Bookmarks From My Book of Life

 

I’ve sung, played and danced badly all my life.  Some of my earliest memories include the old upright in my grandmother’s hallway, my uncle’s mandolin and the whiny bluegrass he sang…”Blue moon of Kentucky….”  Singing, first in the youth choir at church, then in the adult choir, the high school chorus and playing in the concert band, the college band and a brief stint as a discordant sax playing rock star.

Participating in a men’s quartet singing “Just Have a Little Talk With Jesus,” my thin baritone joining in at the Fifth Sunday Night Sing.  My Uncle James making a not so joyful noise unto the Lord, my cousins and I trapped in the cab of the old flatbed truck as we moved hay bales or corn to the songs he sang.  I’ll say this, he sang praise tunes with great gusto and vigor, but if notes were water molecules, he couldn’t have found one while standing in the ocean.  It didn’t stop him from trying.

I guess what I’m trying to say, on this fiftieth anniversary of Woodstock and the death of Easy Rider’s Peter Fonda, music has played prominently in my life…if not a backdrop for my life, a bookmark.  “Don Miller, A Rock Opera.”

Dancing in the privacy of my room to the songs played on WLS, Chicago.  Beach Music at The Cellar as a young adult.  A cute redhead, and Eddie Floyd singing “Knock on Wood” as I danced badly with her at a rural jook joint outside Newberry.  We danced badly around a divorce later.  Not all bookmarks lead to soothing anodynes.  Some are like sleeping in a patch of prickly pear cactus.

Doing the horizontal rumba for the first time in the backseat of an old Ford while Lou Christy sang “Rhapsody in the Rain”.  Humm.  That earlier relationship didn’t end well either, but I don’t believe it had anything to do with the music.

The movie Easy Rider was an eye-opener and for me heralded a change…although it might have taken forty years for the change to occur.  I’ve only recently embraced my hippie self.  I was a rhythm and blues, beach music, soul music kind of guy…probably still am but sitting at a drive-in with the cute redhead who became ex-wife number one, I became mesmerized, not by the film but by the soundtrack.  Later, I would add the complete Woodstock to my album collection…wonder what happened to those bookmarks, the albums not the ex-wife.

I walked today as I do nearly every day, my playlist playing in my earbuds, just like every day.  Today there was a little dance step to my walk as I thought about Peter Fonda.  I decided to dial up my Easy Rider playlist that includes three different versions of “The Weight”.  One can never get too much of a good song.  

I think I scared a local woman smoking an early morning cigarette on her front porch as I belted out “Born to be Wild”.  I flushed a pair of mourning doves, mourning my off keyed version of “A Little Help From My Friends” while doing my best Joe Cocker impersonation on the double lane. “Don’t Bogart that joint my friend….”  Fun memories bookmarked in my mind.

Some of the bookmarks haunt me but even those trigger warm memories. Ghost stories of friends now gone.  My coconspirators in crime the summers of ’68 and ’69 are both gone to the great cosmic rock concert that is the afterlife.  I miss them almost as much as my lost youth of the same time period.

I wrote about a haunted pink iPod in an earlier blog from a couple of years ago.  A former love now dead gave me the Crosby, Stills and Nash album that featured the song “Southern Cross.”  It’s a song about a long boat trip taken by a man trying to heal his wounds after a bad divorce…what is a good divorce?

We were both wounded, and the song spoke to us as we tried to console each other in ways men and women have been consoling each other for all recorded time, I guess.  After she died, I put the song on my playlist and for some reason, no matter how many times I changed the playlists, the lament was always there…haunting me along with her.

“When you see the Southern Cross for the first time

You understand now why you came this way

‘Cause the truth you might be runnin’ from is so small

But it’s as big as the promise, the promise of a coming day”

 

We were never truly in love, more like friends with benefits, but she is still one of the bookmarks that haunts me.  The old iPod is long since been retired but she is a bookmark, like Easy Rider soundtrack or an old Gospel tune that triggers warm memories in my book of life.

“So I’m sailing for tomorrow, my dreams are a dyin’

And my love is an anchor tied to you, tied with a silver chain

I have my ship and all her flags are a-flyin’

She is all I have left and music is her name”

Music is her name and I call to it often.  For the complete song…

 

 

Quotes and video are from the song “Southern Cross” and the album Daylight Again by Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

Don Miller writes badly about many subjects, both fictional and only somewhat embellished.  For more, go to his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The featured image is of Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson, and Dennis Hopper.  It is from a movie review https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/easy-rider-review-movie-1969-1221117

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LIFE, BASEBALL, AND A TRANSISTOR RADIO

 

There was once a young boy who went to sleep listening to his small transistor radio.  The circular dial on its front was more than a tuner, it was the young boy’s window to a far away world…the destination depending upon atmospheric conditions.

AM radio, Amplitude Modulation,  is still iffy in perfect conditions and FM, Frequency Modulation, was the new-fangled, next big thing of the early Sixties.  AM radio stations blasting rock and roll so clearly during the daylight hours became impossible to pick up due to changes in the ionosphere or went off the air entirely.

Magically it seemed to the young boy,  AM transmitters bounced their signal off the charged layer of the atmosphere.  Honestly, the old man who replaced the young boy still believes it is magic.  The young boy knew none of the science, he just knew night time brought in far off places and in the summer, brought him baseball games played late into the night.

Just last night I was reminded of the young boy, now wrinkled and gray.  As I drove home in the early evening, my satellite radio brought in a far off, crystal-clear signal from somewhere on the left coast.  Not the crackling, fading in or out signal from his childhood.

The little transistor radio brought him games played by  “Mr. Sunshine”, Ernie Banks of the Cubbies or “The Killer”, Harmon Killebrew of the Twins…depending upon atmospheric condition.  Sometimes it brought games from southern climes with sportscasters speaking in an excited, rapid-fire language the young boy did not understand.  On very special nights, the atmospheric gods brought him the Detroit Tigers and their star outfielder Al Kaline.  I remember the young boy struggling to stay awake long enough to hear the last out recorded.

This was a time when baseball was the American Pastime…before the breakneck speed of our lives, the internet, iPhones, and interactive video games made baseball seem too slow.  This was a time when we built up our athletic idols instead of finding ways to tear them down.  A time before the designated hitter and performance-enhancing drugs.  It was an era when bases were bags and sandlots and playgrounds were filled with youth dreaming of being the next “Mick” or “Sandy” or “The Say Hey Kid.”  It was a time before life got in the way.

I listened to a broadcaster whose voice I didn’t recognize, announcing players I did not know, playing for a team that didn’t exist when the young boy listened to his transistor radio.  For a moment I was sad until I remembered the young boy.  The young boy grew up to play the game he loved and later coached it for a goodly part of his life.

Baseball may no longer be the American Pastime, but it still mimics life.  Life involves so much failure and successful people find ways to rise above their missteps.  Baseball is the same, a game built on failure.  A great hitter fails seventy percent of the time.  A hitter may do everything right and still get robbed, his line drive somehow finding a glove.  A pitcher may make the perfect pitch that ends with a “fourteen hopper” somehow finding its way through a drawn-in infield.  Baseball gives, and it takes away…just like life.

For more wit and witticisms from Don Miller  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Image of Ernie Banks from CBS News

Birds of a Feather?

Normally I don’t use the word blessing when talking about this time of year, but this Saturday was one of those wondrous days we occasionally have in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. Warm and bright for a late January day. Warm and bright enough to melt the left-over snow and ice from a few days ago…I hope. The sky a brilliant blue and there is not a cloud in the sky. A great day for a walk…or a great day to sit in the backyard with a Blue Moon and a Dutch Master contemplating nothing of any importance. I did both instead of gathering up and disposing of the winter yard waste from the wildlife refuge that is my backyard. My wife is out visiting…hopefully, she won’t notice that I have done nothing except deal with my own mental self-health.

I’m watching my birds now. I can claim them as my own…I feed them, and they live close by. They love the black sunflower seed I dutifully put in my bird feeders and are flitting hither and yon. The squirrels and chipmunks like it too…and I don’t care. Redbirds, titmice, chickadees, wrens and my favorite, the little upside-down birds, the nuthatch and downy woodpeckers all visit, eat their fill and fly off to who knows where. There is a redhead woodpecker and a pileated woodpecker that visits occasionally. The pileated woodpecker seems to laugh at me with its distinctive and goofy call.

Underneath the feeders, I see robins, their red chests lying about the nearness of spring. They are joined by brown thrashers, mourning doves and an occasional tanager. The cooing sounds made by the doves are somewhat forlorn but not so forlorn it ruins my bright mood. I’m also sure the tanager will tell his friends.

Occasionally I see an indigo bunting or a bluebird, the reflected sun flashing blue off its tiny body as it zips through my yard. For the life of me, I can’t entice them to stay. I see them on the fence looking in at the free-for-all at the feeders. Are they resting or trying to make up their minds about the food I am offering? They seem to prefer the open, flat area around my garden. Oh well.

It won’t be long until the feeders draw the gold and purple finches. I’ll start adding thistle to the feeding area when I see my first one. I thought I saw a male goldfinch this morning except for the red topnotch. Turns out it is a refugee from more northern climes called a redpoll. I guess he was lost or just looking for warmer temperatures.

With the spring, if it ever gets here, there will be others making their presence known. The whistle of “my” redtail hawks, the clucking of turkeys, the lonesome calls of the whippoorwills along with owls hooting from the hillsides behind my house. Even with the hum of mosquitoes, I can’t wait.

My grandmother was a lover of birds, watching the feeder as she made biscuits in her kitchen or listening to their calls while working in the field. Telling her oldest grandson that we were hearing a mockingbird or a catbird. She loved them, filling up spiral bound notebooks with descriptions, buying stamps with images of birds and painting pictures of the birds that populated her environment. It has taken me to my autumn years to appreciate the birds that populate my environment. One more connection I have with my grandmother I guess.

I don’t reckon my birds are very concerned about government shutdowns, Dreamers or border security. A wall is probably not going to keep them out…the birds I mean. I think I’ll try to be more like my birds. If it’s not a sweet sound, I’m probably not going to make it or allow myself to hear it.

Don Miller is a multi-genre writer who has written two fictional novels and four books of non-fiction. If you are interested in further readings, please access his writer’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The picture of the pileated woodpecker came from the National Wildlife Federation at https://www.nwf.org/Garden-for-Wildlife/Food/Supplemental-Feeders. It was taken by Beau Liddell.