Dad did good

My Dad had a hard life growing up. His parents split up early and neither played a big role in his formative years. Fortunately, he was provided a safety net that would not let him fail. He was raised by his Great Aunt and Uncle.

His Uncle ran a general store in a small Georgia town. My Dad was asked to help out there. This eventually led my Dad to start his career with a regional supermarket after college and a stint in the Navy. More on that later.

He went to college in north Georgia, but it was under a required work study program.  You had to work to attend and that was the only way the students could afford the tuition costs. He met my mother there and they married in 1951 and moved to Jacksonvulle, FL.

He had a stint in the Navy when the Korean Conflict started joining with several friends. Serving on an aircraft carrier, he learned of 25 second showers, discipline and visited some exotic places,  Once home, he decided soon a supermarket career was not for him. Even with his low salary, he would have to cover bounced checks as a manager.

He and his good friend George decided to move into this career called data processing, the precursor to IT. He worked for a regional insurance company and eventually worked his way up. He was there until he retired in the early 1990s.

He and my Mom raised us three kids. She was a schoolteacher. I mentioned in my last post in a comment that he would pitch batting practice to me after work and coached me on occasion. He was a very good athlete in college playing basketball, baseball and track.

He also was a great outdoor cook. He would love to smoke hams and turkeys, and cooked a mean roast and chicken. He would tease us saying the chicken did not have any wings, as he would sample them outside. His team would have indoor office picnics and he would usually bring a ham or turkey. They tended to request this of him.

He and my Mom were a great couple, married for 54 years. He died too early after a life of smoking and drinking, even though he quit both a dozen years before he passed. Like me, my Dad was an alcoholic. I stopped drinking myself the year after he died.

When he passed in 2006, there were a half dozen couples that met in college like my parents and were still together that came to his funeral. He was remembered well, but it was a tribute to Mom, too. My Dad was not perfect, but he was a good man, husband and father. I love you Dad. Your lessons are remembered and appreciated.

Early morning musings

The weekend has officially started and I cannot sleep. No, it is not due to the news of the world, which causes sufficient turmoil in its own right. I am just needing closure on many personal events surrounding my mother’s passing, her home being struck by lightning and burning just before we put it on the market, the hopeful sale of my mother-in-law’s farm and helping my sister start anew in a new city, my city.

I am used to having many balls in the air with three kids and past work. That is OK. Now that I am retired, the work part has subsided, to be replaced in small part by volunteer work. Yet, I am not sleeping because of open issues that linger on. Nothing seems to be easy as it should be and I feel I have to be relentlessly diplomatic and patient. I have come across some wonderful people to help, but sometimes the process is more complex than needed.

Yet, checking some boxes on long lists of things to do is more than therapeutic. It provides closure that would allow us to move on from that event or major task. I am fully aware that each of us has issues we must deal with. But, here I sit at 02:54 am, praying that some of those events can be closed soon. I know there are other items waiting to be added to the list. Yet, taking a few large ones off, would be helpful.

With Alzheimer’s, I had to say good-bye to my mother long before she passed. The saving grace is she went before she deteriorated to not recognizing a face on her team. I know some of my blogging friends are dealing or have dealt with these kinds of issues. I wish peace for everyone in resolving the issues they must deal with and their lingering effect. My family and I could use some of that peace as well. Best wishes all. Have a great weekend.

 

 

 

Sgt. Pepper turns fifty

Fifty years ago this month, what is regarded by Rolling Stone Magazine as the greatest album of all time was released – The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Airing on PBS is a BBC produced show called “Sgt. Pepper’s Musical Revolution,” hosted by musician Howard Goodall.

The show is worth the watch as Goodall highlights the innovation and storytelling behind the album. Being a musician, he demonstrates a few items of note and highlights what then was truly cutting edge. In essence, The Beatles had grown tired of touring where they and their fans could not hear their music over their screaming fans. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr wanted to get their creative juices flowing back in the studio and, boy, did they ever.

Working with record producer George Martin, The Beatles told a series of stories about their youth and observations about current life. They blended instruments such as the harmonium, which was a small organ for churches, with piccolo trumpets with sitars with nine pianos playing at once.

I don’t want to steal the thunder of the show, but let me highlight two items . To me, the most avant grade song is “A Day in the Life,” which blends a McCartney song about daily routine with a Lennon song about select news of the day. But, to blend these two songs together, they needed a bridge. So, they used a concept called accidental music and had fourteen orchestra members start at the lowest note possible and build slowly to a certain common level giving the musician the option of being just below, at or above that level. It was pure genius.

The second item is the song “Within you, without you,” by George Harrison. He actually played and orchestrated Indian musicians to play in a somewhat Western style. Goodall had some musicians play the song in an Eastern style, which produces a different sound, But, he notes Harrison wanted to blend two cultures together introducing Indian music to westerners.  He felt westerners were not ready for a total immersion. It is fascinating.

There are many surprising observations that show how cutting edge this album was. The fact that some history and actual people and places are recurring themes makes the music live even more. “Penny Lane” is an actual place, “When I’m 64,” was about McCartney’s father, “Lovely Rita,” was an actual meter maid, and “Strawberry Field Forever,” was an actual park where Lennon played when he was young. It should be noted that while recorded at the same time, “Strawberry Field Forever” and “Penny Lane,” were released as a two A-sided single as Brian Epstein, their manager, did not want too much time to elapse since their previous release, so they were not on Sgt. Pepper.

Please give the album a listen again or for the first time. And, do watch the PBS special either here or on the BBC. “We’re Sgt. Pepper’s one and only lonely hearts club band,” they sang toward the end.

Goodbye Ruby Tuesday – a few random thoughts

With due credit to the Rolling Stones, we approach the end of a gem of a Tuesday. We are celebrating our daughter’s 20th birthday at her favorite restaurant. It is a joy to see the woman she has become, with her sense of purpose, humor and morality.

With the latter in mind, let me speak to those who are our moral compasses during these much needed times. The first shout out goes to Angela Merkel who has now become the leader of the free world. She has taken the mantle that the current US President has ceded with his retrenchment mindset and fondness for authoritarian leaders. She has a better grasp of right and wrong than our leader and sees the advantages of mutual trade and trust.

Another shout out goes to the three men in Portland who interceded to protect two Muslim American women from the verbal abuse of a white supremacist. Two of them (Ricky John Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche) paid with their lives, while the third (Micah Fletcher) was injured. It should not be lost on anyone that one of the deceased (Best) was a veteran who fought for the rights of the Muslim women to practice their faith with our freedom of religion. I have purposefully avoided the use of the killer’s name who I view as a domestic terrorist.

Finally, a shout to Dusko Markovic, the Prime Minister of Montenegro. His graciousness exemplified how to handle maltreatment, when our brutish President shoved Markovic aside as he moved to the front of the group for a picture of the NATO leaders. This was not the worst thing our President did while in Europe, but it is emblematic of his bullying nature where everyone stands in his way.

We need to recognize those who do the right thing, especially when the cost is so severe. Former news anchor Dan Rather gets it, as he admonished the President for saying nothing about the Portland terrorist act. The President did finally say something, but he used a less popular channel than he normally uses when he feels slighted or threatened.

Have glorious remainder of your week. May it be a gem. And, let’s applaud those gems among us. We need their morality.

Statesboro Blues – The Final Allman is gone

You likely have read or heard that Gregg Allman has passed away. His brother Duane died so many years ago, but the two left a huge footprint on bluesy rock and roll influencing many.

One of the finest live albums or any album for that matter is their magnum opus “Live at Fillmore East.” Gregg’s soulful voice and musicality are a key reason for their success, but the band is known for the slide guitar playing of his brother Duane and the harmonious guitar of the also talented Dickey Betts. Duane was greatly admired and played the plaintiff sound on Eric Clapton’s “Layla.”

Gregg was also talented and no one should say he did not bring a huge amount to the band. His voice and timing was adroit as was his keyboard work. The songs were his as well. But, the band also had other terrific musicians, including two drummers, Butch Trucks and Jaimoe Johanson. The bassist was Brett Oakley, who died a year after Duane.

“Statesboro Blues” is a vintage Allman Brothers’ song. It is also one of their shorter ones. “Whipping Post,” may be their greatest song, but each of us will have our favorite.  “One Way Out,” maybe a close second for me. “Melissa” is a more serene song about love which shows their range. I saw an interview with Gregg who said he gleaned the song name from a mother chastising her daughter Melissa. “Midnight Rider” was one of their bigger hits. And, Betts sang the lead on “Blue Sky” and “Ramblin’ Man.”

Most of their songs were too long for pop radio, so their hits were fewer than you would expect. Yet, their body of work is substantial. And, to best appreciate them is to download or play a CD of their live songs while cruising down the road.

My wife and I saw them in concert long after Duane and Brett had passed. My youngest son was able to join us. Derek Trucks had joined the band for the tour as Trucks is one of the finest guitarists in the world and is the nephew of long time Allman Brothers ‘s drummer Butch Trucks. We left spent from the concert with Warren Haynes and Derek’s guitar playing amplified by two drummers who took breaks as the lengthy songs wore them out.

It is sad to see the end of an era. But, their  music will live on. May Gregg rest in peace. As he sang late in his career, “I’m no Angel.” Neither are we, but we value your part in our lives.

Poverty is highly correlated with large families

We have a global poverty problem, but what may surprise some, the US has not escaped the problem. Our middle class has been squeezed, but unfortunately, gravity has caused too many of them to fall beneath or just above the poverty line.

There are many reasons for the decline, but it has been occurring over the last 45 years, so all politicians own this issue. Technology advances, globalization, stagnant wages, downsizing of union populations, costly healthcare, etc. are all contributing factors.

Yet, it should be noted that large family size and one parent families are highly correlated with increased poverty. These two factors should not be a revelation, but too many folks look past these causes to others. This a key reason for the importance of family planning to help families manage their family size and health.

Today, I saw a report that noted the US has more teen pregnancies than other western nations. A data point was cited (without a source) that 30% of teens in the 9th grade have sexual relationships increasing to 60% in the 12th grade. The report supported the practice of more holistic sex education in schools, an experiment being promoted in West Virginia, where 1 out of eight births are to teen mother.

The training speaks to more than abstinence and contraception. It speaks to   how to say no and not give in to pressure. It discusses sexual assault and STDs. It speaks to relationships and the role sex plays when folks are ready.

Family planning and sex education are key tools in fighting poverty. There is a causal relationship between family planning and fewer abortions, which should give  those against family planning some consolation, Rather than condemn or not fund these efforts, we should look at the data and support them.

Giving makes me feel like I’m living

The above title is a quote offered by Morrie Schwartz, the subject of Mitch Albom’s book “Tuesdays with Morrie.” The book continues to sell with over fifteen million copies sold in 45 countries. It describes Albom’s weekly visits with his favorite teacher and mentor named Morrie.

Albom shared today on CBS This Morning, he was not the only person to routinely visit his mentor. Others went with the goal of cheering up Morrie, but they would leave being comforted as Morrie would invariably ask them about their lives and challenges.

When Albom inquired about this of Morrie, he said “Giving makes me feel like I’m living.” What profound words coming from a teacher. To me, this echoes the term I have used called “psychic income.” Giving to others with your time, ear, support, donations, etc. provides you with a psychic income.

Yet, like with lessons in the book, Morrie’s phrasing of why he gives is much more profound. Albom notes this is the reason his book strikes a chord with so many.

Please honor our teachers, mothers and fathers by paying forward their giving to us. We will also benefit.