A Rock Star

30 Sep

He lies on the bed as the engines rumble beneath him. The constant noise takes his mind to a place of meditation. It is soothing to his tortured soul, and he knows that it will only last for a few more minutes. That is when he hears a knock at the door.

“It’s time.”

He sits up and feels his head spin from the whiskey and the pills. Hands rub his eyes, and he thinks to himself,

“Didn’t I do this last night?”

He lifts himself and walks to the mirror. His hair is long. His eyes are tired. He searches for what he needs and finds it on the counter. Rolling up a bill, he bends over and places it to his nose. He looks back into the mirror. His eyes are stronger, but they do not know who they are looking at. Who is this guy in the mirror? When this began, he was young and energetic. Now, his face is showing its age.

“That’s fine. Let your hair fall in your face, and they will never know the difference.”

He goes to the closet and rips through the clothes hanging within. What is it going to be tonight? They expect it to look a certain way, but any combination will do. He grabs what he needs, puts it on, and looks in the mirror. Only he could get away with this. Hell, if he was a normal person and walked down the street like this people would look at him like he was crazy. He is not a normal person, and he is not walking down the street.

He stares at himself in the mirror. Who is this guy? Where did I go? There is another knock on the door.

“You ready?”

He is not ready. He wants to close his eyes, but he cannot. They are waiting for him just like last night and the night before. He is tired, but he cannot rest. He takes another hit and opens the door. It is a small space, and a few people are crammed inside. There is a blonde here and a brunette there. Actually, he recognizes the brunette. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he thinks she had been in his bed. He smiles at her in case she was. Some guy slaps him on the back as he walks past.

He steps down the stairs and feels the cold night air. It wakes him up, and he knows that it is close. People surround him as he walks across the pavement and into the building. They walk down a sterile corridor, and he knows what is waiting at the end. He can hear the sounds echo through the hallway. As they get closer, the sounds get louder.Backstage

People line the hallway. Some are wearing suits and ties. Others are like him – old people trying to look young. They take pictures. They yell his name. They reach out to touch him.

As he walks down the hall, he can feel his energy building. It is not the drugs. It is not memories of the brunette. It is the sound at the end of the hall. He knows what is waiting for him, and he knows it is what he needs. He can hear it more clearly. They are chanting his name. They are stomping their feet. They want him, and he needs them. He needs the chants. He needs the adoration.

Finally, he gets to the stairs. As he puts his foot on the first step, the music starts. It is loud. It is powerful. It drives the crowd insane. It energizes him. This is why he is here. This is why he exists. He runs up the stairs and into the bright lights. The crowd screams.

He is energized. He is young again. Before he hit the stage, he was a tired old man. Now, he is a god. He is a Rock Star.

From Cynthia Ann Parker to Don McLean

29 Sep

Last week, the students in History of American Music discussed All Shook Up: How Rock n’ Roll Changed America, a book by Glenn Altschuler about the early days of Rock n’ Roll. It was a great discussion about music, society and all kinds of stuff. We even threw a little religion in there. I guided as they talked, but I was also thinking about a book that several of those students read for another class.

Last year, I taught Expansion of the United States and had them read The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend, a book by Glenn Frankel about the difficulties caused by the mixing of history and myth. On the surface, this book has nothing to do with the other one. However, there is one connection that ties them together, and it is not the fact that both writers are named Glenn. It is a chain of events that links a tragic episode in the American West to a tragic episode in Rock n’ Roll.

On May 19, 1836, Cynthia Ann Parker was abducted from her home by a Comanche raiding party. Her family had settled on the Texas frontier and faced the dangers of that decision. Her uncle searched for her but, after several years, gave up. Cynthia Ann grew to adulthood as a Comanche and raised a family. Years later, she was recaptured and brought back to the Parker family. She never recovered from being ripped twice from the world that she knew.Cynthia Ann Parker

In 1954, a novel by Alan Le May was published. It was called The Searchers and told the story of a man on an epic search to find his abducted niece. Although he studied many abductions, Le May’s story is similar to the Parker saga. However, the book ends differently than real life. The uncle does not give up. Instead, he is killed by a Comanche woman.Alan Lemay

In 1956, John Ford and his stock company traveled to Monument Valley make The Searchers, a film based on the book. John Wayne starred as the uncle looking for his abducted niece, played by Natalie Wood. It is considered by many to be the greatest of all Westerns and Wayne’s best performance. The audience does not know what will happen when he finds her, but, in the end, he takes her home.images-5

On February 25, 1957, Buddy Holly, a Texan, recorded “That’ll Be the Day“, a song inspired by Wayne’s catchphrase in The Searchers. The song reached Number One and was the first song recorded by The Quarrymen, who are better known as The Beatles. On January 23, 1959, Holly died in a plane crash with Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson.Buddy Holly

On March 14, 1971, Don McLean debuted a new song at a concert in Philadelphia. “American Pie” is believed to be about the changing musical and cultural landscape of the 1960s. It begins with “the day the music died”, which most people think is a reference to Holly’s plane crash. After all, “them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye singing this’ll be the day that I die.”Don McLean

Yeah, that is where my mind went. I connected two books from two different classes. It probably looks weird, but there are some things that cannot be denied. One of those is a direct historical line from Cynthia Ann Parker to Don McLean.



My iPod Has Issues – This Week in Music City

22 Sep

Man, this is a busy week of music listening. Tonight, my wife, stepdaughter and I are going to see Lorde at the Grand Ole Opry House. Tomorrow night, my wife and I are going to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The tickets were a birthday gift to her from a friend. Friday night, we are going with a bunch of people to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center for an All Star tribute to Jimi Hendrix, which involves some awesome guitarists. Buddy Guy, Johnny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and a bunch of others will put their spin on some classic tunes.

I mention these concerts to highlight the fact that Nashville is truly Music City, and it is not all cowboy hats and pickup trucks. If you are a music lover, then you can find what you like somewhere in this town.Nashville

I also mention these concerts because, with the addition of that thing called work, I may have a difficult time putting together in-depth posts. Since music is the theme of this one, I figured it would be a good time to take it easy and see what is going on in the iPod.

“Just the Two of Us” by Bill Withers

“Comin’ Home” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

“Sabotage” by Beastie Boys

“Ballad of Davy Crockett” by Fess Parker

“Highway 61 Revisited” by Bob Dylan

“Texas Funeral” by Jon Wayne

“Blacklight Fantasy” by Freaky Chakra

“White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane

“Blood on the Saddle” by Tex Ritter

“Chico and the Man” by Jose Feliciano

“Make It Easy on Yourself” by Dionne Warwick

“He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones

“Touchdown Tennessee” by Kenny Chesney

“Angie” by The Rolling Stones

“2:10 Deadwood Train” by Crabgrass

“What’s Love Got to Do With It” by Tina Turner

“Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who

“The Legend of Judge Roy Bean” by Nevada Slim

“Little Darlin'” by The Gladiolas

“Friday Foster” by Roy L. Chandler

Now, I am ready to listen to some music.

Have You Ever Looked at the Stars?

21 Sep

Sometimes, I like to sit in the darkness and become absorbed in my thoughts. If it is in a room, then I let my eyes adjust to the blackness. You would be surprised at what you can see, both internally and externally, once you become comfortable with the absence of light. If it is outside, then other senses begin to emerge. You can hear the sounds of the outdoors and feel the air.

Last night, I took Daisy Dog into the yard and allowed myself to be immersed in the night. I let the darkness surround me. I let the sounds of nature grow louder in my ears. I lifted my eyes and focused on the stars, those lights that have already been extinguished.Stars

Have you ever looked at the stars and ended up looking within yourself?

Have you ever looked within yourself and wondered what is really in there?

Have you ever wondered what is inside of you and think about those dead stars that we can still see?

Have you ever thought about those dead stars and wonder if part of us remains after we are gone?

Perhaps, our remaining light shines in the memories of those left behind. It could be in our deeds or our stories. It could be in the hearts of the ones we loved or the minds of the ones we encountered along the way.

Sometimes, the darkness is where you can find the light.

A Confession is Brewing

18 Sep

I have a confession to make to the readers of this blog. It is something that many people who know me have a difficult time understanding. It places me in a minority of people who others may think of as strange, weird, un-American and totally out of the loop. What is my confession?

I do not drink coffee.

Understand that I know a lot of people who love coffee. My wife cannot start her day properly without a cup or two. Other members of my family are also coffee drinkers. One of my good friends at work always has a styrofoam cup in his hand, which led me to buy this for his office door.image-12

Heck, I was having a meeting with another coworker when he asked if I wanted some coffee. When I told him that I did not drink coffee, he looked at me like I had three heads.

I know that they, and millions of other people, love coffee. However, I never grasped that love. I am sure this is because my parents did not drink coffee, but, as I grew up, the urge never hit me.

When I was in high school, my summer job was working on the loading dock of a factory. Imagine working in a metal building during the hottest and most humid part of the year. It was a job where everyone looked forward to break time, where they could get into the air conditioning and get a cold drink.

At least, I looked forward to getting a cold drink. Several of my coworkers would pour a hot cup of coffee. I could never understand that. I needed to feel something cold, and they were taking in hot liquid. They explained it by saying that coffee actually cooled you off better than something cold. I think that was crap. There is nothing sensible about drinking something hot while working in a hot factory.

I will give them credit for drinking their coffee black. What is that old cowboy saying? Coffee is not strong enough unless a horseshoe can stand up in it. These days, people drink coffee with sugar, whipped cream, cinnamon, pumpkin spice, peppermint and other kinds of flavors. For this, I cannot blame them. If I was going to drink coffee, then I would want to cover up the taste, too.

When I was a kid, my mom used to get mad when I refused to eat something because it tasted bad. She would always ask if I had ever tried it. That argument does not fly with coffee. I have tried it, and it does not suit my palate. Those guys in the factory break room used to say that you had to acquire a taste for coffee. I was told the same thing about beer and have the same response about both. If I do not like something the first time I try it, then why would I want to drink it until I like it? You either like something, or you do not.

As someone who does not like coffee, I realize that I have missed out on the coffeehouse experience. I think it would be cool to hang out in a coffeehouse and be Bohemian for a while. Get away from the hustle and bustle of life; sit by a fire with a steaming cup; and listen to someone singing with an acoustic guitar. Or, go in with a laptop and scroll blogs while a poetry reading goes on in the background.

I am not kidding about that last paragraph. I really feel like I have missed out by not emersing myself in that atmosphere on occasion. To me, that would be the one plus of being a coffee lover. However, here is the thing. Most coffee drinkers do not take advantage of that break from real life. They pull up to the drive-thru window and take the coffee into the hustle and bustle with them.

Look, I have an issue with drive-thru windows, anyway. One of my early blog posts was about the uselessness of a drive-thru window at Sonic, and I will walk into a place a thousand times before pulling up to the window. There is something more personal about doing business inside a business. However, I think the drive-thru at a coffeehouse truly takes away from the whole reason coffeehouses exist in the first place.

This is not a knock at people who drink coffee. I think it is wonderful that they have something that gives them that much satisfaction and pleasure. However, I will take my caffeine cold and carbonated in a Coke Zero. If I could get those coffeehouses to turn themselves into Coke Zero houses, then the world would be a perfect place.

Museums, Memorials, Steaks and Some College Football

16 Sep

This weekend, I traveled to Oklahoma with my nephews and Larry, a friend that you have read about. We went for a college football game but did a few other things, as well. At least, we did a few other things once we arrived. That, in and of itself, was an adventure.

We arrived at the Nashville airport in anticipation of a quick trip to Oklahoma City. That quick trip turned into a two-hour delay for mechanical problems. Once we got into the air, the plane was redirected due to weather. That added another couple of hours to the flight. A three-hour layover in Houston suddenly turned into a missed connection. When we landed, we discovered that the connecting flight was delayed because the plane had not left New Orleans. We did not miss our connection, but we still had to sit around for a couple of hours.

All of that adds up to a couple of things. First, a night of messing around Oklahoma City was cut short. Second,  I was reminded why I hate flying. If I am driving, then I know what the schedule is going to be. In an airport, I have to wait for somebody else to screw up.

Anyway, we made it to Oklahoma City and to our hotel. With little time to spare, we went to a couple of places that were high on the agenda.

I have been to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum many times on our annual field trip to New Mexico. We make a point to stop and show our students the site of the Murrah Federal Building, which was blown up in the first major terrorist attack in the United States. However, I had never seen it at night. I have heard that this is the time to visit. The memorial is lit up and the feelings of what happened there hit the hardest.image-9

I must say that it was a beautiful site to see, and the memorial is an appropriate tribute to the people who lost their lives.image-8

My oldest nephew had been there before, but my youngest nephew had not. I am glad that he got to see it. Unfortunately, we could not stay for long because we had our name on the list at our next destination.

Cattlemen’s Steakhouse is a well-known restaurant across the river in Stockyards City. It has been around for decades and is known as the best steakhouse in Oklahoma. Some friends who were already there placed our name on the list, and we needed to get there before our buzzer went off.

The place was packed with people from Tennessee. Apparently, they all got the word that this was the place to eat. Heck, they could have seen it on Guy Fieri’s television show. It is a cool restaurant with a great atmosphere and a great history. If John Wayne and Ben Johnson have eaten there, then it must be a great place.

With all of that being said, I was disappointed with the food. The steak was pretty good, but it was far from the best I have ever eaten. It is no comparison to the Land of Magic in Manhattan, Montana. I am glad that we went because we can always say that we were there, but I hope that Oklahoma has better steak places.

After a long day of flights and a big meal of food, we were ready to pack it in for the day. Besides, the important day was coming up. There was a big night game to be played down the road, and there were a few more places to visit before heading to the stadium.

I had not been to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum since I was a kid, and, honestly, I did not know much about it. I figured it would be cheesy, but, with a lot of time on our hands, it was something to do. I could not have been more wrong. This was one of the best museums I have ever seen. Rooms were filled to the brim with artifacts, art and anything that a lover of the American West would want to see.image-11

There was a room full of firearms, but that was not my favorite. I liked the artwork by Frederick Remington, C.M. Russell and others. I also liked the room dedicated to movies, which had an extensive collection of John Wayne’s personal belongings. There was a painting based on The Searchers that I would steal if I know how to be an art thief. There were also props from a bunch of my favorite movies.image-10

I cannot write about the museum without mentioning the rodeo room, which places you in the middle of the ring, and the room with the town, which places you on the streets of an old cattle town. The only thing missing was a brothel, and I still have not gotten over that disappointment.

We left that museum with the intention of visiting the ASA Softball Hall of Fame. My dad is in the Tennessee Hall of Fame, and we know several people who are enshrined in the national one. Unfortunately, it is closed on the weekends. One would think that the weekend would be a good time to open the doors.

With all of that behind us, it was time to drive to Norman and the football game between the University of Tennessee and the University of Oklahoma. The game did not go the way we wanted, but we had a great trip. We saw some interesting things and visited some interesting places. Like always, it is always good to travel, but it is also good to return home.

Venturing Into Oklahoma

12 Sep

This weekend, I am heading to Oklahoma to see my team, the University of Tennessee Volunteers, play the University of Oklahoma Sooners. It is always fun to go to a new stadium and see the traditions of other schools. I am sure it will be interesting to experience how they do things.Oklahoma

Hopefully, my team will make a good show of things. They are in a rebuilding mode, and Oklahoma is a powerhouse. That is not a formula for success, but you never know what might happen.

While we are there, we may get the chance to do a few other things. It has been years since I visited the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. On top of that, we have to visit the ASA National Softball Hall of Fame. We know a few of the inductees, and, many years ago, we played in a national tournament on their fields. We did not fare well in that athletic event.

Anyway, I will return with stories of adventure and, hopefully, athletic glory for the team in orange.


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