Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Try to git beter, Mr. Shlom

What ever happened to autumn?
What ever happened to those golden days, when the sun shown bright through red-green leaves. And what became of those last happy moments of warm weather and skies so blue you thought they'd never go away?
Well, I don't exactly know know, either.
But heres the thing.
I'm willing to try.
I'm willing to do my best to return to those sweet, special days. To remember just how good it felt to feel good again.
A warm hand on my shoulder tells me she's willing to help, too.
Fact is, there are friends all around me, who have offered love and encouragement.
Like the students, staffers and teachers from Kewanee's Irving School.
Awhile back, I was lucky enough to receive an incredible bright-yellow, sun-shaped poster covered with hearts, moons and suns, greenery and good wishes from that beloved group--the last school my spouse taught in before she retired. One of my favorite activities back then was singing for the students, especially during special holidays like Thanksgiving. And while those days are long-gone, apparently the teachers continue to spread the word via the special notes the kids affixed to the sun.
And while I'm pretty sure the lesson sent to me wasn't on spelling, if the topic was anatomy, I'm sure they got they got 100%. Their hearts were definitely in the right places.
Yore a grate singer
I herd you are a grate singer.
Please be here for Chrismas
Git well soon. I hop you you git to feel beter
Git some slep.
(I'll try)
Try to git better, Mr. Shlom.
(I will, little buddy. I promise I will.)

Here's hoping we all share a wonderful, thankful day. And thanks to you for all the prayers and wishes I continue to receive.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Those were the days, my friends

One of the nicest things about cancer (what'd he say?) is the wonderful visits I get from old and new friends. They drop off the nicest, most interesting things, including handmade goodies, shared books and magazines and--believe it or not--some of the coolest items from our own mutual music archives you can imagine. The results leaves me feeling warm and grateful, despite the fact that I do continue to be a bit knackered* from the aforementioned cancer-bug and its treatments.
The first visit came from one of my original bandmates, a bass player named Dale Seifert, an early drummer, named Mark Schueneman, and David Bisshop, who has shared my musical tastes and interest for years.
Mark and Dave knocked on my front door.
"Glad to see you're home. I've got a surprise for you."
I stepped back, thinking Schueneman had a new/old guitar to show me or a piece of the interesting memorabilia he likes to collect.
But no.
Instead of a Flying V or a Grateful Dead poster, it was my old friend Seifert, who I had not laid eyes on for many year.
"We're kidnapping you," said Mark." "Hop in."
So I did.
Our journey took us to Schueneman's home, where he houses his favorite guitars and instruments, plus a music collection that would be most treasured by the guys who played it.
For the next several hours, I was regaled with a series of recordings featuring many of the guys we both played with over a period of a couple of decades. Thanks to the care Mark took in laying those vintage tracks down, the music was remarkably clear and downright perfect.
Even if the musicians weren't.
It was a true slice of a pie that tasted quite sweet.
Lucky me.
My second piece of the Liverpudian** Invasion came just a few weeks later, when I received a
visit from old music buddy and Star Courier page editor Rocky Stuffelbeam and his wife, Diane, who has been a firm, fast friend since the summer of 1965.  Rocky was one of the guys I met on that strange, fateful day when I joined my first Kewanee garage band. He, plus a tall, good looking lead singer named Dave Canienne, a drummer named Dave Crabtree, and bass player Seifert were the first bandmates in our thrilling adventures up and down Tenney and Main Streets as we worked to become the hottest act on the Kewanee music scene. I had played in public before, most notably with a Galva-based quartet featuring vocalist Rebecca (Johnson) Duytschaver, John White on drums, and LaFayette's own John McKirgan on lead guitar.  But the Kewanee guys seemed more ready to rock, and I was--most definitely--ready to roll.
And so we did.
Along with being a great friend and a talented musician, no matter what he claims, Rocky was a highly organized guy, which was high praise for any high-school kid, anytime. Ergo, he was, apparently put in charge of the most important thing a pick-up band could own.
The set list.  The list of songs the band knew and was ready to play.
Rocky was rambling through a safe deposit box he's had for over forty years not long ago when he found it.
It's even marked as to when and where it was used.
Galva Middle School.
It contains a comprehensive list of the fifty-nine songs we were prepared to churn out, and even includes a list of the band members, just in case we forgot, I guess.
Some of those hits of the summer of '67 include "Louie, Louie," "Gloria," "Slow Down," "Boys," "Satisfaction," "Twist and Shout," and a song that was a hit anytime we played it, "Little Bit of Soul."
"I probably put it together in study hall, when I was supposed to be studying," noted Rocky.
Rocky gave me that old list on the day he visited, leaving me just to wonder where I'm going to hang it. And Mark shared the old tunes, all neat and downloaded on modern-day discs.
The visits and gifts were great.
The friends are still perfect.

*British slang for tired or exhausted.

**from Liverpool, England and the British music invasion of the 1960s.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

On such a winter's day

All the leaves are brown
And the sky is grey
I've been for a walk
On a winter's day
-California Dreamin', John Phillips & Michelle Phillips

The leaves are brown, the sky is cool, cool grey.
The first glimpses of winter are on their own dark way.
It wasn't long ago when the soft, warm hues of autumn ruled the horizons, fields and forests. Those rolling hills are still touched with the gentle gold-green casts of my favorite season, as farmers work from dawn into dark to bring the harvest home.
Now it's nearly over.
And almost time for the last bright days of summertime color.
Almost time for the soft glowing afternoons of autumn change
Almost time for the icy wintertime grip that promises to hold until March and beyond.
Late at night, I step outside.
I stop. I listen as the first frigid breezes of a long winter's night brush across my frosty cheek.
Further and further away, I hear the yowl of a neighboring cat; the distant howl of some countryside coyote; the far-off yip of a wandering fox.
Closer now, I hear the steamy laughter of children as they await bedtime baths and books and a warm night's sleep. I hear the sound of deep, sweet dreams, of slow, soft breathing from evening until dawn.
Morning comes.
And with it arrives the long-awaited chilly burst of tiny sunrise explosions, glancing and grazing across rooftops towards my bedroom window. I lie back again, then lean forward to breath deep and look again and again.
Safe and warm, I wait for rushing footsteps and little-boy laughter, sliding under quilts and covers for a breakfast made for two.
By the time they leave, the sun is full risen.
The wind blows.
The day is full born.
On such a November day.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

When grandpa got the dog on halloween

"There they go," she said, as her hand rested lightly on my shoulder.
"Making their own memories."
It was my young grandsons' first Galva Halloween this year, and they were off to make the best of it.  First had been the stupendous goings-on at Black Hawk College and a super party at their own Visitation School. Now they were about to embark on on a holiday search via the friendly, well-lit streets of our nearby neighborhood.
After the hometown trick-or-treats would be an extra-fun and nurturing All Saints' celebration and hot dog roast at St. John's Church, our home parish.
My cancer-grazed brains and bones have pretty much sidelined me this season, leaving me to watch it all with Annie. She is the amazing rent-a-dog. Annie comes to stay with me from time to time when our neighbor, who minds old Max the killer cat when we're on the road, hits the road herself.  Annie has an outstanding wardrobe, for a dog, at least. Her normal cold-weather garb is a heavy ski sweater with the word "dog" emblazoned on the back, in case onlookers might get confused and mistake her for a large chinchilla or a small polar bear. But for Halloween, she swapped that outfit for a scarf-and-sweater duo with a jolly jack o'lantern motif.
"Oh, look at the cute doggy," said the dozens of trick-or-treaters who began visiting our front door at the beginning of the evening.
Excited at the company, Annie yipped and panted.
They kept coming.
Annie kept yipping and panting.
Finally, I noticed her panting was becoming a little more labored.
Looking a little closer, I noted that my little pal had somehow gotten her front paws paws tangled in the scarf part of her outfit.
Ergo, every time she hopped forward to greet the halloween revelers, she tightened the scarf just an itty-bit more.
Get the picture?
I wasn't sure what to do.
I was afraid that if I called too much attention to the situation, it would somehow be made worse, with desperate administration of the Heimlich Maneuver or CPR, and hasty calls to 911. Moreover, I couldn't help but imagine the lurid descriptions that were bound to be made by Srar-
courier newsroom buddies and headline mavens like Mike Berry, Dave Clark and Rocky Stufflebeam.

"Precious pup poops out in hands of inattentive grandpop."

"'I was just dozing,' says dog murderer'"

and, best of all..

"Don't blame me, blame the costume."

I wasn't quite sure what do do. Finally, I decided to let the resourceful Annie untangle herself from her predicament, a strategy that worked well enough.
 We were, in fact, pretty well crisis-free on the pet front until Sunday afternoon, when my spouse and I were standing in the kitchen along about four o'clock. Max the Wonder Cat sauntered in and looked around the room in a heightened combination of curiosity and irritation.
Max glared at us, then stared back at his food bowl while muttering a series of unflattering cat curses.
"What's up with him?" I asked.
"Oh," she said. "I think he's forgotten about the time change."
So it goes.  And guess what?
They both lived through it.

Page two.

The same cancer-based brain freezes that have made remembering the name of my cat a bit of a challenge from time to time have now begun to make the whole get-up-and-think-of-something-to-write-about rigamarole a bit of a challenge, too.
It doesn't mean I'm quitting.
Slowing down, maybe.
So, let's make a deal.
When I can do it, I will.
When I can't, I won't.
Meanwhile, see you around.
Thanks for listening.
I love you all.