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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Brain Like a Flea on a Griddle

I can't assign it a light and airy allegorical name like dragonfly or damselfly any longer. To put it plainly, I can't land on a thought and stick to it. This has gone on for a few days and is most unlike me. My head jumps around from thought to thought, lingering on those that really don't matter and darting away from the ones that do matter. Uh-oh. Avoidance. Perhaps I'm lucky, actually. Because I know what has unsettled me. I even know the steps I will have to take to restore order to myself. But I'm not there yet. It will require work of the human being sort with another human being, and I'm not quite ready. So, as unattractive and uninspiring as it is, for today I'm just a toad. Slow moving, unthinking and decidedly not out to change the world. At least not today. It may be fair to call me lazy. Or perhaps, just for the one day, I'm simply not up to participating in the wrestling match required when one carries on a relationship with any other human being. I shall simply plop from one lily pad in the pond to another.

Notwithstanding my recent Sam Cooke addiction, it's now Otis Redding. If one Wikis Otis, one will find a statement saying he had a great ability to emote strongly in his singing. Very true. Wiki says he is the epitome of soul, that American amalgamation of gospel, rhythm and blues and more. I agree. I've written before to say that my 15th year was one that contained both joyous and torturous events. It is one of the years of life about which I have the most vivid memories. Few periods of that time from August 24th, 1967 through August 23rd, 1968 are blank. That part of my canvas is pretty fully painted. One of the headlines in that year was about Otis' plane crash and death. A month later his biggest hit, (Sitting On) The Dock of the Bay, was released. I'm always startled when someone can point only to The Dock of the Bay when Otis Redding's name is spoken. After all, that grand song was the end. There was an entire body of work that went before. And while some may call me an old fussy hen and others simply think I pay close attention to the details, I know this: had I put this tune up on YouTube, I'd sure-as-shootin' have typed his name "Otis" and not "Ortis".

On one wall of my office resides a utilitarian monthly calendar that is used to show when anyone wants a day off. In our world, days off are granted on a first come, first served basis, so this seemingly inconsequential item actually has great importance. At the beginning of each month, we renumber the blocks, change the name of the month, and we're good to go. For no particular reason, Troy re-did the calendar in January, February and March. The calendar was useful, not beautiful, during the first quarter. He never mismarked the date squares and his printing was legible. Last week when everyone was busy on the huge job at the church, I readied the calendar for April. In the header, I wrote "April, 2010" and I drew some simple vines with leaves. Then I was inspired to type, print and put up the best April quote of all, "April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain." The calendar began to be used as soon as April opened. I watched homes put their names up, notice the quote, read it, recoil as if snakebit and elbow other homes in the ribs. Not so this morning! Matt stepped closer to the calendar in order to read the quote. Then he turned to me and said, "Tell me about T. S. Eliot, please, Leslie."

Anyone care to join me for a little more Otis? Yesterday I had to pull the gray pea coat out of the closet. The wind has screamed for days, temperatures below normal, and it even rained. As I pulled the coat on, I reflected that I am damned sick and tired of the wind. It is affecting me negatively. Oh, I'd suffer being so full of antihistamines my lips and tongue stick to my teeth while my nose still runs nonstop. I'd learn to live with making Virginia Woolf a little bed tucked away in the closed bathroom so she doesn't tremble in fear. I'd shoulder the indignity of my hair looking wild for just about half of life. But it's about the miles and miles walking every day in it. Nose running, eyes streaming, chugging up to the end of Desert Inn Road into it, abs contracting with the effort, turning the corners facing into the mighty blast. I have crumpled tissues stuffed into every pocket of every jacket and pair of walking pants, making laundry day a merry hell because no one could possibly remove them all before tossing the clothing into the machine . . . Reader, I have to confess it, when the days go 115-degrees, I'll moan about that, too. But it won't grip me the way the unceasing, freakish wind has. Just one more moan and I'll stop. When the gale shrieks through the streets as it has recently, there is something that freaks me out. When stopped at a red light, one can observe the huge standards that house the traffic lights . . . bouncing in the wind. It scared me in 1976. It scares me now. The newscasters warn us to keep both hands on the steering wheel as the crosswinds can give a car a mighty jolt . . . and I am nearly maddened by it.

Monday, I carried my bags of the week's groceries to the office. I trudged up the stairs like a clumsy, overloaded pack horse, turned into the breezeway and was struck by the irony of the word "breezeway" as I was nearly sent airborne from the second floor deck. I struggled for keys from the purse, my BlackBerry already chirping as homes checked in with me to start their workday. Fumbling at the door, I spotted someone sitting at the patio table. Which one of them was sitting outside in the wind and the cold? Justin? What the hell? For Justin was put on shore leave in December and has been very quiet since. We knew he wasn't having any luck finding work, because some of the others keep in touch with him. Last week in staff meeting we talked about how we still needed more technicians, even after having hired Matt back. There is that much work. David is considering adding to the fleet of mighty war wagons. We are going into conservative growth mode. When Cesar spoke up for Justin, David asked me what I thought. Easy answer. He's experienced. He's experienced in our ways. He's not afraid to ask for the money. He doesn't get called for go-backs. He is something of a leprechaun who charms almost everyone who meets him. So the word spread in the way it spreads in our world, and now, on Monday, Justin was on my deck. He followed in Matt's footsteps, manned up, and asked David to hire him back. Done! Our little group is rejoined, with a few new personalities added. It feels good. Everyone we'd ever consider bringing back is back. Let's go make some money!

I had a wonderful weekend. I do not celebrate Passover or Easter, but I celebrate life and I celebrate Sundays and I celebrate regular old everyday days that have some warmth and friendship and love and shared laughs. I celebrate April. I like to cook a meal to be shared and I like lively conversation peppered with laughs. I like to sit and make plans for future good times. I like to revisit the past good times. I like to share dreams and my opinions and my advice and my support. I like to lull my guests into a relaxed state of bonhomie with food and liquor and then tear them up at cards. I did every bit of that, and more!

In my ears right now: There's no film footage. It's a recording of Otis live in concert in London. Try a Little Tenderness is some kind of song under any circumstances, but oh! This! He makes Three Dog Night sound like three whimpering puppies.

Something that charmed me: I plot a lot of routes throughout our valley. I see a lot of street names. Some of them are simply odd. Others are whimsical or hilarious. GPS told me that #4 was going to turn right at the intersection of Trotting Trigger and Sashaying Spirit . . . . I thought that if my spirit was out in the mean streets, I hoped she would do a little sashay so folks would remember she'd been through these parts.


  1. Boy, for someone who claims their thoughts are like a flea on a hot griddle, you sure managed to stick some down here. I don't like hearing you're unsettled. It unsettles me, but I know you will work it out. We didn't ever really want to settle down, did we? It sounds so big-bummed and static.

    Love the Otis. Love your little Homes Family all back together.

  2. @ Kassie ~ oh, you made me laugh out loud! Yes, "settled down" does sound terribly like a woman with an ass like a brewer's horse and I don't want to be that. It might be more accurate to say my head is just disorganized. I need to tidy up. I'm usually pretty linear. Think, act, think, act. Somehow I got into zigzag, flit around mode. This is a special time to me (time of year, time of season) and maybe I shouldn't be surprised my head is jumbled. Perhaps I'm a little hard on myself.

    I'm glad you enjoyed Otis. It is GOOD to have our little band reunited and enough work to support us all. Life is GOOD. I feel hopeful instead of doomed.

  3. One of the most chilling conversations I've ever had was with Ben Cauley, the only surviving Bar-Kay from Otis' plane crash. He said just seconds before the crash, Otis was waxing poetic about how talented Sam Cooke was and how he left us too early. Eerie, to say the least.

    Erik Greene
    Author, "Our Uncle Sam: The Sam Cooke Story From His Family's Perspective"

  4. @ Sam's Neph ~ I surely do thank you for ringing in with this! How ironic about Otis' last words being about Sam. I'll be visiting your website.

  5. I actually know two Redding songs, the aforementioned "Dock by the Bay" and "Respect". About the latter: I prefer Aretha's version, but give Redding high marks for writing the song in the first place. The reason most people are only familiar with "Dock by the Bay" is because that's the only song that get's any airplay, even on stations that play nothing but '60s music. The only reason I know about "Respect" is that 20 years ago I bought a cassette (remember those?) with '60s songs by various artists, and that happened to be on there. Yes, Yes, I could just buy a Best Of Otis Redding album, but when you only know the one song, well, I'm cheap, let's leave it at that. However, now that you've recommended his entire ouevre, maybe I'll break down and buy it;]

  6. @ Kirk ~ It's my observation that what we hear on those radio stations is generally Motown and that's not precisely the same as these just-slightly-earlier (5-10 years) soulmen. Yes, some of the soulmen became Motown artists, but not all Motown artists were old soulmen. I agree with you about Aretha's Respect. Just as Harry Woods wrote Try a Little Tenderness and Otis executes it best, Otis wrote Respect and Aretha executes it best.

    Did you check the comment before yours? Sam Cooke's nephew! Imagine. And a little story about Otis' last moments, speaking about Sam. It charmed me.

  7. I did read that comment, but for some reason "Sam's Neph" didn't register. I do have a "Best of Sam Cooke" and I just loved Cooke's sound. And his voice. The sound of his voice. I think Cooke probably influenced a lot of people.

    I forgot about "Try a Little Tenderness" I
    like that as well.

    Just clicked on Sam's Neph's link. One of those blogs that's not a blog. I bet he started it just so he could respond to your comment. That's the power of the internet, Les.

  8. @ Kirk ~ If you go to his website, thought, you'll see that Sam Cooke's family have written a book and put up the website to tell their perspective of his life and death. It's interesting to me that the only survivor of the plane crash says Otis was speaking of Sam's too-early demise as the plane started to go down and his own life would end.

    Try a Little Tenderness is at the bottom of my post here, if you didn't spot it. At "In my ears right now . . "

    And, yes, I think I'm starting to get it about the power of the internet. I write two posts that tangentially mention Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, and here comes Sam Cooke's nephew to comment on my blog and lead me to more information about Sam. We live in awesome times!

  9. No, I didn't spot it the first time. I glimpsed at tha paragraph real fast and saw Three Dog Night and thought maybe you had "Jerimiah was a Bull Frog" I like the song but didn't feel like like listening to it just then. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

    Les, I just got an idea for a quick post, but I'll have you and your post up, maybe even provide a link. Do you mind?

  10. There's something in that wind that vibrates us out of harmony. Once again I'm smiling like a proud parent as Matt discovers there's a bigger world out there. Thanks for being his teacher, Limes.
    I'd also like to thank Mr Greene for his input. Both his uncle and Otis Redding Passed too soon. But their music lives on.

  11. @ Tag ~ You know how much I love Matt, don't you, Tag? He's touched you, too, in some magical way. Sharing: When I yammer away about something I understand deeply, he stares at me with rapt attention. He thinks I've really got it going on. What's not to love about that? He absorbs information like a sponge and later I'll hear him telling someone else something I taught him. What's not to love about that?

    Sam and Otis! The reader knows how I feel about them. And I am so pleased Mr. Green hopped on the bus for a little minute today.

  12. @ Kirk ~ No bullfrogs in this pond, Kirk. I don't like the song.

    Go do your post! I'm flattered. You wouldn't have even had to ask about the link.

  13. Leslie, Kirk & Tag - I wonder how Erik Greene found this post. He must spend all his spare time tracking all references to his great-uncle Sam. Did you check out OurUncleSam.com? Pretty interesting.
    Click here

  14. @ Kasserole ~ Sure I did! Immediately. Remember when I posted about the Secret Order of the Sugarhouse Hoppy Taw Society? If one Googled "hoppy taw" for the longest time, I was right behind the company's own websites and those of other companies that sell the product. I just checked - I'm still up pretty high even though I wrote that quite awhile ago. I imagine Erik Greene just keeps Googling and sometimes comes up with things that intrigue him. I'm glad he commented.

    Not to be missed! Please go see what Kirk did with my "Sam Cooke's nephew dropped in" day. Kirk is hilarious.

  15. Just went to that web site now. Erik Greene sure has a winning smile, doesn't he? I wonder if he sings.

  16. @ Kirk ~ I would surely hope that having just a droplet of the DNA would make one a singer. I'm so glad he found me today!