The Music Fades

Glen Fry is dead! Say it isn’t so! Just like too many Baby Boomer musical heroes, Fry leaves us much too early. Music might make the biggest impression in the lives of every person. Losing artists makes us pause as we remember their music and the events that made it so memorable.
Billy Joe Royal passed at the age of 73. The first song of his I remember was “Down in the Boondocks” in 1965. I was an eighth grader and found a girl who would pay attention to me, at least
for a while. That song played on the radio every morning as I got ready for school, and to this day, it makes me remember the girl and the butterflies in my stomach. I also remember listening to it in Uncle Wayne’s car as he took a load of us kids to the bowling alley. “Cherry Hill Park” was another favorite of mine because I once dated a girl who lived in a subdivision with that same name. Her name was Happy Early. What a great name! I hear that song and wonder what happened to her.
Jack Ely, 71, isn’t necessarily the most popular name in the music business. However, when the song title “Louie Louie” is attached to it, automatic “Ahs” come. That is a song whose words most of us have never deciphered. Yet even today, the first 6 notes cause us oldsters to bob our heads and clear our throats to mumble along with Ely.
I had a crush on Lesley Gore when I was a kid. She was a good-looking girl who sang pop hits with catchy lyrics. “It’s My Party” and “Judy’s Turn to Cry” were my favorites. I loved the line, “Oh what a birthday surprise, Judy’s
wearing his ring.” Gore’s songs and I had something in common: both lamented being dumped by sweethearts. She died too early at the age of 68.
Percy Sledge died at the age of 74. I never knew many of his songs, but the one that made him a star was “When a Man Loves a
Woman.” No sock-hop was complete without that song. It was a way for young couples to slow dance while they were wrapped in each other’s arms. No one can deny that temperatures rose and hearts pounded as that song echoed through the gym.
At the same time, no sock-hop could end until Ben E. King sang “Stand by Me.” King also belted out that song as couples parked in subdivisions like Camelot in Karns and fogged up the windows. It also became the theme song of the movie with the same name. It’s one of my favorites because a bunch of grungy little boys are at the center of the plot. King also gave us plenty of pleasure singing with the Drifters such songs as “There Goes My Baby” and “Save the Last Dance for Me.” He died at the age of 76.
Just today, the announcement that Glenn Frey of the Eagles passed at the age of 67. Space won’t allow me to list all the hits that he and the group sang. “Desperado” and “Hotel California” were two that cross generational lines and musical tastes to become favorites. I still love the song “Come Home for Christmas.” During my freshman year in college, my so-called girlfriend wouldn’t return my
phone calls during the Christmas holiday. That song played on the radio as I pined away for her. As things turned out, she never returned to TTU, and to this day, I have no idea what happened to Jackie Noble. My wife Amy and I have always been partial to “Love Will Keep Us Alive.”

Other wonderful artists have also died recently. B.B. King, Jimmy Greenspoon of Three Dog Night, Natalie Cole, and Paul Rekow, Santana’s drummer, are gone. What surprises me so much is that these folks are all in their 60’s and 70’s. I suppose that is ironically fitting that these legends died at the same age as the decades in which their music was so popular. Still, their passing brings realization of our own mortality. The music fades. I hope we have a little bit longer to put on albums or CD’s or mp3 players to listen to those hits and remember youth and its energy.

THIN SKINNED

Weather during Christmas 2015 was wet, but the temperatures were warm, so much so that I wondered if we were actually some place much closer to the Florida coast. However, winter showed its ugly teeth this past week and reminded us that it still has plenty of time to make life miserable before spring comes.
The truth of the matter is that I don’t deal with winter all that well. These days, my feet and hands become icicles that never quite warm up. My knees and ankles ache, and my back throbs when the frigid winds blow. I suppose I’m so  thin-skinned  that cold weather adversely affects it. That’s not the way things used to be.
When I was a boy, cold weather didn’t bother me at all. Daddy put a basketball goal on the trunk of a pine tree. Jim and I would come home and spend hours on that muddy court as we worked on shots, played games of HORSE, or took on each other in one-on-one games. Our hands were black from the
dirt that had been mixed with truckloads wood mulch from Southern Extract, the paper plant where Daddy worked.  The wind chapped our faces and numbed our hands, but we didn’t care.
Some afternoons, a gang of boys came to our house, and we played games of football in the yard. We’d tackle and block and fight. Every
so often, one of us would yelp or even cry as red, cold body parts received hits that were too hard. We also dodged puddles that formed from recent showers, or at least we tried to dodge them. When one boy splashed into the water, he jumped up quickly slung the water from his arms and legs, and nodded for the game to continue.
Maybe my memories are fuzzy, even inaccurate, but I seem to recall much more snow during those winters. We’d wake up to discover the ground was covered in white and school had been cancelled. After putting on layers clothes, we were almost as unable to move as the little brother in “Christmas Story.” Not a pair of boots or gloves could be found. Instead, we put on a couple of pairs of socks over old shoes, and then Mother would give us plastic bags which at one time held loaves of bread. Sometimes socks on our hands; yes, I know those were the wrong body parts for them. The rest of the time, hands were shoved them into pockets until the time to make snowballs or snow men arrived.
We boys tromped around the yard and into the woods. Before long, we’d wind our ways to the pond on the Long’s property. Frozen from the frigid temperatures, we’d slip out onto the ice to practice a crude form of skating. Every one of us knew that at some point someone would hit a thin patch and
drop into the water. That’s when the gang high-tailed it home to warm up and get a snack. At night, we’d go back outside for a second or third round of play, but working the snow became more difficult as plunging temperatures created an icy crust on it. The only effect from the cold was red fingers and toes and runny noses.
Those were good times when the excitement in life and the never-ending supply of energy kept winter from running boys inside. Now, I make quick trips outside and return to the warm, comfortable areas of home. In the closet are several coats and pairs of gloves, all with special products that keep the cold out. They just don’t work that well. My feet and hands still freeze, and the only way to thaw them is to jump into a hot shower. That’s not something any boy would ever want to do.

I’m living each day thankful for life and the things it offers. However, I keep an eye toward the months not too far away that will bring warmer temperatures. Then I can sit outside and, like a snake, let the sun penetrate my thin skin and warm my cold blood. 

LOSING OUR WAY

The end of 2015 has come and gone; we’ve struck out on the new year, but I wonder just how much promise it holds. With just a bit of observation, some might say that this country has lost its way. That includes the country as a whole and the citizens as individuals.
The concentration of wealth continues to be limited to a minute percentage of the population. Wages for the common man have “flat-lined.” According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, a person who makes $22.41 per hour has the same buying power as a person who made $4.03 in 1973.
Since 2000, weekly wages have fallen 3.7% among workers in the lowest earnings jobs. However, for people near the top, wages have risen 9.7%. (Bureau of Labor Statistics). The old saying that the
“rich get richer while the poor get poorer” continues to ring true. The hope that life can improve for millions seems to be nothing more than a pipedream. How fair is it that so few control so much? Yes, people should be able to prosper, but not on the backs of the masses.
The cry that “It’s not my fault” has reached the court system. Witness the case of the teen in Texas who escaped punishment for killing 4 people because he drove under the influence. His defense was
that he was too affluent to know what was right and wrong. Just writing it seems absurd. When the young man continues to do things that are a violation of his probation, he and his mom simply jump in a car and escape to Mexico. When they are caught, it’s announced that he might not receive harsher punishment because of his age. The idea that nothing is an individual’s fault is being further reinforced; it’s not a giant leap to see a future where no one is punished for anything.
Along the same lines, the country has witnessed some terrible examples of poor judgment by law enforcement. Stories of young people who are gunned down by cowboy cops air on our nightly news. Crowds hit the streets to protest, but some participate only to have an excuse to loot and rob. The cry “Black lives matter” goes up. I agree, but at the same time, I shout that all lives matter, and that includes police officers. We can’t condemn the entire law enforcement community for the acts of a few morons no more than we can blame the entire black community for the wrongs of a few individuals.
Immigration is a hot-button issue that divides our nation. Too many illegal immigrants are flooding into the country; something must stop them. However, those who come to the country aren’t just
south of the border; Asian folk are coming to the U.S. to give birth to their children so that they have citizenship here. Gaming the system like that has to stop. At the same time, sowing seeds of fear is destructive too. We can’t build a wall to keep everyone out. For one thing, the cost is prohibitive. It won’t stop the flow of folks; it will only slow it until new ways to get in are found. A more logical solution must be created,

I believe in the Second Amendment; however, I don’t see any sanity in allowing anyone to possess an assault weapon that fires too many bullets in too few seconds. Some places impose restrictions on the carrying and ownership of guns while other places encourage folks to “strap ‘em on!” It makes sense to have folks register guns and to have sellers licensed so they have to run checks on buyers. Banning people on a list of suspected terrorists from owning a gun is simple common sense, not a denial of rights.

Am I the only one who thinks we’ve lost our way? Let’s hope that 2016 finds our country committed to addressing the real problems. Let’s pray that both sides of the aisle in Congress will work together to come up with solutions that help folks. Finally, let’s bow our heads and ask for the Good Lord to lead us in the right direction. 

MEAL CONFUSION

What I’m about to discuss will bring about disagreement. I’m just hoping that none of my comments will upset or anger anyone. The problem is that I’m confused about meals. I never know which one I’m eating.

Breakfast isn’t a problem. It is the first meal for most of us. I don’t recall ever having eaten what some folks refer to as “brunch.” Somehow the mere thoughts of eating what I call “frou-frou” foods and drinking Mimosas makes my stomach roll. If I eat morning meals, they consist of simple scrambled eggs with plenty of bacon or sausage or a bowl of cereal. On special occasions, I might find a table serving biscuits and gravy, and like Erma Bombeck stated, “Gravy is a beverage” in my world.

I call the midday meal “lunch.” To me, the food choices are simple. A bologna sandwich with chips is enough. Some folks have called this meal “dinner.” The only time dinner is served in my world is
on Sunday afternoons and on holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Dinner is what Mamaw cooked for Papaw during the middle of the day. She’d stew potatoes and some kind of “side meat.” Biscuits or cornbread also graced the table. It was a hearty meal for a man who grew up working on the farm and continued to do so into his adult life. I’m sure foods were fried and salted; not much attention was given to calories or carbohydrates or protein. Hot foods, as opposed to sandwiches or salads, made the meal “dinner.”

The kind of meal that Mamaw made consisted of heavy foods. I can’t eat them these days. First, no fried foods have been served in our house for years. Second, if I ate a meal with hot food, I’d be looking for a place to lie down for a nap. For whatever reason, good food consumption makes me
sluggish. A bologna sandwich might not be healthy, but at least it feeds my hunger and keeps me going the rest of the work day.

My poor wife is confused as well. After we’ve been home from work for a while, she will often ask me what I want for dinner. Sometimes smart remarks follow the question. At other times, I ask her if it’s Sunday. None of my wisecracks go over well.

For me, the evening meal is “supper.” I grew up with supper, not dinner. Mother would call through the house, “Supper!” We’d make our way to the kitchen for plenty of food that brought comfort and fullness. Always we had some kind of meat with the meal, even if it
were fried spam or bologna. Mamaw’s suppers were the leftovers from the midday meal. She’d re-heat the food, or sometimes she’d serve it cold. Either way, that was of what supper consisted.

Even snacks are different these days. We ate chips or graham crackers with peanut butter or saltine acrackers. Today, folks shudder to think that their children might eat something like those things.
Instead, they eat vegetables or seaweed sheets or fruits. Yes, those things are much healthier, but I’ve eaten the seaweed stuff, and it is NASTY. So are the bags of vegetable sticks.


The names of the meals we eat are engrained at childhood. To give them up for other words feels a little like turning my back on my family’s history. Yes, some might say it’s a goofy, even ridiculous topic on which to spend time. Maybe I should follow the adage, “Call me what you want, but don’t call me late for supper.”