Archive for the ‘Opinions and Observations’ Category

As I was growing up there was always something going on.  Six kids in my family, pets, friends, school, chores, projects, neighborhoods and a world to discover kept things active.  Then came work, children, music, art, more projects and hobbies, more moving, supporting creative efforts, grand children, changing jobs, helping friends and family members move, it never really stopped.

I never had time by my self; I have never lived alone.  Room mates, family members, partners, spouses, kids, working then practicing in spare time and playing out in bands, learning new skills and keeping up with technology all demanded time from me.  Time from my own projects.  Time by myself.  I sleep less than most people I know (other family members aside LOL) and I got a lot done.  My older brother told me that he comes to me to get a task or project done because he knows I am the busiest person he knows……  He sees that I don’t put things off or put them on a list for later.  Later may be busier than now.

I get things done.

Now so you understand, I am the world’s biggest procrastinator;  if it doesn’t NEED to be done NOW, and there might be a more efficient (or comfortable) time to do it, I will wait until that time.  I often lump tasks and projects together to save time.  I never wore a watch and I keep my ‘daily planner’ in my head.  I did not need them.  I did not have the luxury of scheduling events as they came at me at all times with varying levels of necessity and priorities already set.

Later in my life I would be surprised when a situation came up and there was no one around.  I don’t mean waiting in a doctor’s office or standing in line for something.  I mean no one around and no immediate task at hand.  It got me thinking about how little time I do have by myself without a deadline or project or finally having time to get that low priority job done.  It was hard to come up with many times over the years when that happened at all.

Now that I am older, I find myself relishing being alone.  Thinking.  Quiet.  Experiencing life outdoors.  Playing or listening to music.  Reading.  I consider myself a hermit in many ways and I think this is one of the driving forces behind the desire to ‘cut myself off’ from the rest of the world.  As with many things in life this is a double-edged sword.  I can see now that when I hesitate or postpone seeing a friend, going out to see a band, joining in on projects that I am actually being selfish.  I just want to have some time by myself.  Not to be ‘alone’, necessarily, but that is the cutting effect.

My friends will say that I am always there to help, a great friend and willing to do anything for my ‘tribe members’.  I thank them for sharing their lives with me and for loving me as I am.  But I do not go out of my way to contact people any more.  I often avoid gatherings or opportunities to be part of the group.  Inside I think I am very selfish.  Not greedy as I do not want anything and do not need more of anything.  Selfish about time to think.  Time to play with my toys.  Time to relax and do nothing.

Maybe after some time I will have had enough and venture out more.  Maybe this is short term to make up for lack of space over the years. At this point I am not sure.

Fact or Perception

As an update and a gentle lead-in to the title of this post, I recently put in a job application at the Sam Ash Music Store in Cincinnati.  I worked for years at a local instrument music chain a while ago (not records or CD type of music store…) and I also worked at an electronics music store called ICB Audio.  I thought that and my decades of management, sales and customer service experience would make me a good candidate.  I started working at Sam Ash about two weeks ago.  For me, it is like being a kid in a toy store……. because I AM!

So, do I feel like the employment situation is getting better because I now have a job?  In reality, unemployment rate is very low, and has been for a while now.  There are people still looking for work, but there are also companies that are looking but cannot find qualified workers in their field and/or location.

Do we feel that food insecurity is a myth because we do not see it in our neighborhood or town?

Everyone we know is well fed and has no difficulty getting their next meal.

Do we refuse to believe specific facts or national statistics because they do not apply to us?

I am glad to be working again doing something I love.  I will probably spend more money than I make as I have done in music stores in the past, but I will hopefully meet a lot of new talented people driven by their passion to make music for all to enjoy.

It is tough when you are unemployed.  For those of you still looking I wish you well in 2017!

The Politics of Safety 2

 

If you found yourself in a strange city late at night and your car broke down in a ‘bad section of town’ and you had to walk alone to get help; how would you feel?  No cell phone service is available.  Imagine it for a while.  Now add the possibility that you had your small child with you.  Feeling a little tense yet?

Soon you see a group of teen-age youths approaching you.  They do not look like you and are probably not part of the friendly local neighborhood watch.  They all cross the street to the same side you are walking……..

I will try to make this brief so play this out in your head for a while.   Think of a movie scene unfolding.

If you feel you and the child are in danger, what steps would you take to ensure your safety?

Would you cross to the other side of the street?

If approached and you felt intimidation, would you begin to run?

If you had a knife would you point it at the group?

If you had a hand gun would you point it at the group?

If you had an automatic weapon would you pull it out?

If you had a grenade would you pull the pin?

If you had a device that would destroy the entire block but you would be safe would you use it to save yourselves?

If you had a massive weapon that would level the city but you would not be harmed would you use it?

You are calm now and reading what seems like an unlikely scenario, but the protection and preservation of your life and that of your child is hard wired into each of us.  To avoid the possibility (real or imagined) of harm to you and your child are you willing or could you imagine killing or injuring one of the group.  How about two of them.  What about all of them?  In the stress of the moment would you risk injuring passers-by?

In the US we have the ‘right to bear arms’.  It is in the constitution plain as day.  But when this was written the bow and arrow had been replaced by single-shot guns as the major weapons of the time.  Cannons could not be carried or moved by a single person or easily reloaded.  Hand guns capable of rapidly firing multiple bullets were not invented until the 19th century.

The authors of the US constitution had no concept of revolvers, semi automatic weapons let alone modern military style assault weapons of today or tomorrow.  The thought of RPG’s (Rocket Propelled Grenades) and other military tools were unimaginable at the time.

We are required to take tests and acquire a license to drive a car.  More tests, training and licenses to drive a commercial truck or bus.  Even more to operate cranes and earth movers.

We need a hunting license to shoot wild game – are told where and when allowed by local laws.  We have to get a license to get married.  Statistics are gathered and analyzed in fine detail for all of the above.

Funny; when you ask manufacturers and sellers of weapons how to resolve civilian mass shootings and the real threat of criminals with hi-capacity guns – the ONLY answer is to sell more and bigger guns so everyone has one.  Hell, they want you to buy a dozen.

We can purchase guns of all sorts including military style assault rifles without question in a number of ways.  We do not need a license to hunt or kill humans in this country.  The government is prevented by special interest groups from spending any money to gather data on gun usage or sales.

With very few exceptions, no one is trying to take your guns away –  No one wants to stop you from defending your family from home intruders –  No one wants to stop you from legally hunting wild game – any more than they want to take away your car or pick-up truck by requiring you get a license.  But what we are doing now does not make sense.

20160919_205425As a pre-teen and through much of my early adult life, I would experience asthma attacks.  Some were very severe and lasted for days.  I underwent allergy testing and countless blood samples to find out what was causing my allergic reactions.  It turned out almost everything did, but that is not the subject of this story.  I was quite used to needles and shots and was not bothered by the poking and prodding.  As it turned out, I just needed to grow out of it.

Years later, my partner was pregnant with my daughter Teneca.  She was in for testing and they were trying to take a blood sample.  It didn’t go well and after a few unsuccessful tries, I needed to leave the room and stop watching the process.  As I left the room I was feeling woozy – to say the least. As I was walking down the hospital corridor, I thought it would be a good idea to sit on the bench in the hallway.  That is what I told myself anyway!  There was no bench or seat and I gradually passed out and hit the floor rather softy. Waking up I realized what I had done and got up to go back in the office.  This was the beginning of a long running reaction to needles and shots.  I am not sure if I actually fainted from it again, but even at the dentist I would come close to passing out. I could not watch someone getting a shot on TV or movies and had to close my eyes during those scenes.  Eventually even the thought of needles or injections would trigger this type of reaction. It was not the pain or fear of needles, it was the thought!

A little over a week ago my grandson Daniel Hopkins (as per my recent family article, he unfortunately does not carry the Kennedy name…..) was rushed to the hospital.  He was unresponsive and his skin was dull grey.  He was in ICU for a few days with dangerously high blood sugar levels and was lucky not to have gone into a diabetic coma.  That is how he found out he had Type 1 diabetes. Teneca asked me to stay with them for a while and help out.  I knew this meant more than just housekeeping and I admit I was a bit concerned and not really sure if I could even be around, let alone help with testing and injections needed for his new life style.  The last thing they needed was to have to pick me up off the floor!

My grandson was great from the start.  He realized he was in serious condition and took the disease head-on.  Learning quickly what had to be done he dug right in.  Before they got home from the hospital he was counting carbs, measuring insulin needed and testing his blood sugar levels. Now it was up to me!  Just talking about the injection regiment with them the first night I got light headed.

Luckily I had a couple days to read about Type 1 diabetics and watch them take care of Daniel before I was to give him an injection.  I am pleased to tell you that there was no issue.  I gave him the injection and not only did he not get injured by me, I did fine.  I did not pass out, get light headed or even a little woozy.  It took my grandson’s health and needs to put things back in focus but I think I can get over the needle reaction I have lived with for years now.  Full circle. Live, learn and helping each other as we go.  Life is good.

   

 

Yesterday I heard that I lost another great friend and musical partner.  My sister called me last night to tell me there had been an accident and she did not have a lot of details, but a great friend of mine died yesterday.  I mentioned Ric Ahlers in my blog posts before.  He was the guitar player/vocalist in the first real band I was in called The Personal Touch.  He co-authored with me one of my favorite songs I called “For Those Who Wait“.  (With music it was titled: “Our Bodies Move“).

Ric was my brother-in-law and was looking for a keyboard player to start a duo to play locally and out on the road.  Though I had only dabbled with piano and was mostly a rhythm guitar singer-songwriter, he gently persuaded me to join him.  Then for about three months he patiently guided me as I learned not only how to play keyboards (not just piano, but all the other sounds keyboard players are responsible for), but also a bunch of popular cover tunes for the first time.  He was way ahead of me as far as knowledge and talent (I try to take my own advice and play with musicians that are better than me!) and had played out before.   We also played our original songs as part of our normal set list.  He had more confidence in me than I did, but I guess that is a familiar story to my blog readers.

We started as a duo and played local clubs.  We had a full sound as we both sang (as well as we could) and I played my 12 string guitar and the keyboards and later programmed drum machines.  He played lead guitar and also controlled a drum machine with an accompaniment triggered by his  bass pedals that played bass and added filler strings and piano chords.  We could play anything from classic standards to Jimi Hendrix tunes and fit into a very small space.

He sat while playing guitar and kicking his bass pedals.  He stood over 6 foot 10!  Some people would come up to shake his hand after a tune and jump back as he stood up to talk to them!!

He was as tall sitting as I was standing and it really surprised people and caught them off guard.  I would have to warn him about low ceiling fans at hotels and lobbies!  We added Ann Ellis as a vocalist and traveled around the county as a trio in his van.  THOSE WERE THE DAYS!

Life is not always easy but Ric was always a gentle giant.  With a heart just as big, he climbed back up if he got knocked down, and carried you on his shoulders if you could not keep going.  He is also family and we will all miss him and are stunned by the sudden loss of a great man in many ways.

There is a joke, not much of a joke really, but a saying that describes a point of view we too often have in the United States:

Question:

What do you call it when you speak two languages?

Answer:

Bi-lingual.

Question:

What do you call it when you speak several languages?

Answer:

Multi-lingual.

Question:

What do you call it if you speak one language?

Answer:

American.

As you can see it is not really funny and not really a joke, but I use this often to remind myself how different our decisions and thoughts can be depending on perspective or point of view.  I was delighted with the response to my recent poem entitled “Hearts of Stone“.  (…..Actually, I initially titled it “Where You Live”.  As mentioned before I am not good at naming my own songs.  My daughter Alisa – and partner in the success of this blog – correctly suggested I change the title).  I wanted to give you a bit of history to this poem as it was actually inspired by follower comments.  All of which I read and respond to – not as quickly as I like but I try to get to them all as I truly appreciate the time and thoughts from so many people.

I have often mentioned that I am thankful for access and exposure to thoughts and feedback around the globe.  It helps open my eyes to things I would not normally consider.  Creative people all over the world are represented here and it is amazing what an impact you have had on me and my writings.  A while back I posted a question about what was your first concert.  While many responses were very cool, some responded they were not allowed to have huge concerts in their country.  This struck me deeply.  First; as a callous question from an arrogant blogger who takes life for granted.  We often complain about politics or taxes and a million other things in the US and other countries but we have a choice.  We may not get our way but we can voice our opinion and discuss our thoughts openly.  This is not true everywhere.  Secondly: it drove this arrogant blogger to think about how many things we take for granted every day.  So I tried to look around my little piece of the world from another point of view.

The first line is kind of an inside joke and would easily be understood by people that live in places line my town.  We often have cloudy – hazy skies most of the time and it gets so bad that the traffic reports have to remind us what that big bright thing in the sky is on sunny days!  Often at night we do not see stars and frequently miss the experiences of full moons or eclipses.  The rest of the poem tries to reflect the things humans might notice looking at their world.  Some are glorious and beautiful and worth celebrating while other things are tragic and unimaginable to ‘outsiders’.

I have read the words in this poem many times since posting the poem on MIDIMike and a melody keeps creeping into my subconscious when I repeat them.  In the same line as the global inspiration for the lyrics, the melody and arrangement is not my ‘normal’ style.  I may be the only one that likes it, but I cannot get rid of it.  I will be finished putting this poem to music soon, but to be forewarned it is not a replica of my past works and musical pieces.  It is my thanks to all of you.  It is a sharing.  It is an apology for not keeping my mind open to others.  It is a simple reflection from deep inside.  It is an invitation to continuing communications that will bring different cultures and peoples together.  If we cannot communicate we are doomed.

I will post as a song as soon as I have a decent recording of what has been spiraling inside my head.

Click Here to read the original poem.

There have been many memorable events in my life to date and many more to come.  It might not be apparent at the time the impact any one of them would have at the time.  I have never been diagnosed or treated professionally but I find myself dealing with depression from time to time.  It is impossible to know what triggers those feelings and more difficult to see your way out. On one of those times I could not break the cycle.  I had no motivation or inspiration.  In fact, I did not care at all.  About anything.  I had been through similar situations before so for weeks I kept telling myself it would pass in its own time.  I would get through this one as well.  But that was the only positive thought I had.  Life not worth living.  Nothing made me happy or sad. I forced myself through motions and obligations by shear routine.   I seemed like this would go on forever.  It felt unbearable even though most of my friends had no idea what I was dealing with.

I had tickets to see an amazing show under any circumstances, so I went to see Cirque du Soleil.  It is funny how this affected me.  I watched human beings do what seemed impossible even if you could think of the skills in the first place.  Art and amazing physical prowess seamlessly blended together to tell a story with few words.  Strength and perfection only achieved with years and years of unrelenting practice and sacrifice.  It again showed me the potential of mankind.  Dedication, creativity, trust, respect were all required to make this amazing performance happen.  I realized watching each scene that we are incredible beings when we try. That night I started trying again.  I saw the end of the funk that was created by myself – for myself.  I could see again the beauty of life and the result of hard work when things seem impossible.

History sometimes repeats itself. Funny to think of this after my recent event at a concert to see my musical mentor and hero – Peter Gabriel, performing on tour with Sting.  It is so refreshing to know there are others in the world that struggle to be good.  That work every day to promote peace love and all that corny stuff I could not live without.  In their music and through their lives they can impact so many.  I thought I would never be able to see Gabriel perform.  I have come close, but things did not work out. They almost did not work out this time either.  Of all the artists/people in the world, his music, words and projects affect me like no other person on this earth.  I am who I am with his unknowing help and guidance.  I struggle to be better knowing it is possible.

I grew up listening to Genesis and following his solo career.  I am not obsessed and do not own everything he has.  I do not know every detail of his personal life or career.  But I do think I ‘know the man’.  I understand him as a man and not an idol.  We are growing old together.

Sting was also amazing and sang a number of Peter’s songs, and performing his own tunes and some from the days of The Police.  For me, it was precious, unforgettable and one of the greatest musical experiences I have had.

On this Mother’s Day, I would like to give you flowers.  Well, pictures of them anyway!  Each year our local Zoo and Botanical Garden has a tulip display that is quite beautiful.  The varieties and colors are just dazzling and the background landscape of the Cincinnati Zoo is hard to beat.  We go almost every year and as usual I bring my camera.  It is difficult to say if one flower is prettier than the other so I will let you pick your own.

So for Mother’s Day, have a few flowers from me, and enjoy your day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In many cities and small towns throughout the globe, there are places where the living take comfort by visiting the dead.  Cemeteries provide a common burial place for relatives, ancestors and the unknown traveler.  Many believe these to be sacred grounds, spaces to reconnect and remember those before us.  For some a look ahead to our own mortality.  The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band had a line I often think of from one of their songs called “Buy for Me the Rain”.  It looks at this from a slightly different angle; “Gravestones cheer the living, dear, they’re no use to the dead“.  All are valid thoughts and should be respected regardless of your personal views.   

 In my town there is a beautiful cemetery.  My wife and I have gone there for years to walk, watch spring take back the landscape and follow the seasons as winter inevitably returns. I often bring my camera as I cannot deny the beauty. People come there to paint, jog, stroll, get married and seek a type of peace hard to capture in the surrounding city.  The trees, surrounding lakes and flowers keep demanding our return.  Over the years I have taken many pictures and I would like to share a small sample with you.  This is where my mother and younger brother had their ashes placed, so it is a special place for me in so many ways.  While not intending to capture gravestones or monuments, they are a big part of its beauty.  Tourist attractions often include Spring Grove Cemetery for travelers and those not familiar with the city.  Fall is gorgeous there.  Peace can be felt there.  I hope some of these pictures will give you an idea why it draws so many people again and again.