 2007, that I found what I wanted to do with this blog: tell how music and my life have been viscerally intertwined, probably since the first time either Mom or Dad sang me to sleep in September 1953.

As is my habit, I’ve since found several other versions of “Rør Ved Mig” or “Eres Tu” or whatever you want to call it, in several different languages. I’ve not indexed them well, which puts another item on my list of tasks for after our move. But even if those versions were easily accessible, this eleventh anniversary spot belongs to Lecia & Lucienne, and “Rør Ved Mig” is today’s Saturday Single.

*I should note that the mp3 I found online did not stay long in my files after I got my turntable. The mp3 shared with that post eleven years ago and that I used to make the video above was recorded from the single that my Danish brother sent to me in 1975.

Another Step

Friday, February 2nd, 2018

Well, it’s getting busy around here, what with packed boxes piling up in the spare bedroom and in the living room. The two piles have different destinations: Those in the living room are filled with books headed for the Friends of the Library bookstore downtown.

Those in the spare bedroom are filled with books, LPs, clothing, living room knick-knacks, and a lot of other bits and pieces of life. There will be more boxes there yet, and all of them will be moving with us to the North Side in a little more than two weeks.

For the first time in our lives, the Texas Gal and I are homeowners; we closed on our condo Wednesday morning, signing paper after paper and form after form and finally being handed keys and garage door openers. On our way to a celebratory lunch, we stopped at our new place and continued our frequent discussions about where things will go and what we want to replace.

And we looked around the condo with a little bit of disbelief hanging in the air. “We really did this,” I was thinking. “This place is ours. Wow!”

I know that it’s going to take some time, even after we move, for the condo to feel like home. Every move I’ve ever made – and this move will be my twenty-first since I left Kilian Boulevard during the summer of 1976 – has found me slowly acclimating to each new place, living there for maybe a month or two before it felt like home. There will be no “eureka” moment, I know, just an eventual recognition that the new place on the North Side is where we belong.

All of that is yet to come, of course, and we have much work left to do. As I look around, I see what seems like so much more than two weeks’ worth of packing left, and I despair, especially because my back and leg difficulties have not been resolved by the cortisone shot I got three weeks ago, and I’m heading back to the doctor on Monday. And I do not dare lift anything very heavy (which means we’ll likely have to find some folks to help us pack).

However we do it, though, the work will get done. And the movers will arrive February 19 and take the furniture and the boxes of stuff that make up a lot of our lives across town. We’ll settle in and after a while, it will feel as if we’ve always belonged there.

And here’s another
one of my favorite tunes with “home” in the title: John Denver’s “Sail Away Home.” It’s from his 1970 album Whose Garden Was This.

Saturday Single No. 574

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

Another question popped up on Facebook this week: My college friend Laura – with whom I’m in contact nearly every day but haven’t seen in the flesh for more than forty years (ain’t modern life marvelous?) – asked folks about their favorite toys as kids.

Not a lot of stuff came to mind from my younger years – I had a fair number of toys but no real favorites, I guess – but when I thought about my tween and teen years, I had a quick response. So I wrote briefly about my tabletop hockey game and posted a picture I found online of metal players from Toronto and Montreal. And I started thinking about my other diversions from those years.

And it didn’t take long before I thought about the dart board. I was maybe ten when I got it for Christmas. This was before the rec room went into half of the basement, so Dad found an empty spot on the basement wall with about ten feet of open space in front of it. On the wall, he installed a large piece of plywood with a hook in the middle from which to hang the actual dartboard.

And I was off and darting.

It was fun just throwing the darts, for a while. I learned how to keep score, finding out that the scoring in an actual match starts with 300 points (if I recall things correctly) and counts down from there. But I wanted to have some kind of competition that I could keep track of myself. So I took the four sets of three darts each that came with the board and made them into imaginary teams, kind of a National Dart League.

I thought about cities where I would base each team, and then I pondered nicknames. (I’d learned recently that Rob, across the street, was doing the same thing, creating imaginary teams for imaginary Dart2leagues – in his case, for a baseball game he had.) The orange darts became the Seattle Ravens. The green ones were the Trenton Cougars. The yellow darts were based in Portland, Oregon, and at first were the Yellow Jackets and later, one supposes under new imaginary ownership, the Lumberjacks (often shortened, as I did my sotto voce play-by-play, to ’Jacks). The blue darts were peripatetic, beginning as the Akron Hubs (a city/name combination I borrowed from Rob). Then I wanted something from my own imagination, and they moved to Texas and became the Austin Bullets, though I was not entirely satisfied with that. Finally, I decided to bring them home to Minnesota, though not in the Twin Cities. I parked them in Duluth, and in a nod to the history of French exploration and fur-trading in Lake Superior and the rest of the Northland, I named them the Voyageurs.

I don’t remember how I structured the matches or the schedule. But I spent many happy hours pairing the four teams against each other and keeping tracks of scores and matches won and lost. A few years later, when Dad built the rec room in the basement, the space configuration was changed, and the plywood sheet had to be moved. I wasn’t playing much by that time, anyway, and that Christmas, my Royal Canadian hockey game became my favorite winter pastime.

As you can see from the picture above, I still have the darts. They’ve traveled with me over the years in a greeting card box, and for the last nine years have been on a shelf in the room that serves as the EITW studios. I’ve been pondering what to do with them. I doubt that Goodwill or other places that seek donations would want them; they could easily be dangerous. And I see no point in packing them away in a box, as I’ll never use them again. But when I think about discarding them, it feels as if I’m about to throw away part of my childhood.

I’ll have to think about it.

So musically, where does that leave us? Well, I thought about offering something from the long-gone Dart label, the one-time home of Lightnin’ Hopkins, but then I thought about the word “games.” It shows up in a lot of record titles, of course, and I’ve decided to go with the Joe South tune “Games People Play,” as offered by King Curtis (with guitar work by Duane Allman). It’s from Curtis’ 1969 album Instant Groove, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

One Chart Dig: January 20, 1973

Friday, January 19th, 2018

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from January 20, 1973, forty-five years ago tomorrow:

“You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon
“Superstition” by Stevie Wonder
“Me & Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul
“Crocodile Rock” by Elton John
“Your Mama Don’t Dance” by Loggins & Messina
“Rockin’ Pneumonia – Boogie Woogie Flu” by Johnny Rivers
“Clair” by Gilbert O’Sullivan
“Superfly” by Curtis Mayfield
“Why Can’t We Live Together” by Timmy Thomas
“Oh, Babe, What Would You Say” by Hurricane Smith

And, as might be expected, those ten records slap me right into the middle of my sophomore year at St. Cloud State, sparking memories of music theory classes, of Cokes with a young lady who worked the main desk at the Learning Resources Center, of lengthy bull sessions in the office of the small TV studio next door at the Performing Arts Center, of a cross-country skiing weekend in Wisconsin with the Luther League from Salem Lutheran, and of trying to figure out where I belonged.

In that last category, three things come to mind. It was about this time when I realized I no longer fit in with the group of kids I’d hung around with for much of my freshman year and quit trying to spend time with them. It was around the middle of January in 1973 when a young woman in my philosophy class invited me to join her for coffee at Atwood Center after class to meet her friends, a group of people that turned out to be The Table, the center of my on-campus life for the next several years. And it was around this time when a friend of mine from church asked me to go to a meeting one evening and take notes for her, a meeting set up to assess students’ interest in spending the next academic year in Fredericia, Denmark.

So even though I felt lost and uncertain as the month began – and even though I never got past friendly Cokes after work with the girl from the main desk – I can look back at January of 1973 and see from 2018 a hinge on which my life pivoted.

Looking through the rest of the Hot 100 from that long-ago time, I don’t see any records that really speak to those days (though I do note that Shawn Phillips’ “We” – a record that showed up in the Atwood Center jukebox during the autumn of 1974 and became one of the touchstones of my life – was sitting at No. 92 in the second of its three weeks on the chart).

So I looked for something I might never have heard that sounds good, and I found, parked at No. 66, “Daytime Night-time” by Keith Hampshire, a native of England who grew up in Canada. I don’t recall the record at all, though if I’d heard it back in 1973, I probably would have liked it, what with the piano in the intro, the horns throughout, and the vocal very reminiscent of David Clayton-Thomas. It peaked at No. 51 during the second week of February.

Saturday Single No. 571

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

My thoughts are jumbled this morning, as they have been for much of this year. In many ways, it’s been a hard year. Mom’s death in June hit me hard, harder than had Dad’s in 2003. And though the work of settling Mom’s estate wasn’t really difficult in itself, it was a constant reminder for these past seven months that she was gone. (And we’re not quite done yet; there is a bank account to close and boxes and boxes of her memorabilia to sort through.)

And all of that – Mom’s death and the ensuing tasks – has reminded me nearly every day that I am getting no younger, and there are things I should get done. One of those things is to winnow out the boxes of stuff that I’ve hauled along with me over the last thirty to forty years. I’ve been doing some of that in the last few months, and I’ll do more of it, now that we’re planning on moving to the North Side.

Another of those things I should do – and yes, it sounds a little macabre – is to write my obituary. I don’t think there will be a need for it very soon, but one never knows, and I would like to make certain that some things about my life are mentioned when the time comes. Mom wrote hers, and that was immensely helpful. Dad hadn’t done so, and while I’ve written hundreds of obituaries over the years, it wasn’t easy deciding what he would have wanted included. I erred on the side of inclusion, which made it longer than the average obituary. (No surprise here; I write everything long.)

A third thing that needed doing is done. Over the past few years the Texas Gal and I have pondered where we will spend our retirement years. She’s got a few years yet before that comes along, and we’ve talked about a number of places that we either like or that intrigue us: Marquette, Michigan, Columbia, Missouri, and Clarksdale, Mississippi, were among those mentioned, more as daydreams than as any real option. But this week’s decision to purchase the North Side condo pretty well anchors us. Our intent is to stay in St. Cloud.

But all of those thoughts and events have left me unfocused for most of this year, and even with those good things that did happen this year – and there were many of them, however overshadowed they might have been – this is a year whose ending I will not regret.

So, in this last post of 2017, I offer a wish for all of us – those of us here on the East Side, whether human, furry or imaginary (Odd and Pop come to mind), those who stop by this place, and those whose handshakes and embraces I know in the non-digital world of flesh and blood: May 2018 be the best year of all our lives.

And we’ll close the year at this place with some Bruce Springsteen: the title track to his 2014 album High Hopes. Yeah, he sings “Don’t you know these days you pay for everything?” But he also tells us “I got high hopes,” and that’s more than enough to make it the year’s final Saturday Single.

An Unexpected Direction

Friday, December 29th, 2017

I’ve noted here several times that the Texas Gal and I have been thinking about finding another place to live. The house – where we’ve lived for nine years – is getting a bit too hard to take care of, and the stairs are becoming less easy to navigate as we get older. The Texas Gal has already fallen down the stairs from the second floor once, and that’s more than enough.

So we’ve been looking. In the past few months, we’ve scanned the ads for apartments and spent portions of a couple of Saturdays looking at a few places. We didn’t find anything we really liked, and we came face-to-face with the reality of renting in St. Cloud, which has one of the tightest rental markets in the state: We can’t afford an apartment.

Well, we probably could right now, but in a few years, when the Texas Gal retires, it would be tight. So we’ve been pondering that for a few weeks. And about ten days ago, the Texas Gal suggested we think about buying a place, maybe a patio home or a town home. We checked out some possibilities on line, and a week ago today, we spent an hour with a mortgage specialist at an area bank who’d been recommended by friends.

We came away discouraged. While we would likely qualify for a mortgage, the banker said, the cost of the patio and town homes we were thinking about would put the monthly mortgage payment right about where we’d found rents for apartments: within reach now but . . .

All the while, I was trying to wrap my head around the idea of buying a home. I’ve been a renter most of my adult life. I’ve owned a mobile home, but that’s not quite the same. Owning a place, well, that would feel different. I wasn’t quite sure how, but it would.

That evening, the Texas Gal poked around real estate listings on her laptop as we watched television. “How about a condo?” she asked me. There were some listed that were about two-thirds the price of the patio home and town home we’d talked about with the banker. It was worth a shot, I said, and she emailed a friend of ours who’s a realtor, and very quickly, he had arranged a tour of four places for Tuesday, three condos and a house that was included in the tour for its price and its location on a favorite East Side street.

We dismissed the house pretty quickly. We saw some things that needed attention, and the stairs were as steep as the ones we deal with now. We looked at two condos on the North Side, liked the first and weren’t crazy about the second, which was missing some appliances. Then we went to a place in the smaller city of Waite Park, just west of St. Cloud. We’d been very interested in that one, given the photos we’d seen online and its location not far from the Texas Gal’s office. But we saw some major flaws, and it just felt somehow not right.

More and more, we liked the first of the two condos on the North Side. It has stairs, but it’s a split entry, just six up to the main floor and six down to the lower level. It has a deck and a patio, two bedrooms upstairs and a large den/family room downstairs that could easily host a sewing area on one end and a music area on the other.

We talked about the first North Side condo with our realtor as we were about to leave the Waite Park place. He could easily put in an offer and reach out to the banker, he said, and we talked about things like closing costs, association fees and other pre-paid items. We told him to get back to us after he’d talked to the banker.

We heard from him Wednesday evening. The banker approved the mortgage. Our realtor put in an offer, and after a little bit of back-and-forth, we signed a purchase agreement yesterday. We’ll close at the end of January, and of course, something might yet go awry, but that’s unlikely. So we’re a little giddy and a little baffled at this rapid left turn. And we’re looking at our stuff and beginning to figure out where it’s going to fit in our new home.

And the most astounding thing? Our monthly payment will be only three dollars more than we’re paying now for rent.

I have many tracks with the word “home” in their titles. One of my favorites – and one that seems to have never been mentioned in nearly eleven years of blogging – is “Comin’ Home” by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends. Recorded in 1969, it was released as an Atco single that year and stalled at No. 84 in the Billboard Hot 100. It was also released in 1972 as a track on the Atco album Country Life and later that year on Columbia’s album D&B Together, which offered the same tracks as Country Life but with a different order. That album was the last work Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett would release together.

Out Of The Darkness

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

Here, updated with a few minor changes, is a post that ran here nine years ago.

We’re about to come out of the darkness.

The December Solstice is upon us. At 10:28 this morning (Central Standard Time) the sun will go as far south in the sky as it goes, and it will begin to make the slow trek north toward spring and summer.

That’s good news for those of us who find the winter grim and gloomy. I’m certain I have a touch of seasonal affective disorder. When the shortness of the days becomes truly noticeable in November, I find a melancholy surrounding me. My awareness of its source means that the melancholy need not be debilitating, but there is a touch of sadness that lingers from then into February.

Lingering, too, is just a hint of dread, a sensation that – as I think I’ve mentioned here before – is likely a remnant passed down through generations from my Nordic forebears. We know about the tilt of the Earth, we know how that brings the solstices and the seasons, and we know that the daytime light will now increase bit by bit every day, leading us toward springtime and then summer. In the dark forests of northern Europe a couple of thousand years ago, there was no such assurance, and as each day brought less light than the one before it, there must have been dread every year that this year would be the time when the light continued to diminish, leading eventually to permanent darkness leavened only by the faint stars and the pale moon.

We know that will not happen. Today will bring us slightly more daylight than we had yesterday, and tomorrow and the next day and all the days until next June will do the same. Eventually, we will sit once more in a warm, bright evening with the sun lingering late, and the winter’s gloom will be, if not forgotten, at least set aside.

We’re about to come out of the darkness.

Here are the Traveling Wilburys with “Heading Toward The Light.” It’s from their first album, Volume One, released in 1988.