The last few days have been a walk down my musical memory lane, back to a time when it was more lonely and painfully quiet. I got by listening to Neko, Hayes, Lindell, and Anders. Things seemed like they would never get better and then it all changed about the time I heard “She Left Me for Jesus.” I figured out that being alone is only hard when you’re not sure of who you are. Once I realized that and accepted who I was, you stepped into my life. It was something at first, the music being a connection, the 80s have that effect on people, I suppose. I overplayed my hand thinking you’d think me cool for listening to Ben Harper…I do still like him…but I don’t think you ever really did. In the end, it’s all worked out. Thank goodness.

Coronavirus has everything going crazy. It’s bad and there is no but to it. In addition to the health consequences we are facing, the economic impact will be harsh. Let’s hope that each person does his/her/their part to curb the spread of the virus. And then, let’s hope that businesses, banks, landlords, and whoever else needs money can do their part to help the economy recover. Wouldn’t it be great if this was not politicized, monetized, self-aggrandized, and manipulated so that only a few make out on the deal. Getting people to wash their hands will be easier.

Remember when age was supposed to be full of wisdom. The idea that life experiences help people make wise decisions has been accepted throughout history. Tonight another old and supposedly wise person started shooting rockets into the sky. He was avenging the death of his boy at the hands of another country. The trigger happy leader will cost many people their lives, just the same as the equally egotistical leader who started the mess by ordering the initial hit. Anymore wars are eternal pissing contests that never end. When will people learn that ego exposes their worst? I’m guessing never.

Here goes again, the phone is off this time and I’m trying to write about the meaning of music as a life force, my son, and how a YouTube channel took advantage of my liquored up ways.

First, my son has a belief, as any decent musician might, that music and its rhythms are the truest embodiment of time and it serves as a life-force like no other. I suppose his idea could be debated, but I have little in the way of conflicting evidence, mostly because I just appreciate theories, unless of course, they serve to oppress people. I have no time for that. I’m willing to go along with my son’s idea since at every stressful turn in my life music has been there to comfort my ragged ass.

Insert: Hornsby, Neko Case, Wilco, Clapton, you see what I mean…

Truth is, I turn to music as therapy. Once, I tried to “make” music, but I quickly found that my understanding of the whole thing is not even on a scale of whatever it takes to make music. I would rather be inspired by the sounds that others make, taking their energy to my heart, to my soul, to my limbic brains, and doing with their output whatever the vibe provides.

I think that is my natural way.

After spending a morning with my son and debating whether music is life, I played devil’s advocate and claimed exercise (and physicality) as the true expression of who we are, I happened upon magic elixirs from Kentucky and Mexico. The spinning effects of hydration brought me to Flowstate just after my first time with “Playing for Change” on YouTube. It was crazy.

I’m a big Keb Mo’ fan and the sight of him playing in a video with a bunch of international musicians took me to another place. I was lost in the recuperation from marital discord and the more than balancing reverberation that was finding true love. I thought of all those nights when “Muddy Water” would allow me to sleep soundly in a downtrodden apartment wondering WTF was happening to my life only to awake to STP and the hope that I would get back to a “Wicked Garden” before I became the old guy at the bar.

I did!

Now, as I sit under the influence and free of the trappings of responsibility listening to a new artist, Twanguero, I am again feeling the weight of life. This time it is not heavy. It is content in a way that is motivational, emotional, and enriching. Seeing Keb and all those others singing “standards” took me somewhere I have not been in a long time.

To a rawness…
To vulnerability…
Just out there.

And it felt good. It’s so important to let go, to let the guard down, to just be. This day, with its heavy thinking, its distracting hydration, and its infusion of the life-force that music may or may not provide (running does the same thing, Kyle…) has been a welcome influence on this soul.

Enjoy!

Last night, a friend of mine called me a POX which is different from a COX in terms of anatomical references and existential ownership of pride and masculine adolescent judgments. I could not accept the put down, sorry hash taggers, my ego does not accept that kind of ridicule and instead of tweeting, suing, or going to some dreary chain coffee shop and crying into a latte, I maturely came back at him with a, “Your Mom,” and set out on a plan to prove him I can be every bit of COX.

I woke to temperatures that were hovering around two-degrees, which is nothing to brag about since it was way worse than that further north. Still, though, I had never run in temperatures below the teens. Today would be different, I ran, on a gimpy calf dang-it, and alone at that. I listened to my leg, wondered about my breath freeze, and even managed to smile a couple of times. It wasn’t too bad and since there wasn’t a wind, I never worried about frostbite.

As I finished the run, I could tell something is different with me. It’s those uncommon thoughts that I’ve been saturated by lately. Getting out there and being in the game and actually living has allowed me to be a COX and not a POX. Sure there is a little stupidity in running under the weather and physical conditions I’m living with right now, but it sure felt good to be called foolish by those who have motivated me to get off my duff and stick with running. After all, what’s a COX without balls? In this group, that would be a fitness eunuch, I suppose. Perhaps, ePOX would be appropriate there.

This month I’ve been exploring my relationship to apathy. I suppose I do care about a lot of stuff, more so than I thought, anyway. My grumpiness about things annoying are probably not about apathy, maybe more like boredom or insecurity. I don’t know which yet, but that’s what 2019 is all about, finding an understanding about the inner workings of this COX, the potential therein, and the journey of reclaiming a soul.

Alright, it was just a run in really cold air. Nothing too enlightening… Or was it?…

Hey, Tattoo Buddha, I got my run in. Meow…

2018

Thank you to everyone who stopped by this my this year. The bulk of the posts went to a group of unhappy characters in the fictional town of Taylorville as I attempted to complete a challenge from my daughter to write a verse novel with one post each day. I ended up with 365-poems, but I didn’t follow her rules all of the time. I’m betting she didn’t follow all of my rules through the years either…

I also published a verse novel called, “Mothers Forever.” The process of self-publishing a book was exciting and frustrating. You can find the book at all of the online retailers, so buy a copy for yourself, buy a copy for your family members, and buy lots of copies for your friends… So ends the shameless plug…

There were more visitors to the blog than ever before. Hopefully, the posts were entertaining. Again, thank you for stopping by.

2019

The new year will be another “themed” year. I’ve been interested in revisiting some of the research skills from my dissertation days and doing a “study.” I’ve given myself informed consent and will be exploring my relationship with apathy, goal commitment, and self-efficacy while setting out to run a couple of marathons and lose a few stubborn pounds. The blog posts will include the normal fare of poetry and photography, but I am also going to write a few non-fiction articles and share the results of my “study” as the year progresses. If all goes to plan, the creative side will enhance the “life hack” side and the year will be a success.

Then again, maybe I shouldn’t have any expectations. They are so limiting.

As always, please comment as you see fit and have a great year!

In my later years of schooling, I became a better student. Part of my maturation was the understanding that it was my responsibility to make learning meaningful. My teachers could not teach me. My coaches did not coach me. My professors were there as guides. It was me who was the learner. I was the one who made all of those people’s lessons important or not.

It wasn’t my parents.
It wasn’t a politician.
It wasn’t my teachers, coaches, or professors, either.

I was the sole determinant as to whether I was going to understand, appreciate, and apply all of the lessons those mentors (less the politicians) put before me. I think I began to understand that near the end of high school. There are bits of my academic life in high school that stand out, but I was too immature and entitled to understand how my inability to make school a priority was something that might hurt me later in life.

And who was there to bail me out?…

Not my parents.

That sounds harsh and it should not. I thank my parents for allowing me to succeed and fail on my own volition. They were never at school when I got bad grades. In their way, they let me know that I would regret not doing better and they could rest assured that they were correct. They were never in a coach’s face (email had not been invented yet) when I didn’t get as much playing time or as much water as I thought I should have gotten. They never compared my placement on a team with any other player, nor sought to rationalize my status on a team with any perceived feelings the coaches might have had about me or my family. They were great that way.

They let me create my successes and helped me celebrate the big stuff.

They also let me feel the pain of my failures and taught me to take personal responsibility for them.

I never made it far as an athlete. I had an average high school career in two sports and an ego-deflating failure in another. It’s funny, but the third, which was my worst, is the only one I still pursue nearly thirty-five years later. Running is more about me being true to myself than anything and I was a terrible runner at seventeen. All these years later, I’ve learned more about patience, commitment, and competition for running that I ever did playing baseball or basketball. Still, though, I got to pitch in a couple of college baseball games and the writing was on the wall…or maybe it was the stitches of the baseballs as they got knocked around the park. I was not an athlete.

That was a hard pill to swallow because so much of my life was wrapped up in sports. Without the lessons my parents gave me about moving on and not spending too much time in a funk, I was able to get on with the business of being the best me that I could become. I’m training for my twelfth marathon, have earned a doctorate in education, published a book of poetry, and most importantly, am one part of a great family.

I’m not in the business of giving advice, okay, maybe I am since I teach and coach, but it is time for us (the adults) to allow students to fail. We have to teach them that they are responsible for their successes and failures. We can guide them through the pitfalls of life, but each of us must face the realities of our experiences with the skills to survive and the dignity to own our station.

Just saying…

I just left the beach where I experienced a margarita (or more) induced nap and I’m sitting on the couch after a cold shower and I can feel the heat of the day leaving my body. A Vornado fan that has served me well for over a year is doing its best to copy the changing winds from the shore. Dessert came first, tonight, a hunk of Rocky Road fudge with LA Women, the whole album blasting through headphones. I’ve got my head back wishing for a dark, dirty honky tonk to put them down and end this perfect day.

Last week, I did a post about my all-time favorite albums. The criteria were simple, I usually listen to the albums start to finish and I like them. This time around, I’m going for my favorite “Greatest Hits” albums. Honestly, I think greatest hits albums are a bit of rip, especially for groups that have them with very little to offer, but I’m a consumer, so I must be gullible. Hopefully, I’m not that way as a voter. I rest with a clear conscience after our last election…

Once again, feel free to share your greatest hits album favorites in the comments. I’ll check them out, but please play nice, I realize there may be limitations to my choices.

1. Chicago IX (Chicago): For me, it’s the summer of ’83 and I’m jamming with the windows open in my bedroom, the smell of boxwood shrubs outside, and a cool breeze coming off the James River before I head to Busch Gardens for work.

2. Crossroads (Eric Clapton): Don’t get snippy with me, it’s my list. I realize this is a box set, but if it had not be for this set, I might not be where I am today. If everything happens for a reason, I was meant to sit in my Philadelphia apartment listening to this for hours as I contemplated moving back to the South. Thank goodness for Sam Goody’s. Anyone for Tennis…

3. Dreams (Allman Brothers): Yada, yada, yada…I get it, you’re not a fan of box sets. See Crossroads… These two sets are my 1990-1991 year. Without them, who knows where I’d be.

4. Legend (Bob Marley and the Wailers): There is more to reggae than Bob, but I bet this album is the one the allowed all the other reggae artists to get paid. You can go wrong with any of the songs on this album and “Three Little Birds” might be my favorite. Many years after a reggae summer, I saw Ziggy Marley in concert. It was cool getting just a hint of the Bob vibe.

5. Eagles Vol. 1 (Eagles): My first album as a fifth grader was Already Gone. It was a gift from my sisterish aunt. The song, “Already Gone,” is one of those anthem songs for me. I think that the Eagles are the first band that I became aware of and this album is full of great songs. [Vol 2 came a little too soon for me. Okay, the more I think about, the more I think it should be on the list. Let’s include it without making it official.]

6. All the Great Hits (Commodores): After taking a rocket fuel ride in a lime green Monte Carlo, circa 1976, with Brick House blasting, I was a Commodores fan. I still wish Lionel Richie has stayed with them, but at least there’s this collection.

7. The Best of Earth, Wind, and Fire Vol. 1 (EWF): Nothing screams middle school like the Commodores and EWF. Where the Commodores faded away, EWF tightly held its grip on me. They are a big part of my second act and I once rode an escalator with one of the guys in the band. It was about twenty minutes before a show at the Borgota and I wasn’t sure, but when I saw him on stage, I knew. The energy of their show is awesome, just be prepared to stand up because everybody knows all the words and everyone wants to dance.

8. Greatest Hits 1974-78 (Steve Miller Band): All of my friends in high school had trucks. They were very different than the one I drive now as they only had the one bench seat. We would cram three or four into the cab and head down the road. All of my friends also had this album on cassette. We listened to it a lot. Thank goodness it’s a keeper.

So there you have it, eight greatest hits albums that left a lasting impression somewhere within my musical soul.

Oh, no, I forgot “Hooligans,” by The Who… It’s got to be on there somewhere…