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…”

You are what you listen too….Part 2

I’ve written about my “addiction” to music before.

I am prone to have a song, or an artist, “on repeat.” Looking back at my Facebook posts during 2016, I shared links to youtubes of 19 songs that I had listened to over-and-over-and-over-again during the year.

Some of them were by artists that I was going to see soon, or who I had seen recently. Some were songs that I have been listening to for years. Some were from my “desert island” artists: Jackson Browne, Dylan, The Boss, Neil Young, The Rainmakers. There was quite a bit of variety, but it always came back to lyrics.
In addition to being compulsive about listening to music, I read a lot. Not books so much anymore. I subscribe to lots of magazines and probably spend too much time online reading a variety of things.

One of the best things I read during 2016 was a piece called “My life in six songs.

Well, I’m not gonna even try that exercise….but if I could audit Natalie’s MTHP 200 Psychology of Music course I think it would be a blast!!

What I am gonna do is pick the six songs from my 2016 Facebook “on repeat” posts whose lyrics have been played the most in the apartment, in the car and in my head.

It’s easy to pick the first of the six. Here’s what I wrote on July 18, a couple of weeks after I saw them at the Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland on July 1: “I didn’t run to the city in 2011, but the first few lines describe how I was feeling back then: ‘…I was running from the past, My heart was bleeding, And it hurt my bones to laugh…’ ”

I continue to be mesmerized by the tune, whether I’m watching a video of Derek Trucks making the slide guitar sing and cry or listening to Susan Tedeschi belt it out.

We will be seeing them at The Ryman on March 2. It will be awesome….

The second song has got to be this one by the Bottle Rockets. We saw them twice in 2016; the first time at a house concert on August 26.

I detest the stars&bars; I LOVE this song. “Heritage” my ass…..the word has four letters and it does start with an H….

“That good ol’ boy’s waving
The stars & bars
It’s a red, white & blue flag
But it ain’t ours

Wave that flag hoss, wave it high
Do you know what it means?
Do you know why?
Maybe being a Rebel ain’t no big deal
But if somebody owned your ass
How would you feel?”

The halfway point of my half dozen songs from 2016 is one whose lyrics baffle me a bit, but it’s a song that I can’t shake.

Here’s what I wrote at 10:31 pm the night of my birthday:
“What’s on your mind?”
I got two things on my mind right now:

1. Why can’t I get this song outta my head?
2. WTF did he find in the drawer??

If I was in Dr. Wlodarczyk’s class, there is no doubt that one of my six songs would be by Jackson Browne. Hell….they might all be by him.

The one that I’m gonna pick for 2016 wasn’t even written by him…but this one has some lyrics that hit home during 2016…and in 2017 too!

“Ever since the world’s existed
There’s one thing that is certain
There are those who build walls
And those who open doors…”

And then there is this line: “There can be freedom only when nobody owns it…”

Enough said about politics in these United (?) States….


My last two songs of 2016 are by a fellow who I hadn’t listened to much until a couple of months ago. Man-o-man have I been missing out. You have been too if you have never listened to Amos Lee.

I’m picking two songs of his with very, very different sentiments. This first one has one of the best break-up lines I’ve ever heard.

“If you feel a chill in the air
It’s my spirit hanging somewhere
and if you ever get scared
Look on the bright side
You got a new life…”


I heard this last song for the first time 6 or 7 weeks ago. I’m sure that I have heard it 100 times since then. And I’m probably just getting started. The song starts like this:

“My heart is a flower
That blooms every hour
I believe in the power
Of love…”

I do believe in the power of love. And I love this line from “Flower”:
“Tomorrow’s coming and yesterday’s gone…”


This “pick only six songs” is a tough assignment. I could easily have picked several other songs:

“Stay ahead of the Wolves” by Bob Walkenhorst and Jeff Porter. On 10/28 my FB status: “I needed to hear something like this 5 years ago….there were wolves everywhere I looked back then. Five years on, this is one of their many songs that play in my head often.”
Bob & Jeff played it the next night to a packed house at The Rock House. I tear up everytime I think of it…

On Valentine’s Day I posted a link to “Late to the party” by Kacey Musgraves. “…who needs a crowd when you’re happy at a party for two?”

The Strumbella’s released a catchy tune titled “Spirits” with this line: “I just want to be alive while I’m here…”

Nothing makes me feel more alive than music.

Be. Just BE.

You are what you listen to…

I have an addictive personality. I’ve known it for a long time. One of my grandfather’s died from alcohol poison before my parents had their first date. I’ve put lots of liquor into my body over the years. When I’m in a bar, which isn’t often, I still like a “George Thorogood trio” on occasion. The person behind the bar never knows what I’m talking about until I say “do you know the song ‘one bourbon, one scotch and one beer’?” They always do…or at least they say they do. My reply, as recently as a couple of weeks ago, is “line ’em up.”

But this isn’t about that type of addiction. I’m not gonna go on about marijuana not being a gateway drug, or how insane our drug laws are either. That is for another day. (But it would be nice if those people who want to be inaugurated on 1/20/17 would have a clue about the failed “war on drugs.”)

This isn’t about alcohol or drug addiction. This is about an addiction that I am proud to have.

I am addicted to music. I can’t play an instrument. I can’t sing. I can’t dance. But I can listen. And I can feel.

You are what you listen to meme

I’ve seen a meme or two online that say “you are the music you listen to…” Most of my Facebook status posts, unless I’m chronicling a trip and/or posting photos, have typically been composed of three components: (1) an “editorial comment”; (2) a copy&paste of some lyrics; and (3) a link to a youtube video of the subject song. Oftentimes I will also write that the song is “on repeat.”

Sometimes I’ll listen to the same song over-and-over-and-over-again. I’ll do the same thing with some albums. I’m not just addicted to music. I get addicted to certain songs. It’s been like this for as long as I can remember, but my addiction does seem to have gotten better since I moved back to Missouri in 2011.

Note: I did NOT say about my addiction “it does seem to have gotten worse.” I’m thinking that this addiction to music in general, and to having songs “on repeat” in particular, has been a very good thing…for me anyway. Maybe not so-much-so for Shelly, or for the people in the apartments surrounding ours. To the latter I say “sorry…not sorry.”

The majority of the songs that I put “on repeat” are ones that have lyrics that say something to me….but not always. Some of the repeated songs are “personal”….i.e. the lyrics really hit home; some are political…some are not even remotely political; some lyrics are “deep”…some are a bit sappy; some are NOT in the least bit personal…i.e., the lyrics have no relationship to my past or present.

If the “you are what you listen to” meme has more than a grain of truth, then my repeat tunes must really say something about who I am. Or maybe not? You tell me.
I listen to lots of music that has been ripped to my laptop, listening on a little set of Logitech speakers. I have a saved setlist called “2015 repeats.” These 25 songs were released in 2015 and are ones that I have had “on repeat.”

In the spirit of “Desert Island Discs” I have picked only 10 of those 25 repeat tunes, and include the name of the tune, the artist, the album, select lyrics, and {comments} which will be set off in those squiggly brackets. At the end of this document, there is a link to each a version of each of these 10 on youtube.
“Things happen” by Dawes; from “All your favorite bands”

“I could go on talking
Or I could stop
Wring out each memory til I get every drop
Sift through the details…

…Let’s make a list of all the things the world has put you through
Let’s raise a glass to all the people you’re not speaking to
I don’t know what else you wanted me to say to you
Things happen
That’s all they ever do..”

{The title of this song is the title of my blog. If this song was NOT one of my repeats, that wouldn’t make much sense, eh? Things happen, but that is song not being here would be ridiculous…}
“I can’t think about it now” by Dawes; from “All your favorite bands”

“All these backward glances putting me in danger
Of forgetting how to turn myself around
It’s just that time just keeps on slipping through my fingers
But I can’t think about it now…”

{That’s the tagline of my blog. Why is this song on my repeat list? I can’t think about that now…duh.}
“Take a picture of this” by Don Henley; from “Cass County”

“The years went rushing by, in the twinkling of an eye, we rolled with the changes.
Our life we knew was gone…
…Yeah that’s a suitcase; yeah that’s a ticket for a plane
There’s no one here to talk to, no reason to remain…
…Take a picture of this, this is me leaving
Take a picture of this, this is me walking away…”

{2011 didn’t play out eactly that way, but other years did…I’ve got the pictures to prove it.}
“Praying for rain” by Don Henley; from “Cass County”

“Some people pray for victory
Some people pray for peace
Some people pray for extra time
Some pray for sweet release
Some pray for health and happiness
For riches and renown
But none of this will matter much
If the waters don’t come down
I’m prayin’ for rain…”

{I’ve had several chances to see The Eagles. I always passed. I’ve never had a chance to see Don Henley solo. I’d never pass on that…}
“When you’re smiling and astride me” by Father John Misty; from “I love you, Honeybear”

“I’ll never try to change you
As if I could, and if I were to, what’s the part that I’d miss most?
When you’re smiling and astride me
I can hardly believe I’ve found you and I’m terrified by that…”

{Shelly and I have shared a smile while this song was playing; and repeating. Sometimes while vertical; sometimes while horizontal.}
“I’m not gonna miss you” by Glenn Campbell; from “I’ll be me”

“You’re the last person I will love
You’re the last face I will recall
And best of all, I’m not gonna miss you…”

{One evening, after visiting my Aunt Billie earlier that day, I saw “I’ll be me” for the first time. It’s a great movie about a great guitar player…and more. I miss my Aunt Billie. I miss being able to laugh with her.}
“Nobody really cares if you go to the party” by Courtney Barnett; from “Sometimes I sit and think, and
sometimes I just sit”

“…I wanna go out but I wanna stay home…”

{Succinct. And this sentiment falls under “things happen.”}
“Late to the party” by Kacey Musgraves; from “Pageant material”

“And who needs a crowd when you’re happy at a party for two?
The world can wait
Cause I’m never late to the party if I’m late to the party with you”

{Nobody really cares if you go to the party. Especially if you have your own. 😉 }
“Biscuits” by Kacey Musgraves; from “Pageant material”

“Mend your own fences and own your own crazy
Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy”

{I developed a taste for biscuits and gravy after leaving Floriduh in 2011, when the only crazy I had to own was just my own. Go figure….}
“Die fun” by Kacey Musgraves; from “Pageant material”

“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
We might as well
Cause we don’t know when it’s done
So let’s love hard,
Let’s stay young
Let’s love hard, live fast, die fun..”

{I now have another mantra. I’ve tried to live Alfred E. Neuman’s “what, me worry?” since I was a kid. I’ve been trying to enjoy every bite of every sandwich since I saw Warren Zevon’s last appearance on Letterman on October 30, 2002. Then of course there has always been “Sex, drugs and rock-and-roll.” Now I’ll add “love hard, live fast, die fun..”}
That’s the 10 songs released in 2015 that I have listened to the most. If “you are what you listen to,” what does it say about me? (Maybe it says that living in the midwest again has turned me into a bit of country music fan, or at least a Kacey Musgraves fan, and an even bigger Don Henley fan…)

Other artists with 2015 releases that didn’t make the cut of my Top 10, but who were (and still are) on repeat:
Florence and the Machine
Leon Bridges
Mark Knofler (an oldie with a new release)
Nathaniel Rateliff and The Nightsweats
Van Morrison (ok…so that’s another oldie….but “The Essential Van Morrison” was released in 2015. And there is LOTS of essential music on that double album!!)

Trifecta Tuesday: 2/9/16

Yesterday was a True Trifecta: (1) a life event; (2) a first time tune; and, (3) a song “on repeat.”

Back when I was working guy, I remember that there were these things called “life events” from an HR perspective. And probably all of us have seen a “life stress test” or two. Their separate lists have some things in common: marriage, divorce, birth, death.

Tuesday’s Life Event was the most joyous item from the above list: the birth of Shelly’s sixth grandchild. Eric, her youngest, and his partner Ashton became parents of a baby girl early yesterday afternoon. Jacob will be one heckuva big brother to Emilia Rose. This little angel is an adorable addition to a wonderful, young family.Emelia Rose

Shelly and Jacob, who both played hooky on Tuesday, headed to the hospital mid-afternoon to see Emilia and her proud parents. I stayed behind…two is company, three’s a crowd…and put on a couple of CDs that I had just checked out from the library. I’m not doing very well with a couple of my “pledges” for 2016 (exercise?! Yuck….), but I am doing very well at one of them: listening to new (to me) CDs.

I was in the process of sending Jib Jab cards to Eric and Ashton, when a song off a new CD caught my attention. I had never listened to any of the songs on Kacey Musgraves’ “Pageant Material” so they were all new to me. I was listening while I jib-jabbed, but it wasn’t until the 9th cut that I really Heard.

I have no idea how my memory is gonna perform in the future, but if it’s anything at all like it is now, epsecially when it comes to First Time Tunes, I expect to remember everything about this latest FTT. It’ll be helped by having this document. I can always re-read this….assuming I don’t forget that this piece even exists. 😉

As with most of my FTTs, it was the lyrics that caught my attention. Specifically it was this line: “…Before we get to heaven, baby let’s give ’em hell…”

I stopped what I was doing and listened to the rest of “Die fun.”

The last line of the song is “We can’t do it over.”

When I heard that, I replied out loud (to an empty apartment): “This…is one thing that I can do over!”

I pressed the repeat button on my CD changer.

I stood in front of our glass sliding doors, with the sun beating down, gazing at the courtyard…and thinking about life and life events.

Repeat. Then another time. And again.
I’m sure I’m not the only person who puts songs, or at times an entire album, on repeat. Over the years I’ve had a looooong list of songs (and albums) that I listen to over-and-over-and-over-again.

The majority of the songs that I put “on repeat” are ones that have lyrics that say something to me…

I imagine that sometimes it gets on people’s nerves when I put a song “on repeat.” And I’m sure it can be annoying if i’m singing along. Too bad. By about the 10th time that I had listened to “Die Fun” yesterday, I still hadn’t had enough. I subjected Shelly to “Die fun” when she got home. Fortunately, she is very tolerant of most of my behaviors…and is more aware of my “on repeat” songs than anyone.

For an incorrigible adolescent like me, the beginning of my my new FTT is perfect: “Do we really have to grow up, if we never do then so what?”

So is this line: “They say it’s now or never and all we’re ever gettin’ is older…”

Compared to the alternative, getting’ older is a great gig. But that does NOT mean that I have to grow up! Being “an adult” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be….

The refrain to this song says it all: “…We don’t know when it’s done, So let’s love hard, Let’s stay young, Let’s love hard, live fast, die fun…”

There are lots of things that “we can’t do over.” But for now I can put this song on repeat, I can smile at the thought of Emelia Rose, I can get warm standing in front of the plate glass windows, I can think about life and life events, and I can love hard, live fast and die fun.