Concert

Concert: (n) a musical performance given in public

At a very early age I convinced myself I could sing. Growing up in a small village, there was not much competition–and since I was willing to intone and offer my voice as a possibility, folks around my community had no reason to doubt my prowess.

So when I graduated from high school, rather than heading off to college and finding out if anyone outside of Delaware County thought I funny wisdom on words that begin with a C
could sing, I put together a music group, started writing some of my own songs and planned concerts.

I immediately learned the difficulty in concert promotion.

  1. Just because you think you can sing does not mean anybody wants to hear you.
  2. And if you can convince them to come to your concert, it may require that you offer some other stimulus, like refreshments. Or prizes.
  3. If anything else comes up before the concert, or even on concert day, which is more alluring, chances are that promise to attend, even by your friends, is quickly forsaken.
  4. People’s patience in hearing you sing is based upon how well you can take them to a happier (or sad) place and make them glad they went there.
  5. Just because you can sing doesn’t mean anybody wants to buy a recording of you doing it, so they can play it in their free time.

These were tough lessons.

So ferocious was my training during this period that I often found it difficult to supply food for my family and was only able to lodge as long as I could dodge coming face-to-face with the landlord.

It was actually many years before anyone, of their own volition, walked up to me and said, “Hey! When’s your next concert?”

I froze the moment in my mind… and replay it frequently.

 

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Combo

Combo: (n) a small jazz, rock, or pop band.

Being clever is similar to setting a bear trap down in a room full of balloons. It is so easy to spring the trap and bust all your balloons of hope.

In my early years I had a music group and was desperately trying to promote us–at least to the point that I could make enough “jack” to pay for “Jill.”

Money was rare.

Now, opportunities and gigs seemed to pop up everywhere–but when the subject of remuneration was suggested, there were offers of free coffee, “help yourself
to the day-old pastry,” or “we have a garage where you can sleep overnight.”

I knew I needed to do something drastic to set our group apart from the rest of the marauding musicians trying to fend for the single crust of bread, so I put together a damn good press release.

Now, wait.

Understand–this was an era when bands did not advertise themselves via printed material, but rather, through audition tapes or live performances.

I got a great picture of us, looking our cutest (and surliest) and attached our release. One of the things I discovered in writing the piece was that if you’re constructing a great article, it should not repeat words.

I kept landing on the word “group.” “Group?” “GROUP!”

So thinking myself extremely clever, I went to the Thesaurus and looked for different words to communicate the idea “group.”

One of those was “combo.”

I was ecstatic. The word sounded good to me, so I stuck it in the press release a couple of times and sent it off.

I noticed when I started calling places back to see if they wanted to schedule us based on our fine piece of promotional material, the proprietors would grumble, “We’re not interested in a jazz thing.”

I tried to explain that we weren’t jazz, but by that time they had hung up the phone and I was left standing, listening to the dial tone of the day.

Finally, one of the gentlemen I called suggested a nightclub down the street that specialized in jazz.

I squeezed in my question. “We’re not a jazz group. Where did you get the idea we played jazz?”

“Really?” he said. “Your article said you were a combo, and I never heard of any band calling themselves a combo unless they were jazz.”

I wanted to tell him about my journey through the “prehistoric thesaurus,” but instead, I went back to my creation and removed the word “combo.”

Needing to replace it, I inserted “adventurers.”

 

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Browse

j-r-practix-with-border-2

Browse: (v) to survey goods for sale in a leisurely and casual way.

Several years back, when I had just released a new book, my dear daughter-in-law set me up with a booth at a book-sellers convention in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.Dictionary B

I was excited about my new writings, so I leaped at the chance to go and share with others the stories I had put together, which in this particular case, had a Christmas theme.

I had never been at a book sellers convention before. So I was a little taken aback when I was just one of several hundred tables set up in rows, where people could amble by, peer at my book cover and then at me, to determine if they had any level of interest.

Yes. They referred to it as browsing.

I quickly learned that there were three different kinds of browsers:

There were a few souls who came to the convention legitimately interested in books–even possibly to the point of purchasing one.

There were many more authors, who came by my table to try to talk to me about their book, hoping that I would abandon my foolish cause of self-promotion and become enamored with their endeavor.

And then there were the professional browsers. These were people who hung around for a while. They picked up my book. They scanned it for a few minutes. Sometimes they even giggled, connoting that they had enjoyed something.

I foolishly tried to interject my feelings to engage them in conversation.

It was at that point that I realized they were hoping I would solicit their opinion, so they could calmly set my book down, smile at me, turn on their heel and walk away.

I fell for this about ten times, until I realized it was a game.

After that, when people came up to my table, unless they were determined to get my attention, I sat very still…acting like I was recovering from a stroke.

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Brought

j-r-practix-with-border-2

Brought: past participle of bring

It is brief.

A breath in time.Dictionary B

A question suspended in the air, seeking an interesting reply.

It often happens at a pot-luck dinner.

If you find yourself walking in with a covered dish, someone may ask, “What have you brought?”

At that point it is up to you, in as few words as possible, to explain your offering and make it so alluring that someone wants to dash off to grab a spoon and partake.

Much time can be spent preparing food, but it is more important to come up with a promotion for your entree which will cause the world to salivate.

I see people walking by me every day.

I sense the need inside them.

I can sometimes even feel the pulsing greed.

  • They want.
  • They yearn.
  • They expect.

But since we are not surrounded by a planet of waiters who are constantly inquiring, “What can I get for you?” we must realize that the common question from those we meet will be, “What have you brought?”

What is under your cover-up?

What have you decided to put together to enhance this party?

Often it is not the quality of our preparation but instead, the joy we bring in unveiling it.

What have you brought?

What delicacy can you present to the human tribe?

Have you decided how to feed the hunger in the hearts of human beings–or do you come weak, requiring sustenance yourself?

What have you brought?

The answer will often determine whether you’re accepted or rejected.

 

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Brassy

j-r-practix-with-border-2

Brassy: (adj) tastelessly showy or loud in appearance or manner

How much is enough?

That may be the central concern to human life.Dictionary B

Because in hours of reflection, when opportunity is long gone, the question raised in our soul is either “did we do enough?” or “did we do too much?”

  • In a world of indifference, how much flash does it take for someone to notice your pan?
  • How many cherries before you actually have a bowl?
  • And how many sunrises before someone grabs a camera?

What does it take to draw enough attention to goodness that evil pales in comparison?

I am convinced that the promotion of a great idea is not achieved through a deluge of advertising, screaming, yelling and promotion.

Goodness, gentleness, kindness, righteousness, beauty are all required to maintain a consistency while the world overlooks them until such a time that the planet is prepared to be aware.

Therefore, the quandary is not whether there’s anything good in the world. The issue is whether goodness can survive all of the brassy critique and dark representations to finally get its chance to inherit the Earth.

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Best-seller

Best-seller: (n) a book or other product that sells in very large numbers.

Dictionary B

I would be a complete charlatan if I told you I did not use words to my own advantage.

I try never to lie and do attempt to avoid excessive exaggeration.

But I have, from time to time, taken advantage of the cloak of ambiguity to leave the impression that something I was promoting had greater attention than it perhaps actually did.

That’s why, as an author, I’ve always loved the term “best-seller.”

As long as you avoid connoting that you’re speaking about one of your books ending up on a list somewhere, displayed in print for the elite to peruse, you can simply tout that your particular sales show that this volume you’ve published has sold more than a previous one.

Now the numbers may be miniscule–certainly not up to the figures accumulated by Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, but nevertheless, the statement “my best-seller” can stand proudly in the columns of all time as truthful.

Even if I only sold four of them.

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Afterlife

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter AAfterlife: (prep) 1. life after death 2. later life e.g. they spent most of their afterlife trying to forget the fire.

There is a certain presumption to the idea of heaven which often makes me uncomfortable. It’s this notorious notion that we can live a meager existence, fraught with fault, indecision and selfishness, and because God in heaven has granted us salvation, we will suddenly be translated into eternal, enlightened creatures.

I always wonder what people would think if heaven ended up just being their life–except maybe moving it to Hawaii. In other words, just a little better surroundings, but you bring your furniture.

What if heaven is not a relief of our pain, but instead, an individualized celebration of our discoveries on Earth? What if the misery we have claimed as our own is not alleviated, but instead, continued–just surrounded by hula girls and beaches?

Would the change in surroundings be enough to make us enjoy our choices better?

It’s confounding–because everything on earth works with a delicate balance of effort, patience and grace.

  • Effort in the sense that I actually show up and do my best
  • Patience because good things sometimes take a while
  • And grace because God, in His mercy, grants it to those who are truly humble

How can there be an afterlife if there wasn’t first a life?

If we offer a meager resume to the heavenly corporation, why do we think we are up for a promotion?

Well, you can believe what you want to believe. I think there’s a four-step process to making a life which would make any kind of afterlife absolutely delectable:

  1. Find what you can do.
  2. Do it well.
  3. Get better
  4. Help somebody.

This is the life I choose–and if I were asked to continue it in another place … I would be overjoyed to do so.