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 3/25/18 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.

Thinking about firsts….part 2

I wrote about 7 “firsts” a year ago. Some fond memories there.

Only one First this time. A sound.
A sound that is unmistakeable, and not just the first time it’s heard.
It’s the power. All that power. The sound of an ocean is a beautiful sound.
The first time I heard it was almost 47 years ago.

I had been at Ft. Bragg only a few weeks. I didn’t know the guy with the brand new Firebird all that well. Or the fellow riding shotgun. Dave and Dale, respectively.
The former a sergeant, back from Vietnam and with some high level security clearance job. Dave was a classic southern gentleman.
The latter a short timer; an E-2 who had been busted a few times. Dale was a classic bay area hippie.
Each of us had our own preferred drug: beer for Dave; weed for me; hallucinogens for Dale. We all enjoyed sharing; Dave was generous with his hash.
Some of the details of the trip are quite foggy. That woulda been the case days later, but some of the details seems like it was yesterday.

January 1, 1971 was on a Friday. It was just about 500 miles from the JFK Center for Military Intelligence to Daytona, Beach. An easy 10 hours if you can’t hit the road until after 5 on New Year’s Eve, and if you wanta make some stops along the way for refreshments and to feed your head. Just over 7 hours if you drive it with purpose, which we did on the return trip.

The three us welcomed the new year somewhere on I-95 in south Georgia. We made it to hotel row in Daytona Beach at about 3 in the morning that 1/1/71.
No reservations. The trip had been relatively impromptu after all.

Dave went in alone to secure a double room, not that there would be all that much sleeping in the 60 hours or so that we’d be in town.
Dave had this authoritative presence, so we expected securing a room to be a snap. He was a responsible driver too, all things considered.

After Dave had been rebuffed a few times (in spite of his smile and charm), we set a rendezvous time and place at 6 am at a Denny’s.
He continued the quest for a room, with Dale passed out in the back seat.
I headed to see an ocean for the very first time.
It was dark as I approached the Atlantic for the first time. At 22 and fresh out of Basic Training, 800 miles away from home…I was finally going to see an ocean!!

I heard it before I saw it.
I could discern the movement of the waves before I saw it.That sound was awesome….and awe inspiring.
It still is.
I can just sit and listen to it. Morning, noon or night. Anytime. Any place. Any weather.
Listen. Just listen to the power.

JMC called it…

I can hear John Crudele’s voice in my head like it was yesterday, but it was almost 20 years ago. Cancer took away JMC, his wisdom and his perfect answers over 3 years ago. But I’m pretty sure that if could ask him the very same question today, that there would only be a slight tweak to the answer.

My friend and mentor was my boss at the Lake Oswego, Orygun niche consulting firm where I worked from ’96 to ’00. Most of our work time together took place on the phone, since he lived in Nashville at the time.
In spring of 1998 I was getting ready to head to the project team site for a 2 day visit. The consultants were doing their magic at Hill crest Medical Center in Tulsa.

My background statement and my 4 word question: “I can’t remember the last time I was in Tulsa….if it ever was….if so, it was a long time ago. So what’s Tulsa like?”

John then: “It looks like it was hit by a neutron bomb.”
John’s 2017 answer: “It still looks like it was hit by a neutron bomb! There are lots of nice looking buildings and some beautiful churches…but all the people have been vaporized.”
I landed at the Tulsa airport on the last flight into town that evening in ’98. There were very few cars on the highway as the cab took me to my downtown hotel. The cabby said it as normal traffic.

Two days later I asked the project manager what time I should have a cab pick me, and before I could finish my question he said “20 minutes.”
“But I didn’t tell you the time of my flight…”
“It doesn’t matter what time of day or what day of the week…it will take 20 minutes!”
On any list you get via a Google search Tulsa is in the top 50 US cities based on population. Wikipedia has the city as #47. Ahead of New Orleans, Wichita, Tampa and St. Louis to name just a few.  (There is traffic in all those towns….)
I just spent three days and 2 nights in Tulsa. I enjoyed 2 great shows at Cain’s Ballroom and chatted with lots of nice folks.
But the town has the deadest streets I have ever seen in my life. Heck, the picture hanging in my hotel room even shows empty streets!

As usual, JMC described it perfectly and succinctly: Tulsa looks like it was hit by a neutron bomb.

NOTE:  these pictures were taken between 2 and 3 pm on a Wednesday.

He still calls me Willie

I had a walk-and-talk with an Army buddy one day last week. Tim is not the only person who ever called me Willie. He was one of several guys at Ft. Bragg that laid that one on me because of a basketball player named Willie Wise.

Shelly and I spent a night in Wooster, OH with Tim and Mary on our roadtrip in 2013. That was the first time I had seen them in over 41 years.

We hung out together a lot in the 14 months or so that Tim and I were stationed together at the JFK Center for Military Intelligence. We made a number of road trips from NC to OH in a little over a year. At least 7 trips. It was 8 or 9 hours each way. Tim&Mary had just started dating, and going with him to Wooster, OH was great fun for all of us. We didn’t get a lot of sleep.

Tim and I made a number of trips to Myrtle Beach too. Didn’t sleep much then either…

There are lots of stories from those days. These are my two favorites. For very different reasons. Only the first one has cost me any time sleeping….

On one of our first trips to Ohio, we went to a club in the town where Tim went to college. The James Gang had played there often 4 or 5 years earlier.
Earlier that day Tim and I walked around the campus of his alma mater. He had graduated less than a year before our visit. (Joe Walsh only lasted one semester on campus; a few years earlier.)
Tim took me to the campus radio station where he spent four years on staff. He has one helluva radio voice!!
We walked around the Commons, past Taylor Hall and then to Prentice Hall. I knelt on the spot where Mary Ann Vecchio was photographed over the body of Jeffrey Miller 12 months earlier.
No amount of booze that evening in 1971, or all the elapsed days since, can erase the memory of Tim standing 265 feet away from where I knelt on the Kent State University campus. That’s how far the bullet traveled that killed Jeffrey Miller.

It hurts to think about what happened on 5/4/70, but I’ll never forgot that walk and that spot. Years later, walking around Dealy Plaza in Dallas where JFK was shot, I had the very same reaction: “it’s such a small place!”

Until we visited Tim&Mary’s in 2013 I had blotted out the key element of my other favorite story with Tim. This happened at Ft. Bragg.

I remember it being in the wee hours.
I remember Tim sitting on the floor in the hall in the barracks as we talked.
I remember telling him that if he said something one more time that I would pour my beer over his head.
I remember Tim needing a towel after I doused him.
I remember him drying off and laughing it off.
But I didn’t remember what it was that I had told him to stop saying.

That early September evening in 2013, with Shelly and Tim sitting at the table and with me pacing around the dining room and kitchen, he said “will you stop that pacing? At least you don’t have a beer to pour over my head tonight.”
Eureka!! He had asked me to stop pacing repeatedly, and had been rewarded with a cold beer shampoo…

I am a notorious pacer. I can’t sit still for very long, especially if I’ve got a buzz on. And that night at the PSYOPs barracks, I’m sure I was wired, wound up and pacing.

I’m glad Tim has a good sense of humor.
I’m glad that he’s my friend all these years later.
And I’m especially glad that Shelly tolerates my pacing…especially when we’re at a venue listening to music and I “vanish.”

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.


“We’re all gonna die….”

On Saturday, March 18, 2017 I spent a few hours at the viewing for my late Uncle Joe, dead too soon at only 77. He survived the “widow maker heart attack” (which has a 90% kill rate) for about 30 years. It took three decades for a complete closure of the left anterior descending coronary artery to kill him. Still not long enough…

To attend the viewing, I did an “over-and-back” to the county where my Mom’s family has lived almost their entire lives. If it wasn’t for the military in the case of her three brothers, she would’ve been the only member of her immediate family to ever receive mail someplace other than St. Francois county, MO.

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Indonesia….when will I be free?

I have this thing about song lyrics. That is not new news.

Sometimes I love a song when it’s lyrics could’ve been mine, especially if I had any writing talent. Sometimes I love the lyrics of a song when the lyrics are 180 degrees away from where I am, or where I’ve ever been.

And then there are songs like “Indonesia” by Amos Lee. It’s a little of both.

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