With The Passage of Time

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While toiling away at my desk job every day, I like to keep the day going by listening to the radio in the background.

Generally, I like to stream the oldies country station out of Albuquerque, channel 104.7. It is very comforting to hear familiar music mixed in with ads for local ABQ businesses. It’s also very perplexing for my coworkers, which is an added benefit.

This afternoon while crunching spreadsheets and lobbing emails over the wall, the circa 1969 song “Okie from Muskogee” came on the radio.

Now, as you know, I do love a Merle Haggard song.

For some reason today, instead of just mindlessly singing along, I listened in on the words.

It’s a pretty outdated song by many accounts, yet in some ways still feels relevant.

Take this, for example:

“We don’t let our hair grow long and shaggy/
Like the hippies out in San Francisco do.”

Well, for one thing, long and shaggy hair is commonplace now. It’s actually mainstream.

For another, there’s not any hippies in SF these days. I don’t think the free-love folks from the sixties would even recognize the place anymore. Funny how scads of money tends to move the needle toward conservative, no matter where you are.

That said, that’s still my favorite line in the song. I sang it at the top of my lungs when I saw Merle in concert this summer. The absurdity of singing a line deriding San Francisco while being near San Francisco was just too delicious.

Then there’s this part that has always cracked me up:

“We still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse/
And white lightnin’s still the biggest thrill of all.”

So he’s singing about how being a square is a good thing. About having good clean fun. About waving the flag and being upright and just.

Oh and he’s also singing about drinking an illegal alcohol substance.

Marijuana? No. Moonshine? Just fine.

Am I the only one who finds that just a little…oh I don’t know…ironic?

Plus, I can guarangoddamntee you that Mr. Haggard has sampled of the green stuff. More than once. More than once today.

Merle has said he wrote “Okie from Muskogee” as a protest to the Vietnam protestors. He found them a little hard to take after he’d been released from San Quentin.

Oh wait. So the flag waving good clean fun guy was in prison?

Five different times, actually. Doesn’t that seem…uh…also ironic?

Which makes me remember that the whole song, while conservative and flag waving and a bit chiding in tone is really, actually, all done tongue in cheek.

It’s a bit of a ruse, and a well-done ruse. A Grammy winning poke at society.

And that’s where the title of this post comes into play. With the passage of time, The Hag starts to look a little less like a musical outlaw and a lot more like a musical genius.

Plus he helped me get through a really rough day. Thanks Hag.




You Want Weird? We Got Weird.

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When I need a quick break from the piles of spreadsheets I’m working on, I often take a few moments to do the daily ABQJournal Word Sleuth.

Today’s topic for the puzzle is “Food Cities”, as in, towns with a name that is also a food.

Friends and readers, you’ll be glad to know that our fair New Mexico has not one but two entries on the list:

Pie Town (in West central NM) and Chili (north of Espanola).

Odd names, to be sure. But let me tell you this, Pie Town is only scratching the surface of odd names for towns in the great State of NM.

Since we’re near Pie Town, let’s also visit Quemado. The word quemado means burned. There’s a happy connotation!

What about Raton? Rat Town. Yay! Let’s live there!

Ojo Caliente? Yes, folks, come live in hot eye!

Fruitvale. Mmmm, fruity!

Cotton City. Mmmm, cottony!

Catch a breeze in Windmill, near Cotton City. (they don’t have a lot going on down in the bootheel, do they?)

How about Loving? I mean, I’ve spent time in Loving (down in the southeast of the state). It’s just a normal town. You’d think folks would be doin’ it in the streets or something, but no.

Then there’s the easy pickings like Elephant Butte. Yes, yes, I know it’s butte, like a hill, but is there ANYONE traveling I-25 who doesn’t think the sign says elephant butt? No, I don’t think so. It’s giggle inducing.

And while we’re at Elephant Butt (left the e off on purpose) let’s talk about the neighboring town of Truth or Consequences?

More on the paths less traveled, let’s go get the tingles in Tingle, NM, up in the northwest of the state (south of Gallup, and yes, even Gallup is a funny place name).

Or get fried in Crisp, NM (in the Lincoln National Forest).

And I won’t start down the list of all the Navajo names like Ya-Ta-Hey and Chilili.

Folks, this isn’t even nearly an all inclusive list. I’m just getting started!

Gotta love our state, we can make it quirky in three languages, and that makes us a part of every kooky trivia list, crossword puzzle and word search looking for a something little different.

In my best Hee Haw style: Saaaaalute!

And the Wheel Goes Round and Round

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Back in March I talked about the Rosanne Cash album “The List,” a collection of songs culled from a list of 100 must-know songs crafted especially for Rosanne by her father.

The List is an essential music history lesson.

That story and the resulting album became the inspiration for my best friend and I to endeavor to create our own list as a legacy for my two goddaughters.

It’s been an ongoing process, serious work, and we’re making progress.

Over the weekend, I had the chance to see Rosanne Cash perform live at the Uptown Theater in Napa, CA.

I’ve been a fan for a while and I think Rosanne is a massively accomplished songwriter. I love the heart and emotion she puts into every lyric.

I figured as a consummate musician, she would put on a great show. I was in no way prepared for how stunning seeing Rosanne perform live really was.

Her backing band, including her husband John Levanthal on guitar, was one of the tightest bands I’ve ever seen. I told The Good Man during the show “I know musicians who would kill somebody to get at her drummer.”

I’ve spent a lot of years in the company of musicians who struggled have a band that is tight and seamless. Rosanne has that in spades.

And talent too. She’s an amazing, emotional and powerful singer. Like any great musician, the sound seems to pour from her effortlessly. It takes a lot of work to make it look that easy.

Then, after putting on a show that brought the house down, Rosanne went to the lobby and signed autographs for her fans. I got her signature on my copy of her recent bestseller “Composed” and had a chance to tell her that my best friend and I are working on our own version of The List.

And when I awkwardly mentioned that her gorgeous song “Seven Year Ache” is on the list, Ms. Cash smiled and shook my hand.

Made. My. Year.

What a powerful, beautiful, wonderful woman.

I am deeply inspired.

Photo by Karen Kristofferson, as posted on her @KarenKristo Twitter stream.

Keep Yer Politics Out of My Baseball

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I have spent the past seven months watching my favorite baseball team, the San Francisco Giants, play incredibly imperfect (some say torturous) baseball.

I’ve experienced agony, ecstasy, and near ulcers but still I have watched because I’m a longtime fan. I’ve been there at Candlestick Park. I’ve been there at PacBell, SBC, AT&T Park. Heck, I’ve been there at Scottsdale Stadium.

Oh, I’ve been there.

I knew Tim Lincecum and Pablo Sandoval when they were playing for the farm team San Jose Giants.

Because I’ve been there, too.

And now…oh NOW that the team is getting coverage for making it to the National League Championship Series (NLCS) do all the politics and politicians come out in their shiny suits and gelled up hair to act like they’ve been there all along.

Our playoffs are their political opportunity.

Gah!

Baseball is not politics! Politics are not baseball!

The two don’t mix because baseball has its own politics, thank you VERY much.

We don’t need your stupid campaigning faces jack o’ lantern grinning out of the stands, Ms. Boxer, Ms. Fiorina and Mr. Newsom.

I shall not vote for the lot of you!

And then….

There is the whole ongoing kefuffle regarding the BART policeman who shot an allegedly rambunctious BART rider in the back.

The case and the video footage from that day are a highly sensitive and a very concerning issue for the Bay Area for a lot of reasons.

The case went to trial. The jury made a decision. The case is pending sentencing.

So now both sides have decided to take their personal issues to the baseball game by painting banners, attaching them to sailboats and setting sail for McCovey Cove.

You know, McCovey Cove, famous for all the boats, pontoons and kayacks sailing about when Barry Bonds played for the Giants and regularly dunked homeruns in the water?

McCovey Cove, famous for Friday “Beer Can Regatta” sailboat races.

McCovey Cove, that beautiful body of water that sits next to my beautiful ballpark and helps make it one of the most unique sporting locations in the world.

As the Fox Sports cameras seek out something to focus on as we cut to commercial, the cove is always a favored spot, owing to the beautiful views.

But this week, the cameras take in the “Free Mehserle” or “Justice for Oscar Grant” signs, and our own problems here in the Bay Area take precedence over the baseball game.

It’s a game. Just a game. It’s supposed to be fun.

How about I think about politics and other difficult issues when the season is over, ok?

(McCovey seen to the right in this photo of AT&T Park)

Photo From 22Gigantes

Goodbye to a Mentor

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I was shocked earlier today to hear the news that Stephen J. Cannell, prolific television series creator and author, has passed away from cancer.

Last year I had the chance to meet Mr. Cannell at book signing for his Shane Scully novel, “On The Grind“.

That day at my local library, I was feeling especially low about my prospects as a writer.

After a fantastic talk with details about his journey from being a dyslexic child to creator of such shows as The Rockford Files, 21 Jump Street, and The A-Team, I wanted to ask Mr. Cannell if he had any suggestions for a better way to query agents with my own writing.

I waited until the entire line had gotten their autographs and no one waited to distract, then I walked up to Mr. Cannell, a Hollywood legend by anyone’s standards, and I boldly asked him my question.

What followed was not just an answer, but an almost thirty minute long conversation in which Mr. Cannell was supportive, asked questions, gave advice, mentored, guided and encouraged me.

At the end of the conversation, when his handlers were pushing him out the door, he took out a piece of paper and wrote down a phone number. He told me to call his office to schedule a continuation to the conversation.

I was beyond geeked out that he would be so generous. I tried calling and spoke with his admin several times, but given Mr. Cannell’s crazy hectic schedule, I was never able to speak with him again. No matter, the thirty minutes he spent with me will resonate forever.

Today I’m a bit saddened as I say goodbye to an intensely creative and prolific man who is, in many ways, both hero and mentor to me.

The best way I can honor him is to just keep writing.