From the North It Comes

“You have to inject yourself with a little fantasy every day in order not to die of reality.” — The Ray Bradbury Facebook page posted that quote Wednesday.

So here I am at my desk, fixing to write the Great American Novel, working on a Great American Newspaper, generally doing Great American Work.

I have little choice but to do American work, seeing as I am second-generation American by birth, being the grandson of immigrants (except for the quarter whose grandmother was in Daughters of the American Revolution). You may hyphenate me as you will, but I was born in America to parents who were born in America, so there you have it.

And what is “American”? That seems to depend on who you ask, and most Americans seem to think “American” is what agrees with their personal opinion — and so it is.

Superman was once said to stand for truth, justice and the American way, and all three of those subjects are open to interpretation these days.

So will I produce a Great American Novel or a Great American Newspaper? Any greatness in or around me is not for me to say anyway, so I don’t spend much time thinking about it. I just put down the words as I have the time and see fit, and the rest of you can take it from there.

And what does this have to do with injecting ourselves with a little fantasy today?

I’m not actually sure. I think I should be less concerned about truth and justice and more concerned about what that dragon is doing in my backyard. It seems friendly enough; it even pranced and danced with our dogs like they were old friends.

Every so often, the dragon looks to the north skies as if expecting a bad storm, either a late winter blizzard or an early spring thunderstorm capable of spawning tornadoes. But from its body language and its vigilance, I really don’t think it’s concerned about anything Mother Nature could throw at us. 

No, I think the dragon is watching for something manmade, or perhaps something supernatural, but whatever it is, I’m pretty sure it’s something evil.

I wonder if there are any Scarecrows, Tin Men or even a cowardly lion in the neighborhood.

Live the life that’s left

I rediscovered this post while I was thinking ahead to my 70th birthday, which is today, and while I was again thinking about Willow The Best Dog There Was™ who departed this life on my birthday two years ago, forever merging the day I entered this world with the loss of my dearest friend of fur. (Thanks Tom Groenfeldt for the ancient photo of me and my girl.)

The post below was posted March 11, 2020, with a somewhat out-of-focus photo of Willow looking a tad anxious. We only had slightly more than a year left together, though we didn’t know that, but I am glad I took the time to savor our time and love that old pup with all my heart.

Anyway, it seems like the sentiment works for a 70th birthday, so without further ado, I turn the microphone over to slightly younger me:

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We spend a lot of time thinking back about what happened, what could or “should” have happened, missteps made, things that didn’t get done that could have made things better, things that did get done that seem to have made things worse.

We all know something about regrets and second-guessing. If only I’d taken steps to get out of that situation long before I did; if only I’d stayed and toughed it out … if only I’d saved my money instead of spending it or going into debt … if only I’d said something; if only I’d kept my mouth shut … if only I’d carved out time to write that book; if only I’d written a better one … if only I’d done something when I had the chance; if only I hadn’t done what I did …

What’s important to know is that regrets burn a lot of energy, and second-guessing wastes a lot of precious time.

There will always be books that could have been written by now, thoughts that could have been shared, words and actions that can’t be taken back. Every life, every day, is packed with what could have happened but for whatever reason never has.

What happened before is finished and done, and every minute spent despairing about How Little Time Is Left To Do What I Could Have Been Doing All Along is a minute that could be spent doing. Tuck those regrets in a safe place and move on.

Do what’s left to do with the time that’s left. Write the novel, sing the song, build the fence, clean the storage room, read the books, reread the best ones and the most fun ones. But let go of the regrets.

Live the life that’s left: It’s all we can do anyway.

70 songs that always move me

Some songs are forever linked to particular memories — my first girlfriend yelling “stop the car!” so she could jump out and dance to “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” on the radio — sitting in stunned wonder as the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band played their 10-minute version of “Ripplin’ Waters” at the Ryman Auditorium — staring at the radio asking “WHO is THAT?!” the first time I heard “Good Vibrations” and “The Word” — watching transfixed as Art Garfunkel on TV performed a new song called “Bridge Over Troubled Water” — grinning as Red and Son of Red slow-danced to “A Simple Man” on his wedding day …

Of all these lists of 70 for my 70th, the hardest one to corral was this one. So many songs, how do you stop at 70? But here is a selection of songs that continue to make me emotional or cause me to jack up the volume, all these years later.

In no particular order — I only numbered them to make sure I stopped at 70.

1. Good Vibrations – The Beach Boys

2. The Word – Sara Groves

3. (Just Like) Romeo and Juliet – The Reflections

4. Frenesi – Artie Shaw

5. Sing Sing Sing – Benny Goodman

6. Powerhouse – Raymond Scott

7. The Lamb Ran Away With the Crown – Judee Sill

8. She’s A Lady – John Sebastian

9. Darling Be Home Soon – The Lovin’ Spoonful

10. Lady-O – Judee Sill

Continue reading “70 songs that always move me”

70 albums I play regularly

Red and I met because of record albums. She was tired of hauling two boxes of vinyl LPs from one house to another, so after her latest move she looked on AOL for people who listed vinyl collections among their hobbies.

“I’ll give them to you, no charge, I just want to get rid of them,” she said. “Are you interested?” 

I was. But the more we talked, I became interested in more than just the records, and by the time we got together to exchange the two boxes, it was more like a first date than a transaction.

The rest is history, and her ploy backfired. Instead of two boxes to move next time, there are dozens. On the other hand, she personally won’t have to haul them.

In other words, music is an essential oil. It soothes the savage breast and moves the wild thing and all that. 

The first major purchase of my life was the $2.74 I plunked down to buy, of all things, Ballads of the Green Berets by SSgt. Barry Sadler. I have kept purchasing albums at a clip where I’m sure I now could go several months playing them day and night before I started repeating.

But some do find their way onto my turntable or CD player more often than the others, and as we approach my 70th, here are 70 of those most beloved albums (in no particular order — I only numbered them to make sure I hit 70).

1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles

2. Wildflowers – Tom Petty

3. Smile – The Beach Boys

4. Conversations – Sara Groves

5. Judee Sill

6. Kongos – John Kongos

7. John B. Sebastian

8. Parallelograms – Linda Perhacs

9. On the Threshold of a Dream – The Moody Blues

10. Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen

Continue reading “70 albums I play regularly”

Punch line

“Let’s just get on with it,” said the storyteller.

“I’m game,” said the told. “Go ahead.”

“Well,” the storyteller began, and then paused.

“Very deep, very good,” the told said. “Is there more?”

“You’re very impatient,” said the storyteller.

“Oh, no, I’m very patient,” replied the told. “I have traveled far and wide, and I have found many stories to keep me company and entertain me and lift me up up and away. I need not wait for your story, or stories, and yet …”

“And yet?” asked the storyteller.

“I have heard snippets of your tales, and they seem to be intriguing,” said the told. “You go so far, and then say ‘I will finish the tale someday.’ Unfinished journeys leave an emptiness; only one unfinished symphony is immortal.”

“What if I told you I don’t know how it ends?”

“Oh, I think you do. I think the problem is you don’t know how to get from here to there. Am I right?”

“More right than I realize,” said the storyteller.

“Don’t you see that I’m willing to come along with you — that many roads will take you there, and let’s just pick one and see where we end up?” said the told.

“What if I write the end —” said the storyteller.

“Just don’t tell me yet!” said the told.

“Of course not, but what if I write the end, and then go back to the beginning, and tell you about that, with the end always in the back of my mind?”

“Duh! Isn’t that how storytelling works?” said the told. “It’s like a joke, building up to the punch line. Are you seriously asking that question?”

“Let’s call it a refresher,” the storyteller said.

“OK,” said the told. “Are you ready to get on with it, or should I find another storyteller and check back with you later?”

“No, please stay,” the storyteller said. “Once upon a time …”   

70 TV series I spent a lot of time watching

When I set out to list 70 TV series that affected me enough to watch hour after hour, in many cases from beginning to end, at first I was skeptical that I could get to 70. But some of my favorite shows ended up between 61 and 70 as I looked back through the list and thought, “OMG, I almost forgot (for example) Bosch.” 

We spend a lot of time in front of the television, we humans. Technology has given us more leisure time than past generations, as well as entertainment at the touch of a button, and so we press that button in hopes of finding — well, in hopes of finding entertainment as fine as these programs.

And we share our lists as a kind of shorthand: Hi. Pleased to meet you. I liked these programs a lot, even adored some of them; if you did, too, maybe we’re compatible enough to build a friendship.

Again, these are in no particular order (except for #1) — I only numbered them to make sure I hit 70.

1. Firefly

2. Judd for the Defense

3. Star Trek

4. Eli Stone

5. Sherlock

6. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

7. Star Trek: The Next Generation 

8. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

9. Midsomer Murders

10. Foyle’s War

Continue reading “70 TV series I spent a lot of time watching”

70 movies I’m glad I saw

Oh, movies … I’ve seen thousands of movies in 70 years of being a human. How do you stop at 70? The only one of these lists that was harder to limit is the one about songs.

This is an area where Red and I have different attitudes. We both love watching movies, but they rarely linger with her. I might say, “That was so cool in the climax of Contact where they call back to the line, ‘Small moves, Ellie’ — I choked up,” and Red will say, “Which one was Contact again?”

So here are the 70 movies I would select from if I needed a list of my absolute favorite favorite films, the ones where I probably got goosebumps one or more times along the way. As usual, I only numbered them to make sure I hit 70, but unlike those other lists, the first eight are ranked and appear on every list of my favorite movies.

1. It’s A Wonderful Life

2. The Wizard of Oz 

3. Casablanca

4. E.T. The Extraterrestrial

5. Arrival

6. Serenity (2005)

7. Raiders of the Lost Ark

8. A Christmas Story

9. Joyeaux Noel

10. The Lives of Others

Continue reading “70 movies I’m glad I saw”

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