Aunt Esther’s 8 words of wisdom

I used to write letters. Letters that traveled here-and-there in envelopes with a USPS stamp.

I still write letters. But not all that many, and not all that often.
I don’t have to buy all that many “forever stamps” these days.

My Dad’s side of the family has always written lots of letters. I don’t know where this propensity to write letters falls in the nature-nurture debate.

I recently learned that Uncle Gilbert, the oldest of dad’s four siblings, wrote hundreds of letters to his oldest child…and she held on to all of them!! Good for her. And good for him.

My Dad writes letters and notes, including thank you cards, fairly often. Sometimes he sends the very same letter to me and my two younger siblings. (Those specific letters are the subject for another day….)
I have lots of those letters and cards stuck away. There are some good ones. 🙂

When my kids were pre-teens I tried to get them to write letters to my folks, in the hopes of getting some family history down in writing. There was some success, but not nearly as much as I would’ve liked. I do have electronic copies of 20+ letters between my kids and my folks. I wish that number had an extra zero in it. I haven’t read any of those letters in double-digit years, but I recently confirmed that they are on the hard-drive of this laptop, and are backed-up.
I was an active letter writer once upon a time, including several to some senators while I was stationed at Ft. Bragg. I provided them specific examples of how army life was very different from what I was reading about in Newsweek and Look.

I wish I had kept copies of some of the letters I wrote, and of the letters I got in return, whether it was from “public servants” or from friends over the years. I’m pretty sure that there were some gems there. Especially the ones that got me summoned to a session with my company commander and later with a major general at the JFK Center for Special Warfare. (I was a PIA of a soldier. What a surprise….)
I have a friend from “back in the day” who has joined me and “Tissell” at some junior college basketball games when I head to the Leadbelt to take in a MAC basketball game. (Everybody who grew up in Elvins had a nickname. Dad’s is on my folk’s headstone at the Weiss cemetery. But the story behind the nickname “Tissell” will have to wait…)

I bring this up, because Rick has a letter that I wrote him when we were in the service. Most likely I wrote it from Ft. Bragg, although it could’ve been from Ft. Leonard Wood. I don’t know where Rick was when he received the letter.

I haven’t seen the letter myself. Rick mentioned it to me when we had breakfast right after I had left Floriduh and moved back to MO. A little while later, there was an electrical fire at his house that resulted in significant smoke damage. When they were able to move back home after a lengthy smoke and water restoration effort, they came back to LOTS of boxes.

“The letter” is in one of those many boxes. Someday Rick will find it again. I look forward to reading that letter. He says it’s a doozy.
My ex had a great aunt who was known for saying “don’t get old and dilapidated…it’s bad business.” I loved that!!! When we made our annual visit to Missouri, we always tried to have a meal with Aunt Esther. It’s hard to believe that she passed away over 27 years ago, in March 1990.

She was 92 the last time I saw her, but I can still see her smile as she admonished us as we headed out: “Don’t get old and dilapidated. It’s bad business”

She wrote those 8 words in every letter or card we ever got from her. When she had been dead for a little while (I don’t think it had even been a year) I asked my wife where she had put the cards and letters from her Aunt Esther.

“I threw them all away…”

I couldn’t believe it. I thought she must be kidding.
“You didn’t keep ANY of her letters? Not even one? There is nowhere to read ‘don’t get old and dilapidated…it’s bad business’ in her handwriting? You didn’t keep any of them?”

“No. They are all gone. I threw them away.”

It was obvious that my ex was very special to her Aunt Esther. I’ll never understand why she didn’t keep at least one letter. Just one.
I’d love to see that phrase again, in her own handwriting.
Just once.

I’ve taken Aunt Esther’s words of wisdom to heart. Keep moving…don’t get old.
I’ve taken this lady’s words of wisdom to heart too.
“…We can’t do it over
They say it’s now or never and all we’re ever gettin’ is older
Before we get to heaven, baby let’s give ’em hell…”

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.

“What was your favorite thing this weekend?”

It is right up there on my list of favorite “questions from Shelly.” There have been some doozies. The one at the top of the list has been there since our first date. (What’s said in the Corolla on 10/13/12, with The Rainmakers album “25 on” playing, stays in the Corolla….)

When she asked the latest question, at a little after 2 on Sunday afternoon 5/7/17, a bunch of things flew through my head at high speed. It had been an awesome weekend.

The subject of this piece isn’t the question she’d asked a minute earlier on Sunday: “You’re awfully quiet. What’s wrong?”
That answer was quick and easy: “Nothing is wrong. So many things are right. Everything is right….”

She smiled. Said that made her happy. She smiled that smile again…and then she asked: “What was your favorite thing this weekend?”
Between the time we headed downtown for the Gillioz on Thursday and Shelly’s Sunday afternoon question, I had enjoyed lots of things. It had been a stellar 66 hours. It coulda been a tough question; it wasn’t.
In no particular order I flashed on all of these and a few more before I replied:

…the Jason Isbell concert at the Gillioz on Thursday.
Chatting with friends at Dublins Pass before heading to our seats.
A great show.
An earworm; six days later and I’m still listening to and caterwauling along with “Codeine.”
…the first ever solo visit of Shelly’s firstborn, Amber.
It has always been either Jordie and her, or lately it has been the three of them crashing at our place. (Cecily is their 3 year old.)
…Amber hung out with us on Friday evening, first at Lindberg’s then at the wine bar 3 doors east.
Then it was just the two of us, as Shelly had to get to bed.
…the rickshaw story.
…spending time with several friends at Lindbergs…starting with Ginger, who is responsible for me meeting all the others.
had a variation of “the george thorogood trio”….rather than the usual one bourbon, one scotch and one beer I had one tequila, another tequila and a PBR.
…harvested green onions and lettuce; planted two tomatoes
…a Cinco de Mayo plus one party at Ginger’s
met some new folks there and spent time with Bruce & Jeanette.
experienced an unknown number of frogs drowning out the conversation of a deck full of humans.
…spinning the “mix CDs” from the last couple of years of live music we’ve seen….good memories….good tunes….good times.
Here’s how I answered Shelly.
The answer was short and sweet: “Bob.”

Friday, May 5, 2017 at Lindberg’s Tavern was the first time I’ve ever seen Bob Walkenhorst solo. I’ve written lots on here about his music. There’s the first time I saw Bob & Jeff at The Rock House. There’s our first date. There will be the 13th annual Rock Summer Festival on June 3rd….the Rainmakers are the headliners.
A few things made this evening special, beginning with a song I’ve loved since the first time I heard it. It was 2011, and I was in transition. My marriage was over. The relationship with 2 kids was complicated. And I heard this:
If I go down, I’m gonna go down swinging
If I grow old it won’t be gracefully
I’m gonna trip and fall
And pass it off as dancing
I’m gonna croak and moan
Say it‘s a new kind of singing
I’m gonna go down swinging..”

Then I heard:
Given time I’ll get it, let me go around
Let me go around, let me go around again”

As I drove home that first night back in 2011, after hearing Bob&Jeff the first time, I played “Go down swinging”, “Given time” and “Like Dogs” a few times each.
After Bob’s soundcheck last Friday, I made a request, asking him for “something by Dylan.” Bob asked if I had any song in mind. I didn’t. We’ve only managed to see Bob&Friends on a Wednesday at the Record Bar in KC three times. I’m pretty sure he snuck in a Dylan tune each time. It always made me smile.

If I had to pick only 8 Dylan songs it would be tough. The song Bob picked would be on my Dylan DIDL (desert island disk list). From the first time I heard the last verse of “Positively 4th Street” the song has been one of my favorites. Is there a better way to say “Fuck you” than this?

“I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes
And just for that one moment I could be you
Yes, I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes
You’d know what a drag it is to see you”

The song starts with a jab at a lot of greedheads walking around wearing flags on their lapels but not giving a shit about much more than money and power:
“You’ve got a lotta nerve to say you are my friend,
When I was down you just stood there grinnin,’
You’ve got a lotta nerve to say you got a helping hand to lend,
You just want to be on the side that’s winnin’”

Bob’s song choice was Perfect.

Then Bob made it better by playing a song (“Small circles”) that I had requested when he and Jeff played The Rock House 10/29/16.
There was no dancing on 5/5/17. Unless you count “table dancing.”

I damned near cried in happiness.
In a room with music and friends and a singing poet.
Listening to our song.
My arms around a woman who loves me.
My arms around a woman I love.

Thanks Bob.
Thanks Ginger.
Thanks Bruce & Jeanette.
Thanks Shelly.

Thanks. Just Thanks.
Be. Just BE.

More DIDLing….

DIDL: 2017-4 Chicago

The first time I saw Chicago in concert I was a PFC, stationed at Ft. Bragg. It was just after they had released their third album. Their count now is 31, including a bunch of double albums.

Our seats back in 1971 were up in the rafters and behind the band at about 10 o’clock in a 10,000+ seat building in Charlotte with gymnasium acoustics. That building is long gone….and so are some of the data points from that night. (It has been awhile. I was a tad toasted that night.)

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There will be DIDLing….

Well, that was the best show I’ve seen in awhile. Dawes at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa. March 21, 2017. David Letterman got it right: “if you’re looking for a rock-n-roll band, this is pretty much all you need…”

Tight band, with a fellow who is Duane Allan’s namesake and Dicky Betts’ son sharing lead guitar duties with a damned good picker: Taylor Goldsmith, the front man who brought it every second.
Lyrics that make you think or smile or think. Or whatever.
Just under 3 hour show, with a short break.
Left wanting more.
And oh yeah: The ticket was 20 bucks…and worth several times that!! Holy shit. What a deal!!

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