June 30, 2008

Court And Spark

Joni Mitchell released "Court And Spark" in 1974 and it was her most commercially successful album. This is "Car On A Hill". Takes me back to my senior year at Westport High.

June 27, 2008


In general, music during the 80's wasn't very good, at least I didn't think so. It had little heart or soul to it. In 1986 Paul Simon put out an album called "Graceland". I loved loved loved every song on Graceland. Everyone loved it and everyone I knew had it. Simon included American 'roots' influences with tracks featuring Zydeco , Tex-Mex and South African musicians. The album was recorded in Cape Town, South Africa. I've included three songs from the album.


"The Boy In The Bubble"

"Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes"

McCain Strikes The Pose

This may be a way to make John McCain more appealing to the voters in November.

June 26, 2008

At Large In Sarasota

It's about 5:40am and Charlene and I are being driven by a friend to Louisville International Airport. We're on the ramp to the Watterson westbound and we see a knot of police cars ahead with blue lights swirling. We see a twisted motorcycle in the median and forty feet after that, the rider lying on his side perfectly still, as if napping. The police are standing in a wide reverential semi-circle around the scene. Charlene's cell phone rings and it's Ben who said the rider was dead and the police are awaiting the ambulance to take the body to the morgue. Charlene wiped a tear or two from her eyes. A very sad and surreal beginning of a vacation.

Charlene and I were the fourth and fifth of our crew to arrive at the airport. Ben and Noelle were at the curb side check-in with Hailee in tow. Hailee was very excited about the plane ride as she has a friend who told her all about flying. Abby and Tristan are the last to arrive and we are ready to start our vacation. We get all our baggage checked in and get our bodies and carry-ons cleansed and sanctified by the Transportation Security Administration. On the way to our boarding gate Ben and I stop at Starbucks to get cups of their rocket fuel. I snitch a couple of Hailee's small powdered donuts to go with my coffee and by the time we board the plane I'm sizzling like an isotope. I usually enjoy flying but the instant the jet leaves the runway I feel a sense of vertigo and my hands are slightly trembling. It's been awhile since I've flown but it seemed like steeper than usual climb to the friendly skies. I heard Tristan yell "blast off Mommy!" and Hailee's giddy giggle. I looked out the window to see Iroqouis Park fading away behind us and I settle down once we level off on our short hop to Atlanta. It's seems we payed Delta for the experience of having a coke and a small package of peanuts at 20,000 feet in the air because before you can say Orville and Wilbur Wright, we touch down in Atlanta. We get delayed over an hour in Atlanta because of a hydraulic pump failure on our next plane. Before we finally board Charlene wants to interview the mechanic who happens to be sitting at the boarding gate filling out a repair form. He said he replaced the hydraulic pump with a brand new one. Once we board I told her I thought I saw a half pint in his pocket and she turns an interesting shade of pale green.

On this leg I'm sitting in a middle seat between Hailee and Tristan. Tristan falls asleep just before take off and REMAINS SLEEPING through acceleration and take off. I couldn't believe it. It's peanuts and pop time again and Hailee can't wait. She said "Papa, these peanuts are really delicious!" We're above Tampa Bay and there is a finger of land jutting out into the bay. Hailee thinks she's seeing the whole Florida peninsula. The plane seems to be slightly crooked while coming onto the runway and it's a very rough landing; the plane seems to want to cartwheel down the runway. The passengers' collective white knuckle sheer will manages to make it a safe landing. I was wondering if the only place Delta could find a hydraulic pump was a local Auto Zone near the Atlanta airport and rig it to fit this honkin' jet. I guess these days Delta has to keep an eye on their bottom line anywhere they can.

We hit the concourse and Tristan is wide awake and ready for action, eye-balling the cavernous terminal, he's ready to rip and run. We have to keep an eye on him to keep him close to our crew. I let him roll my carry on and he thinks he's Mr BigStuff. He loves to help 'ol Papa Bear. We're all hoping the van we rented will be big enough for our crew and the luggage. A Hummer wasn't available. To our relief it was a very roomy '08 Toyota Sienna. We plugged the Tree Line Court address into the GPS and left Tampa International in style. The traffic along I-75 is light. As we're riding along two crotch rocket motorcycles scream past us, weaving through the cars. I would guess their speed at least 120 mph. It's the fastest speed of any vehicle I've ever seen on a public road. I thought we might witness what we had just missed earlier that morning on the Watterson coming to the airport.

We arrive at Mom & Dad's condo which is part of an eccentric little community called Village of The Pines (VOP). We waste no time unpacking the van. I thought we'd have to spend some time at a Sarasota hospital for hernia repairs after lifting Noelle and Abby's suitcases for the second time that day. OSHA would have required a fork lift. Thanks to roller luggage nowadays my right arm doesn't look orangutanian in length. We claim our spaces and decided to hit the beach since it was only two o'clock. I hadn't been to Siesta Key beach since I was very young. I dimly remember all the white sand. I've found that it has received many awards and is consistently ranked among the top ten beaches in the world. The sand is 99% pure quartz, unlike most beaches which are composed of crushed shells, rocks or lava. The sand is dazzling white, looks like refined sugar, and doesn't feel hot. It's a beautiful beach to say the least. Ponce de León wrote a entry about the beach in one of his ship's logs. "Thee beacheth is most lovely for the eyez to gazeth upon. I nameth it Isabella Beach." To the native Calusa Indians, Isabella could be translated as 'my eyes have turds in them'. The Calusa Indians changed the named back to 'unchancathy', which translates to 'two dogs kissing'. Ponce didn't stick around to protest as he was busy traipsing all over Florida in his metal conquistador outfit looking for the Fountain of Youth. You can bet he got pretty warm in that get up, and this was before the advent of bottled water! They grew 'em tough back in those days. Of course nowadays everyone knows the Fountain of Youth is in St. Augustine and you can buy it in bottles. Hailee doesn't care much for the beach although she's a trooper and towards the end of our vacation she gets to like it more than she ever has. Tristan, on the other hand, is game for anything you throw his way. He loved riding the waves while being held. "Here comes a big wave Papa!...whoa!"

The third day at Tree Line Court was a soap opera. The condo next door was being changed to look like a circus tent. I found out later that these two adjoining condos were being fumigated for termites. Ben and I were nursing our light hangovers while the women folk went shopping. When we first opened the blinds to the back patio we thought our hangovers may have been worse than we first thought. It looked like the Ringling Museum moved in next door or an explosion at a bubblegum factory. The next day the big top comes down and the phone rings. I answer and it's a woman named Gay who lives next door, calling from her home in Michigan and I explain who I am. She asked me if I could do her a favor and check the windows and doors to make sure everything is locked up. I check and come back to the phone and tell her yes, everything is locked up. Fifteen minutes later she calls and asked me if the window shades are closed...When I go and check I find the the windows are open and the front door is unlocked! I hear "hellooo" and it makes me jump. It's the woman who lives in the other half and she tells me she is the one who's opening up the adjoining condo because she's freaking out about the chemicals used for the fumigation and is opening up Gay's condo to air it out. She said the the fumigator gave her the key to Gay's condo. Her name is Carmen and if I had to guess I would say she's Cuban. Carmen is not wearing a fruit hat but is wearing latex gloves

I go back and tell Gay what's going on and she gives birth to a four headed cow. "I DID NOT authorize her to be given the key to MY condo"..."oh this is SO UPSETTING"...and so on and so forth. I kinda got the feeling that Gay didn't care much for anyone not 100 percent American. "And oh, by the way, if the panel is off on the attic access can you put the panel back in place for me?" I go back and put the access panel back in place and talk to Carmen some more. Later I learn from Carmen that while we were talking Gay left a message on Carmen's answering machine saying that she's calling the police because she has the key to her condo and is talking to an attorney also. I can't believe this is happening. Sure enough, TWO Sarasota County Sheriff patrol cars roll up to the Carmen/Gay condo. Ben and I go out to rubber neck. After the officers and Carmen are through talking, one of the officers gives me the key to Gay's condo. I feel like throwing it in the pond nearby. While I'm talking to Carmen, Ben and the two officers talk shop. Carmen and I come to the conclusion that Gay is one sandwich shy of a picnic. Later, the fumigator comes by and I give the key to him and that's it, I'm through with the whole mess, finito, kaput, chicka boom, over and out. The day before we leave Sarasota Carmen drops by to thank me for dealing with the whole mess. I wish Carmen the best. I often wonder how people can be so mean spirited and prejudiced as Gay certainly was.

The first day we went to the VOP pool there were a few residents there sunning their bones around the pool. They looked up as we entered like we were a band of gypsies coming to open fortune teller and three card monte booths. There was a huge painted plywood sign as you entered the pool with eighteen pool rules and regulations. They covered everything you could possibly imagine and were probably drafted by a commitee of fifty people. 'Babies in diapers must be fully covered.' Covered with what? Scotch-Guard? 'No diving or jumping into the pool.' Are you supposed to roll in? 'No floats permited in the pool except for noodles.' What kind of noodles? Bow-tie? Linguini? I didn't even know that pasta could be used for flotation. There was a white haired gentleman sitting in his Hoveround by the pool smoking a cigarette. He looked like he may have been a judge before he retired. He was keeping a close eye on us, particularly Noelle, as she was carrying a forbidden float. "Don't put that in the water." He shouldn't have tangled with Noelle. I thought Noelle might put ol' Hoveround in a arm-lock and make him cry uncle. "I'm not putting it in the pool." We did put floats in the pool when there was no one around. Nyaa nyaa nyanya nyaaaaaa!

We went to visit my sister, Amy, and her husband Darrell, and their daughter, Stacia Jo a couple of times and one evening they invited us over for a crab boil. They live just a couple of miles away from Mom & Dad. It's hard to believe Stacia Jo is going to graduate from high school next year. I remember like yesterday when she was born. She hooowwwwllllled so loud you could hear her all over the hospital. She's grown to be a beautiful soft spoken young woman and a heck of a basketball player. She's so good she might win a full basketball scholarship to college. Their screened in pool was a big hit with everyone. Hailee thought it was pretty neat to eat her dessert while in the pool. I sometimes think that girl is going to grow gills.

Towards the end of our time in Sarasota, I plugged Dartmouth Drive into the GPS and Ben and I took off in the van in search of my grandparents home where they used to live. Our family used to vacation there every summer in my tykehood. Ernest and Mabel McClain retired back in the 60's to Bradenton which is just north of Sarasota. Back in those days I remember their neighborhood was pristine and every home was neat as a pin. We would go to Bradenton Beach or to a pool which they were members of. Grandpa was one of the best shuffleboard players at the club and taught us kids how to play. He had a deft touch with his cue and uncanny accuracy. We were in awe of Grandpa's shuffleboard skills and our goal was to beat him but it never happened. Grandma loved the water whether it was the beach or the pool and always wore a swim cap. She was a big card player too and taught us how to play Michigan Rummy. I have many happy memories of my Grandparents and summer vacations at their home. I wish I hadn't gone back to Dartmouth Drive. The homes in the area have gone to seed and the shopping center down the road looks like any other generic shopping center back home in Louisville. The memories are still vivid but the actual physical place has gone through change and decay after almost forty years. "Let's get out of here Ben."

Paula Stout and her husband, Bob, live down at the end of Tree Line Court and are originally from Newport, RI and they've lived at VOP for the last three years. We met Paula at the pool one day with her grandson Noah. Paula said most all the pool rules were bullshit so we instantly hit it off. Bob Stout still works in sales in Sarasota. They both have that northern accent and they said that we have a southern accent. One night we had a pizza party at the pool. They had gin and we had bourbon. Paula said that we were the nicest people she's met at VOP and she was sad to see us leave. Paula and Bob were nice folks and we hated to leave them too.

Precious moments:

The first evening there, we went to the local Publix for groceries and there was a bagger there who wore an eye patch. Ben smiles at me and and growls, "ARRRR, would you be wanting paper or plastic matey?"

Charlene and Abby get an upclose encounter with a BIG cockroach in the dishwasher. They both scream bloody murder and Charlene does this wierd skipping dance out to the back room making a OOOH! OOOH! OOOH sound. I thought the cockroach had her by the heel.

After being in two airports all day with delays, missed connections, Tristan meltdowns, and everyone being tired and cranky we ate at a Mexican restaurant across from the Holiday Inn in Atlanta were we're spending the night. The waiter comes for drink orders. Abby says "I WANNA BIG MARGARITA." Charlene and Noelle follow suit and they all pay a loopy visit to Margaritaville. Not the healthiest way to relieve stress but it worked. I took a sip of Charlene's and there was enough tequila in it to tranquilize a full grown water buffalo. Abby resisted the urge to pour a little in Tristan's sippy cup.

Buffalo Springfield

This band lasted only 25 months but was the start of the musical careers for Stephen Stills and Neil Young. In this video they mash two of their songs together "For What It's Worth" sung by a ridiculous looking Stephen Stills in the cowboy hat, and "Mr Soul" sung by the shockingly young Neil Young in a Davy Crocket outfit. Everyone I went to high school with said I looked like Neil Young...what do you think? try to imagine me with hair.

Fixing A Hole

"Fixing a Hole" on the Beatles' Sgt Peppers album which came out when the earth's crust was still cooling. I swear I'll put up the Sarasota post soon...keep your pants on.

Josh Ritter

Josh Ritter is a musician from right here in the good 'ol USA but is much more popular in Europe and the UK, especially Ireland....go figure. This is "Girl In The War" which came out about the time Janet was in her final battle a year ago and the song always reminds me of her when I listen to it.

"Girl In The War"

Peter said to Paul you know all those words we wrote
Are just the rules of the game and the rules are the first to go
But now talking to God is Laurel begging Hardy for a gun
I got a girl in the war man I wonder what it is we done

Paul said to Peter you got to rock yourself a little harder
Pretend the dove from above is a dragon and your feet are on fire
But I got a girl in the war Paul the only thing I know to do
Is turn up the music and pray that she makes it through

Because the keys to the Kingdom got locked inside the Kingdom
And the angels fly around in there but we can¹t see them
I got a girl in the war Paul I know that they can here me yell
If they can¹t find a way to help her they can go to Hell
If they can¹t find a way to help her they can go to Hell

Paul said to Peter you got to rock yourself a little harder
Pretend the dove from above is a dragon and your feet are on fire
But I got a girl in the war Paul her eyes are like champagne
They sparkle bubble over and in the morning all you got is rain
They sparkle bubble over and in the morning all you got is rain
They sparkle bubble over and in the morning all you got is rain

June 10, 2008

David Gray

David Gray is a singer songwriter from England. He released the album "White Ladder" in 1998 which became hugely successful. People who say they don't like David Gray....they lie and secretly love his music. This is his first big hit, Babylon, off of the White Ladder album.

June 9, 2008

Playing With Fire

The eight year old boy climbed the ladder to the hayloft. His head rose above the square hole of the wood floor and his eyes slowly scanned the too quiet space filled with hay up to the small square of sun streaming in from the tiny front window. He had never been there before by himself as he was the only grandchild spending the week at his grandparents farm. The boy climbed towards the summit of hay, to the pane-less window and looking out, saw the broad flat lot ending at the farm house backyard. The breeze coming through the window cooled his forehead. He turned to his sole purpose for coming; to jump out and away from the steep incline to land in a violent spray of dust and hay below. A box of matches caught his eye, laying in the square the sunlight, as a tempting display. Even to the boy the matches looked out of place, almost as though someone had placed them there. The boy slid the matches in his front jeans pocket and jumped. The exhilaration of the momentary suspension in air came and left just as fast. The boy stepped down the ladder and went to the side of the barn and with his back to the farm house, started striking the matches, mesmerized by the sudden bright burning of sulphur and then the slow burning of the remaining wood. He heard his grandfather's voice from behind him and turned. His grandfather was leaning against the fence facing the barn and the boy.

"I was just striking these matches." He gave his grandfather the box of matches.
"Where did you get those matches?" His grandfather's face and voice was neutral.
"I found 'em in the hay loft" The boy felt a small sense of redemption for telling the truth.
"Where in the hay loft?"
"Right next to the window, up top." Even the boy thought his story, even though true, sounded made up.
"On top of the hay? Just laying there?"
"uh huh."
The grandfather went in the house and open the cabinet door in the bathroom, next to the sink, where he kept his cartons of Lucky Strikes and other treasures out of reach of smaller hands and eyes. The boy knew this is where he kept a deringer too; which he had let him hold once. He seemed to compare the box of wooden matches to the box the boy had found, then looked into space, his face unreadable.
"It's dangerous to play with matches. You can strike all the matches you want to as long as I'm around. okay?"

There are memories we have as children that are tenuous and fleeting and there are the memories that stick with you with sustained clarity. I've often thought that maybe that box of matches was placed there by someone or maybe just fell out of someone's pocket. Either way, a barn full of dry hay on a summer day would have burned down quickly and completely, at a considerable loss to my grandfather.

Four years later Freddy Wyatt and I were playing with wooden matches in my backyard and caught the dry bermuda grass on fire which spread dangerously close to the dry cornfield behind our subdivision. We put it out just in time. I guess I didn't take my grandfather's warning to heart. I know it scared the crap out of Freddy and I. I don't play with matches anymore.

Plants, Faulkner, Jackson, Dora, Federer, and Nadal

There is only two days left of work before our crew leaves this cicada infested city for Florida. Most of our time is devoted to planning what to take, packing our luggage, and readying the house for ten days of vacancy. Last night I put all our flower pots in one place on the deck to make it easier for Julia to water. They looked like a silent, two tiered choir. I have an irrational sad feeling for the flowers and plants, almost like they’re looking back at me, not wanting me to leave them in all this heat. The choir is preaching to me. I’ll mow the lawn today for the last time before we leave, again with Bill’s mower. I still haven’t heard back from Lyndon Mower Repair. I suspect they may be holding my mower hostage and I’ll receive a note with letters and words cut from magazines, asking for money or they’ll remove the starter, and that’s just for starters.

I bought William Faulkner’s “Light In August” a week ago to read on vacation and I’ve already read a third of it. I read it once waaay back in Mrs. Baker’s ninth grade English class. I didn’t understand it much back then but I’m really into it now. Mrs. Baker was an ambitious teacher and, looking back, I appreciate her efforts. Faulkner was a genius at creating a vivid sense of time, place, and character in few words. In just over a page and a half he writes about a young boy going into town with his father from the farm. Faulkner describes the town, its inhabitants, and a restaurant where they eat dinner. Faulkner makes you feel like you’re in the young boy’s shoes, making that emotional connection to the reader. What’s more amazing is that Faulkner was a heavy drinker and most likely wrote while hammered. Most of his important works were about the tragic results of the south’s practice of slavery and southern guilt. I think I’ll read something lighter after this book….maybe I’ll borrow one of Hailee’s “Dora the Explorer” books.

While at the pool yesterday Tricia, Scott, and His Serene Highness, the Jackson Man came by to visit. That Jackson is one beautiful boy. He’s changing so fast and has a dazzling smile that reminds me so much of Tricia’s smile when she was a baby. I’ll never forget the first time Tricia smiled at me. Tricia introduced me to Unclehood and now Jackson (and Duncan) introduced me to Grand-Unclehood (or is it Great-Unclehood?) I gave Jackson a smile and a wink from Janet.

I’m whipping my tennis game back into shape thanks to Amber Miller, a fellow church member who used to play tennis for Transylvania University. I’m surprised at how mobile I am with my new artificial toe joint. We’ve played twice and plan on playing more. Amber’s about 6 months pregnant and she moves pretty well too. Once we start playing matches she’ll probably beat me like a drum. Speaking of taking a beating, Roger Federer got beat in straight sets by Raphael Nadal in the French Open final Sunday. Federer might be ranked number one in the world but Nadal is ferocious on clay and this makes his fourth win in a row at the French Open. It had to be a tough loss for Federer. You can look for Federer to be the number one seed at Wimbledon this year though. Federer is a machine on hard court and grass. His playing style reminds me of Bjorn Borg back in the 70’s & 80’s when the only way to beat him was to bring a gun to the court.