Archive for the ‘Life As She Is’ Category

Getting My Kicks

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018

I’ve been bingeing the past few weeks on soccer, the game that the rest of the world calls football, as the World Cup competition plays out in Russia.

I’m by no means an expert on the game, but I’m beginning to understand some of the more complex commentary put forth by the announcers on the Fox networks, and that’s helped with my enjoyment of the game. So, too, has the quality of some of the games, particularly yesterday’s 3-2 victory by Belgium in the round of sixteen (which has a place – though I’m not sure of its rank – in my informal list of the most exciting sports competitions I’ve ever seen).

Given my lineage and my personal history, I tend to root for Scandinavian teams. Two of the three that qualified for the thirty-two team event in Russia – Denmark and Iceland – have been eliminated, leaving Sweden playing today for a spot in the quarterfinals. The Swedes are okay to watch, but I’ve had the most fun watching Belgium, whose fast attacking style seems at odds with everything I’ve known about the game for years.

Those who know me personally might know that my ancestry – according to the genealogy – is half-Swedish, three-eighths German and one-eighth something from the Nineteenth Century Austro-Hungarian Empire. (One of my great-grandmothers was born in a small town in what is now Hungary that sits about fifty miles from Vienna, Austria. If there were one person on my family tree to whom I’d love to give a DNA test, it would be she.) Given my Germanic roots, then, one would assume that I might root for the German soccer team. But I can’t, for historical and personal reasons. In fact, I was actually pretty pleased that the Germans were eliminated in the group round of play.

And today’s first game is set to start in just a few minutes, so I’ll leave you with the entirely unrelated 1966 classic by Paul Revere & The Raiders, “Kicks.”

One Chart Dig: June 12, 1971

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

By this time during June 1971, I was mowing grass every day, riding across the lawns at St. Cloud State, sometimes enjoying it but mostly worried that I was going to have some kind of accident. That worry slowed me down, and I did not cut as much grass as my supervisor expected, so by mid-summer, I was transferred to the janitorial crew, which was fine with me.

Anyway, during June I’d come home with the roar of the lawnmower in my ears – no protective headgear for us in those long-ago days – and it would be an hour or two before the sound subsided, which was usually right around dinner time. Once I could hear, I’d turn the radio on in my room or stack a few LPs on the stereo in the basement and kick back for the evening.

So what did I hear? Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from June 12, 1971, forty-seven years ago today:

“Want Ads” by the Honey Cone
“Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones
“Rainy Days & Mondays” by the Carpenters
“It Don’t Come Easy” by Ringo Starr
“Joy To The World” by Three Dog Night
“It’s Too Late/I Feel The Earth Move” by Carole King
“Sweet & Innocent” by Donny Osmond
“Treat Her Like A Lady” by the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose
“I’ll Meet You Halfway” by the Partridge Family
“Bridge Over Troubled Water/Brand New Me” by Aretha Franklin

Well, from nearly fifty years later, that’s a pretty good set; I’d still wince at the Donny Osmond, but I’d likely enjoy the Partridge Family single more now than I did then.

That takes care of the radio. What would I hear if I headed to the rec room and the stereo? Here are the rock albums I’d acquired so far in 1971:

The Beatles (The White Album)
Crosby, Stills & Nash
“Yesterday” . . . and Today by the Beatles
Ram by Paul & Linda McCartney
Pearl by Janis Joplin

I was still working on my Beatles collection, but was beginning to branch out, too. By the end of the year, I’d have a few more albums by the Fab Four as well as albums by the Doors, Jethro Tull, Stephen Stills and Three Dog Night. I’d also acquire the original version of Jesus Christ Superstar and The Concert for Bangla Desh.

But to get back to that Billboard Hot 100 from forty-seven years ago today, I was going to play Games With Numbers with today’s date – 6/12/18 – and check out the records at Nos. 18, 24, 30 and 36. But only one of those four interests me – “Don’t Pull Your Love” by Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds at No. 30 – and I’ve heard it recently.

So I dropped to the bottom of the chart, and at No. 100, I found a Stephen Stills record that I liked a fair amount: “Change Partners,” which also showed up on Stills’ second solo album. I recall hearing it that summer, but probably not often, as the record stalled at No. 43.

Saturday Single No. 591

Saturday, May 19th, 2018

We’re off to the eye doctor!

Both the Texas Gal and I have noticed in the past couple of weeks that things are getting a bit blurry, especially when we’re driving and most especially when we’re driving after dark. So we checked our records, and for both of us, it’s been a few years since we had our eyes checked.

So later this morning, we’re off to the regional big box store on the East Side, where we’ve had our eyes checked since we moved to St. Cloud almost sixteen years ago. We’ll also likely look for a hose attachment we can use to clean the winter gunk from the garage floor and for a couple other necessities as well. And lunch at one of our former East Side haunts might be on the agenda, too.

But it’s our eyes that are the main part of the agenda. So here’s a tune that’s never shown up here before: “Meagan’s Gypsy Eyes.” It’s from Child Is Father To The Man, the 1968 debut album for Blood, Sweat & Tears, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Trees & Comfort

Friday, May 11th, 2018

There are three trees in front of our new digs, one kind of protecting the condo’s southeast corner and the other two pretty much in our front yard. Because the trees were bare of leaves when we moved in, we’ve been wondering since February what types of trees they are.

All I could say from my experience is that they did not appear to be oaks, elms, ash, catalpa, or basswood. I knew this because we had four oak trees in the yard at Kilian Boulevard when I grew up, as well as two elms, two catalpas and one ash tree. And, as I’ve noted here before, at our East Side place we had thirty-four oaks and a basswood as well as numerous evergreens. Our three trees at the new place were none of those.

So as the buds began to show and turn into leaves, we made guesses and deductions. I surmised, from several maple leaves that showed up on the ground as the snow melted, that one of the three was a maple. The Texas Gal was skeptical, noting that the maple leaves I saw could have blown into the front yard from any of trees in the neighborhood. True enough, but I was hopeful.

The tree on the corner was the first to show buds, and they turned into leaves and small berry-like pods. I took a picture the other day:

flowering crabI posted the pic on Facebook and asked if anyone knew what it was. I got an answer from Barb, my pal Rob’s wife, who said it was a flowering crab, and she posted some pics of what it would look like in bloom. This morning, pink blossoms are beginning to show. It’s going to be beautiful.

That left the identification of the other two trees. The one nearest the front door has been showing leaves and seeds for a couple of days, so yesterday I went out and took a close look at the green seeds hanging down. When they dry and fall, they will spiral down sort of like little helicopters. It’s a maple tree. I hope it’s one of those that blazes red-orange in the autumn.

That leaves the one in the middle, which has barely started to bud. We’ll have to wait a week or so, I’d guess, before we can identify it.

But there’s more to identifying the flowering crab and the maple than just knowledge. There’s comfort, too. Now, I love our new place. The upper level is pretty much the way we want it. (The acquisition of a couch and a loveseat and a coffee table lie somewhere not too far past the horizon.) The lower level still has boxes – of books, pictures, fabric and some other stuff – that are yet to be dealt with. But unfinished or not, this place is now home (as I knew it would be). Still, as winter faded and spring began, I missed a few things about our old place on the East Side.

I thought about the lilacs, those growing wild in the grove and the one we planted in our brick garden, the one that blossomed for the first time last spring. And I thought about the vines that creep a little further each year from the chimney along the south wall of the house, turning from dark green in the summer to a brilliant red in the autumn. I will miss the lilacs and the vines, I told my sister in an email.

But here, on the North Side, we’ll have the subtle pink of the flowering crab in the springtime, and if we’re fortunate, we’ll have the bold red-orange of the maple tree when autumn comes, giving us a delicate welcoming of the warmth and a few months later, a fiery farewell. I’m fine with that.

Saturday Single No. 589

Saturday, May 5th, 2018

A search through the RealPlayer for tracks with the word “down” in their titles yields a result of 1,827 titles. That’s a lot of “down,” and that’s fitting, as a cold has settled in my head overnight and I’m going to be settling down for a good portion of the day.

I’ll be saving my energy, as we have a dinner with a friend this evening and then will attend a dance performance at the College of St. Benedict in the nearby burg of St. Joseph. So I’m going to sift through the “down” tracks and offer one of them for a tune this morning.

And I find one of my favorite tracks from Stephen Stills’ 1970 self-titled solo album, and a search tells me that somehow in more than eleven years of writing about the music I love, I’ve never once mentioned the track. I find that astounding, especially since I have at times written about the album, long one of my favorites.

So here is Stephen Stills’ “Sit Yourself Down,” today’s Saturday Single:

‘Don’t Be Concerned . . .’

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

A little while back, I looked at one of the Billboard Easy Listening charts from 1968 – fifty years ago – and was surprised to learn that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.

I’ve been getting lessons like that for nearly sixty-five years, so my pride wasn’t wounded all that much. And, given a little more thought about how I came to hear easy listening tunes when I was in my early teens, I thought I’d take a look at another one of the magazine’s easy listening charts from the mid-1960s.

In that earlier post, I ascribed my exposure to – and my continuing love of – easy listening to the fact that we frequently listened to the Twin Cities radio giant WCCO at home. And we did. But there’s another source I didn’t think about as I wrote: my sister’s transistor radio.

I think I’ve told the tale, but if I did, it was some time back, so here goes: In either 1963 or 1964 – probably the latter – my folks gave my sister a transistor radio as a gift (Christmas, I think, though it could have been for her birthday). She evidently didn’t use it all that much, for not long afterward, my dad commandeered it for his nightstand, and every evening (save perhaps Saturdays), he would play the radio for about twenty minutes before we all closed up shop for the night.

And his station of choice was St. Cloud’s KFAM, an outfit located over on the south side that played easy listening music at that time of the evening. I clearly remember, for example, hearing Frank Sinatra’s “Summer Wind” – No. 1 on the easy listening chart for one week during October 1966 – coming from Dad’s transistor radio more than once. So I thought – even though it’s April – I’d take a look at that mid-October chart from 1966 and see what’s familiar and what’s not. Here are the top fifteen from that long ago Billboard Easy Listening chart:

“Summer Wind” by Frank Sinatra
“Born Free” by Roger Williams
“Summer Samba (So Nice)” by Walter Wanderley
“In The Arms Of Love” by Andy Williams
“Dommage, Dommage (Too Bad, Too Bad)” by Jerry Vale
“The Wheel Of Hurt” by Margaret Whiting
“I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” by Bert Kaempfert & His Orchestra
“Flamingo” by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
“Mas Que Nada” by Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66
“A Time For Love” by Tony Bennett
“Free Again” by Barbra Streisand
“I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” by the Glenn Miller Orchestra
“Lookin’ For Love” by Ray Conniff
“Elusive Butterfly” by Jane Morgan
“Once I Had A Heart” by Robert Goulet

I think I do better with this set of fifteen than I did with the earlier grouping about six weeks ago. The top three are on the digital shelves here, as are “Mas Que Nada” and the record by Tony Bennett. I know “Dommage, Dommage,” likely from Vale’s version; I know “Elusive Butterfly” from Bob Lind’s original; and I know “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” from multiple versions (chiefly the Tommy Dorsey recording from 1935). And for what it may matter, I did refer to Whiting’s record in a post last September.

The rest would be mysteries, even “Flamingo” and “Lookin’ For Love,” despite my enjoyment of the work of both Herb Alpert and Ray Conniff.

Having dipped a toe into most of the unfamiliar tunes in the list above, I find myself liking Morgan’s sprightly take on “Elusive Butterfly.” It turned out to be her most successful record on the magazine’s easy listening chart, reaching No. 9.

Morgan’s chart history is interesting: Massachusetts-born (in 1920) and Florida-raised, she had ten records in or near the Billboard Hot 100 between 1956 and 1967, and seven records in the magazine’s easy listening chart between 1965 and 1968, but – if I’m reading things correctly – only two records showed up in both charts. Her best-performing record was “Fascination,” credited to Jane Morgan & The Troubadors, which went to No. 7 in 1957 in one of the several charts Billboard compiled at the time.

Here’s her take on Bob Lind’s “Elusive Butterfly.”

Chart position corrected after first posting.

Saturday Single No. 585

Saturday, April 7th, 2018

So we’re seven days into April, and here in St. Cloud, we got about nine inches of snow in two bursts this week, the first on Monday during the day and the second running from late Monday night into Tuesday. (I think that’s right; things tend to blur right now.)

And we’re supposed to get more measurable and plowable snow tomorrow afternoon and evening.

We’ve been here on the North Side for almost seven weeks and for four substantial snowfalls, and one concern I have so far about our new place is the snowplowing service. Our driveway gets cleared just fine, but the service road/alley on which we front doesn’t seem to get very good attention. Today, four days after a major snowfall – six inches – the road is basically two grooves in a field of ice. I imagine that I’ll have to attend the next meeting of our homeowners’ association and find out why.

In the meantime, the only appropriate song for today is “Sometimes It Snows In April,” a tune written by Prince, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman and first released on Prince’s album Parade in 1986.

The list of covers at Second Hand Songs offers names of artists like Native, Michelle Solberg, Montezuma’s Revenge, Sanne Salomonsen, the Knut Reiersrud Band, StarGate & Espen Lind and a few others. The name that grabs me most, though, is that of Meshell Ndegeocello, whose cover of the tune was released just three weeks ago on her new Ventriloquism. It’s sleepy and kinda trippy vibe makes it today’s Saturday Single.

On Patrol

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

The most direct route from our new digs to the local hardware store – and I’ve traveled that route many times during the past nine days – takes me along Twelfth Avenue North past the back of the Church of St. Paul, a Catholic church that’s home to All Saints Academy, an elementary school.

I drove home along Twelfth Avenue the other day just as recess was starting. A batch of All Saints students, heavily bundled against the day’s cold, were making their ways across the street to the playground with a young woman standing guard with a school patrol flag. The woman – a teacher or perhaps an aid – extended the flag across my path as I approached. I stopped, and the last of the students made their ways across the street and into the snowy playground.

She lifted the flag and headed toward the church, her duty done. As she did, I rolled down my passenger side window and called out to her. When she turned, I asked her how frequently she had to stop a vehicle.

“About one or two times every recess,” she said. She, like the students, was dressed for the cold: A heavy coat, a scarf that covered her throat and chin, and a hat that came down to the top of her glasses. A few tendrils of blonde hair had escaped her hat and framed her face, and her cheeks were ruddy from the cold.

I told her that I’d been a patrol boy long ago at Lincoln Elementary and that there was hardly any traffic there, with Lincoln being at the end of a less-traveled street. “In two years,” I told her, “I got to stop one car.”

“That’s all?”

“That was it,” I said. “And it was a glorious day.”

She laughed, as did I, and then she turned to head into the church, carrying her patrol flag, and I headed up the street toward home.

Searches on the digital shelves for “patrol,” “traffic,” and “school” brought me nothing that I cared for this morning. So I searched for “saint,” given the name of the school whose recess parade I encountered. And I came up with “The Saints,” a cover by Little Richard of “The Saints Come Marching In.” It’s from the 1972 album The Second Coming. (Given Mr. Penniman’s diction and my unfamiliarity with anything but the song’s first verse, I’m not sure if the lyrics are the traditional ones or an alternate version, but according to the information at All Music, Little Richard and producer R.A. “Bumps” Blackwell claimed writing credits for the track, so who knows?)

Saturday Single No. 579

Saturday, February 24th, 2018

After four days of unpacking and dealing with crises in our new place, we have made progress, although both the Texas Gal and I wish we’d made more. Some rooms are nearly finished, awaiting touches of décor; some are functional, needing only a little more work; others are a mess. My portion of the lower level, which will become the EITW studio, is a mountain range of boxes, with a desk tucked into a corner that holds a functional computer.

The crises include the death of a freezer packed with mostly meat. Luckily, we noticed it soon after its demise on Thursday, and we headed across town to an appliance store owned by two fellow members of the St. Cloud Tech Class of ’71. On the phone, the Texas Gal told Bob what we needed, and by the time we got there, Bob had already unboxed a freezer for us and brought it to the showroom floor. His guys delivered the freezer an hour later, and we lost no food. Crisis No. 1 resolved.

We also bought a microwave oven. On the day we closed our purchase of the condo, the sellers’ realtor approached us. He told us that the over-the-oven microwave in the condo had died the previous day, and he gave us some cash. In the meantime, our own countertop model had begun to act balky. So when we were at the appliance dealer, the Texas Gal thought we should buy a microwave. It came with the freezer, and on Friday afternoon, another member of the Tech Class of ’71 – one whom I’d not seen since graduation – came to remove the old microwave and install the new one.

It didn’t take long, but because of its angled design, the old oven took more wall space than does the new one, and there is now a white area between the wall tile and the bottom of the new oven, thirty inches wide and one and three-quarters inches high. The tiles we bought yesterday afternoon from the local branch of a regional home improvement store were an eighth of an inch too tall, but the Texas Gal found some correctly sized one-foot tile strips online that would look very nice in the blank spot, if we can find someone around here who can cut one of those strips of tile in half. That can likely be done, so Crisis No. 2, while not yet resolved, is heading that direction.

So today, after a breakfast of cottage bacon, will be a day to finish the kitchen, to move some pieces of furniture to their destinations, to find the last boxes of my shirts, to hook up the Texas Gals’ stereo in the master bedroom, and to see if we can figure out how to put the two portions of the Texas Gal’s recliner together.

The RealPlayer did its best, but a search for “crisis” brought me the 1985 album Flaunt the Imperfection by China Crisis and a 1996 Dar Williams track titled “The Pointless, Yet Poignant, Crisis of a Co-Ed,” neither of which grab me this morning. And nothing comes up for “assemble,” although I could stretch that to come up with a tune by the Assembled Multitude. So I thought I’d just go with our constant condition this week and find a good tune that features the word “tired.’

And that’s how “So Tired” by the group Eva – from the soundtrack to the 1971 film Vanishing Point – became today’s Saturday Single.

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.