2023 Christmas Letter

It’s a JibJab, a Christmas letter from a very different year, and a couple of songs that I love. Many of you already know why this was a very “different” year.
Either way…Read On.

First things first (the JibJab): https://www.jibjab.com/view/make/let-it-snow-bing-crosby-starring-you-vertical/7ef68a0f-0e36-41a0-80ae-40875b993fd3

Not all that much live music in 2023 compared to previous years, but I did see lots of my favorites:
Springsteen in KC and Tulsa; Dawes in STL and Lawrence; Tedeschi Trucks in Little Rock and STL;
The Mavericks twice at Knuckleheads in KC; Jackson Browne here in Spfd; John Fullbright in Joplin and Okeimah, OK.; National Park Radio in town and at the Rock House. I’m grateful that I got to see so many of my favorites.
{Noticeably missing is my current favorite: Jason Isbell…we’ll see him here in Jan}
There were another dozen shows, and some good times at The Rock House in Reeds Spring, but my concert going got cut short…Read On.

There were no road trips, other than the ones to the shows listed above and a few 200 mile trips over to visit Dad. At 97, he’s still hanging in there. For that I’m grateful.
Well, technically there was the 733 mile road trip home from the beach, after 18 nights, on January 3. {We drove straight thru. Never again. What were we thinking?!?!}
After 7 years of heading to Gulf Shores at the end of December, that road trip won’t happen in 2023…Read On.

I’m grateful every year for my garden.
My spring garden exceeded expectations, thanks to the first cabbages I’d planted since Corvallis in 1981! Spring broccoli was excellent too. Lots of salads of mesclun.
Summer garden produced lots of tomatoes. Bumper crop of cherokee purple and brandywine. Still lots in the freezer for winter soups…
I hear that my fall garden did pretty well. Shelly gave away lots of lettuce, mesclun, kale, and broccoli…and that’s where “Read On” comes into play.

Four days after my 75th birthday my world changed. Many of you know already know all the details included in the 750 word post at my blog: http://slw913.com/transverse-myletis/it-still-doesnt-seem-real/
On 9/18/23 I woke up in the hospital, paralyzed from the shoulders down. Several days later I was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis… a pair of words I’d never heard b4, and had trouble remembering for awhile. {But 2 words I’ll never forget…} Check out the wikipedia page.
Three months later I’m making slow progress. I get around with a walker for now. Below the waist I have issues and constant nerve pain. It’s gonna take awhile.
I can’t thank my friends enough for all the support and encouraging words. Keep ‘em coming…Shelly & I need ‘em!!
For my friends and support network I’m very grateful.

I’m proof that good things happen on dating sites (and that I am a lucky old coot).
Shelly and I met on OkCupid in 2012. We “celebrated” our 11th “Meetaversary” at the Meyer Orthopedic and Rehab Hospital here in Springfield, MO.
We’ve been saying that we make a Good Team since early in our relationship. I can’t imagine where I would be without her. For Shelly Drymon I can’t find the words to express my gratitude. Together we are gonna whip T.M. however long it takes.

Now for the tunes:
1. My favorite Christmas song: I’ve got all the gifts I need…friends, music, and Shelly. Never cared about “stuff” b4 and care even less about it now. Friends, music, a partner who I love and who loves me, and experiences are all that matters.

2. I’m not planning on going away anytime soon, but one of my favorite artists was when he wrote this. It’s the last song on Warren Zevon’s last album.
Hold your friends close. Don’t wait until tomorrow to make the call, send the text, or write the e-mail. Tomorrow never comes.

I hope our paths cross or that I hear your voice in 2024.
Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Take care. Keep in touch. Enjoy every sandwich.
Be. Just Be.

417-379-6817…call or text me sometime!! {we’d both enjoy it…}

2022 Christmas Letter

It’s a JibJab, a short Christmas letter, and a couple of songs that I love.

First things first: https://www.jibjab.com/view/make/ugly-sweater-song-sye/53ba0beb-e739-4108-b822-f4f2b98647ba

It’s an interesting phenomenon: the older I get, the shorter the letter.

There was quite a bit of live music in ‘22…but not as much as I would’ve liked.
Saw some of my favorite artists multiple times. Saw some folks I’ve listened to for years, but had never seen before. Sweet.

There were road trips…but not as many as I would’ve liked. Most of them were music related, and the favorites were meeting up with friends who had also road-tripped to KC and Nashville.
Friends came from FL and GA once again in June for music at The Rock House. Awesome.

The other road trip favorites of ‘22 were the 200 miles over to visit Dad. I threw him a surprise birthday party at the DQ. It was special…as was everyone who attended.

At 96, he’s still hanging in there. He’s now the only one remaining from the Elvins class of ‘44.
I know how very lucky I am to still have him, as several friends lost their parents in 2022.
I lost several friends and acquaintances this year. Probably every one reading this did too. As Dad says: “the troops are thinning.”
Like most everyone I know, Shelly and came down with Covid. Fortunately our cases were mild.

I didn’t badger friends to donate to The Victim Center’s Wine Women & Shoes fundraiser in 2022.
I’m sure that made some people on the receiving end of this e-mail happy.
But I did try to make up for it by taking advantage of a QCD (Qualified Charitable Distribution) to that and several other worthy organizations.
If you’re an old person like me and required to take distributions from your IRA, you really should utilize QCDs. Reduce your taxes while doing good.

Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise, on12/16 we head for Gulf Shores, AL. It’s our 7th annual late December trip to the beach, and once again friends will be meeting us there. This year they’ll be coming from: Cumming, GA; Mulvane and Pittsburg, KS; and Reeds Spring, MO. Looking forward to 17 days of hugs, sunrises, sunsets, walks on the beach, naps, and more.

Now for the tunes: two songs from the album that I listened to more than any other in ‘22…“Liars” by John Fullbright. These two help me do a couple of the Jimmy Valvano Three: one makes me think and the other makes me laugh.
John Fullbright – Stars (Live @ 2018 Fayetteville Roots Festival)


I hope our paths cross or that I hear your voice in 2023.
Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Take care. Keep in touch. Enjoy every sandwich.

Steve (aka a Lucky Old Coot)
417-379-6817…call or text me sometime!!

2021 Christmas Letter

It’s a JibJab, the dreaded Christmas letter, and a Christmas song that I love.

First things first: https://www.jibjab.com/view/make/the-git-up-blanco-brown-christmas-starring-you-ecard/86407c74-8ffe-4ef0-8d88-1f14aab25552

In 3 days we head for Gulf Shores, AL. It’s our 6h late December trip to the beach, and once again friends will be meeting us there. Looking forward to 16 days of sunrises, sunsets, naps, and more.

2021 has been similar in many ways to last year: Masked up; Hunkered down.

Add in: vaccinated; boostered; some road trips and live music.

Once again the first weekend of June was a highlight of the year: Shady Acres Motel; Tom and Gloria; Steve and Claudia; 2 nights of music in the back yard at The Rock House…The Creek Rocks…The Lacewings. Plus The Shandies at Bear Creek.

That weekend would have been on the short list of highlights for ANY year.

For the second year in a row I was named King of Soul at the Wine Women & Shoes fundraiser. Thanks again to the 50 folks from 16 different states who helped me raise $6,238.08 for The Victim Center. It’ll be my last year hounding friends for $$…it was Shelly’s swan song at the V.C.

It was my first time taking advantage of QCDs (Qualified Charitable Distributions). There will lots of checks from my Fidelity account to 501(c)(3) organizations in the future.

Shelly has been taking some time off since then…but she is NOT retired. In 2022 she will be moving on to another venture.

We celebrated with our first long road trip of 2021. It began with seeing Dawes at the Ryman and visiting some dear friends in Nashville, then we were off to Hotlanta, Tampa, Siesta Key, and Panama City Beach. Great visits with a few friends and with both my kids and their partners.

There have been other music related road trips: to Pittsburg, KS twice; KC once; STL 3 times; and another weekend in Nashville for 2 shows by The Mavericks at The Ryman.

And then there was a weekend in CoMo for the Roots&Blues Festival.

In many ways 2021 bore a semblance of normalcy.

But we still mask up when we go out, and I shake my head at the anti-vaxxers and the apologists for what happened on January 6. Lunacy, willful ignorance and apathy are deadly pandemics.

Here’s a repeat from last year:

I hope to do a better job of living “The Jimmy Valvano Three” each and every day of 2022.

“To me there are three things everyone should do every day. Number one is laugh. Number two is think — spend some time time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that’s a heck of a day.”


Oh, yeah….here’s the song. I certainly have all the gifts I need: friends, music, a partner who loves me, health, and more money than time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opktLUqP2Ek

I hope our paths cross or that I hear your voice in 2022.

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Take care. Keep in touch. Enjoy every sandwich.



2019 Christmas Letter

Not sure how many people read their e-mails…  Fewer still re Christmas letters…  Whatever.  But everyone loves JibJab.  Sent the following to my e-mail list earlier today


It’s a JibJab, an abbreviated “Christmas Letter” and a song that matters.

First things first: https://www.jibjab.com/view/make/elf_dance/0c056492-990a-4365-96cf-c6dc16a422c5

RE the letter: I reread last year’s. Too long…what a windbag!!!

This year it’s short & sweet.

  • Saw lots of live music in a variety of venues. Hope to see lots of shows in 2020.
  • Had some success raising vegetables. Hope for better crops in 2020.
  • Took several road trips. We’re on a roadtrip right now….our 4th end-of-December trip to Gulf Shores, AL. Hoping for more road trips in 2020.
  • On our CO/NM road trip we visited with one of the first friends I made in Orygun in 1976, who I hadn’t seen since my solo cross country drive in 2000. On our last night of the trip, I visited with friends from Sarasota who live in Denver. I hadn’t seen one of them since that 2000 roadtrip. Awesome.
  • A couple of contemplated trips never materialized. Enjoyed the contemplating.
  • Didn’t do any fishing. Maybe in 2020. Need to find a good farm pond/lake.
  • Didn’t get a haircut in 2019. Maybe in 2020. Maybe not.
  • Helped raise money for The Victim Center in my role as a “Sole Man” for their Wine Women & Shoes event. Thanks to all who donated. Hope to raise even more money for them in 2020. Expect to be asked…
  • Talked to my 93 year old Dad almost every day. He might outlive me.
  • Made more calls and sent more texts than I received. What’s up with that?
  • Read too many obituaries of friends and acquaintances. Two friends died suddenly. It’s a good way to go…we’re all gonna die…but it’s hell on the survivors.
  • If you want details, i.e. the windbag version, give me a call.

Here’s the “song that matters.” Give it a listen. Travis (the banjo player) had only written the first verse when his 91 year old grandpa passed.

Don’t let this happen to you: “All the words I never said falling from my eyes…”

Don’t miss your last chance.


Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Take care. Keep in touch. Be.


Watching her sleep

Every once in awhile I flash back to a morning in mid-October of last year and a “deja vu moment.” Shelly had been out of the apartment less than an hour. I was on the couch with a cup of coffee and the latest issue of Time magazine.
I was about to wrap up a quick pass thru the magazine. The last page of each issue is usually “X number” of questions for a celebrity. Might be a politician, an actor, an activist, or an athlete.
That day it was 8 questions for an author: Paulo Cohelo.
I’ll admit it: before I started reading I had no idea who “the Brazilian novelist, one of the world’s best-selling authors” was. As I read the piece I did recognize the name of his biggest seller “The Alchemist.”
What grabbed me were the last dozen words of the intro: “…on nostalgia for his hippie days and the forms that love takes.”

As I read the Q&A I found myself nodding in agreement with some of his answers.
Q. 3. “What did your generation fail to understand about society?”
A. 3. “My generation understood that once a hippie, always a hippie. Of course, I could not be a hippie today, sitting comfortably here in Geneva. But my values are still the same: simplify your life, eat healthy, respect women.”

As I read the remainder of that answer some lyrics from my favorite songwriter popped into my head.
Paulo Cohelo’s answer: “My generation understood the mind and our desire to journey–but then it came time to support ourselves. And it became difficult to broker a peace between the two.”

When Jackson Browne sings “The Pretender” I often say: “That was me. I was a pretender.”
His lyric: “I’m gonna be a happy idiot and struggle for the legal tender, Where the ads take aim and lay their claim to the heart and the soul of the spender, And believe in whatever may lie in those things that money can buy…”
Been there. Done that.
The deja vu moment happened as I read his answer to question #6 of 8: “The two have a complicated love for each other in the novel. Have you ever been in love?”

Cohelo said: “I don’t remember not being in love.”
That ain’t me.
I remember the first time I fell in love. I’m in love again now for just the second time. But I do remember when I wasn’t in love with anyone, including myself.

I got a refresher with part of his answer to Q6. “There are very different types of love. There’s Eros, love for another person. There’s Philia, love for wisdom. And there is Pragma, which is love that goes beyond everything.”
The last part of the answer had me going “Holy shit…that was me last night!!!”

His answer: “Every time I go to sleep, I look at her and she is already sleeping. And I say to myself, ‘Oh my God, this is the greatest blessing in my life, to have found the person who understands me.’ ”

Shelly is always asleep when I shut down for the night. When we first started sleeping together even the slightest touch would get a flinch. It took awhile, but now I can lightly stroke her butt cheeks or a shoulder w/o startling her.

That night before reading the magazine I had given her a couple of love touches as I settled into our bed.
Then I just watched her sleep for what seemed like a long time. It was probably only two or three minutes. I broke out into a smile. I remember chuckling for a second or 2…she tossed a bit and re-positioned.
I gazed at her some more and thought about how lucky I am.

I thought it again the next morning, Time magazine in hand.
I am a lucky old coot.
But this time I didn’t just chuckle.
I laughed out loud.


I do it often.
I hear somebody say “I wouldn’t have changed anything…” and I think:
What? The. Fuck!!

I do like to play Woulda/Shoulda/Coulda.
I have no idea how my life would’ve turned out of I had taken different forks in the road.
I am quite happy in 2019. I like the path that I’m on.
But that doesn’t keep me from having reminiscent fantasies.

Shelly gets subjected to me playing W/S/C sometimes, especially when I talk about “what I shoulda done in 2000.” (That is a story for another day…)
Her reply to “w/s/c scenario 2000”: “But we never woulda met.”
Most likely we wouldn’t have.
And it’s all just guess work as to whether or not an executed “coulda or shoulda” woulda been a better choice.
So here’s where I was in March, 1972, i.e. at the forks in the road:
Just out of the Army.
Biggest wad of cash I’d ever had in my life from separation pay.
Best physical shape of my life. The four months of basketball had me in shape.
That spring and summer I thought about what to do next. (Mostly I just got high…)
Four of five months later I was in college at southeast mo st in cape girardeau.

If I time travel back to 3/20/72, here’s my W/S/C:
I woulda found a job as a roadie for a band.
At 23 I coulda done some lifting and hauling and traveling.
When I’m dreaming big, I imagine that I am packing it up and tearing it down in 1972 on Jackson Browne’s first national tour.
I never did sleep all that much, and in my 20’s I’d have considered anything over 150 hours of shut-eye a month excessive. I woulda loved being the first to come and the last to leave.
Just think—if I woulda landed on his road crew in 1972 I coulda been rolling cases and lifting amps and one of the guys he was singing about 5 years later when he released “Load out.”

There is a site that features “song meanings provided by the songwriters themselves.”
They attribute this to Jackson Browne: “”The Load-Out” is a love song to the audience and the crew. I was always tight with certain members of the crew – my manager used to be my crew chief; he used to tune guitars. They always took care of you. Then this one turns into “Stay” – on that, we’re actually asking the audience to stay, because we don’t want to stop playing.”

Just think—it coulda been awesome—or a disaster.
Most likely I woulda been dead before “Running on Empty” was released.
Discipline has never been my strong suit and I do have a tendency toward excess.
I mighta tried to keep up with Warren Zevon slamming back booze.
I coulda been sharing downers with Phyllis Major and ODed too.
Or I coulda been hit by a bus.
A few Realities:
1. The reality is that I woulda done lots of things differently in Cape Girardeau, but I have absolutely no regrets about that choice. I had good times at SEMO. I have great memories from those days. I have friendships from those days that I cherish.
2. The odds of some guy like me getting a job as a roadie for anybody woulda been slim. The odds of it being for J.B? Not a chance. It’s a nice little fantasy tho.
3. And I’ll always be baffled by people who “wouldn’t have changed anything.” Really??

Scatter me here and yon….

Let’s get this outta the way right up front: we are ALL gonna die.

This is one of several docs that will be in the “Black Audit Bag” after I have said my final “Fuck Me!!”
The “BAB” will include not only legal and financial documents. There will be directives, keepsakes, and copies of some the things that will make their way to this blog…starting with this one.

I recently wrote that Shelly is gonna be spreading my ashes in 5 places. Subject to change, these places (listed in the order that I first stepped foot there) are:

1. Weiss Cemetery, outside Doe Run, MO.
Take Buck Mountain Road south of town; about a quarter mile past the bridge over the creek you take a right on Effin Road. (That is not an F’in joke!)
You’ll see the gate on the right. Drive 150 yards through the field to the gate into the fenced two acres.

A little of me will get buried in the family cemetery.
Shelly will scatter my ashes at the other 4 places.
I need to nail the specific plot in the family cemetery at some point. Close to my folks, but with the appropriate distance.
There will be a headstone. Maybe small, flat to the ground, with only this engraved: Steve Weiss 1948- 20–.
Maybe a stand up stone with more info and an emoji or two.
The ashes that get buried will be in either a Prince Albert pocket size can or my favorite reefer stash box.

2. Cape Perpetua, OR
In 1978 my late mother-in-law called this the most beautiful place she had ever been. The next year a picture from the crest looking south was the cover of the annual Rand McNally road atlas.
It is my favorite place along the Orygun coast….and I’ve driven every foot of the 363 miles of Orygun’s Route 101 numerous times.
Cape Perpetua is about 2 miles south of Yachats on 101. It is a typical PNW headland, forming a high steep bluff above the ocean. At its highest point, the cape rises to over 800 feet above sea level. From its crest, one can see 70 miles of coastline and on a clear day as far as 37 miles out to sea. A great spot for whale viewing.
There are some unique features at Cape Perpetua: Cook’s Chasm, Spouting Horns and Devil’s Churn.
Some of my ashes will get tossed into the latter.
Devil’s Churn is a long, wide crack in the coastal rock that fills with each ocean wave, occasionally exploding as incoming and outgoing waves collide. I can sit there for what seems like forever watching the power of the incoming waves.    

3. Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota, FL
The first time I stepped foot on this beach was in early 1989. I was still in Portland and was on an AA&Co. project….sign-off manager on the tax software for S-corp returns.
The project was a pain in the ass. Things were way fucked up at A-plus Tax.
The beach was everything I’d heard…and more.
A couple of years earlier the “Great International White Sand Beach Challenge” said it had the “whitest and finest sand in the world.”
The sand is 99% pure Quartz. It is soft and cool on the feet. In a word, it is AWESOME.

We moved to Sarasota in May of 1989. Our kids were born at Sarasota Memorial on 12/30/89 and 5/30/91.
During the 7 years that we lived in SRQ we hit every beach between Anna Maria and Marco Island.
Siesta Key was hands down the favorite.
Many weekend mornings found us on the white sands of Siesta from 9 am until noon.
I never expect to have mail delivered to me again anywhere in Floriduh…but I hope to spend time on Siesta Key beach again before my ashes do.  

4. The Rock House, Reeds Spring, MO
Several of my ramblings and reminisces center around this place.
I’m not a “things happen for a reason” thinker. I’m in the “things happen, that’s all they ever do” camp.
But I do believe that sometimes a place, and the people there, can change ones life.
My life certainly changed because of The Rock House.
2011 was a helluva year for me. In the depths for much of it. My life really started to change for the positive after the first house concert I ever attended: Three Penny Acre at The Rock House on October 8, 2011.

We’re all gonna die, but unless we self-annihilate we don’t know when that will be.
Maybe Bruce & Jeanette will have moved to Baja for winters and Oregon for summers by the time Shelly is “Sprinkling Steve from coast to coast.” A new owner might not want my ashes scattered there.
Maybe this special place won’t be a receptacle for my dust…or for my wake (the details of that party will be one of the directives in the BAB).
That would be a shame.

5. Leadville, Colorado
I used to tease Shelly about her thinking that Colorado is the center of the universe. It was a toss-up between Leadville and Golden as to which was the true center.
The first time I was in the highest incorporated city in the United States (at 10,142 ft) was July 28, 2015.
I just read my journal entries from those 3 days in 2015.
My favorite afternoon there, on 7/30/15, included flash fried brussel sprouts at Tennessee Pass Cafe, beer on the deck at the Pastime Bar, a “george thorogood trio” at the Scarlet Tavern and this line from my journal: “We staggered back to the hotel. (“we” meaning me…)”

Shelly had bragged often about Leadville before our first visit, and not just about her favorite pizza in the world from High Mountain Pie.
The experiences in Leadville exceeded the lofty expectations. (So did the pizza…)
We’re spending her birthday this year in Leadville. I’m looking forward to it.  

There are legal restrictions regarding scattering ashes. Not in water. Not on private land. Yada Yada Yada.
I don’t care.
My ashes won’t care.
Shelly, the urn is in your court….

Things that survived the move to MO: Part Two


I’ve been doing some spring cleaning. I’m calling it “packing to move.” I don’t plan on going anywhere soon, but I wanta get a head start for when that day does come.

On Wednesday I went through the 2 drawers of my nightstand. I shredded or recycled about a foot-and-a-half tall stack of stuff.
I came across quite a few gems. Mostly cards with notes in them, several letters and some thought-provoking goodies that will continue to move with me, whenever and wherever that might be.
One of the goodies was credit-card sized. It has moved cross country three times since 1996. It reminded me of why I left AATT-whatever.
I loved most of my time at Arthur Andersen & Co.
I hated some of it.
But “Core Values” was taking it too far.
More on that later….

Friday I went through my closet. I’m not a big “shoe guy” but 9 pair will have new owners soon.
I’ve used the “reverse hanger” approach the past few years. Almost everything left in my closet after adopting this annual exercise is something I wear often, or which falls into the “I could never get rid of that…let me tell you a story” category.
The shirt that I wore the day that I surprised my boss in Sarasota with an out-of-nowhere resignation hasn’t been worn since 1996. It falls into the latter bucket.

Paula (my ex) knew that I planned to give notice at my weekly one-on-one with the office managing partner. She sorta freaked when she saw what I put on that morning: the red, white and blue recruiting shirt for what was then called “Arthur Andersen Technology Solutions”…proudly displayed on the shirt. (“AATT-whatever” had gone thru several name changes in the 7 years that I had been in Floriduh.)

The other verbiage on the shirt: “Make the right choice.”

Her: “You can’t have that on when you tell him that you’re quitting! What the heck??”
I told her:
1. He won’t even pick up on it.
2. Plus I’ve already got an answer, but I don’t expect to get the opportunity to use it. (I didn’t.)

Her: “Yeah? So what are you gonna say when he comments on the shirt and the slogan?”
“It’ll be short. Direct. And accurate.”

The reply in my head: “Good things come in threes, Rodger. I made the right choice when I accepted the offer to come to work for Andersen in 1982. I made the right choice to accept the transfer to Sarasota in 1989. And now I’m making the right choice for me and my family.”

I honestly don’t remember much of the conversation after I dropped the bomb. I didn’t have a job lined up. I had a resume on the street, and had even had a long-shot interview (there is a story there).
He offered to help me with my job search. He did. I ended up with a couple of options that would have kept me at Andersen. But I knew that 14+ years was enough.
Those “Core Values” just didn’t ring true. I was expected to be the evangelist to 150 people…selling what was on the credit card. Couldn’t do it.
The 5 components: Integrity; Commitment to quality results; Balance; Initiative; Interdependence.
Who could argue with those 5?
Me. Bigly.

He wanted to know what lead to my decision. We talked about a few specifics regarding how the words on the credit card meshed (or didn’t!) with the reality at AATT-whatever. I’m not sure if we talked about all 5.
We did focus on 2 of them.

I started with Integrity. “We say what we think and we do what we say.”
Arthur Andersen founded the firm in 1913. The motto “Think straight, talk straight” was taught to him by his mother.
I was on the periphery as the “Core Values” were developed. My position when I was asked to comment: this definition is ridiculous…it should simply be “think straight, talk straight.” I lost.
I told him that I was was leaving because: politics is one thing; back-stabbing is another. Saying one thing and doing another, especially by “leaders” was unacceptable. It had turned cut throat, and I was getting out.

Then we talked Balance: “We balance multiple demands on our lives, including personal and work, individual and team, current and future opportunities.”
What total Fucking bullshit that was.
Teamwork for the last year or so had been merely lip-service….and I didn’t see that changing.
Personal life? What a novel freaking concept.
Our kids were 5 and 6. I was working 80 hour weeks. Too much road warrior time. And then all the war inside the building?
I was gonna find some balance.

I got lucky. I found it at a company that got me back to Orygun for four years.
Earlier I wrote about an epiphany that lead me to walk away from that position too.

Above I wrote that I hated some of my time at Andersen, and I did. But I learned a lot, and two things I learned: don’t let heavy inertia win; don’t let a job make your life miserable.
Change it; live with it; or leave it.

I like what Dawes says in “Quitter”:
“Quit wasting my time because pretty soon you’ll find
It’s the only thing of value that we own
You’re gonna have to quit everything, until you find one thing you won’t…”


We’re all gonna die

Sometime in the late 90’s I started looking at the online edition of the St. Francois County Daily Journal several times a week. Mostly I just look at the obituaries.
The D.J. is the only daily in the county where I was born, where my 92-year old dad lives today and where he has lived the vast majority of his life. My Mom had 4 brothers and 2 sisters. If you don’t count time in the military, none of her siblings ever lived outside the county. The total population of St. Francois County, MO is about 65K.
I know very few people there. I went to grade school and junior college county. After dropping out of school, I got drunk most days. I broke several other laws for most of the next 18 months until I was drafted. I haven’t lived there in almost 50 years. But I skim the obits daily.
The county has 2 Wal-Mart Supercenters. If on a busy Saturday I should camp out at each store for 4 hours, on one of the benches by an exit, I doubt that the number of people I’d recognize, or who would recognize me, would reach double digits. Especially if you don’t count blood relatives. And I’m not sure that my 2nd cousins and I would even notice each other.

These days, and for the past 12 or 15 years, I check out the obits almost every day.
Primarily for conversation fodder.
And sometimes to feel grateful.

Today the conversations that the 10 or so obits elicit begin with me saying either : “Dad I see that __ __ died. She was 88….” or “Dad, did you know Frankie Weiss? Her dad was Les Weiss.”
Sometimes his answer will take up a good portion of our daily half-hour, give or take.
Other times, question and answer don’t combine for more than a minute.
Some times we’ve got other things to talk about and the topic of who died never comes up…especially during March when it’s basketball tournament time.

My Mom died July 1, 2013. She was 88. I miss her every day. But there were times when calling her could be a huge downer.
If a 16-ounce glass contained 8 ounces of liquid, mom wouldn’t call it half-full…she’d have it verging on being bone dry, especially the last 8 or 9 years.
She did have some health issues. A couple of heart attacks and bypass surgery. But Mom became a whiner…bigly. She could suck the air out of the room that I was calling from a thousand miles away and in a new york minute. “I don’t know why the Lord has done this to me? Why, oh why, oh why??
Mom didn’t have cancer; she wasn’t on dialysis; she didn’t liver failure. Her primary complaint was her back.
I became very good at starting phone calls with a word other than “how.”
Never “How are you?”
No “How are things in Doe Run?”

I decided that the obits would help the conversations become more enjoyable.
I’m a data driven dude. And this data would be fodder. The percentages.
Even after I started every call with something other than the “how” word, Mom would manage to bring up how awful God was treating her. I would quickly say something like this: “I looked at the 10 obituaries in the Journal earlier today, and only 1 of those people was older than you!”
Sometimes she would be older than all 10. It was rare that more than 30% of the 10 were older than her.

Confession: I can be a asshole with my words. I have been called “direct” and foul-mouthed. (Note: I have mellowed and lightened up with age. People will attest to that too.)
Sometimes at my worst (and her whiny worst too) I might spew: “Mom, 9 of the 10 people who are being covered with dirt were younger than you, and not one of them died from chronic back pain….”
But I always continued “…and we need to be thankful for and enjoy every day.”
After 2004, most of the times I said “we gotta enjoy every sandwich Mom…or every piece of pie that you bake!”
Mom would agree. We’d laugh. We’d say “I love you…talk to you tomorrow.”

So that’s the conversation element of checking out the obits.

The gratitude was two fold.
1. I was grateful that I could talk to my folks every day.
2. I was especially grateful when my comeback to Mom’s whining was “….and 4 of the people on the list of 10 were younger than me Mom!!”
Keep in mind that I started doing this many years ago. I wasn’t old enough to draw social security. And some of the 10 who had stopped breathing were younger than me.
I’d often just sit and think about the percentages.
And give thanks.

The local paper here in Springfield runs a grid most days of those who aren’t having a full “display obituary” published.
The data: Name, Age, Town/State, Death Date, Arrangements.
Today’s grid has 34 names.
My Dad is 92. 7 were older than him. 20.6%
I’m 70. 11 were younger than me. 32.4%
That makes me think. The percentages.
And give thanks.

There are countless songs about death and dying.
The title of this song by one of my favorite bands gets right to the point. The last four lines sum it all up:
“So try not to get upset
Everything is fine
Hey, it’s not that big a deal
We’re all gonna die”

Until then, you know what to do.
Enjoy the sandwich. Give lots of hugs. Lots & Lots of hugs.
And be Kind.

Sing it: we are all Somebody!

The precise order of events:
1. I saw a five word reply to a FB post : “Somebody needs to do something!”
2. A few minutes later, on a different thread in a different group, I saw almost the exact same words.
3. At that very same moment the song that was playing: “Somebody to love” by Queen
4. I do a search on my hard-drive for song titles that include the word “somebody”

Do NOT ask me why I did that search. It just seemed like the right thing to do.
I learned that I have 28 songs on my laptop with the word “somebody” in the title.
Here are my “Favorite Somebody Seven” in the order they were released, with a few favorite lyrics.

1. “Somebody to Love” was written by Darby Slick, Grace’s brother-in-law. Jefferson Airplane covered it on their second album, and their first with Grace. “Surrealistic pillow” was released in early 1967.
“Tears are running down and down and down your breast
And your friends, baby they treat you like a guest
Don’t you want somebody to love
Don’t you need somebody to love…”

2. “Somebody to Love” was released by Queen in 1976 on their “Day at the races” album.
“I get down on my knees and I start to pray
‘Til the tears run down from my eyes
Lord, somebody (somebody), ooh somebody
(Please) can anybody find me somebody to love?”

3. My favorite singer-songwriter wrote the highest charting single of his career for the movie “Fast times at ridgemont high” in 1982. The first time “Somebody’s baby” was released on an album was 15 years later when “The next voice you hear” hit the streets.
My daughter was only when that CD was released. I doubt she remembers, but whenever that song played I would sing along and tell her that the song was written for her….
“I try to shut my eyes, but I can’t get her outta my sight….
…Yeah, she’s gonna be somebody’s only light”
4. This song always gave me dancing feet, ever since I first saw this video in the fairly early days of MTV, back when they played music. It got mixed reviews when it was released in 1987…and won a Grammy. Go figure.
“Oh, I wanna dance with somebody
I wanna feel the heat with somebody
Yeah, I wanna dance with somebody
With somebody who loves me…”

5. I’ve written about this song before. It is one of my “First Time Tunes.” It’s the fourth track on “Only by the Night.” Released in December, 2008 by some of my favorite preacher’s kids. This is one of my absolute favorite songs.
“You know that I could use somebody
Someone like you, and all you know, and how you speak…”

6. This song was released by Gotye after my marriage was over. I had been back in MO for several months when it came out in late 2011. “Somebody that I used to know” resonated.
“Now and then I think of when we were together…
…Now you’re just somebody that I used to know”

7. Jack Antonoff wrote this one about the loss of his sister when he was only 18. Bleachers released the album “Gone now” in 2017. I’ve listened to this album a lot. It includes a song that is on my “play it at my wake” list.
This is not that song, and “Everybody lost somebody” is not my favorite song on the album.
But everybody has lost somebody. And that is gonna keep happening….
“I know that I’m lost
Lost in a world without you
And there’s a reason I wake up alone in strange places…
…Knowing everybody lost somebody”