Decade

Decade: (n) a period of ten years

I guess if we’re working with averages, most of us get to live in seven decades.

The first ten years are so out of our control that it would be difficult to know if the time period and the circumstances really mean that much to us. I do remember things from my first decade, but it’s more like a motion picture being played in the background or a series of fast trains speeding by.

My second decade was mostly about sex.

It was the discovery of it, the curiosity about it, the pursuit of it, masturbation and finally ending up in the arms of a woman, completely hapless.

My third decade was based around having children and figuring out how to pay bills, while still honoring my occupational dream. As you can tell by the conglomeration, I didn’t end up doing any of them particularly well.

Now, in my fourth decade, I started gaining some solvency.

What that meant to me was, when the electric bill showed up, I paid it instead of negotiating it. It was a pleasant step. Unfortunately, simultaneously I was dealing with children—some of whom were watching life whizz by and others, completely occupied with their groins.

The next decade I did a lot of traveling, performing and writing, at a time in my life when I was not in as good shape as ten years earlier. But contrary to popular opinion, life gives you a hamburger but really does not ask you what you want on it.

Now that I’m in my sixth decade, I don’t really care if people agree with me. I’m not out to impress anyone, I have enough money to get by and still buy a treat or two, and I have fun acting much more mentally spry than people believe I should be.

I have no idea how much further I will go in the decade pursuit.

Maybe some—maybe not.

But I will tell you, as long as you can go to bed at night, laugh at your mistakes, and get up the next morning believing you can do better, you will survive the war.

Davie

Davie: (n) a town in SE Florida.

I have a unique perspective on Davie, Florida.

After years of traveling on the road and performing, I decided to settle there because it was near where my son, daughter-in-law and two granddaughters lived.

They had just begun a church and I thought it would be so terrific if I could join them and help out in any way my box of experience might afford.

You see:

The key to that phrase is “I thought.”

You would assume that after many years of living, I would realize the weakness—and sometimes even complete calamity—of the words “I thought.”

I never asked my son and his family what they felt about me moving down there.

I didn’t seek permission.

I envisioned something in my own mind—how things might pan out without ever realizing that those around me might not consider my gift of time with them to be of as much interest as I had supposed.

It went poorly.

When I tried to be involved, I seemed nosy.

When I backed off, I appeared offended (though I wasn’t).

When I waited for them to contact me, I was pissed at the infrequency.

And when I tried to start other things on my own, they were somewhat threatened by my intentions.

Along with this colossal misunderstanding, I ended up living in a very small home—well beneath my needs, not to mention my standards.

Although I can recite many miraculous things that occurred during my stay in Davie, Florida, whenever I hear the word “Davie,” what comes to my mind is:

“It’s better to move when you feel a tug…”

“…than trying to shove your way in.”

 

Curtain

Curtain: (n) a hanging piece of fabric

I can’t think of an occasion when the word “addicted” can be used in a positive way.

Yet I will tell you, there are certain things to which I am addicted.

One of those revolves around a curtain.

I couldn’t have been more than twelve years old the first time I stood backstage at a theater, right next to the beautiful velvet curtain that swept its way across the stage to close the production or open up to new story possibilities, encouraging the audience to use its imagination.

No matter where you are, there’s always that small space where the dressing rooms and the gathering areas empty out onto holy ground, where the actors, singers and musicians stand and wait to enter the stage and share their best.

I remember at age twelve, putting together a song with three other guys to sing at the school talent show. We had searched all over Columbus, Ohio for just the right ties. We all went to the same barber shop to get our hair cut two days earlier. My singing buddies had come to my house to dress and prepare for the evening. We had rehearsed our song over and over again, trying to fine-tune the musical excellence to the greatest extent of our pre-adolescent acuity.

There we were.

The small-town audience sat waiting, as we stood nervously backstage.

I remember being so close to that beautiful red velvet curtain that I laid my head over, resting it on the soft fabric. It was comforting.

Yes, it was at that point I knew I was addicted.

I wanted to spend the rest of my life backstage somewhere, waiting for the curtain to open so I could come and share the better parts of myself, hoping that the audience could find the better parts of their hearts.

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Correctional Facility

Correctional facility: (n) a prison, especially for long-term confinement.

I think it’s safe to say that a plurality, if not a majority, of people think about prisons just about as much as they do the city dump or changing the batteries in their smoke detectors.

It’s not that we’re uncaring. It’s just that sometimes we are at such a loss as to know what to do that rather than taunting ourselves with the frustration of considering something, we pretend it vanished into thin air. (Kind of like when you pick your nose and pull one of those crusty funny wisdom on words that begin with a C
things out and rub it between your fingers until there’s no further evidence…)

Early on in my career in music and the arts, our musical group was invited to come and perform at the State Prison. I was traveling with two girls, and most folks thought it was a very bad idea for us to go to such a dangerous and potentially violent arena.

But if you think about it, as long as you’re not sleeping in, a prison is one of the safest places on earth. Everyone is restrained, threatened and guarded. (Perhaps we should consider this profile for Washington, D. C.  I digress.)

We did not take the gig because we wanted to bring hope or good cheer to the prisoners. No—it was because we were just starting out, and anyone who wanted us to play was our next best opportunity. (After all, you get tired of performing at nursing homes or church pot luck dinners.)

We arrived at the prison and discovered that the entire population was not invited to the concert. Matter of fact, only 150 inmates would be present—these being members of a Bible study held twice a week in the rec hall.

Well, I was young and impetuous, so I objected. I said that if I’d wanted to come and play my music for a bunch of Christians, I could have gone down to the Baptist Church, which “may or may not have just as many felons.”

Both the warden and chaplain were patient with me. They realized that I was immature and did not understand that I was carrying along with me two delicious “human treats,” which these men had not partaken of in some time.

They explained that even though they could protect the girls in our group from attack, they certainly could not shelter them from the trauma of being accosted with foul language.

I grumbled.

Well, we did our first show in front of the Bible Club, and it went so well that the warden asked me if we would do another show in front of about 200 of the inmates who were presently on “good behavior status.”

I immediately agreed.

Boy—did I learn a lesson. If those 200 prisoners were the “good behavior boys,” I shudder to think what would have happened if they had released the lions on us young Christians.

It was loud, overbearing, and it was difficult to get the inmates quiet enough to listen to the music—and only when the beat reached a certain level of intensity did they clap their hands and participate in the event.

Afterwards I felt humbled. I told the warden and the chaplain that I was sorry for being such a jerk.

They corrected me. The warden said, “Don’t you ever give up on the idea of trying to help someone—especially if it looks hopeless.”

I nearly cried.

Even though there’s a reason they call them correctional facilities—because most of the time, correction is the name of the game instead of rehabilitation—it is not our right to ever give up on those that God decided to create in His image.


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Bass

Bass: (n) a voice, instrument, or sound of the lowest rangeDictionary B

Tom was my friend.

I think that’s why we hated each other so much.

There are people we meet that we were never meant to be linked with, but because of projects, proximity and maybe even personality, we get slammed together with them in an uncomfortable relationship of tension. Unwilling to call them adversaries, we resort to the generic term, “friend.”

Tom and I sang together in a quartet. It was a group of our own making, and considering the fact that we were just teenagers, we did a good job of holding it together and doing more than practicing–on occasion actually performing in front of living people.

Tom wanted to be in charge of the group, but unfortunately, I already held that position–with accompanying diadem. So there was always friction about every decision and every musical composition we selected to mutilate in our inimitable style.

When Tom joined the group, I sang bass. There were many reasons for this.

First of all, I was the only one who could sing a Bb below middle C, which is mandatory for those with testosterone tones.

I also thought the girls really dug guys who sang low, feeling confident they were masculine simply by hearing them warm up on scales.

Tom didn’t think I was a good bass singer. He was always trying to undermine my efforts.

One day, he brought in a record to introduce us to a song that had a very low bass note, which was showcased in the middle of the tune as a solo without accompaniment. He coyly asked me if I could hit the note, and being young of years and mostly insane, I insisted it was within my range.

It wasn’t.

Honestly, it wasn’t within anybody’s range unless they were in a recording studio with the help of knobs and buttons.

So the first time we sang the song in public, Tom waited for that part to come along, where I was supposed to growl something in the basement of human vocals, and when the music stopped and it came my turn to lay in the part–well, let us say that I didn’t even come close.

Tom was ecstatic.

No one could really say that I missed the note, since I was not even able to frog out anything near its pond.

Tom later convinced the other members of the group that I was not a bass singer, and shortly thereafter, I left.

It was only a few weeks later that Tom and the boys returned to me, asking me to sing again–since I was the only one who knew how to read music, play piano and arrange vocals.

They now wanted me to sing lead instead of bass, and we launched the group again.

A few days passed of peace and tranquility.

And then Tom decided I couldn’t sing lead …

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Ballad

Ballad: (n) a slow sentimental or romantic song.Dictionary B

There are only two reasons for music.

I guess I should present that better.

After many years of playing, writing and performing music, I have found that it offers two functions better than almost anything else: it makes people dance and it makes people feel.

Honestly, music that doesn’t elicit either of those reactions tends to be either manipulated or industrial.

That’s why I like ballads.

Even though I find the dictionary definition above to be a bit passive-aggressive by referring to this style of music as slow, sentimental and romantic, I feel that slowing things down, having enough sentiment to produce emotion and on occasion to be romantic, to be confirmation of a more enlightened human life.

I favor ballads so much that someone once commented, “You can’t do a whole concert of ballads.”

I am so amused by anyone who thinks they can manipulate things of beauty to do exactly what they want them to do to fit into the box provided. You can do anything with music you want as long as it makes people dance or it makes people feel.

And every once in a while… there is a time to dance and on other occasions, a time to feel.

 

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Adrift

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Adrift: (adj) 1. of a boat or its passengers, floating without being either moored or steered. 2. Of a person, being lost or confused.

You see, I think we have a quandary. We have to learn how three words are quite different:

  • Uncaring
  • Bohemian
  • And peaceful

When I graduated from high school, I didn’t want to be normal. I had studied “normal” through twelve years of the educational system. Now, I was not critical of it. Those who found it appealing were not my enemies, but I did not get in line to take my number, waiting to be “the next one served.”

I found myself adrift. Those around me believed I was uncaring.

Not knowing what to do, I basically chose to do very little. Truthfully, I didn’t do enough to survive–at least, financially. The critics rolled in their opinions. Family was enraged. Friends deserted me.

I was on my boat and decided to float for a while instead of feverishly paddling or hooking some sort of motor up to my life so I could troll the waters of existing social acceptability.

I knew what I liked. I liked music, I liked performing and I liked writing. Was I good? Honestly, it was difficult to find out because I was always dodging the bullets of my pistol-packing townsmen, who were determined to “gun down” my laziness and put me back into submission with the grown-up way of thinking.

Yet I resisted.

Because I didn’t paddle and try to resist the tides and currents, I bumped into a lot of things, did some damage and appeared to those around me to be Bohemian.

“Adrift,” by definition, connotes a loss of control. But you see, I believe the GREATEST loss of control was giving it to someone else, who held my life as a timecard and asked me to punch in for permission to eat and breathe.

It took me about eight years to finally blend my motivation, talent, purpose and opportunities together, to come up with a lifestyle which was acceptable to those around me because it possessed some sort of pay stub.

I never resented those eight years that I was adrift. They were painful, often stupid, frightening, lonely and occasionally enlightening. They gave me the determination I needed to set a course and right my ship in a direction to follow my dreams instead of toe the line.

So even though “adrift” may seem to be a negative posture for any vessel, be it nautical OR human, for me, it was an oxymoron: a meaningful aimless quest.