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.

Memory Quilt: Part 2 of ?

Up next: the Andersen years in PDX.

AA &Co. doors (1982)

In May, 1982 I started in the tax division of the Portland, Orygun office of Arthur Anderson & Co. It was the biggest of the then “Big 8.” AA&Co. was born in 1913 and expired on August 31, 2002 after being convicted of obstruction of justice for shredding documents related to its audit of Enron.

I was 33 years old in May of ’82 with a “post-bacc” in accounting from Oregon State University.
The “typical” AA&Co. hire was fresh out of college, 22 years old and starting in the audit division, or just out of law school or a Masters of Tax program and assigned to the tax division.
I was older. My course of study was non-traditional.
And my overall GPA, including my 3 years at a junior college where I amassed a 2.3, was not up to snuff by AA&Co. standards. Not to mention that before campus interviews in the fall of 1981 I didn’t own a suit or tie, had shoulder length hair, a scraggly beard, wore mostly denim and tie died tees. And even though I had “slowed down” I still drank lots of homemade wine, and smoked lots of dope.

I wasn’t an officer in Beta Alpha Psi or Alpha Kappa Psi. I wasn’t even a member.
People at the school of business and in the career center were shocked when they saw my name on the sign up sheet for interviews with the public accounting firms.
The shock increased when the word got out that I was one of few to get an house interview with Andersen.
You coulda knocked a lot of people over with a feather when they heard that I had an offer to go straight into tax at AA&Co.
I was one of those shocked and surprised people.
On my TriMet bus rides that May of ’82, after my first few days in the office and after meeting most of the other 50+ people in the tax division and comparing “pedigrees,” the voice in my head was very active:
“What the fuck have you done this time? What the fuck were you thinking?!?”
“Good fucking luck lasting the 2 years you need to be certified!!”
“What exactly does “Marine corps of the Big 8” fucking mean?”

One of the selling points of AA&Co. was the training facility in St. Charles, Illinois. First year tax staff spent a week there attending “Basic Tax.”
“Code and Regs” for each of the 20 of us sitting around a horseshoe formation. Before my first day in the Portland office I had never touched either of them.
It was intense in St. Charles. A room full of lawyers and M.T.’s trying to impress each other….and me wishing I was invisible.
The voice in my head was very active with lots of F-bombs that first week in St. Charles.

A pair of mahogany doors that represented “confidentiality, privacy, security and orderliness” were the entry to every floor of every AA&Co. office worldwide.
I expected that I might be hawking doors sometime soon, after a quick washout, so I bought this tee.

My career at AA&Co. was non-traditional too. I had an affinity for spreadsheets and microcomputers at just the right time.
Somehow I lasted over 14 years at Andersen….seven years in Portland and seven in Sarasota.
Go figure.

Oregon Symphony (1987)

I was promoted to manager on June 1, 2016.
A manager’s primary responsibility: Bill & Collect.
A manager was also responsible for quality control, client relationships, staff development, tax technical expertise…and NETWORKING (ugh?!?).

Networking meant civic involvement in some shape or form.
In many cases that involvement meant JOINING.
I have never been a joiner. Not then…now now…never. And networking ain’t ever been my thing either.
However none of the above responsibilities were optional.

The office had a list of “opportunities” for new managers.
Often these were targeted, e.g. “we’d like to develop a relationship with the leadership at Wilson Widget, and they are active in ‘fill-in-the-blank’ ”
Or they might be volunteer opportunities for worthy causes.

I picked two worthy causes that sounded good to me, didn’t involve “joining”…and that met my responsibility requirement for the rest of time in PDX: Junior Achievement and the Oregon Symphony.

1. JA got me out of the office for 4 hours a week during office hours. There were 20+ other corporate volunteers. We were assigned to a school, where we would work with a teacher and their class to develop a business plan for a product chosen by the students. It included selling the product and producing financial statements.
There was a competition between the 20+ volunteers, based on net profit generated.
My JA experience is mostly a blur.

2. I was a “fund raiser” for the Oregon Symphony.
Each year I was given a list of previous donors and targets. My task was to call everyone on the list and ask for money.
I was also expected to come up with some $$ from people who weren’t on the list.
I exceeded my goal both years.
I got tickets to the symphony.
I saw Yo-yo Ma and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.

And I got this nifty tee.


Next time: Andersen days in Sarasota. And kids.

Memory Quilt: Part 1 of ?

Eighteen tees.
Eighteen stories.
Some stories longer than others.
Some of the stories more meaningful than others, as to who I was and who I am.
Thanks to a friend for the idea. Thanks Harry Styron.
Thanks to his law school friend for transforming a bunch of shirts, ages two to fifty-one, into a colorful quilt. Thanks Kathy Tibbits.

Gonna break the telling into thousand word (or less) pieces.
It starts with hoops…

MAJC #1 (1968)

I was 5’10 and 140 pounds my senior year in high school. I changed high schools every year. I never made the basketball team in high school. In fact, the first team that I tried out for and “made” was at Ft. Bragg in 1971. (There is a story there….)
I added 4 inches and 40 pounds the summer after I graduated h.s. and started to come out of my shell.

I could shoot. I had good mechanics and form. I had quick hands. But I was skinny and puny…and an unassertive, introverted wallflower. My introversion resulted in lots of alone time growing up. Just me, a hoop and a basketball. I spent lots of time shooting a basketball all by myself.

At Mineral Area Junior College in Flat River, MO I made friends with a few of the guys on the juco team. I made friends with several local guys who had been good high school players. They put me on their intramural team.
I was not the best player on the intramural team that took the trophy at MAJC. But I was the most improved. I was never a scorer. I was a shooter.
(Note that my alone time after high school…and there was lot of it my first two years of college…added a fourth component: whiskey. Many afternoons I’d slam a few shots and take a couple-of-hundred jump shots on the blacktop court at Emerson Elementary School…where I had attended kindergarten. Over 30 years later I learned that my uncles knew about my jack-and-jumpshots time. )

There wasn’t a 3 point shot then, but in rhythm from 21 feet I could be deadly. And I had become fearless on the court. I liked guarding bigger guys; loved blocking out; liked to bump and bang.

Back “in the day” there was a thing called “town team basketball.” It was more than just a bunch of guys shooting some hoops and drinking beer. There were tournaments. There were sponsors. It was competitive and physical, especially the one held in Bismarck, MO. Lots & lots of bumping and banging.

In the spring of 1968, 7 of the guys who had played on the Mineral Area team the past 2 seasons got a team together. Most of them went on to play at 4 year colleges. I’m not quite sure to this day why they asked me to play on their team. I think they just needed an eighth to make the count even. Plus there was the shooting…. and the 5 hard fouls that I had to give.

I was mostly a practice dummy on the Blake Mattress Company team. But I always got some playing time, even in the finals of the Bismarck tournament. It was a barn-burner….and one of my favorite memories.
A few of the guys I played intramural ball with were in the stands at the finals. Somebody asked them “aren’t all those guys from the college team?”
“Yeah, except for that guy with the ball…”
And right then I buried it. On the next trip too.
I had 4 of our 103 points.
And a heckuva memory.


MAJC #2 (1972)

I was fresh out of the Army. My brother had just finished his two years on the team at MAC. Seven of them got a sponsor and entered the tournament at Bismarck.
Once again I was the only member of the team who hadn’t been on the local juco squad.

That team made it to the finals too. But no first place trophy.   


walkinback (1980)

This tee shirt was a Christmas present. It “commemorated” a trip to Pamelia Lake, in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness of Oregon.
We had hiked to the beautiful lake at the foot of 10,497 foot Mt. Jefferson a few times before. It’s only 2.3 miles from the parking lot to the lake’s shoreline. Elevation gain of about 800 feet.
The hike had always been very pleasant, ending with snacks, weed and wine.

The tee was in remembrance of a cross-country ski experience.
Not all that pleasant for me…on my way in or out.

Four of us on the trek: my ex, and my two friends who had grown up in Wisconsin. Paula and Jim were both naturals on cross-country skis. Kevin was decent. I was horrendous.
None of us remembered from our hikes how much the trail twisted & undulated. Lots of up and downs.
I was down a lot. I have no idea how many times I had to pull myself out of the snow on the way to picturesque Pamelia Lake.

I had a fairly new pair of levis on that day, and every time I fell on my ass I would leave a couple of blue marks in the snow. My friends thought it was funny. I laughed with them, as they laughed at me.
I told them that I only had about a dozen more falls left in me, and after that I would walk back.

They didn’t think I was serious.
If I had it to do over again, I probably wouldn’t have taken my skis off for the last half mile…or at least put them back on after I learned how hard it was to hoof it.
Walking turned out to take even more effort than the falling…staining the snow levis blue…and dragging my clumsy self back to vertical.

But if I had skied back to the parking lot, rather than walking, my friends would never have given me this awesome tee shirt!!

My Musical Epiphany

epiphany [ih-pif-uh-nee] a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience

I could call the conversation in my head in early March a couple of years ago an epiphany. (More on that internal dialogue in a minute….) . In fact, I do call it “My Musical Epiphany.”
The experience and the end result of it were very different from “Epiphany #1.”
This time the experience itself was solitary. It was on a long walk alongside Sinking Creek at Echo Bluff State Park early on a Sunday morning on the last day of an awesome roadtrip. (Our first trip to the Ryman; TTB in concert; found a diner that we loved; discovered and explored Echo Bluff S.P.; just the two of us with no cell service, a fireplace and balcony with a view…and more.)

This time the epiphany didn’t result in me quitting a job and moving cross country like Epiphany #1….but there was a bit of a lifestyle change.
On that fateful stroll in early 2017 I decided that if a show that I wanted to see was playing within 4 hours of me that I’d buy tickets. (On occasions I have exceeded the 240 minute “cap”…)
What happened next is referred to as “Ticket Buying Thursday” in my journal. That afternoon I bought tickets to: Dawes at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa; Joe Jackson at the Uptown Theater in KC; Tom Petty (with Joe Walsh opening) in Little Rock; and The Wheels of Soul Tour (Tedeschi Trucks Band, with Hot Tuna and the Wood Brothers opening) at The Amp in Rogers.
I have seen more shows in the last two years that I did back in the 80’s in Portland…and I saw LOTS of shows “back in the day.”

The Conversation?

Leon Russell.
Roy Orbison.
Death and Dying.
Life and Living.

1. Leon.
Here’s an excerpt of my FB status on 11/13/16:
“As we got in the car to head home from downtown after a stroll thru downtown to walk off breakfast, I heard a teaser on NPR of this song…and I reacted when they cut if off: “I love that song…don’t tease me!!” But I didn’t hear the awful news.
Then we get home and I learn that one of my heroes has died. This hurts.
He was scheduled to be the opening act for the Tedeschi Trucks Band at the first show I’ll ever see at the Ryman. That night next March in Nashville will be bitter sweet.”
{The song I linked to was “A song for you” Goosebumps.}
I get teary every time I think about that November morning.

2. Roy.
In a piece I wrote on here:
“For some reason that I don’t remember, I did NOT go see Roy Orbison at the Schnitzel on October 22, 1998. Roy had made this fantastic come-back. He had dubbed himself “Lefty Wilbury” in the super group The Traveling Wilbury’s. Roy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in 1987. Lefty Wilbury was quoted as saying “It’s very nice to be wanted again, but I still can’t quite believe it.”
I couldn’t believe it when his gig at The Schnitz ended up being one of his last shows. He was dead 40 some days after he left PDX. The man with the magical voice was dead at 52.
The lesson I learned from that: YOLO.”

3. Death and Dying.
We’re all gonna die.

4. Life and Living.
Life is for Living.

I learned the very same thing from My Musical Epiphany as I did from Epiphany #1.
I have to keep re-learning that lesson all the time….

Life is precious. Enjoy every minute you have and enjoy every bite of every sandwich. Tell the people who you love that you love them. And be. Be kind. Be nice.

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.

Crazy thoughts….

…i have them all the time: crazy thoughts.
I’m not alone.
But then again, we all are…

I’ve been thinking about this eclipse hysteria. I’ve had a pair of “shower thoughts” about this craziness.

Today I’m seeing pictures of people flocking to “viewing spots” in mass. I have no idea what and where the largest gathering will be. Some people probably won’t agree on it anyway….facts be damned. For awhile afterwards I’ll know and retain “the answer” long enough to have gotten it right for Jeopardy or Who wants to be a Millionaire.

But I really don’t care.
I’m not that far from “totality.” Not much over 100 miles. Plus I could use it as a reason to head to the Leadbelt to see my 91 year old dad. But I’m heading to Tulsa on Tuesday, and totality is in the wrong direction. Dad and totality are 200 miles east of me; Tulsa is about the same distance…and due west.

Which leads to Crazy Thought #1: what if they miss the path of totality by about 100 miles or so? Or heaven forbid a couple of hundred.
I was responsible for the technology at a niche consulting firm in the years up to and including Y2K. Now I’m not thinking that these 2 events are all that similar. But 1/1/00 was a bit of a bust, eh?

The difference being that if the distance should be off, the science doubters & the climate change deniers & the flat earthers would love it. (Yes there really are beings that appear to be human that spew flat earth lunacy!!! Now THAT is some truly crazy thinking…)

Personally, I expect NASA to nail it…as usual. (Who knows if the “crack meteorologists” will be close re cloud cover, etc?)
I expect to view from here in SW Missouri, basking in 96% totality. That was always an A in any class I ever took. I’ll take that anytime. (In fact, I’m heading in the opposite direction from the totality tomorrow to go with friends on their houseboat, for an adventure and some revelry…)

The second “shower thought” is a bit crazy. So crazy that I would expect Homeland Security to be all over it. (But in the current admistration, all bets are off!!)

Crazy Thought 2: On Monday, August 21 there is a chain of coordinated terrorist attacks at the local time of totality, happening from coast to coast at places where there large gatherings.

When Joseph and I had our conversation at thirty thousand feet, I certainly wasn’t expecting what would happen less than 48 hours later. I’m not expecting anything awful to happen tomorrow.

My Dad often uses the phrase “the times in which we live.” When I was younger it would have been “if the Lord tarries.”
Both phrases are based on his apocalyptic wishes.
I have different views that Dad’s when it comes to “The” Rapture.
I even have my own special version of the rapture….

Heck, I have thoughts far crazier than these two! (Or three, if you toss in the rapture…)

…And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only.”

I most certainly hope that the Eclipse of 2017 turns out to be one big happy traffic jam with not even a single incident of road rage.
One can hope…and enjoy more lyrics from a song from the top of my personal “Eclipse Setlist.”

“Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child’s balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying…”

Be. Just Be.

Roadtrips: 2011 and 2017

I’ve always loved a roadtrip.
I’ve been on more than my share.
There will be more.
I aim to move even farther to the lower right on the bell curve that tallies up road trips.

Our 2017 road trip is only a couple of days away.
I’m expecting to put over 3K on a rental car in a period of 14 days.
We’ll sleep in OK, NM, AZ, CO, and KS.
We’ll see concerts in Albuquerque (Santana) and at Red Rocks (The Avett Brothers).
Shelly will see the Grand Canyon for the first time.
I’ll see parts of Utah and Colorado that I’ve never seen before.
This roadtrip is a vacation for her and a getaway for me.
There will also be a reunion factor as my son is planning to meet us in Denver on 7/9/17. The last time I saw Joseph was 2 years ago. There are stories there….both past and to come. One of my favorites is The Epiphany.

I shudder to think how much I woulda spent on film and processing if I had taken this trip in 1980. (That summer’s first roadtrip took me from Corvallis to Green Bay for a high school reunion. Not mine. I took hundreds of shots on that trip. In the digital age, add a zero.)


This upcoming roadtrip is very different from the one I took 6 years ago.
That one back in 2011 was:
Shorter…at only 1,200 miles.
One-way…from New Tampa, FL to Reeds Spring, MO with short layovers in the Atlanta suburbs and at my folks place in the Leadbelt.
It too was a “getaway” but in a much different sense.
No live music in route.
No pictures.

Six years ago I was traveling alone in a packed car that I bought on eBay. Before I hit the road that last Tuesday of June, 2011, I had shipped about 25 boxes of books, albums, CDs, slides&pictures, and some household good to my sister’s place at Table Rock Lake.
I was down-sizing. Bigly.
I left behind a 3400 square foot house filled with furniture…and “stuff.” I moved only one piece from Tampa: the small rocking chair my parents bought for me when I was a toddler.

My marriage of 37 years had imploded a few months earlier. It was time for us to start new lives.
Before I drove away I wrote one page letters to Paula, Joseph & Caroline. (I re-read the letters every once in awhile. It’s a good thing to do.  I did it again yesterday.)
I didn’t know how long I’d live at my sister’s when I arrived on July the 5th. (After 3 months we couldn’t stand the sight of each other, so I moved to The Abbey…where Shelly and I are about to renew our lease.)
I had no idea how long I’d live in Missouri. I still don’t….


When we hit the road on 6/29/17, we’ll be traveling with a USB drive loaded with literally hundreds of hours of music.
Back in 2011, it was a shoe box full of CDs.

The majority of music we’ll listen to on the trip will be people I’ll be seeing in the second half of 2017 (Shelly will have to miss some of the shows):
Shovels and Rope
The Avett Brothers
Wood Brothers
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Ryan Adams
Jason Isbell
Father John Misty
The Rainmakers
Drive-by Truckers
Band of Horses
Bob Seger

When I left Tampa in 2011, I hadn’t seen live music in years. (No wonder I was not a happy camper….but there was a lot more to it than that!)

Six years has flown by. I have made lots of new friends.
The vast majority of them are music lovers.  Many are musicians.
I fell in love.
My life is good again. I hope yours is too, and that you are traveling the high road.

Be. Be kind. Just Be.


They called her “Rag Woman”

It was a spring day in 1976. A Monday. The first class after lunch. Pre-Algebra. A packed classroom, most of whom didn’t think they had any reason to ever learn or understand math. (I still feel sorry for them. I’d bet that some of them said “do you wanta supersize that” for a looooong time….)

I was finishing up my only stint as a full-time school teacher. Union (Mo) High School. We were living a bit north of there in Washington, with the Missouri River a couple of blocks north of our upstairs apartment, at the foot of the hill.

I had taken advice from a couple of UHS veteran teachers and had assigned seats before the first class, separating a couple of hyper guys from each other. Johnny was in the corner to the right of my desk…front and center. His buddy was back row, left side. Empty chairs near him in all directions.

Johnny usually arrived early so he could spar a bit….verbally that is. He liked to talk. I liked to challenge him.

On that particular Monday, Johnny and his buddy arrived together, whining about the substitute teacher from their study hall earlier that day. She had split the two of them up soon after the bell rang to start the class.
They were looking forward to the regular teacher being back the next day.
On Tuesday, they were really pissed off!
“That Rag Woman is gonna be here for at least two weeks!! Mrs. Smith is in the hospital and we’re stuck with that mean old bag. Nobody that small should be that mean!!”
I just smiled.

When Johnny came into the classroom on Wednesday…always one of the first kids to arrive…always chatty…I asked him about study hall that morning. He groaned.
“She gets meaner every day. The Rag Woman is gonna make me stay after school the rest of the week. She said I was causing a commotion. At least she won’t be in charge of detention.”
I just smiled.
That Thursday very well might have been the day that I heard Gary Wright singing “Dream Weaver” for the first time. That song is one of my “First Time Tunes.”
Every time I hear the tune I flash back to riding in a ’74 Super Beetle, listening to KSHE as my wife of 15 or 16 months drives us to Union High School.

Whether this was that particular day or not, it was the fourth day of her two week assignment…filling in for Mrs. Smith, the Home-Ec teacher.
As we pulled into the faculty parking lot I spotted Johnny getting off the school bus, and I was pretty sure that he saw me riding shotgun in Paula’s little orange bug.
Johnny got to the classroom even earlier than normal that Thursday. “I saw you in the car with that Rag Woman this morning!! Why would you get in a car with that mean old bag?”
“She’s not old Johnny. She’s only 24.”
“And I think she’s pretty nice. I’m married to her. She’s my wife. ”

“No she’s not!! Don’t say that! You don’t have a ring on, and neither does she.”
“You’re right about the rings. But you can be married and not wear a ring.”

“Yeah, but she wrote her name on the blackboard…and she wrote ‘Ms. Rudloff.’ Your name is Weiss. So you’re not married to her. You’re not!”

“Johnny, the ERA has been ratified by over 30 states. Even without it there is no law that says that married people have to use the same last name. When you’re in detention this afternoon ask Coach Denton who I’m married to…but for now get in your seat and take out your home work.”

That Thursday’s Pre-Algebra class was a little more raucous than usual, but it was never all that quiet. I never bought into the old techer’s adage “don’t smile until Christmas” and sometimes I might have paid a price for that.
Johnny expected her to lighten up after he told her that he knew we were married. No such luck. He got sent to detention one more time for making a racket and disrupting the Rag Woman’s study hall before Mrs. Smith returned from her two week absence.

We laughed even more on the ride home that Thursday than we had every other day that week. “Rag Woman” gave us a lot of laughs over the years.

In my mind’s eye I can still see the look on Johnny’s face on that Thursday, as I close my eyes and climb aboard the dream weaver train.

Be. Just BE.

A guy’s gotta dream…part 2

A month or so ago I wrote that I had told Dad my dream of the way he’d pass away. He and I don’t talk about certain things. It’s an unwritten agreement.
One of the things we don’t talk about is what happens when people die. We almost did one time, not that long ago in the grand scheme of things. My Mom had been dead an hour or two, back on 7/1/13. There is a story there. But it’ll have to wait to be told until Dad is gone.

Dad turned 91 a few days ago. I chauffeured him to my sister’s at the lake…a 250 mile drive. The next day it was lunch at his favorite place in Branson, then cake and ice cream back at Paula’s. Today we had breakfast on the southside of town, then it was to the Abbey. I showed Dad and sis the 36 garden boxes. Three of them are mine. I picked a head of iceberg lettuce for him…the first homegrown he’d ever had…and a few onions.  Then on to Doe Run for the two of them.

It was nice to spend time with him; I have lots of “Dad stories.” Some are already written, but nobody will see them until one of us has had a published obituary.
When I wrote about “dying like Leroy Nichols” it was only about the incident itself. In the case of my dream for Dad’s death, I’ve got his entire day planned out. Some of my friends have heard this dream. Shelly has heard it several times. Here goes….

Nothing special. Cereal; a mix with half of the bowl corn flakes and a top layer of “all bran.” I always referred to it as straw. Being regular is very important to my Dad. Some day in the future I’ll be sad that I can’t hear his voice in a sentence that includes the words “my bowels….”
A couple of cookies. Store bought oatmeal ones.
This day there would be a treat: finishing off a can of pears.

Walk down to the creek.
Spot a deer in the woods on the way, and a few fish in the creek. Spend a few minutes checking out the paw-paw tree.
Take a lap of the yard that he mowed yesterday. “The east 40” and “the west forty” to Dad. He mows about an acre and a half of yard, some of it with a push mower.

J. Vernon McGee and “Through the Bible Radio Network” on the radio. Dad has been listening to this on the radio since the early 60’s. The good reverend has a very distinctive voice. He died in 1988. His radio ministry will continue, thanks to people like my Dad who contribute often….including after they die.
Hopefully “the doc” will be in the book of Romans this day. That would be Dad’s favorite.
The lunch menu would include his favorites:
Some braunsweiger on a saltine, with a slice of a sweet onion.
There would be pickles, chips and caffeine free cola.
Desert of a nice bowl of butter pecan ice cream.

A couple of dividend checks in the mail. Neither one worth more than a C note.
A nap. When he would tell me about it later, he would say that he had nodded off for “maybe 15 minutes.” The nap actually was 76 minutes.
A surprise visit by someone from down at the church. They’d stand outside for awhile and talk about how great Dad’s place looked. The garden boxes would get compliments. They’d see some birds and a mother rabbit with 2 little ones.

5:35 pm.
I leave B-307 and head downstairs to rack up some steps in my daily walk-and-talk with Dad. Typical call just over 30 minutes. Dad talks most of it. It’s hard to be sure how much he hears. Some of his responses might just be guesses.
For sure some of mine are. When I’m about to hear a boyhood story of his for the twentieth time, there is a good chance that I go on “auto listen” and toss in an occasional “uh huh.”
Today he’ll have lots of stories and things to talk about.  We’ll both laugh a lot.
After we finish, he’ll eat a snack and watch MASH or Seinfeld or Raymond. He’ll laugh a lot.

6:48 pm.
My sister calls him on her drive from the hospital to the lake. It’s probably a 45 minute drive; worse in season. I hope the call this day is a mix of reminiscing and dreaming and planning a visit.

There is still plenty of light when they finish talking, so Dad decides to take a look around the place.
He likes what he sees. He sees all these things he wants to do. Some of these could involve the use of a ladder. (Fuck Me!!)

As Dad admires his home, he sees a cardinal out of one eye and a fox squirrel out of the other. Dad and I have talked lots and LOTS of basketball over the years. He loves defense, and if I’ve heard this phrase once I’ve heard it 2000 times: “you have to keep one eye on the man and one eye on the ball.”

At that moment, as he admires the cardinal and the squirrel, his heart stops and he collapses onto the lawn. A couple of passing cars witness it and brake hard to get into the driveway. 12 minutes later Dad is dead and on a stretcher.

8:12 pm.
Paula calls. She had just received the notification call that our Dad is gone.

For almost everyone I’d wish for a day and a death like this.
The last day: doing things they enjoy.
The death: dying quickly and painlessly.

Be. Just BE. And don’t be stingy with the hugs!!