A to Z Theme 2016

For my 2016 A to Z theme I used a meme that I ran across on the blog of Bridget Straub who first saw it on the blog of Paula Acton. This meme is a natural for me to use on my memoir blog. It's an A to Z concept and it's about me. No research and nothing complicated. I'm given twenty six questions or topics to discuss that are about me.

In April I kept my posts short and uncomplicated. In the midst of it all you might learn a few things about me that you didn't previously know.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Yard Work I Never Had to Do

         It's time for the leaves to change though here in California you wouldn't notice much.

English: Roller at Cockington A lawn roller le...
 Roller at Cockington A lawn roller leans against an oak tree at the side of 49773. Keywords: Cockington Court, autumn leaves (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

        In my lifetime I've put many a mile behind me while pushing a lawnmower.  We had a huge lawn when we lived in Tennessee and since I was a teenager when we moved there, the job of mowing that lawn fell upon me.   After I moved away from home my parents bought a riding lawnmower, but I guess they figured that since I was young and healthy I would be just fine pushing a lawnmower for a few hours on a hot summer day.   That story changed when they didn't have me to push the mower.  I'm not sure why my younger brothers didn't have to push a mower, but apparently my father ended up mowing much of the time and that was enough to inspire him to buy a riding mower.

          One job that I never had to do was rake leaves.  There weren't any leaves back then in the late sixties and early seventies when I was living there.  In the years after I moved away the trees in the yard grew bigger.  Hence in fall there were leaves on the ground and somebody must have had to rake them up.   Since I've rarely been in Tennessee during the fall since I left my parents' house, I haven't seen much in the way of fallen leaves.

            That is until late fall of 2014 after my mother died.   I stayed at my mother's house for a while in order to help get affairs settled.  As a matter of fact I was there nearly a month in November and December.  Since the young man who cut grass during the summer when the grass was growing didn't come during the winter, someone need to rake up the leaves that had accumulated in the yard. There was a leaf blower at the house, but I couldn't get it to work.  So I found a rake and began raking.  In that large yard raking was a formidable task.

             I raked once while I was there and because it was so late in fall and there were no more leaves in the trees to fall onto the ground, that was the one and only time I had to rake.  Raking was easier than pushing the mower on a hot day.  Still I'm glad that I didn't have to do any raking back then.  I would have done it if I had been given the chore, but thankfully the chore didn't exist when I lived there.

            Let's face it--I'm not a fan of yard work.  Even now I have somebody come over to cut my lawn where I live now.  Not that it's a big job--our lawn is about the same size as our living room and that's not especially big.  Our lawn guy has a blower and all the other lawn care tools to keep a well-manicured lawn for us.   I don't need to buy tools or exert any effort.   A few bucks twice a month is worth it to me.

            Mowing the lawn when I lived with my parents was fine.  It not only didn't kill me, it was also good exercise and a time to escape into my own mind while I walked in circles for a few hours.  Mowing was my job after all.   Raking leaves was the yard work I never had to do.

            What kinds of household chores did you have to do when you were younger?  Do you currently have a yard that you keep up yourself?     Have you ever jumped into a pile of leaves?


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Of Footballs and Falling Leaves

Front of a yellow school bus.
Front of a yellow school bus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

        After summer is abruptly interrupted by the start of another school year, an almost imperceptible change occurs as students go to classes and daylight hours grow too short for lingering outside.   Besides, there is homework to be done and the new television season to sample.  Tree leaves turn from green to a myriad splash of yellows, reds, oranges, and eventually, brown.  Another summer gone as fall signals the end of another year.

         But first comes football season.   As in small towns all across America, Everett High School in Maryville, Tennessee is all about football.   The cheerleaders lead the student body in pep rallies during home room period.  It's all about the game on Friday night for most of the students.  Well, except for the non-sports-minded students like me.  I never got into football or any sports for that matter.  It just wasn't my thing.

          My sister thought that I should go to the games and become more involved.  Maybe find a girlfriend.  I would have liked that too, but going to the football game didn't seem like the way that I would have wanted to do it.

          When we hear that there is an away game scheduled in Cleveland, Tennessee some 80 miles away, I figure maybe this would be a time to go to a game.  I've got a friend living in Cleveland whom I can meet up with.  I call to make arrangements to meet up with him.  He's glad to hear this and so am I.  Secretly I'm hoping to see a girl who I had met over the summer when I stayed in Cleveland for a couple of weeks with my friend.

           On the Friday of the game, my sister and I are dropped off at the school by my mother in order to join the others who will be taking the bus ride to Cleveland.   It's one of the yellow school buses that take students to and from school every day.  Now a caravan of yellow buses will be taking a small army of Everett High students to the rival team's field.

          There's not much I can remember about the night other than I met up with my friend.  There was a crispness in the air with a faint smell of burning leaves wafting about.  An enticing aroma of popcorn and hot dogs emanated from  the refreshment stand.  We get snacks and hang out around the bleachers.  I hardly watch the game and neither does my friend since like me he doesn't seem to be much into football.  Maybe that's why we feel a kinship.  After the game we said our good-byes and parted ways.

        It's a lonely bus ride home.  I don't really have any friends who have gone to the game.  I sit by the window gazing out at the darkened landscape passing by.  I didn't see the girl I had hoped I would see at the game.  And truth be told I hadn't really expected to see her.  She probably had no idea that she'd even met me back in the summer.

        My mind starts wandering as I wish I had a girl to sit with on the bus ride home.  As I often do when I'm lost in my own thoughts, I begin composing a song in my head and my imaginary voice begins to sing,  "It's so lonely in the back of the bus."  That's the only line in the song for now but I sing it over and over in my head.  Not a bad song I think to myself.

          I don't remember much more about that night except that song which I can still sing those repeated lines, "It's so lonely in the back of the bus...It's so lonely in the back of the bus."  In fact that's the only football game I remember going to.  Never a home game.  No more football games after that.

         Did you go to the sporting events at your school?   Did you ever ride the bus to the away games?    What is your favorite fall high school memory?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

School Days

English: A pic i took during my last days at s...
A pic i took during my last days at school (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

         When September comes I invariably think about school.  It's not just the store back-to-school specials or seeing the kids hitting the sidewalks with their backpacks or even my teacher wife returning to work after her summer vacation.   After all I spent a goodly part of my first 18 years attending school.  The cycle of years has ingrained that innate sense of the school season arriving.

         Now September seems to fly faster than I can grasp, like a playground merry-go-round that is revolving in child time leaving an older less agile me unable to jump onto it.   These days I am more content to watch the darn thing spinning than actually ride.  Still, ride I do.   My mind and body feel slower but the time keeps getting ahead of me just dragging me along with it.

          But when I was a child and then later a teen, September seemed like a thousand months.  At least while the month was passing.    There was so much to do and so much to absorb.  New faces in the classroom, some who might become friends.   New teachers and new curricula.  Homework and tests.  In high school there were the football games that I never attended but was well aware were going on because everyone else seemed interested and the evidence was everywhere in the hallways and around the campus.    Days grew shorter and nights became cooler.

           Soon September was over and I had adapted into the routine of another school year.  With the arrival of fall came the burst of color of the turning leaves.   November was on its way and that heralded the coming of Christmas with another long vacation.   Still, before we allow October to get away there is one more thing that was especially important in my life during grade school...

            Halloween was coming!

            And now with September nearly gone, once again I'm about to arrive at October.  This year, as in the past seven years, Halloween doesn't mean that much to me.  Oh sure, there are the advertisements about seasonal costume shops popping up here and there.   There are the special candy displays in the stores.   I've been seeing Halloween decorations in various yards and business establishments.  None of it matters now--not like it once did...

...to be continued

           Do you still associate September with the start of school?    What was your favorite time of  the school season?    How involved were you in school activities?

Saturday, September 17, 2016

January 23-30, 1978 (Soundtrack of My Life)

       It's often said that life is strange, but compared to what?

Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory (1931...
Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory (1931), Museum of Modern Art (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

       Time can be a very precise measurement of the present, but it is often inaccurate when looking at the past.   Memories can meld together or get placed out of chronological order.  The memory can be an unreliable narrator regarding past events as it conveniently discards the unpleasant while exaggerating the importance of relatively insignificant events.   In the following post I question my memory in regards to a song that is among my favorites.

         In this post I offer another in my Soundtrack of My Life series. Robin at Your Daily Dose has been doing the Soundtrack of my Life posts on her blog for a while now. I had done a few of my own "life soundtracks" on my Tossing It Out blog as well as the song series (starting at this post) I did for my 2014 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge on Wrote By Rote. Be sure to visit and follow Your Daily Dose for more Life Soundtrack info. For my current back to the past post, I'm using the song "January 23-30, 1978" by Steve Forbert as my inspiration. If you like you can listen as you read the story that follows...

"January 23-30, 1978"

          What seems to be a somewhat odd title for a song actually is a time period described by the narrator of a song story by Steve Forbert.   While this date range can fit easily into my own life, there is no special significance to my knowledge that would be applicable in my personal history.  During that January week in 1978 I was getting ready to set out on tour with The World of Fantasy Players with my wife and our six month old baby.  I would have celebrated my birthday sometime that week since it comes on January 30th, but I can't recall any special thing that happened in connection with that event.

         But it's not anything about the song title that impacts me--it's the content of the lyrics, the events Forbert describes.   This song seems so akin to my own life experience that the story told within those lyrics touches the heart of my memory and reminds me of things that I too have lived through.  With a few changes this could be my song--a snippet of my own life history.  I am stirred within each time I hear this song as it has become part of my own life soundtrack.

         After I'd essentially moved away from my hometown in Tennessee to run away with a magic show in 1975, my visits home became fewer as time went on and my show biz life meant more time on the road away from home.  As each year passed I became less close to my old circle of friends thus less aware of what their lives were like.  Old friends were getting married, starting families, and embarking upon careers or other endeavors.  When I would go back to stay with my parents for short visits I would try to hang out with friends and catch up with their lives.  The fact was though that we were growing apart, they in their small town world and me traipsing about the country.

          Now some nearly 40 years later my memory is faulty about when I first heard the Forbert song.  Somehow I came to associate first noticing this song in early 1980 when I was separated from my wife and staying with my parents in Tennessee.  I had taken a job driving for the limousine shuttle service at the Knoxville Airport.  My shift started early so I would drive to work at about 4 AM.

            In my hazy memory I seem to recall driving through Alcoa, the town where the airport is located, early one icy cold morning and listening to my cassette copy of Steve Forbert's Jackrabbit Slim album.  When "January 23-30, 1978" came on the lyrics really hit me as describing how my visits home had started to feel.   I got a sense that soon I would be gone to another town and living a life far away from my home that held so many fond memories for me.

          However, thinking back I'm not sure I had that cassette copy until a few years after the date that stood in my memory.  Perhaps my listening to this song driving through Alcoa early one morning reminded me of driving to my airport limousine job and all of the other events of my life.   Maybe it was another visit.   It's kind of crazy how mixed up my memory is about this minor incident in my life.  From the standpoint of the scope of my entire life, hearing this song at some specific but some unknown time shouldn't have meant that much and yet that drive and that song at that moment vividly stands out in my memory.

        I'm reminded of that famous Salvador Dali painting "Persistence of Memory"--you know the one with the melting watches on the surreal landscape.  That depiction of time flowing and melding into the wholeness of everything is symbolic of the fluidity of all that I've been and where I've ended up in my life, a life where the past is not perfectly cataloged.  Not my life at least.  My mind seems to pick out certain things to remember even if they are not in the correct order.

        It doesn't really matter that much I suppose.   I understand what memory is telling me.   And yet I could be misinterpreting things as a matter of convenience.  

         What I do know is this:  There was a time when I was younger, when responsibility was a debate that I held within myself and consequences primarily affected only me.  We were all young, my friends and I, and then we moved on to other things and other people and other lives.  In other words we grew up--or pretended to.  

           Rarely do we capture the magic of the past in our tangible everyday lives.  Oh, sometimes we might get together with old friends for a few fleeting hours and everything seems as it once was.   Most of the past is only accessible by memory.  The memory might be spurred by a song such as this song from my own life soundtrack.  A song that might mean little to someone else, but something vast, strange, and maybe even unknowable to my mind.    A mystery that is really no mystery at all when I think about it, but a mystery nonetheless.

           Do you have a song that is attached to a memory so strongly that it haunts you when you hear it?    Did you drift away from most of your old friends from youth?    Do you have a disconnect with certain memories where you are no longer certain of when exactly they occurred?

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Back on the Job

Arlee at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park
(summer of 2015)

         The bad thing about vacations is that they have to end.  But of course if they never ended then they wouldn't be vacations anymore would they?   I'll admit that as our trip was coming to a close I was looking forward to getting back home and back to my usual schedule.  Now that I've had a few weeks back on the job of being at home I'm dreaming about vacation travel again.

          When I was still in school, the end of summer was looked upon with some sadness mixed with the anticipation of entering a new school year.  It was a cycle I came to expect year after year:  Go to school for a few months--with a few nice vacation days during the school year--then be off for the summer.   Things changed once I was in college as I had to work through the summer to pay the rest of the year's schooling.   I still found time to work a lot and have fun nearly every evening.   Who needed sleep back then?   I was in my early 20's and filled with much more energy and stamina than I have now.  

          During a decade of my work years I was fortunate in being able to manage a touring show and be able to have my wife and kids along for the year long tour.  It was a grand life where it was almost like being on vacation and working at the same time.  We were getting paid to travel and had a job that was fun.  This was a dream come true as far as I was concerned.

            Even after I settled down and started a stationary job with somewhat regular work hours, I still was given opportunities to travel.   The travel wasn't like the kind of vacation most people think of, but the trips were treks to visit family.  That's the way it's always been for me.  We try to do a few touristy type of things which makes the trips more vacation-like, but the real mission is to be with our loved ones.

             Maybe one day our circumstance will change.  Perhaps if we lived closer to family we could actually take vacations to destination places rather than going to be with people.  Then again, I don't know whether people we want to spend time with will ever totally be out of the equation.  Relationships are important to maintain if we can manage to do so.

             Did you go on a vacation this past summer?   Are your travel destinations where people you know are or are they more based on place?      What is your dream vacation?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Vacation Time!

         Since I'm on vacation for a few weeks, my plan is to limit my blogging to some extent.   There will be a few posts at Tossing It Out, but on Wrote By Rote I'll likely go dormant until I return home.

         Of course if I really have something big to say or am finding that I have more time for blogging than I had expected, then I might post here and there on this blog.  Don't count on it though.   When I'm not driving for extended periods I'll be enjoying time with my family members.

          Whatever the case may be, have a wonderful summer.    You can expect me back here probably on August 20th or so.  See you then--or whenever I get an urge to post on this site.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Candy Apply Red (Soundtrack of my Life)

          Oh, to be a kid again!  Though that would present the other challenges of adolescence and adulthood.   Would I really want to live my life over again?   Perhaps if I could edit out all the bad parts and just leave in the good.  But then what kind of life would that be?   I've had a pretty darn great life as far as I'm concerned so maybe those bad parts were necessary to appreciate the good parts.  Still, it's fun to think back on the good times.

         In this post I offer another in my Soundtrack of My Life series. Robin at Your Daily Dose has been doing the Soundtrack of my Life posts on her blog for a while now. I had done a few of my own "life soundtracks" on my Tossing It Out blog as well as the song series (starting at this post) I did for my 2014 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge on Wrote By Rote. Be sure to visit and follow Your Daily Dose for more Life Soundtrack info.  For my current back to the past post, I'm using the song "Candy Apple Red" by Robbin Thompson as my inspiration.  If you like you can listen as you read the story that follows...

Candy Apple Red

        When my family moved from San Diego, California to Crown Point in the northwestern corner of Indiana, I was just entering junior high as they called it back then.  Going into seventh grade was a huge transition as now instead of one teacher all day as we had in elementary school, now we had a teacher for each class and we would move around from room to room throughout the day.  It was almost like being in high school except that we were still like little kids in many ways.  I guess that's why they called it junior high school.   We were kids getting ready for those last few years before graduation and then on to college or whatever life was holding in store for us.

         The biggest change about moving to Indiana was the weather.  In San Diego the year round moderate weather made being outdoors a kid lifestyle.   So much time was spent riding bikes, playing games, prowling the neighborhoods, and roaming the still wild canyons that surrounded our neighborhoods.   Maybe there was some kind of law that said that kids had to spend at least eight hours a day outdoors--well it might have seemed like it, but perhaps it was just a natural law.  Not often did I as a kid want to stay cooped up in the house all day when there were so many amazing things to do outside.

          Of course I had my indoor activities that I liked to do sometimes.   We played cards and board games.  We might amuse ourselves making prank phones calls.  It seemed like I watched several movies on television each week in addition to some of my favorite programs.   I spent hours reading--I loved to read back then perhaps more so than I do now.  And there was my stamp collection.  My sister, some friends, and I all collected stamps and that activity could keep us entertained for hours.  Looking back on everything we did back then I'm thinking that days must have been longer back then.  I don't think the Earth was spinning more slowly, but I guess a kid's perception of time sees minutes, hours, and days from a far different perspective than an adult does.

         The relocation to Crown Point didn't alter my desire to be outside and about my environment, but sometimes the weather curtailed such activities.  Those heavy northern Indiana snows were fun to play in for a while, but after a while the cold would become unbearable causing us to seek the warmth and comfort of indoors.  Books, games, stamp collections, and television were still on the agenda,  Then came another interest for me--model building.

          Being older I could do certain things better like reading and following instructions and being more intricately creative.  I was ready to take on the challenge of those boxed models I would find in the variety store.  Initially I was drawn by the allure of the classic monster models made by Aurora.  The selection was limited so soon I had them all.  I had done a pretty decent job assembling and painting these models and displayed them proudly throughout my bedroom.  Eventually I was ready to move on with other model kits, starting first with inexpensive simple airplanes and ships.  Then came car models.

           Those car models presented a very different and new challenge for me.   They were detailed and far more complex than the other models that I had been building.  I began buying car model magazines for tips on creating better models and inspiration.  Actually in the long run those magazines probably discouraged more than inspired me.  Those professional and more experienced builders apparently had not only far more knowledge than I had, but also far greater patience.

           I was particularly impressed and envious of the paint jobs on those car models shown in the magazines.  These builders were putting on multiple coats of paints and coats and buffing them and treating them until they came out with glossy sheens.    My paint jobs were so much less perfect with streaks, bubbles, and, well, to put it bluntly--sloppiness.   I make it sound horrible I suppose.  Actually some of my finished products did look pretty nice and I was proud of them.  At least proud enough to display them in my bedroom.

           None of my work would have won awards at car model shows.  Not like the car models in the magazines.  I was an amateur at building car models and so I remained during my short career as a car model builder.    After a couple of years having those models on display some fiendish impulse within me caused me to burn all of those models to which I devoted so much time and care.   Watching them burn, melt, and vanish into toxic residue fascinated me much to my dismay years later.   I would have liked to have had them after I reached adulthood, but then again it just would have been more stuff for me to store or move like so much other stuff that I have now.

         What were your favorite solitary activities of childhood?   Do you still pursue any of the same interests you had as a  kid?   Did you ever willfully destroy any of the things you owned as a child?...