Tara and Hound Dog Taylor

9-03-2019

If you do only one thing for yourself this month, let if be reading Educated by Tara Westover. It is a wonder filled book written by a lady that was raised in Southeast Idaho by a survivalist family. Tara’s father, a man possessed by his faith, mental illness and unyielding fear and hatred of the government. Her brother brutal and abusive. Home schooling consisted of helping her mother concoct healing oils and working in her father’s scrap business. No birth certificate was issued as an effort by her family to never allow the government to know of her existence.

Tara was born at home and never attended school until she was seventeen years old. Destined to live the same isolated life as her parents, she decided she wanted something different. Her break from her solitary and abusive life came after self-study and admission to Brigham Young University. After graduating from BYU, Tara went to Trinity College, Cambridge where she earned a MPihil, then on to Harvard University as a visiting fellow and back to Cambridge to earn her PhD in 2014.

Although Tara’s march through a world class education is impressive, her real story is her ability find the courage and means to resist a predestined life. This young woman fought against all obstacles to become not only a scholar, but more importantly a strong, independent and healthy human. Her story is an amazing example of a human beings ability to overcome almost any difficulty to become what they wish to be.

It’s a beautiful book, please read it.

Hound Dog Taylor was born in Natchez, Mississippi on April 12, 1915 and died December 17, 1075. A true Blues Man who played boogie like no other. He said this about his music – “When I die they’ll say he couldn’t play shit, but he sure made it sound good.” That was the Hound Dog. He always played cheap Japanese guitars, his records are rough, raw and rowdy. But how they make you smile.

Hound dog was not your usual man. He was born with six fingers on each hand (known as polydactyly). The extra digits were rudimentary nubbins and could not be moved. One night, while drunk, he cut off the extra digit on his right hand using a straight razor. That incident doesn’t suggest the joy his music brings to me. When I’m down, one song by the Dog can raise me up. As he said as an introduction to one of his songs – “Me and BB King used to drive tractors down in Enola, but come every Saturday night, we used to have some fun, brother!” I’ve never been to Enola, and I never heard Hound Dog play live, but when I hear his music, I have some fun, brother.

Do yourself two favors, read Educated and listen to Hound Dog Taylor.

“Through perseverance many people win success out of what seemed destined to be certain failure.” Benjamin Disraeli

Go well, David

Words Matter

8-28-2019

An ad popped up on my Facebook page this morning. It was posted by a conservative political group. The focus of the ad seemed to extol the virtues of the not being “politically correct.” I read about a dozen of the comments posted regarding the ad. Most were metaphorically screaming “YES! – It’s my constitutional right to not be politically correct.” It got me thinking about the incredible power of words. I also considered how there are those whose words hold far more power, authority and volume than others.

Merriam Webster defines politically correct as: “Conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated. If I understand that definition correctly, the reverse would be that a person holds a belief that they have no responsibility to not offend others with their language and practices. Technically, I guess that’s true. It may be that nothing requires us to not offend others. The Right (with a capital R) of free speech is guaranteed by the Constitution. But in practice, does, or should that mean we disregard civility? Should we not be concerned with truth when we say something? Do lies no longer matter, if we say something that is not honest and truthful?

There are many words that seem to be intentionally inflammatory. A person does not use the n word to be accurate or truthful. It’s used to insult, demean and inflict harm on another human being. Many of the comments in the above described ad stated that “racism” is overused ( my interpretation of their comments). They seemed to argue that the word is now overused regarding those who are “just being honest and not politically correct.” Is not being politically correct always being racist? Of course not. But to hide behind the Constitution to insult, bully, demean, harass, and diminish another human, cannot be justified by saying “I have the right to say what I want.”

It seems to me that we’ve moved to a place in this country where we believe those who shout or scream the loudest are the “truth tellers.” Facts matter. Truth matters. It doesn’t matter if you are the President of the United States or the poorest, most uneducated person in the country – the words they speak matter.

There is no question that I’ve been provoked and succumbed to screaming back at those who post comments where I disagree. I’ve written stupid and insulting comments. But I’ve also come to believe that my words change nothing, no one’s mind is changed when I yell. Truth is not measured by volume or insults. It’s time I heed my own words. It’s time I stop reading ads that have no purpose other than to inflame or to insult the sensibilities of others.

Honest communication is built on truth and integrity and upon respect of the one for the other.” Benjamin E. Mays

Go well – David

How it Should Be

8-20-2019

Normally I would dismiss anything that started with this title. I’d say something snarky like, “Sure, you know everything! You have the audacity to try and tell me you know something for certain?” In this case, yes I am.

On Sunday morning, Suzanne and I took a walk in a nearby neighborhood. Older houses probably built sometime in the late 1980’s. Some still need a bit of repair, many showing the pride of their owners. As we passed one home, Suzanne noticed the gate to the back yard open and a man and a woman working. In an excited voice she said, “Look, they have real grass.” You must remember this is Arizona, grass is as rare as a white man that can dance. The woman in the yard heard Suzanne and immediately called, “Come inside and look.” So we did.

The yard was beautiful. Sculpted turns bordered by trimmed hedges, a bubbling fountain, flowers, fig and lemon trees. A., the husband and C., the wife are both originally from Italy. A. had built an outdoor cooking area complete with a wood-fired pizza oven. They were from Napoli, Italy and he told us we needed to again visit and he’d make us a pizza. We stood and talked with this delightful couple for twenty minutes, neither of us wanting to leave. As we started to go , A. gave us fresh basil and carrots from his garden. He gave me a fresh fig to taste as he explained about an Italian breakfast – crusty bread, sliced figs and prosciutto. They again told us to please come back and visit anytime we wanted to. We have smiled and recounted the story many times since Sunday morning.

So that’s the reason for the title of this piece. That’s the way ALL people should behave. We should all be as welcoming, as generous and as gracious as that couple. We should be willing to take a few minutes to meet new friends. We should be thankful for the blessings we’ve been given and willing to share our joy with others. This is an absolute truth.

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust

Go well – David

Beauty and Wonder

8-9-2019

Toni Morrison (Chole Ardelia Wofford) born Feb. 18, 1931 – Died Aug. 5, 2019. Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993.

My business card (it’s really not a business) says David R. Davis – Author. That term, author, implies something that is technically true, but somehow is far less than the word as it would be used to describe Toni Morrison. It would be equal to something like – I’m like Shakespeare, because I know the alphabet. I write words, Morrison painted vivid and beautiful landscapes with words. This is not a critique of my skills, it is a realistic comparison of an artist and someone who writes for pleasure.

I will offer up a challenge to anyone who reads this blog.

Read the first 20 pages of Beloved , don’t scan through them, or read them as you might the cover of USA Today, but deeply read Toni Morrison’s words and tell me they do not fill you with joy and wonder.

Page 8 (of my copy.) “Except for a heap more hair and some waiting in his eyes, he looked the way he had in Kentucky. Peachstone skin, straight-backed. For a man with an immobile face it was amazing how ready it was to smile, or blaze or be sorry with you. As though all you had to do was get his attention and right away he produced the feeling you were feeling. With less than a blink, his face seemed to change-underneath it lay the activity.”

or

Page 18. “I got a tree on my back and a haint in my house, and nothing in between but the daughter I am holding in my arms. No more running-from nothing. I will never run from another thing on earth. I took one journey and I paid for the ticket, but let me tell you something, Paul D Garner: it cost too much! Do you hear me? It cost too much.”

My challenge is this – read her work and if you are not moved, if you don’t see or feel the beauty in her words; I will gladly buy you a cup of coffee or a beer.

I vaguely remember a scene in the movie Amadeus. Salieri comes to realize that no matter what he does, no matter how hard he tries, he will never compare to Mozart. He loves music, he loves beauty, but he simply doesn’t have whatever it was that made Mozart, Mozart. I recall it as a somewhat tragic scene in the film.

In no way do I compare myself to this drama, still I know that should I have 500 more years to live, I will never have what Toni Morrison had that made Toni Morrison, Toni Morrison. Her writing, her art was a special gift. And I honestly believe the world is a better place as a result.

I won’t quit trying. I have never hit a backhand topspin like Roger Federer hits every time he steps on a tennis court. But I kept playing tennis for thirty years and I kept trying to hit a better backhand every time. I may never write a sentence like Ms. Morrison wrote routinely, but I will still sit in front of this laptop and try.

But don’t just accept my words. Pick up Beloved or Home and give yourself a gift, hook up your seat-belt and take a marvelous ride.

“You wanna fly, you got o give up the shit that weighs you down.” Toni Morrison

Rest well Toni, you’ve earned it.

Go well – David

Action is the antidote to despair

8-4-2019

Sitting and watching the news over the past twenty-four hours pushed me into the depths of despair. As I sat and watched, I couldn’t help but wonder if we are going to survive as a nation or as an inhabited planet.

Twenty-nine innocent people murdered, and fifty-two injured for no reason other than hatred. Both weapons used were built for no purpose other than for killing human beings. What is offered up for these two crimes; prayers, words of condolence and questions of how many more times will we let this happen. 251 mass shootings in the USA in 216 days. My despair comes from the years of hearing the same words. I feel despair because I want to believe this country is better than this. That we care about each other. That we have the courage to do something to stop this carnage. And yet, the facts suggest that maybe none of this is true. Based on the years of events just like the last two, our elected officials will do nothing to help prevent the next shooting. It is obvious to anyone who looks or listens to these men and women. They will do nothing to prevent the next man, woman or child from dying; if they think it could possibly in any way hurt them politically. When you are more concerned with keeping your job than you are in protecting the citizens of this country, you’re not fit serve in any elected office. And still they will be. Because we are complicit in allowing this to continue. By hiding behind the 2nd. Amendment, and not being willing to budge one inch in trying to slow down the slaughter in this country. We, the voting citizens of this country continue to allow this blood-bath to stain our country.

My despair does not begin and end with our obsession with guns. I believe it goes hand in hand with the nature that seems to have overtaken our country. Hatred seems to be the desired emotion. Greed has become our national pastime and religion. Lies have become more acceptable and desired than truth.

Last week it was reported that the Arctic’s ice sheet melted 11 billion tons in one day. Worldwide, July was the hottest month ever recorded. 97-98% of all climate experts agree on climate change, global warming and the impact mankind is having on this issue. And our countries highest elected office holder has said its a hoax. What is far more concerning than his comments, are the millions of people in this country who agree with him. They agree not because he has any proof, they agree simply because he says it and they would rather believe it.

Why do those who deny all factual data supporting this danger, continue to believe, or at least say they believe this is is not real? I suggest it is because of greed. To alter, to stop this potential species ending catastrophe, would cost money for those who most profit from our behavior. To alter our way of living, to partner with the rest of the world to alter this behavior would require us to make fundamental life changes. And those who profit, who financially support those who deny climate change, will not tolerate change and any potential reduction in their greed. Perhaps also, it’s because we’ve simply grown lazy. In a three and a half mile walk this morning, I saw thousands of items of trash (cans, plastic whisky bottles, straws, paper, garbage, fast food wrappers) strewn along the side of the road. Thrown there because it was too inconvenient to use a trash can. Maybe it wasn’t the inconvenience, maybe it was the sense of entitlement so many people have come to accept.

My good friend Jack often says to me, that he tries to “always take care of his side of the sidewalk.” He does what he can to help. He seems to have found some contentment in being responsible for doing what he is capable of doing. And so I will try and do what I can. I will attempt to take care of my side of the sidewalk. I will not be silent regarding those things that matter. I will be active in trying to change those issues that effect those I love.

“Action is the antidote to despair.” Joan Baez

Go well – David

I’m Scared

7-15-2019

I’m scared! Not for myself. I’ve already lived the majority of my life. I’m scared for my two sons, and I’m scared for my two grandchildren.

Merriam Webster:

demagogue – a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power.

racism – a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

This is not the country in which I was raised. This is not the country for which I went to war. This is not the country my grandchildren deserve.

“We don’t realize how much racism has tainted our self-image as human beings.” Ruby Dee

Go Well – David

My old baseball glove

7-7-2019

I was eight years old and it was the year that New York Yankees’ pitcher Don Larsen pitched a perfect game in the World Series. My dad was in the Air Force, and we were stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany. Two things started that year, my lifelong love of the Yankees and the first year I played Little League. In the era of Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Yogi Berra, my favorite Yankee was a rather obscure utility infielder named Gil McDougald.

My dad coached our Little League baseball team for two years. We were the Wiesbaden Buffaloes and I pitched and played shortstop. In the two years together, our team lost three games. Years later my dad would tell the same story. “The other teams would see that they were playing us and would forfeit the game rather than have us beat them.” Now I doubt that was true, but for years I believed it. Somewhere, I still have a small felt pennant that says Wiesbaden Little League Champions. A couple of years after our return to the states, my mom passed away and I lived two years with my grandmother. I played Little League for the Vernon Frogs. To the best of my memory we celebrated whenever we got within five runs of winning a game. My Frog years were quite a contrast to the Buffalo years.

There was one constant in those years, my baseball glove. It was an old school, three finger, dark brown leather beauty. My dad had owned it and then passed it on to me. It looked old enough to have been used by Satchel Paige. The leather was soft as a baby’s butt and tough as elephant hide. When I put it on, I knew I could stop any grounder pounded at me by Duke Snyder. I knew my fastball made Bob Feller blush with envy.

Somewhere along the line of life, that baseball glove was lost. I bought others in the years that followed. I rubbed buckets of saddle soap into them. I put a baseball in them, and tightly wrapped a belt around them to make the perfect pocket. No matter how hard I tried, I could never recreate my first glove.

I never played organized baseball after those four years. I still love my Yankees and during baseball season, I always look at the box scores to see how they are doing . There have been good years and bad ones, but I’m always a loyal fan. This year so far, looks good.

Looking back, I know there was something more than baseball in those years. There was something now lost. My mom, my dad and my grandmother are all now long dead. Playing baseball is a fading memory from childhood. I’m retired and have children and grandchildren. I vaguely remember 4th. of July firework shows in Germany. I remember my first bicycle and my first real date. I remember playing drums at my first gig with The Avengers at the Dumas, Texas YMCA. But when I let my mind grow still, I can still clearly feel that baseball glove on my hand. I can still hear the pop of a baseball slamming into the pocket. I can almost hear my dad saying, Use two hands to catch a ball, you can use one when you make the major league.”

For a moment today, I felt a hint of excitement and pride like I felt playing shortstop on that baseball field. The women of the U S team won the World Cup in soccer. Graceful, athletic women ran, kicked and were bloodied on that pitch. In the end, they walked off, world champions. Nothing will ever take that honor away from them. Just as I’ve carried the memory of that baseball glove and those two years of Little League baseball glory, all my life. I was never a world champion, but when your eight or nine and you’re a Buffalo, you might as well be a world champ.

“Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good too.” Yogi Berra

Go well – David