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Canada day

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I am an American, but I’m not blind. Poutine is incredible. It gives French fries a reason to exist. I’m from North Carolina,, deep in the heart of Krispy Kreme country, but if there was a Tim Horton’s within fifty miles I would be having a serious emotional conflict. There’s Rush and Gordon Lightfoot, the Trailer Park Boys,,, Emerald Lake and the Shuswap, But mostly there are all the wonderful people who inhabit this great land and all those I feel privileged to think of as my friends.

I have only spent a short time in Canada but, even eighteen years later, the memory of it is strong in my heart and mind. I was lucky to be there, thanks, Tamatha.

Have a happy day, my friends, and be proud. You should be.

The Gauntlet

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This is my Confederate battle flag. Or, at least, it used to be. I put it in that trash can with my own hands and of my own free will and now it is the property of the Buncombe County landfill, to be interred beneath an inverted mountain of garbage forever. This is my sacrifice on the altar of peace.

Let’s not make any mistakes here. The peace I’m talking about is for me and me alone. My heart and mind will no longer be occupied, rent free, by squatters who keep me awake at night with their ignorant prattle. Any of you who think you can demolish a statue and change anyone’s mind is flat out wrong, but go ahead and try. Anger breeds anger and all of history bears that out.

I have turned my back on my anger and I am not looking back.

For those of us who are unfamiliar with the terminology surrounding single combat, the gauntlet, as it is referred to here, is a glove, presented to a person as a challenge. Refusal to take up the gauntlet was widely considered to be an act of cowardice, but I am not going there. I would prefer to think of it as an invitation to anyone who wishes it to challenge themselves, to stand up and show their courage; to excise the anger from their heart and be at peace.

This is doubtless going to be a long journey and I am sure there will be moments of moral and emotional conflict. I expect  it to last for the rest of my life. Here’s hoping it’s a long trip for all of us.

 

 

Roger, do you think they’ll drop the Bomb? (Or,George Floyd is important, Pink Floyd is not.)

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The music of Pink Floyd has been an integral part of my life since I was a boy. David Gilmour made me want to play the guitar and Roger Waters held the yardstick with which every word I ever wrote was measured.

The 1983 breakup of this great band was a very sad thing, and not just because of the music. The fans were polarized almost immediately into the Gilmour camp and the Waters camp. This could be understood decades ago, when the wounds were still raw, but not anymore.

Still, ridiculous as it is, the childish bickering continues and for what? Money? If you don’t have enough by now you never will. The love and respect of the fans? That can’t be it, you’re pissing that away every single day (that’s for you, Rog.) I know. It’s got to be for justice. Oh, it’s just not fair that David Gilmour is playing music and making tons of money while Roger Waters has to content himself with playing music and making tons of money.

If I’m honest, I have to say that I haven’t heard much of this coming from the Gilmour side of the fence, even in the face of the insults leveled at his wife and kids. Maybe the stone in Roger’s craw has more to do with the fact that David’s happy at the basic human level and Roger doesn’t seem to be able to get his head far enough around the concept to make it happen for himself, which makes him more to be pitied than scolded.

George Floyd, a working class black man who lived in Minneapolis, a city in the midwestern United States, until he didn’t, was killed as the result of blatant police brutality. This heinous act was enough injustice to make any thinking,, caring person sick but it’s really just the beginning.

The injustice done to Mister Floyd has sown a swift growing seed of fear, anger and, yes. injustice which sickens the hearts and minds of otherwise good hearted people all across America. Police officers,, even good ones, are now regarded with fear and suspicion by people who would not ordinarily do so, out of fear  that they or someone they love could be the next to be unjustly hurt or killed. The gross injustice perpetrated on George Floyd by these so-called law enforcement officers, so utterly derelict in their duties, has rebounded to endanger the very ones they would call their brothers.

Not all anger is righteous. Some isn’t anger at all. Please pardon me for saying so, but I have to question the motivations of people who protest social inequities by stealing from their neighbors. This behavior diminishes the credibility of people of good will and bolsters the arguments of their critics. Another injustice.

I watched an interview with Stephen Jackson, a lifelong friend of George Floyd. It pierced my heart in a way that Comfortably Numb never  did and never will. When he said that his friend would never want this, that he baptized people, I saw the greatest injustice of all: that the fire and blood, the hate, anger and fear were spewed out in his name.

Enough.

Can’t we just not be Friends?

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Before anything else, thanks to Caitlyn Kelly for suggesting that I post this, sight unseen. Let’s see how it goes.

I have lived in a lot of places, with a lot of people moving into and out of my life. I grew up in a military family, surrounded by other military families who were also constantly on the move. This changes things.

I figured out early that my base housing relationships were going to end and, most likely, they were going to end suddenly, with seldom more than a couple weeks notice. I wrote letters, maybe a few letters, to see how things were going, but it was inevitable that, by slow degrees, the distance would grow. The changes would come and we would not be there for them, until my Friends and I became people we used to know.

This used to hurt me. I didn’t understand how so many people I liked and remembered so well could just forget me. The old feeling of hurt has faded into a sort of humble acceptance that I, as a small part of the past, shouldn’t expect to be that important in the present, so good luck to you all and no hard feelings.

I have Friends now, seven at last count. They have seen me when I would much rather they had not and held me in their hearts even though I felt I didn’t deserve it. My Friends don’t all know one another but whenever I am with any of them I belong, and belonging is everything. I Love my Friends and, sad as it is to say, that’s not good enough anymore.

The wheels of progress roll and, while many good things come from this, far too often things of immense value are left ruined in the ruts they leave in their passing. Things like Friends.

The Gospel of John says ” Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” I’m an atheist and, gender politics aside, I feel certain this statement is in no way an accurate reflection of many people’s Facebook profile.

Sometimes I hope for some friendship and end up with a broken heart. I will meet someone and find I really like them, then something will emerge that I simply can’t abide, can’t respect. If I still think it’s worth it, I’ll try for a while but it usually rankles to the point that the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze.

Let’s not make any mistakes here. Often as not the problem is me. I’m less than diplomatic and people don’t like that, even though it means I’m addressing them like an adult. Some people don’t like that either.

So here I am in my shop and it’s LONELY. One day this will end and my friends and I will be together once more. I will, however, still be me, just like they will be who they are and we will belong.

To the friend I had who was taken by the covid-19 pandemic, I could not be more deeply sorry. This aside, all the sorrow and regret, the tender words and forgiveness can’t change the fact that we should just not be friends.

So what the Hell’s so funny?

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I just wrote a comment about being shut in the house during the present global shitstorm. In that post I wrote about the importance of laughter. The original title of this post was going to be Mel Brooks saved my Life. He’s doing it every day, along with the Marx brothers, the Trailer Park Boys, Loony Tunes, Ren and Stimpy and SpongeBob SquarePants. From the bottom of my heart I thank you all, even Squidward.

So help a poor country boy out and let me know what’s making you laugh. Your list doesn’t have to be sophisticated, like mine, just funny. This could be a real voyage of discovery, both of the art of comedy and of one another. See you in the comments.

A Taste of my Misspent Youth

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It seems to me the “digital” world has overtaken the “actual” world in a lot of ways. People, as a rule, once had to actually do something noteworthy to become famous because there is only so much space in any given edition of the paper.

Now, here in our sea of profiles, I hear posting a picture of your lunch can sometimes be enough to start you on your way to being the stuff of legends. So here I  go,, wish me luck.

Just about anyone who went to an American public school in the late twentieth century has eaten, or refused to eat, this meal. The meat is dry, the potatoes are mushy, the gravy is salty and lumpy and the vegetables are overcooked beyond recognition. In other words, it’s perfect.

I did cook this and then I ate it,, hard as it may be to believe. Am I famous yet?

Facing East, Near Sundown

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I took this picture from my front yard just before Christmas. It was, as advertised, near sundown and I was facing east. This struck me as an ideal metaphor to frame my thoughts of the passing year and my hopes for the new one.

I can’t remember the last year I was as glad to see the end of as 2019  So much anger and hate, so many people so wrapped up in their own shit, myself included, that it gets hard to see what even matters.

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary named “They” as the word of the year, whatever that is, but I’m not rooting for it. My vote goes solidly behind “Outrage”. While the outraged may cry out for justice, it seldom seems to be what they actually want and, if these outraged persons make enough noise and get enough attention then, right or wrong, they can get it. No justice there.

I’m not saying the idea of equating justice with ruining someone’s life over what amounts to hurt feelings is a new thing, it’s just so much easier to do now and, now that it is, more and more people seem to want to take a turn sitting on the judge’s bench. The thing that seems to escape many of us regarding this matter is that any of us could be hauled up in front of the court of public opinion, tried by a jury of people who really couldn’t care less and condemned on the weight of ten seconds of cell phone video that may or may not tell the whole story. All this for nothing more than walking into a confrontational situation while minding your own business. I’m not sensing an earnest quest for justice here.

How about here? Kyler Murray, Heisman trophy winning quarterback of the Oklahoma Sooners, was found by some enterprising seeker of justice to have used some words like “Queer” in some twitter posts when he was fifteen. Oh, the Horror! Thank you, seeker of justice, for using the utterances of a foolish child to ruin the biggest moment of this guy’s life. Real smooth.

 

For all that, there are things I truly enjoyed experiencing and memories I will treasure. Here are some pictures:

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We were all very sad and lonely after Milton’s most untimely demise,, especially our other friend, Archie. After eight cats, though, we know that the only cure for losing a beloved cat is to bring home a sweet little kitten. Therefore, I take great pleasure in introducing miss Betty Spaghetti.

 

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Here’s my sister (pink jacket) along with her kids and grandkids. Such lovely people.

 

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Here I am, making friends wherever I go. Photo: Kenny Nines, King of selfies.

 

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Paul Reed Smith SE Custom 22 semi-hollow body. Yabba dabba doo! I can’t even look at it without wanting to pick it up and play it.

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Epiphone ES-335 Dot. See comment above.

 

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On the left we have Big Red’s little buddy, known simply as the Orange Guitar. It was the first one I built, so it needed professional help. Now that it’s properly set up, it can really talk.

 

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Archie and Betty , sitting in the window of my shop. They took their time making friends, but now they’re good.

 

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Here’s Willie the ghost, scaring the crap out of children since 2002. He gives me the willies a little bit, too.

 

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Doughty Yokels take on Godawful monsters in my very own wargame. I never said I wasn’t a geek.

 

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I don’t drink much, I’d rather smoke pot, but Cathy got me to try a cosmopolitan. It was pretty good, but the real story is my hair.

 

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Here’s some bee balm, and here’s some different bee balm.

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Here’s Cathy. She’s feeling good because her monsters are beating the Hell out of the Yokels. Good times.

 

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That’s my dogwood tree, viewed from my bedroom window. Needs a bit of cropping.

 

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Here’s Milton. I have tears in my eyes right now.

 

Boy howdy, have I ever got a lot of pics! I’m really glad for all the good things in my life and I look forward to the good things that will come my way in the coming year. That’s why I’m facing east. I hope all of you are feeling the same way.

OK this is why I don’t do drafts. Like most of us, I hated all the political unrest and bullying. For all that, I’ve got to admit I like the widespread disease, of the body and the spirit,, even less.

When this is all over, we’re all going to have to find a way to move on and get back to being friends. Good luck, everyone.

Rock and Roll by the Numbers

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So there’s this Rock and Roll Hall of fame place and people, some people, like to complain about its lack of diversity. Let’s think about this for a minute.

First, before we even get to the numbers, let’s consider the music and what should go where. Just down the road from Cleveland, the home of the RRHOF is the town of Canton, Ohio, home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Barring a serious cultural change and a major rewriting of history, Tiger woods,, Serena Williams and Babe Ruth will never be inducted there, for obvious reasons. Now Rock and Roll.

First, for the diversity crowd, I have a few numbers. Of the 77 acts inducted in its first ten years, 44 were either all black or featured black performers. Were they that much better?  The Beatles had to wait two years, along with the Beach Boys and  Bob Dylan  the Rolling Stones waited three, The Grateful Dead waited eight,, David Bowie and Pink Floyd, ten years. Whitney Houston who,, bless her heart, is about as not rock and roll as it gets, will be inducted this year while Pat Benatar, who has every bit as good a voice and a thousand times as much Rock and roll edge and swagger, not to mention Motorhead…Fucking MOTORHEAD have to wait while the so-called experts pander to the whiners.

I can sympathize a bit more with the ladies, who truly are, in my opinion, underrepresented to some extent. When the new Hip Hop Museum/ Hall of fame is opened in Harlem, I will watch with interest to see how long it takes them to induct Patsy Cline and Led Zeppelin. Until then, please know that I smell what you’re cookin’. It’s a big ol’ pan full of shut the fuck up. Time to play my guitar.

Goodbye, Neil Peart

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I can’t even get close to telling you how many of the musicians that have touched my life are now gone. John Denver’s music was like the comforting words of a friend. The genius David Bowie, whose entire life was a constantly evolving work of art,, opened my mind to beauty that I hadn’t even considered. Johnny Cash showed me, and the rest of the world, that you can die of a broken heart. Fresh tears flow down my face as I remember these wonderful people and the way they showed me the joy of having an open heart.

There are so many more I could mention, that could be an interesting topic for a later post. Now a few words about Neil.

I started listening to Rush in1982, when my sister handed me a copy of their classic, (then previous) album Moving pictures. I had heard Tom Sawyer before, but hadn’t paid much attention to the lyrics. That ended when I read these lyrics. Since that time, the Professor, as he is known to many, has been a sounding board for my own ideas about the world as well as myself. Steven Colbert asked him if Rush fans had a name, like “Dead Heads”. Neil’s reply was “They have their own names”.

The only drummer I can think of that is in Neil’s league is Keith Moon of the Who (If you didn’t know that, shame on you.), and that for opposite reasons.  It’s like they’re both tied into some huge wave of swirling chaos. Keith is riding his and Neil is driving his. To call him brilliant is an understatement only an Englishman could leave standing alone.

So now Neil Peart has departed this life. Here are a few words he left me:

Dreams flow across the heartland

Feeding on the fires

Dreams transport desires

Drive you when you’re down

Dreams transport the ones

Who need to get out of town

(Middletown Dreams, 1985)

So long, Friend.

Funeral for a Friend

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We travel through our lives with the ones we love, the ones who are important. We try to stay close, even hand in hand but, inevitably, one of us gets lost anyway. This morning that friend, that important one, was my sweet baby Milton. You can see his face on my profile picture for the next few days, before I change it. Its too much to take.

It wasn’t quick and it wasn’t painless. I could have shot him but I just knelt beside him on the floor, second guessing myself until it no longer made any difference. I get philosophical about death, the ethics of mercy and the irresistible compulsion to hold on, even when there is nothing left to do but let go. Death came to Milton as a friend, one I couldn’t bring myself to be. I say this to my everlasting shame.

I don’t think I deserve any consolation, so please don’t comment. Milton was a real good boy and I’m going to miss him every day. So long old friend.

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