Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Monday, April 23, 2012

What! Not Again!

It is with great anticipation that I wait for the annual Time magazine issue that announces "the 100 most influential people in the world."  Though it is dated April 30, 2012 it arrived at the house last Friday.  As I scanned the cover I did not see a picture of myself anywhere . . . but hey, I am not egotistical . . . I can let others have the glory . . . that is what influential people do--they share the glory.  Makes everyone think that they are nice people.  Opening up the cover and scanning through the pages I thought I had gotten a defective copy as I could not find my picture anywhere inside the magazine.  That is the only way I could explain the omission.  But I was sadly mistaken--a annual occurrence--as it dawned on me that there were ten rows of ten pictures on the cover--2012's most influential people were on the cover; and, it turned out that I have all the pages in my copy of the magazine.  The Time panel ignored me once again!

To see the complete list of "the 100 most influential people in the world" go to http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,2111975,00.html.  In respect of Time magazine's panel of experts I must admit that they do have a fairly impressive group of people to offer.  On the cover alone they name Tim Tebow, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, Christine Lagarde, Tim Cook, Viola Davis, Marco Rubio, Louis CK, Rihanna, Warren Buffett, Lionel Messi, Matt Lauer, Benjamin Netanyahu, Stephen Colbert, and Adele.  Of the fifteen they named on the cover I knew eight of them!  After checking out the rest on the inside of the magazine I am willing to admit that I probably don't know about two-thirds of the people listed.  It is a unique combination of politicians, entertainers, athletes, royals, religious, and wealthy people--apparently none of which I am!

Now I think that it is a "given" that certain people are going to make the list--especially politicians when it is an election year.  I think Hillary Clinton is a natural for the list as she is a fairly influential person as the Secretary of State for the United States--I'll give them that one.  Now Mitt Romney . . . I had to think about that one for a little bit . . . it is an election year and he will probably be the Republican Party's candidate for the presidential election . . . I wasn't sure if this was a selection for politics or entertainment . . . but the panel is filled with experts so they must know what they are doing.  Still, I wonder.

Athletes . . . outside of the sporting world I am not too sure that they are that influential.  I suppose that Tim Tebow was selected for his power witness to his faith . . . even though it is not a faith that totally represents all those who are believers in Jesus.  His is a more conservative brand, but it is a powerful witness.  I guess we will see how he survives in the Big Apple or if the Big Apple will eat him alive.  Jeremy Lin (picture above) is a little different even though he too is an evangelical Christian.  Lin is the first person of his race to be in the National Basketball Association and to make an impact on a team--though the team is the Knicks.  Time magazine did a unique thing in having Lin pay homage to Tebow--kind of a mini-revival of sorts as they tooted each others horns.  I guess I am not evangelical or conservative enough in my faith to make the list . . . nor athletic enough.  I guess my superior days of athleticism are long gone, though many say they never were.

Now I think that part of the selection process had to do with how one looks physically.  And, I would have to admit that many of the folks on the list were either beautiful or handsome--two qualities I have never been accused of having.  Having said that I question one of their selections--Pippa Middleton.  Granted, Pippa fills out her clothing quite nicely.  She popped onto the international scene as she was the maid of honor for her sister when she married that "prince guy" from England.  As I said, she literally "popped" onto the scene thanks to her ability to fill her dress.  Many proclaimed that she had the perfect ass--I won't argue, but I too have been called the "perfect ass".  You don't see my name or picture in Time magazine's "100 most influential people of the world list."

I am not into politics . . . don't have the physical looks . . . definitely don't have Warren Buffett's money . . . not athletic enough . . . not conservative enough in my faith . . . can't sing like Adele or Rihanna . . . I am not known by one name . . . I haven't invented anything . . . I haven't been arrested for protesting some great injustice . . . I haven't been in prison . . . I am not that funny, though I have been called funny looking . . . and the list could go on and on as to why I was not selected once again. 

I guess I should take consolation in the knowledge that I was a runner-up once again.  Coming in second is not so bad.  But it is getting tiresome coming in second, but I am a nice guy and nice guys always finish last.  So, I will lick my wounds, work a little harder at getting famous, and count the days until Time magazine announces it 2013 list of "the 100 most influential people in the world."  I just know that I am getting closer each year.  Heck, I finally made the wife's top ten list this year!  Things are looking up!

Friday, April 20, 2012


Domestic: Of or relating to the home; of or relating to the activities normally associated with the home, wherever they actually occur.

Domesticity: home life; devotion to or familiarity with home life; and, a domestic duty, matter, or condition.

In approximately five days our home will be invaded by family returning for the youngest son's graduation from college.  Our pregnant daughter will be flying in from Alabama to see her little brother graduate.  The youngest's main (and only squeeze) will be flying in from Utah.  The youngest will be moving back into the house.  Our quiet house will quickly be transformed into a rocking, rollicking, noisy sanctuary of family . . . and I am looking forward to it all.  Even as an introvert I can handle a few days of the noise my loved ones make.  What I am dreading is the five days leading up to the grand entrance of our loved ones.

I am about to be transformed into "Domesticity Man"!!!

In the next couple of days I am going to be dropping into the "cleaning" mode as the wife has given me a "honey do" list a mile long of things that I must do to prepare the house for our guests.  Despite my best arguments that returning children are not "guests"--they are our children and we should be saving the list and chores for them when they get here, I am being told the list will be completed come hell or high water or children coming home.  So, whether or not I like it, I am to become a virtual Mr. Clean.

The only thing I have that Mr. Clean doesn't have--though I don't really have a whole bunch of it--is hair.  The bald dude has no hair . . . but he has everything else.  He has good looks--I'm average looking.  He has muscles--there are rumors that I once had muscles about thirty years ago.  He has snazzy white clothes--I've got clothes.  And, he has the ability to clean and make any house sparkling clean--I have ability, maybe not cleaning ability, but I have ability.  I bought a bottle of that Mr. Clean stuff, opened it, and waited for him to appear like a genie out of a bottle and got nothing but a big puddle of liquid on the counter.  I think there is a little false advertising going on here . . . 

And, so, tomorrow morning I begin working on the "list"--and what a list it is.  I am to clean the blinds in the house--last count there are six setts of blinds in the house.  I say pull them up and let the sun shine in, but if I do that then I have to add cleaning the windows to the list . . . keep them down and not let anyone into the room until after it gets dark.  But, no, I will clean the blinds.  Clear out the closets of all the junk and stuff that has accumulated since we move to Montana--three and a half years worth of junk and stuff.  Now mind you this junk and stuff is ninety percent the wife's--closets are her hiding place for things she no longer wants.  I will probably pull the pick-up around back and have a pitching party--straight to the church for the next garage sale.  Then there is cleaning carpets--upstairs and downstairs.  Again, if I keep everybody's eyes up they'll never see the shape of the carpets.  Then there is dusting, painting furniture, sweeping, vacuuming, scrubbing the tub and toilet, creating two terrariums, rolling out a new decorative carpet in the living room, and finding new places to hide new junk and stuff.  My mind and body shudder at the work that must be done . . . and this does not include the "manly" outside work that needs to be done.  I'm tired of it just thinking about it!
When I told someone I know about this adventure that was before me, the individual suggested that I make the work fun.  Well, if work was fun it wouldn't be called work--it would be called fun.  But the person had a point as I remembered back to those days when we would clean the house I shared with several guys in college.  About once a month or when the dirt and garbage piled up too high we would clean the house.  Now most normal people would say that the amount of time they spend cleaning a house is measured in hours--not my college buddies and I.  Nope, cleaning house was measured in six packs!  Typically cleaning the house was a six pack job--per person!  Drinking beer while cleaning house made work fun.  So now I am thinking . . . cleaning house . . . beer . . . the perfect combination.  In fact, they have made things that make this working relationship work: the six pack belt!
Great idea!  Then I thought, I can rig up a cup holder on the handle of the vacuum cleaner to hold my beer.  I could get one of those hard hats with the double cup holders and plastic tubes.  Shoot, this domesticity stuff ain't going to be too tough after all.  With such wonderful cleaning tools at my disposal cleaning should be a cinch!  I figure, from gauging the length of the list, that tomorrow's chores should only take half a case to complete . . . probably over two days as I will probably need a nap after the first six pack . . . but it can be done!  I can handle being domesticated, but not with domesticated beer--micro brews all the way!

Well, it was nice to dream . . . I made the mistake of telling the wife my plans.  No words were exchanged . . . just the "look".  The "look" said everything loud and clear.  There will be no beer involved in the preparations and cleaning of the house before the big event.  Nope, not even root beer.  It will all be blood, sweat, and tears--mostly mine as I bust my rear end fulfilling the "honey do" list.  I can already feel and hear the gnashing of teeth and the lamenting of the mouth.  It won't be pretty.  Now I'm thinking this domesticity stuff sucks . . . sucks to high heaven.

There has to be a better way . . . I am thinking . . . dark sunglasses.  Yeah, dark sunglasses.  I'll buy everyone a pair of Oakley sunglasses as a "welcome home" gift.  Can't see anything indoors when you are wearing dark sunglasses.  I should have thought of that years ago.  Sure saves a lot of time.  But I am sure the wife will give me the "look".  Oh, the things we do for those we love.  Wish me luck!

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Living in the Plains area of Nebraska I had always wanted to attend a powwow, but never did even though they were held on a yearly basis in North Platte--about 90 miles from where we were living.  Since moving to Montana there have been plenty of opportunities to attend a powwow--especially with seven reservations and many tribes located throughout the state.  Despite the frequency of these gatherings I had yet to attend one in the three-and-a-half years of living in Montana.  We are now entering into the "powwow season" with the state's universities Indian clubs hosting powwows on their campuses.  A few weeks ago the big powwow was at the Montana State University in Bozeman, this weekend it is at Montana State University Billings--practically in my own backyard!  So . . . I went!

"Powwow was an Algonquin term, "pauwau" or "pauau", which referred to a gathering of medicine men and spiritual leaders. "Pauwauing" referred to a religious ceremony, usually one of curing. In the 1800's the European explorers observing these religious gatherings and dances mispronounced the word as powwow. (Jennings, The Invasion of America, p. 241.)  Native American ceremonies, commonly known as powwows, have evolved from a formal ceremony of the past into a modern blend of dance, family reunion, and festival. Powwows are famous for their pageantry of colors and dance which have been adapted and changed since their beginnings into a bright, fast, and exciting event geared towards Native Americans and visitors alike. 

Simply put, a powwow is a great big family gathering and party.  There is singing, dancing, hugging, playing, catching up on old times, noise, laughter, and people everywhere!  There is lots of dancing.  It is a chaotic time filled with joy.  It is almost a little overwhelming the first time one goes, but it is difficult not to get caught up in the movement of gathering and celebrating one another and one's culture.  In short, it is a blast.  

 Now my understanding, which may be way off, is that when the United States government finally conquered (for no better term) the Indians of the West and shipped them off to reservations the goal was to make the Indians like them--primarily white.  In order to do this the government sent the children off to boarding schools, dressed the Indians in white people's clothes, made them settle down and become farmers, and took away their religion.  Again, that is simply put and it is much more complicated and diabolical than that what the government attempted to do.  Since a lot of their religious ceremony centered around dance, the Indians were not allowed to dance--except in dance contests in which prize money was given at powwows.

Because of this there is a lot of dancing done at powwows.  Used to be that females were not allowed to dance at powwows, but because of the dwindling population of the tribes they were later allowed.  Thus there are "dance contests" at every powwow broken down into categories: male/female children, male/female teens, male/female adults, traditional, and fancy dance--plus inter-tribal dances where everyone joins in the fun.  Out of each group winners are chosen and presented with a cash prize.  Thus there is always a lot of dancing going on--colorful, joyful, whirling, spinning, enthusiastic dancing!  It is a blast . . . and everyone joins in.

My impressions of the evening I spent at the powwow hosted by the Montana State University Billings Indian Club is one of fascination and wonderment.  In the noise and swirling colors of the outfits there was a great sense of joy.  Joy in the moment, joy in the gathering, joy in those whose presence graced one another.  It was a magical event.  I enjoyed the fellowship of those who were gathered.  I enjoyed the exuberance of those who let loose and danced.  Despite the fact that there were many different tribes gathered from Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and beyond it was still like one great big family reunion.  It was a blessing to have the opportunity to be in the midst of such hospitality and love.  In all honesty I still have not processed the whole experience in such a way that I can write a coherent blog about it . . . so, I think I will let the picture speak for themselves at this time until I go to the next one . . . which I hope will be the one on the Crow Reservation in July.  Until then, enjoy!

And, as I kind of gathered at the powwow . . . everything is worth sharing.  These two little girls seemed to have that "spirit"!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Little Potpourri

"A miscellaneous collection."

Maybe we have crossed that imaginary line with the weather here in Montana--at least in the lower elevations.  This morning began with a rain storm.  That was all . . . just rain.  There was no snow mixed into the rain.  There was no snow that turned over to rain later in the day.  It was just plain old rain.  Oh, I am sure the mountains picked up some snow and that is not unusual in Montana where it can snow during any month of the year.  But today was different . . . it was just rain.  The earth around here loved it.  The grass greened up, the leaves began to sprout, and there was mud.  Everyone and everything sucked it in.  This was a spring rain.  Maybe, just maybe, we have crossed over that imaginary line that separates winter from spring.  If so, we had better enjoy it while it lasts!  

Plus, if we have really crossed over that imaginary line not only does new growth signify a new season, but it also signifies the changing of the tools.  Gone are the snow shovels, snow tires, sand bags in the back of the trucks . . . and out comes the lawn mower, the rakes and shovels, all the lawn care stuff.  With that stuff also comes the annual yard care lament as I mow the grass, weed the gardens, fight the dandelions, and attempt to keep everything green.  This is not work that I enjoy doing . . . it is a part of the contract I agreed to when I got married.  I should have read the fine print . . .

Spoke to a neighbor this evening and learned that his son, who lives next door to him, got a fine for his dog peeing on a bush in his father's yard.  The dog was basically on his own property (the houses have adjoining yards) when he needed to take a leak.  So the bush got baptized.  Somehow the local law enforcement officer, driving down from the school, decided that the dog was roaming the streets and was a hazard to the community.  So the officer stopped, fined the man, and drove off.  Thirty dollars for the dog watering a bush on its own property.  To say the least this did not sit well with the son.  I was flabbergasted at the story--especially since the dog was on its own property and peeing on its own tree.  But, no, said the officer, the dog was running in and out of the street.  Now I am afraid to let my dogs go out into the front yard--they might get caught peeing.  The headlines would be terrible: "Local Pastor's Dogs Run Rampant--Peeing on Trees!"  

I guess it must have been a slow day for the officer as our little community of 600 rural people have such a high crime rate.  The officer had nothing better to do than to write a ticket for a dog taking a leak on its own property.  Then he had the audacity to fine the leaky pup thirty dollars.  I guess that was better than him using his one city-issued bullet to shoot the poor dog for taking an illegal leak.  I don't blame the dog.  I think that when Mother Nature calls that is one call we all ought to answer.  It just doesn't seem fair that it cost the dog thirty dollars.  I wonder that the fine would have been if this had happened:

 Book him, Dano!

I went to a book sale at the wife's church today--thousands and thousands of books.  It is a really good deal because they sale them for almost nothing and make a ton of money.  Despite being in the land of books I walked away without purchasing one book . . . instead I bought a bunch of vinyl records.  Of course anyone under the age of twenty-five is probably wondering what in the world a vinyl record is, plus how in the world a CD that big would ever fit into a CD player.  Before there were 8-track tapes . . . before there were cassette tapes . . . before there were CDs--there were vinyl records.  And they came in two standard sizes 45s and 38s, but even before that there were 78s.  This was how people listened to music in those prehistoric days.  People would flop one of those on the record player and out would come music.  True, it was a little inconvenient to carry a record player around to take the music with you, but that was the price one paid for good music. 

At the book sale there were vinyl records for sale for twenty-five cents a record.  So I picked up some records.  I got the original soundtrack to The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music--classics that everyone should own.  I picked up the Best of the Bee Gees, Neil Diamond Gold, Carol King's Tapestry, and Linda Ronstadt's Silk Purse.  I also got a copy of the original soundtrack of Jesus Christ Superstar (recorded by the original London cast--bet you didn't know that it was a major hit in England before it ever got over to the United States).  I got them all for three bucks.  Besides loving the music I was also moved by something else . . . cash signs.  These original records--all in good shape--had to be worth more than the three bucks I paid for them.  I was seeing big bucks in my mind as some of these records went all the way back to the dark ages of 1962.  These weren't just records, these were an investment to retire on.

Pipe dreams at best.  True they were worth more than the three dollars I paid for them, but nothing even close to retiring on.  In fact there wasn't enough there to even fill the tank of the car.  When it was all said and done the value of the records I bought was a whopping thirty dollars--thirty dollars if I could find someone to pay me that.  Oh well, it was worth the three bucks to see the look of joy on the wife's face as she went through each of the record remembering that she used to have most of them.  Plus, after I tried to shove one into the car's CD player, getting it stuck, I figure it will probably take more than thirty dollars to get all the broken pieces out of the player.  Oh well, live and learn!

Tomorrow morning I take the number two son to a doctor appointment in the big city.  Afterwards he wants to do a little shopping for clothes.  He does not like to go shopping with me because we do not see eye-to-eye on the value of things--in particular clothing.  Lets just get it right out in the open--I am cheap.  My children, especially son number two, sees no problem in spending the big bucks for clothing.  I cringe if I have to pay more than twenty bucks for a good pair of painter's pants.  My children see no problem in spending upwards towards a hundred dollars for a pair of jeans (with holes already ripped into them).  Shoot I could save them a lot of money if they would just buy a twenty dollar pair of jeans and let me rip a few holes in them--I'd only charge them five bucks a hole!  We could help each other out in doing this.  Waste good money on holy jeans--shoot the wife and I could bless them (after all we are clergy) and make them holy!

Because I squeak because I am so fiscally tight, I really have a hard time shopping with the children.  They see style, I see waste.  They do not care for my little commentary while they shop--especially now that they are buying their own clothes with their own money.  So I have decided that I will bite the bit and get myself some blinders for tomorrow morning while number two son shops.  Actually, I am going to sit on some bench while he shops and people gaze.  Might be the best money he ever spent because it will be a first--Dad kept his mouth shut!  Mark it in red!

Well, as you probably noticed by now this blog really wasn't about much of anything, but at the same time a lot about a few things . . . things that were not even related to one another.  It was just a bunch of potpourri--a miscellaneous collection.  But isn't that the way most of our days go . . . just a collection of miscellaneous experiences that add up to make one day in our lives.  Nothing too spectacular, nothing too boring.  It is just the way that things are.  What was the potpourri that filled your life today--any tickets for peeing dogs?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hair . . . I Remember it Well

Once a month I take a shower, change my underwear, and get a haircut.  Yesterday was the trifecta . . . actually I take a shower and change my underwear every day, yesterday was a haircut.  I get a haircut once a month or when it begins to bug me. 

As a kid my father cut my brothers and my hair--the good ol' military buzz cut.  He grabbed those clipper and let it ripped until there was nothing left standing but stubble . . . the forest had been sheared and in its wake their was nothing left.  This went on until about the fifth grade and I found the courage to stand up for my hair.  I told my father I wanted to grow my hair out and that I no longer wanted a buzz cut--shoot, I'd even be willing to walk to the base barbershop and get it cut.  The base barbershop was at least a mile from our house and up hill--it was literally up a huge hill.  I was surprised when he agreed.  The only stipulation he put on it was that it could never cover my eyes.  Thus it was that I went from a buzz cut to the shaggy look.

Within three years--8th grade--the hair was over my ears, covering my eyes, and making my father call me my sister's older sister, Johnnie.  In those three years I discovered that that little stubble was only the root system for wild wavy hair just waiting to find freedom.  I had waves that would make the Pacific Ocean jealous.  All my friends had straight stringy hair--no body--no life.  I was embarrassed that my hair went wherever it wanted.  I was so embarrassed that I even tried Dippity Do--the hair gel before hair gel was famous.  A little dab and you could make your hair into a helmet.  You could hit it with a hammer and it would phase you.  Then I had helmet hair.  And, my military father and all the other military fathers in the neighborhood continued to tease us and call us Cinderfella!  Years later, when it started to fall out, I learned that lots of females really like wavy hair on guys . . . too little, too late.

Somewhere near the end of my senior year and the start of my college career my hair started to begin the process of receding.  Oh, it happened slowly--a little here, a little there--and then one day, whammo!  I woke up and my hair had disappeared!  What was once long, beautiful hair--wavy hair--had taken a hike and left no forwarding address.  There is nothing worse than admitting in one's young adult years that he has a receding hairline.

Long hair on men with receding hairlines looks a little . . . well, ridiculous.  I decided that once the hair was going I was not going to continue to allow it to grow.  Someone suggested that I let the hair on the back of my head grow--you know, a mullet . . .

. . . but it wasn't quite the style I was looking for.  I wasn't that sort of guy who took his second cousin to the prom.  Besides I could hear my father teasing me whenever I put it in a ponytail.  So that suggestion was out.

There was the always present offering of the "comb over".  That is where you let the hair grow long on one side of your head and comb it over the side with the bald spot.  Again, nice suggestion, but not my style.  Heck, if I was going to do that I would have grown a mullet and combed it over--sort of the Donald Trump look.  There is nothing worse than a bad comb over.

As enticing as that was . . . I just couldn't do it.  It would have been a pain every time the wind blew and the wind blows all the time when you live in places like Nebraska and Montana.  I guess I could have always gone to the Dollar Store, bought some Dippity Do, and made myself a helmet of hair!

No, I did not grow a mullet.  I did not create a comb over.  I decided to get it cut short--not quite the buzz cut of my childhood, but close enough.  I still have enough that I can drag a comb through it once in a while.  The most frustrating part of my hair is the little patch at the top of my forehead that refuses to let loose, fall out, and become totally barren.  Nope, it is like a little fob that wants to be separated from the rest of the hair--an island of hair.  It pretty much does what it wants to.  Sort of like John Travolta . . .  except without the mustache and money!

I haven't quite given up on my hair.  I haven't reverted to the childhood buzz cut--I can still comb my hair after I get it cut . . . about three weeks after I get it cut.  I also refuse to put gel in my hair.  I cannot see wasting good shampoo and conditioner to clean my hair and then gooping it all up with hair gel--kind of defeats the purpose of washing one's hair.  Besides, I still have nightmares of my Dippity Do hair helmets.  It is only a matter of time before I go for the buzz cut . . .

. . . in the meantime I continue to get it cut once a month.  I get it cut despite the fact I am not really sure what it is that I am paying for.  It comes out to about a dollar fifty a minute from start to finish.  Sam Ewing says, "Inflation is when you pay fifteen dollars for the ten dollar haircut you used to pay five dollars for."  Sticker shock for haircuts still gets to me.  What also gets to me is that I never get the same person cutting my hair from month to month--I am at the mercy of whoever is there.  That is quite an adventure.

Yesterday was one of those adventures as the person who was cutting my hair was brand, spanking new.  Plus she was a "talker"--talkers are the worse if you happen to be an introvert.  I do not go into a shop to get a conversation with my haircut, I go to get my haircut.  I do not care about the weather, how my weekend was, and whether or not spring is ever going to get to Montana--I just want my haircut.  I figure if the person is talking he or she can't be concentrating on cutting my hair.  If the person is not concentrating on cutting my hair mistakes can be made.  If mistakes are made then I get a bad haircut.  Bad haircuts are not good . . . bad haircuts do not make me happy . . . bad haircuts are not good for the well-being of the world.

Jim Morrison, yeah that Jim Morrison of the Doors, said, "Some of the worse mistakes of my life have been haircuts."

The difference between a "good" haircut and a "bad" haircut is a couple of weeks.  Thank goodness for hats.  With a hat any haircut can look good--well, I take that back, a mullet doesn't look good no matter how you try to hide it.  I wear a lot of hats.  Have for years.  I think I look good in a hat--especially a fitted baseball cap.  I'd wear a hat all of the time if I could, but . . . the university frowns on it . . . the congregation doesn't particularly care for it . . .

. . . so, hair . . . I remember it well.  I will wear my cap, dream of those days when my hair flowed in the wind and my father threatened to shave my head if I didn't keep the hair out of my eyes.  Ah yes, those were the good ol' days.  I remember them well whenever I run my fingers through my hair--it doesn't take long because there just ain't that much hair to run them through!  Remember, as I have said many times before, God only made so many perfect heads and the rest God put hair on!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Beyond the 49th Parallel

First of all, I cannot play an instrument despite my best attempts over the years.  Second of all, I cannot carry a tune and sing terribly--ask my family or any of the congregations that I have served over the years.  Despite this musical disability, I love music.  Music has always been a big part of my life and it is a love that both the wife and I have instilled in our children.

One of the most cherished gifts I ever received from my parents as a child was a transistor radio.  That radio went everywhere I went.  Music was always spewing out of it.  It was my nightly companion as I would hide it under my pillow, turn it up just enough to hear through the pillow, and fall to sleep listening to the local deejays from nearby Colorado Springs.  Only problem was I went through a lot of batteries as I never remembered to turn it off.  But music filled my ears, my mind, and was a companion that was always there.  I listened to just about everything and still have a love for just about every type of music--except, and this is my prejudice, rap.  Just can't get into rap.

I think that it was music, more than anything, that probably got me through the teen and young adult years.  Thankfully in my junior year of high school my youngest uncle (only two years older than me) introduced me to a whole new world of music--what would become the sound track of my life.  He introduced me to a variety of groups--from Derek and the Dominoes (Eric Clapton) to Manassas (Stephen Stills) to the Yardbirds to Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young--to the Woodstock generation of music and beyond.  He corrupted me for life and made it wonderful!  It is the music the wife calls "donker, donker" music.

One of the amazing things that I have discovered as I have gotten older is that a lot of the artists that I have always enjoyed are from north of the 49th Parallel--north of the border--that they are Canadians.  Shoot, like any good tunnel visioned American I just assumed that they were all good ol' Americans born and raised right here in the US of A.  Just like rock and roll music!  How vain of me to assume this . . . if it were not for the Canadian invasion I would not have some of my favorite musical memories.

For example, there is Joni Mitchell.  I loved and still love Joni Mitchell.  I even got to see her once in concert during my senior year in high school--for all of one song.  Joni was notorious for her stage fright and rarely made it though a concert without getting too sick to perform.  The concert I attended she made it through one song before it was called off . . . she sang Help Me . . . it was wonderful!  Just wish she had sung more.

Bet you didn't realize that Jone Mitchell wrote that one.  For those who would like something a little more "modern" here is a song that seems to be being covered more and more these days--also written by her:

Another influential singer--even today--is Neil Young.  Neil Young by himself, with Stephen Stills in Buffalo Springfield, with CSNY, and Crazy Horse--the man was and continues to be a musical prodigy.  Whatever form I heard him in I still flashback to those wonderful years.   One of my favorite songs:

The individual that turned me on to the fact that there was a lot of great music coming from north of the border was k.d. lang.  From her start in country music to her big band sound to her jump over into rock music she has a voice that tells a story whenever she sings.  It was her album The 49th Parallel--an album of songs from Canadian singers and songwriters--that really opened up my eyes and ears.  Here she sings Leonard Cohen, just listen:

And then Neil Young:
One of my favorites that I caught just as she was starting out--unbeknownest to me as being Canadian--was Sarah McLachlan.  She burst onto the scene with her cover of The River by Joni Mitchell and is now seen on lots of commercials on the boob tube.  A wonderful voice, a wonderful performer:

Then as the kids began to get older they turned me onto another singer that they enjoyed, but did not know was Canadian--Alanis Morrissette.  Her first major selling album of angry songs--way before Taylor Swift ever started dissing her exes--was a big hit in our house.  I really enjoyed her role as God in the movie Dogma.

But not everything musical that came from Canada was individual--there were also groups.  One of the first groups that hit my ears was Bachman Turner Overdrive--which I got to see in college.  By then they were affectionately known as Bachman Turner Overweight--they enjoyed the good life.
There was Rush.

And then, one of my favorites--now heard singing the theme song from Big Bang Theory--is the crazy lyrical group Barenaked Ladies.  I could get lost in their lyrics for hours trying to make heads or tails of their songs.

Probably my favorite Canadian group is the Cowboy Junkies.  From day one when I stumbled across them I have loved their haunting melodies and songs.  I love their cover of Patsy Cline's After Midnight.  

 Well, that is probably enough musical bombardment for one sitting.  I can forgive Canada for all of the cold weather it sends south of the border into Montana every winter because it more than makes up for it with its wonderful music.  I doubt if I have even begun to scratch the surface of the musical offerings from north of the 49th Parallel.  Who are some of your favorites?  Who do you think I should listen to?  Let me know . . . in the meantime . . . enjoy!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Can't Escape

Nothing is certain but taxes and death.

Let me tell you how it will be
There's one for you, nineteen for me
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman

Should five per cent appear too small

Be thankful I don't take it all
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah I'm the taxman

If you drive a car, I'll tax the street,

If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I'll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet.

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

Now my advice for those who die

Declare the pennies on your eyes
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman
And you're working for no one but me.

Today I worked on my income taxes for 2011.  It is always a great joy to work on the Internal Revenue Service's annual ritual of the fleecing of the people.  Of course I am probably about a week earlier than most years as I usually like to wait until the last weekend before I file our income taxes.  I am not really sure why I chose to work on them this weekend, I guess I had a weak moment and needed a headache.  So it was that I worked on and filed my income taxes--a great work in fiction if there ever was one!

The IRS and I go way back since I went into the ministry.  We have not always seen eye-to-eye when it comes to what we owe the government.  Often the IRS has told me that us that we owe a heck of a lot more than we think that we do--thus we disagree.  These disagreements have led to some interesting adventures on our part, and I imagine on their part. Surprisingly, when you finally get to talk to an actual human being at the IRS, they are fairly flexible and understanding.  The problem is whether or not you can survive the hour to hour and a half wait on the telephone line--their muzak is enough to make any person hang up after thirty minutes!

As I stated, the IRS and I have not always agreed.  We have had some interesting adventures together.  Surprisingly we are about even on the outcome of these disagreements.  There was one time when the IRS wrote us to say that we made a mistake on our income tax forms and actually owed several thousand dollars more than we original thought.  They gave us two weeks to respond from the date that they mailed the letter which we received four days after they mailed the letter.  My response was simple: Could you please send me a copy of my return where I made the mistake so that I could double check it, correct it, and mail them whatever I owed them.  Three months later the wife and I received a refund check double what we thought we were going to get.  Mark that one up to us.

 At the same time, I have not always won--the IRS has won more than its fair share of disputes.  One year I withheld the excise tax for telephone service to protest the military conflict in the first Gulf Conflict (their title, not mine).  Some protester figured, at that time, that the conflict was costing Americans about the same amount of money as the telephone excise tax.  As a protest against the war people were encouraged to withhold that amount from their annual taxes.  That is what I did.  Uncle Sam was not pleased despite the fact that it amounted to less than ten dollars.  So, guess what--I ended up paying the tax plus interest.  Chalk that one up to the IRS.

At this point in my life the IRS is one up on me.  They won a dispute two years ago when I put in the wrong figures on our return.  After nearly a year of attempting to correct the problem so that the wife and I would not lose our refund, I gave up.  I gave up because they had more resources than I did in making the process more complicated than I could ever understand.  That year I took the hit, sent the check, and hoped that the old finances would rebound.

Is it no wonder that with such fond memories of dealing with the IRS that I postpone the annual fleecing of the people until the last possible minute?  Which for 2011 was today.  I sat at my computer and did the dirty deed.  Hours later the task was completed.  We survived.  In fact, we even got refunds!  Imagine that!

I find that each year when I have to file our annual contribution to the United States government that it is an adventure--I never know where we are going to end up until the end.  It is an adventure that keeps my blood pressure high, my heart beating fast, and me pulling whatever hair I have out.  And, yet, at the same time, it always seems to come out in a fair way that I agree with.  I think that I should do my fair share--I think we all should.  So it is always a game played like a poker game--lots of posturing going on.  Surprisingly it always works out.

Yeah, I sacrifice quite a few hours each year doing our income taxes. At the same time I guess it is no worse than having to rake the yard for dog poop or having to scoop the driveway after a big snow storm--it is irritating, but manageable.  The fact is that none of us can ever escape taxes as they are a part of our lives.  There are taxes for everything.  The Beatles had it right!  But, I will be damned if I give the IRS any more money any earlier than I have to!  I guess the IRS wins this year as I filed a whole ten days earlier than usual . . . oh yeah, this is one of those years we get a refund . . . I guess it is a draw for 2011!

Besides according to the experts we will have paid off our 2012 taxes in about another three weeks.  I think that is worth celebrating!  Until next April!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Anticipation . . .

. . . sucks!

Remember that Heinz commercial that used the chorus from Carly Simon's song Anticipation?  How the two little boys sat there waiting for the ketchup to come out of the bottle?  And, remember how the one little boy told the other that it was well worth the wait?

The ketchup was probably good, but the anticipation--the waiting, well, I imagined that it sucked.

From the time that I was a child to today, I do not handle anticipation well--never had.  Early, as a kid, I learned that I would much rather be surprised than to be told to expect something that I had to wait for.  I did not handle that well . . . I would fret, frown, and worry.  What if something went wrong?  What if it wasn't like I was told it was going to be?  What if it didn't happen?  What if . . . what if . . . what if?  And, then add to that the fact that time moves so slowly once it is thrown into the anticipation hamper.  Waiting takes forever!

Growing older did not ease my uneasiness with anticipation.  It only complicated it because now I had experience to back up all of my worrying.  The "what ifs" only got more elaborate and complicated and ridiculous.  The only thing that growing older did for anticipation is to confirm what I had learned earlier--it sucks!

Anticipation pops its ugly head up every so often in my life despite my best efforts at trying to avoid it.  For example, because I drive approximately 40 miles to work each day, I like to have a heads up on what the weather is going to be like.  I want to know what the road conditions are going to be.  This is not good for someone who lives in Montana--especially for one who lives right on the snow line of most of the storms that hit our area.  Because of this I am a National Weather Service junkie who has to have a daily fix of the forecast for our area.  Basically this is an exercise in anticipation because the forecasters "anticipate" the weather to do such and such at such and such a time.  Therein lies the problem--they give a time in which all of this weather is to take place--usually days in advance of it actually happening.  Major anxiety develops over the anticipation of what is going to happen than the actual weather event ever developing.

Such was the case the past couple of days as the forecasters moved our expected weather for last night, today, and tonight from "hazardous" to "winter storm watch" to "winter storm warning".  The prediction went from rain mixed with snow showers to six to ten inches of snow.  They hammered this one for a couple of days--I fretted and worried, had sleepless nights, and even debated calling in sick to work to avoid the drive in such conditions.  The anticipation killed me!  And, in the end, it was pretty much nothing--no six to ten inches of snow, no hazardous conditions--nothing but wet roads! 

But that is pretty typical anticipation that for the most I am used to.  Yet, lately there has been another type of anticipation that has been playing havoc on my life.  This has to do with becoming a grandparent.  The Prodigal Son is expecting his daughter to be born soon and mistakenly told his parents a projected date--WRONG THING TO DO!  He can ask his mother and she will testify to this mistake--she experienced it with the birth of each of our four children.  Don't give me a date as it just starts the ball rolling.  I think through each of the journeys towards the births of our children I drove the wife and the doctors crazy with my "baby anxiety".  I was more of a nervous wreck than the wife.  My mind worked overtime.

And, so it is now, as we are in the "time frame" of when our granddaughter is to be born.  It can be any time and because of that I keep my ears open in order to hear the phone ring with the news.  But, this birth is complicated for a variety of reasons: the mother has Lupus and that has made this pregnancy difficult for both the mother and grandchild to be--it has been tough and no one will know the full effects until the child is born; the mother is mad at the Prodigal Son and is not communicating with him--it has been a roller coaster journey and been difficult on everyone; because the mother is mad at our son and won't communicate, there is a good possibility that we might not even get to see our grandchild without having to go to court; and, the fact that this is all playing out way down south in Colorado--a long ways from Montana--it is hard to wait.

I know that I am not the only one feeling the anticipation.  I know this is killing my son.  I know that it is killing my wife.  I know that it is killing me.  And yet, we wait.  Not patiently, mind you, but we wait.  The fact is that the ketchup takes too long to come out of the bottle, the weather is never what the forecaster predicts, and babies never arrive when you want--they come when they want to and not a minute sooner.  Yeah, anticipation sucks . . .  so I might as sit back and listen to Carly Simon.  She sums it up so well--enjoy!

Anticipation . . . pffft!