It was late one Saturday afternoon in Camden AL. The dog days of August, 1974. I was between quarters at Troy State University. I had no plans except to drink some beer and, possibly, wager on a few major league baseball games. A few of my close friends, who shall remain nameless, and I had done quite a bit of gambling already that summer. And we hadn’t fared too poorly at it.
Back to the story…1974
My best friend, Hal Huggins, then burst in through the door, he was prone to do that, without knocking, almost “Krameresque” in a way. “Let’s go to Pensacola!” he commanded, equally abrupt. “Let’s take the Galaxy.” He was referring to my parents’ 70 something Ford product. We almost always did our cruising in his 1972 Impala, which also had an eight track tape player in it. The Galaxy had nothing but an AM radio, but that was all we needed to listen to baseball games and some music, which was often provided by “WLS music radio” out of Chicago, Illinois.
I checked with my folks on this and they seemed to have no reservations about our impromptu trip. I gathered what little I needed to take on the excursion with me, unhooked the car keys off the rack hanging on our den wall by the door, and off we went. “I’ll drive,” Hal informed me. So we headed to the Jr. Food store for some Schlitz and a bag of ice and we were southbound and down!
Beatrice (the Galaxy ran hot near there, but I can’t recall much of a delay or any trouble in particular), Monroeville, Frisco City, Uriah, Flomaton, and on into what remains my favorite place to “chill” right up to this very day, Pensacola.
Hal and I, along with Howell Lee (RIP) had thrown full bore into a huge time, three years prior, at Rosie O’Grady’s, and, thus, we chose Seville Quarter, where Rosie’s was located, as were several other spots, for those so inclined to imbibe in adult beverages and entertainment.
We parked the Ford, strode into the garden-like setting of the quarter, and made ourselves comfortable at the first establishment on the left. Hal ordered a Schlitz, unsurprisingly, and I, surprisingly, chose a Harvey Wallbanger. Bang your walls it will if consumed in mass quantities, which I discovered nine months earlier near here at another watering hole which was situated in a decorative hotel on Pensacola Beach. That would be our next destination.
An aside, that previous November, of Wallbanging fame, I was in the company of two young lasses and another gentleman at that lounge on the beach on a Thanksgiving night, oddly enough. We were watching the University of Alabama do battle with the LSU from Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. Huge game. Bama was undefeated and highly ranked and the Bayou Bengals were a quite formidable opponent that season. The Tide prevailed, 21-7, and went on to remain unbeaten until it was vanquished by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Sugar Bowl. That is another story which involved Hal, more wagering, and many other friends. Later.
The lasses, the other gentleman, and I stayed on after the game ended, to have a few more postgame rounds, until I somehow set my long flowing locks ablaze on of the candles that sat upon our four top table.
But I regress! Back to August 1974 and Seville Quarter! No excessive Wallbanging on this trip! And absolutely NO LOCKS AFLAME!
I was sipping on my Harvey, and Hal on his “Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous,” when the solo acoustic guitar player there at the Quarter, went into a song that completely caught my attention. What a pithy, touching, funny song.
The lyrics. The story. The humor. The grace. The humanity.
“Blow up your tv, throw away the paper, move to the country, build you a home. Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches, try to find Jesus on your own…”
The song was Spanish Pipedream. It was written and recorded by someone I was vaguely familiar with and it was the first time I had ever heard a song by this guy. His name was John Prine.
In a couple of more weeks I was back at Troy and asked a friend of mine, Mike “Jelly Rock” Jellison did he have any John Prine records. He did. It was entitled Sweet Revenge. He played me a song off of it entitled The Accident, but Spanish Pipedream was not on there. In fact, I did not know that the name of the song was Spanish Pipedream. All I knew was, “Blow up the tv, throw away the paper”, etc. The words, Spanish Pipedream are not in the song. No way to know that. Them I dropped it, for quite some time.
A few years later, the early eighties I do believe, I was purchasing cassettes instead of LP’s and would run across the John Prine section in some music store and purchase Sweet Revenge. This is fantastic, I thought! I gotta have more! So, logically, in my mind, I picked up his first album (cassette, I just have to call them albums sometimes). It was self-titled. And boys and girls, if there is one non-greatest hits record you ever want to purchase, it’s that one. The song titles are like a greatest hits compilation. Illegal Smile, Hello In There, Sam Stone, Paradise, Pretty Good, Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore, Far From me, Angel From Montgomery, Quiet Man, Donald And Lydia, Six O’Clock News, Flashback Blues and, yes… AND… Spanish Pipedream!!! You can imagine my total exhilaration when that one leapt from the speakers to my ears!
“Blow up the tv, throw away the paper, move to the country, build you a home. Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches, try to find Jesus on your own.”
Since that day my collection of John Prine music has, of course, blossomed. His music has been a constant of mine for decades now.
Fast forward 32 moths to today, May 3, 2023. I began the previous wording of this blog back in September of 2020. Covid. John Prine departed our world in April of 2020 due to Covid. I did not like that initial attempt at articulating my romance with his music. I am now grasping at some inadequate words to conclude this musing.
My oldest and dearest friend, Hal Huggins, has left us to join John Prine and the heavenly hosts. I miss them both till it aches. They were both such great friends. May they rest in peace. See you later guys. I just hope it’s not in the near future.
“We blew up our TV Threw away our paper Went to the country Built us a home Had a lot of children Fed ’em on peaches They all found Jesus on their own”
For the first time since the mid 80’s we cannot watch the Braves on tv. We were in Albany, NY then and our cable company didn’t carry TBS. We could go to Troy, NY to a bar but it didn’t matter that much. We had become Mets fans and were happy with that and only saw the Braves when they played the Mets. Did drive to Montreal to see the Braves play the Expos one time. 1984. We got there early and hung around during batting practice. Willie Stargell saw Luke and I near the Braves dugout and brought Luke a ball and signed for him as did Dale Murphy and a few others. Bob Horner had no interest. Fast became not a Bob Horner fan. Willie Stargell was just the best.
From 1994 through May of 2009 I didn’t watch ANY baseball. The ‘94 strike broke my heart and put me off baseball for those 15 years. I did attend a Braves game, an Expos game, and a Rockies game ilduring that 15 year period as we had AAA annual conferences in those cities when the home teams were in town. But I mostly enjoyed free beer and hot dogs and socialized. I’m good at socializing.
Anyway, back to Schenectady, NY in June of 2009. I was working the Hudson Valley region for AAA and Paul was with me. Summer. My University at Albany, SUNY “kids”, from when I was in campus ministry there ‘83-‘86, had us over at the, now Father Bob Longobucco’s home, rectory, for a dinner. And I watched the Mets game with the old gang. Father Bob said, at some point, “Come back to the game! It’s all about the game.” The spirit moved me, as she is wont to do, and I got it. Again. Baseball fever. And I’ve been watching the Braves and the playoffs and World Series since that fateful day in Schenectady.
So, here I sit, today, not watching the Braves. I now have YouTube TV and they don’t carry our Bravos (on BSSE). I got a trial subscription to MLB TV and it’s blacked out on there. Lotta good that does. I do get the audio. Also I did get the Mets and Marlins yesterday on MLB. Full circle.
When we started pulling for the Mets, Daryl Strawberry was a rookie and they went 68-94 that season. 1983. Doc Gooden was a 19 year old rookie in ‘84. You know the rest of that story. It was a glorious run. I do cringe every time I hear Kirk Gibson’s name. You might remember he hit that tater in ‘88, limping around the bases, that crushed the souls of Met’s fans everywhere.
But hey! Maybe that was karma for the stunning ‘86 World Series game 6 when Bill Buckner booted that grounder, in the bottom of the 10th, and our Mets went on to win it all over the Ted Sox. 108-54 regular season. How sweet it was!
I grew up a Yankees fan until the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966. It was all about Mickey Mantle for me and several million other kids. Remained a Yankees fan, in the AL, until the late 70’s, when I got enough of George Steinbrenner.
But that is another story for another time.
Hey! I see I can get the Mets and Marlins on MLB. Ok, it’s 4-2 Metropolitans in the top of the 6th! Let’s Go Mets!
I’ll probably get weepy singing ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame’ during the 7th inning stretch. That happens a lot with me.
Fathers and sons and baseball. It touches my soul.
“Popcorn! Peanuts! Cracker Jacks! Hot dogs! Cold beer right heah!”
“… And it’s ONE! TWO! THREE STRIKES, you’re out! At the old ball game.”
Gotta go now. I think I’ll listen to Susan Sarandon’s monologue that opens ‘Bull Durham’.
December 25th 2022 will mark my 70th Christmas. I was approximately 16 weeks old on my first Christmas Day here on planet earth. I, obviously, do not remember one thing about that December 25th in 1952. (Insert memory joke about being 70 plus years old on 12/25/22 here). I do recall dozens of Christmas days since, approximately, 1958 or 1959. Most every one of these recollections are quite pleasant and they invoke some powerful memories. Well, there are those days when I ripped open my presents only to find Chapstick, socks, shoe polish, and/or underwear. But that’s okay. Memories. That is probably the first step in getting one’s self in the proper head space for Christmas.
There are far too many beautiful recollections to share here, but I will reveal that I am sickeningly sentimental when it comes to Christmas memories. Let them wash over you and weep unashamedly if that works for you. It’s that time of year. Faith, family, friends and, yes, football, at the core of it all. That first Christmas you were married. Also the first one you celebrated when you had welcomed a child into your home. You get the picture. Memories.
When we joined Heritage Baptist Church in December of 2013, we experienced our first holiday season of Advent. That has added wonderful new layers of meaning and expectation as we move toward the coming of the Christ child. Advent calendars, candles, and devotionals are great portals into the celebration of His birth.
Ornaments. These tree decorations are essential in the righting of head and heart. In each one there is, at minimum, a memory and often there is a story behind every single ornament. We have ornaments from when our children were pre-schoolers, on up through their youth, and into adulthood. And then come the grandchildren to begin an entire new array of tree hangings. along with the lights and new trees that find a place in our humble abode. I can sit for many hours staring at the trees and other decorations which adorn our home in the days leading up to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Last but not least… there is music. You have beautiful hymns on one end, such as ‘Oh Holy Night’ and goofy songs like ‘Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer’ on the opposite end of the spectrum of holiday music. And there’s not anything quite like music to touch the soul, quicken the spirit, and stir deep emotions in our hearts and heads.
Of course there are the gifts, the egg nog, the bountiful meals, and so much more that make Christmas what it is. But most of all, it is the birth of the child, our Lord, our Savior, our friend… Jesus, that is the centerpiece of the entire Christmas experience. Advent.
“The word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.”
John 1:14. The Message
Grace and peace and Merry Christmas to one and all!
Here we are once again. Staring at a blank screen. Thinking about SEC Football. The Allman Brothers Band raging on a Whipping Post from August of 2003. I have SiriusXM tuned to the Jam On station. Now there’s a group named ALO doing ‘Cowboys and Chorus Girls’. Never heard of it or them. Time to learn someone new. That’s fine. What’s not fine was my pickin’ results from last weekend. I think I had a losing record. Time to tally up!
Ouch!!! that’s awful! I was 2-5. That’s makes me 63-18 on the season. And that is .777. Slipping a bit since we’ve gotten seriously into the red meat of the 2022 SEC season. There are seven picks this week with all of them SEC matchups. No out of conference or Group of Five or FCS opponents. As Archie Bell and The Drells sang, “Tighten Up!”
Missouri at Tennessee (-20.5)
Eli (I’d just love to have a) Drinkwitz you got a very generous new contract extension recently. Not bad for someone with a losing record (4-5). I like the guy and wish him well. A beaten and angry Vols squad at Neyland Stadium is not the place to even that record at 5-5 this Satday. Kirby’s Dawgs put a butt whuppin’ on them down Twixt the Hedges. The Corn Cobbers return to their pre-Gawja ways and whack the Show Me Tigers. Tennessee 42, Missouri 17.
Lucky To be Alive by My Morning Jacket is now playing on the radiddio. It’s a good one.
LSU (-3.5) at Arkansas
I was not the least bit surprised that The Bayou Bengals upset the Tahd down in Red Stick. You Gotta Give Batman Kelly credit. He has these Tiguz improving each and every Saturday. Arky seems back to be back to form, as well. Should be dandy as the line would indicate. The visitors are in the Catbird Seat in the SEC West. Who’d a thunk it? The road to Atlanta continues for… LSU 37, Arkansas 28.
Ok ok! Now on SiriusXM. Ready? Vieux Farka Toure/Khruangbin – Tonga Barra. Pretty good!
Vanderbilt at Kentucky (-17.5)
The last of a Noon ET Tripleheader. The Nashvillians invade the Bluegrass. Who would Bill Monroe pull for in this clash of SEC Easters? I hear Easter in the Bluegrass is lovely. Too bad it’s mid-November. Kroger Field will be rife with savings galore. Get that gasoline discount before ye return to NashVegas. It’ll seem like a long trip. With an 88% chance to win… Kentucky 31, Vanderbilt 14.
Now it’s Jackie Greene on vocals with Gov’t Mule covering David Bowie’s ‘Changes’. Yes ma’am! I’m a huge Mule fan. Gov’t Mule has been my favorite live band for some years. Used to be that if they were within six hours of 116 Sundown Way, Acworth Gee A, Me and Paul were there. Our first live show was at The Tabernacle in Atlanta on 10/20/2001. One of those musical epiphany nights that transports and transforms you. They don’t happen often. But oh are they sweet! Like sugar! And speaking of sugar…
Alabama (-12) at Ole Miss
One of these two could very well wind up in NOLA as the SEC New Year’s Six representative in the Sugar Bowl. My guess is it will be Bama. It has a waaaaaay outside chance of making the SEC Championship Game. But I’m thinking LSWho is making the trip to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Hotlanta. As a matter-of-fact, the Tuscaloosans could lose this contest in Groveville. They will if they are not on their best game. Another OT nail-biter for Nickydemus. Alabama 38, Ole Miss 35.
South Carolina at Florida (-8)
“Swamp Fox, Swamp Fox taił on his hat, nobody knows where the Swamp Fox is at. Swamp Fox, Swamp Fox living in the glen, he runs away to fight again.” The Swamp Fox was a Disney show from long ago. Taco time !!! It’s been awhile. If one of you can tell me who played Francis Marion (Revolutionary War hero) you win a taco! No cheating! But, as always, wagering is encouraged. Is coach Billy Napier now the Swamp Fox? Or is it QB Anthony Richardson? Napier’s Water Lizards spanked the Aggies last week. More on them later. It’s Senior Day in Gainesville. Florida 34, USC East 24.
Georgia (-16.5) at Mississippi State
The Bullpups were most fortunate to score more points than Auburn, in StarkVegas, Saturday previous. That shall not happen tomorrow. The visitors from Hedgeville will win this game. The Kirbyites might struggle a wee bit early in the game. And The Pirate’s aggregation of canines might be able to sling it around for a spell. But in the end… Georgia 40, Miss State 16.
And finally! Drumroll please!
“Well there she sits buddy just a gleaming in the sun, There to greet a working man when his day is done, I’m gonna pack my pa and I’m gonna pack my aunt, I’m gonna take them down to the CADILLAC RANCH!” YAY HEEEE! WDE!!! And gracias, Bruce Springsteen!
Texas A&M at Auburn (-1.5)
Yes, the Carnell Williams led Auburn Tigers are favored to defeat the Fighting Jimbos! The loser sinks to the bottom of the SEC West. Now, I am here to tell you this. I haven’t seen, or felt, this kind of excitement surrounding an Auburn Football game since the Penn State game back in mid-September. The sold out Auburn crowd will be raucous and rockin’ old Jordan-Hare tomorrow night! Coach Lac will have 25-30 of his former teammates with him in the locker room prior to the game. They come as a show of support of their beloved fellow Tiger, and many of them were together on that National Championship team form 2004. Arguably the best team in Auburn Football history. And, hell yes, they were champions! Raise the banner! (Along with the ’83 teams and a handful of others.) But more on that another day. I expect Auburn to come out on fire and jump out to a quick lead, and then they will proceed to trounce the Aggies on their way to wins in its final two outings to go 6-6 and make a bowl game. Never flag in zeal! “On to victory! Strike up the band!” Auburn 27, Texas A&M 21.
SiriusXM closing with St. Stephen by The Grateful Dead. How apropos! The mood at Auburn has turned on a dime and excitement, once again, abounds! Should be a great weekend for SEC football. Football all over the USA for that matter. Enjoy it!
As Hillbilly Jim says on his Outlaw Country radio show, “I’m not here for a long time. I’m here for a good time!”
Have fun! Be safe! And LOOOOVVVVE your neighbor as yourself! Peace out!
OK everyone! All together now! DAAAHHHHT da da da da da… Go Gators!!! Thank you very much! I hope you enjoyed that! Let’s congratulate the Water Lizards and move on to… Baton Rouge, where the above mentioned cheer will be nowhere as long and as loud, this week, because, the always humble and hospitable Dan Mullen, and company, will find in Red Stick a deafening cacophony of sound where its cheer will be drowned out by the strains of Hold that Tiger in Death Valley. More on that later.
Yours truly tallied a 4-1 week. Remember that talk of perfection? Oh well. Our East Alabama Tigers, obviously, provided the only blemish in Week Six. For the season we now stand at 47-10 with a solid .824 winning percentage.
We now attempt another run at perfection. Seven contests are on tap and a couple of them ar pretty darn large.
Alabama vs. Texas A&M
Nick Saban’s West Alabama Pachyderms will travel to College Station, TX as a 17 point favorite over the Aggies of Texas A&M. Jimbo Fishers gents will, no doubt, be well-prepared but the visitors have far too much fire power for the 3-2 hosts. It could be a pretty good game for awhile, but in the end, the Crimpsuns will have rolled once again. Alabama 35 Texas A&M 17.
Arkansas vs. Kentucky
Hawgs and Felines will be a scratchin’ and a clawin’ and a bitin’ in the Bluegrass Satday and it certainly should be one heckuva scrap. Mark Stoops troops are in desperate need of a victory and that they will find in the friendly confines of Kroger Field. Maybe Chad Morris’s Piggies will, at least, get a few fuel points for the trip east. Kentucky 31, Arkansas 23.
Georgia vs. South Carolina
Cock a doodle doooooo! Wake up Puppies! The Roosters are a headin’ your way for a 12 noon kickoff is “Between the Hedges”! By the time old UGA gets his blood boilin’ it will be feathers a flyin’ and hens a weepin’ in Athens, GA. Will Muschamp will be outsmarted by ol’ Kirby and the Dawgs move another step closer to being crowned champions of the SEC East. Georgia (-23.5) 34, South Carolina 14.
Mississippi State vs. Tennessee
“Wish that I was not on Rocky Top watching the Vols get killed…” The hometowners actually have a good chance at winning this weekend, as Joe Moorhead’s Bullies invade venerable Neyland Stadium. The Vowels are only a seven point dog Satday. This could turn out to be a really good clash, or, it could be a case of which squad is the least inept. In any case, I think another win will just elude the hapless homies. “We had a win on the tips of our fingers, but we let it slip right through our hands.” Miss State 27, Tennessee 21.
Missouri vs. Ole Miss
Matt Luke, and not Mark or John, and his Johnny Rebs will do battle with one of the three sets of Fighting Felines Satday. These Cats hail from Columbia, MO and they will be lying in wait for the Black Bears of Oxford. The Kitties are installed by the Vegas crowd as 12.5 point favorites. I would give the Land Sharks a better chance in Groveville, but not out there on I-70. Missouri 31, Ole Miss 20.
Vanderbilt vs. UNLV
More Rebels, you say? Yessiree bobbie! And these Runners will be making the flight from LAS Vegas to NASH Vegas. Hootie hoo! Sit down please! The Music City Commodores are a 14.5 choice to defeat the Runnin’ Rebels namesake oddsmakers. Say what? You read it right! And, AND, I do expect Vandy to win AND cover! You’re welcome! PSYCHE! Vanderbilt 34, UNLV 21.
Feature game time! Feature game time!
LSU vs. Florida
I hope all you Floridians have truly enjoyed basking in the glory of your well-earned victory over Auburn. But your joy shall be short-lived. The Swamp is a tough place to play, but LSU in Tiger Stadium, at night, is a tough tough TOUGH TUFFFFF place from which to return to the Sunshine State with a “W.” Ask anybody except Alabama. That chompin’ defense will keep the Water Lizards in the game, but hain’t no way Coach “Yaw Yaw” and THESE Cats are gonna lose Satday. LSU 30, Florida 21.
So run to your computers or phones, or to whatever device it is that you use to place your wagers. I have just given you a list to get rich by. Have fun! And also, take care out there and be sure to love your neighbor (as you do yourself).
A man came up to me and asked me what the time was that was on my watch, yeah
And I said
Does anybody really know what time it is (I don’t)
Does anybody really care (care about time)
If so I can’t imagine why (no, no)
We’ve all got time enough to cry
And I was walking down the street one day
A pretty lady looked at me and said her diamond watch had stopped cold dead
And I said
Does anybody really know what time it is (I don’t)
Does anybody really care (care about time)
If so I can’t imagine why (no, no)
We’ve all got time enough to cry
And I was walking down the street one day (people runnin’ everywhere)
Being pushed and shoved by people (don’t know where to go)
Trying to beat the clock, oh, no I just don’t know (don’t know where I am)
I don’t know, I dont know, oh (don’t have time to think past the last mile)
(Have no time to look around) And I said, yes I said (run around and think why)
Does anybody really know what time it is (I don’t)
Does anybody really care (care about time)
If so I can’t imagine why (no, no)
We’ve all got time enough to die
Everybody’s working (I don’t care)
I don’t care (about time)
About time (no, no)
I don’t care”
Let it grow. Let it be. Let it all hang out. Let it go. Let go and let God.
not prevent or forbid; allow.
“my boss let me leave early”
allow to, permit to, give permission to, give leave to, authorize to, sanction to, grant the right to, license to, empower to, enable to, entitle to;
I found myself “Googling” the nutrition information of Krystal products the other day. And AFTER my next round of blood work was completed, yesterday, I stopped by one of those franchises to chow down on two or three of those 130 calorie, 2 grams of saturated fat babies. It would have been my first “cheating” episode since our trip to the Big Easy.
As fate would have it, they were still in breakfast mode and it would have taken too long to put together those little square devils to suit me. Solution? Down the street to Hardee’s and a smoked sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit combo. War Eagle!
Back to being “good” last night, split pea soup courtesy of our dear daughter, Leah.
And this AM? Multi grain toast with a bit of honey cinnamon spread.
The life of a heart patient, should be impatient, wrestling with food demons.
Funny, today’s scripture passage was from Luke 4. Jesus was just beginning his ministry and was in Capernaum casting out demons and healing folks, droves of folks.
Come out of there you mean ole Krystal demon! Come out of there potato chips, hot dogs, rib-eyes, pizza, and fried chicken! Come out! (In my best Ernest Angley).
In the verses prior to his work in Capernaum, Jesus preached his first sermon in Nazareth and was run out of town on a rail. The “church people” even tried to throw him off a cliff. You don’t hear about that one too often.
Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga on Apple Music. “Anything Goes” “Cheek to Cheek” “Let’s Face the Music and Dance”, etc.
Music recommendations. Margo Price, Maren Morris, Iry LeJeune’s cajun music, Lukas Nelson (yes, Willie’s boy) and The Promise of Real, and Doug Sahm.
I’ve mentioned it before on Facebook but’s it’s worth another promo. James Lee Burke’s series of Dave Robicheaux novels. I’m on number seven and I can’t stop. Latest obsession. Seriously considering attending the Dave Robicheaux Literary Festival In New Iberia, LA (where most of these books are set) on March 31-April 2.
Gobble gobble, yum yum, slurrrrrrrrp! Eat everything on your plate. Listen to John Prine’s “Fish and Whistle” for more on that.
Follow the thread, exhaust your possibilities, retain or summon your curiosities, and follow them wherever they may lead. God is in the little things. You are you for a reason.
National Signing Day for college football is February 1.
Also on 2/1… In 1861, Texas voted to secede from the Union. Puccini’s opera “La Boheme” premiered in Turin in 1896. 1900, Eastman Kodak introduced the $1 Brownie camera box. And Grand Central Station Opened in New York City in 1913.
Birthdays on 2/1 include Ronda Rousey, Clark Gable, and Lisa Marie Presley.
Setlist change. ‘Inspired by Beatlemania’. “I’m a Believer,” The Monkees, was first up. Mercy! I love that song! Do you know who wrote it? Jeopardy theme song. Time’s up! Neil Diamond. Neil is embarking on his 50th Anniversary Tour. Go if you’ve never seen him. Red, Red Wine is my favorite of his.
Mony Mony was just on. I saw Tommy James and The Shondells at the Big Bam Summer Spectacular back in the late 60’s. Neil Diamond was also there, oddly enough. I miss those shows. Lightnin’ Lou Christie, The Beach Boys, Tony Joe White, Boyce and Hart, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and Porter Wagoner were just a smidgen of other acts I caught there in the Garrett Coliseum. Saw a few rodeos and the circus there too. Also Disney on Ice.
64° here in beautiful Acworth, GA. temperatures are expected to rise to 69 with mostly cloudy skies. A l0w of 58 tonight. The chance of rain rises to 85% at 11 PM. Winds SE at 8 MPH.
I’ll never stop my DJ and play-by-play yammerings. Melodye is one patient soul. And my breaking into a song and/or dance with no perceptible provocation. God bless her sweet soul.
And now Nirvana’s “About a Girl.” Sweet!
Their “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is an all-time favorite. What genius lyrics!
Well, I’ve got a column I’m struggling to get completed due to technical difficulties. It’ll publish next Friday. ‘The Best and Worst of 2016 – SEC Edition.’
Lunch? Oikos Triple Zero Yogurt. Wheeeeeee…
Reading Buddies at 2:30 today. There is not much that warms the heart like Josue, pronounced Ho-sway, running across the library, with his arms outstretched, yelling, “Mr. Bird!!!!”
This is my first Ramblin’. A shout out goes to my old buddy, Meg Tatom. Yesterday I finally promoted this site on Facebook and Meg said she looked forward to reading my ramblings. The descriptor for Bird’s Banter reads thusly, “A potpourri of ramblings, stories, musings and opinions.” The problem is, there were none, officially. My blogs contain all of the above, but none were dedicated to ramblin’.
The song that is currently playing on my iTunes is Willie and Hag’s “It’s All Going to Pot.” It is. The world is, at least. But not the kind Willie and Merle are singing about. That might not be so bad.
I became addicted to Buffalo wings back in the mid-eighties in Upstate New York. The Hudson Valley. Albany and environs. Melodye, or Paul as you may know her, might have it worse than I do. Anyway, our favorite place to get said wings was at Skipper’s Tavern in downtown Albany. It was not in the nicest part of town. No matter. It was THE place to feed one’s jonesin’ for wings. Mild, medium, hot, or death. We liked ’em hot. I’m sweating under my eyes thinking about them. Skipper’s is closed. Burned down. Gone. Sigh.
Speaking of pot, it ought to be legal. Of course, Big Pharm and Monsanto would screw that up like everything else.
How’s your mommer ‘n ‘nem? Don’t y’all just love that interrogative phrase?
BTW, I hope all of y’all’s mommers are well. If you mommer is gone, I’m sorry to hear that.
“Slap the dog and spit in the fire!” I heard Naomi Judd utter this euphemism many years ago. Do any of y’all know how she’s doing?
South Carolina plays at Vanderbilt the first Thursday night SEC game on September 1. Tick tick tick.
“Long Way Down”, by the SteelDrivers is now playing on my shuffle. Apple Music created this Americana setlist for me. I really like it. It features Brandi Carlile, Dwight Yoakam, Sam Outlaw, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Banditos, among many others. I’m in my three month free trial with Apple Music. I like it. Still haven’t decided if I’ll keep it and pay the $9.99 per month. It ain’t much, but when you add in Netflix (streaming and DVD), the Xfinity starter package (with a sports channels extra), etc., it all adds up for a po’ boy on a fixed income.
Back to ‘tick tick tick’. Frasier Crane responded with that line, on Cheers, to no one in particular after Woody said he never talked about his problems. He just stuck them away somewhere and tried to forget them. “Tick tick tick.”
It’s now thundering outside. Could it be thundering inside? The dogs are tick tacking all over the house with no lap to sit in. Uh oh.
*GOT SPOILER ALERT*
Me and Paul just finished season six of Game of Thrones a couple of nights ago. WhoooWeee! I was so happy to see Ramsay Bolton (who let the dogs out?) and Walder Fry (give ’em hell, Arya!) get theirs. WDE!!! I just wish Cersai Lanister would get hers. GOOOOOOOO Daenerys! And how about Jon Snow turning out to be a “true” Snow?
I do enjoy binge watching these TV, Netflix, Amazon series! Some favorites are House of Cards, The Fall, The Killing, Wallander, Broadchurch, Mozart in the Jungle, Transparent, Happy Valley, Luther, Longmire, Rectify, Damages, Boss, Bloodline, and Last Tango in Halifax.
If you’ve never used The Message translation of the Bible, you should. It is self-described as ‘The Bible in Contemporary Language’.
And with that, “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” (And HURRY!)
The small space was rife with a sense of the sacred. The sights and silence spoke. Out of the harried and into the still. Mary and Jesus. The Virgin and the Christ child. What drew me here? Why did God avail himself, now?
Taken aback by the presence of something other, yet I. Images, memories, both past and present, were now enmeshed in an harmonious cacophony. Hope whispered and healing began. The often tortuous and troublesome were quelled.
That “peace that passes all understanding.”
He came “like a thief in the night.” Out of the darkness and into the light.
The highways that led to “The Land of Enchantment” were familiar and well worn. Atlanta to Birmingham to Memphis, and beyond to the mysteries that would unfold in the beauty of the desert.
What is it about the purple sage? The scrub brush? The cacti? The wind?
The path to God is short and straight yet long and winding. It can lead one around the world only to deposit him or her back home. Home, where the familiar comforts and keeps. Home offers a sense of security but the call of God beckons one toward the unknown.
Across the rice fields of Arkansas and into the bluster of Oklahoma. The boredom of the Texas panhandle transforms gently as she sweeps past the border of New Mexico. Yes, enchantment, and a sense of coming home. A spiritual home. Like a sailor coming into port or a cowboy off the range back to the ranch. A place of respite, peace and contentment.
Albuquerque, Roswell, Ruidoso, Santa Fe, Taos, and Tucumcari.
It was in Tucumcari that I made my first stop upon leaving Texas. I almost lost my life, that summer day in 1999, in Amarillo and was relieved to put that city, in extreme northern Texas, in my rearview mirror. Now it was time for some lunch. What would it be? It’s not like the choices in Tucumcari are plenteous, but they are a welcome sight for hungry eyes. ($1 to Merle Haggard).
Ah! A Lotaburger! First spot on the left after the exit off I-40. ‘Blake’s LOTABURGER’, to be exact. Lotaburger is a fast food chain indigenous to New Mexico with all but two of the seventy-five locations to be found there. The other two are located in Texas, I hear that a new spot will soon open in Arizona.
So what will it be? Burger? Chili dog? Maybe a chili Frito pie? Hey, there are burritos as well! But, when push comes to shove, you gotta go with the Lotaburger combo, don’t you? Indeed!
Sitting alone at this pitstop, which proved to be an oasis of refreshment, the town’s name, Tucumcari, provided a spark of association to the Little Feat tune ‘Willin’. The lyrics now assimilated my my brain, which is almost always continuim of free association and melodies.
“And I’ve been from Tucson to Tucumcari, Tehachapi to Tonapah
Driven every kind of rig that’s ever been made
Driven the back roads so I wouldn’t get weighed
And if you give me, weed, whites and wine
And you show me a sign
I’ll be willin’ to be movin’ “.
And it was time to be movin’ again. I wanted to make Albuquerque by mid-afternoon. I emptied my tray into the large red trashcan, emptied my bladder in the acceptable facility, settled into the black, two door, ’98 Saturn Coupe, and continued west toward the capital of the state.
But before pressing on to Albuquerque, I’ll take you back to Amarillo and my brush with a potential tragedy. I was blowing through there, amused at the numerous billboards encouraging travelers to come and attempt to eat around four or five pounds of steak, singing and playing flute along with Jethro Tull. The cruise control was on and we wuz rockin’!
I was in the far left lane passing an eighteen wheeler when he decided to move over to my lane. No signal. No warning. No NOTHING! I had no place to go. I immediately attempted to tap my brakes and slip into the small emergency lane that was, fortunately, there. The Saturn was equipped with a manual, five-speed transmission and, in my panic I found myself furiously pumping the clutch. I continued to haul fanny while weaving between cars, changing lanes summoning my best Dale Earnhardt.
I don’t know how I managed to work my way out of that pickle, GRACE, but I did. I soon realized I was not actually reaching the brake, found it, righted the car and wound up safe and sound, headed west, and ALIVE.
“In the shuffling madness of the locomotive breath, comes the all-time loser, headlong to his death. He feels the pistons scraping — Steam breaking on his brow — Old Charlie stole the handle and the train (Saturn) it won’t stop going, no way to slow down.”
I didn’t even scrape anybody AND I didn’t have a heart attack! (That would come five years later and will be dealt with in time).
And finally, back toward Albuquerque. Having consumed the, most satisfying, Lotabuger combo in Tucumcari, I was now sassy and satisfied.
Albuquerque (and beyond)
I made the Holiday Inn Express, on the north side of the city, by the time three of us AAA Inspectors had agreed upon. It was there that our trio divvied up the files, yes we were using paper for work of our hard copies back then, plotted our courses and said our goodbyes. The areas I lobbied for, and received, were Santa Fe/Taos, Ruidoso and Roswell (insert UFO/alien joke here).
My dear spouse, Melodye, AKA “Paul”, has family in Roswell. Her Uncle, aunt and first cousin live there. Uncle Judson, Mel’s mother’s brother, met Aunt Wanda back when he was stationed at Walker Air Force Base in Roswell. After marrying, they dwelled a few years in Lower Alabama where he was a football coach and spent at time in Uniontown and Sweetwater. Thomaston, or Magnolia really, is where he and his siblings grew up. It was there that “Paul” spent her four years of high school.
I loaded up my files and made my way, northeast, toward Santa Fe and beyond. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains are the backdrop for this area of the state. It would be difficult to overstate the depth of their beauty and the power of the ‘Spirit’ that this thin space holds.
The first time I took an assignment here was two years prior, in 1997. I was completely captivated by Santa Fe, Taos and the surrounding desert. It struck a chord deep within my soul. I think of this sacred place frequently and my spirit often longs to return.
Sangre de Cristo.
In english, ‘The Blood of Christ’.
“In the 1800’s, when the Spanish dreamed of conquest, they wanted it all from the native peoples – their land, their gold, their soul. Spanish entradas, entrances, into the lands almost always included armor and friars. It is during one of these early explorations into present day San Luis Valley that a legend was born.
Virginia Simmons in her book, The San Luis Valley: Land of the Six Armed Cross, recounts the legend.
An exploratory party had reached the mouth of the Rio Grande. Father Francisco Torres, a missionary from the Pueblos, looked on to the majestic valley and called it, El Valle de San Luis, after the patron saint of Seville, Spain. As was the custom, the Spanish brought with them natives who were essentially slaves. Weary of their treatment, they rebelled and in the process wounded the dreamer, Father Torres.
Wounded though he was, he and the Spanish party fled down the mountain through the great sand dunes and onto the lake, which is today San Luis Lake.
The party quickly produced a makeshift raft and sailed onto the lake for safety, but it was too late for Padre Torres. His wounds were too deep, and he lay dying on the raft. In his last hours, the sun was setting on the beautiful mountain range. He, no doubt, saw Mt. Blanca and the other peaks that towered over the giant sand dunes. The setting sun hit the snowcapped mountains creating a burst of red – as so often happens to this day. With his dying breath, the Padre soulfully exclaimed, ‘Sangre de Cristo, Sangre de Cristo’ – that is, ‘the blood of Christ, the blood of Christ.’ ”
After spending a week in Santa Fe, I made my way up the winding road to Taos. I landed at El Pueblo Lodge which is just north of the plaza, the heart of this captivating village. I unpacked my luggage, portable stereo (Tull could never be far from me in those days) and files. It was a Sunday and I thought I would take a walk and get a feel for the “place of red willows.”
When I hit the sidewalk , I glanced south toward downtown and then my gaze shifted to the north and Taos Mountain. My spirit stirred and quickened within me. The sacred spoke quietly as if saying, “Welcome back, my son.”
My consciousness returned to ‘anno domini’ 1999. The Best Western was almost immediately across from me. Doug Sahm, of the Texas Tornados and the Sir Douglas Quintet, died in a motel room in Taos in November of 1999. I later learned that it was here at the Best Western.
I blinked and one week of work had come to an end. Eske’s Brew Pub and Eatery had become my go to, after dinner spot in those five days past. There is an outdoor beer garden on site and it is a wonderful place to spend time on a summer night sampling the specialty beers which are served up cold from the tap. The Scottish Ale comes to mind.
Saturday morning! Free time! The lure of Taos Pueblo was strong. I hopped in the Saturn for the very short trip north.
“This Pueblo Indian settlement in northern New Mexico, consisting of ceremonial buildings and facilities, and multi-storey adobe dwellings built in terraced tiers, exemplifies the living culture of a group of present-day Pueblo Indian people at Taos Pueblo. As one of a series of settlements established in the late 13th and early 14th centuries in the valleys of the Rio Grande and its tributaries that have survived to the present day, Taos Pueblo represents a significant stage in the history of urban, community and cultural life and development in this region. Taos Pueblo has been continuously inhabited and is the largest of these Pueblos that still exist, with its North and South Houses rising to heights of five storeys. Taos Pueblo and the people of the Pueblo itself claim an aboriginal presence in the Taos Valley since time immemorial.
Taos Pueblo, whose culture and community are active and thriving, shows many similarities to settlement sites of the ancestral Pueblo people that are preserved in nearby places such Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde. It is nevertheless unique to this region and not derived from Mesoamerican precedents. The property includes the walled village with two multi-storey adobe structures, seven kivas (underground ceremonial chambers), the ruins of a previous pueblo, four middens, a track for traditional foot-races, the ruins of the first church built in the 1600s and the present-day San Geronimo Catholic Church. The Taos mountains (Sangre de Cristo range of the Rocky Mountains) provide the setting for the Pueblo. Within these mountains is the 19,425-ha Taos Pueblo Blue Lake Wilderness Area, a resource of critical importance to the Pueblo’s living culture and agricultural sustainability. The Sacred Blue Lake, intrinsically linked to the Pueblo’s culture, is the source of a stream that flows through the settlement.”
Taos was one of the primary locations for the shooting of the iconic movie, ‘Easy Rider’. Taos Pueblo was one of the major locations utilized in its shooting. Dennis Hopper, like many of us, was also enamored of Taos and the surrounding area. Hopper lived, off and on, in Taos for several years and is buried in nearby Rancho de Taos. His funeral was held here in San Francisco de Asis (St. Francis of Assisi) Church and he is buried in Jesus Nazareno Cemetery.
I later, in June of 2013, made a pilgrimage to Taos and this church and cemetery. It was then and there that I had one of the most profound spiritual experiences of my life.
The drive from Taos to Ruidoso is is a long and lonesome one. Hank Williams was deemed a fitting companion. He and I moaned and groaned our way south to the the resort town of Ruidoso which is nestled in the Sierra Blanca mountain range in the heart of the Land of Enchantment.
Ruidoso in in Lincoln County which was the old stomping grounds of one William Bonney. That took me back to my childhood days of playing ‘Pat Garrett an Billy the Kid’ around our house and in the yards of our neighbors. The question was, always, who would be Pat Garrett and who would get the privilege of playing Billy the Kid.
As you drive the roads of Lincoln County, you begin to feel a palpable sense of Bonney and the Lincoln County War.
“The Lincoln County War was an Old West conflict between rival factions in 1878 in New Mexico Territory. The feud became famous because of the participation of a number of notable figures of the Old West, including Billy the Kid, sheriffs William Brady and Pat Garrett, cattle rancher John Chisum, lawyer and businessman Alexander McSween, and the organized-crime boss Lawrence Murphy.
The conflict arose between two factions over the control of dry goods and cattle interests in the county. The older, established faction was led by Murphy and his business partner, James Dolan, who operated a dry goods monopoly through Murphy’s general store. Young newcomers to the county, English-born John Tunstall and his business partner Alexander McSween, with backing from established cattleman John Chisum, opened a competing store in 1876. The two sides gathered lawmen, businessmen, Tunstall’s ranch hands and criminal gangs to their support. The Murphy-Dolan faction were allied with Lincoln County Sheriff Brady, and supported by the Jesse Evans Gang. The Tunstall-McSween faction organized their own posse of armed men, known as the Regulators, to defend their position, and had their own lawmen, town constable Richard M. Brewer and Deputy US Marshal Robert A. Widenmann.
The conflict was marked by back-and-forth revenge killings, starting with the murder of Tunstall by members of the Evans Gang. In revenge for this, the Regulators killed Sheriff Brady and others in a series of incidents. Further killings continued unabated for several months, climaxing in the Battle of Lincoln, a five-day gunfight and siege that resulted in the death of McSween and the scattering of the Regulators. After Pat Garrett was named County Sheriff in 1880, he hunted down Billy the Kid, killing two other former Regulators in the process. The war was fictionalized in several Hollywood films, including Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, The Left Handed Gun in 1958, John Wayne’s Chisum in 1970 and Young Guns in 1988.”
You can see where the old jail was from which Billy escaped and his alleged hiding place in not far away in the local mountainous country. He was laid to rest, at the age of 21, in Fort Sumner cemetery after being shot and killed by Garrett.
Capitan, in Lincoln County, is also the place of Smokey the Bear’s birth and death. Smokey Bear Historical Park is yet one more place in the fascinating lineage of Lincoln County history.
If you are ever in Lincoln County, be sure to check out all of its historic sites and stop by El Paisano Restaurant for some of the best green chili stew you will ever eat.
And then, there is Roswell. Roswell, in southeastern New Mexico, is the county seat of Chaves County and is most widely known for? You got it! UFO’s, aliens and the like. But the UFO’s and aliens, too often, steal the headlines from what is, also, a most interesting place.
Notable Roswellians or Roswellites?
John Chisum, Demi Moore, John Denver (born here), Pat Garrett, Nancy Lopez, Robert Goddard, Tom Brookshier and ET (NOOOOO!!!) Lol!
The Roswell Museum and Art Center is a must if your travels happen to carry you near the area.
And, of course, there is the Roswell UFO Festival which is held around the Fourth of July weekend. There is also a UFO museum and many local shops which will be happy to sell you some UFO/Alien related goods.
But, the thing that makes Roswell special is my wife’s family, which I am now very proud to call my own. Her uncle Judson, Aunt Wanda and first cousin, Dorothy, and Dorothy’s husband, Steve, are very good people who have meant more to us than words can tell.
Now if you REALLY want something special, outside of Martin’s (pronounced Mar-TEENS) enchiladas, you would have to imbibe on one of Aunt Wanda’s famous ‘Bulldogs’. Bulldogs are known by most as ‘Colorado Bulldogs’, which are essentially White Russians, with a dose of Coke. Now she makes them STRONG, and sometimes without the benefit of anything non-alcoholic, if the mood so strikes her.
One night, in particular, was a special one for “Auntie” and me. We were, per usual, being graciously hosted by Dorothy and Steve. I was working the surrounding area for AAA and had gone to bed at a, somewhat, decent hour. But I couldn’t sleep so I wandered into the kitchen to find Aunt Wanda and her busy self, sweeping the floor.
I startled her as I had my hair down and my bedclothes on. Initially, she might have thought I was one of those supposed aliens that had made its way to the western outskirts of Roswell in search of a drink. “Nanu, nanu!”
She literally jumped back and we both had a good laugh, a great conversation and more than one Bulldog. It remains, in my memory, one of those special moments when two people connect.
God bless the Browns. Everyone should be so lucky to have “outlaws” such as these.
AJ and Wan. I love you both so very, very much.
There are other peoples and places that also make New Mexico what she is. There is White Sands, Cloudcfroft, Carlsbad Caverns and so much more.
‘The Land of Enchantment’, indeed.
All of the above are so important in my ‘relationship’ with New Mexico, but none more meaningful than the last trip Melodye and I made to there, in June of 2013.
Goin’ Out West
We had made the trip on I-20 West, for what seemed, countless times in the past. They began when I was a seminary student in Ft. Worth and continued, of and on, over the succeeding thirty plus years.
Meridian, Jackson, Vicksburg, Monroe, Shreveport, Marshall, Dallas and Ft. Worth. The trip to New Mexico continued to somewhere around Big Spring, TX and then it was off the interstate, the remainder of Texas, across the eastern border of New Mexico and on into Roswell.
I had just retired on June 1 of MMXIII. This was our first trip following that day of liberation. I loved my job with AAA but it was time to move on to new horizons. I had NO idea.
We stopped in Brandon, MS to visit special old friends, Tony and Teresa Martin. It was a grand reunion. Tony and I went back even before I met Melodye at Troy State University, as it was known back then. He and I spent a lot of time there and at Southwestern Seminary after Mel and I were married and he joined me as a student there.
We had dinner, returned to the Martin abode and laughed and talked until the wee hours of the morning. It had been twenty-seven years since we had visited and we picked right up where we left off.
Something in my soul was aroused that night. Again, I had no idea.
We took it on in to Ft. Worth the next day. A Whataburger in Louisiana for lunch and then the final stretch to our destination. We settled in to our quarters for the evening on the northside of town in Fossil Creek.
From there we taxied to Cowtown, the Stockyards and old stomping grounds like the White Elephant Saloon. We had BBQ beef and ribs at the H3 (Hunter brothers) Restaurant and then it was off to some night life ( “Ain’t no good life, but it’s my life…” 😉 ) at Billy Bob’s Texas.
Mark Chesnutt happened to be playing on that night and that’s what drew us to Billy Bob’s for the entire evening.
Mark had recently had an accident, surgery was imminent, and he sat for the duration of the show. He kept a bucket of beer at his side and also made reference to the pain pills he was taking. A good time was had by all. Especially Mark.
When the concert concluded we were standing on a corner, attempting to hail a taxi, I heard the shout of one of Billy Bob’s patrons, “Hey Willie!” I have been called Willie on many occasions. It was no surprise. My long, braided hair and broken nose give me a slight resemblance to the red-headed stranger, but I’m certainly not a dead-ringer for him.
Up the next day and off to run by some old landmarks and an In-N-Out Burger (If you detect a burger pattern here, you are correct. We were in search of the best burger on our trip). The Metroplex had just become one of the latest to offer these tasty burgers which can only be found far west of the Mississippi. Yessir!
Now back on to I-20 for the, not so scenic, drive to Alienville.
As always, we had a great time with Uncle Judson, Aunt Wanda and Dorothy. It happens to be the last time we have seen them in-person. We ate the stacked enchiladas from Martin’s with both red and green chilis. Oh my! There was a salad on the side and I got choked on a rubber band which was, somehow, buried deep in the bagged greens. I had to extract it myself. No fun but I found it humorous, nonetheless.
One day, of our three there, we had lunch at the Cowboy Cafe. I had been instructed, by Melodye, to be sure and not let Auntie pick up the check. Therefore, I secured the bill and placed it securely between my legs on the high top stool on which I sat. As we neared the completion of our meal, Auntie reached under the table, as quick as a road runner, and whipped that ticket from what I thought was a safe place.
“You didn’t think I’d go there, did you Bird?” She barked as we all sat in amazement. Another moment I wouldn’t trade for the world.
“Parting is such sweet sorrow,” but that time came as we had planned to trek northeast to Santa Fe for lunch and then on to Taos for two nights.
Hunting For Hopper, Finding St. Francis
For the remainder of that first afternoon we reacquainted ourselves with Taos. Mel hadn’t been there since 1997 and I since 1999.
After we secured our room, on the south side of town, we began to walk up the main drag toward downtown. Taos Mountain rose dramatically into the brilliant blue sky where slight wisps of sugar white clouds dancing around her.
Is that a tear? I felt as though I was muddling my way to the cusp of a new adventure. Would adventure be the right choice of words? Or was it be more like a mission? Or a search?
There was a festival, of some sort, just west of the town plaza, that afternoon. There was music, arts and crafts, food and more. We enjoyed all but the food as we had plans to dine at Lambert’s later on.
Lambert’s was highly enjoyable with some fine food and drink. Green chili stew, a seafood enchilada (New Mexican style) and a bottle of Line 39 Cabernet Sauvignon. A stroll around the plaza, on an idyllic summer night, and it was back to the motel (NOT the Ritz!) for some rest and repose.
Day two began with with some more time in shops and art galleries, Taos is a noted art colony, and then to Orlando’s for some of the best New Mexican food you could possibly hope to enjoy.
After Orlando’s we went out to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.
Taos Pueblo was next. Mel had never been. San Geronimo Mission Church summoned with a whisper. The Virgin Mary, robed in pink for summer, stood as the centerpiece at the altar. The Pueblos honor Mother Earth in this manner. Father Sun is just to the right and peeping from behind one of the many saints honored here. A few moments of reverence completed our silent time there.
One of the big events of the day was to be the short, six mile, trip to Rancho de Taos to visit the grave of Dennis Hopper.
When we got to Taos we parked at the small town Plaza which is located adjacent to the St. Francis of Assisi Church. I had driven by here before but never stopped.
We were both struck by the beauty of the beautiful adobe building and its grounds. There was also an adobe fence, flowers, trees, a fountain and statues of St. Francis and St. Clare. Clare was a convert of St. Francis and later joined a convent of Benedictine nuns in Italy, not far from the town of Assisi.
As we walked the grounds and took it all in, the “Spirit” began to move. Mind you, at this time I considered myself agnostic but always open to the next experience or encounter of enlightenment or growth or whatever one might term it.
The feeling became more intense as we entered the church. Christ hung at the altar before us. The presence of the “Spirit” became almost audible. It had been a very long time since I had found myself in such a situation. Words failed me as the Divine made its presence known.
The silence was deafening. I was moved, deeply.
But it was a mood of wonder and excitement. What was going on? I felt as though I had been ambushed. My mind raced back and forth.
We made our way back outside and I turned to Melodye, and asked, “What’s going on?” Does God want me to be a Catholic priest? I then realized I had just uttered the word God.
The shop next door seemed to beckon us. We browsed around a bit and I wound up buying a book on the story of St. Francis. It then occurred to me that I had also purchased two driftwood, hand-made crosses from a local hispanic vendor at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge that morning. They both now hang in our home, along with the Prayer of St. Francis, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”
Yes, we did find Hopper’s grave at Jesus Nazareno Cemetery. That was also a nice moment. A denouement, if you will, to the monumental proceedings that had transpired just before.
Two months later, on August 14, Christ, with a great deal of help from St. Francis, completed his awakening of me back into his fold. I would later find that others, most notably Thomas Merton, had experienced what is termed, a second conversion. They tend to come later in life, often in one’s fifties. I happened to be sixty at the time.
In hindsight, I realized that God never left me. He/She cannot leave us. He lives in each and every one of us. It is by the Divine that we are born and that spark is never extinguished. Read the first chapter of John. There are times of awakening and times of doubt and even unbelief, but the flame is NEVER extinguished.
She is always there, waiting patiently, ready to listen, to comfort, to heal, to save and to love us.
God is love. Perfect love. Our lives are a dance with that Love, God.
Dance Me To The End Of Love – Leonard Cohen
“Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We’re both of us beneath our love, we’re both of us above
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love.”