Monday, March 7, 2016

"Pop 'at rag like ya mean it"

Well what the heck is in this barrel today? The barrel being my head, where I keep extra thoughts for parts. I'm always surprised at what I find laying around in odd disheveled piles up in the locked dusty chambers of the "Dark Tower".

Memories, bent and twisted into shapes unrecognizable  - old lies and truths- buried in weeds -parted-out and rusted, abandoned like a stack of old long outgrown bicycles behind the barn. Philosophical  and eloquent diatribes of great import, and ass-whuppins for everybody stupid or mean, all exist up there.

All my dogs, past & present, are there, and they're all in perfect health - and they can talk. Apparently they think I'm a God.

There's a closet with a lock on it where I keep my most grievous heartaches and smoldering angers - securely bound and gagged - drugged if necessary, - it's a small closet. I'm blessed.

My kids are there too.  They're still little.  Their laughter is like sweetened-oxygen, like water and sunshine combined. They still like me, and although they don't entirely trust me,  they'll still pull my finger.

I ran into Shoeshine Bill up there this morning.  Hadn't seen him in years. A small wiry man of color, with a ready smile and a nature as gentle and soothing as a calm lake.  The most polite man I ever knew. He still smelled like shoe polish, Old Spice,  and scotch.   He was stacked proper as always, in a starched white shirt and knife-crease slacks with a comb and a flask in the back pocket. Contrarily neat to a pin  behind a wrinkled  knee length blue denim work vest  with large pockets  at his waist, stuff you see tradesmen wear in old black & white movies.  Smeared in vague dark streaks with the black and brown waxes and liquids comprising the majority of shoeshine color palette.  The denim was patched and frayed, but always laundered.

He took pride in his work.  He had a small store front in Sidney. A solid brick facade worn and old with apartments on the floor above it. My Mom and I lived in an apartment for awhile there, just down the hall from Bill. There were railroaders and old bachelors that came and went to the other apartments in the building with some frequency.  We all shared the same bathroom centrally located halfway down the long plastered hall.Sometimes during the days when Mom would be working or trying to sleep off a late shift, Bill would let me hang out with him in his shop.

Bills shop downstairs was small with big picture windows facing Illinois Street, and brown slatted wood floors worn from 40 years  of dirt farmers and railroaders shuffling their clodhoppers and $100 dollar cowboy boots across it's skin. He opened 6 days a week at 7:00 a.m. like clockwork. Coffee made by 7:05 and floors swept and mopped by 8.

On those "never-long-enough-for-me" days with Bill, I'm sure I must have driven him batshit nuts -  with a million "8 year old kid" questions about goofy shit adults can't even begin to surmise the worth of pondering. Perhaps in self-defense; Certainly out of the kindness of a wise and good soul, He taught me how to shine shoes.

 "Pop 'at rag boy" "Like ya mean it". He gave me a dime for every pair of shoes he let me buff up with the rags.  After a while I knew enough to gather up the rags a few times a day and put them in a box by the door.  I figured out where the broom and dustpan was, and I kept that floor CLEAN. It felt awful good to have someone tell me I did a good job.

The central fixture in the joint was a  large oak 3-seater shoeshine bench , about 10-12 feet long and around 6-8 feet deep.  Chest high to a grown up,  with 3 big steps leading up to red leather seat cushions on top. It had 6 ornate brass pedestals rising off the 2nd step terminating perpendicularly in the hard shape of a shoe ,shiny flat brass  and worn on top - for the customers ensconced on the upper bench seats to rest their feet upon. There were a myriad of doors and storage compartments located all over the structure, and whatever Bill needed at any given moment to perform his duties was always a flip and reach away as this little door or that would open and close in quick rhythmic support of the maestro mid-performance.

He was always appropriate and graceful, with appropriately placed head nods and hm-mms while he swung his brushes , one in each hand,
with the ferocity and finesse of Bruce Lee sand-painting in the middle of a fight scene. Flawless.

What drew  my attention was the way the man could pop the rag.  The soft cotton rags, 6" wide and a couple feet long.  He could make it talk.  Pop-pop-pop-pop.  Sometimes he'd just fall into the rhythm of the song on the radio and he'd have to laughingly caution his client to please refrain from toe-tapping while in process.  They couldn't help it.  Neither could I.

When I'm writing these things sometimes, I feel as if I'm always the last to know regarding our destination.  Here it is.  I can see it on the horizon.

I told you some about her yesterday. My Grandma knew her stuff.  The woman grew up hard in extremely hard times. The Dust Bowl 30s and the Great Depression were more than crushing to dirt-farmers in western Kansas. It's the world she was born into.  Oldest of 5 - to a blind and mentally ill Father - A bitter and often cruel mother. They didn't have a pot to piss in and the window blew clean away in a dust storm.  They lived in tents and barns and sheds in town from Kansas to Colorado back to the panhandle of Nebraska.

 She never knew an easy moment in her life. She knew what it felt like to have people look down their nose at you.  She'd felt the embarrassment of abject poverty.  She knew about the weight of undeserved and unexplained humiliation, and had seen more than her fair share of hunger, abject fear , and loss. She knew, more than she ever should have had to know, about dignity in the face of adversity.  Dignity as a response to stupidity, cruelty.

She took me to Bills shop  to get my shoes shined once after she'd bought me a new black suit over at J.C. Penneys,  to wear to Great-Uncle Alex's funeral.   As it turned out , the day I told her about my new "job" at Bills , was probably a pretty good day for her.  They were friends.

She always saw past color.  Made sure I did too. She understood and fully appreciated, the strength it must have taken for so many years, and on so many occasions, for Bill to unfairly bear not only the weight of his own mahogany-toned flesh, but the weight of all the well-intentioned stupidity and xenophobic bias one little Nebraska town  in that dark era could produce over the course of one good mans lifetime.

The day I told her about my new career She smiled a little, and her eyes smiled a little more - as she nodded her head at me through a haze of Lucky Strike smoke.  Grandma had known Bill for what I imagined at least a hundred and thirty years. "You pay attention to that man"  "mind your manners"

She knew, and she felt it important that I know, that 25 cents bought you more than a shoeshine with a man like Bill.   It bought you a tutorial in noble dignity.  A smile, an ear, a friend, and a wise counsel. A good many folks were just too redneck dumb or adamantly racist back then to see it for what it was.  Bill listened to each and every one of their commiserations , the tasteless jokes, the rude digs and slurs and the patronizing attempts at justification of poorly veiled racism in a small Nebraska farm town in the fifties and sixties. Never said a word about it.  Looked like a boss doing it.

Come to think of it, Bill was the first person to ever propose the concept of RHYTHM to me.  The radio on his shelf and the shoeshine rag snap in sympathetic syncopation made a connection in my little brain that I had no idea of the importance of at the time.  (Too bad for him that he didn't get to stick around long enough to hear me practice my drums at 130 db along with Led Zeppelin records in Jr. High, eh?)

I stumble and stutter, and stagger through this life a lot now  - like most of us. Through the grace of God, and the sheer kindness of strangers -  I make my living playing music now .  I take pride in my work, although the wardrobe could probably use some "spiffin', I've made a habit of giving it my best.   Bill would be proud I think.  I am, on occasion (when I'm not busy chasing my own tail and doing' other  stupid stuff :-)

As a professional (musician) and smart-aleck par excellence - of good standing and unidentifiable mastery, I will today pass this tidbit of wisdom forth to you all  from the Senseii hisself - my old friend Bill;    "Pop 'at rag boy" "Like ya mean it"

"Peace Out"
"Don't take any wooden nickels"
See ya manana:-)

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sometimes it has to feel bad before it gets better

Grace is a hard word. I don't understand it fully.  I don't understand  greed at all quite frankly.  I know that collectively we are constantly in short supply of grace somewhere, and perpetually we are choking for air on unfettered greed, and somewhere in between the two lies the whole of humanity, waiting for a verdict.

 Grace and greed, since the beginning of time, locked in a perpetual struggle, clamoring and clinging, rattling sabers and sounding the never-ending battle cries of good vs. evil. Mass media today claws at our senses leaving indelible stains of anxiety and frustration on us all, while the air around us grows thick and purple with vitriole and innuendo. Folks are nervous.  I am too.  Maybe for the same reasons.  The "Land of The Free" is starting to look like the "Land of Too Freaked Out To Poop Right".

In our great nation, Intentional blockage of the system has become common-place as a negotiation
technique.  I know what Grandma woulda' done.  I experienced it first hand as a child.

If your mule is stopped up, you slip a plug of chewing tobacco into his oats and wait.  If your elephant is stopped up I imagine you'd just use more tobacco.  If someone you love is bound up to the point of discomfort - then it's time for the red rubber hot water bottle - and a few rather delicate "Come To Jesus" moments.  After whence, the sun will shine glorious once again, and songbirds will fill the air.

I hate to admit it, but that old woman could put the fear of God into me when it came time to "fix what ails you"  Her approach was "Take No Prisoners" .  Colonics, Poultices, Whiskey, Cinnamon, Voodoo, burnt horse-hair, prayer, more whiskey, charcoal, and that damned hot water bottle. I stayed real healthy because I knew that getting well could very well kill me.

Her hands weren't soft.  She wore Grandads old work shirts and carpenters jeans most of the time.  Worked her ass off from sun-up to sundown.  I never remember hearing her complain about a single thing.

Mom was a single mother  with a hungry little gorilla to feed and not much education or opportunity at her disposal.  She waited tables and tended bar at night.  Grandma  raised me when Mom couldn't .  I know she raised me right. On the day Martin Luther King died she held me with tears in her eyes,  and  made me promise on my life that I would never be like those sad terrible souls that carried that awful hate inside them.  Any shortcomings I have displayed or fostered since , have been  of  my own device, and contrary to her tutelage.

Grandma was who I came running to every time I did something stupid:-)  I ran to her alot. Bleeding like a stuck hog  when I caught an huge ball of ice with my nose in the 1st grade.  She was who I ran to when I fell off my horse and broke my arm (7 yrs old).  She was who I wanted at the hospital when they took my appendix out. a couple years later.  She was rock solid -and I knew she had the advice I needed to hear.  If I could just hold on to her words , I knew I would be ok.

She would hold my hand, and with the most beautiful voice God ever made, she would remind me " "Sometimes it's going to feel bad before it gets better" "I'll be here with you"

Granny's been gone for a long time now. I think about her every day.  I thank God for everything she ever said to me. Her voice comes back to me often - in times of worry or frustration.  She was always right.  Her wisdom has outlasted a lot of governments, a lot of administrations, a lot of life-changing stuff.

I wish we didn't have to deal with idiots saying and doing hateful stuff and being rewarded for it.  But I am sure glad we all have each other.  We're gonna need one another.  At times like these I have to have faith.  In God , in my dogs, in music, In you,  in my children and my friends, in Grandma.

The world is a scary place right now. But we must be brave.  Things are probably a lot more hopeful than they appear. Healing isn't easy. - but to the black, white, red, green, gay, straight, conservative, liberal, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Lakota,, Hindu,  NRA, & PTA -  Let's not forget how to forgive, how to give and receive  grace , how to live in the example of a simple carpenter from Bethlehem, how to laugh , how to sing, and how to love

I hear her voice as plain as day.  It sounds like Gods voice.  Can you hear it?

"Sometimes it  has to feel bad before it gets better" "I'll be here with you"

"Peace Out"
"Don't take any wooden nickels"
See ya manana:-)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

March 2, 2016 - Getting back on The Pony With Spurs Pointed In The Right Direction:-)

Well damned if things ain't a real mess. I woke up this morning to a world that had gone relatively unchanged from where it was when I fell asleep.  More noise on the news. Another idiot did something mean or stupid, or the next "Somebody like somebody else"   made teenage girls and rainbow haired millenials squirt tears of rapturous joy over a bang-up imitation of a Lady Gaga cover of a Whitney Houston version of an Aretha Franklin smash on "American Idol" -   Events unfolding around me of cataclysmic importance...............................and still.  -----I needed a cup of coffee like crops need the rain.  I needed a shave (as usual).  My breath was makin' the dogs roll their eyes and paw the air, and I had to pee.

This day began with a set of challenges in front of it that frankly scare the hell out of me.Breakfast,  Laundry, the microwave, Plaid button-down or T-shirt , Pants ????  I am thoroughly unequipped for adult life. While other men my age  stare at the challenges before them, and the land around them, like noble warriors assaying the perimeters of their dominion - I wonder what kind of bugs are in the dirt.  Hope I find a quarter, --or maybe a spaceship.

It's been a while since I wrote anything on the blog, and I apologize for that.  Frankly, I've been blocked up. Literarily constipated.  I was intimidated.  Performance anxiety:-)  Last year I wrote on the thing every day for a month.  I was amazed at the number of people who actually read it in that time, and who continue to read it now.  I continue to get emails and comments from all over the place. I'm completely stunned and I always try to issue a word of warning questioning the wisdom of encouraging my behaviour.

There are a few folks that would love to bury me head first in a whale turd over some of my foolishness  - But for the most part, the majority of people who email me, or come talk to me at gigs  have been very, very supportive. Always actively and vocally encouraging me to write more.  I most certainly appreciate each and every one of you good folks.  And I want you all to know right now that YOU are my prune juice - and with your gracious encouragement and support- "Here Goes  "

Since my last writing I'm sure you will all be pleased to know that Elvis and June Carter are both in magnificent health and splendiferous disposition.  They can still hear a grocery bag rustle from about 3 miles and they still sniff butts.  They are my role models, my confidantes, and my spiritual advisers. They can sense imminent danger at every traffic light or passing chihuahua.- and are not afraid to bark at foghorn level volume directly in my ear when issuing their warnings. I'm partially deaf now because of my dogs.  Serves me right for telling them I drink too much because they bark.?????

I'm gonna keep things short and sweet today. Sorta sneak up on your sensibilities slowly after my long absence.  (It's exactly the tactic I was forced to take with all my ex-wives at least a time or two ) I think that august alumnus would all agree that what I may have lacked in material sensibility I more than made up for in sheer idiocy:-)
Is it a gift or a curse?  Who am I to judge? All I can say is that I am always  more than willing to share my psychotic confusion  with anyone who'll listen....on your screen...........on purpose.

What I'm tryin' to say is........"Screw yer' boots on and hang on to yer' saddle-horn Pilgrims"  "I'm back, and it's probably gonna require some sort of medication or therapy!!!!".  If I haven't irritated you over something stupid yet, just stick around, I'm working as fast as I can.

"Peace Out"
"Don't take any wooden nickels"
See ya manana:-)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

.."Was It Something I Said?"

Cars rolled by - out on the blacktop, about a hundred times a day
never knew where they were going, they were just going away

An intelligent man knows when to speak up and when to shut up.  That's always been a gray area for me.

Language is such a useful tool. It sets us apart from at least a few species (not prairie dogs). I think it's safe to say that "human homo-sapien  erectus" are the only critters with a 1500+ word vocabulary, that have thumbs and can be trained to do simple mathematics - and we use tools.  The big 4 triple-threat that makes humans the lords of all they purvey.

Not only is language useful, but it is a comfort.  It is the single-most expedient way to convey information among humans - except for Iphones, Google+, and Facebook.

It allows us to tangibly author emotions into full bloom. Imagine your favorite love scenes or heroic scenes in your favorite movies.  Now imagine it without any language. It can get weird in a hurry - (Like nudist camps in Utah).

Picture that poignant scene - the tortured gaze of longing, or the ferocious riveting stare of a vanquishing hero(ine). Relying solely on the "viewable"  occular acrobatics and body language- well.......they sort of go nowhere until somebody says something, or the credits roll - unless it's a foreign film.

Conversation is the garden hose of the soul - for you medical types let's say urethra.  It is how the by-products of thought are passed through the body into the bony light of reality.

The down side of conversation is that it's absolutely impossible to un-say things. Once that brainstorm crosses the soft-palate, it's as permanent as Catholic sin.

My transgressions are many and , most certainly unforgiveable, in some many camps. To my transgressors I can only say  "I apologize whole-heartedly  for my obtuse verbosity - and again for your own apparent lack of critical perception:-)  See...........I told ya I wuz smooth :-)

I confess: I get frustrated and shoot my mouth off all to often. Please forgive my indiscretions.  It's straight up fear. Our society spends so much time and does so much damage,  worrying about and  following the Dems or the GOP, the Conservatives or the liberals, the right or the left, etc.- and I know in my heart of hearts that that stuff is all pure old-T Bullshit.

2000 years ago a carpenter from Galillee laid it all out - as simply as possible. Love one another, give to each other, make a difference in the lives of those around you, be rich by the things you do and not what you take from those who have less. It's the only way we survive,. and yet so many are so slow to come to the party.

 Selfishness and greed are a cancer.  Humanity has to trump politics at some point.That, in a nutshell, is my frustration.  Maybe my only significant one , aside from tamper-proof packaging.

It has a lot to do with why I can't shut up - believe me I tried and failed more than once - through the whole first semester of the 5th grade, and again back in '80 when my ex-wife asked me if I thought she was putting on a few pounds in the hips .  It like to killed me both times.  Sometimes it's best just to give up.

So, I guess the world has to make room for one more ragged-voiced raven on the telephone line. I'll cackle and caw with the best of 'em. If a large target presents itself - and this is truly one instance where size doesn't matter - well...........Watch your heads - I got mad skills when I'm aimin'

"Peace Out"
"Don't take any wooden nickels"

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Came to in a Blinding Fog

It's been a great week - head-cold not withstanding.  June Carter and Elvis have both been of particularly good temperament lately. I have all 6 strings and all 10 thumbs -There's a banjo on the wall, a ride in the driveway, chicken in the pot, and coffee on the stove.  If a cold is the worst thing that happens today - I'll call that a good day.

I wrote that a few days ago, in a fit of blind optimism, before I actually realized that this cold was gonna whip me like a bitch and call me names :-/

3-days later:  I have survived this pestilent plague, through the liberal use of jalapenos, Hulu, garlic, Gatorade, Vapo-Rub, Bengal Spice Tea, cheap cold medicine, - and banjo rolls.  That's right - banjo rolls. Ya can't have just one.

My near brush with death (as near as I wanna get until I get hit by lightning and a SCUD missile simultaneously at 104 ) - has seriously encroached on a time frame that's a little on the short side to begin with.Convalescence and reflection have brought with them a looming sense of panic.

 There's a lot going on in the next couple of months - So much I don't know where to begin.- and that's the problem.  I'm a bit overwhelmed. I've about chewed a hole in my bathrobe sleeve over this.

In my defense - I'm generally pretty good under pressure - but not so great on cold medication or sativas. Shiny stuff distracts me.

Here's my to-do list:

  1. Publish "The Trailer Park Diaries / 50 Shades of Corrugated Aluminum" as a daily blog - perhaps solicit advertisers and continue to steadily  grow a readership
  2. Promote a heavy web presence on social-media. Respond and interact with a daily increasing number of  friends and new fans from the , Facebook,, YouTube, and Google.
  3. Finish recording all unfinished parts on the new CD
  4. Move the 5th Wheel ( I call her my "Sorta-Rican Shangri-La" - "My  Hillbilly House of Happy")
  5. Mix The New CD
  6. Start a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign to raise money for mastering, licensing, and producing the New CD
  7. Get CD Manufactured
  8. New timing belt/ water pump for the KIA
  9. Learn new songs, record new songs, and book gigs for new project w/ Alycia Vince
  10. Stir things up again nationally with  SoldierSongs / Develop lesson channel on YouTube
  11. Go play in Fayetteville AR, Corinth MS, and Nashville TN in April - book more tour dates in the South
  12. Book and Play a heavy summer schedule Colorado/ Wyo/ Utah/ Nebraska/ Montana/ Idaho/ Oregon - including dates with Miss Emily and some really fun festival dates.
  13. Some serious time in a nervously intimate relationship with my dentist - where he applies a much-needed overhaul to my cracked-up grin, using nothing but $100 dollar bills and liberal doses of Novocaine.
  14. Dress better - comb hair occasionally :-)
  15. Do the dishes. 
I need all this to be done by the end of business tomorrow - at the latest.  Unreal expectations?  Of course, but where would I be today if it weren't for delusional behaviour?

The long story short of this thing is:  I've come to a place where being me is requiring a good bit more of my time and energy than I originally assumed would be necessary. I'll bet a whole lot of you good folks feel the same way.

 I'm just a guitar-picker(extremely low-stress position) , and if being me ( the most fortunate and blessed person I know), is this much work - You all must be working your asses off!!

I know it.  I see it every day.  Good people trying and fighting - through circumstances so hard and so frightening I can't even whisper the words - just to get through to the light of tomorrow.

I have about a dollar more than I truly need on any given day that's plenty;  and  so much love around me that I never feel alone.  These stresses I have - I can afford to be patient.

I know some of you haven't got a minute to waste.I know that some of my brothers and sisters are in situations that need remedy immediately - that beg the blessing touch of heaven just  to heal what's broken.

It's a privelege to sing to all of you - to hope for a moment that someone is comforted or amused by what I do - that's the best I can ever hope for - in this life or the next.

 It seems unfair to me so often - that I am so blessed when so many need so much.  I'm more than grateful. It's why I believe so whole-heartedly in giving away a little - of my money, my time, myself - is a requisite of living  this truly wealthy existence I enjoy.  To be selfish with what I've been given so freely - would be an insult to heaven.

"Peace Out"
"Don't take any wooden nickels"


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Day He Showed Up

 I think sometimes, that I have lived a hundred lives, this one began on a cloudy February day in Boulder Colorado in 1985

I was on my knees, my fingers white-knuckled on the chain-link backstop at a corner baseball diamond - just across the way from Boulder Memorial Hospital in Boulder, CO. My eyes refused to focus - impossible through the well of tears that wouldn't stop.

I was choking for each breath - begging - begging God - For the life of my newborn son. His tiny life was hanging by a thread. His mother had survived a harrowing delivery and a nearly-fatal episode of shock.  The doctors were right on it and she was going to be ok  - we all would - if our  little boy could just hold on.  The previous 12 hours had been a walk through the sort of hell Dante would envy.

I know many people walked and drove by that busy Boulder corner that day. I'm sure they wondered what manner of demon possessed the sobbing, cursing wretch they beheld.

 I was oblivious to anything around me, trying to make a deal with God - along with every ounce of my being - that he stop my heart, cold as stone, right then and there. I would gladly give up this life, and everything in it - if my little boy could just hold on.

I knew he was better than me - better than anything I'd ever touched -  the first moment I laid eyes on him. I knew that his tiny soul carried the weight of forgiveness.

He was small - spindly and sickly, fragile and frail - and he carried the authority of heaven. He was a living love-letter from my grandmother on the other side.

 I knew also,right from the first soft fitful cry, that I would never again be whole. The part of me that was everything,  now resided in this small wisp of a child that lay lingering between heaven and earth - as if making up his mind.

His hematocrit levels were completely screwed. The last 6 weeks in-utero there had been some separation of the placenta from the uterine wall. Long story short - he wasn't getting all the nutrients he needed as a result.  Through no fault of her own, my wife gave birth to a starving baby. His red blood cells had gone berserk trying to compensate and as a result his blood was way too thick. Axle grease when it shoulda been 10W-40.

The doctor had come in to Kelli's room a few minutes earlier to explain that they were doing everything they could, but that his body temperature and breathing were not stabilizing. He wasn't yet sure what was wrong, but It wasn't looking good. Kelli was given a sedative and told to rest. We talked softly and sadly, crying until she fell under the blessed fog.

I had no idea what to do. I couldn't think - everything between my ears and through my chest - down to my toes - burned. I started to walk to the exit sign and I found myself running - bursting through the steel door into sunlight. Light that burned my eyes like acid through a flood of tears I could no longer hold. I hollered in rage and cursed at God at the top of my lungs with my fists in the air - screaming " FUCK YOU" ................... "FUCK YOU"

 I'd believed in God all my life, but I could not hold belief in any God or being,  that couldn't see how badly we all needed that little boy -Who couldn't see what he had made. Who would be so selfish as to take him away.

I tried not to believe but I had nowhere else to turn.  I walked in a slobbery sobbing  fog across the street and into the park. It was right behind home plate that my knees buckled, and I fell like a stone. I could no longer breathe. I asked again - I pleaded in vain - "God please" "give him my life" - "take mine".

 I knew for certain in that instant,  what I know today as one of the inviolable truths of my existence - I wanted no part of this world without that boy in it.

After some time, when it finally dawned on me that God wasn't gonna show up and fight like a man. I gathered my composure as best I could and made my way back to the antiseptic porcelain  hell where my son lay dying. I didn't want his mother to be alone when they came. There was a raging fire between my ears and breathing felt like sandpaper. My feet were mud.

Now God has made a long habit of going "off the reservation" when it comes to keeping me in the loop. I don't know what  "He / She / They / It"  does - or how it does it - or how it decides when to - but I learned that day how insignificant and powerless I really am .

I  learned that, in spite of myself - in spite of my doubts and fears - God loves even me.  Every whisper and every tear of my pleadings was heard and heeded on  that day - in the farthest reaches of heaven - by God himself.

I and my wife, and my precious child, were never more than a breath away from an angels loving hand that day - not for an instant. Whenever my faith is tested, I remember that,  on a single February afternoon in 1985,  God laid more grace on me than any fool could ever hope to deserve in a lifetime.

At the point of our last conversation with the doctor he had still been searching for a reason why Chaz couldn't stabilize. They were drawing blood from the poor kid every 15 minutes and had him on oxygen.  Searching for an answer.

 One of the nurses - a brilliant young woman named Linda - our own personal angel - - noticed how thick his blood was when they would try to draw some out for testing.He wasn't running right.

She mentioned it to the floor nurse after her  shift with Chaz, and then to the Dr. when he showed up. When they checked his red blood cell count, it was out the roof. They immediately gave him a transfusion of regular 10W-30 protein albumin, and within a few hours his temperature, blood count, and breathing all stabilized. By evening we had a perfectly healthy and thoroughly punctured baby boy.

 His hand and feet were purple from all the places they had taken blood from.  He was about as big around as a candlestick - all elbows and knees. He was severely underweight and looked like a Sharpeii puppy crossed with a tire-iron. His diapers looked way too big and so did his head. When he cried like it sounded like hard work. He was perfect.

We named him after my Uncle Chuck and Kelli's father. Both good men - both extremely stubborn and both passionate, flamboyant characters just a little larger than life. We named him right.

Two days later my very pale and determined wife Kelli cradled him in her arms like we were stealing the last watermelon on earth, while I wheeled her out the ER entrance on the backside of the Boulder County Memorial Hospital. I had  our  old yellow Volvo, engine running, waiting at the door.  Under the watchful supervision of the floor-nurse, the security guard, and my wife- I fastened him into his brand new car seat and like a New York chauffeur, took my place behind the wheel.

Sadly, Kelli and I would  divorce a few years later  -  we lost each other somewhere. -'but in that moment we were in complete agreement. We almost spoke on top of each other and I will love her forever for the anxious determined look in those beautiful blue eyes that day.  "Let's get the hell out of here" ........ "Before,they come out and want him back."

That was 30 years ago. He's a military man at the moment now - Active Duty Air Force Reserve. He's a black-belt and teaches Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to children,  he's kind to women and critters, he's a damn fine cook, tough as a bucket of monkey wrenches, a pretty fair shot, and  handsome as hell. He's the kindest and  most decent man I know.  Funny as hell and just brilliant - my favorite person on earth.

When everything else in this world has gone to hell.  When it's gotten dark or tricky. I remember that day.  I've always known my blessings have been worth 10 times the cost - he's proof.  I'm the richest  man on earth simply because he's my son.

I look at old pictures, and I can't believe how fast the years have flown by. I wasn't a very good father, but he's always been a magnificent son.

I've watched  him become a young man, and watched that young man become a great man - of compassion and fortitude. A man of forgiveness and grace. - With strength and wisdom that I never possessed. I hold no claim to any of it - that's all his own.

I hope God is as kind to him as he has been to me. I hope he gets the know the beautiful joy and heartache that a son like that brings to a mans life.  I didn't have sunlight or oxygen before  him -  I don't have those things without him. That's how being a dad works. 

I want all sorts of things for my son. But what I want more than anything for him - To someday see his own loving eyes looking right back at him from the face of his own beautiful child. To feel that small warm hand, soft on his face, and to know that God has indeed heard his every prayer - in the farthest reaches of Heaven.

"Peace Out"
"Don't take any wooden nickels"

The Tip Jar Miracle

I might not have much money,  but 'you ever got yer wheels greased on the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower in the middle of a hot August night in Paris  - drunk on red wine and completely mesmerized by the deepest sparkling brown eyes and the most beautiful luscious red lips  a woman ever wore?  Describe that in a balance sheet.

You ever spent the last $20 you have to your name on lunchmeat, bread, and dog food for a homeless guy with a  sign and a skinny dog  on a street corner. I highly recommend it.  My experience has been that usually, before the sun comes up, I've got at least a few nickels more than I needed to begin with.

You ever walk into work, broke and worried,  and in 4 hours time, pull everything you need and more  out of an old cowboy boot? I do all the time. After awhile it cures you of worrying about being broke.

I have an old acquaintance who has luxury homes all over the country, and more money than a Silver Eagle bus could  hold. He's right next door to a heart attack, alone, kind of miserable, and scared to death of things that never happen. He likes to talk about himself and he's afraid to be alone. He's a hard cat to like because of it. 

He has lot's of people that he hands out money to, but no real friends. The last time I saw him  he told me that he'd really like to do what I do  - but he couldn't - too much responsibility - not enough time. With all that money he can't buy his own freedom to live the way that makes him happy.  I feel more badly for the man than you could know..  

Not everyone gets choices - I know I am fortunate because I do. I wish for every single soul I know, those same choices - that money never be a good enough reason to miss out on doing what you love, being with who you love, experiencing the outrageous and sublime. To experience the opportunity to trust in the next moment without fear. 

Its crazy, I know. 

Sunday afternoon I rolled into Powderhorn Ski area to play a gig,  with my fuel light on and $8 in my pocket. The night before I had played one of the most memorable gigs of my life - a benefit show for The American Cancer Society. I could have taken a paying gig, but it was far more important to me to play the benefit. I lost my mother recently to cancer. I wanted to give everything I could,  and that's exactly what I did. I met a woman and her son who reminded me  what courage was. You can't buy that. 

I had left my empty propane tank at the fuel stop in Mesa, to be refilled - so I needed to make at least enough in tips to cover propane and gasoline, if I wanted to get home and have heat. $40 bucks minimum - usually not a problem, but the day was cold and a storm was moving across the area. It was late in the weekend and most folks were headed for home. 

Even with these conditions, a surprising number of folks stayed around to have a drink and listen to me. I was thoroughly flattered - seriously. The tips were looking sorta thin but sometimes that's just how it goes. 

Somewhere in the second set I played a song from my old pal Kevin Welch - "Heaven Sent". It's a song about being grateful. I told a little story like I often do, about being the richest man I know - albeit occasionally monetarily challenged. I got a good laugh from the audience and I remember telling myself "If this is as good as it gets today - that's good enough" 

From what I could see in my old tip boot when I went to pack up, it didn't look like much. When I started unfolding the 1s & 5s, I found $85 folded neatly among all the crumpled green. I don't know who it was, but as I sit here now "snug as a bug" warm with Elvis & June Carter, thankful for  an anonymous strangers generosity, I really do hope that they get to enjoy their life as much as I love mine. 

I hope that kindness and grace never leave their side. The same goes for everyone who ever put a nickel, or a bill, or a joint, or a bud, or a check, or even a cupcake or milk bone dog treats ( you see it all after awhile) in my boot. It not only keeps me alive but it keeps me believing. I hope, and I try with everything I got - to work at this thing, and to deserve the confidence of my audiences and friends. So far - so good😄

"Peace Out"
"Don't take any wooden nickels"

Monday, February 23, 2015

Would I?

Saturday night I played and sang  for a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society at The Copper Club in Fruita, CO.

Fruita is a small Western  Colorado town with upwardly mobile intentions.  Still has that small town feel, but with some very metropolitan inspired tastes and vision.

The Copper Club is one of my favorite music rooms in the state.  Holds about 50 people comfortably  - about 100 when things really get going.  They make deliciously good beer and the folks that hang out are mostly neighbors, friends , and family from about a 10 mile radius.

I gave 'em hell and gave 'em my best Saturday night.  I was excited about helping out with the cause. My Mom passed away in November after a nasty fight with lung-cancer, so this one was personal.

My other son, the one I got to pick myself, Bud Frisinger, showed up to help me out, as did Alycia Vince. We bent some bluegrass and twisted up some hillbilly rhythm & blues. A handful of adventurous dancers showed off some move that would knock over Miley with a  wrecking-ball, and we all had a wonderful time. It always  feels good to use music to do something that needs doing.

The high point of the evening for me, came at the very end. I had the good fortune to meet a delightful woman named Mary Dabbs and her son Ryder.  The whole thing was sort of around her. She's going to Denver next Monday for a radical mastectomy.  She's got cancer.

She's a single mom with a mega-watt smile. Insanely beautiful by any standard and a complete a joy to behold.  Everyone around her  was wearing huge smiles and hugging her, and Ryder, and each other.  If prayer pulls you through hard times,  then she's hooked up to a squadron of John Deere Tractors. She says she can whip this and I believe she can.

I couldn't help but watch the boy - about 10-11 years old I would guess.  Skinny little fella with an old school baseball cap, a mile wide grin,  and great big glasses.  Jiminy Cricket gone Coolsville.  Reminded me of me for a minute. You can tell he's smart as a whip and he was never more than a few feet away from his Mom at any one moment.  If she was reaching for anything at all, he handed it to her.  He was working as hard as anybody at the benefit - filling the Luminaria bags and arranging the table.  He was a working man looking out for his Momma.

I remember 10 years old.  I remember how I felt about my Mom. We were alone too.  I wanted to protect her.  I wanted her life to be easier.  I wanted her to worry less and to laugh more - with me. I didn't have to deal with cancer.

 I saw it in that boys eyes Saturday night.  His Mom might have cancer, but she's not the only one fighting with the courage of angels. He would gladly whip the hell out of a dozen Ninjas and nineteen 8th graders just  to make his Mom better. She will get better, and then he will - because of it.

She seems FAR too young  for this horrible disease - He's far too young for the ghost that hangs in the shadows - in every breath- at their house.  Life isn't fair. It occurred to me more than once since Saturday night, that there is no rest for these two until this is over - and even then the notion of cancer will always rest uneasy in the dark corners of their fears.

A smile out of their household means something.  Mother and Son have to fight with the unseen, and gamble on the unknown - fight with their own secret fears - every minute of every day. They will forever cope with questionable tomorrows.

The night of the benefit I was humbled by those smiles. When she hugged me so sincerely,  and so graciously thanked me for the music , it was difficult to keep my composure. I needed to thank her , and to thank Ryder - for fighting and for smiling through the worry.  For their confidence - for their belief. I want her to survive - I need her to heal and live -because my own mother didn't.

 My life has no challenges today like Mays - like Ryders.  Only the myriad blessings I so blindly and joyfully suffer through. I've often wondered if there were a way to free the people I love and care about from their suffering by taking it on myself - would I? I hope so.  I know Ryder would.

Tonight when you close your eyes and thank your maker for the blessings in your life - toss a prayer toward Mary and her boy as well. I'm going to.

"Peace Out"
"Don't take any wooden nickels"