14Dec

From the Logger to the Blogger: The Gift of Giving

Yesterday, I took the day off. After three or more late nights coupled with early mornings and screaming back pain, it was a flatter-puss day for me.  I did some reading as Chloe Cat and I snuggled and watched the wind-driven rain, a Nor’easter that moved through New England, dumping a lot of water on the harbor and snow in the mountains.

I had not purchased a book in years. Either I was fortunate enough to have them given to me, or they came from the library. My wife was an avid reader, sometimes reading as many as three books at a time, which she kept separated in her mind. That was phenomenal to me, but she did it, so there were always books around.

I started blogging out of desperation. My talent was in the spoken word, and in the good old days of radio, my patter was allowed to be 40% thought and the rest spontaneous combustion, just like my podcast (although don’t dwell on those percentages as they may change rapidly). My desperation came from many long days and nights at home tending to my wife who was battling cancer, and I needed a creative outlet of some sort. Singing loudly on the front porch was not going well with the neighbors, since I cannot carry a tune in a bucket with a handle on it.

At the time I didn’t have my own website, but with some strong encouragement from said neighbors, I joined a few blog sites for writers. I was more like a logger than a blogger, chopping my way through, a little like surfing a giant wave before you learn how to swim. I didn’t even know the technical aspects of posting a blog, and then along came Cher.

Cher Duncombe is an English and Speech high school teacher, artist, and private investigator for an attorney general (that last occupation had me a little worried at first), but of all the people I encountered who helped and encouraged me, especially in those early days, Cher stayed with me for the whole trip, a true gift of giving. So the first book I purchased since the release of Moby Dick was Cher’s Gandy Dancing on the Second Floor.

Cher writes from the heart, exposing herself to hurt as a true artist does. Her story “Murder of the Spirit: A Story of Domestic Violence” is true and heart-breaking but also the story of a survivor. “Sometimes She Goes to Keening” is another fine example of her work, and here are the last lines: “All those gone before her must surely know how very lonely she is at times. She closes her eyes. She rocks in the chair and she keens.”

Her book published just a few weeks ago and is available on Amazon. Cher Duncombe the artist beautifully illustrated the book as well.

There’s more on the gift of giving and other stories on the banks of Rambling Harbor. Come on ashore.

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7Dec

A Radio Christmas to Remember

December, around the year of ’82, 1982, wind-blown snow, middle of the night (or morning. After all, what is 3 a.m.?). The snow, the kind that sneaks up on you, slowly drifts, quietly getting deeper. It moves across a large deserted parking lot, transforming this lonely place. This deserted piece of asphalt is being molded into the Montana or Wyoming Prairie, a perfect backdrop as Merle Haggard asks the Big City to turn him loose. Though not that far from the city of Boston, it is easy to feel cut off from the rest of the world, watching this snow fashioning beauty from desolation. I will likely not see another human for at least three more hours. I am the keeper of the light from midnight to 6 a.m. I can still see most of my car, but whether or not I’ll be able to move it when the morning comes is doubtful, even if relief is able to get to me.

As keeper of the light, I maintain contact with others who dwell in the darkest part of day, the night people. I love night people. They walk on the other side of life, often by choice, and my way of reaching them is from a country radio station operating from the basement of a small strip mall in the middle of nowhere but reaching everywhere, an AM signal that sails across flat lands and water, especially at night, and I am the only show in town, the only one playing music on the AM dial in the middle of a lost time zone.

 About once a week I get a call from a cross country trucker. As he enters Rhode Island and starts to pick up my signal he calls—“The California Kid is on the line”—and this time wishes me a Happy Holiday and as usual requests a few tunes to help him reach the state of Maine a few hours away. I am his traveling companion.

I also get calls from Alice. Alice drives all over the area maintaining ATM machines, and she calls once or twice a week as she makes her rounds. I never meet Alice as she is a little like the coyotes that patrol the prairie parking lot, preferring to remain elusive. I call her Dallas Alice, from the Little Feat tune “Willin’,” which goes out to her each time she calls.

On this snowy night, Alice calls to wish me a Merry Christmas and says to wait a few minutes then look outside the door.  We end the call, I queue up “Willin’,” and go up the few steps to the door. There waiting for me, already collecting snow, is a small prelit Christmas tree and a card that says “Merry Christmas from Dallas Alice.” I see her footprints across the snow. She had parked near the entrance so she could easily get back on the main road.

I never met Alice, but she left footprints in my mind, and I never met the California Kid, but we road many a lonely highway together. A woman named Alice, Dallas Alice, and the lonely trucker, the California Kid, on a cold snowy night so many years ago, gave me a lifetime of Christmas smiles.

For more, join me on the snowy banks of Rambling Harbor.

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30Nov

Pre-Holiday Traumatic Shopping Disorder and the AMAs

 Last week, before Thanksgiving, I took myself out to the local blood bath known as the shopping “maul.” It wasn’t as crowded as it will be, but after a while I became a bit faint, and my vision became blurry. Then I saw O. J. Simpson running over shopping carts, pushing aside clothes racks, and racing through the store (and no, this time he was not being chased by the police). I knew it was time to leave.

O. J. is still in jail and couldn’t run over shopping carts anymore anyway, and little old ladies could probably push him over.  I suffered from what I am now calling PHTSD, or Pre-Holiday Traumatic Shopping Disorder. In my experience, it seems that more men suffer from this than women. To be honest I have never liked crowds, and the premise of my theory has always been rather biblical: where two or more are gathered in anyone’s name, Chaos is possible. I would like to think last week was the only time I’ll get mauled this season, but there is always something inside of me that feels left out if I don’t participate in the madness, so I will likely go again.  It reminds me of the old Boomtown Rats tune “Someone’s Looking at You” from the album The Fine Art of Surfacing.  Anyone shopping this season deserves to get kicked once or twice.

Moving along to the American Music Awards, who watched and who wished they hadn’t? For me there were two moments of interest. The first involved Taylor Swift. For a lot of reasons, I like Taylor Swift. I get the feeling that she is a natural goof, and remaining un-silly at all is a real effort for her. She performed her opening “Blank Space” with all kinds of things going on, which I thought was pretty darn good, and ended it staring straight-face into the camera, but if you continued to watch her, you’d see she flapped her arms like a chicken as she left the stage. During the broadcast, she also received the first ever Dick Clark Award of Excellence, presented by Diana Ross, who said “When I was really young, when I first started in the industry, it was Dick Clark who made is possible for us to be on radio and TV,” an interesting note in itself.

Selena Gomez also performed at the AMAs and sang “The Heart Wants What It Wants,” an emotional song about her troubled relationship with Justin Bieber. I think Selena is very pretty and has a darn good voice, but how anyone could cry over the little Bieber is beyond me. Justin wasn’t there but was instead eating burgers at White Castle in New York City and going to church. His handlers said he’s being reminded to spread the gospel rather than dwell in the trappings of Hollywood. Oh boy! Someone please tell him Kanye West is not Jesus.

There are more thoughts on these and other things on the shores of Rambling Harbor.  Join me there.

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