The Pretender

Birthday week of 2017 was a doozy. Music. Sunshine. Friends. Food. Family. Frolicking. Revelry. Reminiscing. More music…and a tad bit of introspection.

We had been in Orygun less than 3 months when Jackson Browne released “The Pretender.” If I had a “ben franklin” for every time I have played the album since I bought the first vinyl copy in 1976, it woulda paid for my new Prius.
The Pretender is still on my 5-CD changer after keeping me company all week….and providing lots of fodder for both reminiscing and introspection.

Lyrics, links and a {comment} or two follow… No singer-songwriter has written more songs that make me reflect on my way of life, my directions and where I am, where I’ve been, and what I’ve done than Jackson Browne.

The Fuse
“….Whatever it is you might think you have
You have nothing to lose
Through every dead and living thing
Time runs like a fuse
And the fuse is burning…”
{Does a short fuse burn faster? It sure seems like it…}

Your Bright Baby Blues
“…Everybody’s going somewhere
Riding just as fast as they can ride
I guess they’ve got a lot to do
Before they can rest assured
Their lives are justified…”

The Only Child
“… take good care of your mother
And remember to be kind…
…And when you’ve found another soul
Who sees into your own
Take good care of each other…”
{“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” Henry James}

Daddy’s Tune
“…Living your life day after day
Soon all your plans and changes
Either fail or fade away…”
{Never been much of “a planner.” Probably moreso now than ever. My plans: live life day after day; be kind; enjoy every sandwich; listen to lots of music; give lots of hugs; repeat.}

Sleeps Dark and Silent Gate
“…Sometimes I lie awake at night and wonder
Where the years have gone
They have all passed under
Sleep’s Dark and Silent Gate…”
{Lots of years have passed since I first had this album on repeat. I haven’t laid awake at night very often. But there has been lots of wondering…lots and lots of wondering.}

The Pretender
“…I’m gonna find myself a girl
Who can show me what laughter means
And we’ll fill in the missing colors
In each others paint by number dreams…”

{In the fall of 1976 I had absolutely no intentions of ever struggling for the legal tender. 6 years later I was starting a 14 year career with the largest accounting firm in the world…wearing wing tips, wool, silk and cotton….and “keeping score” by looking at the last line of page 1 of my Form 1040.
Several years ago my late friend and mentor John Crudele asked me if I had “taken a vow of poverty.” I told him that I was going to live rich and die poor….and that for the second time in my life I had found the girl that Jackson Browne had sung about. I have never been richer than I am in 2017.
I am a lucky guy. What more can anyone want? Friends, music, and someone to love….who loves you.
Don’t be stingy with your hugs.
Just Be.}

This can’t be right…

I’ve always been good with numbers…at least that’s what they tell me.
I was a CPA once upon a time. I was/am a number cruncher, but I was NEVER a bean counter.

“But this can’t be the right number….”

I had just turned 17 when The Who released their first album. I cranked it up to 11 when Roger Daltry belted out:
Yeah, I hope I die before I get old (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
This is my generation
This is my generation, baby…”

As I headed for 18 and draft eligibility, I was a fundamentalist Baptist minister’s son who was just starting to feel his oats…and who was developing a serious craving for adult beverages.
That was 52 years ago.

“But this can’t be the right number….”

Before we left Missouri and moved west in the Bi-Centennial Year, I had a friend who I partied with on a regular basis. He had just finished pharmacy school. This lyric was my reality.
“…This friend of mine said
‘Close your eyes, and try a few of these’
I thought I was flying like a bird
So far above my sorrow
But when I looked down
I was standing on my knees…”

Somehow I’m still standing 45+ years later….upright even. Go figure.

“But this can’t be the right number….”
I was 29 and had been living in Corvallis for a little over a year when twenty-nine-year-old Jackson Browne sang:
“In sixty-nine I was twenty-one and I called the road my own
I don’t know when that road turned, into the road I’m on
Running on, running on empty…”

I wasn’t running on empty. I was running on homemade blackberry wine, home grown weed, white crosses, black beauties and all the shrooms I could find.
That was 40 years ago…and is NOT Fake News.

“But this can’t be the right number….”
I have always been early to rise and late to bed. (Is 2 am late to bed or early to bed? Just asking.)
Never lived on a farm, but this was…and still is…my perspective on sleep. (Did Warren Zevon ever live on a farm?)

“…So much to do, there’s plenty on the farm
I’ll sleep when I’m dead
Saturday night I like to raise a little harm
I’ll sleep when I’m dead…”

I closed lots of bars. I was the last one to leave lots of parties. Sometimes I even remembered what I had done the night before and how I had gotten to the place where I woke up. The vast majority of those blacked out nights happened before I was 25. But not all of them.
It is NOT sleep deprivation that has me questioning this particular #.

“But this can’t be the right number….”

I can keep telling myself that “this can’t be the right number” but I know that it is.
On 9/13/2017 I start my 70th trip around the sun. Sixty-ninth birthday; 70th trip.

I’ve got more questions than answers. I don’t know much, but…

I know that I am lucky to be alive.
I know that I am in the minor leagues compared to many of the folks who graduated H.S. the same year as me.
I know that some of the folks who were in the minor leagues compared to me have bones planted or ashes sprinkled. Dead from ODs, car wrecks, cirrhosis…or just being with the wrong people, in the wrong place at the wrong time. Been there; done that. Got lucky.

I know that I am lucky that I didn’t spend time in an orange jumpsuit after being get caught doing some of the stupid things that I did….and I am NOT talking about drug possession. (Nobody should be locked up for a personal stash….U.S. drug laws are idiotic!)
I know that I am lucky to have family, friends and a partner who have my back.
I know that 69 is just a number.
So is 70.
As a numbers guy, the number 86,400 means something to me. That number pops into my head at least once each and every day.

“We only got 86,400 seconds in a day
To turn it all around or to throw it all away
Gotta tell ’em that we love ’em while we got the chance to say,
Gotta live like we’re dying…”

Enjoy every bite of every sandwich.
Just Be.

Ultimate Bucket list…the book and the e-mails


March 13, 2017.
Weather sucks. In the mid-thirties for the high temp.. My “early garden” is probably toast. Fuck me.
But it will all be good. Nothing ventured…and all that. 5 bucks of seeds and i’m back in business.
I’m gonna go cover my garden as soon as I post this. I repeat: Fuck Me!

Continue reading


The folks at Hallmark have missed out on this one. Thank goodness.

There are several “Hallmark holidays” e.g., Grandparents Day, Sweetest Day, and Boss’s Day…“holidays” that exist primarily for commercial purposes, rather than in recognition of a traditional or historical event.

And then then is the “holiday” that I fell for a long, long time ago….something called “half-birthdays.”

If a nonmateralistic person like me can be scammed into observing a manufactured holiday, then it seems like Hallmark missed out on a potential market. Maybe I fell for it because I was a smitten softie, who might have had an ulterior motive or two for playing along? No matter…it is one of my favorite “holidays.”

It was late January. I had been dating my wife-to-be for only a couple of weeks. I was living in Cape Giradeau, in college at SEMO. Paula was living in Farmington. I called her to confirm our date for Saturday, Feb 2nd. We were on.

But then she asked “what are you going to give me to celebrate?” I was puzzled. Celebrate? For what? It was still a couple of weeks until Valentine’s Day.

I took a shot at what I thought must have been the reason for a gift in celebration: “Since when did people start getting presents on Groundhog Day?”

[Note: Groundhog Day was adopted in 1887. Hallmark Cards was founded in 1910. i.e., it is NOT a “Hallmark holiday.”]

“No, not that…silly. It’s my half-birthday!!” (She was an excitable girl…and I do have a fondness for the type.)

“Your what? Half-birthday?? You’re kidding, right?”

“No. My family always celebrated half-birthdays? You didn’t?” (Sounding incredulous…and empathetic for me and my deficient upbringing.)

“I never heard of such a thing. You’re teasing aren’t you?”

“I am not teasing!! Well, how old did you say you were when you were 6-and-a-half?”

“I said I was six. And I said that I was 6 until I had my seventh birthday.”

“I’m sorry. My family was so much fun. Never-mind about it though… What are we gonna do for fun this weekend?”
Well, needless to say, on that Saturday I took her a card and some flowers and some candy. (Ulterior motives, doncha know?) And ever since that time, we have celebrated “half birthdays.” There weren’t presents. But there was always a card, and something sweet….maybe a cake or pie, maybe a giant cookie, or maybe some candy.

In fact, there still is. I don’t send cards via snail mail, and I don’t send sweets, but Paula and both our kids (they all live in Floriduh) will get a “Happy half-birthday” text from me. And Shelly will get a card, and something sweet, as she did less than a month ago.

Half birthday card

I admit it….I love this “half-birthday” stuff. I really love it, whether it’s mine on March 13 or Shelly’s….or one of my kids. I think it’s great when I get “happy half-birthday” messages or cards.
But I said it started as a scam, right? And was it ever!!

Long story short: I met my wife through her sister, Sharon. I had known her and her husband Tom for several years, had played lots of basketball with him, and had gone to the state tournament in Columbia with them a few times. I knew that Sharon came from a Catholic family, and assumed that she had several siblings…but I knew nothing about her family. And as much as I liked Sharon, I didn’t expect her to have a sister that I would find attractive.

Anyway, about a month after Groundhog Day, after my first-ever “half-birthday” celebration, I bumped into Sharon and Tom at a ball game. During a break in the action I said, “that half-birthday holiday that your family observes is pretty unusual.”

“Huh? What? I never heard of “half-birthdays.” Whatever are you talking about?”

Sharon had never heard of such a thing!? I had been duped.

Paula had scammed me. And I’m glad I fell for it, and that I continue to observe half-birthdays. Feel free to adopt it yourself. But please don’t let the people in KC know about it…

It doesn’t smell like Teen Spirit!

Shelly called it. Someone was dead!!

I never expected to live in Missouri, or in an apartment, again. All that changed in 2011. There are lots of things to like about apartment living…i don’t have to mow grass, I just pick up the phone if something is broken or isn’t working, there is coffee and a daily paper in the lobby in the morning, and I don’t get nasty letters from a HOA board because i’m not in compliance with some silly, arcane rule. (HOAs are a story for another time…)

One of the best things about The Abbey, the building where we live, is the layout. Three floors, shaped like an octagon, and a perfect place to walk when it makes sense to avoid walking outside….i.e. it’s too hot, too cold, raining, etc. A lap inside the building is a third of a mile, and there are lots of stairs to climb if i’m so inclined.

Yeah, walking laps inside an apartment building can be monotonous but not nearly as boring as a treadmill. Plus I usually do a walk-and-talk, so i’m killing two birds at once. One of my daily walk-and-talks is always with my 89-year old Dad.

Last Friday, as I was just a minute into my call with Dad I caught a whiff of something. Now I do not have the most sensitive sniffer, but this smell was nasty. It was only noticeable for about 100 feet, in one relatively small part of the 1780 foot long lap. The only way to describe what it smelled like that afternoon: it smelled like ass. Or worse.

I only pass that section once on most of my inside walk-and-talks with Dad, as I take a lap of all three floors and then wrap up the call.

The next time that I walked through that part of the building was when I called him on Saturday. Same smell, although even stronger. I’m thinking “don’t the people who live in this part of the building smell this shit?”

Sunday afternoon I asked Shelly if she’d take a walk down the hall with me to see what she thought. She is more sensitive than me in every regard, but especially from an olfactory perspective.

As soon as we reached that section of the 3rd floor, she stopped quickly and her facial expression was one of disgust. The smell was indeed quite disgusting.

Then she said it. “I hope somebody is not dead!”


The first thing this morning I stopped by the office and told Dena about the smell. She said the exact same thing as Shelly.

Ninety minutes later I was back from running a few errands. There was an ambulance in front of the building.

Fifteen minutes later there was a knock on my door. It was Dena. She asked me if I’d come with her and talk to the police and tell them what I had told her earlier. We walked to A-313 and the cop came out, still wearing a mask, and interviewed me for 10 minutes.

If you google “smell of death” there are over 68 million results. I skimmed several of them, with titles like “what does death smell like,” “does death have a smell,” and “researchers isolate ‘the human smell of death’.” They refer to a “singular chemical cocktail,” the “putrefying tissue of dead bodies” and a “five chemical cocktail made up of chemicals that are part of a group of molecules called esters, which are also responsible for the strong, sharp smells emitted by fruits like pineapples and raspberries.”

None of the sites really described the smell. The closest on came was this: “The human smell of death, in other words, is a little bit fruity.”

I wouldn’t call it “fruity,” and not just because I love fruit. I eat lots of it.

The smell of death is disgusting. It smells like ass. Dead ass.

May the lady who lived in A-313 rest in peace.