Posts Tagged ‘Bobby “Blue” Bland’

An Odd Sorrow Recalled

Friday, August 8th, 2014

I remember sitting on the green couch in the basement rec room, flanked by my parents, forty years ago tonight. I was twenty, and the three of us rarely watched TV together anymore, but that night, we watched as President Richard Nixon told us and the rest of the world that he would resign the presidency.

(As to why Nixon resigned, folks my age and nearby will likely remember very well the crimes, the cover-ups, the dirty tricks and the secret tapes; if, by chance, you’re younger than that or have amnesia, two books would provide a good start: All The President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and To Set the Record Straight: The Break-In, the Tapes, the Conspirators, the Pardon by Judge John J. Sirica.)

I don’t know how my folks felt about the president’s resignation. I’m pretty sure my mom was a Republican at the time and happily voted for Nixon in both 1968 and 1972. I think my dad was generally a Democrat, and almost certainly voted for Minnesotan Hubert H. Humphrey in 1968. I think that the ultra-liberal leanings of Democratic candidate George McGovern troubled Dad in 1972, but I’m not sure if that resulted in a vote for Nixon or not.

Me? I happily cast my first presidential vote for George McGovern in 1972, wrongly thinking that he might have a chance at winning the election but rightly thinking even as the electoral votes were totaled that night that the iceberg that was Watergate would eventually sink the S.S. Nixon, an opinion that my folks tended to greet with skepticism.

In many other cases, it would have been pleasant to sit on that green couch forty years ago tonight and know that I had been proven right (and would continue to be proven right for the next few years as trials went by and books and then more books came out). But the moment seemed too serious that night forty years ago to indulge in any kind of satisfaction about having been prescient. Instead, there was relief that the saga was coming to an end, there was some disgust at the repetition of old tired justifications for unacceptable actions, and there was an odd sense of sorrow.

I disagreed with almost everything Richard Nixon said and did, and his crimes and those committed by his people in his name were too serious for him to remain in office. I felt no sympathy for the man. But I felt that odd sorrow. Why? I’m still not sure.

Maybe it was for those who were duped by the president and his men for so long, which was most of us in the U.S. Maybe it was for the country having been so preoccupied for two years when other issues remained unattended and unresolved. Maybe it was because there was a thought that it didn’t have to turn out the way it did, that one bad choice in the Nixon camp led to another bad choice and then another and another. (If that thought lingered, it wasn’t for long, as I soon came to the conclusion that very little – for good or ill – happened by accident or without forethought in the Nixon White House.)

Whatever its genesis, there was that small sorrow as I watched the president announce his plans to resign. And when the speech was over, Mom and Dad and I went upstairs and went about whatever we did to fill the remainder of an August evening in 1974, me with that bit of sorrow hanging around for some time.

In retrospect, that evening’s address and the actual resignation of the president the next day was the first of three events in a little more than a year’s time that I think closed the door on the era that we call the Sixties. The other two? At the end of April 1975, Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese, and the Vietnam War was over. In September 1975, Patty Hearst, the kidnapped heiress who might have been turned into a radical, was arrested in San Francisco. And we moved on.

And what music from early August 1974 fits the mood that I find myself in while writing this piece? Well, there’s “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City” by Bobby “Blue” Bland. Ostensibly written about the absence of a woman, it can be heard as being about the absence of any cherished thing. As I look back to that evening forty years ago tonight, I think the sorrow I felt was because we’d lost something, even if I couldn’t – and still can’t – put a name on it. And even if the words aren’t quite right, Bland’s record sounds like I remember feeling that night.

In the Billboard Hot 100 released two days after my folks and I watched the president announce his resignation, Bland’s plaint was sitting at No. 100. It would move up to No. 91 and to No. 9 on the R&B chart.

‘Wise Shall Be The Bearers Of Light’

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

The Texas Gal and I are taking some time for ourselves this week; the past few weeks have been busier than normal. Her garden did very well this year, and we’ve been busy picking and canning the result (numerous jars of green beans, of chili base, of stewed tomatoes in both Italian and Mexican seasonings, of pickle relish, of pickles both sweet and dill and of carrots). We also spent time last week preparing for our Second Annual End of Summer Picnic, which came off Sunday with a fine afternoon for all involved and without a raindrop for anyone.

But the busyness of the past few weeks has left us a little drained, so we’re going to ease back on the throttle a little bit this week as she takes a few days off from work. There are plenty of tomatoes ripening in paper bags and yet on the vine; we’ll need to do something with them, but otherwise, we’ll sleep late, relax, maybe take a drive to an antique shop or two and maybe a dinner out.

Included in that is my writing briefer posts here than has been my custom over the years. I know that a few recent posts have been slender, but that reflected how busy things have been. We’ll let this week’s pickings be a little slight, too, as we slide through what is – culturally, at least – the last week of summer. My regular verbosity will return – as inspiration warrants – in about a week.

This morning, I’m pondering the last days of August 1983, the time when I was settling into my new surroundings in Columbia, Missouri, and preparing for a two-year stint in graduate school. I recall the night before fall semester began, sometime during the last days of August. I was anxious about how things would go in my classes and in my part-time work as an assistant editor at the Columbia Missourian (and in my social life, too, as I was living alone again). The University of Missouri’s School of Journalism has a long and bright history, and I wondered if I could measure up. So the evening before classes began, I drove into downtown Columbia and wandered around the portion of the campus near the journalism school and the Francis Quadrangle.

Along the way, I passed under the arch that connects Walter Williams Hall to Neff Hall and saw the inscription above the arch: “Wise Shall Be The Bearers Of Light”.

Wise? I thought. Wise? Me?

Still shaking my head at the thought of my being the holder of wisdom in any way, I got into my car and drove back home. Whatever happened in the next two years was going to happen, and I would have a lot of smart people around me. Maybe some of them would have some wisdom to share with me, and – long shot that it was – maybe some of the things I would share would come off to them as wise.

I imagine the radio was on in the car as I drove home that evening pondering wisdom. I have no idea what I heard, but I’m certain it wasn’t “Wise Man’s Blues” by Bobby “Blue” Bland, a tune recorded in Memphis in 1952.