Archive for the ‘Life As She Is’ Category

Saturday Single No. 551

Saturday, July 29th, 2017

Well, the best-laid plans and all of that. I spent an hour this morning researching the background of a tune that my files said was recorded on July 29, 1925. Along the way, I learned that the resulting 78 was the No. 1 record for 1924, so the year was wrong. That happens, so I kept going, and as I was proofing and checking various things, I learned that the recording in question was actually made on October 12, 1923.

(I got the 1925 date from the Online 78 Discography Project, which is usually pretty accurate, but I found the 1923 date at the Library of Congress’ National Jukebox, and since the record was No. 1 for 1924, I’m pretty sure the LoC is correct. I’ll likely email the folks at the Online 78 Discography Project and let them know of the discrepancy.)

Anyway, I’ve marked the feature for use this October, and I’m left in a jam without much of anything for this morning. Except . . .

The appropriately titled “In A Jam” was recorded by Duke Ellington on this date in 1936 (and that date came from the notes in an Ellington box set). So the Duke’s “In A Jam” is today’s Saturday Single:

Saturday Single No. 550

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

It’s pickling season!

In the past few days, I’ve set up the temporary table in the kitchen. It’s now home to boxes of canning jars with their rings and lids, envelopes of pickling mix, extra kettles, various canning implements, and a stack of fresh kitchen towels. I’ve brought the big canner up from the fruit cellar and wiped it clean of cobwebs and anything else that might have gathered during its off-duty months.

In the past few months, we’ve been giving away the 2016 batches of pickles, clearing the shelf in the fruit cellar as well as we can. There are maybe two pints left of last year’s pickles, as well as the big – two gallons, I think – jar of whole kosher pickles the Texas Gal made for herself last year. She’s still leery of opening it: As big as the cucumbers she chose were, she’s not entirely sure that nearly a year in the jar has pickled them to her taste.

And this morning, the Texas Gal is off to the farmer’s market downtown to bring home a bushel of early cucumbers from a woman who grows them on a farm near Browerville, about seventy miles northwest of here. It looks like our garden will supply plenty of cukes this year, but for the past few years – ever since we had one very poor cucumber season – the Texas Gal has ordered early cucumbers just in case.

So as of today, the Thirteenth Avenue Pickle Factory is open. Varieties this year will be kosher and Polish dill, bread & butter (both regular and zesty), sweet pickle relish, and a new variety of mix the Texas Gal grabbed during one of her preparatory shopping trips, spicy pickles. (I also noted that she’s picked up a mix for pickling okra and other vegetables; we neither grow nor regularly eat okra, so she has something else in mind for that mix, and she also found a package mix for salsa with the spices premeasured, so when we get enough tomatoes, she’ll be doing a couple batches of that.)

As I’ve noted other years, she does most of the work when picking and canning season rolls around, loving it during the early part of the season and maintaining good grace during the later portions of the season when the time spent in the kitchen gets a bit wearisome. I help with chores that require lifting or climbing the stepstool, and I pitch in and slice onions or whatever else needs to be done when required.

And we both get a good measure of satisfaction from all of it, first from the “plink” that each jar of pickles or other canned food makes as its seal sets in and later from the pleasure of giving away (and eating, too) pickles and other delights over the following winter.

To go along with this piece, I looked for a tune with the word “pickles” in its title. I found one, a jaunty little number by Allen Toussaint from 1970 titled simply “Pickles.” It wasn’t quite what I was looking for, so I searched for the word “kitchen” instead, and got back forty-seven results. Most of them, of course, are versions of Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen,” a song I love but that isn’t quite what I was looking for today.

So here’s “Mama’s In The Kitchen” by Toni Childs. It’s from Childs’ 2008 album Keep The Faith, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

The Locked Door

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

As I’ve dug through boxes of my long-gathered stuff over the past few years, I’ve been finding music notebooks here and there, the kind with staffs in them, some of them dating back to my college days.

There are, I guess, about ten of them, with about half of them half-filled with assignments from five quarters of music theory at St. Cloud State. And in all ten or so are tunes I’ve written over the years, from my earliest efforts during my senior year of high school to my most recent in the mid-1990s.

I wonder sometimes why I haven’t written anything since then, either lyrics or music, and I can come to no conclusion, except that to write the kind of songs I have written over the years, I must open an internal door that has for years been closed and locked. On the other side of that door is my songwriter’s voice.

I have a glimmering this morning of how I might craft a key to that door. In those notebooks, I’ve found a few melodies that have no words. Some of them are lengthy, and some are no more than a few measures. I’m not entirely certain when I wrote them, but I would guess that they’re from the late 1980s or early 1990s.

Now, just finding random melodies wouldn’t encourage me much, but I evidently had some ideas for lyrics as I scribbled down these five tunes (five that I’ve found so far; there very well may be more in the stack of notebooks), because they have titles that give me at least a slight clue as to what I had in mind.

The titles are “Build A House Of Dreams,” “And We Begin Again,” “Catalina, Come Home,” “Anna Lee,” and “Little Darlin’.” My next step is to take those notebooks some afternoon to our church, where I have access to a keyboard, and see if the melodies and their titles say anything to me now.

I’m hoping that one of them might provide the key to that door that’s been locked for so long so that I may find my voice.

Saturday Single No. 549

Saturday, July 15th, 2017

Well, I slept most of the morning away – rare for me, as I generally am up by 7 a.m. on weekdays and by 9 on Saturdays and Sundays – and time is flibbering away quickly, as it does these days.

We have no plans other than finding somewhere to grab a nibble this afternoon and then making a stop at the nearby grocery store. I think this evening we’ll invest some time in writing thank you notes, a hand-cramping exercise that’s painful in several ways.

So I find myself sleepy and uncertain, and maybe “thank you” is the way to go. Here’s B.B. King showing some gratitude to his audience with “Thank You For Loving The Blues” It’s from his 1973 album To Know You Is To Love You, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Estate’

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

The week is getting away, what with the holiday Tuesday and a meeting yesterday with Mom’s bank, working through some of the details for settling Mom’s estate. That should all be sorted through in a couple of months, but it’s going to be time-consuming (more for my sister than for me, although she’s asked me to pick up a couple of tasks).

Among my tasks for today is to call the storage place and change the billing for the two units where we have a lot of Mom’s furniture and some other stuff. We’re thinking about an estate sale in October to take care of most of things in the units.

And, since the word “estate” is on my mind, I searched for it among the 95,000-plus mp3s in the RealPlayer this morning, and I came up with eighteen tracks. Ten of them comprise the 1974 album Estate Of Mind by American singer/songwriter Evie Sands. It’s an album that I don’t know well. Perhaps I should give it more attention, since John Bush of AllMusic writes in his review that Estate Of Mind “was one of the better pop/rock albums of the mid-’70s,” adding in a parenthetical note, “It certainly deserved better than its poor sales performance.”

Another seven of the “estate” tracks come from the late Sixties group the Fifth Estate, known solely in most quarters for getting a No. 11 hit in 1967 out of “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead” from The Wizard Of Oz. Those seven tracks also include a couple of similar follow-ups to the hit, covers of “Heigh-Ho” from the 1937 Disney animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and of “The Mickey Mouse Club Mouse March.” Neither of the follow-ups charted. (As to why I have the other four tracks from The Fifth Estate, I’m not at all sure. Things happen.)

The final track with “estate” in its title is “Estate (Summer)” by the Brazilian pianist and singer Eliane Elias, from her 2008 album Bossa Nova Stories. Her take on the Bruno Martino song is lush and languid and perfect for today. Here’s an English translation of the words that I found at the website of jazz pianist Michael Sattler:

Summer
You are as hot as the kisses that I have lost
You are filled with a love that is over
That my heart would like to erase

Summer
The sun that warmed us every day,
That painted beautiful sunsets,
Now only burns with fury

There will come another winter
Thousands of rose petals will fall
The snow will cover all
And perhaps a little peace will return

Summer
That gave its perfume to every flower
The summer that created our love
To let me now die of pain

Summer

Struggling

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

I’m not doing all that well right now. Understandable, I suppose. I posted at Facebook yesterday:

“My home phone number when I was a kid was BLackburn 1-5557. When exchanges were dropped, it became 251-5557. Mom once told me that they got the number sometime before we moved from our apartment on Riverside Drive to our house on Kilian Boulevard in February 1957. So that was Mom’s phone number for more than sixty years. Sometime this afternoon, it will be disconnected. . . . I’ve been closing accounts and cancelling subscriptions for a week now. This one hurts.”

I’ve got nothing else to say right now, and too many sad tasks ahead of me yet.

Here’s “Samba Triste” – or “Sad Samba” – by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd. It’s from their 1962 album Jazz Samba.

‘Weary’

Friday, June 16th, 2017

Well, the ceremonies and formalities are over, and we’ve laid Mom to rest next to Dad in the Lutheran Church cemetery in Dad’s hometown of Cambridge. And we’re slowly getting back into the rhythms of everyday life: laundry, housework, cooking, watering the garden.

There are still some tasks left, things like getting out “thank you” cards, and my sister and I will begin that tomorrow. It won’t take too long. And we’ll have to take care of Mom’s estate, although that should be relatively easy, as Mom and Dad had things pretty well planned years ago.

And someday soon, we’ll pick up the threads of some of the various themes I’ve played with here over the past year and dig deep into some music. But right now, I’m weary, both physically and emotionally, so I’m just going to go out and water the garden and then take care of some household tasks that have been mostly ignored over the last two months.

Here’s the folk duo of Jim & Jean with “Lay Down Your Weary Tune.” It was originally on their 1966 album Changes.

Grieving

Friday, June 9th, 2017

Mom died Monday. The hospice nurse called me about 3 that afternoon and said that Mom had been attentive and chatty during their visit. The nurse said she’d left the room for a few moments, and when she came back, she said it was obvious Mom had had another stroke, this one pretty big: She was slumped over in her chair and was generally unresponsive.

The care attendants and the nurse put her in bed and checked on her every hour, and they said she stirred when they changed her position, but that’s all. (I kept in touch by phone because the memory care unit where Mom lived during her last days has been putting new laminate flooring into its rooms, and the fumes that the flooring is off-gassing made me very ill every time I visited.) And about 9:30 Monday evening, the hospice nurse called and told me Mom had passed.

The funeral is Tuesday. Weekend events long-scheduled in Chicago for my niece and her family necessitated a delay in services, and maybe that’s a good thing. After a whirlwind two days putting plans in place, it’s good to have some downtime, some time to feel and to grieve.

I last talked to Mom on Sunday. It was a brief conversation about problems with her cable TV and her newspaper delivery.

I last saw her on June 1, the day she turned ninety-five-and-a-half. We met, along with my sister, at Dairy Queen, where she had a hot fudge and caramel sundae. She’d had a whirlpool bath and a massage that morning, and she was alert and talkative, but she was moving very slowly and uncertainly with her walker. That evening, the attendants at Prairie Ridge wheeled her over to the adjacent Ridgeview Place for a musical performance, a pretty good end to a good day.

My last sight of her was when she got into my sister’s car at Dairy Queen. She was clearly weary, but she was smiling as she waved goodbye to me.

She died just three days after the fourteenth anniversary of my dad’s death. And wherever she went Monday night, Dad was there to greet her. So here’s the lovely “Mom and Dad’s Waltz,” by Hugo Montenegro. It was on the 1963 album Country and Western.

Complications & Fries Again

Friday, May 26th, 2017

The vacant corner lot up the road is being developed. Fences are up, dirt’s being pushed around, and a concrete platform for utility meters has gone up. A sign along the Highway 10 frontage road says that a self-storage place is going in. I’m glad to see something’s being done with the corner – the East Side needs more commerce – but I was hoping for something less prosaic. After all, the corner lot used to be the site of a place that mattered to me. Here’s a post I wrote about the place back in 2009.

Just up the road from our place, right next to U.S. Highway 10, is a vacant building. Sometime in the last year, the auctioneer came by. They sold the booths and the counters, the grill and the deep-fat fryers, the hydraulic lifts and the gas pumps, the tool cabinets and all of the things that made the little building a gas station and restaurant for as many years as I can remember.

It was called Townsedge, and that was accurate enough in a practical sense. For many years, when folks would come into St. Cloud from the Twin Cities, Townsedge was the first gas station or restaurant they saw. They’d pass by a few other places – the marine shop, the masonry place and a used car lot or two – but if folks on the road had the usual travelers’ needs, Townsedge was the first place they saw where those needs could be met: Fill your tank, check the oil, buy a pack of smokes, sit down in a booth for a few minutes and have a cheeseburger straight from the grill, with a couple of pickle slices on the plate and a basket of fries on the side.

It was the kind of place you don’t often find anymore, and that’s truly a shame. There was another place like Townsedge across Highway 10, Fred’s Cafe, a classic American truck stop, and both Fred’s and Townsedge did well for many years. When Fred’s went out of business – that happened during the years I was away, but I think it was in the early 1990s – a chain convenience store/gas station took its place, and I’m sure that took business away from Townsedge. And when a franchised burger place opened up a couple of years ago about half a block from Townsedge, that pretty much told the tale.

After Dad retired, my folks went to Townsedge for coffee a couple of times a week, and after the Texas Gal and I moved here in 2002, I’d walk over and join them every once in a while. As we sat, I’d look around the place and gauge the ages of the customers. I’d see a few single moms with kids, but not many. Most of the time, I was the youngest person in the place (except for one or two of the waitresses). Once Dad was gone and Mom moved, I had no reason to go into Townsedge anymore, and not too long after that, I saw the “Closed” sign in the window as I drove by one day. And eventually, the auctioneer came by.

Places come and go, but Townsedge – as it was in the 1970s, not as it was in its last years – was a special place for a couple of reasons. First, the fries. The French fries at Townsedge – golden and crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside – were among the best I have ever had. I’ve been to a few other places over the years whose fries were better, but when I was in high school, Townsedge had the best fries in town, and the little cafe was frequently the last stop during an evening spent out with friends.

Then there was the evening in early December 1970, during my senior year of high school. The St. Cloud Tech High School choirs had performed in concert, and a young lady and I were going to double up with another couple for burgers and fries at Townsedge. For some reason, the other guy had to cancel, so there were only three of us, my date and me on one side of the booth and the other young lady sitting across from us.

I dropped a quarter into the jukebox terminal in our booth. I have no idea what I played, but one of the other young folks elsewhere in the cafe had cued up the week’s No. 1 record, and that’s what we heard first. My date sang along for a few moments with the Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You.” We all laughed, and I realized that my life right then was about as complicated as it had ever been. None of us mentioned it, but all three of us – my date, the other young lady and I – knew that if I’d had my druthers, I’d have been sitting on the other side of the booth, next to the gal whose boyfriend hadn’t been able to join us.

Then the waitress brought us our burgers and fries, and life moved on.

And here’s “I Think I Love You.”

One Survey Dig & A Note

Friday, May 19th, 2017

I’m guessing that as my senior year of high school wound down in the spring of 1971, I wasn’t listening much to KDWB out of the Twin Cities. Here’s the top fifteen from station’s “6+30” survey during this week in May 1971:

“Sweet & Innocent” by Donny Osmond
“Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones
“Me and You and a Dog Named Boo” by Lobo
“It Don’t Come Easy” by Ringo Starr
“Chick-A-Boom (Don’t Ya Jes’ Love It)” by Daddy Dewdrop
“Love Her Madly” by the Doors
“Put Your Hand In The Hand” by Ocean
“Want Ads” by the Honey Cone
“Treat Her Like A Lady” by the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose
“Power To The People” by John Lennon
“Me And My Arrow” by Nilsson
“Never Can Say Goodbye” by the Jackson 5
“If” by Bread
“Rainy Days & Mondays” by the Carpenters
“Be Nice To Me” by Runt-Todd Rundgren

Why am I thinking that KDWB wasn’t a major part of my listening habits? For a couple of reasons. First, much of my listening was late evening (from 9 p.m. to whenever I fell asleep, probably about 10:30), and that came from either WJON down the street or WLS in Chicago. I think KDWB had been relegated to daytime listening at home – and there wasn’t much of that during the school year – and to whatever time I spent driving, and that wasn’t a lot, as I didn’t yet have my own car.

And then, there are two records in that top fifteen that I don’t recall hearing as much would have been likely had I been listening to the Big 63. Even though it was a national hit (No. 7 in the Billboard Hot 100), I don’t recall hearing the Donny Osmond single a lot. Maybe I just tuned it out. And then there’s the Runt-Todd Rundgren record, “Be Nice To Me.” Having listened to it at YouTube this morning, I can only say that it’s not at all familiar (and that’s possible, as it went only to No. 71 in the Hot 100 and I’ve never dug deeply into Rundgren’s catalog.)

And there’s one more bit of evidence that KDWB wasn’t getting much airplay around our stretch of Kilian Boulevard: Sitting at No. 21 in the “6+30” from forty-six years ago this week is Boz Scaggs’ “We Were Always Sweethearts,” which seems to have peaked at KDWB at No. 17.

The record’s popularity on KDWB was an anomaly, as the record, which was Scaggs’ first to hit the Billboard chart, peaked at No. 61 in the Hot 100. I don’t remember hearing it back then. If I had, I would think I would have remembered it when I got around to hearing it on the Moments album in later years.

It doesn’t matter, really. But “We Were Always Sweethearts” is still a good record, and it’s a good way to close this little bit of survey digging.

A note . . .
I’d planned for some time for this week to have been the week when I resumed a regular schedule here. That plan went away Tuesday when Mom went to the hospital with what turned out to be a couple of small strokes. Things seemed pretty dark Wednesday, but by Thursday morning, she was sitting in a chair, eating on her own, telling my sister and me things we had to remember to take care of, and singing along to a playlist of Lutheran hymns I pulled up from YouTube on my phone.

As I write, the plan is for her to return this afternoon to her place at Prairie Ridge. (That’s the memory care facility attached to Ridgeview Place; she’s been in memory care for about a month.) We’ll have some hospice protocols in place for her; more strokes are likely, and she doesn’t want to go back to the hospital and undergo the ensuing tests. She’s ninety-five and she’s tired, but she was entirely present yesterday as she and my sister and I talked about her care with some staff members from the St. Cloud Hospital.

And strokes or not, tired or not, she made it very clear to us that she intends to keep her appointment to have her hair done today.