Woke-Awake-Alive-Paying Attention – Call it What You Will.

On page 187 of the Ken Burns book OUR AMERICA: A Photograph History, is a photo taken in 1942. Like every photograph in the book, this one is also stunning. A man of Japanese descent is sitting outdoors in a wooden chair. Neatly dressed, his hands rest on his lap. There is sadness and resignation etched into his face. Just behind, and to his left, another man holds an infant girl. To his right, two young boys stand on a platform, both with downcast eyes. On the ground sit several boxes tied with string. The picture was taken by the famous photographer Dorothea Lange at the Japanese internment camp in Centerville, California.

Included in the photo’s description is a copy of a letter written by 23-year-old Kimi Tambara who was at the time interned at the Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho. His words–“I can now understand how an eagle feels when his wings are clipped and caged. Beyond the bars of his prison lies a wide expanse of the boundless skies, flocked with soft clouds, the wide, wide, fields of brush and woods-limitless space for the pursuit of LIFE itself.”

Seeing Lange’s photograph and reading the caption explaining it, I looked deeper into the history of internment during World War II. I learned that there was an internment camp fifteen miles from the Idaho town where I lived for more than a decade. The camp Tambara wrote about became a National Historical Site in 2001, some years after I left the area. It commemorates the over 13,000 men, women, and children who were imprisoned there during the war. Nothing that I recall was ever mentioned about the place during the decade I lived less than a fifteen-minute drive away.

I looked further and came upon another story. It was the story of a man who was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism in World War II. He was born in Seattle, Washington in 1922, and died in combat on the 4th. of July 1944. His name was William Kenzo Nakamura. PFC Nakamura volunteered for the U.S. Army in 1943. Both of his parents had been placed in the Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho in 1942. They were both immigrants from Japan and had lived in this country for over twenty-five years. How does a man give up his life to protect a country that would imprison his mother and father for the crime of being born in another country?

So what do I, or you, make of this? There was understandably at the time vast anger towards and paranoia about people of Japanese heritage. Pearl Harbor had been bombed, and this country had entered the war. President Roosevelt signed the Executive Order 9066, allowing for the internment of Japanese Americans. How do we view this seventy-five years later?

Now here we are in 2023, and one cannot turn on national news without hearing the elected talking heads complaining about what history is taught, what should not be taught, what cannot be taught, and what should be taught. Apparently, it is their appointed right and responsibility to tell us, their constituents, what our children and grandchildren will be and will not be told in our schools. And to further that cause, what books can and cannot be used to teach our history, and what books can and cannot be held in school libraries. The message seems clear. We know better than you, and we will tell you what books are allowed, and which ones are not.

I had to look up what woke as it’s used today actually means. Having read it, I am still not sure. What is clear is it and other such words have been weaponized by both the Conservatives and the Liberals. Because I need simple in my life, I accept the idea that truth is truth, science is science, and history is history. There is room for discussion of what those words mean, but there has to be room and tolerance on both sides for that to happen. Very little in the world is black and white. Our country has been built on tolerance for the beliefs of others, yet there is a seismic shift occurring regarding any disagreement about what is and is not allowed today. We become something other than a democracy when one ideology, whether it be Left or Right, has the power to impose their will unfettered, and that all citizens MUST follow their dictates.

Some noteworthy quotes about banning books:

“Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you’re going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go to your library and read every book…” Dwight D. Eisenhower.

“Every banned book enlightens the world.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“Yes, books are dangerous. They should be dangerous – they contain ideas.” Pete Hautman.

William Kenzo Nakamura

Learning From the Young


I wonder how many younger people we older ones associate with on even an occasional basis. I’m not talking about the young lady taking my order from behind the Subway counter, or the two high schoolers we complain about talking too loudly at the next table over from us. I know for me, regularly, that’s about it. Maybe it’s because we believe they will think we are not cool enough for them. Does anyone under sixty use the word cool like that anymore? That’s part of the problem. We think we are smarter because we are old, and they think we are (fill in the blank) because they are young. We may both be wrong.

My granddaughter is sixteen, far smarter on her worst day than I have ever been on my best day. Last year, she and I got into a discussion about the merits or relevance today of the book To Kill a Mockingbird. We each had something of a different point of view about Harper Lee’s book. To put it in the vernacular of my age group, she cleaned my clock. I claim some disadvantage because of her being one of the best high school debaters in the state of Idaho. The truth is, she’s just a lot brighter than me.

This past week, three of my friends and I met with a young lady to discuss some issues of using social media. That subject, at least for me, felt like Einstein attempting to teach Alfred E. Neuman the Theory of Relativity. Despite that, I learned some of the technical aspects she was talking about, but more so, I had a great time doing it. She is smart as a whip, (ok, I couldn’t resist) articulate, charming, and willing to share her knowledge and talents with others. The two hours spent with her went by far faster than I wanted.

That same evening, another wonderful event happened. Suzanne and I, along with my friend Brad, went to a poetry reading in downtown Tucson. This was my second time at this event, and I was eager to see if the second meeting would be as good as the first. The gathering is small, maybe twenty people at most, and except for myself and my two companions, all other attendees had a median age of about twenty-five or less. The talent, bravery and poetry writing skills of those attendees were amazing. They are poets in every sense of the word. Their powerful, honest, in-your-face, and poetic words left me slack jawed. The cool thing was they listened to my words, Brad’s words, and from the clapping, finger snapping, and cheering seemed to appreciate what we said. When we left, I didn’t feel younger, but I felt optimistic. As we baby boomers bow out of this existence, I feel a glimmer of hope that the young of this country, like my granddaughter, the young social media expert, and those ‘youngsters,’ I heard reading poetry, just may do a better job of running this world than we have.

I’m going to take advantage of what the younger generations offer. There is plenty I need to learn, and they just maybe who I need to teach me.

Go well, David

“Forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age.” Victor Hugo

“The arrogance of age must submit to be taught by youth.” Edmund Burke

Poetry reading in Tucson.

Choose Your Word and Live it


As I was taking my walk this morning, a common thought arose again. “What really makes me happy?” Ok, so I’m not Socrates, but these kinds of questions pop up occasionally. I plead the 5th., that far more often thoughts about do I want chicken noodle soup or clam chowder for lunch enter my Atari 8-Bit sized brain. The question first originated with me when I was working as a counselor. Clients would come to me and say they were unhappy and wanted me to help them gain more happiness. Eventually, we would get to where I would ask them what happiness meant to them, and once we could come to some common understanding of that term, which varied for every person, we could talk about how to achieve it. Trying to keep it simple, we eventually talked about how the person could get more of what they wanted and less of what they didn’t want. The doing always proved to be the hardest part.

Happiness – Joy – Contentment – Peace – Bliss – Jubilation – Ecstasy

All good words. Joy seems the one that is most lasting and fitting for me. I find joy most often in nature. Yesterday morning as I was walking, I had just turned a corner in a neighborhood and looked up to see a grown coyote trotting down the street towards me. (This is Arizona, coyotes are everywhere) He saw me and stopped, I saw him and stopped. He wanted to keep going but was neither aggressive nor impatient. His look was guarded curiosity. I moved away to the side of the street, and he trotted past me, and I bid him a safe journey. Why do I tell this story? Seeing that coyote brought me joy that lasted all day and remains even now as I write this. Although there are those who see coyotes as a nuisance, I see them as beautiful and clever creatures who live hard lives. I often experience those same feelings when I’m walking in the desert and see a Harris hawk, a cactus wren, or even a rattlesnake. Nature brings to me what I’m most seeking from life.

There is nothing new or radical about what I’ve just said. What I find uncommon is a person who consistently works to add more of what they most enjoy, what brings them joy, while attempting to reduce what brings stress, worry, unhappiness or anger. In part, I think it is because we haven’t truly identified what we want, perhaps more accurately, what we need. We have been fed lies all our lives that having more, better, bigger, newer, faster, prettier, and fancier will bring us a never-ending romp on a tropical beach, sipping a gallon sized margarita, while strutting our perfect never growing old bodies in the newest fill-in-the-fashion-brand-of-the-day must have swimsuit. I missed out on the day all that was being passed out, because I’ve gotten old, my body resembles a porpoise more than “The Rock,” and when I romp, it’s usually to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

So what are we going to do, gang? It takes effort and focus to follow through on getting what we need from life. I’d suggest we stop and consider our Bliss, our Joy, our Happiness and spend more time and energy trying to fully enjoy those moments and far less time hoping to win the bazillion dollar lottery so that we can have it all and live out our lives with every toy we are told we need to have.

I’m going to try; I hope you do too. Go Well.

“Joy in looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift.” Albert Einstein

“Love is the joy of the good, the wonder of the wise, the amazement of the Gods.” Plato

Coyote near Riverside Geyser by National Park Service is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

Please consider my new book – Paperback or e-book on Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BHC2MZCR

Jealousy – such an ugly thing


          Happy New Year – Let’s make it joyful, safe, productive, and positive. Now that I’ve taken care of that, here’s my first real complaint about the new year. Why the hell do some writers have to be so good?

          My imaginary, open and terse letter to Sherman Alexie.

          Dear Mr. Alexie, sham that you are. It’s time to quit pretending you’re a good writer. Time for you to fess up and take it like a man. You’re not a good writer, far from it, my friend. You are a brilliant writer. Now go to…

The last book I read in 2022 was The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

As I said to my better half, (Suzanne) “This may not be the best book I’ve read, but if not, it’s damn close.” Those were words not lightly spoken. They were as serious as me saying Häagen-Dazs Butter Pecan ice cream is man’s greatest invention.

          The book is a semi-autobiographical novel about Mr. Alexie. Born with hydrocephalus, raised early on a Spokane Indian reservation, both parent’s alcoholics, lonely, and bullied, he attended an all-white school 22 miles from the reservation. Don’t be dissuaded by the Teen or YA category of this book. Alexie captures the most basic, difficult, sad, and joyous moments of the teen years of all children and sets them smack down in the middle of an Indian reservation. An easy to read and sometimes laugh out loud book. The author captures all we need to know about how hard a child’s life can be, and what courage a child can show. As a reader, I had to set aside my initial feelings that the issues seemed all too common, too cliché. This book is not simplistic in any manner. It is because this writer has the skills needed to take the most troublesome matters and make them understandable, moving, and challenging without hitting the reader over the head with them. Had I answered him aloud, it would have been, “Yes, I see it all.”

          Every reader decides at some point that a book or story is vital to them, or something to be set aside and forgotten. For some, I suspect Part-Time Indian would fit in the second category. So be it. For me, it is an amazing piece of writing from an author who knows what words he puts to paper is his truth. If you read it, it may not move you, but it’s well worth the time and effort to see how it fits.

          I am now reading a manuscript that a friend of mine has been writing for the past few years. I will refrain from sharing the title and the author’s name for now. Still, I can’t hold back from saying that it is going to be a magnificent book when published. I look forward to being able to write more about it in the near future.

          This brings me full circle back to the beginning of this post. I feel blessed that I ended last year on such a high reading note as I did with Alexie’s book. Now I have a new 2023 gift in reading my friend’s manuscript. But it’s still unfair, and I repeat, “Why the hell do some writers have to be so good?”

I share a picture of Alexie’s book cover. As the new day has started, I feel positive about the new year. I sincerely wish nothing but the best for all. OK, not Putin, he can be locked in a dark room and be forced to listen 24 hours a day to Pat Boone sing versions of ACDC songs, cranked to eleven.

Go Well. David.

On the wall above my computer. My goal always –

          “If I haven’t made you smile, or cry, or think, or laugh, then I haven’t done my job as a writer.”

Please consider my new book. Cardboard Heroes https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BHC2MZCR

Writing – Why?

          This one is harder to write!

          I belong to the Oro Valley Writer’s Forum, a group of dedicated writers and friends. Experience, abilities, and individual writing goals differ. Yesterday at our monthly coffee meeting, I had a conversation with one of the most highly regarded authors in our group. She mentioned she’d seen a blog post I had written roughly two years ago, and that she liked it. A nice compliment for sure. Then she added I had said in the blog, something to the effect that I “pledged to post a new blog every two weeks.” Although I didn’t remember the post in any detail, I had no reason to doubt that I had written those words. What I also knew was I had not kept that pledge. To this date in 2022, I have posted ten blog entries this year. Even for someone like me who has poor math skills, I know that is less than one blog per month, and far less than bi-weekly.

          Responding to my friend, I said something to the effect that I had read blogs were now less in fashion, that followers were hard to get, and that “there is a minimal return on the investment for a blog.” This last sentence meaning, it takes time to write a good blog post and there are few book sales (OK, maybe no sales) as a result of the postings. So there it is, the real rub. At some point, marketing proves to be as hard, if not harder, than writing. Authors want a minimum of two things – We want people to read our work (and enjoy it), and we want people to buy our books. There are many more reasons we write, but I believe those are two are what every author desires. Both longings, at some point, seem to become more difficult to achieve than writing the book.

          I have tried and will continue to attempt to accomplish these goals in the future. My longing for readers and sales has not waned. I also intend to make the practice of writing a more fulfilling activity. Not just looking towards the outcome, but also making a greater investment in the joy of the process. When writing becomes difficult, I write less. Maybe that is the opposite of what is needed. The friend mentioned earlier is disciplined to a fault, and as a result, she is also successful. OK, being talented and well trained in her craft is also a big plus.

          There are two quotes I enjoy regarding this subject. One comes from the movie A League of Their Own. The character played by Geena Davis tells Tom Hanks, the team’s coach, she was quitting. He asked why? She told him – “It’s just gotten too hard.” Hanks looks at her and says, “of course it’s hard, it wouldn’t be great if it wasn’t hard.”

The second is—“When the words come hard, the weak stop writing. When the writing becomes easy, the strong writer works harder.”

My favorite current read—Short Takes: Brief Encounters with Contemporary Nonfiction Edited by Judith Kitchen My next planned self-published book to read, Forever Greta by Harald Lutz Bruckner

Cardboard Heroes https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BGMHGQ8C

Who would you pick to share a beer?


          Before I get myself in trouble, it could be a beer, a cup of tea, a glass of wine or a diet coke. Now that that’s out of the way, who would you pick to spend an hour or a day with? Living or dead, who would excite, scare, intimidate, or thrill you to meet? What questions would you ask them?

          I’m going to give my partial list and reasons. Who would you choose, and why? I’d very much enjoy reading your answers.

Since I write, I’m going to start with authors.

First choice–John Steinbeck. He knew people; he knew common experiences and he could and did write of the pain, joy, and struggle of the lives we all live. My question “How did you write so honestly, so vividly?” The Grapes of Wrath and The Long Valley.

Second choice – Cormac McCarthy–A curmudgeon I suspect, who doesn’t suffer fools, but still I’d try. “How does one learn to write with such brutality and with such beauty?” The Road and All the Pretty Horses.

Third choice–Mary Oliver–“Your poetry was so accessible, even a dolt like me can understand and feel it.” I bet she would have just smiled. Dog Songs and A Thousand Mornings.

Honorable mentions: Billy Collins, Alice Munro, John O’Donohue, and Barbara Kingsolver.

Notable Others

First choice – The 14th. Dalai Lama. I saw him in Minneapolis and could feel his compassion when he walked into the huge auditorium. My question – “How have you forgiven and feel such compassion for those who stole your country?”       

Second Choice–Abraham Lincoln.–“Help me understand how you became you. Who you were, and what you did, defies understanding.”

Third choice–Bobby Kennedy–Simply because I admired him then, and I admire him now.

Notable Others–Robin Williams, John Prine, Mother Teresa, and my grandmother, Annie Close.

Musicians (because music has been such a part of my life)

First choice–John Prine (again) I just want to tell him I miss his music and his illegal smile.

Second choice–Jim Croce, Jimmy Buffett, and Marvin Gaye, over a beer. So many questions, serious answers, and laughs.

Third choice–Elvis, hell, he was Elvis, reason enough.

So who would you meet, know, talk with, and share a beer or cup of tea with? There are wonderful people out there, some we wish we could know, others we will know only by their writing, their music, or the events they helped shape. It’s up to us to open ourselves to every opportunity that presents itself, and that means knowing others. There are fascinating and funny people in this world. Go meet them.

Go well, David

Writing Friends are the Best Friends


          I’m going to start by saying a fundamental truth: family and friends are at the top of the list for what’s most important in life. That said, today I’m going to write about friends.

          I’ve been blessed with many friends. Some have fit into the category of “doing things with” friends. I’ve had tennis friends, music friends, military friends, work friends and now I’m connected to a group who are writing friends. We share the common interest of writing, but as friends, this group shines even brighter as supporting friends. We support each other. We cheer for each other. We help each other. Our bond is the challenge of putting words to paper and attempting to make those words meaningful. This daunting and sometimes lonely task is made easier with the help of mutual and unconditional respect. There is a bonus given with this particular group, they are all kind and good people.

          When a writing task is difficult, we lend a kind but firm hand to assist in a critique. When a book or story is published, we celebrate and cheer on that success. On a practical note, we write reviews for each other. HINT! That was a not-so-subtle nudge to say if you like an author’s work, let the world know about it by leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads. That effort takes little time and means the world to an author.

          There have been a few occasions when I have witnessed a writer exhibit jealousy or at least envy with the success of another writer. It appears they feel as if they express support for the successes of another, it somehow reduces the possibly of their own success. NEWS FLASH! It doesn’t work that way. There is not a predetermined and finite quantity of available success. It is akin to love. I truly believe the more you give, the more you receive. Do the best work you can. Go the extra mile. Believe in yourself and in others. Then trust who or whatever you believe in that the universe will take care of the rest.

          My friends have turned out some very well-written and enjoyable work. My apologies up front to those I fail to mention, in no way is the omission intentional. Here is a partial list of some of the titles produced by some of my friends. Deb–Out of the Crayon Box, Wes–Hectic Treks, Karen–Moon of Many Names, Monique–Into Crosswinds,

Rosemary–Death, Diamonds, and Deception, Carol–A Cold War Teacher’s Tale, Charlie–Edge Pieces, Hugh–Lighthouse Mystery, Paula–Roadrunner Tales, Helmut–Nobody’s Coming, Jerry–Anasazi Parting Gift, Marianne–Trying to Grow Up in L A, Bob–Crash! Boom! Bang! Mary Ann-Never to Love, and Yoli-Coping with Cats.

          If you wish to know how to find any of these books, drop me a line at kramer1234@comcast.net and I’ll be happy to provide that information to you.

I have a note on the wall above my computer where I write. It says this –

Read without limits -Write with honesty- Live without regrets

I leave you with one last shameless plug. My new book Cardboard Heroes: Stories of Struggle, Hope and Redemption has been published and is available as a paperback and e-book at Amazon Books. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BGMHGQ8C  I’m proud of the work and I hope you will consider reading it.

Also, please consider the books I mentioned above.

Go Well. David.

Effort and Reward


The mortal asked the gods, “What shall I do?”

They answered–“Strive for what you can.”

“That is not enough.” The man responded.

“Then strive for what you can’t,” Came the reply.

I sat in a meeting with my writing friends, and one of the members began talking about predictions (perhaps they were dreams) for her yet unfinished book. Later, in talking with another writer, I mentioned what she had said and expressed my thoughts that her expectations were lofty and likely to never happen. He listened patiently and told me–“Well, it’s certainly not going to happen if she doesn’t try.” He was right.

Later, I thought about that conversation. I also thought about the plaque that is on the wall where professional tennis players enter Louis Armstrong Stadium to play matches at the U S Open. The plaque says, Pressure is a Privilege” The connection of recent conversations and that plaque started me thinking.

It feels to me that we live in an age of increasing mediocrity. A place where just good enough reigns and getting by is becoming the norm. And I think what life would be without dreams, hopes, and persistence?

Who would be in the NBA if no one dared dreamed of making that happen? Would we have landed on the moon and returned, or found a vaccine for polio if we’d listened to the Nay Sayers proclaiming it can’t be done?

Now, in this stage of life, I spend a lot of time and energy writing, and many of my friends are also writers. We each have different reasons why we put pen to paper. Some are with dreams of the next bestseller, and all that goes with that accomplishment. Others long to write just one magical sentence. No reason is right, and no reason is wrong as long as it is the honest why that we do it.

I can only speak for myself, but I am keenly aware of the difference I feel when I have put my heart and soul into doing something and when I have simply gone through the motions and said, that’s good enough. Life is too short to drink weak coffee, and it’s too short to not give it our best shot.

I’ll repeat the line from the Mary Oliver poem, The Summer Day

                         Tell me, what is it you plan to do

                     with your one wild and precious life?

We may all have regrets at the end of our lives, but I hope that we can all say it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Go well, my friends, and may your books be best sellers, your basketball shot win the NBA finals, and may you embrace pressure as a privilege.

Some last thoughts.

John Steinbeck was told by a professor that he would be an author when “When pigs flew.” And so he had this printed on every book he wrote – ad astra per alas porci. “To the stars on the wings of a pig.”

“My grandmother told me a long time ago, ‘I don’t care if you’re sweeping a porch for a living,’ she said, ‘You need to do your best.’ So I’ve lived by that every single day

                                                                                                    Tori Bowie

“One finds limits by pushing them.”

                                          Herbert Simon

Joy Found In Music


My first memory of music was when I was eight years old. My dad was stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany, and my uncle was on a smaller army post nearby. We would visit, and my older cousins would play The Coasters, Bill Haley, and Little Richard. Keith and Sharon were Cool, and I wanted to be too. Later, I’d visit another cousin, and we’d listen in the middle of the night to KOMA as The Four Seasons sang Sherry. It hooked me then and still am today.

On a recent morning walk, I considered the impact music has had on my life and all the wonderful performers I’ve seen in concerts or festivals. Each brings back many memories.

The performers and bands I’ve seen and heard, and what is connected to each performance.

The Dick Clark Caravan of StarsDel Shannon, The Zombies, Paul Revere & the Raiders, and The Shirelles. Amarillo, Texas (I was 15 and hitchhiked from Dumas, TX., to see the show.)

The Beach BoysAmarillo Texas (Perfect bubble-gum music to make you feel cool.)

Johnny Burnette Dumas, Texas (You’re Sixteen and it was a year before he drowned.)

The Crickets Borger, Texas (Buddy Holly was already dead)

Jimmy Gilmore & The Fireballs Dumas, Texas (Sugar Shack)

The Astronauts Amarillo, Texas (Baja is still one of the greatest surfing instrumentals ever)

Les Brown and His Band of Renown Camp Eagle, Vietnam (Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah didn’t seem to us grunts the cool new song Brown thought it was.)

John Denver West Texas State University (I know it’s not cool to say, but I did like him.)

Ike and Tina Turner WTSU (Before Ike became a villain.)

Olivia Newton John WTSU (RIP)

Delbert McClinton Soap Creek Saloon, Austin, Texas (Ken and I watched a couple climb in the back of a pickup and get it on.)

Neil Diamond San Antonio, Texas (I know, another I’m not supposed to like)

Moody Blues San Antonio, Texas (brought back a few nights sitting in Happy Valley in Vietnam) (I didn’t inhale)

Stevie Ray Vaughan San Antonio, Texas (My boyhood band mate, Tommy Shannon, made it big playing bass for Stevie Ray.)

Jimmy Buffett San Antonio, Tx.(The audience showered the stage with joints.)

Dire Straits San Antonio, Texas (Mark Knopfler one of the three best rock guitarists, who are the other two?)

Jackson Browne San Antonio, Texas (1st. concert with my youngest son)

Melissa Etheridge Salt Lake City, Utah (Concert with my oldest son, and about 6000 lesbians – they were using both men’s and lady’s restrooms, we politely waited our turn)

Natalie Merchant Boise, Idaho (I had such a crush on her.)

The Eagles Boise, Idaho (The Hell Freezes Over tour. What could be a better name than that?

John Fogerty St. Paul, MN. (He was Creedence Clearwater Revival, the other players were unnecessary.)

Johnny Lang St. Paul (That kid can play a guitar.)

.38 Special St. Paul, MN. (Hold on Loosely – iconic of the country rock sound)

Matchbox Twenty Rochester, MN. (Listen to Rob Thomas sing Fire on the Mountain, a great tune.)

Bare Naked Ladies St. Paul (Maybe the best Canadian band ever)

BoDeans St. Paul (Everyone knew and sang the words to every song.)   

Eric Clapton Minneapolis, MN. (What can be said except the old line about him Clapton is God.)

Robert Cray Minneapolis, MN. (He’s still a Hot Smoking Gun.)

Charlie Musselwhite Minneapolis, MN. (What a blues harp player. Old School)

Walter Trout Minneapolis, MN. (Walter plays blues like there will be no tomorrow.)

Big Brother & the Holding Company Tree Frog Music Festival Faribault, MN. (Janis was long dead by then.)

Hubert Sumlin Minneapolis, MN. (Howlin’ Wolf’s guitar slinger. He was near 80, had lost a lung and played like he was a king.)

Los Lobos Tucson, Az. Tucson Blues Festival (They didn’t play One Time One Night, pissed me off)

K T. Tunstall Hotel Congress, Tucson. (She played with the best female drummer I’ve ever heard, and Suzanne and I were the two oldest people at the show.

A lifetime of music has brought joy to my life and to my soul. I’ve also been lucky in that I’ve played music since I was fifteen. Our first band was named The Avengers. We were later more cool and became EKOS in Dumas, Texas. Later with The Eddie Haskell Band in Twin Falls, ID., then 2nd. Exit in Northfield MN., then Linden Station in St. Paul. I’ve met, played with, and been friends with great music people throughout my life. There are few joys as ubiquitous as music.

Songs are the memories we hum and sing. What songs take you back to a time that was, or never was?

“When I die, they’ll say he couldn’t play shit, but he sure made it sound good.”

                                                                                            Hound Dog Taylor

“Rock n Roll might not solve all your problems, but it does let you dance all over them.”

                                                                                    Pete Townshend

“I been in the blues all my life. I’m still delivering cause I got a long memory.”

                                                                                  Muddy Waters

What is Contentment?


In a recent discussion with a friend, I was attempting to articulate that I believe what we say brings us contentment, joy, or satisfaction in life, is often not what we spend our energy, time, and money to get. An example–If I say my family and friends are what is most important in my life, and yet I only spend one or two percent of my time engaged with them, then maybe my statement about their importance is not completely accurate. Before anyone gets up in arms and says, “but my life is busy, or I have to make money, work, pay bills, etc., I understand life can be busy, and we all have actual obligations to attend to. I do not disagree that life is hectic at times, but I would also add that there are times that are not hectic, that we have the leisure to decide what we can and what we want to do.

I am not judging or suggesting what anyone should do. My point is that each individual might consider what in life is most important to them, what makes life worthwhile and significant to them, and when they know what that is, then pursue it with passion and determination.

In the wonderful Mary Oliver poem The Summer Day, she ends the poem with these words–Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Stop for a moment and attempt to answer Mary’s question. Do you have an answer? Are you living the life that your answer is? If you don’t know the answer, is that OK with you? If you know the answer, and you’re not heeding it, what do you need to change in your life?

Many of us live lives of if only. If only I had a million dollars, I’d relax and take it easy. If only my husband, or my wife didn’t have so much for me to do, I’d have time to write–play golf–volunteer. If only I had that new Corvette, I’d be happy. If only – if only.

I think Mary Oliver was right. We have only one wild and precious life to live, and what we do with it helps determine our satisfaction and contentment with life. There is nothing wrong with having nice stuff but thinking it will make you content or fulfilled is a losing game. There is always more to buy. The old bumper sticker that said He who dies with the most toys, wins, was satire, not wise council.

I’m reading a good book by Christina Feldman–The Buddhist Path to Simplicity. There is a great buzz about minimalism these days. If we just have less stuff, life will be more simple, and easier. Feldman contends our having fewer possessions can make life less cluttered, but it is not quite that easy to live a more simple life. She writes that maintaining a simple and therefore a more full or fulfilling life is more about what is in our heads and less about what’s in our overstuffed closets. Contentment with enough is far different and much easier to maintain than always seeking more things and worrying about losing what we have. Letting go of attachments is a key idea of Buddhism.

So to my initial point, do you know what brings contentment, meaning, satisfaction, and genuine joy to your life, and how much of your energy, time and money resources are going to that end? What do you need to do in order to make yours A LIFE WELL LIVED?

Two quotes on contentment.

Many people lose the small joys in the hope for the big happiness.”

                                                                               Pearl S. Buck

“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough.”

                                                              Walt Whitman

I was 16 and sitting behind that used Ludwig gold-sparkle drum kit and playing music with my best friends was PURE CONTENTMENT!