Archive for the ‘Life As She Is’ Category

‘Gather Up The Brokenness . . .’

Friday, September 28th, 2018

I’m feeling pretty bruised today. Yesterday was a hard day; the events in Washington stirred up a whole lot of stuff that I keep on a back shelf in my emotional closet.

Today is a day for healing.

Here’s “Come Healing” by Leonard Cohen. It’s from his 2012 album Old Ideas.

O gather up the brokenness
Bring it to me now
The fragrance of those promises
You never dared to vow

The splinters that you carry
The cross you left behind
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind

And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace

O solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind

O see the darkness yielding
That tore the light apart
Come healing of the reason
Come healing of the heart

O troubled dust concealing
An undivided love
The heart beneath is teaching
To the broken heart above

Let the heavens falter
Let the earth proclaim
Come healing of the altar
Come healing of the name

O longing of the branches
To lift the little bud
O longing of the arteries
To purify the blood

And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

O let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

Saturday Single No. 609

Saturday, September 22nd, 2018

I am, as I wrote the other week, an autumnal man.

I have always been so, even when I was much younger than I am now. Perhaps that is why, as I live in what is clearly the autumn of my time here, I have finally found peace of mind, comfort of soul, and a degree of happiness that just two decades ago I would have assessed as extraordinarily unlikely, if not actually impossible.

Perhaps the seasonal leavening brought to my life by the springtime outlook of the Texas Gal has brought the balance I’ve seemingly always needed. In any case, her presence in my life these past eighteen-plus years is a major part of the reason my life so satisfies me now. (And I know, with an awareness that warms me, that my presence in her life grants her similar satisfaction.)

I shan’t – to use a word my mom’s mother employed often – go beyond those thoughts today; I’ve dabbled in autumnal musings both in the piece I wrote the other week and in a fair number of pieces here over the years. But, moving from soul searching to reporting, I wanted to note that here in the midsection of the U.S., this year’s autumnal equinox takes place at 8:54 p.m. this evening. The southward bound sun will cross the equator at that moment, and for the next three or so months, each day’s hours of daylight will diminish and the hours of darkness will increase.

Around our place, many of the changes that accompany the season are underway: A very few of the leaves on the flowering crab have turned yellow and fallen. Some of the leaves on the adjacent linden are doing the same. Next to the linden, however, the maple tree has given no indication if its leaves will mirror the yellow of the other two or complement them with red or orange. We will know soon which it will be.

The grass beneath them is still green, awaiting the first overnight frost, which cannot be many nights away.

I observe these changes both through the window of my study and via my forays outside for errands or tasks. And, despite the chronic ails brought about by my leg and back problems and despite the – one hopes – more temporary ails of a late summer sinus infection, I observe those changes happily.

And this evening, autumn will arrive.

This calls for an autumnal tune. Here’s one of my favorites: “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)” by The Band. It’s from the group’s self-titled 1969 album, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

2,397,000

Thursday, September 20th, 2018

That’s a hefty number, 2,397,000 is. Where’d it come from?

Well this morning, I looked at the number of pages in the Word file for this blog. Since sometime early this year, I’d been stacking new posts on the top of the file, letting it get longer and longer until editing within it started to get a little unweidly.

The file was sitting at 139 pages with a word count of 58,575. It was time to start a new file. Back in the early days of this blog, I was zipping condensed files of albums to share here and at a couple of boards, so when I began writing blog posts, I called the first file “Zipped & Shared No. 1.”

(The zipping and sharing of files ended early in 2010, when WordPress escorted me from its premises for violations of its policies, just as Blogger had done some time earlier. Being out in the cold of Blogworld, as it were, spurred me to open my own domain, as well as to change the way I offered music: embedding or linking to YouTube videos, some of them my own creation. But I continued to title the Word files I used “Zipped & Shared No. XX.”)

Today, I opened a new file, one titled “Zipped & Shared No. 52.” And I wandered back into the folders that hold the first fifty-one similarly named files, wondering if the lengths of each individual file were about the same. They were, averaging something more than 47,000 words each. The vast majority of those counted words were, in fact, text for this blog, but there were some things counted as words that were detritus, stuff that shouldn’t count toward a blog’s word count.

That detritus included notes to myself about this post or that, lists of links to include in posts and the coding for the embedding of videos. So, in a ham-handed bit of statistical division – my statistics instructor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism would have winced – I took that average of 47,000-plus and sliced it down to 47,000.

Then I multiplied 47,000 times 51 – the number of filled Word files – and came up with 2,397,000. And that’s approximately the number of words I’ve written for this blog since early 2007.

Remember the detritus that includes notes to myself? There’s a little bit of that right at the top of each of the last twenty or so Word files. There’s a note reminding me that the width I use when I embed YouTube videos on the blog is 455 whatevers. That’s also where I keep examples of the three characters in the Danish alphabet that we do not have in the English alphabet – ø, æ, and å – in both lower and upper case. I also keep the entire Danish exclamation “Skål!” so I can post it on Facebook after the Minnesota Vikings win.

And there are four notes about blog posts. One of them reminds me that this year, I am rerunning the 2008 series First Friday – looking at the mad year of 1968 – only this time, it’s as First Wednesday. Another note reminds me that I should consider doing a blog post about the musical (and romantic) duo of Cymbal & Clinger. A third offers the Derek & The Dominos track “Keep On Growing” as a subject for one of my covers posts. And a fourth suggests the song “Guantanamera” as a topic for a similar post.

But I keep looking back at that number: 2,397,000. That’s a lot of words, sentences, paragraphs and posts, many of which were not nearly as good as I’d hoped they’d be.

So where do we go with that? There are about a hundred tracks in the RealPlayer with the word “words” in their titles. And after a quick scan of the titles possible for a tune, I’ve settled on “Encouraging Words” by Billy Preston, the title track from his 1970 album.

Saturday Single No. 607

Saturday, September 1st, 2018

Sleep would not come last night. I dithered and read until about two in the morning, then tried to sleep. No go.

So I puttered online and watched a replay of a college football game until about five, then tried again. As I told the Texas Gal this morning, I must have slept, because the clock changed, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.

I’m going to be pretty inert today. Here’s Al Hirt with “Sleepless Hours.” It’s from his 1962 album Trumpet & Strings, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

A Small Bud

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

I see the signs: A little bit of mist in the morning air. The turning of the sumac along the roadsides. The first leaves falling golden from the flowering crab next to our deck.

Autumn is coming. My time of year.

The Texas Gal and I talked about the seasons the other day as we lazed in the living room. She likes the spring, she said, when everything is green and new and possible. It’s a sweet time, she said.

I told her what she already knew, that to me autumn is bittersweet, and for as long as I can remember, bittersweet has been my default. It’s colored what I read and what I write, what I sing and what I hear, and – for many of the years of my life – what I felt and how I lived.

I no longer feel or live that way, thanks to the Texas Gal’s presence in my life for these past eighteen-plus years. But I still feel the pull of the bittersweet in literature, movies, television and song, sensing that tales of joyous but ultimately failed pairings and of barely missed chances that rarely resolve well are somehow more interesting and more valid to me than easy happy endings.

And I wonder where that sense came from. Was I formed by the art of my youth, when tales – whether in print, on the screen or on the radio – did not always end with smiles? Two examples come to mind quickly: Kirk Douglas’ crucified Spartacus watching his wife and child being taken to safety on the road outside Rome as he was dying. And then there’s the Association’s “Cherish,” a song that’s been mentioned here numerous times. Let’s take a refresher on Terry Kirkman’s lyric:

Cherish is the word I use to describe
All the feeling that I have hiding here for you inside
You don’t know how many times I’ve wished that I had told you
You don’t know how many times I’ve wished that I could hold you
You don’t know how many times I’ve wished that I could
Mold you into someone who could
Cherish me as much as I cherish you

Perish is the word that more than applies
To the hope in my heart each time I realize
That I am not gonna be the one to share your dreams
That I am not gonna be the one to share your schemes
That I am not gonna be the one to share what
Seems to be the life that you could
Cherish as much as I do yours

Oh, I’m beginning to think that man has never found
The words that could make you want me
That have the right amount of letters, just the right sound
That could make you hear, make you see
That you are drivin’ me out of my mind

Oh, I could say I need you but then you’d realize
That I want you just like a thousand other guys
Who’d say they loved you
With all the rest of their lies
When all they wanted was to touch your face, your hands
And gaze into your eyes

Cherish is the word I use to describe
All the feeling that I have hiding here for you inside
You don’t know how many times I’ve wished that I had told you
You don’t know how many times I’ve wished that I could hold you
You don’t know how many times I’ve wished that I could
Mold you into someone who could
Cherish me as much as I cherish you

And I do cherish you
And I do cherish you

Cherish is the word

Anything that potent tends to throw discussion off-track, but anyway, I don’t think I project melancholy to the world. I’m pretty gregarious, quick with a joke (but not to light up your smoke), and all that. So where did that tinge of sorrow – the bitter that leavens the joy – come from? From those books, films and records of my youth? Or did those bits of media somehow validate feelings already present, feelings sown by frequently being the ninth boy at an eight-boy game and by the regretful smiles of a fair number of lovely young women?

I have no firm answers to those questions. How each of our personalities is molded is a riddle. All I know is that an important portion of me is the one that begins to bud right around the end of August and then flowers during the last weeks of September and the first weeks of October

And I feel that small bud forming inside me this week. My time of year is coming.

Here’s “Autumn Brigade” by the English group Jackson Heights. It’s from the group’s 1972 album The Fifth Avenue Bus.

Saturday Single No. 599

Saturday, July 7th, 2018

From the time I was seven – when I started taking piano lessons – to the time I moved from my folks’ house on Kilian Boulevard when I was twenty-two, I had access to a piano almost every day. There was a period of about four years, ending when I was sixteen, when I played rarely, but other than that, I played the piano at home in the evening and – during my college years – in the practice rooms at St. Cloud State’s Performing Arts Center during the day.

Even when I was in Denmark, I could play. My Danish family had a piano, and there was a piano in the lounge at the Pro Pace youth hostel where I lived for most of the last four months of that adventure. (I have vague memories of playing at several youth hostels during my major travels around Western Europe as well.)

Then during the summer of 1976, I moved to the drafty house on the North Side and, nine months later, to the mobile home I rented from Murl. I was still in school most of that time, so I could still play piano on campus, but it wasn’t nearly as convenient as walking into the dining room.

In late 1977, I moved to Monticello and then to other places and I didn’t get to play very often at all. In Monticello, I occasionally went to the Lutheran church the Other Half and I attended and played there. In Columbia, Missouri, I sometimes walked across campus to the University of Missouri’s performing arts building, and I made similar walks when I taught at Minot State in North Dakota and at Stephens College during a later stop in Columbia.

When I was in Jacques’ band during the late 1990s and early 2000s, I got to play a very good electronic keyboard every week. After a while the guys in the band pitched in and bought me a keyboard and sound module for my home, but then I was asked to leave the band, and over time, the touch of the keyboard they gave me deteriorated as did the quality of the module’s sound.

And then we moved to St. Cloud and I hardly ever played. The night before the closing of the sale of the house on Kilian in late 2004, I went over and said goodbye to the old Wegman upright, and from that night until the time I began playing at our church almost five years ago, I didn’t play at all.

I’ve played a lot since then, but it’s still required heading over to our church and making sure that nothing’s been scheduled for the meeting rooms there that my playing either the grand piano in the sanctuary or the Yamaha Clavinova in the office would disturb. So my playing has required scheduling.

That won’t be true any longer. Just this morning, one of these was assembled and installed in my half of the family room:

Korg LP-180

It’s a Korg LP-180, with a full 88 keys and about ten voices. My external speakers will be in on Monday, but even so, its own speakers sounded wonderful when I gave the keys their first whirl about twenty minutes ago. So what did I play?

Well, after noodling a bit to hear the various voices and to get a sense of the keys’ feel, I launched into the first piece of music I was able to pull from the radio and replicate on the Wegman without resorting to sheet music. That happened in the spring of 1972, and it was a major advance in my growth as a musician.

The piece? Jim Gordon’s lovely coda to Eric Clapton’s “Layla.” (I learned to play the first portion of the piece from sheet music shortly thereafter.) And though it’s nowhere near rare, and it’s no doubt been featured in this space more than once, Derek & The Dominos “Layla” from 1970 is today’s Saturday Single.

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.