Dreaming of Nashville

At one time I dreamed of being famous. Singing for a livin’ maybe, singing my own songs. Making the big money. My wife knew who Garth Brooks was when we sat a couple of tables away from him and his first wife Sandy at a NSAI award ceremony dinner in 1989. He won an award that night…a very humble guy as I remember. He’s done pretty well since then. I had a song on hold for Charlie Daniels once, but he eventually passed on it. Same story with Patty Lovelace. Good..but not quite good enough.

It became too hard to work full time and ride to Nashville once a week. Easier to just “pass” on it. Back in the days of cassette tapes, and trying to get publishers and artists to listen, an outsider getting in was a million to one shot. All of them had friends, and relatives and drinking buddies. They got the first shots, hell you can’t blame the guys in high places for that…I’d have done the same thing.

There was no Soundcloud back then, no internet communities, no American Idol, or Voice. It all boiled down to politics and friendships. Being a nobody from nowhere Georgia was hardly a good resume. I loved it back then, but barely even pick up a guitar anymore. I moved on past that, and I’m just as happy, maybe happier than I woulda been. It takes some skill, a little talent, but most of all luck. Being in the right place at the right time. I don’t know about the first two even, but I know I was never in the right place at the right time.

It became clearly evident to me the day I got stuck on an elevator at the Nashville Hilton. There was a big songwriter hoo ha going on at the time, but I got stuck on the elevator by myself for an hour and a half. I wondered why some big name producer or artist couldn’t have been on there too. I’m sure I had a cassette tape in my pocket at the time!

I really think it’s my job to try and give out a few “little” joys when I can. It’s my job to be Dad and Papa, and be here for my wife. All the the things I have now, though they are not material possessions, mean much more than I can say. I may act like a grumpy old man a lot, but I think that’s just cause I don’t get enough sleep in.

I probably would have never gotten the happiness I feel if I had been “famous” I would have undoubtedly been too busy trying to make people who didn’t love me happy instead. I don’t think that would have been such a good trade off. I honestly believe we end up being where we are meant to be, doing the things we should be doing. Let’s all just try to do good, and we will be a success no matter what.

Memories of Days before Christmas-2016

In my past, in the days when I was growing up, one encouraging word from the right person could make my day…. maybe my entire week. If my Dad told me I had done a good job on something….anything really, I redoubled my effort to do an even better job the next time. I had the most difficult time learning to tie my shoes. I can remember, because I was almost six before I could tie them well. Dad never got mad, just kept encouraging me to try again. “You’ll get it” he said. And I finally did. I had a lot of problems with some relatively simple motor skill tasks. I was smart in other ways. I could read before I started school, and I was always good at doing adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing in my head. I could figure percentages of things especially well…..but I had trouble keeping my pants zipped. Go figure. It could be the concussion I suffered riding my tricycle down our brick steps when I was four. I busted my head open, was bloody as hell, and got knocked out. It took 12 stitches to close the wound, and I told Dr. Allen to “keep his shit’n hands off me,” while he was doing the stitching. “Where’d he learn that language?” He asked “From his Mom”. Said Dad.

It could be the severe high fever (106 degrees) that I had right before my third birthday, which caused my eyes to cross so severely, you could barely see the blue. They stayed that way for a year, then gradually uncrossed. I don’t remember it, but I’m sure my brain was about fried. But I got over those things. I was encouraged to improve. So I did. I used to love to take broom handles and hit rocks from my Grandpa’s dirt road driveway, out into ol’ Uncle Lark Davenport’s corn field. That field was all rocks and no dirt anyway, so he never cared. I spent many, many hours whacking rocks. I was an awkward and backward 12 year old the year..the last year, I was eligible to play little league. I was embarrassed to try out, but two great men in the community encouraged my efforts, and all of the hours I had spent whacking little rocks with a skinny stick paid off as I found I could really rip a baseball with a baseball bat. Made the All-stars that year.

I wanted to write my Freshman year in High School, but was afraid I couldn’t do it well enough. Mrs. Wingfield, who was the English teacher and editor of the school paper read some of my poetry, and encouraged me to enroll in journalism class. I ended up writing quite a few articles, and a lot of poetry. I was just looking through my old scrapbook of “inches” I wrote for the paper the other day. I thought of Ms. Jesse’s encouragement, and how she believed in me. She was a great teacher. I could go on, but I guess my point is clear. All the things I ever succeeded at even moderately were the result of being encouraged.

Trying to make me do something I don’t want to do, especially if someone is coming from a bullying attitude, or an attitude of “my way or the highway” just makes me buck up like a mule. I have even shut down in past years with people who insist they were dictators, and their word had to be obeyed or else. I once walked out of a meeting with a “boss” like that, walked to my car, and turned it on and drove home. The guy called me and begged me to come back…because I was running his factory one handed. I didn’t. I’ve walked out of college classes on the first or second day (and some halfway through the course) because the professors were discouragers instead of encouragers. I did not need them, or their negativity in my life. Of course some of these actions have cost me….some of them were foolhardy. But I didn’t stop to think at the time. I don’t encourage anyone to be like me. To be like I was.

I got lucky and married a sane wife with good sense, who balances out my impetuous nature with her common sense. I’ve helped her raise three wonderful and successful children. I hope I encouraged them more often than I discouraged them. They certainly grew up with one slightly off center, brain impaired Dad.

I think nowadays we as a country, as a world…need to encourage our children and little ones. Let’s tell them that there’s nothing….nothing, that they cannot accomplish. And if we tell them, and they truly believe us, perhaps they will save this world and usher in a new age of peace and prosperity. If I don’t see you, or talk to you before then, have a Merry Christmas. Happy holiday, nice days off, or…..whatever you want!

An Early Christmas Writing

Opening doors and closing them. Both physically and metaphorically it is all we do in life. Before there was this medium in which to wax nostalgic, I was simply concerned only with what was going on with myself, my immediate family, those I worked closely with. For many years, that’s all it was. That’s all it had to be. Oh, I knew there was a world full of other human beings out there, but I wasn’t mindful of what was going on with them. Their joys, their sorrows, their inner thoughts, their rantings, their wisdom… was just whispering in the wind. I cared not because I knew not.

Upon entering into this unknown means of communication, I first sought out family, then old school friends, whom I had lost contact with. It was fun catching up with them, finding out what had happened in the last forty years. Drawing close to them again through common experiences and causes…sometimes agreeing on things, sometimes not. Thus is the way of human beings. We all have things in common, we all have differences.

Strangely, I began to become friends with people who I never knew before but who were friends with one of my friends. My relationship with people began to branch out beyond my little circle. I have become friends with people who have and hold some of the same beliefs and philosophies which I hold, and some who do not. I have met some people because of this medium and hold them in high regard and really, genuinely care about them, and through them, their loved ones. My artist friend with his big dog, my flea market buddy with his gorgeous talented family, my new friend the coach and teacher down highway 27 way, the teacher of my lawyer buddy, my friend the radio announcer and Sunday School teacher. Old friends who have reintroduced themselves back into my life…who I knew closely in my teenage years. Growing closer in friendship again with many old friends through empathy and sympathy with their familial situations. Common likes…My old Buddy the wonderful biking, caving photographer and his sweet wife. My UGA fan buddies, my Vegan and vegetarian friends. I could go on.

I guess the most important thing is that for the most part, I love people. I love good discussions where if everyone doesn’t agree, we at least can have our opinions and be civil with each other (though I have NO tolerance for those who cannot be civil, and resort to name calling or vulgarity)I love seeing the love that others have for their family and friends, and the photos of them they post showing their love.

Their expressions of love for their family, and their thoughtful and loving posts many times touching me deeply.

Their are many who would use this medium to spread their lies and their hate. Let’s not allow them to take over what could be, and had been up until recently a positive thing. Don’t share one sided hate “memes” just to have something to post. Think before you do it “will this cause harmony or discord?” If you want to post a page at least put a little preamble of your own words on it to let others know your purpose in sharing. If you have an opinion on something, use your own words. Don’t let others who are extremists use you as a tool. I’ve been guilty but I’m honestly trying to do better! (And I still try here in 2020, but don’t always succeed)

Love not hate. Empathy and sympathy not empty feelings. We can use ALL things for the good of others if we only pause to think, to consider, to put ourselves in the shoes of others for a few miles before we judge.

Peace to you all.

The feeling of change

I feel change.

Change in our country, change in our people. Change in our neighbors, and in ourselves. Change which will be hard to overcome. Change which may never BE overcome. Perhaps permanent change. It have come to us in the guise of politics, and for the sake of politics. It has come because instead of having an attitude of “we the Americans” in this country, it is now instead “us versus them” Just saw a political commercial on TV that had that line in it: “it comes down to US versus THEM” We are no longer a country of “we the people” instead a country of deep divisions over so many different issues, that I am not sure that “we the people” will survive this year. That’s correct. I am not sure if this country will be able to survive as it has been since it’s inception over the next couple of months.

The partisanship that has developed, especially since 2008 has dug ditches in our democracy which I don’t believe can have bridges built to span them. Time will tell, and I may be wrong. I hope that I am, but I don’t think so.

I fear that this year, more than any other year in our country since the end of the Civil war, has fundamentally changed the character of our country. Our leaders argue over the election. One group wants to change the rules as they have always been in this country to suit themselves. They want the Supreme court to take the unprecedented step of overturning the will of the voters in four states. If they are successful, then our country will no longer be a country that is run by the will of the people. It shall become a country which is run by the will of the minority of the people who voted. An Autocracy.

Even if the participants of this new type of politicization are not successful in this attempt, the acrimony which has been created, and which will remain indefinitely, will continue to foster an “Us versus Them” mentality. The ditches will grow to be the Grand Canyon.

All of this is going on, while the people of this country are in the middle of an existential crisis of sickness and disease, of which I have never witnessed in my lifetime, and hope never to see again. Yet our leaders in Congress and the Senate argue over the mundanities of assistance bills, to the point of redundancy beyond belief. They cannot even agree on how to disagree. Their daily exercises in selfishness and the lust for personal enrichment, sicken me. People are hungry, but are not able to buy food. People are our of jobs, but cannot get the additional help they need to survive. People are dying every day now, by the thousands from the dread disease which accosts us, but I hear no empathy from the highest halls of government in this country. No empathy. I have heard it said that “it’s a good thing so many people are getting Covid, it’s better than a vaccine” That’s beyond belief to me. Beyond belief. People need help, and it is the primary responsibility of government in a democracy to protect the lives and safety of it’s citizens. A government that cannot or does not protect the lives and safety of it’s citizens is no government at all. It’s anarchy. What we have now feels like anarchy.

I write, even this op-ed with trepidation, because of the atmosphere of hatred which pervades our country. You cannot express opinions such as these anymore, without coming under fire for their expression. If people cannot recognize the changes which are taking place however, and cannot realize that they represent a grave threat to the way our country operates, and to our basic freedoms, then I feel compelled to “say” something. There will be many who disagree. That’s ok with me, if somebody disagrees. As long as it is “we” who can discuss the disagreements and perhaps come to a compromise….which is how things are supposed to work, not only in our country but in our own personal lives….as long as it’s “we” who can come together to try and solve our problems and work out the differences, “we” have a chance.

I’m not sure, however, that “we” still have a chance, when it’s considered that an “Us versus Them” mentality is the right way to live.

1973 in New York

Once back in the spring of 1973, (I think it was) I spent the night right in the center of Spanish Harlem in New York City. The marimbas were playing all through the night, and people were singing, dancing and cooking, because it was a Saturday night. There were screams of joy, and a few of pain. I slept well that night, with the smell of the spicy food creeping into my dreams and making me famished for breakfast.

We had been to the site of the newly built, soon to be opened World Trade Center earlier that evening, and had been invited to go up part of the way in an elevator by a construction foreman. There were four of us young men: a long tall Texas boy, an African American former college football player from Kentucky, our bespectacled New York native Peace Corp member…in whose apartment we were staying, and me…the backwoods Georgia boy. We rode the subways, visited the harbor where lady liberty stood, and got hot dogs at Coney Island.

Nobody had a bad word to say to us, never disparaged our little mixed group, or even looked at us funny. We went about the town fearlessly, never anticipating any harm or trouble. Just three out of towner’s getting shown the ropes by the city boy.

Those lights, music and smells from that night still bubble to the top of my memory from time to time, and I wonder how the world has gotten so much more callous and hateful in forty short years. I’d like to go back in time once again and look out over the lights of Manhattan from those soon to be opened, ill fated towers and yell out to the people below to stay the same as they were.

Understanding Life

I thought to myself: “it’s taken me this long to really understand life”. Warm socks and clean underwear really count!

Leftovers are fine….even three days in a row. Walking is wonderful therapy, and noticing what’s going on around you is rewarding.

Petting your dog and talking to them like they’re human is perfectly fine.

Realizing that you can’t agree with everyone about everything, but you can agree with most people about “some” things will help preserve your sanity.

Loving your family and those who are as close as family, as often as possible, as completely as possible, and without condition will help preserve your spirit.

Maybe that’s not really understanding life, but simply living it a little more.

Wisdom Comes with a Price

Wisdom comes with a price. Sometimes the price is age. Sometimes the price is pain. Sometimes the price is sacrifice and sometimes it is study. Sometimes wisdom comes with love which requires no reciprocation, and the price is humility. Sometimes it comes with giving which requires no acknowledgement, and the price is anonymity. Wisdom is sometimes called experience. Some people gain more wisdom quickly because they are open to the ideas and opinions of others. But, wisdom is hard to find in a mind made up to the certainty of all things, at the expense of the independent thought of others. Wisdom is understanding, and understanding can only be determined by the compassion to consider even some things with which you may not agree. Wisdom is respect shown until respect is no longer given. When respect is no longer given, wisdom dictates distance from disrespect. I wish I were wise enough to be a problem solver instead of just an observer. One day I hope to be, if I can live long enough to gain that experience.

Can Man Reach the Stars

I wonder if mankind will ever get to the point where they can reach out to the other planets and the stars? Most efforts to that effect have been being done by private corporations in the last couple of decades, but now with the Artemis program, talk about reviving NASA seems to be turning into action, just like in the old days. How well I remember the early days of the “space race” between the United States and the USSR. The Russians beat us to the punch with “Sputnik” and the first man in outer space was Yuri Gagarin…back in April of 1961. Our first man in space was Alan Shepherd, who launched a month behind the Russians on May 5th of 1961.

President Kennedy stood before America only 20 days later and said: “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. “What a leader he was. And so we were off and running, and on July 20th 1969, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. No other country has ever put a man there since. We have gone through fifty years since then, with other programs taking the place of “deep space” travel. The Space shuttle program…the space station. All of that was exciting, but not something which would serve to inspire the soul. Reaching out past our planet into the unknown is something exciting. With programs like Artemis, humanity seems to be pointed out towards the depth of space again. Away from the Earth, out into the unknown and unknowable. Out to perhaps one day having humanity set foot on another world. I’m a lifelong reader of Science Fiction and Fantasy. I loved Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein. I also liked less well known authors also, like Frank Herbert and later on Orson Scott Card. But it was mainly Heinlein who really put the reader out there amongst the stars. I really “grokked” his books.

This morning as I looked out at the stars in the bright but dark sky, I thought of a quote I had read from author Norman Cousins, who became famous for “laughing” himself back to health: To be able to rise from the earth; to be able, from a station in outer space, to see the relationship of the planet earth to other planets; to be able to contemplate the billions of factors in precise and beautiful combination that make human existence possible; to be able to dwell on an encounter of the human brain and spirit with the universe—all this enlarges the human horizon . . .— Norman Cousins, 1973

Hopefully soon, the United States, and perhaps the entire world will again take its first baby steps towards a hopeful ultimate destiny of reaching the stars and the planets surrounding them, and “going where no man has gone before.”

Thanksgiving retrospect from 2019

Thanksgiving in 2019 will be familiar, yet very different. Our family will get together, and we will have a meal. I’m so happy we can do this. I’m happy to have a good family populated with people I love dearly and who tolerate, and perhaps even love me.

I experienced my first Thanksgiving in November of 1950 as barely a one month old baby. I think I was still in Trion at that point and Daddy was still home on leave from the Navy. I’m not 100% sure though. I know that by Christmas of 1950, Mom had gone back to Blue Ridge to live with her parents until Dad finished his Naval service in late 1952.

Once we were all back together as a family, and as far as I can remember…which was probably around 1955-56, we celebrated around our table together as a family of four. Mom, Dad, me and my brother. I don’t remember anybody else being there. No Aunts and Uncles or cousins. No grandparents, except my Dad’s Mother Laura, perhaps once or twice. There were no huge family gatherings as a child. They were smaller and much more intimate. The turkey or ham we had in those days was small, the vegetables were few, perhaps mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls and a deviled egg or two. Those deviled eggs. My Mom made the best. Perhaps a sweet potato pie for desert.

The years progressed and I grew up and married and had kids, as did my brother, and the Thanksgiving meals grew. There was suddenly, before we knew it, my family of five, and Mike’s of four. Nine plus Mom and Dad made eleven. I remember my Dad had a shirt made which said something like “family of eleven”. (He also had one that said “old as dirt” which I have, but I ain’t wearing!) He was proud of the family he and Mom had helped create. He was a proud Dad and even prouder Grandfather. (As was Mom, though she want the demonstrative type)

The turkeys got much larger to accommodate a large family. The vegetables multiplied. The desserts showed up, and became more complex. Cranberry sauce AND whole cranberries appeared. The celebrations were noisy, punctuated with the sounds of football games in the background and footballs being thrown around outside. Cars were washed. The noisy voices of our little kids, running, singing, fussing. All of it happened in real time! Time which passed so very quickly, like a storm front screaming across the landscape through those years. Such were the mid 70’s through the mid 90’s.

As my parents grew old in the late 1990’s or so, they couldn’t host Thanksgiving any longer and started coming to our house, or to my brothers. One or both most years. Double the turkey!

We had children who were married by then and had kids of their own. The numbers of family had grown large. My folks got to know and love most of their “older” great grandchildren. They had Thanksgiving at our house last in 2008. Frail and gray, but still hungry for Turkey. As I posted the other day, I took my Mom Thanksgiving leftovers to the “Cozy Manor” in 2010. She passed away in early December. Dad had died in May of that year. Thanksgivings were over for them.

I’m grateful to my parents for the life they gave me. The chance to be a human being, live a life, find love and have a family of my own. There’s a lot of us now. My wife and I last hosted Thanksgiving at our house in 2016. Now, tomorrow…we are going down to my son’s house for our celebration. It’s a circle of celebration that my folks started back in the mid fifties, and one which I hope continues a few years longer.

Certainly of all the things I treasure the most, time with my family ranks at the top. I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving day tomorrow.

The World to Come?

Once many years ago, back in 1974, I walked into the computer room of a large corporation. Back when computers were huge, bulky machines the size of Volkswagens. It was cold in there, I guess in order to keep the computers cool. It was sterile, lifeless and slightly scary, with only the faint humming of the machines in the background. I shuddered and left that room as quickly as I could. 1974 was a lifetime ago, and things have kept forward several lifetimes as far as our computer technology goes. Yet……..

With each and every year we have fewer Monarch butterflies, fewer honeybees. Fewer birds and now Koala bears. Sixty percent of the species which were alive in 1974 are now…..gone.

We have fewer of everything except for humans.

We humans have to recognize that we are losing our world, the world of nature, the natural world. The world which built us, and nurtured our species. The world which furnishes our food, and the beauty which exists all around us.

As we continue to become machine dependent, we will become less dependent on the natural world. As man evolves and becomes partially or semi totally an entity of wire, diodes, microchips and bytes the world around us will become cold and devoid of natural life. It’ll be just like that sterile, cold and dead computer room I visited in 1974.

What use does a sentient machine have for a butterfly or a bee? Why would an Android care for a waterfall or a sunset.

I’ll be long gone before that (perhaps)and thank God for that. My heart cries for all who are left, unless our course drastically changes.