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

Slowing down, trying harder

7-2-2019

Two thoughts have been stuck in my mind for a while. One is my perceived need to slow down and be more mindful. It’s not like my schedule is so packed that I have little time to breathe, much less slow down. I’m retired and have more free time (misnomer if there ever was one. Time is not free and it’s always limited.) I have only two scheduled commitments per week. I’m talking more about, as the old saying goes, ‘slowing down to smell the roses.” Even in my retired life, I realize I’m often in a hurry and not paying attention to the small joys in life, although I do seem to slow down enough to pay attention to the small aggravations that pop up. That’s a discussion for another time.

When I do manage to be mindful, I find life filled with joy, exciting events, great people and beautiful sights. So, I’m on a quest to use more of my time to slow down and less of my time to rush to the end of who knows what. An example perhaps. Eating. Oh yes, that daily chore that has become an event to rush through while we sit uncomfortably with a plate balanced on our laps; while watching some inane TV program about being beautiful and falling in love (perhaps lust) with 20 hard-bodied bachelors whose goal is to give a rose as their token of love, and then get the woman in bed. (A long rambling sentence)What did I eat? I don’t know. Was it good? I’m not sure. Did I eat too much? Of course. But every so often there is a good program. One that should be watched with attention and not the distraction of spilled BBQ sauce over a new tee shirt. A program about kids attempting to get our attention about climate change. Or maybe a program about the care and love a female monkey gives her baby. No matter the subject, if we are mindful, selective and alert to what’s before us, we can learn, enjoy and perhaps add our part to honest and real life progress.

So being more mindful is one goal.

I heard a story yesterday on NPR about writing. The speaker told the story of a famous writer (I was wasn’t being completely mindful, so I don’t know who the writer was) being asked a question. “What is your best book?” the response from the writer was, “My next one.” I’m no famous writer by any stretch of the imagination, but I do write and most of the time I enjoy the process a great deal. So why can’t my answer be the same. “My best book is my next one.”

Although I have my lazy moments, I don’t like lazy people. Just to be clear, laziness is a subjective word. I do think we all have our own personal definitions of laziness. In writing, I sum it up in simple terms. Its not caring enough to try. I am fully aware that people write for various reasons. Some seek fame and fortune. Some seek a pleasurable pastime. Some people have a need to create. I’m a little old for fame and fortune. Writing is pleasurable for me. Trying to write better than I did the last time is great pleasure for me.

I’ve been a drummer for 55 years. I generally say that I’m not a musician, I’m a drummer. That aside, at best I’m an average drummer. I have probably never cared much to try and be a great drummer. I played tennis for 30 years. I was a decent player until my age overtook my ability to get better. It was fun, I won a few tournaments and lost more. It was enjoyable to be with friends and on occasion to beat some jerks. Now I’m a writer. I love books and I love good writing. I’ve drawn some comments about being too hard on myself about my writing. I’m well aware that I’m not John Steinbeck and I will never write as he wrote. But I can be better. I can try harder. I can practice, and someday I might even be a decent writer. That’s a goal I take on with some relish.

So there it is. Slow down to enjoy, to notice and to embrace. Sit down and write, use my brain and make the next sentence, page and book better than the last. Maybe if I get another lifetime, I might accomplish both. If not, I’m still going to try.

“Be mindful. Be grateful. Be positive. Be true. Be kind.” Roy T. Bennett

“What is written without effort is generally read without pleasure.” Samuel Johnson

Go well – David

I’ve found some hope

6-24-2019

Some of you may know that I volunteer at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. I do it for a several reasons. It gives me a commitment that I have to meet weekly, it’s a beautiful early morning drive where I sometimes get lucky and see coyotes and other desert creatures. I get to play with and learn about stingrays, turtles, chuckwallas and snakes. The best part is I get to meet some fun, bright and delightful young people. Young people that give me hope for the future.

This morning I met a five year old girl with the prettiest green eyes I’ve ever seen. She was wearing a bright red baseball cap with a big white N on it. I asked her grandfather if it was a Nebraska hat. “Nope.” He said. “It’s a Nova hat.” I thought it meant some group, toy or something I’d not heard of, so I let it go. The little girl walked up to the stingray tank and was ready to touch them and feed them. No hesitation. I’ve seen grown men hesitant to touch the rays, not this little girl. As I was showing her how to feed them, I asked where she had gotten her beautiful green eyes. Her answer was perfect. “I got them when I was born!” Her answer emphatic and to the point. A few minutes later her grandfather and I were speaking and we saw a squirrel feeding on the beans of a Palo Verde tree. He turned and called to his granddaughter. “Nova, come here and look at this squirrel.” The white N on her hat stood for her name – Nova. This little girl was bright, polite, beautiful and daring, her name fits her perfectly. She will do fine for this world.

A few weeks back another volunteer moved away from Tucson. Lorenzo had just graduated from the University of Arizona. He headed back to his home state to start a job in community development. Before starting work he was first attending training at Georgetown University and Harvard University. There is no question that Lorenzo is bright; I’d match his intellect with anyone’s. More than being bright, he is one of the most polite, engaging, interesting and caring young men I have ever met. It took me two months to get him to stop calling me “Sir.” I have no doubt he will do great things in the future.

My two grandchildren are no less special then Nova and Lorenzo. My granddaughter once said when I asked her, “What makes you happy?, with a big beautiful smile , “Everything makes me happy.” And indeed, it seems that’s true. Her teacher, with tears in her eyes, once told my son at a parent-teacher conference, “Your daughter is the sweetest child I’ve ever met.” She is sweet, but she’s also humble, curious and smart.

My grandson wears a man bun in an Idaho town that is as white bread as they come. He seems to have never considered that someone might question the look. He is as smart as a kid can get, and wants to go to Ireland and draw caricatures. He wants to be who he is, and has no desire for fame or fortune. (Fame and riches are the two most common goals of teenagers, as noted in a research study.) He loves his sister with all his heart, he’s compassionate, and polite. Good traits for a teenage boy. And yes, he’s a damned good artist.

Those of us who have far more years behind us than in front of us, have in many ways left a tough future for the next generations. Climate change, skyrocketing education costs, great political division and so much more. We’ve not done our job in protecting the future for our children and grandchildren. But I have hope. I have hope that Nova, Lorenzo, Lauren and Holden will make this world a better, a kinder, a cleaner and more compassionate place to live.

“Children are the worlds most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” John F. Kennedy

“Children are our greatest treasure. They are our future.” Nelson Mandela

Go Well – David

Who are We?

6-20-2019

It is 3:59 p.m. as I start to write this. I just finished watching the news and two commercials before I turned off the TV. Now I’m writing a brief statement about what I saw. I honestly don’t mean this to be political, I write it in hopes that we will stop and ask ourselves if this is who and what we are, and if this is what and who we want to be.

I just watched a video tape of three judges asking questions of a government attorney who was appealing a decision that children who have illegally crossed our border with Mexico must be provided with a blanket, a toothbrush and soap. Think about this for a moment, a toothbrush, soap and a blanket. The government is arguing that we need not provide these three items to children. All three judges were obviously appalled that they were hearing the appeal. The attorney for the government (in my opinion) appeared embarrassed that she had to stand in front of the judges and make the case for the government.

Soap-a toothbrush-a blanket, for children.

The appeal will have to be decided by those three judges and from what they said, it seems the federal government is in trouble in this case.

As quickly as the story ended, two commercials came on next. The first, a beautifully dressed and lovely female swaying and showing off her gold $600.00 Mondavi watch. Not a $20,000 Rolex for sure, but a watch that makes you sway like a golden goddess. One that can start and start time at your whim. As soon as that commercial was over, the second, a beautiful new SUV driving across the country with two young, beautiful and adventurous passengers (aren’t they always young and beautiful) on a cruise across America without a care in the world.

I don’t begrudge anyone having a watch or a new car. But in my simple little mind, there is a huge undeniable disconnect between having luxury watches and denying children a bar of soap because they have darker skin and come from another country. Yes, I freely admit our immigration system is broken, it must be fixed. But where in that fix is there not a need to provide the basics that we citizens never consider for one moment?

I’m reminded of a program I once watched called “CNN Heroes.” People are nominated for doing wonderful things to help others. One young African man was nominated. Briefly his story was that of being in the U S and staying in a hotel. He was astonished to see that after he had used a bar of soap one time, the next day it had been discarded and another new bar was in it’s place. In his home country, thousands of people died because of the simple lack of having soap. A human being could have lived for the price of a bar of soap. He started an organization for collecting used hotel soap, re-formulating it and sending it to Africa. That man’s simple and humane effort resulted in the saving of countless lives. A bar of soap. And our government sees no need to provide a .50 cent bar of soap or a toothbrush to a child.

So, I ask if that’s who and what we perceive our country to be, or we want this country to be?

No country was ever, or will ever be great, if we turn our backs on basic goodness. On basic kindness or basic compassion for others.

No one has ever become poor by giving.” Anne Frank

Go Well – David

A letter to my dad

6-17-2017

My father died twenty-five years ago. I not going to say that I miss him every day, I don’t. There are periods of time that I don’t think about him. And then events happen, or memories pop up and he returns to some place in my brain and in my heart. Often times, the memories make me laugh, at times they make me sad and often they make me wonder. Were I able to write him a letter, I would. If he were able to answer my letter, I’d check the mail each day, waiting.

Here is what I might write to my dad.

Dad

I’m not certain there’s someplace we go when we die, I guess being honest, I pretty much think it’s just over. If it’s not, I hope you’re well and enjoying the weather. I’ve managed to live a few more years than you, and for that I’m grateful. I have a few questions I wish you could answer for me. Most of the questions I figure I’ll have to go on wondering about. I don’t think I ever told you that it embarrassed me as a teen when you stuck a cigar down into your pipe and then smoked it. Today I tell the story and laugh, but as a boy it embarrassed me. I wonder why you did that. Now I love it.

We also never talked about your experiences or my experiences in war. I wonder why we didn’t? The truth is, I never heard you ever say a word about being in WWII. I wish we had talked about it, I think a lot about Vietnam now and maybe it would have helped to know how you managed to cope with what you saw and did. I hope by the end of your life, that war made some sense, because dad, my war doesn’t make any sense to me.

Mom was another thing that we never talked about. I remember one telephone call, but that’s it. I now know your pain in losing her so young was as great as mine. I wish we had talked. You were lucky with Dorothy, she was a great lady and a great step-mom to me. I’m glad you met her after my mother died.

On a lighter note, how did you know how to coach our Little League teams in Germany? To this day, I still tell people how great that was and how good a coach you were. They are great memories dad. I think part of my love of baseball was because of you.

I wish you could know your great grand children. Both are wonderful, kind and smart kids. Holden is a free spirit who has the courage to do and be what he wants. Lauren is as beautiful and sweet as a child can be. I also wish you could know Suzanne. She makes me happy, and we have tons of fun.

Two last thoughts. I have a picture of you as a young marine and you not only look about fifteen, you also look confident. I like that. I also have a picture of mom. She has dark curly hair and a strand of pearls on. She was very young and pretty when that picture was taken. I can see why you fell in love with her.

I guess that’s about it for now. If there is something after this, please take a moment to say hello to mom, to Dorothy and to my grandmother. I do miss all of you.

Your Son, David

“This is the price you pay for having a great father. You get the wonder, the joy, the tender moments – and you get the tears at the end, too.” Harlan Coben

Go well – David

Four friends

6-9-2019

My dad moved us to Dumas, Texas ( pronounced a little like dumb-ass) when I was fourteen, I knew no one in the town of 9000 people. It was a town that made it difficult to fit in. If you’ve ever heard of the frenzy for Texas high school football, then that would be a perfect description of that panhandle town in the early 60’s. The Dumas Demons had won the state championship football title the previous two years. There were team photographs on display in every home, business and bathroom in the town. The short of it is, if you weren’t a Demon, you were nothing. I was about five foot seven inches tall and weighed about 135 lbs., not exactly running-back material.

So what to do? I met Tommy sometime during the first month of my freshman year. He’d moved to Dumas from Tucson and was as lost in the town as I was. He was tall, skinny and shy. We looked like Mutt and Jeff. He liked music, I liked music. There was nothing left to do but start a band. There was only two small problems; neither of us knew how to play any instrument and neither of us had the money to buy one if we did.

We met Jimmy (forever to be known as “Jock”) after a few months. He was a few years older and could play a bit of guitar. We were on our way. Eventually Tommy bought a guitar from Sears and a small cracker box amp. I snagged a used three piece gold sparkle Ludwig kit. (It would be drums for me because I thought my fingers too short to play guitar). Tim joined us as the singer and we were on our way to becoming rock stars. We practiced four or five hours daily for months. Eventually armed with a set list of 20 or 25 songs, two cheap guitars and a mic plugged into a ten inch Gibson amp, a light show consisting of one bulb with red cellophane in front of it, and me sitting on a wooden crate behind my drums; we were ready for American Bandstand. We were The Avengers. We settled for our first gig at the local YMCA. We played each song three times, we had an audience of nearly forty people and we sounded like s….! Not to be discouraged, we practiced for the next year, bought new equipment and the next time we played, we were a real band.

The Avengers morphed into The Echoes and we played together four years. We made a record that sold maybe twelve copies. We backed up J Frank Wilson of Last Kiss fame and we were billed as Better’n the Beetles by Mutt McMurry, the owner of the local drive-in movie. And yes, he did spell it Beetles. Two of us graduated from high school and it was time to move on.

I went into the army and eventually Vietnam. Jock had always had some issues that I didn’t understand at the time and stayed in Dumas. Tim and Tommy kept playing music. Tim spent many years singing, playing in Vegas and eventually settled into a non-music career. Tommy kept growing as a musician. He switched from guitar to bass and played Woodstock with Johnny Winter. Eventually he met Stevie Ray Vaughn and along with Chris Layton, became Double Trouble behind Stevie. Tommy along with his bandmates were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.

More than fifty years later, I still know that I’ve never felt any greater passion than as a teen, when practicing and playing music. Those three guys were the best of friends and bandmates to me. I’ve kept up with Tim and Tommy over the years and they will always be my music buddies. I asked Tim one time if he missed the music life. He said he didn’t miss the travel, but he missed the musicians. I’ve played off and on all of my life, and I miss the music, mostly I miss being sixteen, sitting behind my used drum kit and playing Louie Louie with Tim, Tommy and Jock.

“It’s only rock and roll, my god! It’s not rocket science.” Steven Adler

Go Well – David