Saturday, June 30, 2012

Summer in the suburbs

I think the heat is turning brains to blubber.

Today was the hottest day in the history of Knox Vegas -- 105 F. That's pretty F-ed up if you ask me. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Jenn and I didn't do much. We both feel bad. SI joint flareup for me. Neck and back problems for her.

Got a good laugh yesterday. Some guy, writing a letter to the editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel, lumped us in with what he called "the elite media" and said we'd all lost touch with reality. I about spit up my cold pizza and Coca-Cola on my Elvis On Tour t-shirt. I think it's time to dig the word "solipsist" out of the dictionary again.

State Rep. Julia Hurley continues to make news. None of it good. She and her ilk are an embarrassment, part of this bizarre trend to act foolishly and then blame the "liberal media." That's what happens when you will not accept responsibility for your own actions.

I'm listening to Sirius/XM. Elvis, '70s, Sinatra, disco. Jenn is fooling around with her iPhone.

Bought three CDs from the 2011 National Hammer Dulcimer Champion Tim Simek. Pretty stuff. Heard him playing "Shenandoah." On one disc, he also does groovy tunes from the rock era, including "Nights in White Satin" and "Here Comes the Sun."

Well, this member of the "elite media" is signing off for tonight. Y'all have a good weekend. Stay cool, keep hydrated and avoid the nattering nabobs of negativism.

Maybe it's the heat...

Friday, June 29, 2012

New t-shirt


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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Up in smoke

About the last thing I expected to see when I went to the doctor yesterday was a fight.

But, a fight is what I saw. I'm just glad it didn't come to blows.

As I was signing in, anticipating relief from my lower back pain, I heard a older woman complaining about a man in the parking lot. I didn't catch much of the conversation at first, except when she called him a "stupid idiot." Point taken, even if that may be the most redundant phrase I've ever heard.

In walked said "stupid idiot," who turned out to be a younger guy with a bad attitude. He overheard the older woman talking to the receptionist and then the "Jerry Springer" moment began.

He evidently had taken exception to the woman smoking in the parking lot. The exchange continued indoors. They went back and forth a minute using dialogue that made "Li'l Abner" look like Laurence Olivier.

My blood boiled over when the punk said, "Somebody should take that cane and hit you upside the head with it."

I turned, glared at him as I passed, but the conversation died down. I shook my head, amazed at the insanity of it all, disgusted by the lack of manners on both sides.

I mentioned all of this on Facebook last night and inadvertently touched off a debate about smoking. By that point, I'd had a steroid shot in my back and really just wanted to watch Elvis and Mary Tyler Moore fall in love in "Change of Habit."

I'm fairly libertarian on most issues. Live and let live and all of that.

What I will not tolerate, though, is unnecessary rudeness or lack of manners. That, my friends, can all go up in smoke.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A G-rated kind of guy...

So, I found out today my SI joint is inflamed. Got a shot. Got some meds. Hurt like hell. It's OK. Not a stone.

Plus, like my friend Brent Williams says, "Anything less than a dirt nap is a dang fine day, tater."

I came home this afternoon and curled up on the couch. And I watched Elvis and Mary Tyler Moore in "Change of Habit."

I had intended to screen "Paradise, Hawaiian Style," using any excuse to spend time in the islands, but I got into a Facebook discussion about Mary Tyler Moore. Plus, I'd started to watch Elvis' last dramatic film the other night and fell asleep.

So, I tried it again and it made me grin. Elvis looks great and is basically playing himself. Mary Tyler Moore is cute and perky and everything else that made me fall in love with her years ago when she played Mary Richards and Laura Petrie.

Oh, I know. Elvis movies are corny and silly. Well, that's why I like 'em. Especially when I'm sick.

Don't get me wrong. Some of them are unwatchable or downright embarrassing. But, you know, sometimes I just want to watch a fun story with a likable lead, peppered with girls and great locations, good old-fashioned fights, a song or 10, and a happy ending just as the credits roll.

Not everything has to be sophisticated seriousness, 90 minutes of Adam Sandler, or boom, boom, doom and gloom. Plus, in a lot of ways, I'll always be a G-rated kind of guy.

(Most of the time.)

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Maui dreamin'

My friend Dean and I had a chat last night.

We were talking about the 1995 death of our friend and my cousin Josh Ellis, its existential effects, how life has changed since then, how we have become politically adrift, no longer recognizing the Republican Party and not being able to find a home anywhere else.

I told Dean I'd be happy just to sing my songs, tell my tales, make my music, sit in the sun.

I also told him about something that happened when we were on Maui last September. Jennifer had stopped at a roadside pull-off to buy trinkets from someone who had set up shop there. I stayed in the car, admiring the high-def azure of the ocean and the sky.

And on the radio (KPOA-FM!) came a hauntingly beautiful song by Kendra Fisher, "Haleakala Medley."

"I'm never going home," I said. "I have found paradise."

Paradise found, yes, but back home I went.

But, back to Paradise I would go, if I could.

Oh, I know. Hawaii has humans and with humans come problems. As Matt King says in "The Descendants," people may think Hawaii is paradise, but cancer still kills.

Indeed. But, I think if I saw the sun rise and set over that shoreline every day, I could handle just about anything.

I'm getting tired. Tired of the partisan bickering and blathering. Tired of the self-important jackasses in this crazy town that don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Tired of the sadness and the screams and Fox News and MSNBC and Romney and Obama and the whole darn shooting match.

I want to sit in the sun and sing my songs. I want to read and write and tell my tales. I want to live. I want to love. I want you to be free to do the same.

I want the nonsense to stop. I want common sense to make a comeback.

Otherwise, buffalo chips is all it means to me, or so said Tom T.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Baby, can you hear me now?

Here's ya a mellow tune for your Friday.

Helpless, helpless, helpless...
Baby can you hear me now?
The chains are locked
and tied across the door,
Baby, sing with me somehow.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Random thoughts on a Thursday

So, I'm sitting here on a Thursday night.

The Band is on the 8-track. (You read correctly.) The Red Sox are on the tube. Deadline day is over. Life is good.

I think Bobby V has chased away even the two guys who always sit behind home plate at Fenway. Oh, well. I'm getting too old to get too worked up about it.

But, I'll be in Maine for the Labor Day weekend show and may have to bop down to Boston. We'll see. I may be over it by then.

When I get off of this mountain, you know where I wanna go...

My back is doing OK. Still hurts, but I'll take anything over a kidney stone.

So, I just want to sit here, sip my drink, listen to Levon, dream my dreams.

I'm learning how to play the guitar. I'm writing a book. Wish I could head to Hawaii for good.

Up on Cripple Creek she sends me; if I spring a leak she mends me...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


...and the livin' is easy.

Things slow down. One can take a breath. Relax. Take stock. Write about things you enjoy.

I don't handle the humidity well. If I could, I'd move to Hawaii. It's the only place for which I'd forsake Halls.

We are taking a couple of three-day weekend trips this summer. One to Memphis. One to Michigan.

Come Labor Day -- and, yes, it can take its time getting here this year -- we are going to Maine. Combination vacation and research trip. Visit old friends.

I like the current trend of "new" TV shows showing up during the summer. "Dallas" is my favorite. Some memories just won't die.

I like sitting out on the back porch in the lounge chair while listening to music. I keep returning to The King, to Elvis, to the Delta Blues, to that voice. Other nights I swing with Sinatra. Other nights? A little bit country. A little bit rock and roll.

I'm catching up on my reading. It's nice. I love the library.

I like to sit on Sundays and while away the afternoon with The Times. I like the fact I can now get it delivered to the house.

I like summertime. The livin' is easy.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Clinton in the rear-view

Well, the good news is I don't have a kidney stone.

The "bad" news is I have an inflamed SI joint. Been here before. It hurts like hell, but you get over it.

Meanwhile, I have been taking it easy tonight and listening to Bill Clinton's memoirs -- the audio version -- which I got as a "credit" from

I prefer reading books to listening to audiobooks unless I'm on the road. This is a special case, though. I promised my friend Matthew Shelton years ago I would one day listen to Clinton's memoirs if I could find an inexpensive version and if Clinton himself was reading it. I told him it couldn't be any worse than the torturous Jimmy Carter audiobook he and his wife, Susan, bought me as a gag gift one year. (I stopped listening to it after 10 minutes.)

Long story made short, I had a few credits built up at It's a neat service. You get one "credit" a month and can download a book to either your computer or to your tablet. Since I had a credit built up, and I enjoy reading presidential memoirs, I figured now would be as good a time as any.

So far, my favorite story Clinton has told was the day he wore cowboy boots to school when he knew he'd be skipping rope in gym class. Heh, heh.

You know Clinton. Two hours of talking and he still hasn't gotten to the presidency. (Remember that marathon introduction he gave for Dukakis in '88?) I'm glad I didn't buy the unabridged version. Sheesh.

I did not support Bill Clinton either time he ran for office. But, I've grown to like him over the years. Given his successors, he's looking better in the rear-view mirror.

Plus, given the passage of time, which allows for better assessment of his administration, I now believe his biggest mistake as president had nothing to do with his zipper. No, I would argue Clinton's blunder came in 1994, when he refused to intervene in Rwanda, still reeling from the fallout from Black Hawk Down.

The 1990s seem like a long time ago. I do not believe Clinton will go down as a great president. I will say, though, that I'd vote for him in a heartbeat if his name were on the ballot this fall.

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to the best man I know, Larry Gregory Mabe.

I love you, dad!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

'70s flashback: Have a nice day!

Needed something to make me feel better. So, of course, I turned to music. What else, right?

I either have another kidney stone or one hell of a flareup in my SI joint. I feel terrible.

Never fear. I'm back in the '70s again. Listening to "American Top 40" on Sirius/XM '70s on 7 with Casey Kasem, the original broadcast from this date in 1979. Can't wait to hear the No. 1 song!

After Casey's last at-bat, I'm going to put The Band's "The Last Waltz" in the 8-track player, ease back into my Archie Bunker chair, slip on my rose-colored classes and turn up the heating pad.

Music, after all, is magic medicine.

Have a nice day!

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday laugh...

...courtesy of the warped mind of Blake Edwards and a scene from the 1978 classic "Revenge of the Pink Panther."

"Mr. Chong" was played by Ed Parker, a legendary Kenpo Karate instructor who was also friends with (and an occasional bodyguard for) Elvis Presley.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Return to Southfork

Yes, "Dallas" is back. And, shock of all shocks, the return to Southfork last night was a hell of a lot of fun.

TNT has resurrected the popular 1978-91 CBS drama, which at one time was the runaway most popular show in the world. It drew me in, just like millions of others, mainly for one reason and one reason only: Larry Hagman's portrayal of John Ross "J.R." Ewing Jr. The fact that he never won an Emmy is a travesty.
Hagman (at age 80!) is back as J.R., as are Patrick Duffy as good brother Bobby and Linda Gray as J.R.'s ex-wife Sue Ellen.

Most of the action has shifted to the next generation. J.R.'s son John Ross (Josh Henderson) and Bobby's son Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) have pretty much taken over where their daddies left off. John Ross is drilling for oil on Southfork -- a big no-no that his grandmother would never have allowed -- while Christopher is trying to come up with a way to tap an alternative energy source. Bobby is trying to sell Southfork, has a new (to us) wife and is fighting a few rounds with cancer.

Meanwhile, Christopher is getting married to Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo), but he's still in love with John Ross's girl Elena, played by the insanely beautiful Jordana Brewster. The boys get into a fistfight just like their daddies used to do in the original show's halcyon days. Even Steve Kanaly and Charlene Tilton show up.

Yep, the series is actually filmed in Dallas. And that theme still blares over the opening credits.

Sure, it isn't the same without Jim Davis and Barbara Bel Geddes, but then again, both have been dead for awhile. Davis died when the original series was in its heyday.

I do hope Ken Kercheval makes an appearance or two as Cliff Barnes because "Dallas" wouldn't be "Dallas" without him.

But, if the first two episodes are any indication, this is going to be great. There were enough double-crosses to fill Jerry Jones's football stadium (which makes a cameo), enough plot twists to keep things interesting and just enough "Dallas" panache to make this thing work. Heck, tonight's two hours were better than virtually anything that aired during the original series's last couple of seasons.

Even as an octogenarian, Hagman can play J.R. in his sleep. Duffy is the perfect foil. Gray's Sue Ellen may have finally come into her own. The kids ain't bad, either.

Give the best one-liners to J.R. -- as it always was and should forever be.

Spending time at Southfork is a lot of fun. I'd forgotten just how much I'd missed it.

"Dallas" airs 9 p.m. (Eastern) Wednesdays on TNT.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Slow dance more

All my life I've managed to stumble into magical moments. Usually in spite of myself.

A song playing by chance on the radio in a study hall class in the spring of 1992 changed my life forever. An unexpected email led to my current occupation. My first guitar lesson was taught by a singer/songwriter whom I adore as both a musician and as a human being. Two of my favorite writers are personal friends. I met the love of my life through a series of circumstances that wouldn't even be believable as a situation comedy.

Is this a great life or what?

Look, we all have ups and downs. I've seen the deep dark valleys and the magical majestic mountaintops. You learn, in time, that both keep you grounded.

Somebody told me a long time ago if you get a job doing something you love, you'll never work a day in your life. Truer words have never been spoken.

Oh, I have those days when I don't want to creep too far past the couch. But they are few and far between.

Somewhere along the way I learned to laugh. It keeps you from crying. When all else fails I sing a song. Music is marvelous medicine.

Plus, life is WAY too short to take it -- or yourself -- too seriously.

If I've learned anything in these 30-some years, it's this, with apologies to the songwriter:

Love your neighbor as yourself
Don't use money to measure wealth
Trust in God, but lock your door
Buy low, sell high
And slow dance more.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The King at MSG

Elvis at Madison Square Garden -- June 1972.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sirius/XM worth the debt

Sometime later today I'll pull out my credit card and go a little bit further in debt.

Can't help it. Sirius/XM Radio is that good.

Time was I got this for "free." Sort of. XM Radio was included as part of my DirecTV package. I didn't get the Elvis Radio channel -- I think that must've been on Sirius before the merger -- but I did get used to spending Sunday afternoons with Jonathan Schwartz. XM and DirecTV parted ways about three years ago and I had to say good-bye to all that.

Every now and then I'd hear snippets of sound. A co-worker used to have an XM radio. They are also overtly present whenever you rent a car. But I never could justify pulling the trigger on the purchase.

The night of my bachelor party (a swinging affair that involved dinner at Ye Ole Steakhouse and watching TV at Dean Harned's house) Mike Hermann pulled up in a rental car blaring Elvis Radio. Picture four guys flying down Broadway rocking to the strains of "Promised Land." I knew someday I'd have to give in and buy the damn thing.

Last week Dean says, "You gotta check out Elvis Radio. I'm listening to an ancient concert from the '50s. The screams are drowning out The King."

I surfed over to the Sirius/XM website. Turns out I could try it free for a week.

When I heard Donnie Sumner's "Mr. Songman" on Elvis Radio, I knew I was a goner. And I've yet to mention the decades channels ('40s, '50s, '60s, '70s), Siriusly Sinatra, or the fact we were able to listen to a live Jimmy Buffett concert from Atlanta last night.

Right now, Elvis is hitting the high notes on "Hurt," but this purchase isn't going to hurt my monthly budget one bit. In fact, it will be a pleasure to part with this cash.

Where's my wallet?

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

He'll always be the king to me

You have your favorite singers, no doubt.

Mine is Elvis.

He'll always be the king to me.

It's a long story, but Elvis Aron Presley helped me navigate the avenues of adolescence. My peers liked other singers, other groups, other eras. I loved Elvis and wore it like a badge.

My mother and daddy loved him, too. They saw him twice. Never forgot it.

Dad says that even on May 20, 1977, three months before the music died, a sweaty, bloated Elvis sang from his soul at Stokely Athletic Center. His voice, that great gift, never failed the King until his lonely life ended on Elvis Presley Boulevard, or so the Press-Scimitar put it, that terrible Tuesday in August.

I hate that a lot of folks only know him as either Elvis the Pelvis or a bloated Southern Gothic caricature. They've missed a lot of great music. And they've missed the point.

Elvis was one of us, dirt-poor Southern boy made good, "yes, sir" and "yes, ma'am," let me make all this money so I can give it away.

He really did buy Cadillacs for complete strangers. He really did play three shows in a row at Freedom Hall in Johnson City to meet demand. He really did take his daddy on tour and love his mother with all his heart and prefer gospel music and gentle ballads to The Beatles.

And, yeah, some of that weird stuff is true, too, about the cheeseburgers and the prescription pills and the obsession with psychic phenomena.

I'm not his judge. I didn't walk in his shoes.

But I do know about the music.

Dig beyond "Hound Dog" and "Heartbreak Hotel." You'll find some other great stuff, be it from '56 or '76.

He is the only performer that can send chills up my spine just by watching him via video enter a room or hit one of those "you gotta be kidding me" high notes on "How Great Thou Art."

All these wanna bes and never wases making "music" today should remember Elvis's example about how to treat friends and fans. If the most famous person on the planet could be polite, by God you can too.

Music is subjective. Who knows why we attach ourselves to certain singers?

You have your favorites.

Mine is Elvis.

He'll always be the king to me.



June 6, 1944


Tuesday, June 05, 2012


Here's a song I thought was appropriate for my mood today. Heard it last night on my "Sinatra Greatest Hits Vol. 2" (Reprise Label) reel-to-reel tape. Lyrics are below. The link is to Sinatra's live recording.

So I'm down and so I'm out
But so are many others
So I feel like tryin' to hide
My head 'neath these covers
Life is like the seasons
After winter comes the spring
So I'll keep this smile awhile
And see what tomorrow brings

I've been told and I believe
That life is meant for livin'
And even when my chips are low
There's still some left for givin'
I've been many places
Maybe not as far as you
So I think I'll stay awhile
And see if some dreams come true

There isn't much that I have learned
Through all my foolish years
Except that life keeps runnin' in cycles
First there's laughter, then those tears

But I'll keep my head up high
Although I'm kinda tired
My gal just up and left last week
Friday I got fired
You know it's almost funny
But things can't get worse than now
So I'll keep on tryin' to sing
But please, just don't ask me how

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Monday, June 04, 2012

'Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream'

Here is a rare recording of John Denver at Ethel and the late Bobby Kennedy's home in Hickory Hill, Va., singing "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream."

Today, I read an Associated Press story about the life of Kim Phuc, the girl captured in the Pultizer Prize-winning 1972 photo after she'd been hit by napalm.

I thought about my friends in the United States Marine Corps's Kilo Company 3/5, Vietnam, 1970.

I thought about our troops in Afghanistan. I thought about all those vets returning home from Iraq.

And, I thought about all this partisan bickering back here in the States, crazy cacophony over wedge issues on which we'll never agree.

Sometimes I just want to shut my eyes from it all, move to Maui and say to hell with the other 49 states, and quit fighting what I believe is a good fight.

But, no. As Americans we can't do that. Imagine if the Greatest Generation had done so.

I am glad, though, that John Denver had his strangest dream. In my heart, I agree with him.

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Sunday, June 03, 2012

Survey says he'll be missed

Just heard that longtime game show personality Richard Dawson is dead. Complications from cancer.

I never could understand why so many folks became bothered by the fact he kissed all those women on "Family Feud." I loved him. He was hilarious. Newkirk from "Hogan's Heroes"!

After he left it, "Match Game" became a mess.

When I heard this speech, what I knew in my heart was confirmed.

Rest in peace, Richard. Survey says: you'll be missed.

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Saturday, June 02, 2012

Joshing with the angels

On this date in 1995, I lost my cousin and friend, Joshua William Ellis.

He died young, 16, way too soon, car accident. I think of him just about every day. Sometimes he visits me in my dreams. The only bad part is when I wake up.

This song by Randy VanWarmer always makes me think of him.

We love you and miss you, buddy. I know you're joshing with the angels. I'm also proud that this happens to be my 1,000th blog post. So, so appropriate...

Sometimes I feel a wave
Of a past break in my mind
And I know it's gone for good
And it makes me want to cry
Is this all we get to keep
As the years go rollin' by?
Just a memory
For all the days gone by.

Oh you're always in my heart
And you're often on my mind
I will never let it die
Just as long as I'm alive
Sometimes it makes me sad
That we never said goodbye
Oh I guess it never hurts
To hurt sometimes.

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Friday, June 01, 2012

Words of wisdom

"There will be an answer; let it be." -- Sir Paul McCartney

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