We bought a zoo – worth the watch

Our blogging friend Holly posted a poem about being courageous, which reminded me of a quote from the movie “We bought a zoo.” The quote is from the father, played by Matt Damon, when he passed on this piece of wisdom to his children, “All you need is twenty seconds of courage.”

But, I am getting ahead of myself. The movie also stars Scarlett Johansson, Elle Fanning, Thomas Haden Church, Colin Ford, Stephanie Szostak and a host of others. It is about the true story of a widowed father buying a run down, small zoo in a bold attempt to reconnect with his kids after they lost their mother.

It is a feel good movie about relationships between families, friends, colleagues and animals. It is peppered with poignant scenes, which I will forego to avoid spoiling it for others.

It is one of those movies I could watch again as there are multitude of interesting characters. The brother, played by Thomas Hayden Church, is the appointed steward of his brother’s wife’s money, as she knew of her husband impulsive behavior. Hayden Smith usually plays a comic foil, so it is a different kind of role for him as he is a conscience to Damon’s character.

Twenty seconds of courage plays a pivotal role in the movie. In essence, the key to making any kind of change is summoning up twenty seconds to act on it. If you can do that, the path forward will open or you will at least have an answer if it does not.

Give it a chance if you have not seen in it. If you have, let me know what you think. For those who have not, you may want to steer clear of the comments to avoid plot reveals.

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Daytripping sans chemicals

If you are a fan of the Beatles, you know one of their earlier songs was “Daytripper.” Its meaning is quite different from mine which requires no chemicals.

With my single sister living nearby with some recent medical needs, our ability to travel for lengthy periods of time has been compromised. Instead, my wife and I are doing weekly day trips to towns near our city.

The key to all of this is a destination date for us. It usually entails seeing a memorable site or restaurant and just strolling the town or a beautiful park. The trips usually amount to three or four hours of time, but it is just nice to get away and see something different. Plus, many of these small towns have undergone a metamorphosis to restore old buildings or lost business.

In Rock Hill, we went to eat at a cafe where one of the first African-American counter sit-ins occurred. While there, we checked out a beautiful 11 acre park while holding hands along the walking paths.

The next week we visited Black Mountain meeting two of our children for breakfast and a walk about. The following week, we checked out a restaurant that a popular band bought for their mother in Belmont The food was excellent, plus it allowed us to shop at an unusual specialty shop and drop in on a photo museum which was quite interesting as we got a guided tour.

And, this past week, we ventured to the town of Shelby where we visited the Earl Scruggs museum. The interactive museum focused on the innovative banjo player, but also devoted time to other musicians from North Carolina. The subject matter and interactive nature actually exceeded our expectations. After an obligatory diner lunch, we visited the Don Gibson Theater, which was reopened about seven years ago to regional and national acts.

Along the way, we have met extremely gracious and helpful people. A police officer strolling the streets of Belmont was extremely kind and pointed out some places. The manager of the theater gave us a neat your behind the stage.

We are looking forward to our next daytrip. If you have not done these kinds of trips, give them a try. If you have, please share some of your surprising and wonderful visits.

A nice memory – Country Roads

As summer approaches, many states are airing scenic commercials to woo vacationers. I think the most clever is Maine’s where they play up the abbreviation of “ME.” But, the one that brings back memories is that of West Virginia. They use John Denver’s popular song “Take me home, country roads” as they reveal beautiful scenery.

Here are the first few stanzas and chorus:

“Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue ridge mountains, Shenandoah river
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia
Mountain mamma, take me home
Country roads

All my memories, gather round her
Modest lady, stranger to blue water
Dark and dusty, painted on the sky
Misty taste of moonshine, teardrop in my eye.”

While I have traveled often to the state, my evoked memories are of friendship. I have written before about three boyhood friends who remain friends today. As we tooled around in one of our cars as teens going to a ball game or event, this song would come on the radio.

We each would belt out our car karioke harmonizing with John Denver. Sometimes, we would not even need the radio. Mind you, none of us were even close to being good at singing, but that did not stop us.

We sang other songs of the day, but this one was special. I think it is due to the number of times Denver used his chorus lines. It may also have been the interesting descriptive words he used of the scenery and people.

Now it serves as a life mile marker. It immediately brings forward a joyous time. As you read this, what song or songs are mile markers for you?

Singin’ in the Rain

It has rained each of the last five days and we expect five more ahead. In the middle of this sogginess, it is easy to reflect on the various emotions portrayed within songs about the rain.

Arguably the most famous is the title song from Gene Kelly’s movie “Singin’ in the Rain.” Here are the opening lines in this playfully happy song, exceeded only by Kelly’s wonderful dancing:

“I’m singin’ in the rain, just singin’ in the rain. What a glorious feeling, I’m happy again.”

This is only the first few of many raindrops in song. One of my favorites is one of two great songs by Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Have you ever seen the rain?” The other is also good, “Who’ll stop the rain?” Here is an excerpt from the first song noted:

“Someone told me long ago
There’s a calm before the storm
I know it’s been comin’ for some time
When it’s over so they say
It’ll rain a sunny day
I know shinin’ down like water.”

One of the best voices to sing about the rain is Annie Lennox of the Eurythmics in “Here comes the rain again.” She sings of wanting to be with a lover while it storms, as noted in this splash of lyrics:

“Here comes the rain again
Falling on my head like a memory
Falling on my head like a new emotion
I want to walk in the open wind
I want to talk like lovers do
I want to dive into your ocean
Is it raining with you.”

The emotions range in these and other songs from melancholy to happiness, from love to lust and from worry to fear. Eric Clapton’s “Let it rain” has a wonderful guitar lick which seasons this great song which is about just letting the rain wash over us. Two pop songs from the 1970s that sold millions were on the opposite ends of emotions – “Raindrops are falling on my head” by Burt Bacharach and “Rainy days and Mondays” by The Carpenters.

An older song which is about sadness is Brook Benton’s “Rainy night in Georgia” who “feels it must be raining all over the world.” Others include Bob Dylan’s “A hard rain’s gonna fall, Adele’s “Set fire to the rain,” and “Rain” by The Beatles.

Let me close with the most colorful title by a colorful, talented and enigmatic performer named Prince. His movie title song of “Purple Rain” truly brings the house down as he comes to terms with a father’s suicide attempt and his anger that pushes his lover away. Here is an excerpt:

“I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted to one time to see you laughing
I only wanted to see you
Laughing in the purple rain.”

Any list of rainy songs will leave off a number of others. Let me know some of your favorites. As CCR sang “who’ll stop the rain.”

A little Bread goes a long way

Those who follow my post know that I do like my rock-n-roll. Yet, what I find most fulfilling is good music paired with great lyrics. While I love Eric Clapton, Styx, Heart, Stevie Ray Vaughan, et al,  I am equally thrilled to listen to Gordon Lightfoot, Bob Dylan, Jim Croce, etc.

On the softer side of all of this is a band called “Bread,” whose lead singer and songwriter, David Gates wrote some terrific lyrics. He mostly sang of love lost, so his music will take you down a melancholy path.

My favorite of Bread’s is simply called “If.” Here is a sample of the lyrics from memory.

“If a man could be two places at one time, I’d be with you

Tomorrow and today, beside you all the way

If the world should stop revolving spinning slowly down to die,

I’d spend the end with you and when the world was through

Then, one by one the stars would all go out

Then you and I would gently fly away.”

One of his more painful songs is called “Diary,” about a boy who feels his love is unrequited until he finds his girlfriend’s diary. He is surprised by the intensity of her feelings and then he reads on.

“I found your diary underneath a tree, and started reading about me,

The words you’d written took me by surprise, you’d never read them in your eyes.

They said the love you’d found was someone else, not me.

Wouldn’t you know it, she wouldn’t show it.”

A little more upbeat song is called “The Guitar Man.” Here is a sample of the lyrics:

“Who draws a crowd and plays so loud,

Baby, it’s the guitar man.

Who’s on the radio, who steals the show,

Baby, it’s the guitar man.”

A few other favorites include “It don’t matter to me,” “Everything I own,” “Make it with you” and “Baby I’m a want you.” Later Gates had a solo hit when he wrote “The Goodbye Girl” for the Neil Simon movie with Marsha Mason and Richard Dreyfus.

If you are not familiar with their music and like the softer side, check them out. If you want to rehash some old memories, break out the CDs, albums or add to your playlist. A little Bread goes a long way.

Sorry Meatloaf, two out of three IS bad

One of the most popular songs from a singer named Meatloaf off his stellar first album is called “Two out of three ain’t bad.” If you are not familiar with his work, the album is called “Bat out of Hell” and it is end to end one of the finest rock albums ever produced.

But, with due respect to Meatloaf and Jim Steinman, who wrote the songs, in the case of the man sitting in the White House, two out of three is bad. You see, that ratio equates to 67% when rounded and it is two percentage points less than 69%. And, the latter represents the measured rate of mostly false, false and pant-on-fire false statements made by the President of the United States (per Polifacts).

Saying this more frankly, the President is on record as lying more than two out of three times. Think about that – for every three statements, two are not true. And, that is bad.

Being President is all about character. When a person lies like this, it is hard to fathom that person having character. If you layer in his demeaning and denigration of others along with his self-professed sexual assaults, he does not represent what makes America great. In fact, he embodies the worst traits in us. That is sad.

Other leaders do not trust him both within and outside the United States. Why would they? When he makes one of his impulsive decisions that makes his staff scramble, he often makes an untrue statement to support it. He did this with the new tax law, the defunding of an ACA subsidy that helped people in poverty, and  the DACA is dead statement he made his weekend.

The truth matters. Character matters. We need them to matter to the President.

The movement you need is on your shoulder

Conversing by comment with our British friend Roger, I recalled a line from the song “Hey Jude,” written by Paul McCartney following a conversation with John Lennon’s son Julian who went by Jules. What started out as Hey Jules was McCartney recalling how he encouraged Jules to speak to a girl he liked.

One of the best lines in the song per the older Lennon was almost struck because McCartney thought it was too corny. The line is simply “the movement you need is on your shoulder.” The power of the line is if we just use our brain, we have the ability to solve the problems we encounter. The reference to the word “movement” is key as well. We must act on what we need to do. We must make a move.

I was recalling this line as many of us resort to prayer to solve our problems. That is all well and good, but we lose sight of the greatest invention God or Allah gave us – our brain. Paraphrasing Solomon in Proverbs, God gave us a wonderful brain and we honor him when we use it. Please do not look for these precise words, as you won’t find them. They are my simple take on who the bible considered the wisest of kings.

My point is we often don’t realize when we pray that God gave us the ability to solve our problems. Or, we may be praying for a miracle cure, but we overlook the brilliant surgeon and his or her team may be the embodiment of God’s miracle. What surgeons do can be viewed in such manner as they are honoring God’s gift to them.

Many religions believe their way is the only way to find heaven. Personally, I find that to be a tad arrogant. Especially when religions have some of the same principles embedded therein. We should be open to all manners of faith. What gives us the most peace, should be the one we follow. It may not be the path your parents took. That is OK. The peace it gives and the generosity of spirit is more important.

God gave us a wonderful brain. Let’s use it more than we do to solve our problems. He also gave us two ears and one mouth. We should use them in that proportion.