Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ambushed by sorrow

Tonight as I was packing for a trip, I poked around in the closet.
I noticed a little wooden box in the back of an upper shelf

and decided to see what was in it.
The top was brightly decorated.

Then I recalled its origin.
Nancy and I bought it in 1994 during a honeymoon vacation in Jamaica.

I opened it,
and inside
I had placed
the contents
of her wallet

after leukemia took her in 2003.

In the bottom were our wedding rings.

Sorrow had ambushed me.

Tears did not flow,
but their wells were stirred.

These thoughts do not trouble me constantly,
but sometimes,
and when least expected,
sorrow will alight
if only for a moment.

As I age,
I find that life
finds more ways
to remind me
of its brevity.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

My interesting life

I have lived a very interesting and full life.
Actually several lives.

My first life began with a normal childhood.

Born February 1946 at the leading edge of the Baby Boom.
Raised in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC.

Graduated from William & Mary in 1968 with a BA in Psychology.

Married my high school sweetheart the day before college graduation.

Short Navy career, then 29 years with the Telephone Company. (This is my mom telling me how to run the company)

Raised two wonderful children

Who are each raising two wonderful children of their own.

Took piano lessons from age six to 16.

Thus began a parallel life,
That of a musician.

Here I am with The Cavaliers, JEB Stuart High School's stage band.

Began playing in bands at age 15.

Played lots of private parties in high school.

Here's the first page from the song book of "The Redlighters, my first high school rock band.

Here I am (2nd from left) with The Shades, featured in The Washington Star Weekender in 1964, my senior year of high school.

Played through college at frat parties, earning spending money.

Here I am with The Strangers at our first paying gig during our Freshman year at William & Mary.

And here I am playing our last job.

Played in “Inner Light,” a highly successful agency band from 1973-77
Including one year of Fridays and Saturdays at the Olney Inn from 8:30 to midnight,
Then a contract with Washington Talent the following year
Lots of weddings, bar-mitzvahs, bat-mitzvahs and country club parties.

All tuxedo gigs.

Yes, ruffled shirts and all.
My trademark was a leather top hat.

Here I am in action with guitarist Jerry Kozelsky looking on in amusement.

We played Jimmy Carter’s Election Night celebration at the Statler-Hilton in Washington, DC before 3,000 people and two national TV networks . With less than a week’s notice, we managed to learn the Jimmy Carter theme song and perform it together perfectly the first time on stage.

Eleven fallow years from 1977-88.

Passion was rekindled in 1988 after sitting in with the house band while on vacation at the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Auditioned for a classic rock band immediately after returning from the beach.

Became the leader.

The band became “Mirage.”

Mirage played clubs in Northern Virginia for 3 ½ years,
Putting my daughter through two years of

In 1992 I got to play the blues with future FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein at Blues Week in Elkins, WV.

First marriage fell apart in 1994 after 26 years.

New marriage to Nancy in 1995;

New life began in 1998.

Retired from my white collar job after 29 years,
Sold my parents’ estate,

Stuck a pin in a map and decided to move to Nashville

to invent a new life
Away from the shadow of my first life.

By the spring of 1999 I was on tour

With the best band I had ever played with, “Ashley & Alexia.”
The dream I had nourished for decades had been realized.

But art won’t pay the bills,
So after nine months of searching,

In June 2000 I landed a white collar job in state government.

Leukemia claimed Nancy.
It started on her birthday in 2002
And ended one year later.
And so also ended that life of mine.

Suzanne ushered in yet another new life.
We met via an Internet dating service,
She had also lost two spouses as had I.
The first to divorce,
The second to death.

We’ve made our new lives together since then.

And yes, I still play in bands.
Here I am in 2003 (2nd from right) with Ben Byler & The Rest, a classic rock band.

What lessons have I learned?

Exercise, eat right, make love and play music as often as possible,
Because life is short,
And it’s our job to enjoy it while it lasts.

And for my interesting life I am thankful this Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veterans Day

Yesterday was Veterans Day.

I am a veteran of the Vietnam War,
in which 50,000 of my generation gave their lives.

All of us had to deal with it somehow.

I graduated from college in 1968, the year of the Tet Offensive.
Men of my age were drafted in huge numbers,
and to avoid that fate I applied for admission to Naval Officer Candidate School.
I was accepted, so six weeks after college graduation I showed up in Newport, RI
to begin a grueling 4 1/2 months that would qualify me to lead men into battle, read navigation charts and fire torpedoes.

Lady Luck was on my side, however.

Upon graduation, I was assigned to the job of Assistant Legal Officer at the Little Creek Amphibious Base in Norfolk, VA. I prepared cases for Captain's Mast (a.k.a. Article 15), prosecuted Special Courts Martial and conducted investigations. So in the spring of 1969 I returned to Newport, this time to live in an apartment off base with my wife while attending legal classes on base. In six weeks' time I learned all I needed to know about the rules of evidence and procedures for carrying out military justice.

So no bullets whizzed by my head.
I never had to live in a tent or even go to sea.
My wife and I lived in an apartment only ten minutes from my office.

What's more, after only eleven and a half months' commissioned service,
the Navy informed me that I had three choices:
1. Go to sea immediately;
2. Transfer from Naval Reserve to regular Navy (which meant going to sea);
3. Leave active duty.

And so with only six weeks' notice,
I found myself looking for a civilian career.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

On life and the veil

On Halloween I felt moved to write a post about Nancy's death, starting with her diagnosis of leukemia in the spring of 2002 and ending with her death a year later.

Yesterday wifie told me that according to ancient pagan lore,

the veil between this world and the next reaches its thinnest point around Halloween.

So I wonder...

What exactly is the nature of this veil?
What does it mean to be alive or dead?
What is the nature of the life force?
What is spirit?

Where does it come from, and where does it go?

Is life a river?

Does life flow through us?

The food we eat, the air we breathe.
We become Earth, and it becomes us
in a continuous fluid,
the river of life.

Then life is like a song,
forever creating itself in the perpetual Now,
always coming into and out of existence.

The two components of life:
1. Instructions (DNA)
2. Force (energy)

Instructions assemble and shape the force.

And so the hamburger I eat becomes me;

and through the process of eating, drinking and breathing,
I become one with the earth;
it becomes one with me,
and so my apartness from the earth is an illusion.

The force itself is life.
And so life continues on.

DNA shapes the Force.
Gives it a personality,
a fingerprint,
a face.

DNA enables the continuation of life threads,
which individually weave together
into the rich tapestry which is
the diversity of life,
the sea of forms,
that each arose and continue to arise from the earth itself.

DNA is the principle of organization.

Each individual is a branch of the vine of life,
and as such exists on a continuum of forms,
each deriving its individuality from a unique combination
of the elements from which its parents were themselves formed.

I am my parents,
or rather a node on the vine from which they arose.
There is nothing of me that wasn't also present in my parents' DNA.

And so although the form of me is unique,
the elements of design (DNA)
and the life force that animates these elements
are only borrowed from the earth.

I am reminded of something Nancy said during her last days of life.
I asked her what she thought would happen to her when she died.
She gestured toward the woods behind our house and replied,
"I will become one with the trees and birds out there,"
and so she asked that her ashes be spread in our woods.