Tuesday, November 27, 2007

'And I'm sure missin' you'...

Heard a song this morning that might just get my elusive "favorite" vote. It took me back, better than a time machine, to the innocent bliss of youth. I can still see my mom standing over the radio, swaying back and forth to its rhythms.

There's a full moon over Tulsa, I hope that it's shining on you...

Country music hit a period in the '70s and '80s when duets were all the rage. I guess Conway and Loretta started it, or maybe George and Tammy. By 1980, David Frizzell (Lefty's brother) and Shelly West (Dottie's daughter) had found themselves with a potential smash hit of a song -- but no recording contract.

The song was "You're the Reason God Made Oklahoma" and it took Clint Eastwood and an ape to get the single released. (This is a great story!)

David Frizzell has said he knew "Oklahoma" was going to be a hit the moment he heard it. It was a career-defining moment for him and West (although she has lived in country music infamy thanks to a little song called "Jose Cuervo"). But they couldn't get the darn thing recorded.

Enter Eastwood.

Good ol' Clint heard the song and went bonkers. "That's great," he said. "We'll put it in the next movie."

And that happened to be the picture with the ape -- "Any Which Way You Can," the 1980 sequel to his 1978 mega-hit "Every Which Way But Loose." I may be crazy, but I've always loved those movies. I mean, it's Clint Eastwood and an ape! How much better does it get?

True to his work, Clint featured the song on the soundtrack. It shot to No. 1 and has become a country classic. My mother loved the song; it will forever make me think of her.

You're the reason God made Oklahoma, and I'm sure missin' you...

There is a sweetness to the song, an old-fashioned romantic innocence, that for whatever reason has become passe. It lacks the gritty (and guilty) pleasures of something like "After the Fire is Gone" as well as the "I bet they're fighting in real life" aspect of the Jones/Wynette discography (or the irony of "We're Gonna Hold On.")

But this simple snippet about an Oklahoma cowboy in love with the green-eyed rancher's daughter that moved to Los Angeles remains something special, a frozen-in-time remembrance of a simpler day.

Besides, if mom likes it, it's got to be good, right?

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Monday, November 26, 2007

The mirror

I was reminded last night of what really matters in life, proof positive that the sweetest joys of this journey have nothing to do with silver or gold.

Oh, I felt so bad over the holidays. Rough cold. Really didn't want to get out of bed, but work and familial obligations -- not to mention sanity -- required that I do otherwise.

But when my friend Andrea called up to suggest dinner and music at Barley's, I forgot about the cold for awhile.

I've been letting things bother me lately. Everything and nothing. Know what I mean? That, and recent disappointments, have left me feeling like I'm singing to empty tables, to quote my man Sinatra.

Sometimes it does you good just to talk -- about anything and nothing at all. And when the words are peppered around your favorite kind of music, well, talk about a double whammy.

Seems like here lately I've tried to dissect the reasons why music (and books and film and whatever else) remains a big part of my life, carrying with it the ability to lift the spirits, and make one forget all about those empty tables. And I think it's, at least in part, because the good songs -- the ones that actually mean something -- make you feel less alone in this great big world of ours, reminding you that others have traveled down a similar road themselves.

And, heck, it's so much fun too. My favorite singer pulled a couple of gems out of her bag of tricks last night, fine covers of Lenny Welch's underrated "Since I Fell For You" and Smokey Robinson's "Tracks of My Tears." RobinElla's eclectic taste is a constant delight.

Listening to the happy rhythms, ("Teardrops" never sounded so beautiful as the moment when Billy Contreras took the mournful lead on his fiddle, making you feel it), and talking my way through some of the emptiness -- well, it made me realize again what life is all about.

It will never be fame and fortune, earthly possessions or political power. It will never be about impressing others, drawing attention to yourself, showing off, telling lies, breaking hearts.

No, for me, life will forever be about good friends and good music, endless sunsets and "Starry Night." It's wrapped up in listening, not worrying so much about yourself, stopping to smell the roses and doing good deeds without others watching.

Maybe my favorite TV private investigator Thomas Magnum said it best:

"The best mirror you'll ever have is the face of a friend."

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Get a life

OK, enough's enough. I mean, really, this is insane. It's enough to make you pack up, take a cruise, visit some place warm, forget the bad side of Christmas altogether.

I don't know what you were doing at 4 a.m. I was sleeping, nursing a persistent cold. But apparently three women were running with carts from one of the big children's stores in town, having scarfed up whatever one buys at 4 in the morning.

Folks were already parking on the outskirts of Knoxville Center Mall by dawn. Not to make a quick getaway. But because there wasn't anywhere to park.

You can't make this up.

Our society began slouching toward a materialistic Gomorrah years and years ago. This isn't something new. Black Friday has more or less become a holiday tradition, sad to say.

But 4 a.m.? You gotta be kidding. If there ever comes a day when I feel like I need to be up at 4 a.m. to buy something, shoot me, throw me in the casket and smack the coffin on its way down into the ground.

I'm too disgusted to say more. Except this: Stay at home next year, morons. Fix your family breakfast. Take a walk together. Plan an outing. Cuddle up to that someone special.

Or, here's a thought. Just stay in bed.

And get a life while you're at it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

'The Last Time I Felt Like This'

I used to think that no singer would haunt my dreams like Karen Carpenter.

Then came Alison Krauss. Then "Teardrops" and RobinElla. Then -- well, you get the idea.

But there is a special place reserved in the part of my heart forever in love with good music for Jane Olivor. Here, let me slide down a seat. You sit right there, get comfortable and I'll tell you the story.

Some time ago (15 years, I guess), while going through a stage wanting to be Alan Alda (don't ask), I watched a movie called "Same Time, Next Year." Starring Alda and Ellen Burstyn, the film follows a 25-year affair between two people who meet at the same quaint little cottage on the shores of the Pacific in California once a year. I'll tell you more about the movie sometime, but what's important here is the film's theme song, "The Last Time I Felt Like This," performed by the venerable Johnny Mathis and Olivor, she with the ethereal, haunting vocals.

The song is sentimental, but also beautiful, full of the naive bliss of love that sadly seems as antiquated today as leisure suits and 8-track tapes. Mathis and Olivor work magic as the harmony blends together. Somebody once compared it to two birds mating; as silly as that sounds, it's an apt description.

Olivor seemed on the brink of superstardom when she recorded that duet with Mathis nearly 30 years ago. She had a sweet recording contract with Columbia and was being compared favorably with Streisand and others.

But she swallowed a big dose of stage fright and couldn't adjust to the attention that came with an Oscar-nominated song and a concert tour with Mathis. Her husband's illness provided the perfect excuse. Jane Olivor disappeared.

They tell me she is singing again; Columbia has also remastered some of her late 70s/early 80s material. There are some gems buried here and there, including "The Best Side of Goodbye," a stunning reading of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Some Enchanted Evening," a live performance of a beautiful song called "Seasons" and mighty fine covers of Don McLean's "Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)" and Neil Sedaka's underrated "Solitaire."

But it's that sweet three minute masterpiece with Johnny Mathis that has become the moment in Jane Olivor's career. I hear those opening piano notes and lose my heart awhile as it soars into the sky. I close my eyes and pretend that Olivor is singing just for me while I remember a face I haven't seen in many moons.

It's deja vu; I've been here before. When was it? Oh, yes. I remember now.

The last time I felt like this, I was falling in love...

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thank you

It's become fashionable, or at least easy, to write silly, sappy blogs at Thanksgiving, telling the world all the things for which one is thankful. I started to skip it, and write instead about watching part of the nihilistic, insane "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" last night.

But, nah. Here's the sap.

I'm thankful for my family, of course. They're A, number one, king of the hill.

I am so thankful for this little job of mine, and the fact that I somehow managed to con somebody into paying me to tell stories. I'm still scared that one day I'll wake up and this all will be an extended, beautiful dream. I hate the deadlines, but the writing is bliss.

I'm quite blessed with a bunch of good friends. They constantly brighten my day with laughter and easy, sweet familiarity. It says something, doesn't it, that people continue to love you when they know all of your quirks and baggage. Too many to name here, but they know who they are.

I'm grateful, too, for the so-called friends, who taught me how not to treat others. I'm thankful that there have been precious few of those type friends over of the years. They know who they are too.

I owe a lot to Ernest Hemingway. His work caused me to fall in love with the language, cleared a path toward this peculiar vocation. Somewhere along the way I found Pete Hamill's books, and I owe him a lot too.

And of course that means I'm thankful to my boss, Sandra Clark, who opened up the space to make the job happen, and once let me borrow a copy of Hamill's memoir.

I also have her and Alan Alda (whose episodes of "M*A*S*H" were laced with his personal philosophy) to thank for changing my opinion of women and gender issues for the better. And, oh, how grateful I am to this little family that is the Shopper-News staff. Without them, I'd be just another jerk who thinks he has something to say.

I could type from now until the turkey is laid on the table tomorrow afternoon and not be able to name all of the educators for which I'm thankful. They lit or stoked fires that burned deep within, challenged me to do better, forced me to dig deeper. I owe them something more precious than silver or gold.

I'm forever indebted to Thomas Edison, who created the mechanism by which music could be recorded and shared.

A whole blog could be devoted to the musicians who have enriched my life. So I'll just mention a few --

Elvis Presley, who in his own way, helped a little guy navigate the waters of adolescence. Frank Sinatra, for reasons I don't think need explaining. And RobinElla, for "Teardrops," that hauntingly beautiful song, and for sharing her God given talent and sincere spirit with the rest of us, making those Sunday nights at Barley's magic moments to remember.

To all of you, wherever you are, thanks for the music.

As silly as it sounds, I owe baseball -- if you can owe a game anything -- for filling up the hours of a happy but at times lonely childhood. And I owe something to Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren, who I can't thank enough if I said gracias a million times. I'm going to miss you fellas.

I owe special thanks to Marvin West, for allowing me to share the game -- and stories of a life in newsprint -- with him. I'm especially grateful to his wife Sarah, whose gentle humor, political perspective and fine Southern cooking I enjoy with equal relish.

Well, another deadline and a late evening are stretching out before me, so I'll leave you now with a wave and the sincere hope that each and every one of you have a safe and happy Thanksgiving. Let's all promise ourselves that no matter what we may be facing, life is indeed good.

It is trite to say it, I know, but we do have much to say "thank you" for.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Her name was Heather and I don't suspect I'll ever forget her. She was the perfect antidote to a rotten few days. Have a seat; here's the story.

We ducked into Chili's after the UT game earlier tonight. Don't know the final score, but Tennessee was leading by more than 50 points when we made our way to the exit. Poor MTSU. It was brutal.

Anyway, the server came up and asked for our order. She was attractive, but at first I didn't take more than a passing notice.

Then she made a joke at my expense. I was angry to begin with, even brooded a minute about it. After awhile, she came back around and started chatting, first about UT basketball, then about "stuff."

Heather was a football trainer at UT. She loved her job, said she cried the day she left it. She's from Middle Tennessee and plans to return there to finish up her master's degree, although she says she'd love to return to The Hill one day as an athletic trainer.

She turned down a softball scholarship to Middle Tennessee State -- a full ride -- to attend Tennessee. Heather had her mind made up that UT was where she was headed after going to her first football game.

"I wanted to run through the 'T' once, and I ended up running through it 13 times," she said.

She later went to school awhile in Chattanooga, but said she hated that.

Heather doesn't much like the restaurant bid'ness either. It's a holding pattern toward her ultimate goal.

I'm a sucker for a pretty smile, but what I liked most about Heather is what I always like most -- her personality. We chatted with her for only a few minutes, this stranger serving our food, and yet she seemed like an old friend, somebody we'd gone to school with, getting caught up on life in the preceding years. I found myself talking all about me, too --- my failed ambition to become a history professor, stuff I never talk about.

I'll remember her smile and her looks, but most of all I'll remember her likable, outgoing self.

When we got up to leave, I wanted to say something, make a fool of myself, do whatever, to keep the moment alive. The ol' conservative spirit inside me said she probably gets hit on by every jerk that walks in the door; the insecure fella buried deep within told me I'd never have a chance with somebody like her. That little voice refuses to vanish completely; it tells me a lot about myself that it won't go.

So instead I said, "Take it easy."

"Bye, hon," she said.

Bye, Heather. Hope you make it back to UT.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Boats against the current...

"Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter -- tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. ... And one fine morning -- So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." -- F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Great Gatsby."

That quote is among my favorite passages in any work of literature. It could have been ripped from my soul, a somewhat embarrassing realization that I have more in common with Jay Gatsby than I'd prefer to admit.

Didn't make it to Barley's last night. So after eating dinner with friends and visiting my parents awhile, I went home, eased into some comfy clothes and put on Tony Bennett.

I'd heard part of this album, "The Art of Excellence," referenced on The Sunday Show, and downloaded it from iTunes. It was the perfect companion for what became a foggy evening.

It really was worthwhile to live/When love was all we had...

I feel sometimes, if I can be blunt with you, like I, too, am a boat against the current, drifting along here in this strange place called 2007. Like Patton, who so hated the 20th century, I wonder if I really belong "back there" somewhere, seduced by a blinking green hued promise of a yesterday that never was, and a tomorrow that never will be.

This 1986 Bennett album was his "comeback," the first pebble (or should I say gem?) that touched off the second act of his career, leading up to his triumphant appearance on MTV's "Unplugged" in 1994. It reminds me of how good popular music once was -- and could be again. I think about Harry Connick Jr., Norah Jones, Michael Buble and a few others and dare to believe that hope floats out there amid all this noise.

I can't help but wonder how I arrived at this point, crowdin' 30 and feeling restless, wondering where in the hell the world went to that I always figured would be waiting here, and not much liking the harsh reality.

So I feel nostalgia's sweet tug and am a boat against the current, Jimmy Buffett's pirate who had so much trouble with his 40th year, born too late.

And I lose myself in that long-ago music, caught up in all those hooks and 4/4 mirages, hoping for reasons I still don't quite understand that some way, somehow, just like before, it's yesterday once more.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Sunday Show

Sunday afternoons, if I am home, are often reserved for music.

If I tire of the NFL game of the week or the baseball game or whatever sporting event is being played at a particular point in the calendar year, I'll stay with Jonathan Schwartz's "Sunday Show" on XM. This afternoon, he played a cut from Nat King Cole's album "Sings For Two In Love" early in the game.

Out of a dream, straight into my heart...

Schwartz is treating us today. He's playing Johnny Mercer singing a medley of his own hits, at some forgotten concert at a New York hotel.

Jon says it was 120 degrees that night (the air conditioning wasn't working or something) and Frank Sinatra, also on the bill, was in his shirt-sleeves. He got a tape, he says, because he knew the sound guy.

It's something to hear Mercer sing his own work. Means a little more, you know? This might be the late, great Bill Miller accompanying him on piano. I can't tell.

It's going to be tough to break away to the Colts game at this rate.

Tonight, if nothing happens, I'll meet a dear friend at Barley's about 7 to enjoy dinner and that sweet Appalachian sound. You know what (and who) I mean.

And, if that falls apart, I'll lean back in the easy chair, put "Sinatra Sings For Young Lovers" on the turntable and swing easy into the night.

I love these lazy Sunday afternoons, in case you can't tell.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Get your kicks...

I have this crazy dream.

I play it over in my head sometimes, just before the sun comes up in the mornings and I have to begin the day. I pick a direction -- it doesn't matter where -- and fill the tank up with gas. I drive around the country, stopping whenever the mood strikes, and write about the people and places I find.

If I could figure out how to get paid doing all that, I'd leave tomorrow.

Went to Best Buy tonight after dinner with the gang. Imagine my delight when I came across the first volume of the first season of "Route 66," a 1960s television series that centers around my exact scenario -- two buddies driving around the country (in a spiffy 1960 Corvette convertible, no less!).

Only difference is my traveling companion is usually some attractive brunette instead of George Maharis. But I digress.

I have only seen a handful of episodes of this classic CBS series up till now. The old Nick and Nite aired the show for a year or two around the time we purchased cable television in the mid-1980s. But I was six or seven then, couldn't appreciate the show, hadn't yet fallen in love with the open road.

"Route 66" was a unique reverse anthology series. Pals Buz Murdoch (George Maharis) and Tod Stiles (Martin Milner) would wander into a new town each week. All they had between them was Tod's Corvette, a gift from his late father.

Tod was wealthy until his dad passed away. Buz was from New York's Hell's Kitchen. Both were broke, seeking adventure, and -- per the cliche -- trying to "find themselves." Famous guest stars would show up each week and the two friends would get caught up in their stories.

What made "Route 66" unique was that the series was actually filmed on location at the various stops featured in each episode. This was before America became homogenized, with a McDonald's and Pilot gas station sitting near each interstate offramp. Heck, this was before interstates. Folks didn't travel much then and "Route 66" exposed viewers to much of the American highways and byways for the first time.

No, that famous Manhattan Transfer hit ("Get your kicks on Route 66") wasn't used as the show's theme. CBS was too cheap to buy the rights. So arranger Nelson Riddle wrote a catchy tune that became a popular song in its own right.

The DVD set is a bit of a disappointment. It's clear, pardon the pun, that these dark prints with scratchy audio haven't been digitally remastered. They don't look near as good, for example, as the recent release of another '60s TV classic, "The Fugitive."

But it's just so good to see this show resurface that I'll keep that criticism to a minimum.

Now if I could just figure out a way to hit the road myself.

"Route 66 Season 1, Volume 1" is now available on DVD.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

The cheap seats

My buddy Matt Shelton and I sit in the cheap seats at UT basketball games. You can almost reach up and touch the ceiling from our spot in 317A.

That's OK by us though. We have quite a bit of space to ourselves during the non-SEC games. We laugh, make inside jokes, clap for Chris Lofton, boo the Keith Urban promos on the big, new scoreboard and long for the days when country music really was country.

Shelton and his wife and son live across town now. I kind of wish they were still about five minutes from my house. But time marches on. That's the way it goes.

It's funny. I look across the way at the luxury boxes and shake my head. I am pretty happy with my seats. I guess I've become that kind of guy in my old age. I used to enjoy playing like I was a celebrity. These days, though, I'm just fine playing the guy down the street, that fella sitting at the end of the bar.

I always figured if I owned a baseball team, I'd sit in the stands with the fans. My favorite type of stories to write at work revolve around some so-called average person who has a particular hobby, or a funny story or some good deed that they do. I let the others blab about the politicians. They always break my heart anyway.

Ernie Pyle is one of my heroes. He worked for Scripps Howard too. But unlike me, Ernie was a star, a writer's writer. He had my dream job before the war, traveling around the country writing about everyday people.

During the big one, of course, Ernie made his name covering the ordinary combat soldier. His wasn't the way of generals and brass. He liked to be out in the trenches with the fellas.

Ernie met his fate in just such a foxhole. Somehow, it seemed a fitting way for that gentle man to pass into the next life.

Me? I'm a pretty simple guy anymore. I like to write and love to laugh. I'm a sucker for big brown eyes and a sweet smile. I enjoy working out on the greenway and watching old movies from the 40s. I love baseball and football and basketball, Hemingway novels and good music on Sunday nights at Barley's.

Everybody thinks I have a big ego and love entertaining and showing off. They might be surprised that deep down inside is buried a shy little guy. The only reason I love playing my role is because I live to see somebody else laugh. A lot of folks grin when they see me coming along. That's the greatest sight in this world.

Otherwise, I'll be the guy sitting in the cheap seats, rooting for the team, tapping my foot to the music, happy as a clam to reside among the only type of folks worth a damn.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Some other time

My good friend Doug Harned often tells me whenever we get around to the subject that he doesn't care much for Tony Bennett.

"He's not that good," Doug says. "The only reason he's thought of so highly now is because he outlived everybody else."

That's better than what a co-worker says. She flat out calls Bennett a "musical whore."


Well, I'm a little easier on the guy. I saw him singing "When Joanna Loved Me" on the Johnny Carson "Tonight Show" years ago and was hooked. By the time he got around to doing the MTV Unplugged album, I was a full-blown fan.

But today I heard him singing Duke Ellington's "Solitude," a live track from some concert back there in the mists of time. Man, is this good stuff or what?

In my solitude, you haunt me...

There is an erudite intelligence to these so-called standards that doesn't exist in popular music anymore. Course, one could argue that popular music, in its purest sense, disappeared years ago. Come on, you can't really name one Britney Spears song, can you?

(Oops. I did it again.)

I remember Billie Holiday's version of "Solitude" and think that Bennett does a pretty good job of holding his own. Nobody's as good as Billie (maybe Sinatra), but the fact that you can listen to Bennett's version and actually accept the cover for what it is says something. (It's on a collection called "Tony Bennett/Jazz" in case you're curious.)

I downloaded an album on iTunes back of this that features Bennett on vocals and the great Bill Evans on piano. It's a mighty fine album, even if iTunes screwed me out of three or four tracks due to some electronic glitch.

My favorite tune is "Some Other Time," mainly because Evans kicks off the piano lead in eerily similar fashion to his classic performance on Miles Davis's "Flamenco Sketches." In all fairness to Bennett, his voice is wistful on this track, weary, as if he's reached the end of the road and just wants to sit awhile.

His pipes and Evans's piano are a lethal combination. Don't listen to that album if you've got a touch of the blues, though.

It's a rainy day today, alas, and I can't take the sad songs for long when it gets like this. Back to work.

Oh, well, we'll catch up some other time...

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Out of sync

NASHVILLE -- The thing that strikes you, after a few minutes, is the absence of a band.

No noise to make during time outs. No "Rocky Top." (Which, upon reflection, may be a blessing.) In short, an NFL game can be mighty boring, especially when Vince Young and the offense are out of sync.

My mind wanders as I look around the stadium. It's a big place. Don't think I've seen thousands of people this quiet since that Florida debacle back in '94. I've forgotten the score. All I remember is the Vols didn't ever find the end zone.

I'm restless. Don't care much about the game.

The guy beside me is a friendly enough fella. So we chat. But he's all into the Titans and doesn't talk much. At the end of the day, when Jacksonville clasps victory firmly in its grasp, this fella looks like he's lost his best friend. I say good-bye, tell him we have to drive back to Knoxville, pat him on the back, see you later.

Nobody's on the road as the sun sets on the colors of autumn. We get back in time for supper and tunes at Barley's.

But, guess what? Even "Listen to the Radio" and "These Dreams of Mine" can't shake me from this spell. When the sweet sounds of RobinElla can't cure what ails you, something's up indeed.

I'd like to tell you she's the last song I heard tonight. Either Robin and "Mistakes" or Frank Sinatra and the losers on the iPod during the 15 minute jaunt home.

But, no. Something else shuts my thoughts down tonight. And, as incredulous as it seems, the song seems to fit, the one thing that makes sense on an otherwise out of sorts kind of day.

How do you keep the music playing/How do you make it last???

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Friday, November 09, 2007

My losing season

Leave it to Pat Conroy to be able to sear into my soul, penetrate that part of me nobody sees, expose my hurts and fears, force me to be honest with myself.

Didn't go to the UT opener tonight. Didn't feel well. Came home from work, curled up in the easy chair, and slept.

I did watch the game. The Vols look good, even if Chris Lofton didn't. It's going to be a fun year. Temple has a couple of players that are darn good, I'll tell you that.

Anyway. Enough of that. I didn't come here to talk hoops.

Watching that basketball game tonight reminded me of a Pat Conroy book I read a few years ago, back during one of the worst bouts of the Black Dog I've ever experienced. Called "My Losing Season," the book chronicles Conroy's senior year at The Citadel, when youthful dreams of basketball glory gave way to the stark realization that this shy, insecure boy was destined to become a writer.

It isn't as good as Conroy's masterpiece, "The Lords of Discipline," but it's pretty darn near wonderful. If you love sports books, or basketball, or reading a wordsmith at the top of his game, run don't walk to Amazon or some such place and find a copy of "My Losing Season."

Conroy says he's haunted by the boy he used to be. And, in a lot of ways, one can relate. To this day, I can't pass by a group of people and hear a gaggle of laughter without wondering if it's me they tease. I watch baseball on TV and remember a forgotten summer at the community park. Every time I gaze at a photograph of a woman I loved and lost, I'm back there, too. Isn't that silly?

But look at it like this -- if I'd gotten the girl and been able to hit a curve ball, I wouldn't be a writer, would never have gone to work for a newspaper. I know that just as sure as I know the sky is blue. Happy people don't write. They raise a family or make money or attempt something normal.

I get irritated at Conroy because I think he keeps writing the same book over and over. Dad was bad. Dad beat boy and mom and siblings. Boy gets pissed. Boy goes nuts. Charleston looks beautiful in the moonlight. Yada, yada, yada...

But he writes so well and with such honesty; that makes the nervous breakdown that is reading one of his novels worth the arduous journey. I'm remembering a poignant moment in "Lords of Discipline" involving an envelope of broken sea shells and am having to fight this strange wet sensation around my eyes. Read that book, too, by the way, if you've never gotten around to it.

I remember where I was and what I was doing a year ago tonight. And I miss that girl more than a thousand words could ever tell and a lifetime of trying will never forget. Why do we forever love the ones that got away, or never were quite in one's grasp?

I don't know, but I suspect that the answers lies with that shy, awkward little boy -- be his name Conroy or Mabe or whatever.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Coming on easy...

So it's just after supper and I feel like hell.

I'm blaming this cold. Won't go away. Head feels heavier than a Mack truck.

So I curl up in the easy chair and flip on the TV. Don't much care for the old movie on Turner. Flip it over to XM radio. Oh, good. Here's Jonathan Schwartz.

Sinatra is dreaming that same old dream. Then comes Dinah Washington. Now that woman had some pipes. I can't remember the song. Head still hurts.

Music is therapeutic, me thinks. Makes you forget the world awhile. Almost warms away the cold.


It's difficult to get away from the Chairman of the Board, once you've heard a touch of that voice, and Nelson Riddle, and the lost art of it all. That cat could swing. Ring a ding ding.

So it's good-bye XM and a quick jaunt over to the CD player. "Songs for Young Lovers."

Well, wait a minute. Here's Torme. Damn that Schwartz.

OK, don't like the song. On to the turntable.

I've about decided this is my favorite Sinatra album. His musical biographer Will Friedwald favors "Songs for Swinging Lovers!", I suspect mainly for "I've Got You Under My Skin."

But, think of how it must have been, way back in '53, to chuck crap like "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?" for The Voice, now with a deeper baritone, sporting that snazzy hat, warming the night with his funny valentine.

Stay, little valentine stay, Each day is valentine's day...

When I'm not in the mood for the romantic stuff, I switch to the later Reprise discs. Torch songs.

Look at me, I'm drinkin' again...

I still think nobody beats Frankie on that overrated Sondheim tune from "A Little Night Music."

Don't you love farce? My fault, I fear...

Somebody, maybe it was arranger Gordon Jenkins, says you hear Sinatra utter that one word -- farce -- and your life flashes before you, and you think of all those silly love affairs, and the gals that got away, and the one that broke your heart, and... well, you get the idea. It's difficult to argue. Been there.

Then I get tired of the whole darn thing and need a little Skynyrd.

What can I say? You can take Jake out of Halls, but you can't take Halls out of Jake...

Either way, it's coming on easy tonight. I've nearly forgotten the headache.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Born too late

Sorry I haven't written in a few days. Haven't felt too good.

But let me tell you about last night. Ended up traveling back to the 40s in a time machine. And I'm blaming it on my cold.

Here's what happened.

Woke up Sunday morning feeling awful. I guess the cold I came down with last week showed back up or something. Anyway, didn't feel like getting out, or going to Drew's for the Pats/Colts game or much of anything else.

Monday morning I didn't have to be at work until noon. So, I curled up in the recliner for a few minutes and noticed that Turner Classic Movies (which can be an addictive drug) was showing the film versions of the old Whistler radio series.

The films are pure Saturday morning, black-and-white B movie fluff -- they were great! All but one of them starred Richard Dix, each time as a different character. There's always a twist at the end, and it's a lot of fun. The one where he played a private investigator was a lot of fun.

Anyway, I set the DVR to record the other two Whistler films and went on my merry way. Watched them both last night. In one, Dix played an artist who thinks he's killed his first wife. Then Wife No. 2 finds out! It was OK. I liked the private eye one better.

The second one didn't star Dix, but was pretty good. Guy and his fiancee show up at a justice of the peace to marry late one rainy night, but he isn't home. His car breaks down, so they have to find a hotel. The woman stays in the room while the man goes to fix the car. When he comes back, she isn't there...

I listened to one of the old Whistler radio shows after screening the flicks. Kind of silly, though. Ended up turning it off and listening to some Sinatra before bed while I nursed the cold.

Once I laughed when I heard you saying, That I'd be playing solitaire, Uneasy in my easy chair, It never entered my mind...

I came of age in the wrong era.

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