Friday, October 30, 2009

This is it!

Tonight I'm going to blow my brains out. No, this isn't a suicide note. The band is playing at a Halloween party tonight so I get to blow my harmonica. We're setting up outside so I'm thinking of wearing my long johns. Amazing how quickly the weather can change. I like cool, but am not a big fan of cold. People complain about the heat here. I came from Illinois so I don't mind the heat. Heat can be uncomfortable but cold hurts. I remember living in Illinois and walking the seventy five yards from the parking lot to the office building I was working in and the cold was so bitter that my nose and chin would be frozen before I got in the door. Carol and I lived on a farm the year before we moved out here and I remember there being a thermometer mounted outside the kitchen window and I distinctly remember it registering 30 below zero one time.

Speaking of Illinois, tomorrow morning Carol and I board one of those big yellow birds of Southwest Airlines and fly to St. Louis. Two hours later we'll be at the lake cabin. The weather reports say we should take all our warm clothes. Carol's family has already checked the furnace and tell us it is working. This is a very good thing. The cold may cut back on my screened-in porch time but I'm excited to go anyway. But I'm not sure of Internet availability so I may not have a blog for a while.

What is that? Is that a sigh of relief. Just you wait till I get back!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Joy of the Blues

I've played some kind of music since I was in my early twenties. Way back in the early seventies after a night of beers and bank shuffle board with a friend of mine, Larry "the big noise from Peoria" Landwehr, we were back at his house when he pulled a guitar out and starting singing some old country songs. I immediately knew that was something I wanted to be able to do. Larry and I started a band, along with bass player Jim Guthrie and drummer Jordan "Dad" Smith. I couldn't play yet and had never sang in front of anyone but there is nothing like the combination of youth and gall. I've played ever since.

Somewhere along the line I realized that I'd never be a guitar virtuoso so I looked for something else that I could use and found the harmonica. I aspired to play the harmonica for a long time and over a long period of time I became more proficient. Last year I was invited to come to a friends house and jam around with some other musicians and over time the blues band, Casablanca Blue, was born. The hosts, who don't play, were Teri House and Joe White. White House. Casablanca. Cute eh? Now with another guitarist, John King, in the group I'm able to really concentrate on the harp and I'm really starting to have fun with it. I feel I've grown with the instrument because of all the practice time, and finally feel comfortable with it in about any venue.

And since I am naturally lazy, it is a good instrument to carry around. After a gig I watch with sympathy as the drummer breaks all those drums down and carts them to his truck and I pocket my harmonica and shout encouragement.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Words to live by, or at least laugh at

There are some people that just have a knack of putting great understanding of the human condition into just a few words. Here are a few (I'll start out by getting into trouble):

Silence gives the proper grace to women. Sophocles

Wickedness is always easier than virtue for it takes the short cut to everything. Samuel Johnson

The best laid plans of o' mice and men gang aft a-gley Robert Burns

Whatever makes men good Christians, makes them good citizens. Daniel Webster

The best of prophets of the future is the past. Lord Byron

I am a great and sublime fool. But then I am God's fool and all His works must be contemplated with respect. Mark Twain

Man is the only animal that blushes, or needs to. Mark Twain

A mugwump is a person educated beyond his intellect. Horace Porter

Life is painting a picture, not doing a sum. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Advice is the smallest current coin. Ambrose Bierce

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. Thomas Alva Edison

The cruelest lies are often told in silence. Robert Louis Stevenson

The great question...which I have not been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is "What does a woman want.?" Sigmund Freud

Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else. Will Rogers

Politics has got so expensive that it takes lots of money to even get beat with. Will Rogers

And this last for today, one of my all time favorites;

Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest. Mark Twain

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Kid In Us All

My brother once asked me how old I was in my dreams. What a great question. I know in my dreams I can still run like the wind and if I had to guess I'd say that I was, not a child but a young man. It's only when I look in the mirror in the morning that I realize that I'm wearing someone elses old face.

I was thinking of this because this weather change has made me almost giddy. So, this weekend Carol and I are dusting off ol' Tiger Lilly, our 19 foot sportdeck boat and we are heading to the lake. That boat has to get on the lake twice a year whether it needs it or not. I've always been a boat guy. I couldn't live anywhere there wasn't a lake close by. There's nothing like opening a throttle with the wind in your face and the occasional spray dusting you to make you feel young and alive.

And, don't we all have a irrepressible kid down inside? Halloween is one of those times of year that the kid comes out in most of us. Especially if you are lucky enough to be invited to a Halloween costume party. Oh man, to be a pirate again. Well, here's the good news, you are invited as my guest to a Halloween party on Friday, October 30 at 7pm. It's being hosted by my friends Joe White and Teri House at 3802 E Desert Cove. This is the northeast corner of 38th Street and Desert Cove. Desert Cove is just north of Shea Blvd. Costumes are strongly encouraged but not required. Casablanca Blue, the band I play with, is providing the live music. It's going to be a lot of fun. All you need to bring is a favorite beverage if you have a particular choice.

Come on, unleash that kid in you.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Remember What Mama Always Said

A recent Washington Post - ABC News poll stated that only 30% of the Americans polled claimed to be Republicans. I do believe that 90% of those live in Maricopa County and all of them attend North Bible Church. (I know, I know - that's mathematically impossible, just relax). My point is that I have a pretty good idea what the only black kid in class felt like. This doesn't stop me from loving all my right wing friends but enough with the e-mails already.

I was talking with my brother a while back and we were wondering why the only hateful, denigrating e-mails we get are aimed at the Democrats. I don't remember getting an e-mail that bashed John McCain or John Kyl. Not even Sarah Palin. We wondered, why is that?

Here's what I want you to know. I am not a left wing dingbat radical. If anything I am a moderate who can read and think and make my decisions based on what I think is the right way to go. Nobody is right all the time - right or left - red or blue. And, I truly respect your opinion whether I believe it to be correct or not. I just ask for the same.

My mother (and yours) always said, "If you don't have something nice to say about someone don't say anything at all". So, enough with the nasty denigrating e-mails. Try to remember that kind Christian, what would Jesus do part of you.

Don't stop sending me e-mails just please send me a funny joke, or a cute video, or pictures of your baby. If it has anything to do with slamming another person, in the public eye or not, please keep it to yourselves.

To paraphrase a popular adage: "Thank you for sending me your e - mail, I'll waste no time reading it."

And by the way, just to be clear, I credit President Obama's economic stimulus with saving my small business. Without someone like him at the helm when we crashed under the weight of the previous eight years I would have been bankrupt. So, thank you Mr. President and I know that you don't think you deserved the Nobel Peace Prize either, but you got it, so hold it out as a beacon to the future and lead us to a better America.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Where's Pana?

Our daughter, Amanda and her husband Lance have an American bulldog. She's going on two and is named after our cabin in Pana Illinois. Up until this week she came to work with Amanda everyday except Friday which was a half day for Amanda. She stayed in the office with us where she spent her time sleeping, begging twice a day for the treat that she trained me to give her and chasing little chipmunks out of our fenced in compound. We have a community of them just across the fence in the mountain preserve that our property backs up into.

This week Amanda started her internship in counseling which takes her away three days a week. Hence, no Pana.

Now, why am I missing this goofy animal. No, I mean Pana, not Amanda. Oh, she won't like that joke. Of course I miss Amanda but Amanda is a self sufficient type. She stays busy at her desk and it's been a long while since she's needed her Daddy. Pana, on the other hand will sit for long moments at a time just watching me. Now, I like to attribute this to her devotion and has nothing to do with the treats. If I get up to go out into the yard she is right beside me. If I go to the bathroom I have to shut the door in her face. If I get anywhere close to the cabinet where the treats are stored she loves me so much she almost knocks me over.

I told Lance that if he wants to bring Pana down to the yard, (he works next door) he can leave her in our office and we'll take care of her till he can pick her up after work. But, today she's not here. So, with Amanda gone and Pana not available, all I have left is Carol and she actually works which gets in the way of my entertainment big time.

Any one want to hang out with an old guy?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Send me a thousand dollars and God will reward you.

Renowned circus impresario P.T.Barnum said "There is a sucker born every minute".

I was flipping cabel channels last week when suddenly my ears heard a song that is performed in our church frequently so I stopped. The choir was in fine voice with much emotion and vitality when I noticed that up in the corner of the screen was a box revealing a line of women manning what appeared to be phone banks. Scrolling across the bottem was the enticement "Plant your $1000 seed and God will make your garden grow!"

I thought this was a pretty good deal. $1000 is a whole lot cheaper that having to live a Godly life.

As coincidence would have it Benny Hinn was on 60 Minutes last night. Now, here is a guy that knows how to wring the money out of ....., out of...., uh, suckers. This guy has been a televalgelist for over twenty years. He's the guy in the cheesy white suit and the bad comb over that heals people on stage. Puts his hands out and not even having to touch them (flu virus, right?) they are healed. They can walk, they can see, they can fall right back into the arms of Benny Hinn's, bodyguards, er, assistants. Right there on television in front of thousands of emotional, overwrought, uh.... suckers. The guy has a private jet. Lives large. Has no remorse and no guilt. Man what a gig. I don't know, I was just thinking, the cost of that jet, maybe fund cancer research or a new wing at the Children's Hospital. Think about it Benny. Fly coach and help a poor bald kid with cancer. Pretty good trade off. Or, even better, come on down to the Children's Hospital and cure them all right there. Take your show on the road. You want publicity, man oh man that would do it. You'd get more publicity than Sheriff Arpio.

In the meantime though, you folks that can't make Benny's revival, go ahead send me the thousand bucks and I'll personally forward it to the Children's Hospital. Every bit of it.

PS: For the two of you that are interested I've got some more chapters of the Sundown Corral up on my website.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Let's Tax Blogging

On the way to the office I was listening to the radio and was hearing about the amount of sugar cola's and soft drinks we consume in a year. I immediately was struck with one of those big embarrassing gassy belches that only come after chugging a coke. Just kidding, I made that up. But, what made me want to belch was the commentator was saying that some people are considering taxing soft drinks because they cause obesity and obesity drives up health care costs. My immediate reaction is "where does this stop?" Do we start taxing everything that may have some adverse reaction to somebody? Should government dictate lifestyle choices? My opinion is that the only time the government should stick its nose into lifestyle is when those choices endanger someone else. Like those idiots that drive around with their two year old on their lap. And, especially those that wrap the seat belt around them both. Your big fat a** squished your baby to death, now how do you feel about that. Come on, give them a big ticket.

But, let's take second hand smoke. Arizona recently passed a law that prohibits smoking in public places. It passed overwhelmingly. This doesn't tell me that it was overwhelmingly right, it just tells me that there was an overwhelming amount of non-smokers that voted. I don't like to smell cigarette smoke. And, I think it is only reasonable and just that public places be allowed to ban it within their walls. But, if a grown adult is dumb enough to smoke, who am I or you to dictate his or her lifestyle. If someone wants to own a bar and allow smoking inside, knock yourself out, I just won't come in. There is a famous blues bar in Phoenix that I haven't been to in years because I didn't want to reek when I came out of it. That was their choice. If parents wish to smoke they should be smart enough to smoke away from the children. If they don't, some good friend should slap them and get their attention.

And, how about blogging. How healthy is that? Sitting on your butt, getting no exercise, maybe drinking one of those 44 oz. slurpys while you are doing it. Maybe getting carpal tunnel syndrome. Aggravating the arthritis in your fingers. Helping out those saddle bags on your hips. Yep, I'm thinking a $1.00 per blog tax. Send it to me and I'll see it gets into the right hands.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How do you find the one?

Carol and I have been together over three decades. In toasting Amanda and Lance at their wedding I told the crowd that it would have been longer if Illinois didn't have those pesky laws against dating fifth graders.

The seventeen year old daughter of a friend of ours recently experienced the bitter sweet -to older observers - and devastating - to her -experience of breaking up with her high school sweetheart. In her misery she told her Mom, "I just want to find the right person and get married and have children and live a happy life."

When told about this, my response was that at seventeen she needed to go to young people she knew and respected that were twenty two or older. She needed to ask these young folk about how they had changed between seventeen and twenty two. My point is that at seventeen you don't even know yet what you will have to offer Mr. Right. Why short change the poor smuck when in just a very few short years you could allow yourself to grow into something wonderful and could have a powerful something of substance to offer a life partner.

I wish I could say that Carol and I have been sweethearts since childhood. Alas, you do the math on my age and the number of married years mentioned above and you'll see this wasn't the case. Carol wasn't my first wife. This makes me a somewhat expert on picking the wrong person, and then picking the right person. Through high school Amanda or one of her friends would ask about how to find the right person to spend a life with. My formula is a simple one. But, to work it has to be completely understood and completely followed.

Each one in the relationship must love the other more than themselves.

That's it. Simple. Only, it has to work both ways. No matter the breadth and depth of love one may feel for the other it won't be enough to save the relationship unless reciprocated.

So, my little seventeen year old friend, time is on your side, so take it. Grow into your fullest potential and keep your eyes open for that fella that will end up loving you more than himself. Then see if you feel the same way.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Family, and then Family

It was early on in my adulthood that I realized that nobody has a Beaver Cleaver family. And, you don't get to pick your family. I"m not suggesting you'll find whacko's in your nuclear family necessarily but if you look in the extended blood family of any one you know you're going to find some serious weirdo's. Sometime soon I want to address the wonderful and wierd wacko's in my family (that'll make people nervous) but, today I want to talk about some of the absolute treasures I have. Carol and I met my cousin Vicki and her funny and fun husband Dr. Roger in Tucson. They were here from Florida at a convention and we drove down to see them. Vicki and her sister Deb are probably as close to sisters as I ever got. It is an absolute sin that I haven't seen Vick in 7 years, but we live a long way away from one another and Deb lives just as far in the other direction. So, it was a wonderful occasion to get caught up and we got caught up. I told her about my wacko's and she told me about hers. I had more.

Vicki should get the Clara Barton Humanitarian Award this year. She is my hero. She and Deb lost both parents after caring for them with love and devotion for the last few years. They died within a short time of each other. Uncle Bill was 90, Aunt Avis was 84. Vicki said her Mom just didn't want to live without Daddy. And during this same tragic time Dr. Roger, her devoted husband of decades, has been battling his own scary, physical demons, the nature of which is his business, but something that makes me wince. But, he tells me the prognosis is good. And to top it off Deb has battled against that bitch, breast cancer recently. Also with a good prognosis. Sometimes, I know Vicki had to throw her voice to the sky and scream, "Why me?"

Losing your parents is something everyone faces but when they have been the rock and the foundation of the life you have built, it is very tough. Siblings grow up and move away or marry people that distance them from the family but parents stick with you through thick and thin. It is a desperately lonely pain in the heart when they are gone. My and Vicki's time of life can be hard. Our children, while loving and around, are married and out of the house building their own lives, our parents are gone and no longer need us. We stand alone looking around, then gather our spouse into our arms knowing that without this loved one, this one last bastion, we are alone.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Poet, not a Mechanic

Poor Carol. Over 31 years ago she married a man without tools. I don't mean literally, I had a screwdriver and a hammer and a pair of pliers (why do they call it a pair of pliers when it's only one tool?). I even had a shovel and a saw. But, the problem was and is, I don't like using them. If there is one thing to get me completely irritated it is for something to break. I just don't have time for that. Things are supposed to work. Unfortunately for Carol I can live with a leaky faucet for months. I don't see a bump in my water bill so what's the big deal. Drives her nuts. A small leak in the roof? Heck, it don't rain here much. Now don't get me wrong, I can pretty much figure out how to fix most things as much as the next guy. I take no joy in it. I say she married a poet not a mechanic.

Now, I have friends that are just the opposite. My friend Charlie accompanied Carol and I, with his wife Cindy, to our cabin in Illinois. If you are ever lucky enough to have such a place, and I consider myself extremely lucky, I hope you get to visit yours more often than we get to visit ours. We only get back maybe four times a year. Usually for a week each. It goes without saying that a place like that always has something that needs to be done with it. Now here is the difference between me and Charlie. Charlie has tools. And, he likes using them. Ordinarily, left to my regular device I would contemplate the problem areas at the cabin for at least the first four days. I'd have to fish on it. Meaning, I'll think about what I have to do while I'm fishing or otherwise relaxing. Charlie has tools. He has already figured out the problems while we're on the airplane and wants to attack as soon as we are in the door. Charlie is constantly helping someone with problems. Mowing grass, putting in cabinets, tiling floors, hammering nails. He is one of the busiest guys I know. I love him but boy does he make me tired. And, look bad. Cindy once asked why I didn't do something.... whatever project at my house she saw needed doing. I pointed at my painting on the easel and said, "That is what I do. Not tools." Poor Carol.

Okay one more example to prove I'm in the minority among real men. On the way to quail camp I had a flat tire on my Suburban. Charlie was with me and my friend Brent (another man with tools) just happened to pull up at the right time. Before I could even get the spare out of back, I had been abruptly elbowed aside, shoved to a place where I could cause no harm and within seconds Brent and Charlie had the tire changed. I almost felt guilty. Almost.

After all, that was the most fun they'd had all day.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Life's a little abstract

I'm in the throes of painting a new abstract. I really like abstracts but some forms of "modern art" are lost on me. I saw a life like sculptors rendition of a bicycle at an art museum. I left wondering why they didn't just bring in a bicycle. On the other hand abstract painting frees the soul. It allows you to do any damn fool thing that comes to mind and no one can criticize it. Art is in the eye of the beholder which means that any number of people are not going to like any given piece of art. Once you understand this you are free to create. If someone criticizes the work I can just dismiss it thinking they just don't get it and go on about my smug and self centered way.

One really interesting thing about abstracts is that inevitably I find that I will paint the thing one way, say horizontally and then when finished I can turn it upside down, or maybe sideways and get a whole new perspective. A fresh and new look. If you view the abstracts on my website you'll be interested to know that not one of them are presented in the mode I painted them. You frugal folk out there, think of it this way. You can buy one abstract then periodically throughout the year turn it one quarter turn and move it from room to room and you'll have a new painting each time.

I think the life would be better if we could do this. Enjoy it for a while then give it a turn and the same old stuff becomes new and fresh. Get bored, give it a turn. Whole new world. What a great idea!

Let's try this. Turn this blog upside down and see what I was really writing about.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What do you need?

"One of the weaknesses of our age is our apparent inability to distinguish our needs from our greed's." Don Robinson

I grew up poor. I don't bring that up for a poor me moment, in fact being poor at a early age probably did me more good than harm. Over the period of my youth I had friends that had parents that were well off. Not Rockefeller's but much better off than my Mom. I began to notice something as I grew older. I had been trained by circumstance not to expect much in the way of worldly things but my better heeled friends viewed much of what they got as entitlement. In high school I had as much as three jobs at once. I bought my own clothes and I bought my own car. I was fifteen and too young to drive but it was parked out front and I washed it almost every day. My better heeled friends had allowances. Their mothers bought their clothes and when they turned sixteen, their fathers bought their cars. Newer cars than mine.

Why do I bring this up. We are going through a terrible economic time in our country. In my lifetime I have never seen it this bad. Many of you might not notice it as much, especially if you are employed by a large employer. Your paycheck keeps coming in. But then, many of you have been slapped in the face by it. I don't know of a small business owner that hasn't been effected and I know a lot of them. We had a fellow stop and knock on our office door yesterday. He is a certified plumber from California that has lost his job and his house and is in Arizona so that his wife and children can live with her parents while he stays with a friend and looks for work. Any kind of work, he says. He'll do anything, he says.

As a small business owner, my wife and I have had a very hard time lately. I'm happy to report we are still in business and the lights are still on but I've tightened the belt beyond the last hole.

So I go through all that to come to this; Remember a couple years ago when we were all fat and sassy? Remember what our priorities were then? It was important to have a better car, a better house, a better position. More bragging rights. There's nothing like being poor to get your head right. What is really important? What do you really need? Your find out you can do without a lot of stuff. A lot of baggage. Carol and I had breakfast this morning at home instead of eating out and she said something and whatever it was we laughed our heads off. We should be crying but we have something better than a new house and a fat bank account, we have each other. We have health, we have a wonderful daughter here and another in Illinois. Carol bought some clothes the other day and immediately felt guilty about it, but boy did she love those clothes. And better yet they were on sale! You can't beat a good sale. Remember when you didn't look for the sales? You really didn't care that much. You stopped at whichever gas station that was close? That was when you had something you really don't need to live an important life. Excess money.

Monday, October 5, 2009

What's Next?

Do you every look forward to doing something. I mean really anticipate at trip or an event in a palpable way. You can hardly wait for the day to get here and then bam! It's over and it's Monday morning and you look at the calendar with complete sadness that there is nothing on it.

Alas, quail camp has come and gone. Jim Taggert was the king of the camp, getting the most birds. Even Bunker, Blake's Brittany Spaniel got a bird. Went into the brush and come out with his own bird. Good job Bunker!

We all had a great time, spending time together and laughing about any damn fool thing that popped into our heads. Weather was great and the food was good, as always. If you see a good looking fella with longish hair and Khaki shorts carrying a shotgun walking down the street, don't worry it's just Dom still looking for camp.

I'm happy to report that Tina got some more chapters up on my website for The Sundown Corral. If interested in a reading break now and then you can access it on I hope to have a couple new paintings up this week.

Well I'm going to my desk and mope around until I think of something else to look forward to.