Archive for the ‘Life As She Is’ Category

An Uncomfortable Post

Wednesday, January 26th, 2022

About a week ago, an email popped up telling me that someone had left a note at YouTube, commenting on my video that offers the full 1980 album by the late Levon Helm, American Son. The topic of the note was the song “Sweet Peach Georgia Wine,” in which the narrator gets in trouble in a small town:

I was on my way from Daulton, headed for Atlanta,
Thinking about that girl I left behind.
When a voice so soft and tender floated down to me from the window:
Would you like a taste of that sweet peach Georgia wine?

Well, she showed me to the backdoor, and she told me what it was for,
Said “You can come back and see me any old time.”
And just as I was going, that old sheriff bust the door in.
He said, “Boy, you’ve been in my sweet peach Georga wine.”

Now, how’s I supposed to know she was the sheriff’s daughter?
She was only sweet sixteen but she looked a lot older.
Well, I guess I’ve learned my lesson, son
You know I’m doing my 10 to 21
Just for tasting that sweet peach Georgia wine

If I ever get out of this jail house, I ain’t never gonna slow down
Until I reach that Georgia border line

Well, maybe one quick stop down in Macon
’Cause I hate to leave these parts and not take it:
One more sip of sweet peach Georgia wine

Now, how’m I supposed to know she was the sheriff’s daughter?
She was only sweet sixteen but she looked a lot older.
Well, I guess I’ve learned my lesson, son
You know I’m doing my 10 to 21
Just for tasting that sweet peach Georgia wine

In today’s ethos, “Sweet Peach Georgia Wine” is problematic, as my grad school advisor used to say. It’s about a relationship with someone underage, a jailbait song as we used to call them. There were many of them. It’s also from 1980, which was, for as recent as it sometimes feels, a different time.

The commentor at YouTube called it “a pedo song.” To be technical, it’s not. Pedophilia involves attraction to prepubescents, while attraction to those who are mid- to late adolescents – generally those fifteen and older – is called ephebophilia. (I learned this stuff in the 1990s, when I was doing some volunteer work for a foundation that was battling child abuse, and I double-checked it this morning at Wikipedia.)

That last paragraph is not one I ever thought I’d be writing at this blog. But I feel compelled to do so as a writer who relies on clear thought and definitions, and I feel compelled to do to as a survivor of child sexual abuse (by a man in our Kilian Boulevard neighborhood when I was younger than five). I don’t recall if I’ve ever mentioned that here before, either straight-on or obliquely. I’ve done a lot of work over the past twenty-some years to recover from it, and I continue to do so.

Yes, it’s only a song, but the comment triggered some feelings that aren’t very pleasant. And yes, the ages of three and four are a long way from the age of sixteen, but that’s a matter of degree if persons of both ages are supposed to be protected by the law. Anyway, something’s different this week than it was a week ago. Has thinking about this stuff ruined the song for me? Yeah, at least for the time being. I wince a little thinking about it popping up on the iPod. And as I was wincing, I deleted the track from the device and did the same with the Rolling Stones’ “Stray Cat Blues.”

I won’t feature the song here today. If you don’t know it, you can find it easily. I have some things to sort out (and having realized that this morning, my edginess over the past week is more understandable). And beyond the personal, determining how we value a piece of art from a different era that reflects values and mores we no longer embrace or tolerate is one of the places we are in 2022. Your decisions might not be the same as mine, and that’s fine.

I had a friend in a band once who ended all our conversations with “Peace, out!” I thought it was kind of a silly affectation, but it works here: Peace, out.

Saturday Single No. 770

Saturday, January 22nd, 2022

It’s time for some Games With Numbers. We’ll take the first two digits from the numeral in the title – 77 – and see what was sitting at No. 77 in the Billboard Hot 100 during this week in 1977, which is a convenient forty-five years ago. We’ll also note the top five records in that chart.

The chart in question actually came out on January 22, so that’s a nice bit of serendipity. I’m reminded as I type that January 1977 came along while I was living in the drafty old house on St. Cloud’s North Side, about ten blocks south of there. Last summer, as I was preparing for my Denmark reunion, I happened to see on a real estate site that the old house – built in 1890 – was for sale for something like $5,000. Given that I’ve seen few signs of upkeep whenever I’ve driven by it since we moved to St. Cloud almost twenty years ago, that didn’t surprise me.

This morning, I took another look. The exterior of the house is the same, except for new windows and a new roof, but the interior has been pretty well gutted and redone, and the listed prices is now $155,000. I can tell which room was mine during my last months there, and I can tell where the living room was. I should wander by there someday soon and see if I can go through it.

Anyway, in the January in question forty-five years ago, here were the five top singles on the Hot 100:

“I Wish” by Stevie Wonder
“Car Wash” by Rose Royce
“You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” by Leo Sayer
“Dazz” by Brick
“You Don’t Have To Be A Star (To Be In My Show)” by Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr.

I never much cared for the Sayer or Brick singles. I liked the singles by Wonder and by McCoo and Davis. “Car Wash” wasn’t a big deal to me back then, but I noticed the other day when it came on the Seventies channel on cable that I knew all the words and the instrumental turns. And it’s the only one of the five that’s in the iPod.

But what of our main business here? What was at No. 77 in January 1977? Well, it’s a record I don’t recall ever hearing: “Yesterday’s Heroes” by the Bay City Rollers. From here, it seems like a decent record, tougher than I remember the Rollers’ work being. It didn’t do too well on the chart, peaking at No. 54.

‘When You’re Lost In The Rain In Juarez . . .’

Friday, January 21st, 2022

I told most of this story here long ago, and I told it again this week at the Consortium of Seven, where I blog on Mondays about music. I figured a third time would not hurt.

I was reminded the other day that somewhere in my (relatively small) collection of 45 rpm singles is Dion’s “Abraham, Martin and John.” And I was reminded that I found the 45 in a box of records I got from Leo Rau, the man who lived across the alley from us in St. Cloud, Minnesota. I was fourteen at the time and pretty pleased with the records – for reasons we’ll get to in a moment – and didn’t quite understand what Mr. Rau did for a living.

My dad said Mr. Rau was a jobber, and then explained to me that Mr. Rau had a chain of vending machines – candy machines, cigarette machines and juke boxes – that he kept stocked with what seemed to me the good stuff of life: Snickers, Nut Rolls and Juicy Fruit Gum among the candy; Camels, Winstons and Herbert Tareytons among the cigarettes (not such a good part of life, as it turned out), and records by performers such as Sandy Posey, Petula Clark and Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass.

As I headed into my teens, being across the alley from the Raus seemed like a pretty good deal. Steve Rau, who was four years or so older than I (and played the drums, which I thought was kind of cool), decided one day to get rid of his comic book collection and gave it to me: Lots of Jughead and Archie, some war comics – stories of World War II, which was just more than twenty years past – and comics based on television shows of the mid-1950s, none of which I recalled. It was a treasure trove.

And several times, Mr. Rau passed on to me a box of 45 rpm records. I don’t recall everything he gave to me; I know one of them was Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” because I still have it. Another was Bob Dylan’s “I Want You.” And there are a few others that Mr. Rau gave me that have survived the fifty-some years since. (A list of those survivors, from what I can remember – I had several sources over the years for mid-1960s 45s – is at the bottom of this piece.)

The Raus were good folks to have as neighbors. When they – Leo and Ilamae – were out in their back yard at the same times as my folks were in ours, the four would often have alley-side conversations that might last an hour or might last as briefly as it took for my folks – or just my dad or mom – to hand over some home-grown rhubarb and accept from one or both of the Raus some cucumbers ready for the table.

And, as I mentioned, several times during the mid-1960s, Leo Rau would hand me a box of records that had outlived their usefulness in the juke boxes he stocked. As I look back at the 12- to 14-year-old boy that I was then, it’s remarkable that any of them survived. At that age, I was distinctly unhip. I did not listen to Top 40 radio. I had only a few LPs and no singles to speak of in my record collection. And I didn’t listen to many of the records Mr. Rau gave me. Instead, I used them for target practice with my BB gun.

So when I say that some of the records survived, I am being literal. I have no idea how many 45s I aimed and shot at, punching neat little holes in the grooves. Maybe a hundred. A lot of the records Mr. Rau gave me were country & western, a genre that was far less cool (and far more real and gritty) than country music is today. I do remember a lot of Sandy Posey, Sonny James and Buck Owens, records that it would be nice to have today.

But I know a good share of the records that met my BBs were pop and rock, simply because of those that survived, including the two I mentioned above: the Procol Harum and the Dylan. And it’s knowing how close I came to destroying the Dylan record that makes me shake my head in something near disbelief, because years later, I learned that the B-side of the Dylan 45 offered listeners a true rarity: the sound of Dylan performing live. The B-side was an incendiary version of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” recorded live – the label says – in Liverpool.

It’s a noteworthy record. Here’s what Dave Marsh said about it in his 1989 book The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made, where he ranked the B-side of the record at No. 243.

If you liked the jingly folk-rock of “I Want You” enough to run out and buy the single without waiting for the album (which only turned out to be Blonde on Blonde), you got the surprise of your life: A B side taken from Dylan’s recent European tour on which he and a rock band (which only turned out to be The Band) did things to “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” a song from Highway 61 Revisited, that it’s still risky to talk about in broad daylight.

Rock critics like to make a big deal about B sides but there are only maybe a dozen great ones in the whole history of singles. This one’s rank is indisputable, though, because it offers something that wasn’t legally available until the early Seventies: a recorded glimpse of Dylan’s onstage prowess. “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” came out before anybody ever thought of bootlegging rock shows, before anybody this side of Jimi Hendrix quite understood Dylan as a great rock and roll stage performer. And so this vicious, majestic music, hidden away in the most obscure place he could think of putting it, struck with amazing force.

The group behind Dylan wasn’t exactly The Band: The drummer for the European tour was Mickey Jones. Levon Helm had become fed up with performing in front of angry and jeering crowds who wanted to hear Bob Dylan the folksinger and were being presented with Bob Dylan the rock and roll performer. He’d gone back to Arkansas and wouldn’t rejoin the other four members of what became The Band until after the tour, when he joined them and Dylan in Woodstock (where the six of them began recording the music later released as The Basement Tapes and where The Band began work on its debut, Music From Big Pink.)

Now, we come to an oddity. The visual in the video below tells us that this version of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” comes from the so-called “Albert Hall” concert, which actually took place May 17, 1966, at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester and was released in 1998 as The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966. According to the label on my 45, the B-side version of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” was recorded in Liverpool, England. The concert schedule tells us that would have been on May 14, 1966.

But the version of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” offered in the video below matches the sound on the B-side of my 45. I think it’s the same as the version of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” from the official release of the Manchester Free Trade Hall Concert. There was a mistake somewhere, and I have no way to sort it out. Maybe what was actually the Manchester performance was mislabeled on the 45 as being recorded in Liverpool. I dunno. In any case, the music in the video below is the version of the tune that Marsh celebrates in his book.

I look at the fragile 45 that survived my BB gun and shake my head. It’s undeniably a treasure, but it didn’t survive because I knew that. It didn’t survive when so many other records were splintered by BBs because it was by Bob Dylan. I was unhip enough at the ages of twelve to fourteen to have no real good idea who Bob Dylan was; that awareness would take at least another four to five years. It was a happy accident, pure and simple, that I never looked past the sights of my BB rifle at the Dylan record.

Dave Marsh sums up his comments about the record: “Today it sounds like the reapings of a whirlwind, Dylan’s voice as draggy, druggy and droogy as the surreal Mexican beatnik escapade he’s recounting, Robbie Robertson carving dense mathematical figures on guitar, Garth Hudson working pure hoodoo on organ. Slurred and obtuse as Little Richard reading Ezra Pound, there’s a magnificence here so great that, if you had to, you could make the case for rock and roll as a species of art using this record and nothing else.”

I probably got more than a hundred records from Leo Rau during those few years in the mid-1960s. These, I think, are the survivors:

“Downtown” by Petula Clark
“Red Roses For A Blue Lady” by Vic Dana
“I Want You/Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues (live)” by Bob Dylan
“Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead” by the Fifth Estate
“Dandy” by Herman’s Hermits
“Don’t Go Out Into The Rain” by Herman’s Hermits
“No Milk Today” by Herman’s Hermits
“This Door Swings Both Ways” by Herman’s Hermits
“Look Through My Window” by the Mamas & the Papas
“Monday, Monday” by the Mamas & the Papas
“Winchester Cathedral” by the New Vaudeville Band
“Single Girl” by Sandy Posey
“Whiter Shade Of Pale” by Procol Harum
“Have You Seen Your Mother. Baby, Standing In The Shadows” by the Rolling Stones
“Snoopy vs. The Red Baron” by the Royal Guardsmen
“Lightning’s Girl” by Nancy Sinatra
“The Beat Goes On” by Sonny & Cher

As 1972 Began . . .

Wednesday, January 5th, 2022

Before the New Year’s holiday intervened, I’d been looking at some Billboard charts from the close of 1971, and I meant to get around to looking at the album chart but never did. So, we’ll turn the corner and look at the top fifteen albums on the first Billboard 200 of 1972:

Music by Carole King
Led Zeppelin (I)
American Pie by Don McLean
Chicago at Carnegie Hall
E Pluribus Funk
by Grand Funk Railroad
There’s A Riot Goin’ On by Sly & The Family Stone
Teaser & The Firecat by Cat Stevens
Tapestry by Carole King
All In The Family (Cast Recording)
Black Moses by Isaac Hayes
Wild Life by Wings
Santana
Madman Across The Water
by Elton John
Concert for Bangla Desh by George Harrison & Friends
Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2

A lot of fine stuff there, most of which I know now, with a few exceptions: I doubt I’ve heard more than “Those Were The Days” from the All In The Family album, I’ve heard only bits and pieces of Wild Life for some reason, I’ve heard Black Moses several times (at least) but I don’t think I’ve ever really listened to it, and I doubt that I’ve heard anything at all from E Pluribus Funk.

And a couple more: I heard most of the Chicago Carnegie Hall album when it came out and was unimpressed, and I listened to the Sly & The Family Stone album once after I found it used in Wichita in 1990 and never put it on the turntable again, so all I really know is “Family Affair” and – to a lesser degree – “(You Caught Me) Smilin’.”

But those are my limitations, and – with the exception of the All In The Family album – that top fifteen at the start of 1972 is, I think, a varied and accurate portrait of where rock, pop and soul were at the time. Even the Dylan retrospective is kind of a signpost forward by way of its inclusion of a few things that had never been widely heard (or heard at all) from Dylan himself before: “Tomorrow Is A Long Time,” “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” “I Shall Be Released,” “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” and “Down In The Flood,” along with the recent single “Watching The River Flow.”

The ones that spoke to me at the time are likely predictable: I heard a lot of the albums by King, McLean, Dylan, Harrison et al., Stevens and John although I didn’t own all of them until years later. I caught up to Santana and Zepp in the years to come.

And if I had to choose one of them right now to represent the beginning days of 1972 – time spent hanging around the student radio station, a few tentative dates, a few keggers, numerous spontaneous discussions of the issues of the day (Viet Nam, the draft, girls, music and more) sometimes lasting past midnight – I’d have a very hard time.

Three of them – Tapestry, Bangla Desh and the Dylan anthology – are too monumental to be pinned to any season of one year. (In any case, Tapestry would belong to two seasons – the summer and early autumn of 1971.) Two of those fifteen albums – Music and Teaser & The Firecat – were good but still lesser sequels to classic albums, Tapestry and Tea For The Tillerman. And speaking of monuments, the title track of American Pie overshadows everything else – including some astoundingly good tracks – on McLean’s album.

So I guess I’d land on Elton John’s Madman Across The Water and the track “Levon,” a surreal tale told so matter-of-factly that it seems entirely plausible. And as I write that, I think to myself that the words “a surreal tale told so matter-of-factly that it seems entirely plausible” could easily sum up the entire first half of the 1970s from Kent State through Watergate and the fall of Saigon and on to the capture of Patty Hearst.

Here’s Elton John’s “Levon.”

‘Not Even Know Your Name . . .’

Friday, December 10th, 2021

As I sat at the computer the other day, iTunes kept me company, offering familiarity and comfort, mostly from the late 1960s and early 1970s, and then – from 1970, a year smack in the middle of that period – came “The Road” by Chicago, a track from the group’s second album, the silver one.

And, not for the first time, I pondered the lyrics and wondered how the narrator – not necessarily the song’s composer, Terry Kath or its singer, Peter Cetera, but the imagined narrator – would feel about his words fifty-some years after the fact:

If you’d like to get together
Then come right over to me
Oh, we can do anything
That you’d like to do

If you’d like to give your love
Then please, just feel free
Because I may be gone tomorrow
And not even know your name, yeah

Now please don’t misunderstand my loneliness
Let’s never, ever talk of time
For our friends may fade away
And our hopes will say goodnight
And our friendship would be lost
It would be such a waste of life
So, let’s just, let’s have a good thing, girl
And let’s not worry
Let’s do everything we want
And let’s not cry.
When it’s over
When I leave, our thing won’t die

If you really understand
Then come right over to me
Oh, we can play together for a while
And still be free, yeah!

The callowness of the young, right? Well, Kath and the other members of Chicago were young when the track came out. Kath was twenty-four, just to check one. And the sentiments of the song were very much of its time, especially for a young man on the road with a band. (The song is kind of the flip side of “Superstar,” the Leon Russell/Bonnie Bramlett tune.)

And I remember sorting the lyrics out when I got the Chicago album at the age of sixteen and kind of thinking (perhaps ahead of my time and my peers): “That might be a cool way to live, with a lot of girls around, maybe, but you know, when you do get to wherever home is, there’s probably no one there, and maybe that wouldn’t be such a good idea, not that I’ll ever have the chance to know . . .”

And with that train of thought sometime in 1970 went the rather ludicrous idea of my ever being a rock ’n’ roll god, and from then on, I just bobbed my head to the music and – in the last few decades – have wondered how long it took in the rock ’n’ roll world for those sentiments to fade away or if they even have.

Ah, well. It’s just an old song, an artifact of its time, and it pops up once in a while – six times this year – and usually I let it roll by as I read news or putter on Facebook.

‘A Lovely Golden Glow . . .’

Wednesday, December 8th, 2021

I’m a beer nerd.

The squib on the blog page “About Your Host” says, “And I still like a good dark beer.” That’s true, but over the past twenty years, I’ve come to love others as well: ambers, pale ales, red ales, and more.

It was during my long-ago travels in Europe that I came to like beers other than the basic yellow lager most Americans were drinking at the time. When I came home, I drank some dark beer in bars that had it on tap, but it wasn’t available a lot of places, and if it was available in liquor stores, it was more expensive than your basic brands, so as I went through college and just beyond, I drank a lot of the American lager.

As circumstances changed throughout my life, beer came and went from my refrigerator. I quit drinking for a while in the Eighties and early Nineties for various reasons, and then again in the late Nineties when a doctor told me to avoid yeast for a year, so it’s only in the past two decades that I’ve been able to indulge myself in beer styles and brands from around the world.

So, why this today? Because I’ve been pondering returning to a long-abandoned project: my journal from my time in Europe during the 1973-74 academic year. I worked on it regularly for maybe a year almost twenty years ago, then stopped (probably about the time I started this blog). My method was to type up verbatim each day’s journal entry and then clarify and expand the entry as well as comment on how those events seem to the adult me.

And I’ve been poking through the six-plus months I have completed – that sounds like I’m close to ending it, but I was on the road all of March and most of April; those two months are likely to be the longest chapters in the project, and I’m only up to March 7 – and thinking about resuming things. And as I poked around this morning, I checked out the entry for December 8, 1973, a Saturday I spent in Brussels forty-eight years ago today. Here’s a portion of my commentary on that day’s entry:

I did not do Belgium well. I did sip enough beer, however, to judge it among the best I ever had. Now, the best beer I had during my entire time in Europe was the Danish Tuborg Rød I’ve already mentioned.  But Belgian brews were very good.  I didn’t drink a lot, but I had a good sample, including the beer I had [December 8] with the fellow from Montreal. We sat in one of the cafés on the Grand Place, next to a window so fogged over that the lights of the square outside – glinting off the gilt facades of the buildings across the way – were diffused into a lovely golden glow as the afternoon faded away. I don’t think I ever had a bad beer in Belgium – and Belgium is the only nation I can say that about – but that one, a dark beer I drank in the warmth of the café as the December evening began, is the one I remember the most fondly.

It took years for that seed to sprout, but I think on that day, the beer nerd in me began to form.

So, what else happened that day in Brussels? Well, one of the things I liked to do in each major city I visited was – along with visiting historic sites and museums – to take some time to wander through the grocery stores and the downtown arcades, seeing at least a little bit of what life was like for the folks who lived there.

And while I wandered through a glitzy and very modern arcade not far from the restaurant where I would drink a beer that afternoon, I went past a record store and learned from a window display that Ringo Starr had a new album out, the album simply titled Ringo from which came the hits “Photograph” and “You’re Sixteen.”

I tucked the information away, and a little more than a year after I came home, I came across the album in a used record shop, and it’s long been one of my favorites.

So, to mark all that from forty-eight years ago today, here’s my favorite album track from the Ringo album, “Step Lightly.” (And I’ll likely also mark those long-ago events late this afternoon with a dark beer from the selection in the new mini-fridge that sits not far from where I write.)

Saturday Single No. 761

Saturday, November 13th, 2021

I’ve been feeling run-down and feverish for the past ten days, and I finally went to see Dr. Julie yesterday. She diagnosed an infection and prescribed a four-week course of some very large pills. She said I should feel better within a week, but to take all four weeks’ worth of the pills to discourage a repeat performance.

So, without much creativity present this morning, I spent a few minutes poking through old posts looking for ideas. When I do that, I sometimes find things I’ve missed. The blogging program supposedly sends me an email every time someone leaves a comment. That doesn’t always seem to work, though.

As I glanced this morning at a post from 2015 about versions of the Laura Nyro song “Stoney End,” I noticed that there were six comments there, far more than usual. I kind of blinked, and then checked the dates: Two of them came in within days of the post going up. But the others were eight months later, a year-and-a-half later, three years later and finally four years later.

Maybe I just missed the email notifications, but I don’t think so. That’s why I find it rewarding to sometimes just click from old post to old post, looking for comments I’ve missed. And one of the four later comments I found at the “Stoney End” post was pretty interesting (at least to me).

Christopher Bentley said that he noticed that as well as dealing with “Stoney End,” I had also uploaded a video to YouTube of Barbra Streisand’s version of Nyro’s “Hands Off The Man (Flim Flam Man).” Bentley writes a blog titled Girls Of The Golden East, focusing on – as he says – “mostly Seventies songstresses of the Soviet satellites,” and he suggested I might be interested in a Czech version of “Hands Off The Man (Flim Flam Man)” as recorded in 1972 by Alena Tichá.

Well, yeah. So, I followed the link he provided to his blog and found the video below. The Czech title actually translates to “I Give You The Cure,” which seems pretty apt for me this week. So “Dám Vám Lék” by Alena Tichá is today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 758

Saturday, October 23rd, 2021

I wrote a few years ago about a house I visit briefly in recurrent dreams, although I haven’t been there lately. Here’s what I wrote:

There’s a house. If it’s real, it’s in an older neighborhood, one that was home to factory workers about a hundred years ago. When I stand on the wooden back steps and look at the sidewalk at the end of the plain dirt driveway, I sense the footprints of tired men walking home.

The house is tan, the window frames dark brown, and the paint is flaking badly. I turn to the back door and enter the kitchen. The old linoleum crackles under my tread. I know this place, can sense the faint aromas of hundreds of meals: chicken, maybe chops, and almost certainly some favorites from an old country left behind.

A plain table with two chairs is on my left as I enter, next to the window that overlooks the driveway, and I turn toward it. The kitchen appliances are somewhere to my right. They’re indistinct, but I know that like the paint outside and the linoleum underfoot, they are old.

There is a doorway beyond the table, and there is light in the room beyond the doorway. I hear the murmur of voices, perhaps conversation or maybe a radio. Through the doorway, I see the shape of a chair, perhaps a sofa, and just beyond, there is a flicker of movement and maybe the sound of footsteps.

And I see no more. The dream, one I’ve had dozens of times over the years, ends there as I stand by the table in the kitchen, looking into the next room with its yellowish light and its murmurs and its shadows. If that house exists, I do not know where it is, and yet, I’ve been there time and again.

I ended that post with a version of the tune “Theme From A Dream,” written by Boudleaux Bryant. Chet Atkins was the first to record it, sixty-three years ago today, on October 23, 1958. That first version would be released in 1959 on the album Chet Atkins In Hollywood, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 754

Saturday, October 2nd, 2021

I thought I’d offer a progress report. The lenses in both eyes have been replaced. The vision in my left eye, operated on just three days ago, is a bit blurry, but using both eyes, my distance vision – unaided – is better than it’s been since 1962, when I first started wearing glasses.

Nearer vision is a different thing. The surgeon calibrated each eye differently; it’s a standard practice, said the tech at my last appointment, although I did not understand her explanation. That means that for closer vision, my eyes work differently right now. For example, my right eye can read clearly as I type this post. My left eye struggles. The same holds true for browsing on the ’Net: possible but a little bit of a struggle.

And books and newspapers? Right now, that’s a disaster. I can read for maybe a half an hour at a time, closing my left eye and using a large magnifying glass to aid my right eye. An entire book bag full of books will go back to the library today, as there’s no way I will get them read by the time they are ultimately due.

I’ll hang on to three – two about the Holocaust that I might be able to renew often enough to read after I get glasses in about two weeks, and the newest Stephen King novel, Billy Summers, which I’m reading in the evenings before bed with my right eye and the magnifying glass.

The reading limitation also means that browsing through my massive music reference library in search of a topic for this space is not possible, I’ll still try to post something here Tuesday that’s more in line with what I usually do here than is this progress report.

Among the more than 83,000 tracks on the digital shelves, only one has the word “focus” its title. In fact, that’s the entire title: “Focus.” It’s a track from the only album ever released by a group called Moonstone that hailed – according to the website Prog Archives – from Winnipeg, Manitoba. The self-titled album came out in 1973, and I somehow found a copy during my early years online, although I have no idea where I found it. Prog Archives describes Moonstone’s music as “acoustic folk rock with psychedelic overtones.”

Here’s “Focus” by Moonstone, today’s Saturday Single.

My Eyes

Tuesday, September 21st, 2021

This – like so many other posts recently – will be brief for a very practical reason. I can no longer see very well. Even the white of the word processing program’s page has smudges on it that I cannot see through very well, the product of cataracts in both eyes, and that makes writing very much a headache-producing struggle.

That should change this week and the next. Tomorrow I will have the lens in my right eye replaced, and a week later, the same will happen with my left eye. I know the surgeries are now very common: My mom and the Texas Gal both had their lenses replaced during the life of this blog, and there were no complications.

Still, I have some anxieties about the surgeries, which I think is understandable. I’ve been trying in the past weeks simply to acknowledge them and then let them go. That’s not easy, but I think I’m doing all right.

This has been coming for a while, maybe three years for the cataract in my left eye and two for the one in my right eye, but the growth of the two has accelerated greatly in the last year, causing the vision experts to say that it’s time. And in just the month or so that the surgeries have been contemplated and scheduled, I’ve noticed an even more rapid degradation of my vision.

I assume things will go well tomorrow and the following Wednesday. I’m not sure how awkward things will be during the week between the two surgeries, with one eye corrected and the other still impaired. So, I do not know how often I will be posting here. A one-week absence is possible. So I’ll (metaphorically) see you – more clearly, I assume – on the far side.

Anyway, here’s one of my favorite tunes with “eyes” in the title: “Dark Eyes” by Bob Dylan. It’s from his 1985 album Empire Burlesque. The notes to the recently released Bootleg Series No. 16 – titled Springtime in New York, 1980-85 – say that the album’s co-producer, Arthur Baker, one day suggested adding an acoustic song to the album, and the next day, Dylan brought in “Dark Eyes,” written the night before:

Oh, the gentlemen are talking, and the midnight moon is on the riverside,
They’re drinking up and walking and it is time for me to slide.
I live in another world where life and death are memorized,
Where the earth is strung with lovers’ pearls and all I see are dark eyes.

A cock is crowing far away and another soldier’s deep in prayer,
Some mother’s child has gone astray, she can’t find him anywhere.
But I can hear another drum beating for the dead that rise,
Whom nature’s beast fears as they come and all I see are dark eyes.

They tell me to be discreet for all intended purposes,
They tell me revenge is sweet and from where they stand, I’m sure it is.
But I feel nothing for their game where beauty goes unrecognized,
All I feel is heat and flame and all I see are dark eyes.

Oh, the French girl, she’s in paradise and a drunken man is at the wheel,
Hunger pays a heavy price to the falling gods of speed and steel.
Oh, time is short, and the days are sweet, and passion rules the arrow that flies,
A million faces at my feet but all I see are dark eyes.