Clowns To The Left Of Me…


…jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle.


This is what my brother Larry would often say, mostly in jest, sometimes for real, always in honesty. Perhaps it was an overload of thoughts and the lack of proper words to describe them, but I doubt it. It is more likely that it was just a sound he made sometimes.  Hard to tell.

I made this sound tonight because of a brain overload, too many words to sort through, and some trepidation. But I have to say something, even if it is not entirely accurate, although I always try to be accurate. I hold this and many other things in common Larry, although some would not believe this to be true.

I am fearful of many things, but few are as troubling as the current polarization of everything.  It appears the far liberal element slipped a bit down the slope, and the far right conservatives ran as fast to the right as they could go, then jumped off. I cannot possibly be the last moderately-in-the-middle-but-slightly-left-leaning-except-when-I-lean-a-little-bit-the-other-way person remaining in America, but perhaps I am. And from my little chair in the middle, I like to think I can see both sides pretty well, and this is part of what I consider:

Is it possible that “Hollywood” is no longer the den of iniquity and caretaker of immorality?  Has that dubious honor been usurped by the faux evangelical mega-churchdom leadership that has risen to new lows of grandeur?  Are those self-professed and air-brushed contenders of the faith willing to sell their souls for the glitter of gold and a shred of elusive, fleeting, and imaginary power. What do they profit, this brood of vipers full of dead men’s bones?

Well, THAT was a lot of out-of-context scripture, but you get my point.

Certainly, there is enough immorality to go around, but in the moral arm-wrestling contest between, oh, let’s say, Roy Moore and Francis McDormand, I know where I would put my money.  A frisky game of Righteous Red Rover between ANY of the evangelical leaders scurrying to curry favor in the White House vs. well, just about anybody?  There is no question. Not all who cry “Lord, Lord” get to hide in the cleft of the rock.

Let’s try this again, in another way: I love the church, even when I don’t like going to church, and I love the precepts found within that living organism that are consistent with the Bible, which I also love. Other than actual prayer, as opposed to the gimme-gimme-gimme-stuff and God-as-a-vending-machine-of-blessings prayer, the Bible is our greatest constant companion illustrating the big picture of truth and blessings, but not the book of rules and shaming and fear as interpreted by too many, nor the hammer used to bludgeon and ridicule the opposition. Many of my dozens of preacher/pastor/minister/priest friends reluctantly, or sometimes gleefully, say something along the same lines, albeit more eloquently and far more intentionally (I don’t have any rabbi friends, so I need to get out more). A few others wallow in the mire of legal statutes that simple are not there.

But I digress…..

Talent does not discriminate geographically (stick with me here). Astonishingly talented people grow up in disastrously desolate places.  Likewise, feeble imitators are found in places of fertile creativity. Such is the case in the imaginary battle between Liberal Hollywood and the Conservative Evangelicals–plenty of both to go around

I shouldn’t cast the first stone here. I couldn’t hit the target anyway with this log in my eye. So am I ready to cut everybody a break? Pray without ceasing? Forgive those who trespass against me? Working on it. Have mercy on me, a sinner.

And don’t forget to vote.



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Teach Your Children Well…

I used to write a little tiny insignificant blog every fall, just as the semester and school year would begin, admonishing my fellow educators (mostly in public schools, where it’s at) to be steadfast, kick ignorance in the butt, and remember that it is about the students, with some sort of folderol about “if it is good for the kids, then it is good to do.”

I still believe all that mess.  It was my life’s work, and it is yours as well.

But here you are, running toward the end of the semester and the end of the school year with great abandon, dreaming of languid summer days and stacks of novels to read with no alarm clocks and a calendar full of leisurely mornings with a cuppa on the back porch (or if you are truly blessed, upon the WTPP of your own making) and a glass of cheap wine (maybe from a box because you aren’t paid enough for a bottle with a cork in it) on the front porch just to irritate your neighbors who still toil in the dusk hours…

So I offer this equally tiny tidbit to my fellow educators near and far, wholly aware that I am no longer trudging alongside you through the tundra of formal education, mile after mile…

I know your “summer vacation” is all too brief, and barely even exists, but it is still way longer than the hiatus of the neighbors that surround you.  I know you don’t really get paid during the summer.  Rather, that you get a minuscule summertime paycheck, but it has been divided equally among the 12 months, so it is verily a tidbit of your actual worth, and it is not enough to take you to the faraway places of your dreams. I also know that for most of you, there are approximately 9 days between late May and early August that you are not in your classroom/bandhall/office/sweatshop involved in the due diligence of your profession, whether it be inventory, figuring out what went wrong or right, undergoing extensive professional development or graduate study, and preparing for the next semester at your own expense, and that you probably spent those 9 days at Corpus, Destin, Pagosa Springs, a state park in Oklahoma, Lake Brownwood, or at home trying to get your flowers to grow.

Don’t wax and whine too much about those kids you left behind in the classroom.  I know you love 86% of them almost as much as you love your own children, and that every endeavor they undertake, and every accomplishment they realize, and every itty-bitty garland of success they enjoy is tied into your own self-worth as a human and as an educator of young minds.

So, in these final moments of the school year, finish big.  Fight the good fight, and run the race.  Stand up to ignorance and bigotry and poverty and hunger and anger and sadness and fear and hatred and despair, and celebrate goodness and learning and strength and faith and love and mobility and competence and confidence and the 457 other things you do every day for those kids.

We gotta start somewhere, and I think it is with you.  May the Lord shine his face upon you and grant you peace.

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Let Me Tell You How It Will Be…

…there’s one for you, nineteen for me

I have once again completed the least enjoyable “right” of U.S. citizenry:  filing my tax returns.  With software and e-filing, it is not as tedious and confusing as it was ten years ago.  I will admit that is kind of entertaining to watch the refund amount in the top left hand corner dance back and forth between negative and positive numbers, rising and falling and swirling about in a Stravinsky/Nijinski-esque ballet in sync with my blood pressure.  The “Abduction” comes to mind.

Submitting my return on the day our nation’s leaders launched numerous missiles into a sovereign nation–albeit an ultra-wacky and dangerous one–bothers me more than a little.  What is the breakdown of my financial contribution to this effort?  Did I supply $0.0034 to the cause?  Did I fund 17 inches of travel for one missile?  Does my minuscule involuntary involvement in what may be the next war make me complicit in such murder and destruction?  Could I order such an attack then calmly sit down to dinner?  Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

I have no idea.  I am afraid of these questions and their answers alike.  I don’t like it.  I don’t know if it was the best move, the worst move, or merely a pompous and blustery move–which reminds me of a statement from the professor in my freshman Bible class regarding the circumcision among the Roman Jews: “you don’t suppose Paul and the boys were comparing penises in the locker room to see who was more religious, do you?”

But I digress…

Since I read and watch many of the same news sources as the rest of you, I am not privy to the secrets and nuances of such behaviors any more than are you.  I don’t know how or why this works any more than you do.  I don’t know what will occur next in Syria or North Korea or Russia or Alabama or Bowling Green any more than you do.  But I probably know no less than you, and I fear that the people making such decisions know only a smidgen more.

We are made aware, sort of, who makes these decisions.  Sometimes we are fed information on why these decisions are made.  Most of the time we are intentionally kept in the dark.  The fallout of this vacuum of truth and distraction has been the creation of an environment in which conspiracies theories run amok.  Any idiot with access to a computer can become a blogger and call themselves a journalist and spew misinformation to millions of nut jobs looking to justify their own prejudice or fear (same thing). We languish under the delusions of fake news and alternative facts.  I miss the trustworthiness of news reporters like Walter Cronkite.  Or was he on Nikita Khrushchev’s payroll as well?  No.  I hope.  Maybe.  No.

Don’t ask me what I want it for
If you don’t want to pay some more

‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman
And you’re working for no one but me.

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Time Keeps On Slippin’….

…(slippin’, slippin’) into the future.


Once upon a time, in the days of yore and of my youth, I did what any self-respecting youth in the day would do when moving:

unpack the turntable and receiver and speakers and albums, and set them up first.

With this foolproof system, moving the rest of my belongings into the dorm room/rent house/apartment/etc would take very little time, as I was listening to my vinyl tunes that somehow moved the boxes of stuff a little faster.

It was a steady manual shuffle rotation of The Byrds, Poco, Chicago, Flying Burrito Brothers, Frank Zappa, Earl Scruggs, Weather Report, Igor Stravinsky, BS&T, Dillard & Clark, Stan Kenton, and The Beatles. Every 11-14 minutes I would stop my moving endeavors, turn the record over, carefully place the needle on the “starter groove,’ then return to my labors.

Today, after three months of working elsewhere around the house, THDH and I finished painting my office. After establishing ground rules, we finally–finally!–opened the old box and set up the stereo. As always, it worked.  The SONY turntables and the circa 1972 Realistic STA-42 Stereo Receiver and matching 500 lb. speakers sound great inside the newly painted room.

Thanks, Rodney Crowell, for the first listen today. It was a random choice, but it worked well.

One need never listen to compressed digitalized zeroes and ones in this room.  Time to finish up my taxes…


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Country Roads Take Me Home

…to the place I belong.


So long as it isn’t West Virginia.  Nothing wrong with WV, but it isn’t home.


It has been several months since I last visited my own blog.  This isn’t because I have nothing to write, but rather because I have too much to write.  I have not been able to sort it out properly.  I will admit that I never have sorted it out very well, but I am often reminded of a statement by an old and recently departed college friend, Bob LaVelle, who once said something along the lines of…

“school is where they unscrew the top of your head and pour facts and dates and into it, then demand that you puke that crap up on demand”


That is sort of how my brain mis-functions, and I think it is how yours does as well, unless you are one of my brothers who can focus 100% on the task at hand and see it to completion, whereas my other brother and I tend to tag-team 20 ideas simultaneously while juggling the task at hand, achieving 95% completion of 80% of the tasks.


I have written more than once about my affection for the open road, and the decisions to be made during such travel. Today was one of those days of backroads driving through unknown places in the country–WAY in the country, where people date their cousins and eat with their feet–that extend through hollers and hills, by quiet streams and placid lakes, where settlers travelled westward to the frontier through Cherokee lands, where people fed contented cattle and tilled fertile and infertile soil for generations back to the 18th century,  where future kings of France and future US presidents explored, and young men announced their vice-Presidency where their daddy once ran for Senate, and roadsigns provide direction to the nearest Church of Christ or Baptist tabernacle with a steeple atop a white framed holy of holies next to the gravel-laden cemetery across the road from the gilded Party Palace of sin and debauchery of whiskey, and black men knew it was not a good idea to gaze upon a blond-haired white woman until sometime last week.


Since I last wrote here, family members died, family members were born, family members moved, family jobs were altered, new families began, and some ended.  As for myself, well, Eisenhower was president when I first stepped into a classroom, but I have not been inside a band hall or a classroom since December 1, 2016.  It seems I am finally actually retired, nine years after I retired.


When we made our rather recent move to another state, family here asked, “won’t you miss your friends back in Texas?”  Yes, about ten of them (you can guess which ones).  So many others have moved away, or died in the last two years, which is the BIG move away, I suppose.  Far too many have died.  Too many funerals, too many tears, and too many heartfelt yet insanely irritating comments like, “She is in a better place,” or “God just need another angel” and other ridiculous verbal diarrhea.  Two more dear friends are moving FAR away next month, and it is entirely possible I may never see them again.  That also goes for additional peripheral friends we have made over the last 40 years in another place–another place I have little reason to visit, so I won’t.  Not much, anyway.  So we won’t be seeing those folks, either.  But we will be seeing lots of family from whom we have been separated for lo, these many decades–mostly two little nuggets of granddaughterly perfection, but that’s a blog that will not be written.  They are mine and you can’t have them.


I am aware that this isn’t a very coherent read.  My most recent article in a regional magazine was sort of the same disgusting drivel (sorry Melissa).  I also hope you are aware that I needed to let some of this out of my head.  If there is a term for this sort of word play that resembles the musical ear worm, I want to know what it is, because that’s what I have. Word Worm.  I gots to gets it out and lets it go in order to make room for sumpin’ else that hopefully be’s better.


Now I have to go patch the walls where I took off the 40-year old wallpaper.  Nothing new under the sun, wrote King Solomon.


Solomon was right.

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Southern Man…

…better keep your head.

The Confederate flag.

Done.  Whatever noble or ignoble heritage it once represented, it does so no more.

As a son of the south, who was born in Tennessee, raised in Florida, then spent his adult years in Texas, I freely admit that I relate to the southern culture of warm embraces, a welcoming at the front door, a plate of food at the ready, a well-meant “hello” to strangers and friends alike, and a touch of rebellion and love at every turn.  These are traits I learned in the south, from southern gentlemen and gentlewomen.

One of my earliest memories is of riding to downtown Nashville on a bus with my most southern and most gracious mother to shop at Castner-Knott department store.  This would have been circa 1959 or 1960. Returning home, we got on the bus, and there were no empty seats, except at the back of the bus.  I started back that way, and my mother said, “We can’t sit there. We can stand right here.”  And we stood.  My mother moved politely out of the way–and made me do the same–when a black woman got on the bus, making it ever so slightly easier for her to make her way to the back of the bus.

I thought the back of the bus was for special people.  Of course, now I know that it was limited and designated ONLY for black people back in the pre-Civil Rights days, and I clearly remember the red line separating that section of the bus from the front section of the bus.  I had no idea what was going on, as I was four, or maybe five.  As it turns out, that part of the bus was for special people after all, because I couldn’t sit there.  Mom wasn’t being racist.  She was being practical and law-abiding.  She was being southern.  And she was being caring.

During this last week of discussions and arguing regarding the south and the Confederate flag, I keep returning to Revelation 3:15, which you can find easily enough at the back of the New Testament of the Bible, much like those seats were found in the back of the bus…

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

And later in verse 19…

So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

So, I choose to not be lukewarm.  I do not care to be spewed out of the mouth of God!  I have to pick a side–either hot or cold.  Either racist or whatever it is that is the opposite of racist.  So if He can invite me in to eat, then I can do the same to others, as did my mother and father, and those who came before them.

I choose no more Confederate flag.  I choose whatever it is on that other side.  I choose love.

I may very well know more about the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia and its history than some–or very much less than others.  But this I know beyond a shadow of a doubt:

Whatever and wherever and however that flag began, it has become a symbol of racism and hatred, and during the last week, a symbol of murder.

As for my southern heritage?  I cling to that as I do the Holy Bible, for that is where I learned the love of Jesus, the grace of God, and the importance of a cup or three of sugar and a stick of butter in the chess pie that my mother served to hundreds of people over the years.

My southern heritage is not tied up in a racist symbol of a renegade group of brave and honorable men and women who happened to believe in slavery and fought against what may or may not have been a northern aggressor attacking their way of life.  But it is clear that the flag was then co-opted by the Klan and too many others as a symbol of hatred and fear.  No.

I do not need the Stars and Bars to define me nor my heritage.  I have so many more issues to serve that purpose.  If you are from the south, then you do as well.  If you are from the north, then you have your own issues, and you may deal with them in your own right.

Rather, my southern heritage is enveloped in that aforementioned chess pie, and ice tea with a cup of sugar in every glass, and Sunday dinner on the “fancy table, and two kinds of dessert (maybe three) at most meals, and at least three vegetables, and hymns sung under the trees in the front yard, and capturing lightning bugs in a Mason jar with my grandfather, and seeing the good in others even when they showed you their worst, and Wednesday night “prayer meetings,” and the Grand Ol’ Opry every Saturday night (with the Confederate Gallery), and praying before meals, and the smell of tobacco in the hanging barn (even though my grandfather was not in favor of using tobacco), and working hard for what you wanted, and hand-fans in the country church with the picture of a hipster Jesus on one side and the funeral home advertisement on the other, and Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, and the painting of the Jordan River behind the baptistry, and “bless your heart” when it didn’t go your way, and the little communion cups in silver trays, and the hugs my father gave to all who entered (whether they wanted them or not), and Christmas Eve at Grandmommy’s house with the cousins and goofy costumes, and the Bible as a cornerstone of all decisions, and the Chuck Wagon Gang, and the “Do This In Remembrance Of Me” engraved into the communion table, and the love and caring of my parents, and their parents, and their parents–going back to the Civil War–and their parents, and their parents–going back to the Revolutionary War–who opened their doors to all who visited.  And those visitors, without exception, whether white or black or brown, as it developed, left our home knowing that at least one household in the world–in the south–held nothing but love and care for them.

I am from the south.  I do not own a Confederate flag.  I don’t think one should be displayed in any state house, but I am not in charge of flags and state houses.  In a museum?  Maybe.  That’s for the curator and the public to decide.  As for me?

Chess pie, baby.


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I’ve been everywhere, man…

…but Billy has me beat by one today.


My trombone brother, Kinsman brother, Big Purple Band brother, co-coach of what was likely the worst intramural softball team at ACU (except for the team we beat), musician in the 3rd worst Bob Wills tribute band (we would have been the worst, but Billy could sing), white-water canoe aficionado on the Guadalupe, co-founder of the “Midtown Jewboys” church league softball team, automotive sound system designer, Texas Democrat pundit, Registered Texas Nurseryman, lover of Blue Bell (and ALL things Texas), James Monroe historical scholar, incredible teacher, so-so trombone player, teller of tales, singer of songs, funny punster, devoted husband, proud father, and lover of God.


That poorly sums it up in all too few words, but words are about all I have to remind us that a very fine man has earned his reward today after a long battle with Early Onset Alzheimer’s disease.


We have been friends since 1974.  I sang at his wedding.  We have done lots of really good things together, and maybe a couple of bad ones, including that failed speaker installation in his car.


I hope you have a Billy in your life somewhere.  If you’re lucky, it’s this same Billy Jack Knowles that I have had in mine.  I am WAY better for it.


See you soon enough, Billy.  We’ll help keep an eye on Kathy and Shelley for you


“As heaven would miss the stars above…”

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