5 years on…and counting

I’ve told several people recently about “a chain of events…things that happened” so I might as well write it down….

The story I’ve been telling is very linear.

1. In late August of 2011, a woman I was exchanging messages with on a dating site told me about house concerts being held at a place called The Rock House in Reeds Spring. I had never heard of “house concerts” before.

Thanks Ginger! House concerts are The Best!!

I’m glad that I can call her my friend 5 years on.

2. A couple of weeks later I made my first visit to the The Reeds Spring Pizza Company, along with my sister and brother-in-law. Paula had been bragging about the place since they moved to Table Rock Lake in 2007, and USA Today said they had the best pizza in MO.

My sister and McPaper nailed it: their pizza is mighty good!! Order a large so you can take some home. It’s hard to believe, but it’s even better the next day…

As I was paying for the pizza and beers that September evening, I asked the waitress: “Can you tell me how to get to The Rock House?”

“Just ask Jeanette…she just left. You can probably catch her in the parking lot.”

Talk about fortuitous timing!! I hailed Jeanette and we chatted for a few minutes. She told me who was playing next and when and how to get there.

3. The next person in my story is the first friend I made at the Rock House: Barbara.

I almost chickened out of going that first night. My introverted self somehow managed to summon some gumption that October 8, 2011 and I walked up the steps of the R.H. that first time, just a few minutes before the music started.

There was only one open seat, third in from the left front corner along the outside windowed wall. The seat was next to Barbara. We chatted briefly before Three Penny Acre was introduced…and I heard Jeanette explain what a “listening room” is. She asked if anyone in the room was at their first house concert….to which Barbara announced to the packed room: “it’s the first time for my new friend Steve.”

I thought right then and there that I was probably gonna like this place. Then the music started, and I was certain of it. But my introverted self was still blushing all over at Barbara’s exclamation.

I knew I was gonna be friends with Barbara…but I didn’t know she was Jeanette’s mom until after the break between sets was beginning. Barbara encouraged me to mingle and pointed out some unattached women. I told her “thanks…but….i’m bashful…”

Note: the fact that I kicked over a full glass of Barbara’s favorite adult beverage about 30 minutes into the show didn’t sour her on me. Thank goodness!

4. On 10/8/11, as I walked onto the porch to leave that first night at The Rock House, Jeanette asked me two questions. “Did you have fun? Are you going to be a regular?”

“Yes, absolutely…it was great…and most likely I will be a regular…if I am still living around here.”

That evening I had no idea how long I would live in MO. When I left the state in 1976 I never expected to live in the show me state again. When I moved into the Abbey 2 days earlier, after almost three months living with my sister, I signed a 6 month lease. Later I let it go month-to-month, until I moved down and across the hall.

Five years on, and we’re 3 months into another one year lease.

5. Thirty-six days later I had one of my most memorable experiences at the R.H.

It was November 12, 2011. It was my third time at The Rock House, and the first time I ever saw Bob&Jeff of The Rainmakers. At last count I have 8 Rainmakers’ CDs, 2 by Jeff Porter, and 1 by Walkenhorst&Porter. I’ll be seeing them at The Rock House this coming Saturday, and I’ll probably buy more merchandise.

In five words: Yes, I am a fan!

I wrote about that first night, and one song in particular, here:

More music memories….

6. Eleven months later, on October 13, 2012, Shelly and I had our first real date. We’d seen each other a couple of times before then at public places, but the drive to Reeds Spring to see Bob Walkenhorst and Jeff Porter of The Rainmakers was the first time we’d ever been in the same vehicle.

As we headed south I thought that I might get to like Shelly, but if she hadn’t had fun listening to Bob&Jeff at The Rock House I’m pretty sure our time together would have been short lived.

Five years on, Shelly and I are in our 3rd year of living together in B-307 at The Abbey. I’m on the board of The Rock House. I house-sat for Jeanette and Bruce at the R.H. this summer when they were on their 6,000 mile road trip. Almost 20% of my Facebook friends are people I met at the Rock House….and many of them are much, much more than just “Facebook friends.”

I met both Ginger and Shelly on OkCupid. You could make a case that the dating site is the first domino in lots of good things in my life. Maybe.

If Ginger had ignored my initial online message (and that happened more often than not), I might never have heard of The Rock House. Maybe…maybe not.

All I know is that things happened, that house concerts are a great thing and that The Rock House is a magical place. My quality of life has been enhanced because of the music I’ve heard, the people I’ve met, the great times I’ve had at 41 High Street, and the many friends I’ve made.

No maybe about that.

I don’t believe in this “things happen for a reason” line of thinking…not in the least. If I did believe that do you think I woulda given my blog its name? “Things happen, that’s all they ever do.”

I do believe this. No matter what happens: Be. Just be.

I don’t dance…don’t ask me

It’s time to come clean. Maybe they’re just excuses, but I like to think I have reasons for not dancing in public. I’ll get to them in a bit….

For most of my adult life I have been a fan of live music. I see as much live music now as I did when I was hitting clubs several nights a month and seeing big name acts often in Portland back in the 80’s.

At home, in the car, on a 737…wherever…I almost always have music playing. I can be OK with silence, but I’ll take music if it’s my choice.

In lots of situations I will sing along…although I’m sure there is a better word for it than “singing.” Most accurate is probably caterwauling. In crowds, I keep it down. There are less than a dozen people on the planet who I subject to my “johnny one note” singing.

But I do NOT dance.

I have danced in public once since 1971. It happened at George’s Majestic in Fayetteville on May 27, 2016. We danced to “Small Circles.” I told Shelly that I would dance to that song the first time we saw the Rainmakers in Kansas City in late 2012, but they didn’t play it that night. Or maybe I begged off that night and promised her “next time.”

Fortunately, they did NOT play that song any of the times since then when she and I made their shows. Until 5/27/16.

On that night in late-May at George’s, before we heard the first lyric, it was immediately obvious to both of us that what we were about to hear was what we were gonna do:

“She reached out and twist my hand
And made me dance to some local band
But the beat was slow so there we stand
As we move in small circles”

First of all The Rainmakers are NOT “some local band.” They are a Kansas City Band, that because of some strange twist of fate never made it to the big time. This is a VERY good band.

Second, she did NOT twist my hand. All Shelly did was smile at me with “that look.”

Third, she did NOT “make me dance.” I like to dance with her. Just not in public. I’m not sure if I “have to” dance to “Small Circles” every time we hear it from The Rainmakers in the future, but I probably will…I enjoyed swaying with my Sugar in Fayetteville.

So what do I say to people when they gesture to me to get up and dance?

Usually I just smile and say, “not me…thanks…i don’t dance.”

Sometimes I use “white men can’t dance, especially tall ones.” But if you’ve ever seen Brad Garrett, of “Everybody loves Raymond,” dance then you know this is a pretty lame excuse.

Sometimes I try “Baptists don’t dance.”

Ok, I was raised a Baptist. Many of my family members go to Baptist churches. I am a lot of things, but I am NOT a Baptist. I don’t think I ever was, and I sure as heck am not one now. Just like Jesus, and unlike most Baptists, I’m a liberal.

From what I can gather, lots of Baptists dance…and drink and gamble too. So that is a pretty lame excuse to keep me off the dance floor.

[I don’t know many jokes, but the two that I tell the most are these:
1. Q. Why don’t Baptists have sex standing up?
A. Because someone might think they were dancing.

2. Q. What’s the difference between a Baptist and a Methodist?
A. The Methodist will make eye contact in the liquor store.]

There are two incidents that have kept me off the dance floor since 1971. I’ve shared what happened in 1971 with several people.

I was home on leave from Ft. Bragg. The girl I had been dating when I was drafted liked to dance, so that’s where we headed the second night I was in town. She enjoyed revelry as much as I did. I was only gonna be around for five or six days, so we decided that in addition to lots of liquor and weed that we should “close our eyes and try a few of these.”

I don’t know what song we were dancing to when she collapsed on the dance floor. Her pulse was racing. Jennifer was twitching and convulsing. It scared the hell outta me. And her too.

I can still see her laying there….tight bell bottoms and a white peasant blouse. That image still pops into my head every once in awhile whenever I’m somewhere that lots of people are dancing.
The other incident happened 12 to 15 months earlier, and I’ve never shared it with anyone until now.

It was late 1969 or early 1970. I was free, white, and 21. I had given up my student deferment, expecting to get drafted at some point. (I was inducted 2 days after I turned 22.)

I had a big problem with booze. I drank mass quantities. Every day. For a couple of years.

I had some friends who were in school in Columbia at Mizzou. Several weekends during the 69/70 school-year I headed that way for parties. One weekend I was set up on a blind date with Julie, who was a student at Stephens College. She sorta liked me, even though she was way outta my league by any and every measure….looks, brains, bank account. I guess she liked quirky.

A couple of weeks later I was back in Columbia for another party. Julie was there. We danced. We spent most of the evening together. We danced. I took her home. We sat and talked for awhile. There were good night kisses and a little groping.

The third time that I saw her is the night of the story that has never been told….until now.

The morning of our first real, last and only date, I was playing a pick-up game of basketball and got poked in the face. It was simply incidental contact. (That’s always been my story of how I got that shiner, and I’m sticking to it…)

When I picked Julie up that Saturday I had a pretty ugly eye. I had been self-medicating. We were headed to some fraternity/sorority kegger. We danced. I drank. We danced. I drank. And I drank some more.

Then I did it. I puked. On the dance floor. On Julie. On me.

She left with her friends. I never saw her again. Sometimes when The Rainmakers sing “The one that got away” I can see her in my mind’s eye. But not for long, as the vision of barf on her blouse takes over.

I started this by saying that maybe the incidents that I use as reasons to not dance might just be excuses. Logically, I know that they are closer to excuses than reasons.

Yeah, both incidents were personally traumatic. But they didn’t stop me from drinking and drugging. They just kept me from dancing.

And in fact, after decorating the dance floor (and Julie) I kept being stupid. There weren’t many more times, but that incident was not my last alcohol induced technicolor yawn. My time in the Army slowed me down a bit. I still got totally trashed at times, but not as often. Until my kids were about 5 or 6, I was still a “work hard, play hard” guy…with excuses to keep from dancing.

Maybe I don’t dance because I’m not any good at it. Maybe I’m like lots of guys who don’t dance because “they fear losing their dignity and looking incompetent.” Maybe my legs lock up at the thought of Jennifer convulsing or the vomit on Julie. Or maybe it’s just because I’m lazy.


On September 30, we saw Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats at the 10th annual RNBNBBQ in Columbia, MO. {That’s Roots N Blues N BBQ.}

Shelly and I did NOT dance.

But when I was trying to find our camping chairs (with Shelly sitting in one of them), she joined me on the lawn with the crowd. I had walked right past her, even though we were only 3 rows back….and she was wearing a bright pink hoodie.

We held hands and walked closer to the stage as the band played “Wasting Time.” You wouldn’t call it dancing. We never faced each other.

There was however moving to the music. Our bodies touched. And then they didn’t. We swayed.

You might have said that we took turns leading as Nathaniel transitioned to “Shake.”

If you had only been watching Shelly, it’s probable that you would have called what she did dancing.

But not what I was doing. I don’t dance. Don’t ask me.