Friday, June 29, 2007

Looking for space

What's up, y'all? Happy Friday.

The blog will be on hiatus for a couple of days. I'm headed up to the lake after work this afternoon. Will be back sometime Sunday night.

It's time for R&R. I'm hoping to get a little fishin' in, along with some writing, reading, plenty of sleep, spending time outside and in general having as much fun as I can pack into two days.

Y'all be safe and I'll see you on the flip side.

As John Denver says, I'll be out there somewhere on the road of experience, lookin' for space and to find out who I am...

(Or as Brad Paisley says, maybe I just really wanna get some mud on the tires...)

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Into the night...


Funny thing, loneliness.

They teach you how to drive a car. They teach you how to act. They show you how to dress.

They never teach you how to live with the pain.

He pulled his car up into the driveway, the moonlight casting a pale shadow across the yard. Far off in the distance a house alarm disturbed the silence. Lightning peppered the sky. Must have been the heat.

He took a long draw, threw the butt into the grass and walked inside. God, he couldn't wait for tomorrow. Tomorrow meant freedom. Freedom meant the water, and the solitude, and a couple of days to forget.

It was fine until he turned off the light. Then he saw her. Her dark hair. Her shining eyes. He wanted with all his being to hold her, just for a while, just for a moment.

But, no. She was gone. Gone forever, to the place such visions go, never to return.

He saw a woman a couple of Sundays ago that made his heart beat. She was sitting way across the auditorium. She had the same dark hair, the same dark eyes. He felt the old familiar feeling rise up into his chest. And he fought it off, but lost the fight. .

That night he did all he could to make the pain stop. It wasn't enough.

It's funny. He hadn't seen her in years --- what is it now? Four, five years? More?
But he knew all she'd have to do was walk in the door. That would be it. He'd be as a crazy now as he was that winter night long ago.

He remembered that Texas movie, and Sam the Lion. What was it Sam said? That a man should always be crazy about a woman like that?

He knew it was true. She'd stirred his soul once. He'd held her in his arms and kissed her lips and pulled her close to him, trying to make the pain go away, knowing it would return the minute she left the room.

She wasn't the one. He knew that. But it didn't matter. He'd given everything just to hold her again, just for a moment, just for awhile.

As it was, he pulled the sheet tight around him, tossed over on his right side and shut out the light.

Sleep was some sweet dream, far off into the night.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A piece of cake...

"In their innocence and trusting, they will teach us to be free" --- John Denver, "Rhymes and Reasons."

It's easy to become cynical in our modern world -- especially when you observe human beings for a living.

Cause you know how it is. Friends and family let you down. Politicians break your heart. People get too wrapped up on their own solipsistic lives to care about anything else.

Thank God for children.

I've told you before about Connor, the little boy my grandmother keeps from time to time. He's such a good kid. Smartest 2-year-old I've ever seen.

Anyway, we held a little birthday party for Connor right after work yesterday afternoon. My grandmother bought a cake. I blew up a bunch of balloons. Most of the family came over to celebrate.

You should have seen Connor. His eyes were lit up brighter than Times Square on New Year's Eve. I don't think he ever wiped that grin off his face.

The part he loved the most was the chocolate cake. I kept trying to feed him some by hand. He wouldn't touch it. So I finally grabbed a fork and tried that way. He laughed, grinned and ate the cake.

My grandmother tried to get him to give me some cake. He finally did, using a fork, of course. When I ate that big ol' bite, he laughed and grinned some more.

Somewhere along this life's journey we lose that kind of innocence. In some ways it's good. In most ways, it's a shame.

The TV series "Mork and Mindy" featured a storyline near the end of its run in which Mork's kid (played by Jonathan Winters) grew up in reverse. He came out of the womb at 50 years old or so and grew smaller. By death, he'd be an infant.

That first struck me as funny. But the more I thought about it, I decided it was downright profound. Imagine if we became more trusting as we got older -- more innocent, more simple in our tastes.

Connor begged all day today for one thing --- another slice of chocolate cake. His aunt finally drove him over here to get it. That's all he talked about for 24 hours.

Think for a moment what might happen if life really were a piece of cake...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Forgive some personal words tonight, but I feel a little down in the dumps.

Don't get me wrong. Life's great. I'm (finally) kidney stone free, just returned from a fantastic weekend trip to Georgia, am reading a heck of a great novel ("North River" by Pete Hamill) and as usual am enjoying work.

But if I can be flat out honest with ya a minute, I'm frustrated with myself. Here's the deal.

Tonight I was planning to go with my pal Andrea to the Downtown Grille to hear Sam Lewis pick and sing some tunes. Was looking quite forward to it. I'm a big fan of live music and haven't gotten to hear anything -- or have much of a social life -- since before I got sick in May.

Went to eat at Chop House with John Hitt and the Rat after work. And it hit me. Some sort of migraine and/or sinus headache.

So instead of tunes and fun, it was back to the house to take medicine and lie down in a darkened room.

I'm not feeling sorry for myself. And I'm darn glad my maladies aren't life threatening. So many out there are suffering from so much.

But these nagging problems lower one's quality of life. They are also quite painful.

I've done everything the doctor asked. I'm eliminated Cokes from my diet, started drinking more water, changed my eating habits to include healthier food. I exercise when I can.

And yet. Migraines and kidney stones.

Such is life, I guess. Again, let me say that I'm not complaining. I'm thankful that these problems aren't serious.

But sometimes I wish I could flip a switch and just make the pain go away. I'm tired of feeling bad, y'all.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Meeting Skip

ATLANTA, June 24 -- Forget the scoreboard.

Sometimes the cosmos, and the baseball gods, and whatever else you want to mention, all come together to create something really special. Something you talk about, laugh about for days afterwards.

Something you never forget.

Such it was tonight at Turner Field. And it had nothing to do with the game.

Nope, the baseball was forgettable. Atlanta lost a laugher 5-0 to the surging Detroit Tigers. About the only interesting thing on the field was impressive plays by Atlanta's Jeff Francoeur and Detroit's Carlos Guillen (AL player of the week, by the way).

But something happened before the game. Something I'll never forget.

We get to the ballpark early, as is my custom. I like parking before the horde arrives. I like to walk around the park, soak up the sounds.

An 8 p.m. start meant we hadn't eaten yet. So we ease over to the BBQ joint in the stadium -- only to find longtime Braves announcer Skip Caray signing autographs!

Skip has been my longtime connection to the Braves. I've spent more time with him and Pete Van Wieren than I have members of my family. He kept us chuckling when the team was losing 100 games a year. He kept us excited throughout all the championship runs in the '90s.

And there he was, friendly as can be, signing a publicity photo for the folks in line. I tried to think of what to say. How do you tell a guy thanks for nearly 30 years of memories?

Skip takes one look at my Braves Hawaiian shirt and says two words.

"Nice shirt."

I laugh -- you always do that with Skip -- thank him and tell him he's brought me many years of joy.

"I'm glad to hear that," Skip says.

He tells Drew Weaver (who addresses him as "Mr. Caray") to call him Skip -- then asks Drew if he has a military background. Drew wears a buzz cut and says "sir" a lot.

Drew says his dad is a Marine. Skip smiles and says "Good."

Off we go. I'm still on cloud nine. I don't think much about the game. I keep checking to see if Skip's autograph is OK.

It was something. The whole thing felt like one of those MasterCard commercials.

Braves parking pass: $10

Ticket to a Sunday night game: $39

Gas for the truck: $50

Meeting Skip Caray? Well, you know the answer to that one.


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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Where your riches lie

MACON, Ga. -- Friends and family.

That's where it's at, man. Don't let anybody tell you different.

Here in Macon, the home of Otis Redding and Atlantic soul, we're whiling away a Saturday night with Dewayne and Bridget -- and their new son Jacob. He's a sweet kid.

Jacob snores gently, in that cute newborn way, while we talk about high school, and college, and how the weather was. He's a cute kid; he takes after his mother.

We took in a Braves game on the way down I-75. Justin Verlander of the Tigers pitched a beauty. He mixes his fastball, change-up and curve to create the purest of baseball poetry. The Motown boys win 2-1 in a pitcher's duel for the ages. It's hot, but that gets lost in Verlander's art.

The guy beside us sports a Brooklyn Dodgers hat. He tells Drew where to find it. We chat baseball. He and his wife drove over from Aken, S.C. She's celebrating her birthday by rooting on her home state Tigers. She goes home happy.

Real reason for the trip is to see Jake. He's a dandy. Bridget says he's a good baby. Sleeps till nine, barely cries.

Life takes its turns. Folks come and go. A generation cometh and a generation passeth away.
But when the sun sets, like it did tonight on this red Georgia clay, all that matters is friends and family. Even baseball, that beautiful, wonderful first love, is just a game.

Take it for granted. Take the air you breathe, the sun, the moon, the freedom of America, for granted too. Act like it's ours by birthright.

But don't ever overlook family and friends. Therein lies your riches.

Just look in a newborn baby's eyes if you don't believe me.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

The last time I saw her...

I'm a fan of story songs.

I especially like tunes that are somewhat ambiguous, that leave something to the imagination. You know something's not quite what it appears. But it isn't clear. The ultimate example has to be Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billy Joe."

But I digress.

Waiting for pages to roll out of compo this afternoon, an old Gordon Lightfoot composition came on the iPod.

Called "The Last Time I Saw Her," the song is a haunting ballad about a doomed love affair. Like all of his best work, Lightfoot's lyric is pure poetry, full of ethos and imagery.

This particular version was recorded not by Lightfoot, but by Glen Campbell. The arrangement fits the song, full of strings and an elaborate presentation. It's one of Glen's most beautiful songs, but I'm not sure it ever became a hit.

Yet another beautiful gem lost to the passing of time. The lyric is below:

The last time I saw her face
Her eyes were bathed in starlight
And her hair hung long

The last time she spoke to me
Her lips were like the scented flowers
Inside a rain-drenched forest

But that was so long ago
That I can scarcely feel
The way I felt before
And if time could heal the wounds
I would tear the threads away
That I might bleed some more

The last time I walked with her
Her laughter was the steeple bells
That rang to greet the morning sun
A voice that called to everyone
To love the ground we walked upon
Those were her good days

The last time I held her hand
Her touch was autumn, spring and summer
Winter, too

The last time I let go of her
She walked away into the night
I lost her in the misty streets
A thousand months, a thousand years
When other lips will kiss her eyes
A million miles beyond the moon
That's where she is

The last time I saw her face
Her eyes were bathed in sadness
And she walked alone

The last time she kissed my cheek
Her lips were like the wilted leaves
Upon the autumn covered hill
Rested on the frozen ground
The seeds of love lie cold and still
Beneath the battered marking stone
It lies forgotten

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Overcoming the obnoxious

ATLANTA, June 18 -- Sometimes you find a little retribution in a long fly ball.

I can take a lot. I like to think I've become a "live and let live" type in my old age. But I have no tolerance whatsoever for rudeness. Just won't stand for it.

Which is why the Atlanta Braves' 9-4 win here at Turner Field over the Boston Red Sox was so delicious. I've never seen a bunch that deserved a come-uppance more than the Sox faithful in attendance tonight.

Well, maybe it was just my section. But it was bad. Loud chanting and screaming in that obnoxious Yankee accent (shudder). Women in Sox shirts trying to sit in other people's seats. Some jerk putting his fat ass right in front of an innocent fan who's just trying to keep score.

And then, after home runs by Scott Thorman and Brian McCann --- silence. Sweet, beautiful silence. Well, except for the cheering Atlanta faithful.

I'm a little different than most fans. Baseball is serious business. I treat it as such. I keep score. I pay attention. I don't stand up in my seat or disappear for two innings. I could care less about The Wave and whatever stupid promotion is going on the Jumbotron. (Why do we need a Jumbotron anyway? Why can't some old bag just pound away on an organ?)

So maybe I'm biased --- or just crazy. But I don't see the point in acting the fool, especially when such a glorious game is unfolding before your eyes.

At two places can you find me at my heart's content --- the cabin on the lake, and the baseball park. Thus it was today. As the late spring sun began to set over the Atlanta horizon, Turner Field was backlit by the most ethereal glow you've ever seen. I could almost hear Shoeless Joe Jackson (well, let's say Eddie Mathews since we're in Atlanta) whispering from beyond.

The obnoxious Red Sox fans almost spoiled it. The Braves took care of that, though.

To be fair, it wasn't just Sox fans. One Atlanta partisan was thrown out of the stands for fighting. Another was too busy stuffing his face with food to watch much of the game (or give Dewayne Lawson much room to sit down).

So it goes.

But this is baseball, this is offensively-powered, fun to watch baseball. Such a game is resilient. It can overcome a lot -- even the obnoxious.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007


Don't tell him if you see him, but here in a few minutes, I'll take Dad a John Wayne DVD for Father's Day. Above all else, whenever I see Duke forging a trail somewhere on the big screen, I always think of Dad.

My pop was so cool. Circumstances meant that for most of my growing up years, I only would see him on Wednesday nights ("Magnum, p.i." at 9 p.m.) and every other weekend.

But it worked out. There for awhile, he'd occasionally take me along on dates. Most of his girlfriends were babes, so this was cool, too.

We've seen a lot of UT home games together. We've watched a lot of westerns, listened to a lot of music. I remember staying up late to watch the last episode of "M*A*S*H" and a whole bunch of Monday Night Football games together.

I guess my favorite times together were in the little house on Norris Freeway. It had a wood burning stove that would scald the place in a wintertime; it also had a window unit that got the house so cold in summertime you could hang meat.

Saturday mornings meant Bugs Bunny cartoons of course. Dad would fix us egg sandwiches. And chocolate milk --- always chocolate milk.

People started telling me I looked like him, laughed like him. It's a compliment, trust me.

These days, we talk about once every day or two. We still go to UT games together. He's my hero, no doubt about it.

Well, Dad, sorry we missed a lot of growing up time together. But it turned out OK.

I got a best friend out of the deal.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Solving mysteries, the nostalgic way...

All this talk about a new Nancy Drew movie takes me back to childhood.

I didn't care too much for Nancy, but I loved The Hardy Boys. Neighbor Marilyn Johnson gave me my first "Hardy Boys" mystery. It was an old copy of "While the Clock Ticked" that had belonged to her son Ben.

The Hardys were cool. They had motorcycles. They had a boat. They solved crimes. It was the ultimate.

I read and re-read that book 10 times. Then I had to have all the other "Hardy Boys" books. They were my constant companions until I got old enough to read other stuff.

Somewhere along the way I found out that ABC had aired a TV series. I dragged my mom all over town trying to find the show on home video. We finally found a few copies.

Universal has released two seasons of the original series on DVD. It's a hoot after all these years watching Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy solving crimes. It's fun and innocent and feels a lot like a live-action version of "Scooby Doo."

The show was the brain child of the amazing Glen A. Larson, who must have been the hardest working guy in TV for years. It originally ran Sunday nights on ABC, alternating weeks between The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.

That Nancy, Pamela Sue Martin, will always be my favorite. I was in love with that girl. I wanted to marry a woman just like her when I grew up. Ahh, the innocent bliss of childhood.

And for all you classic movie buffs, TCM is airing the late 1930s/early 1940s Nancy Drew movies starring Bonita Granville tonight beginning at 8 p.m. (EDT). I haven't seen them in years, so I can't remember enough to review them for ya.

Maybe it's a generational thing, but the ABC series will always be my favorite. Course, nothing can ever top those children's novels.

I can promise you that the pictures I formed in my head of the Hardys and of Nancy are better than anything Hollywood could ever dream up.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Born out of time

So it's nearly 11, and Ella's singing on the CD player.

It's the Cole Porter disc tonight. I get no kick from champagne, mere alcohol, it doesn't move me at all..

Jenny said while commenting on an earlier blog post that I was born out of my time. It's true. I'm proud of it. Such is life.

My sick gift to myself (LOL) was a splurge on the 16-disc "The Complete Ella Fitzgerald Song Books" box set. This thing is a true piece of beauty.

All the greats are here. Besides Porter, she sings the best of Duke Ellington (complete with Duke and the band playing behind her), the Gershwins, Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer, a handful of others.

Oooh, here's a good one.

Night and day, you are the one...only you beneath the moon or under the sun...

If Sinatra is the Chairman of the Board, Ella is the torch singer in the little jazz club on the corner. And while I find myself missing the "ring-a-ding-ding" of Frankie's versions, there's something special at work here.

Forget the drivel --- this is pop music. They don't sing like this anymore, y'all.

What! You need proof? How many people are going to be looking nostalgically back toward something like "Oops, I Did It Again" in 30 years?

(Or, as Dudley Moore says in "10," "Why Don't We Do It in the Road? What (expletive) kind of era is that?")

But I digress.

For those of you in Knox Vegas, some kind of storm tonight, huh? I don't think I've ever seen severe lightning like that in years. It was fun to watch in its hauntingly beautiful way.

OK, I'm outta here. Gettin' sleepy. Y'all be safe out there.

Cause I've got you....under my skin...

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The no-no

When J.J. Hardy's fly ball landed in Magglio Ordonez's glove sometime just after quarter-past nine tonight, you could feel it. Electric. Special. Once in a lifetime.

Justin Verlander jumped twice on the mound. Then he found himself in the arms of his catcher Pudge Rodriguez. The Detroit Tigers ace had done it.

A no-hitter.

Let's say it again. A no-hitter.

What makes this so special is the wilderness years. All those seasons, all those losses.

But it's a memory now. That 119 loss season? Can barely remember it.

Yes it's true. The Tigers are baseball elite.

Verlander was stunning tonight. Twelve strikeouts. Four walks. And the big goose egg in the hit column.

He got some help. Neifi Perez nabbed a grounder at short, starting a double play that continued the no-no. Curtis Granderson and Gary Sheffield kept up their hot hitting. Brandon Inge went deep.

But tonight belongs to Verlander. Chances are he'll never see anything like this again. The Tigers hadn't seen it since 1984, that year of years, when Jack Morris blanked the White Sox in April.

This is the greatest game. You'll never convince me otherwise.

All you had to do was feel the 1.21 gigawatt shock of electricity surging through Comerica Park when Maggs caught the final out.

One to remember, y'all. One to remember...

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Recalled to life

Pulling out of UT Hospital's parking lot this morning, I couldn't help but think back to 10th grade English class -- particularly the note Jarvis Lorry receives in the beginning pages of Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities."


What a time. These past five weeks have been -- well, there's no other way to say it -- pure hell. But this, too, shall pass. And pass, it finally did, last night.

I drove toward Halls in the sunshine of the early morning, not feeling any pain for the first time in weeks. I came to work. I sat at my desk. I resumed planning the week.

It's the little things you miss.

Perspective though, yesterday. Waiting for the CT scan, I chatted with a friendly woman with short black hair. She's a breast cancer survivor. Her scan was for peace of mind.

Kind of puts kidney stones in its place, huh?

Had something else funny happen yesterday. Sitting in the admissions room, an older man came forward and stuck out his hand.

"Mr. Mabe?"


"You don't know me, but I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your writing. My wife and I used to live in Halls. We have someone save us your paper every week. I just wanted to tell you how great a job you do."

I managed a "thank you." But I couldn't believe it. I'd never seen this man before. He has no idea, though, how much his words meant.

And so here I sit, back in the saddle again, doing what I love and loving what I do. What a life.


Isn't that a great word?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

'The kid stays in the picture'

I used to want to be in pictures.

Not so much as an actor. That died after my second foray into high school acting. I didn't like memorizing lines. Hated the endless rehearsing.

My interests strayed --- first to writing, then directing. Yeah. That's where it's at.

Well, I majored in history. Got a job in journalism. You know that. But I never lost my love for the movies.

I do have to say, though, that I changed my mind somewhat. Getting into pictures ain't what it's cracked up to be. Just ask Robert Evans.

Evans was one of those storybook discoveries. He took a dive into a hotel pool. Norma Shearer spotted him. Next thing you knew, he was starring opposite Tyrone Power and Ava Gardner (Frankie's wife, for god's sakes) in "The Sun Also Rises."

Problems right out of the gate, though. Nobody thought Evans good enough to play bullfighter Pedro Romero. Ernest Hemingway sent a telegram to 20th Century Fox saying as much. He convinced Power, Gardner and Eddie Albert to sign it too.

But producer Darryl F. Zanuck was the boss. "The kid stays in the picture."

And he did.

Zanuck saved Evans' career. He'd also unwittingly pointed him toward a new path.

By 1970, Evans was head honcho at Paramount. He developed Eric Segal's book "Love Story" into a film version. The picture's box office success saved the studio.

Then came the string of hits. "The Odd Couple." "True Grit." "The Godfather."

Back up a minute. Evans married actor Ali MacGraw during production of "Love Story." For a few minutes, hers was the most famous face on the planet.

Evans' fascinating career is the subject of a 2002 documentary, "The Kid Stays in the Picture." A buddy, Ross Southerland, let me borrow the film to watch during my illness. I finished it tonight.

What a story.

After a successful run as head of Paramount, Evans jumped back into film production. Right out of the gate, he made a winner, "Chinatown." By 1979, Evans was worth $11 million. A decade later, he had $37 in his bank account and was a major suspect in a murder.

And yet, through the scandals, successes and disappointments, he managed to survive it all. He's still working at Paramount. His last big hit, "The Saint," grossed millions.

Maybe this picture bid'ness ain't so bad after all.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

The lighthouse

Somewhere amid the shouting, squeezed perhaps between selfishness and egotism, save room for a little humanity.

Put it on the back shelf if you must. Bury it amid the screams, the backbiting, the petty name calling. Let it take the back entrance, along with reason, decency and common sense, while solipsism, greed, anger and hate are welcomed to a special place by the fire.

Don't take time to care about anybody else. God, no. You might appear weak.

Take every opportunity to tear someone apart, exploit their Achilles' Heel, kick 'em when they're down. Cause it's all about you, baby. It's all about you.

Cheat. Lie. Steal. Do what it takes, just get ahead. All that crap about treating others as yourself? Hell, that's so fifties, man. Can't succeed that way. Not in this day and age.

Stomp on someone's dreams. It's fun. Better yet, ridicule them in front of others. Oh, yeah. There's nothing more persuasive than the power of fear.

Don't take time for anyone else. You crazy? There's always tomorrow. Besides, it's all about you, remember?

And best of all, break somebody's heart. Tear it to shreds. Rip it into a million little pieces. Don't look back. What doesn't kill them makes them stronger.

Take all that to heart, and all that other jazz, about kindness, and decency, compassion and humanity, let all that stuff go the way of dinosaurs.

We don't need that old lighthouse. The big ships don't pass this way anymore.

Forgive me, though, if I choose another path. Some of us still need that kind of light to navigate the dark waters.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Had enough (but Ella helps)

I want my life back.

It's the little things you miss.

Not feeling like you want to shoot yourself all the time, for one. Sandra yelling at ya when you linger too long in her office. Ruth and Shannon. Anybody in compo, 'cause they give me a hard time, make me feel loved.

Putting words together. Feeling the high that comes with knowing you've stumbled onto a great story. All that and a hundred other things.

I miss living. Just simply living.

Past two days have been pure hell. I can't describe to you what this feels like if you've never had kidney stones. I hope to God you never know. Sure, you're glad it isn't cancer or something worse. But that doesn't make the pain stop.

The black dog hasn't barked through any of this. But it's beginning to yelp. Guess that happens when you don't feel like getting out of bed for 48 hours.

I'm calling the doctor tomorrow. I've had enough. Gotta get back to work. Gotta end the pain.

It would be nice to enjoy the summer, too. It would be nice to feel like eating a meal without wanting to throw it up.

Took a little solace tonight in music. It, along with writing and baseball, have always been my most effective painkillers.

Found a little gem a few minutes ago. This year would have been Ella Fitzgerald's 90th birthday. PBS showed a new concert tribute to the First Lady of Song earlier tonight. I drowned my sorrow over Tennessee softball's loss to Arizona in the music.

Anyway, I downloaded one of Ella's recordings, "Mack the Knife: The Ella in Berlin," a 1960 live concert and a delicious slice of American jazz. Ella's take on "Summertime" (and a few painkillers) eases the pain awhile. Her flubbed version of "Mack the Knife" is a true classic.

PBS is showing the "We Love Ella" special as part of the channel's annual pledge drive. If it hasn't played in your area yet, do yourself a favor and watch or TiVo it.

Performers include Natalie Cole, Quincy Jones, Take 6, Stevie Wonder, Dave Koz, Lizz Wright and several others, along with some of the best recordings from the American Songbook. Need I say more?

OK, that's enough for now. Just had to get some stuff off my chest tonight. Thanks for pulling up a chair and listenin' awhile.

See you soon. I'll let you know what the doc says.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

OK, I'm hooked

SO I WROTE THIS heartfelt, analytical piece on watching a favorite movie yesterday, "Dr. Zhivago."

Guess what? I lost it somewhere in cyberspace.

Too tired and feeling too rough tonight to write it again. (No, I still haven't passed the stone(s) yet.) So I'll save "Zhivago" for another day.

Gotta minute, though? I have a confession to make.

I'm an addict. A junkie. A worthless slob who needs my daily fix. Without it, I get cranky. Sometimes I throw things.

Yes, I have become addicted -- to a television series -- for the first time in years. (I think "Cheers" was the last one.)

"Homicide: Life on the Street" is a gritty, realistic crime drama. Too bad it was canceled near the end of the Clinton Administration.

What can I say? I'm not much into current trends. I just trashed the 8-track player a few weeks ago. (Bye, bye Jerry Clower.)

But, yeah. This show is darn good. My friend, author and columnist David Hunter, has raved about it for years.

Caught a few episodes on Sleuth while laid up with the stones. I concur with David. He says the show is as realistic as a TV program can be. David should know. He was a cop for a lot of years.

Darned if I ain't hooked. (TiVo is a scary, scary thing.) Amazon is running a nice deal on the series DVD set. May have to buy myself a sick gift.

I also bought David Simon's book on which the series is based. Found it for little of nothing at McKay's. May have to skip the baseball book I'm currently reading. No joke.

OK, I'm spent. Sorry I can't do more tonight. Feel too bad.

By the way, Tennessee softball is one win away from a national championship. Monica threw another gem tonight against Arizona. She's something, y'all.

Nite. See ya soon.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

'Suddenly': Sinatra as assassin

I love a good, old-fashioned, black and white B movie.

Came across a classic such flick on TCM last week. Watched it last night when I couldn't sleep. You're not going to believe this one.

The picture is called "Suddenly." Released in 1954, the thriller focuses on a gang of assassins that plans to kill the president of the United States when his train stops in the sleepy town of Suddenly, Calif. Standing in the way is straight-shootin' local sheriff Tod Shaw, played by Sterling Hayden, and the Benson family --- an aging ex-Secret Service agent, his widowed daughter-in-law and her eight-year-old son.

Guess who the leader of the cut-throats is --- the guy who plans to pop the prez? Why, it's none other than Ol' Blue Eyes himself.

Released fresh on the heels of his Oscar-winning "comeback" role as Maggio in "From Here to Eternity," the two films are the high water mark of Sinatra's movie career. Sinatra's take on would-be presidential assassin John Baron may be his best.

I didn't think I was going to like the film at first. Hayden's acting was incredibly wooden. Most of the other actors are downright terrible. But Hayden grows on you and Sinatra is simply brilliant.

Sinatra had a knack for playing little guys with big chips on their shoulders. His performance here is better than the one that won him the Academy Award.

TCM host Robert Osborne delivered a delicious gem after the final credits. He said that Sinatra was horrified to learn that John F. Kennedy's assassin Lee Harvey Oswald reportedly watched "Suddenly" in 1963, days before killing the president in Dallas. As a result, he had this film and "The Manchurian Candidate," another Sinatra picture revolving around presidential assassinations, yanked from distribution.

No historical evidence exists to prove that Oswald watched the film that November and a spirited debate at the Internet Movie Database questions whether "Suddenly" was even ever pulled from distribution. But "Manchurian Candidate" was taken out of circulation following Kennedy's death and wasn't seen again for nearly 30 years.

All that aside, "Suddenly" is worth a look if for no other reason than Frank Sinatra's chilling portrayal of a presidential assassin.

Look for the film on the late show, or buy it on DVD.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Three cheers for Monica (and India)

Update (10:26 p.m.): Thunderstorms have delayed tonight's softball action from Oklahoma City. UT and Arizona's game will get underway at approximately midnight (Eastern), televised nationally on ESPN 2.

Be near your TV tonight at 9:30 p.m. Don't argue, just do it.

If you want to see pitching as an art form, skip the Red Sox/Yankees game tonight. The art will be in Oklahoma City.

Tennessee's softball team advanced in the national championship tournament yesterday after beating Texas A&M 2-0. Senior pitcher Monica Abbott threw a no-hitter, a true thing of beauty after a rough first inning. She fanned 16 Aggies to set the NCAA single season record (665).

Monica is my hero.

But wait. It's gets better. The winning run was scored by an injured senior with a torn ACL. Didn't matter, though. India Chiles did her job anyway.

Tonight's game will air nationally on ESPN 2 at 9:30 (EDT). Read News Sentinel sportswriter Mike Griffith's account of last night's win here.

Health update: I've passed part of one of the remaining kidney stones. Now have just one (I think) to go. Wish me luck that I can do this on my own and won't need further surgery. It hurts, but I'm makin' it.

Thanks to all of you for the calls, e-mails and well wishes. Here's hoping this is the light at the end of the tunnel.

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