Sunday, May 29, 2011

Confessions Of A Greg Brown Fan

            Music is everywhere in life, the birds perform daily and the crickets each Spring night.  It is impossible to escape on TV, the radio and internet.  There is music in a child’s laughter and the ears of a factory owner when his machines are humming.  It creates moods in the malls, churches and bars.  Even the deaf can create classic concertos.   
So few things in life strike a chord in your mind that change your outlook and touch your spirit.  My life was unknowingly changed forever when my brother-in-law gave me a copy of Dream Café.  I wore that disc out playing it over and over.  It related to the turmoil in my little world.  How did this guy 1,553 miles away, that I had never met, relate to my circumstances so well?  I was intrigued.  As any normal kid back in the day, I listened to KJR and KOL to the Beatles’ new releases and bought them all on vinyl at the local music store.  Back then, it was a music store.  You could buy records and tubas and flutes.  Their music moved me back then, but Greg Brown’s music transformed me into a new reality in adulthood.   
               I was named after a bandleader and had a grandfather who was a professional musician, but I was half deaf from ear infections in my early years.  Ten minutes into my first and last lesson from Grandpa, he told me to play piano or percussion.  My clarinet hurt his ears.  Like so many things in life, tone and attitude are everything.  Greg’s lyrics resonated in my existence and has forever altered my view of the world and how I deal with it.
               It didn’t take long to start collecting his other recordings.  By now, retail music stores were selling drums, guitars and amps instead of albums, cassettes and CDs.  So, I became a Red House Records regular and developed a phone and email relationship with some of them.  My appetite was satisfied for a spell, but there was one LP out there not available at Red House.  It was out of print and the original record company was out of business.  My years of toil to locate a copy proved futile.   
               When I bought my first computer, it became a glorified electronic game of Solitaire.  Today, I wouldn’t know where to find that singular entertainment.  Somehow I branched out and discovered there was a website devoted to Greg’s music.  On it was a link to a group of other rabid fans.  How could there be others who related to this music like me?  I joined right up.  That must have about twenty years ago.  Greg’s music played in my head even when the stereo wasn’t on.  His lyrics inspired me to pull out my dusty pen and start writing again.  I got up the nerve to introduce myself to the group by sending some sort of silly rhyme.  For nine years or so, I only posted in verse.  It became my trademark, some liked it, some no doubt hated it.  Everyone knew who I was and knew I was slightly crazy.  One fellow fan even sent me a scratchy recording of the one album I was missing
               Recordings were no longer enough.  The next time Greg came to town, my wife and I were the first in line.  For many years, that became a mandatory procedure.  That first show was at the now defunct Backstage in the Ballard area of Seattle.  I had been to many concerts with much bigger names, but none as entertaining and pure and moving.  He played some of the songs off Dream Café  more fun and pure and soul wrenching than the CD.  The hook was firmly in my jowls and there was no turning back.  For a couple years, he came to town once or twice and that seemed to satisfy my appetite. 
               Because of my exuberance at the concerts and presence on the internet discussion group, people at these shows began approaching me and introducing themselves.  Some of the absolute finest people on this planet are Greg fans.  To feed my frenzy, road trips were the next obvious step in this journey……….To be continued, maybe. 
I have kicked around the idea of writing a book on this subject.  Anybody interested in reading more about my twenty years of this adventure?     

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend

This holiday weekend was created nearly 150 years ago to honor fallen military men and women in a ritual of remembrance.  Certainly a rendition of “Taps” will ring out on many a cemetery and television newscast this weekend across the country.  For most Americans, this three day weekend is the unofficial beginning of summer and an excuse to leave town to camp, congregate and party.  A quarter century ago on this very weekend, I moved into the home where I still live.  Do you have any idea how much clutter you can collect in twenty-five years?  It is also the anniversary of my grandfather’s death.  He was a vet of World War I.  As much as I appreciate the sacrifices of soldiers, I have yet to visit a cemetery on Memorial Day.
Instead, I signed up for the escape town adventure for many years.  One of my high school buddies discovered and organized a retreat at an old, run down resort on Camano Island.  They had cabins without running water, a wood stove and what once was a bed mattress.  It was camping with a roof.  But, it was right on the shores of Puget Sound.  We’ll call the accommodations rustic.  Some of the cabins had bit the dust completely and trees had sprouted above the rafters.  The owners were so old they may have been involved in the Civil War which is where this holiday originated.  Only an hour and a half from home, it was a million miles from life’s troubles. 
A whole group of old high school buddies converged.  By then, most of us had mates and only one had a baby.  The booze and bull crap flowed freely and our spouses mostly shook their heads.  We dug clams and got sunburned and caroused.  The women folk bonded and made chowder with the clams we dug.  This became an annual reunion until Grandma Cama passed on to the other side and the place shut down.  A new destination was needed.
Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend was built to protect the Puget Sound from nautical invasion dating back to the 1890’s.  In 1955, it became a state park here in Washington.  The officer quarters had running water and other creature comforts, so this option created multiple new opportunities for a group of old high school buddies to celebrate each Memorial Day weekend.  Six bedroom brick houses were shared by multiple families.  Our group required two and sometimes three houses.  Each was over packed.  The little kids turned closets into camps.  The child population by now had mushroomed and they far out numbered adults.  Co-ed, all aged softball games, basketball, tennis, beach combing, biking, and general mayhem was the daily agenda.  This was a perfect recipe for bruises, scrapes, cracked ribs and sore muscles a bunch of aging men looked forward to sharing each year.  Beer seemed to be the most common medicinal remedy.  We squeezed music in with everything we did.  The annual gathering disintegrated when an overbearing outsider tried to take charge.  It was easier to disband the event than blatantly banish the intruder.
Just like every other holiday in America, this one has evolved and the original purpose seems to have been replaced with another.  I am unable to think of one holiday that is celebrated by the majority for its initial intent.  As we humans age, the cranial computer continuously fills the memory banks.  Sometimes we lose focus of our own original purpose.  Young people wonder why their elders have stories they repeat about things that happened to them double digit years ago.  We do it because it was and is still part of who we are now.  And gosh darn it, you little whippersnappers, there are lessons you can learn from every one of them!
Tip of the hat to all soldiers, past and present, who helped make our world a little safer.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Starting Line

If I fail to say it, it will surely be unheard.  So, I am the newest among a million billion bloggers with hope of a voice.  I titled my blog astute because I am a stute, a nickname that stuck from high school.  It’s short for a long title that I will probably refuse to fully disclose, as if anyone’s interested anyway.  Once in a long spell, I write something unknowingly astute as well.  I like to write and others have encouraged me with praise.  A few of my works have been published and I have even liked a few of them.  I am my own worst critic in every aspect of my life.
One goal I have set for myself on this platform is to avoid all words negative.  I am talking about words like no, not, can’t and all the derivatives.  Just try deleting those words from your vocabulary for a day.  It was a challenge to write the first paragraph.  So the way I figure, if anyone is ever going to read my words, there must be some redeeming reason to come back and check it out again.  I am clueless what I’ll write about or where this will lead, but I intend to make it fun for me and maybe a couple of you.  Talked to an old friend this week and he said I should write a book, a best seller, and it could be Oprah’s next “book of the month”.  Oops, a little late with that brilliant idea.  His intentions were good and compliments like his will always be welcome.  I openly solicit constructive criticism as well. 
So, my mission here is to uplift, entertain, educate and have some fun.  Sometimes, the cherries are missing from the bowl of life.  Certainly, I will speak of life’s challenges and disappointments.  And if anyone reads my future posts, you will bust me on my use of negative words.  But, I will do my best to be me and try to focus on the positive side of things even if they are hard lessons to be learned.  I have been around the block a couple times and believe my experiences might help someone else avoid the craters I fell in along the way.  Or maybe someone else will chuckle at a similar situation that happened to them.  Mostly, I’ll try to humor my readers (maybe that should be singular) and be the human smile virus I was put on Earth to be.  Keep your lip corners up and come back to see what happens next.  I am just as curious as you as to what I’ll actually write about.