I have to say, this New Year….this new decade, seems to have crept up on me without me having had much time to prepare. I’d like to start it off anew by saying:

If I have offended you in any way in this past year, I apologize. It may happen again this year….but perhaps not.

If I have made you laugh or smile this past year, it makes me happy.

If I have shared an image or picture which you liked, it’s my pleasure.

If we have had thoughts of concern, or for wishes for better health for others, then may others do the same for us as we need it.

If we have shared our weaknesses, let us be stronger next year.

If we are concerned about changing the world for the good, let us persevere, let us do the right things. Let us reject things we know to be false, and strive for truth.

If we have loved, let’s continue to love. If we have hated…let us instead try love!

Let us all remember that life is short.

I can’t express to my family how much I love them for the memories and help and laughter we have shared this past year. I hope we have many more years ahead to build good memories.

That Scotsman Robert Burns said:

“We two have paddled in the stream,

from morning sun till dine† ;

But seas between us broad have roared

since auld lang syne.”

There are many people with whom I have “paddled in the stream” of life with over the years who are not here for this celebration of “days gone by” The older we get, the more that happens.

Tonight when the ball drops, IF I am still awake I will remember them….and in the way of life as memories go, I will think of all the good times and none of the bad. Let’s make our memories goods ones in 2020, so when someone sings auld lang syne and we are not here they will remember US fondly.

The best of New Years to you my friends and family.

Be a Better Person this Year

In our culture, a new year signifies a new beginning. People make resolutions they hardly ever keep. Mostly after a few days or a couple of weeks we resume our “normal” lives.

I wish this year could be different. I wish it could be the year of caring. I wish it was the year that nobody went hungry, nobody died from exposure because the have no home.

I wish it was the year that no soldiers died in service, and that most of them could come home.

I wish it was the year we realize we need to change our energy needs, and begin to try and reverse the damage to our climate.

I wish that nobody dies from an overdose, and that a cure for cancer can be found.

Why can’t these things, and many other problems with our world and our civilization be done?

We put men on the moon. So these other simple things should be a cinch. We put so much research money into weapons of mass destruction, that the Russians say they have an unstoppable bomb. Yet, the cancer rate in their country is among the highest in the world, if not the highest. Remember Chernobyl? Could they cure cancer if they spent the same amount of money researching it as they do nuclear bombs? Could we in America do it if we spent the same amount of money on research as we do on weapons?

Things will more than likely stay the same. Status quo, or maybe get worse.

As I said earlier this week, the best we can do is to love our family and care for them first, and then try to extend that circle gradually outward. We can encompass friends, then take in strangers. We can care for citizens and immigrants. We can do it if, and only if we want to. We can decide to be better, or we can stay stuck in stasis. We can band together for good, or we can let those people who hate take us over, and tell us how to think. I don’t want to do that.

I want to become more active in helping people, all people that I can. I want to take better care of my dogs, even if it’s just a warm blanket for them to sleep with. They are old, and so am I. Warm blankets mean a lot. Warm hugs mean a lot. Warmth is caring, not caring is callousness. I’ve had it with callousness.

Now, after the ball drops, I’m going to bed and listen to Dan Fogelberg sing “Another Auld Lang Syne” and try and get some sleep. Then I’m going to wake up in a new year tomorrow and try and be a better man.

That’s not a resolution, that’s a promise. Join me if you can.

Happy New Year to everyone. Love you all.

The Ghosts of New Years Past…

I was thinking the other day about the New Year, and wrote a little piece about it. I started trying to recall the first New Year’s celebration that is logged away somewhere on the hard drive of my brain. I can’t really remember a specific one. Isn’t that strange?

I remember early Christmases. Oh how well I remember that Red Wagon that Santa brought me back in 1954 when I was only 4 years old. We lived in a little old Mill house up on Sixth Street in the proverbial “Mill” town of Trion, Georgia. It was the last Christmas in that house before we moved to a new house that my Dad was having built in another part of town. I guess things were not too bad that year. If we could afford that wagon, and the set of Hopalong Cassidy guns and the outfit that I also got AND move later on to a new house then things were going pretty good. We lived in that new house for eight years until Dad could no longer afford the payments, and we had to move out, back to “Hot Town” just two streets over from where we were celebrating in 1954.

There were a lot of good Christmas memories at the “new” house. My brother was born while we were there. There were “cut down” cedar trees every year in front of the big “picture” window that my Mom was so fond of. There was the year of the Lionel train; there was a year in which I got a telescope to view the Universe and its vastness. I never appreciated the years there as I should have. There was the one wonderful Christmas back in 1962 I believe it was, when it snowed. One of the VERY few times that “heat miser” let it snow in Southland! How beautiful it was to come out and look through that big window that morning and see the snow falling in huge feathery flakes, and the snow already piled up high in wind drifts against the trees. Santa that was the year you were supposed to bring a sled, but we had to make do with cardboard boxes cut up into home made flexible flyers! And oh we did. We slid down the hill at the cemetery across the road from my house until the dead people there must have thought Jesus was coming back, what with all the commotion. I don’t even have a clue what I got that year for Christmas. I got a WHITE Christmas. That was enough. That was sufficient in itself to provide memories to last the rest of my life. Surely any toy would never have been impressive enough to do the same.

Oh yes, Christmas memories are not hard to come by. But New Years? That’s another thing altogether. My folks never made such a big deal about it. Some of the time we were at my Grandparent’s house and went to bed with the chickens even on New Year’s Eve. Even when we were at our own house, I can’t remember any New Year’s parties, or any celebrations that were held in anticipation of a New Year. It just came. The years just stacked up, and you greeted them with the same anticipation that you did any other day.

After my wife and I married in 1969, we started marking the New Year.

I think that every year now since we have been married, my wife and I have done something to mark the New Year. We let the kids sit up and watch Dick Clark blather on, and watch the big ball drop at Time’s Square and the “Peach” drop in Atlanta. I can’t remember if there were any years that we were not together, or not many really that the whole family hasn’t been around. Just the last few years, I think we have gone our separate ways to some extent. Most of the time now, we go to my daughter’s house and play board games and then do the count down. Backwards from ten to zero and ZOOM, in comes another year.

It’s all pretty humbling when you step back and think about it though. This year we are marking as 2014 A.D. (At least those of us who use the Julian calendar. The Chinese and the Muslims both have a different “New Year” then we do. This year the Chinese New Year starting on January 14 and will be the year of the Horse, very appropriate. The Muslims use the Hijah Calendar which was created by Mohammed) Most people make the mistake of thinking that A.D. stands for “After Death” when it’s Anno Domini or “In the Year of our Lord” It was “invented” if you will in/about the year 525 by Dionysius Exiguus to figure out when Easter was. But, I digress. Think of 2000 and 14 of those babies! Just think of all the monumental things that have happened in those 2014 years. Break out your history books sometime and thumb through them. There are some Earth Shaking years wrapped up in there. Some years that changed human history forever. Some of them are ones that are a no brainer. 1945, the year that the first Atomic bomb was used. That one changed the world forever didn’t it? There are some that are more obscure, but nonetheless just as important. How about when Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis on the door of Wittenberg Church on October 31, 1517? Although Luther didn’t know it at the time, that year broke the hold of the Catholic Church on Christianity. Just think how much that change our world.

How about September 11, 2001 as a recent year that changed history? It definitely has, and will continue to, as we move through all of the ramifications and repercussions of moving through this Brave New World we are now entering into.

Think about all the new technology that has developed since World War II. For some reason, that particular War more than any other has seemed to be a catalyst for the development of Science in leaps and bounds. It’s amazing what has taken place, but it’s scary at the same time. I just heard a man talking on the Radio not more than a week ago saying how one day soon all humans would have special chips inserted into their hands so that they would not have to have cards, or even any other forms of identification in order to buy things, or go places. No more credit cards, or passports just that little non-removable chip to tell the world who you are. I am glad I am about past the point where I might be around when they institute THAT little bit of Science one of these New Years. I am afraid that they would just have to skip me on that one.

I have also heard where more and more people are now using biotechnology which identifies human embryos outside of the human body for things such as disease, genetic malformations, and most prevalently for the sex of the baby. Pretty soon it’s going to get down to the parents being able to say: “I want a boy with blonde hair and blue eyes, who has an I.Q. of at least 150, and we are going to want him to be a pianist” The new Eugenics, and yes it will probably get to that point one day if whoever decides on this type of thing (and who will that be?) decides to let it get that far. If it’s our Federal Government, then God help us, it will certainly be a mess. It could already be in use as far as we know in some countries out there. Think about it. There are a lot of countries who don’t even have the constraints of Ethics which we have in the U.S. (And that’s saying something right there, buddy!)

Now there is also word of a new Computer program being developed which can store everything which is on a human beings brain on the hard drive of the computer. It can’t store the emotion, or the spirit of the person. Just what they knew or know. Think about the uses for that, when a program can be bought which you can store Grandma or Grandpa’s knowledge on. Maybe they will fix it up where you can put a 3-D likeness of the person on there, and actually program it where it can seem like you are communicating with them. “Hey Grandma, do you remember back when I was 13, and fell down your steps and broke my arm?” “Of course I do Honey” it answers back. “That was really a bad day”


They say what the mind of man can conceive can be turned into reality. And to think I have been reading Stephen King for years. Oh boy.

That’s all pessimism though, and maybe things will actually turn out for the good in some of the upcoming New Years. They are coming up with treatments and cures for more diseases every day, and doing things to relieve the suffering of humanity. Yes, believe it or not there ARE still some humans out there who work on things to benefit others without the thoughts of greed or manipulation guiding them. (Not enough of them though!)

I heard where there are Cancer treatments being developed through genetic research, where people’s own cells (I believe stem cells if I am not mistaken) can be used to attach a killer “trigger” to, which only affects cancer cells, so that when the cells are introduced into the body they kill ONLY the Cancer and leave everything else healthy. What a good year it will be when they can use that one.

That type of genetic research, where genes are modified to take care of human problems and suffering can be a good outcome. What if they could eliminate suffering of all kinds? Some people would think that a world without suffering would be wonderful. But I wonder. I wonder if ALL suffering should be eliminated. Seems like that would take away a little bit of what it means to be human, but that’s just my opinion.

Then there are those that will tell you that all of this must be leading up to the “end of time” Yes, that’s right, the end of all the “New Years.” In Christian beliefs Christ himself is going to return again in one of these New Years for those who are his children. According to many Christians, the signs are out there for all to see. The diverse Earthquakes and disasters (remember the tsunami several years ago on the day after Christmas?) the continuing problems in the Middle East, especially between Jews and Arabs. The widespread and very dangerous spread of new antibiotic resistant disease. The famine which affects more of the world every day. The lack of Love in people for other people. Matthew chapter 24 chronicles what Jesus had to say about it. Read it and decide for yourself. A lot of people already have.

I am not sure of everything that is happening, I will tell you that for certain. At my age, a lot of the new technology is fascinating, but it’s like a double edged sword. My religious indoctrination says the signs are out there, but the scientist in me is in conflict with the theologian. The reader of the written word in me, the seeker of knowledge, wants to keep abreast of everything that’s going on in the world, but sometimes over analyzes or doesn’t understand the significance of what is being input and processed by my teeny brain. The realist in me knows that things can’t stay the same, but the dreamer wants things to stay like they are, or go back to the way they were!

Remembering New Years? Do you see know why it’s hard to do. When you get stuff like this in your head, then it sometimes just starts to run together like syrup across pancakes.

I am glad it’s almost 2014, and I am super glad I have made it this far and if nothing happens I will be watching the ball drop in times square at midnight December 31, and I will be hoping that this year may just be THE year when everything starts to come together for the good of everyone in the world. Happy New Year to everyone in The Year of Our Lord 2014.

Going to the Movies

When I was a kid, back in those “dark” ages, I remember walking to the old Trion movie “show” with a quarter, and being able to not only buy admission but also popcorn and a coke.

The movies were mostly Westerns and an occasional Sci-Fi film, but many a wonderful summer afternoon was enjoyed at that big white monstrosity of a building. The multi color play bills advertising upcoming movies hung up on the walls all over the place. Famous stars like Jimmy Stewart or John Wayne would be staring down “at ya Pilgrim”

I went to see “The Hobbit” with Ted and Paula this afternoon, and continue to wonder if all this high tech is really worthwhile. The ticket lady said: “That will be 10.50 per ticket because it’s in 3-D” “Do you have just regular old Technicolor?” I asked. “No” she replied.

So we got our tickets, went in and waited until two minutes before the film started before they let us in. They were having problems cleaning up they said. I wondered if the previous crowd had rioted over the prices.

Anyway the movie started, and I put the big clumsy 3D glasses over the top of my regular glasses.

Now, the movie was kind of good. It was all pretty much non Tolkien, because most of the stuff they wrote into the screen play ain’t in the book. But great entertainment. The 3D thing just bugs me though. I used to get excited over black and white movies, and well directed and written movies of any kind please me very much. I just think 3D is the latest ploy, and latest toy they use to fleece people. Kind of like if you can’t blind them with brilliance, baffle them with bull s**t. Peter Jackson has it in him to do better. I cried after the first “Lord of the Rings” movie, sitting there listening to Enya sing “May it Be” That was a great movie! This one…good entertainment.

I really hope they get over this phase, cause next time I go to the movies and they tell me its 3D I’ll probably just go home and watch “Diners, Drive Ins and Dives”

The best thing by far was being with Paula and Teddy. That pretty much makes up for everything else….and the movie was exciting…I’ll have to give it that. I did not fall asleep…not one single time. “The Duke” woulda been proud of me.

On being Frank Sinatra

I was just listening to Frank Sinatra the other night. That man could really sing.

I never really listened to Sinatra a lot before September of 1968. Before that time, I was an Elvis fan first. I like some other rockers too. Jerry Lee Lewis was another. I liked a lot of the other crooners besides Sinatra earlier on in my life too. Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Perry Como and Andy Williams. I sang “White Christmas” every year at school from 1964 through 1967. I could do “Everybody Loves Somebody” and sound just like Dean Martin, I’ll guarantee it. Paula and I went on our one and only cruise back in 2011, and I went to nightly Karaoke on the ship and sang that song. The rest of the cruise, I had people coming up to me in the dining room and saying….”There’s ol’ Dino” Yep, I do a pretty good imitation of him.

But Sinatra? I could never imitate him very well. I didn’t do it in High School because I had never listened to one of his albums before. Oh, I had heard him on the radio of course. “Strangers in the Night” was a hit song during 1966. It hit number 1 on the pop charts that year. His daughter also had a hit with “These Boots Were Made for Walking” in 1966. It seems that that was a good year for the Sinatra family. But, Sinatra’s album “Watertown” which came out in 1970, only sold 30,000 copies. He just sort of retired from recording new stuff after that. He got dissatisfied with the way his voice sounded and although he performed in Vegas, things were never the same.

I only discovered how much I loved his earlier music in that early fall of 1968. That’s the month I started to college at West Georgia College in Carrollton. West Georgia still had a real “small college” feel back in 1968, and I’m glad I went there. Another reason I’m glad I went was because that’s where I met my future wife. But…back to Sinatra.

My “assigned” roommate in Strozier hall at West Georgia College, who’s name was also Larry, was a real record collector. He brought his record collection, and his record player to college with him. I didn’t have squat besides the clothes in my closet, so I asked Larry if I could listen to his record player while he was gone to class. He told me it was ok, but “You might not like my taste in music” At first, I had to agree.

There were no rock and roll records in his collection. No Elvis, no Beatles, no Rolling Stones. There was Sinatra, Nancy Wilson and Deon Warwick. There was about 6 Sinatra records, and his record player held five albums at a time, so I took Sinatra. It was a good choice.

The albums were all from the fifties and early sixties…up to that 1966 album from which “Strangers in the Night” came. There was Cole Porter songs like “I’ve Got You Under my Skin” and there were songs from movies like “Three Coins in the Fountain” There were the greats: “Come Fly with Me”, “The Days of Wine and Roses”, “Fly Me to the Moon”, “The Lady is a Tramp”, “That’s Life”, and my favorite of all of his songs “It Was a Very Good Year”. My next to favorite was the oft recorded Paul Anka song “My Way” I think he is best remembered for that song, but I liked “very good year” the best.

It hit me the first time I heard it, and it still does the same to me after all of these years. He had a great hit song in the seventies with “New York, New York,” too. That was in 1979, and Sinatra is remembered best for that song, even though it came from a Liza Minelli movie.

All of those records that my roommate brought with him to college changed my tastes in music. I went on to listen to just about every album he had brought. I got to like Patti Page and Doris Day. I listened to Rosemary Clooney and Eartha Kitt. I took the measure of Billy Vaughn and Burt Bacharach. If not for those albums, I’d have never have loved music as completely as I do, and would have missed a lot of good moments in the history of music.

Larry and I were roommates for that entire year, and after that year I married my permanent roommate!

I do still love Sinatra though, and I’m glad for YouTube so I can dial up the old hits from time to time. I grew to even like Nancy Wilson too. Larry said I would…..

Putting ourselves to the test

I try to watch sunrises and sunsets as much as possible. I frequently make photographs of them, as any of you who are my friends well know. I love the days that I live on this big blue marble. I certainly enjoy everyone of them, and will try and continue to do so.

But, I am fortunate. So much more so than the vast majority of other human beings on the face of the earth.

All around us there is hunger, and homelessness. Even in our fortunate country there is plenty of it out there. If I could end it all with a snap of my fingers I would do it. If I had the money to end it all…..would I do it? Or, would I say: “I earned this money, and it’s mine” even if I didn’t need a fraction of it?

If I was living in luxury, would I have the same attitude as I do now, as this person who lives paycheck to paycheck, and always has?

It’s an interesting question to ask yourself. If you could do magic, like the finger snapping thing, and end all poverty, hunger, sickness, homelessness and disease in the world it’d be easy to make that choice, wouldn’t it? But, if we were billionaires with lots of real money, would we try and do the same things?

I think that the answer to that question is pretty much self evident.

Maybe I’ll venture out and buy a lottery ticket for tonight and tomorrow. If I won, I could put myself to the test.

New Years – 2017

The New Year is creeping every closer. Just a few more days until Sunday and it will be 2017.

When I was a kid in the 1950’s, I often thought about the year 2000 and beyond. I thought it would be a magical time where most problems of health and poverty would be solved and I thought that surely by then the world would find a way to be at peace. I thought people would travel around in “sky cars” sort of like the Jetsons and that there would be devices to take care of human needs. I thought human beings would be living together like the people in the Coke commercials. Singing together in “perfect harmony”.

I think maybe if we, the human race, had spent as much money and effort on the problems of health and poverty, and on finding ways of helping our fellow man instead of on wars, weapons of wars and ways to destroy each other we might have seen that idealistic world I dreamed off as a child. Instead, the rich have become richer and the poor have gotten poorer, and our divisions have deepened.

Where did we go wrong? Surely I thought, after two huge wars that killed so many people in the middle of the century we would LEARN something……I want to go back sometimes to those days in the past and see if it was something I did, or didn’t do, that might have helped. Surely I could have done more. Certainly we could have all done more.

Instead we have become slaves to technology, instead of beneficiaries of it. People use it to spread hatred and discord. People spend hours and days lost in cyber space instead of talking face to face with each other.

Instead of moving forward for the good of all mankind, and in the spirit of love, it appears we have gone backwards. In this past year especially, hatred has become more widespread. The population of our country seems always to be split right down the middle on important social and cultural issues. The holiday season this year has given us a tiny break in which to catch our breath, before we apparently embark on a new national journey….a tact we have never before taken. We are sailing in uncharted waters. Bad or good? Depends on which half of the population you belong to.

I have to have hope that we will learn from what lies ahead. I have to have faith that somehow humanity will turn over a new leaf, and that my children and grandchildren will have a world in which to live.

Yes…the new year is creeping every closer this week. There is still a chance for all of those good things that I have pondered on in the past to happen.

I wonder if there’s a chance they will?

I wonder if we can solve the the number one problem in this world? The problem of people hating other people just because they are different from them. Just because they look different. Just because they think differently.

I used to fantasize as a child about aliens coming to visit Earth, and bringing us the secrets to peace and prosperity. Now I realize that in order for any culture or beings to reach out into the Universe to spread harmony and knowledge, they must first learn how to have it themselves.

If they are anything like us, it doesn’t appear that’s a possibility! We earthlings can barely cooperate long enough to decide what’s for dinner…much less think about reaching out to the stars.

When the ball drops, and it becomes 2017, think about what you can do to make this a better world. Let’s try a little selflessness instead of selfishness. Is it too late, or not??

Winters in the South

Winter evenings in the South are gray, bleak events. The sky is the color of the cotton that used to fly out of the sides of the bales that the train would haul into the cotton docks. The cotton that used to lay around for several weeks and get rained on, and run over by cars. That’s the kind of color the sky was today. But it was not silent. Hundreds of thousands of blackbirds kept coming overhead in huge flocks which covered the entire horizon. Hollering and cackling and screaming in their blackbird language heading west to east. Looking for some farmer’s field laying fallow and ripe for ravaging.

Echoing into the dark night

We live our lives surrounded by other human beings, but we only know them through our eyes, through the function of our other senses, through the emotional set up, and the hardwiring of our brain which we received through our genetic make up. Our feelings are a series of complex chemical reactions, triggered by exterior stimulus. The organism which we know as “us” is a very complicated piece of nature’s work.

And yet, there are those moments…those rare moments when I am experiencing the love I have for my little ones, and for others in my family, that I feel as though we are something more than simply an advanced species of mammalian life.

There are those thrilling moments of experiencing natural phenomena, such as the beauty of the world and the Universe around us, which have intrinsic value beyond that which ought to be experienced by beings to which they would have no other value to, other than the awe of their beauty.

Our evolutionary process has been long, and the whole of creation that I look out upon at night is so vast, that I cannot with good conscience preclude an interaction at some point with some thing…someone….some presence, which changed the basic nature of our species, and altered the direction we were headed. Was it like the scene from “2001 A Space Odyssey”? Nah…I don’t think it was that overt, but perhaps though, much more powerful. God? The creator of the Universe? Aww man….I just do not know, and neither do any of us, no matter what we say, do, or write. And the frustration is knowing that we may never know, even in death we may have no answers.

However, with all that being said, I hold out the hope…I pray each night, and hope my prayers are being heard, and not falling on deaf ears, or simply echoing out into an empty and cold outer space…I pray that there is something further along past the gateway we must all one day pass through.

Love will drive…

The stars are shining brightly outside tonight, and when we look at them it’s hard to realize that we are looking at the past in every single case. Sometimes we are looking at long past.

It’s easy to look into the past, and impossible to see the future. The best thing we can really do is to live in the day, love in the day, be kind in the day, and share good things with those around us. Our family, our friends and as many of those we come in contact with every day. We celebrate love during this time period of the year.

But, I hear the word hate too much every day now. I see it written down every day. Even in this season…that word rises up to bring us down. It rises up to defeat us! If we let it, that one…word…will…destroy us.

Think about it on the eve of this most holy day for Christianity. During this season for different people who celebrate other types of holy days. Think about it in the new year. I don’t want hate to destroy us, and pervert our feelings for each other.

Remember Dr. Martin Luther King’s words: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only the light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that”.