Jason Isbell…lyrics on repeat

Back in late March I spewed some silly rules for developing a DIDL (desert island disk list) for every show that I see. Most of my DIDLs don’t see the light of day…except in my journal, and I haven’t been paying all that close attention to “the rules.” Heck, I have never been all that good with rules even if they were of my own devising…

I have tried to stick with the 8 song maximum per the “rules.” I’m making an exception for one of my favorite singer-songwriters. This DIDL will include 7 songs that Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit played in Tulsa at Cain’s Ballroom on 8/22/17 and 3 that weren’t on the evening’s playlist.
No commentary on most of the songs…the lyrics speak for themselves.

Hope the High Road
“I’ve heard enough of the white man’s blues
I’ve sang enough about myself
So if you’re looking for some bad news
You can find it somewhere else…
…I hope the high road leads you home again
To a world you want to live in”

24 Frames
“You thought God was an architect, now you know
He’s something like a pipe bomb ready to blow
And everything you built that’s all for show goes up in flames”

White Man’s World
“I’m a white man living in a white man’s nation
I think the man upstairs musta took a vacation
I still have faith, but I don’t know why”

“I broke a promise to myself
Ride the Throttle ’til wheels came off
Burn out like a Molotov
In the night sky
I broke a promise to myself
Made a couple to a brown eyed girl
Who rode with me through the mean ol’ world
Never say die”

Cover Me Up. (This one got the most audience participation at Cain’s. Watching Jason and Amanda Shires singing it together and to each other would melt the hardest heart…)
“But I made it through, ’cause somebody knew
I was meant for someone
So girl, leave your boots by the bed
We ain’t leaving this room
Till someone needs medical help
Or the magnolias bloom”

Codeine (Shelly is pretty tired of being subjected to my caterwauling on this one….)
“If there’s two things that I hate
It’s having to cook and trying to date.
Busting ass all day to play ‘hurry up and wait.
That’s a few things that I hate”

If We Were Vampires (Sad love song…especially for an old man like me…40 more years ain’t happening…)
“It’s knowing that this can’t go on forever
Likely one of us will have to spend some days alone
Maybe we’ll get forty years together
But one day I’ll be gone or one day you’ll be gone
If we were vampires and death was a joke
We’d go out on the sidewalk and smoke
And laugh at all the lovers and their plans
I wouldn’t feel the need to hold your hand”


How To Forget   (Some of the stories from my younger days are doozies….)
“She won’t stop telling stories, and most of them are true
She knew me back before I fell for you
I was strained, I was sad, didn’t realize what I had
It was years ago
I was sick, I was scared, I was socially impaired
It was years ago”

Different Days
“Jesus loves a sinner but the highway loves a sin
My daddy told me I believe he told me true
That the right thing’s always the hardest thing to do”

Tupelo (Sometimes the “small stuff” ain’t so small…just sayin’)
“She said there’s nothing left to talk about
At my age I should’ve figured out
Which drawer to put the good knives in”

No music, no life. Know music, know life.
Be. Just Be.

JMC called it…

I can hear John Crudele’s voice in my head like it was yesterday, but it was almost 20 years ago. Cancer took away JMC, his wisdom and his perfect answers over 3 years ago. But I’m pretty sure that if could ask him the very same question today, that there would only be a slight tweak to the answer.

My friend and mentor was my boss at the Lake Oswego, Orygun niche consulting firm where I worked from ’96 to ’00. Most of our work time together took place on the phone, since he lived in Nashville at the time.
In spring of 1998 I was getting ready to head to the project team site for a 2 day visit. The consultants were doing their magic at Hill crest Medical Center in Tulsa.

My background statement and my 4 word question: “I can’t remember the last time I was in Tulsa….if it ever was….if so, it was a long time ago. So what’s Tulsa like?”

John then: “It looks like it was hit by a neutron bomb.”
John’s 2017 answer: “It still looks like it was hit by a neutron bomb! There are lots of nice looking buildings and some beautiful churches…but all the people have been vaporized.”
I landed at the Tulsa airport on the last flight into town that evening in ’98. There were very few cars on the highway as the cab took me to my downtown hotel. The cabby said it as normal traffic.

Two days later I asked the project manager what time I should have a cab pick me, and before I could finish my question he said “20 minutes.”
“But I didn’t tell you the time of my flight…”
“It doesn’t matter what time of day or what day of the week…it will take 20 minutes!”
On any list you get via a Google search Tulsa is in the top 50 US cities based on population. Wikipedia has the city as #47. Ahead of New Orleans, Wichita, Tampa and St. Louis to name just a few.  (There is traffic in all those towns….)
I just spent three days and 2 nights in Tulsa. I enjoyed 2 great shows at Cain’s Ballroom and chatted with lots of nice folks.
But the town has the deadest streets I have ever seen in my life. Heck, the picture hanging in my hotel room even shows empty streets!

As usual, JMC described it perfectly and succinctly: Tulsa looks like it was hit by a neutron bomb.

NOTE:  these pictures were taken between 2 and 3 pm on a Wednesday.

Crazy thoughts….

…i have them all the time: crazy thoughts.
I’m not alone.
But then again, we all are…

I’ve been thinking about this eclipse hysteria. I’ve had a pair of “shower thoughts” about this craziness.

Today I’m seeing pictures of people flocking to “viewing spots” in mass. I have no idea what and where the largest gathering will be. Some people probably won’t agree on it anyway….facts be damned. For awhile afterwards I’ll know and retain “the answer” long enough to have gotten it right for Jeopardy or Who wants to be a Millionaire.

But I really don’t care.
I’m not that far from “totality.” Not much over 100 miles. Plus I could use it as a reason to head to the Leadbelt to see my 91 year old dad. But I’m heading to Tulsa on Tuesday, and totality is in the wrong direction. Dad and totality are 200 miles east of me; Tulsa is about the same distance…and due west.

Which leads to Crazy Thought #1: what if they miss the path of totality by about 100 miles or so? Or heaven forbid a couple of hundred.
I was responsible for the technology at a niche consulting firm in the years up to and including Y2K. Now I’m not thinking that these 2 events are all that similar. But 1/1/00 was a bit of a bust, eh?

The difference being that if the distance should be off, the science doubters & the climate change deniers & the flat earthers would love it. (Yes there really are beings that appear to be human that spew flat earth lunacy!!! Now THAT is some truly crazy thinking…)

Personally, I expect NASA to nail it…as usual. (Who knows if the “crack meteorologists” will be close re cloud cover, etc?)
I expect to view from here in SW Missouri, basking in 96% totality. That was always an A in any class I ever took. I’ll take that anytime. (In fact, I’m heading in the opposite direction from the totality tomorrow to go with friends on their houseboat, for an adventure and some revelry…)

The second “shower thought” is a bit crazy. So crazy that I would expect Homeland Security to be all over it. (But in the current admistration, all bets are off!!)

Crazy Thought 2: On Monday, August 21 there is a chain of coordinated terrorist attacks at the local time of totality, happening from coast to coast at places where there large gatherings.

When Joseph and I had our conversation at thirty thousand feet, I certainly wasn’t expecting what would happen less than 48 hours later. I’m not expecting anything awful to happen tomorrow.

My Dad often uses the phrase “the times in which we live.” When I was younger it would have been “if the Lord tarries.”
Both phrases are based on his apocalyptic wishes.
I have different views that Dad’s when it comes to “The” Rapture.
I even have my own special version of the rapture….

Heck, I have thoughts far crazier than these two! (Or three, if you toss in the rapture…)

…And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only.”

I most certainly hope that the Eclipse of 2017 turns out to be one big happy traffic jam with not even a single incident of road rage.
One can hope…and enjoy more lyrics from a song from the top of my personal “Eclipse Setlist.”

“Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child’s balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying…”

Be. Just Be.

He still calls me Willie

I had a walk-and-talk with an Army buddy one day last week. Tim is not the only person who ever called me Willie. He was one of several guys at Ft. Bragg that laid that one on me because of a basketball player named Willie Wise.

Shelly and I spent a night in Wooster, OH with Tim and Mary on our roadtrip in 2013. That was the first time I had seen them in over 41 years.

We hung out together a lot in the 14 months or so that Tim and I were stationed together at the JFK Center for Military Intelligence. We made a number of road trips from NC to OH in a little over a year. At least 7 trips. It was 8 or 9 hours each way. Tim&Mary had just started dating, and going with him to Wooster, OH was great fun for all of us. We didn’t get a lot of sleep.

Tim and I made a number of trips to Myrtle Beach too. Didn’t sleep much then either…

There are lots of stories from those days. These are my two favorites. For very different reasons. Only the first one has cost me any time sleeping….

On one of our first trips to Ohio, we went to a club in the town where Tim went to college. The James Gang had played there often 4 or 5 years earlier.
Earlier that day Tim and I walked around the campus of his alma mater. He had graduated less than a year before our visit. (Joe Walsh only lasted one semester on campus; a few years earlier.)
Tim took me to the campus radio station where he spent four years on staff. He has one helluva radio voice!!
We walked around the Commons, past Taylor Hall and then to Prentice Hall. I knelt on the spot where Mary Ann Vecchio was photographed over the body of Jeffrey Miller 12 months earlier.
No amount of booze that evening in 1971, or all the elapsed days since, can erase the memory of Tim standing 265 feet away from where I knelt on the Kent State University campus. That’s how far the bullet traveled that killed Jeffrey Miller.

It hurts to think about what happened on 5/4/70, but I’ll never forgot that walk and that spot. Years later, walking around Dealy Plaza in Dallas where JFK was shot, I had the very same reaction: “it’s such a small place!”

Until we visited Tim&Mary’s in 2013 I had blotted out the key element of my other favorite story with Tim. This happened at Ft. Bragg.

I remember it being in the wee hours.
I remember Tim sitting on the floor in the hall in the barracks as we talked.
I remember telling him that if he said something one more time that I would pour my beer over his head.
I remember Tim needing a towel after I doused him.
I remember him drying off and laughing it off.
But I didn’t remember what it was that I had told him to stop saying.

That early September evening in 2013, with Shelly and Tim sitting at the table and with me pacing around the dining room and kitchen, he said “will you stop that pacing? At least you don’t have a beer to pour over my head tonight.”
Eureka!! He had asked me to stop pacing repeatedly, and had been rewarded with a cold beer shampoo…

I am a notorious pacer. I can’t sit still for very long, especially if I’ve got a buzz on. And that night at the PSYOPs barracks, I’m sure I was wired, wound up and pacing.

I’m glad Tim has a good sense of humor.
I’m glad that he’s my friend all these years later.
And I’m especially glad that Shelly tolerates my pacing…especially when we’re at a venue listening to music and I “vanish.”

Gimme Something Good

It’s been 43 days since June 27 and my last post to this blog. On August 1, 2017 I saw a great show by Ryan Adams at The Pageant in St. Louis. The first four lines of the 3rd song of the evening pretty much describes my state of mind since my 6/27/17 post:

“I can’t talk
My mind is so blank
So I’m going for a walk
I’ve got nothing left to say…”

That’s a Lie. My mind has not been blank. I’ve got lots to say….

During those 43 days there was a road trip. A good one. A very good one.
There were concerts. Very, very good ones. Santana; Shovels and Rope; Avett Brothers; Wood Brothers; Tedeschi Trucks Band; Ryan Adams. (All of them provided my journal with a list of Desert Island Disk lists….)
There were several rant-inducing events since 6/27/17:
(1) Someone broke into my car and stole my fishing tackle…which included lures that had moved with me to Orygun in 1976. Fuck Me!
(2) There was the invasion by Japanese Beetles….hungry, horny pests. Fuckers.
(3)There was a visit by the apartment’s Rent-a-Cop, followed up by an official “Notice of Noise Violation” by management! Come on…who listens to Neil Young or Bruce Springsteen on a late Friday afternoon without cranking it up?!? Fuck me Twice!

All of the above gave rise to quite a few posts on Facebook. At least 70 statuses, many of which included pictures.
And while I didn’t hit my journal’s daily target of 500 words during the 43 days, it was close.
Then there are the items that got added to the “stories” folder on my laptop.

There has been writing…my mind hasn’t been blank for the past month-and-a-half.
It has been cluttered with the crazy shit coming out of the nation’s capitol. I’ve generally avoided being overtly political in this space. But it’s been hard, especially with the blatant LIES, total incompetence, and authoritarian audacities coming from 45 and his cretinous cabinet.
As much as I’d like to go on a long political rant here and now, I’m going to resist the urge….
I will say this though: read “Giant of the Senate” by Al Franken.  This is from Page 373:  
Also running through my head, and on repeat in the apartment and in the car, has been Jason Isbell’s latest album. One song in particular.
I have a Love/Hate relationship with “If we were vampires” from “The Nashville Sound.”
Especially with these six lines:

“It’s knowing that this can’t go on forever
Likely one of us will have to spend some days alone
Maybe we’ll get forty years together
But one day I’ll be gone or one day you’ll be gone

If we were vampires and death was a joke
We’d go out on the sidewalk and smoke…”
I’ve been in love with 2 people in my life.
I was married to one of them for almost 40 years. We weren’t “in love” for a good portion of that time. That’s history. Lots of it foggy. I hope she is happy.

I live with the second person. She’s may partner on this journey. Shelly and I will be having our five-year “meet-aversary” in a couple of months.
We’re too old to expect 40 years together.
One day I’ll be gone or she’ll be gone.

Eight more lines from a song from Isbell’s latest album are closer to the truth than the four from above by Ryan Adams.
These are damned near dead on:

“I broke a promise to myself
Ride the Throttle til the wheels came off
Burn out like a Molotov
In the night sky
I broke a promise to myself
Made a couple to a brown eyed girl
Who rode with me through the mean ol’ world
Never Say Die..”

Very few of the people I ran with in my 20s would have given me a chance to have a lot of birthdays ending in zero. I have one in 13 months. It’s a wonder I made it to 30.
The throttle has been pushed to the floor a time or two. OK…maybe I am a little burned out. That’s for another day…

Both of my loves have been brown-eyed girls.
I’m sure there were some promises made.
Some were broken.
Some might be.
This one won’t be: Never say die. Resist the bull shit. Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.

I think I’ll go out on the balcony and smoke.
And then take a walk.
Be. Just Be.