Let it grow. Or not…

Yesterday I made “an announcement” to 3 friends as we traveled the back roads from Pittsburg, KS to Springfield. Maybe only 2 of them heard me; Bruce mighta been snoozing at the time.
We were coming home after a fantastic house concert by Paul Thorn at the Coda Concert House in Joplin and a fabulous Sunday morning brunch whipped up by Rob&Carol at their place.
The 6 of us met for a bite before the show, had a drink after at a hipster bar, and then sat around until past the witching hour telling yarns.
The vittles; the tunes; the libations; the conversation; the drive.
Smile and Smile again and again.

My “announcement”?

It was a resolution based on something that popped into my head right after Paul Thorn sang my favorite song (“you might be wrong”)…and I wasn’t sure if I would even share my thinking with Shelly. But as we looked for the camel farm (Jeanette swears it’s somewhere out there in western Missouri….someday we’ll find it!!) the thought popped into my head again, and my internal conversation was: “if I keep this idea to myself, I’ll never carry through!”
Right then and there I decided to share it with my blue highways chums.

Now I’m going public…with the exception of one detail.
That detail is political. Some people who I love will judge me for it. I understand that. (Listen to Paul Thorn’s “I don’t like half the people I love.”)
So I’m keeping that detail on a “need to know” basis….

My “resolution”?

It’s all about my hair….and when to cut it.
I have never been all that fond of barber shops or clip joints. (And that was even before I lost a LOT of money in a hair cutting franchise, which included a legal battle with the Faux Cowboy Franchisor….)

In the past couple of weeks a few people have commented on the length of my locks.
My next door neighbor: “this is the longest your hair has been since I’ve known you.”
My Dad: “your Mom and I didn’t care about how long you boys let you hair grow as long as you kept it clean.” (My memory of those pre- and post-Army conversations re my hair length are a tad bit different. Just sayin’)
Another friend in the building: “I think you’re about ready for a ponytail. My son has one.”
None of the comments came across as complaints…

Keeping an electronic journal has some advantages, e.g. I know that I got my last haircut at 2 pm on Wednesday, March 15 at the Supercuts at 1306 E. Battlefield from my “regular stylist” Whitney. She has given me my last 3 cuts. Before 3/25/17 she took the shears to me in May of 2017 and April of 2016. (I really don’t like barber chairs….)

So here’s my announcement/resolution:
I am not getting a haircut until either:
(1) my hair is long enough to donate to Locks of Love without having to get a buzz cut, or
(2) a certain event takes place.

Re the latter, I did say that it is political…and I will say this much: it has nothing to do with someone else sitting behind the desk in the oval office. (That will be cause for letting my hair down, for celebrating and for partying like mad….but it is not the condition that will result in me finding out if Whitney is still wielding the tools of her trade.)

I’m expecting to have my first ponytail sometime in 2019.
Shelly is talking about me wearing a man bun.
So far nobody has said anything about me getting dreads.

I’m at 348 days and counting.

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.

More music memories….

First-time-tunes…continued. I left off in 1976. It looks like there were 25 years when I don’t seem to have experienced any “first time tunes.” Really??

I certainly never stopped listening to music, but I did mostly stay in my musical comfort zone and listened mostly to “old favorites” during those years. Those were “work hard, play hard” years, coupled with lots of “family issues.” Most of those 25 years are a bit of a blur….maybe that’s why I don’t have any distinctive memories of hearing a song for the first time?
When my marriage finally imploded in early 2011, I packed up a few possessions and shipped them to my sister’s place on Table Rock Lake. I stayed with her and her husband for just over 3 months, and then it was time to move on.

But I did hear a song during my time at their place that was perfect for where I was at the time. I’ve never been a country music fan, although I have always liked some artists with a touch of country, e.g. Poco, John Hiatt, John Fogerty, Wet Willie. I never liked twangy, and I don’t like “crying in my beer” songs.

I was down on the dock with my brother-in-law and another fellow who has a slip on the same 6-slip boat dock. The radio reception isn’t all that great, so we took what we could get on the hot day in mid-July. It was a toasty day, and we were a bit toasted. I had heard the name of this guy who was singing, but I’ve never listened to anything of his other than this song, and I probably never will. In addition to not liking twangy, I’m also not a fan of people who wear cowboy hats. (This probably has something to do with the narcissist who controlled the franchised business that I invested in….and the reason I always will spell the 28th state as “Texass.”)

Nobody had done me wrong. But as I approached my 63rd birthday, there was no doubt that it was time to leave nothing behind. To take to heart what Warren Zevon said about enjoying every sandwich. To be thankful and to make the best of every new day. To sing along with George Strait’s “Here for a good time.”
Sometimes I love the lyrics of a song, even though they bear absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to what has happened, or is happening, to me.

My marriage was over. My ex and I weren’t talking. It wasn’t ugly…it was just over. There were no angry words exchanged. No animosity. Nothing mean. What was said was short and sweet: “I’m not happy. You’re not happy. It’s over. Time to move on.”

So this next FTT, another country song that I first heard while down on the boat dock with Don and Randy, was not a reflection of my current or past reality. But I’ll always remember the first time I heard Taylor Swift belting out “Mean,” while those two sat and drank a cold adult beverage and I paced the dock. “…someday I’ll be living in a big old city, and all you’re ever gonna be is mean…why you gotta be so mean?”
In late 2012 I had heard of Kings of Leon. I had read about them in Rolling Stone. I knew they grew up in Oklahoma. I knew that they, like me, grew up as poor preacher’s kids. My dad’s beliefs were in many ways very different than those of their father, but both were preachers. If I had ever heard a song of theirs, I wasn’t aware of it.

The radio wasn’t the only option on that day in early December, but for some reason that’s what I was listening to in my apartment. The radio stations are pretty lame in Springfield, MO; I was listening to 106.7 “The River.” When this song started playing I stopped whatever it was I was doing on my laptop and cranked up the volume. It was a deja vu experience. I felt like I already knew this song, but I’m not sure how? It had been released almost 5 years earlier, but I hadn’t listened to much radio in years (other than when I was hanging out on the boat dock with Don and/or Randy).

When I listened to the radio during the 2000’s it had usually been with my kids or my ex. Before I left Tampa, Kings of Leon most likely wouldn’t have played much on the stations they liked: hip-hop for Caroline, gangsta rap for Joseph, and sports talk for the ex. (Their radio preferences are listed in rank order for me….i’d listen to almost anything before sports talk.)

It was probably a combination of the beat and the lead singer’s voice that caught my attention that December day. But it was also the lyrics.

For me, it’s almost always the lyrics. There are some songs that I like a lot and I don’t have a clue as to the lyrics, or I might not care that the lyrics make no sense or have no meaning for me…I still like the song for whatever reason. But on that day, the lyrics that caught my attention were “…I could use somebody.…someone like you, and all you know, and how you speak….I hope it’s gonna make you notice…someone like me…”

Maybe it’s because I had met someone. I was smitten. I also knew that I could use somebody…somebody to be my playmate.

After the song finished on the radio I found a clip of it on YouTube and listened to it a few times. I listened to more K.O.L. songs that day. I bought some of their CDs. I went to 2 of their concerts over the next 16 months. Or should I say “we went…” My playmate and me, that is.
About a month earlier Shelly had posted a video clip of her and her oldest grandchild on Facebook. It was a brief snippet of them singing a song I’d never heard before. It was a catchy tune, but I never thought much of it until a bit later when we were at her son’s place and this song came on…and 6-year-old Casedy started singing it again. So did Casedy’s dad.

This time I got it…this wasn’t just a kid’s tune. It was a song for all of us.

Almost a year and a half later in Columbia, MO we saw Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros singing that song: “Home.” Lots of things had changed in that time…for the band and for me and Shelly. The female singer, who played a key role in “Home” and several of their other tunes had left the band. Shelly and I had been living together for awhile…there are a number of songs that have a “Shelly meaning” for me. K.O.L.’s “Use somebody”; Jackson Browne’s “Stunning mystery companion”; and “Home” are just three of them. “Holy moley, me oh my, You’re the apple of my eye…Home is wherever I’m with you…Home is when I’m alone with you…”
Back in late 2011 I discovered house concerts…what a great concept. So far, the only house concerts I’ve ever attended are at The Rock House in Reeds Spring…it’s a great venue, produced by 2 great people: Jeanette and Bruce. I’ve heard lots of songs for the first time at The Rock House, but one of them certainly belongs on my “first-time-tunes” list.

It was at the 3rd house concert I ever attended. November 12, 2011. A couple of guys who are in a band called The Rainmakers were the evening’s artists. Bob and Jeff had released a CD a couple of years earlier. The full band had released a reunion album called “25 years on” earlier in 2011. The band had been popular in the early 80’s. Newsday had called them “America’s Next Great Band”. There had been articles about them in Newsweek, Rolling Stone, USA Today and others.

I had never heard of them…at least consciously. Subsequently I realized that I had seen some of their videos in the early days of MTV…which I watched a lot in the early 80s, back when MTV aired nothing but videos. (What do they broadcast now?? I honestly don’t have a clue….mostly reality silliness, isn’t it?)

It was a packed house that November night. Jam packed. And deservedly so. How did the world miss out on this band? These guys are the real deal. Smart lyrics. Very smart lyrics. Maybe sometimes too smart, at least for some people. Their career was sidetracked when this KC-based band had the audacity in 1986 to release a song titled “Rockin’ at the T-Dance” which referred to the disaster when a skywalk collapsed at the Hyatt.

When they play near me, whether it be the front man solo, Bob and Jeff at The Rock House, or the 4-piece band, I will be there….for sure. I’ll want to hear this first-time-tune “Like Dogs” every time I see them, but if I don’t hear it I know it will still be a great experience. Have I told you that this band is the real deal?

Back in November of 2011 I was dating a woman who loved her dog more than she did most people, other than her daughters….well, at least 2 of her 3 girls anyway. I’m not much of a pet person. I’m OK with dogs and cats, but I never have had a pet, and I don’t see that changing. I am simply too irresponsible and too impetuous; that’s a story for another day. But because of my time with this woman and her daughter who lived nearby, and their dogs, I had developed a deeper appreciation for canines.

And even if I hadn’t, the first verse of this song hit me right between the eyes because of how directly it spoke about someone I’ve known for a long, long, very long time. “You’re the kind of man who seems to leave a trail behind him of friends who used to be so close, but then in some concocted scene they done you wrong, and so you write them off and bye-bye they are gone….”

The person who immediately sprang to my mind has never heard “Like Dogs”, and if he had he is such a narcissist that he wouldn’t really hear it. Oh well…

People that I know, or have known, spring to mind for each of that song’s other 3 verses. I’m not alone. Before I heard this song for the first time the singer-songwriter (Bob Walkenhorst….btw, he’s the real deal!) told the story about how this song came to be. He also relayed the fact that after it was released he received a few calls from people asking him if the song was about them.
There are some first-time-tunes that I haven’t listed.

I expect to have more FTTs in my future, in addition to the ones I’ve written about here. I could even include a couple of more songs from that night in mid-November, 2011: “the wages of sin” and “government cheese” have lines that are stuck in my head.

When music and lyrics and people and places come together it’s a very good thing. First-time-tunes are a very special thing.

“Here for a good time” by George Strait

“Mean” by Taylor Swift

“Use somebody” by Kings of Leon

“Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes

“Like Dogs” by The Rainmakershttps:

“The wages of sin” by The Rainmakers

“Government cheese” by The Rainmakers


House concerts are Where It’s At!!

Over the past 50 years I have seen lots of live music, in lots of different venues. Smokey bars; baseball parks; 1,500 seat auditoriums with great acoustics; Chuck Berry’s farm; House of Blues in Chicago; The Fabulous Fox and The Schnitzer….and lots of others.

Many venues remain on my bucket list…places I want to see a show. Red Rocks heads the list, followed by (in no particular order): The Fillmore in S.F., The Gorge Amphitheater, The Troubadour in West Hollywood, Stubbs in Austin…and The Ryman Auditorium, just to name a few.

Of all the places I’ve been entertained and mesmerized, I’m not sure that any of them top a wonderful night at a house concert.

“What is a House Concert? A house concert is a chance to experience music in a warm and intimate environment. It’s when someone opens up their home and invites you into their living room to share in a performance by one of their favorite musicians. It’s a chance to meet the performers and get them to sign their CD. A house concert is also a great social evening of friends and neighbors.” (I stole this paragraph…)

I had never heard of house concerts until moving back to MO in 2011. I learned about them from a woman I met on an online dating site. (That was a first time experience in 2011 too…and is another story, for another day.)

Ginger told me about The Rock House in Reeds Spring. It’s the only place I’ve ever seen a house concert so far, and the pilfered paragraph above is a perfect description of a night in the home of Jeanette and Bruce.

Last night, 12/12/15, was a “great social evening of friends” indeed!! Making it even better were Bob Walkenhorst and Jeff Porter. I had never heard of either them before moving back to MO in 2011….but if I had to list my 10 favorite artists for my Desert Island Disks, their music and that of their band, The Rainmakers, would most certainly make the list. They have been around since the mid-80s, and reformed as a band in 2011….Yes!!

Bob & Jeff played the 3rd house concert I attended. The first real ‘date’ for me and Shelly, her first time at The Rock House, and the first time she saw Bob&Jeff, was a year later on October 13, 2012. Every time I’ve seen them, I leave wanting more and find myself listening to them on the way home and after I’m back in the apartment. Last night was no exception…and the CD changer has been nothing but Walkenhorst & Porter so far today.

They started the show last night with one of my many favorites. I’ve always been a “lyrics junkie” and Bob and Jeff have lots of tunes with lyrics that I relate to. Their opener was “Long gone long” which opens like this: “Older than I used to be, younger than I’m gonna be, Fewer things puzzle me than when I was young…”


Bob grew up in the small town of Norborne, MO. I moved around…Springfield, Monett, Flat River…places I received mail while I was living this verse of the “long gone long”:

“Got into a car that night
Drove out past the signal light
Past the city limits, guess it wasn’t that far
Stopped out on a rural route
Gooch got out his .22
Shooting at a freight train that was hauling new cars”

Now, I never shot a 22 at a freight train hauling cars.

In Springfield, I did launch more than a few hedge apples at passing trains….not to mention high arching ones onto select people’s roofs in the late night hours. Living in Monett…same thing. As a college student at Mineral Area College I graduated to throwing rocks at the freight trains, which were in fact hauling cars. But no guns were fired.
Before last night’s show, I made a couple of requests. Jeff wouldn’t promise that they’d play either tune; I understood…they have a lot of material.

The first set went by too fast…some more of my favorites, plus some new tunes.

I was on the front porch chatting with some friends when it was about time for the second set. We decided to sit outside and enjoy the music from the porch. The weather was unbelievably mild for the 12th day of winter! (I adopted meteorological seasons a few years ago, i.e. my winter started 12/1. That’s a story for a different day….)

A few songs into the second set I was thinking “good god, they are really bringing it tonight…if they don’t play my requests who cares? this is one special evening…”

Then Bob said they had a request and he started telling the story behind the song. I knew right away that as much I was enjoying listening from the porch that I had to get inside and look into their faces as they sang “Like Dogs.” I’ll always remember the very first time I heard this song….and I’ll never forget hearing it last night. It was simply Awesome! (I’ve got lots of “first time tunes”…another story for another day.)

There are people I think of whenever I hear the verses of “Like Dogs.” But the first verse always make me think of one particular person:

“You’re the kind of man that seems to leave a trail
Behind him of the friends that used to be so close
But then in some concocted scene they’ve done you wrong
And so you write ’em off and bye bye they are gone
If you don’t like dogs
What do you like?”

From now on the last line of the song will always make me think of Jeff Porter. When I made my request last night he said that he and Bob had talked about an acquaintance of Bob’s who didn’t like dogs. Later Jeff got a call from Bob saying that he used Jeff’s response as the last line of the song.

“You’re gonna wake up some cold night
And howl till your head’s a throbbin’
If you don’t like dogs what’s your fucking problem?”

Amen and amen.

Here are just a few more lyrics from the songs they played last night. They hit home.

“Never been one to look back
Trying to cover my tracks
To regret or undo what I’ve done
Nows not the time to begin”
{from “stay ahead of the wolves”}

“Cause some days are a comedy, others are a crime
But most are masterpieces of a ludicrous design
Ridiculously beautiful, absurdely rich and dense
I’m delirious with fever; it’s finally making sense.”
{from “ridiculosuly beautiful”}

I could list a lot more lyrics, but i’ll close with some from the tune that closed another great night by Bob & Jeff at The Rock House. It’s from another song that I requested, “Overland Hill.” Like “Long gone long”, it makes me think of my past.

“Down Overland Hill she was waiting there
At the bottom for me with a big blank stare
That was open to anything, legal or not….”