Man, That Smells Good

The other day I was walking through our university’s library when suddenly the smell of those books induced memories of being a boy and going to our small town’s library.  Once a week or so, I would wander down to the basement of the library where the children’s books rested and waited for the next set of small hands to hold them.  There in that little room,  I discovered the Hardy Boys mysteries. Frank and Joe Hardy were quite the detectives for such a young age.  Every chapter ended with a cliffhanger paragraph that made me want to continue reading the next chapter.  It was good fiction for a young boy written by a fictional author too, Franklin W. Dixon.  HardyBoys

Another smell that I loved, and this is going to be really weird for ya, is the smell of new leather shoes when you first open up the shoe box. I think I should use the term olfactory memory to give my weirdness some type of respectable scientific foundation.  The smell of new shoes ignites the memory of those special Saturday mornings when my dad would take me to the shoe store to buy a new pair of tennis shoes. In those days, the shoe store clerk was held in high esteem being experts in the medical science of the perfect fit for a growing child’s foot.  We didn’t think of them being as important as doctors, but they ran a close second to dentists. The goal was to buy the largest pair of shoes possible so that the child would not grow out of them before they wore them out AND not constantly tripping and falling down due to being 3 sizes too big.  An occasional trip was socially acceptable though. “Oh, he’s just clumsy due to his growth spurt.”  It was not due to the fact that the shoes would be a perfect fit in 24 months. In fact, the one consistent question that every parent asked before purchasing the shoes, “Do they have plenty of room to grow in?”

My first tennis shoes were always either Red Ball Jets or PF Flyers.  Red Ball Jets had a spiffy red ball on the  heal of the shoes.  This was obviously way before people gave a hoot about graphic designs, branding, and logos. (Think Nike.)  PF Flyers used a beaver to sell their shoes.  I was convinced deep within my heart that I could “run faster and jump higher” whenever I put those shoes on, just as the tv commercials promised me.

(Watch an old Keds commercial.)

My dad would ask me to demonstrate those new athletic abilities inside the shoe store.  He was amusing himself at my expense, but I believed it to be a real scientific experiment needed to validate the potential shoe purchase.  I always gave it my best, sometimes even jumping over the slanted, green stool the esteemed shoe clerk would sit upon.  shoefit_m__slides_250_265

With four children, we couldn’t afford Converse shoes until I entered 6th grade. When that day came, Oh My Goodness, what a day it was.  I got my first real pair of Levi’s, complemented with a new pack of white tee shirts, and a brand new pair of black and white, high top Converse tennis shoes. I have never since put on a more important pair of shoes in my life.  I made them last for an entire year, only to finally stop wearing them when the hole in the toe of the right shoe also started wearing out my socks.  I still love those shoes.

Other olfactory memories? – Grandma’s homemade bread just coming out of the oven, a summer rain on the dusty farm road with the tall dried grass on the edges of the road producing a sweet smell, blackberry picking on a warm summer morning, and Sloppy Joe  Wednesdays in the school cafeteria. (For readers outside of the United States, this is what a Sloppy Joe looks like.)

They weren’t very good for you, but sure tasted better than Monday’s fish sticks!

 

 

It was olfactory memories that led me to think about writing a song about an old man and his cardigan sweater.  As I wrote the words, I kept thinking of a Soundcloud buddy, Chuck Aaron, who has a natural style that encompasses all of his music.  He is a great musician with a relaxed vocal style. I asked Chuck if he might write the music and perform the song which ended up being titled, “This Old Cardigan Sweater.”  Chuck just got it completed.  I got tears in my eyes as I listened to him perform the song.  I was so happy, I would even say, joyful, that this collaboration had turned out so well.  The song produced a “good smell” that brought back so many great memories of the important old men in my life.  Yes, this memory smells really good.  Thank you Chuck.

Check it out – This Old Cardigan Sweater

 

Me and My Shadows

Well, it has been a bit since I’ve blogged. I kind of got sidetracked and thought if I really wrote what I was currently feeling, my very few followers might decide they should quit following the thoughts of an evil lunatic. But, the one thing that my few followers seem to enjoy about my songs and blogs is what they usually describe as an “authenticity.” I am afraid they might feel differently after reading this, but here we go…

A little over a week ago, I was heading to my weekly hour long recording session feeling lighthearted and somewhat enjoying my amateur status as an enlightened songwriter when my wife called me on my cell phone.

“Did you ransack the house before you left for work?” she asked

“What?”  “Did you lay out all your computer cables…Someone has been here, The back door is open and it stinks in your office!” “Get out of the house and call the police!” I yelled in the IPhone 6Plus and headed straight for home.

When I got home, the police officer was there taking a police report which in our small town is sometimes about the limit of their crime investigations capability due to the amount of petty crimes. Slowly, I found the thieves took lots of electronics including some that had every piece of information needed for a complete identity theft of me and many other close family members. They also took a jewelry box I gave my wife 43 years ago as a wedding gift along with my gold wedding band. They also took other precious items such as our children’s birth certificate which had their tiny little footprints on them. I used to run my fingers over those footprints as I remembered their precious births.  They took other stuff and also began immediately using stolen credit cards, hacking into different online accounts, etc.. I was heartbroken, furious, afraid, and felt stupid.

The police officer’s advice: Fortify your house.

A few days later, I decided to change my daily patterns and sure enough, they tried to come back and get the rest of our possessions. By now, the location of these unkind people was pretty much figured out and my energy had turned 100% negative. The police in our community are either under-trained or over-worked, or just lack the resources needed for crime-solving. (I have always respected law enforcement because of the danger they face every day. I am not a police hater. They put their lives on the line everyday to protect and serve.)

I went out and bought a video security system, for starters, and I am in the process of fortifying my house including doing things I never thought I would do. I will leave those details out in case the burglars have become “followers” of my social media forums. I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.

Here now is where the story really gets ugly and it is about me. I want to hurt those people very much for what they have done and continue to do. The pain they have caused my loved ones, sleepless nights and that sinking feeling in our hearts in regards to the precious items has manifested itself with a depth of spiritual ugliness I had forgotten existed inside of me.  When I say “hurt” them, my imagination can get very vivid and it seems to have an endless source of hatred for fuel. And, not just for them either, but for everyone who engages in this type (and much worse) of activity. I have lost any desire to play my guitar, write songs, read good fiction, and generally spend time being “in the moment”, playing the role of the old wise man, or being generous of heart and spirit. In other words, I have put on all the clothes of my shadows and I wear them with pride and anger, regardless of how unattractive I look in them.

For so many years, I was never one who backed away from a fight – but many years ago I decided to become a better person, more honest and more kind. It worked well for me and for my loved ones. Now I feel like I must have been an actor. This morning, when I read about someone who tried to shoot a police officer and outran the cops and fled into the rugged wilderness that surrounds our local area I said, (and this is where you will probably stop communicating with me), “I hope he breaks his leg and gets eaten alive by a mountain lion.” (Yes, we do have mountain lions and bears in our immediate area.)  The responses were varied, but nobody said they agreed which means I seemed to have surrounded myself with better people than myself – but that isn’t a very high standard, I know.

You know what is kind of funny? I had just completed recording a song that I titled “It is All About the Love.”  It was a preachy little tune.  Now I want to write a song titled, “I hope you break your leg out in the woods and get eaten by  a mountain lion..slowly.” Maybe I could go to one of those coffee shop open mic nights and do some spoken word around that theme or maybe something in the rap genre and then “drop the mic” after expressing my vile thoughts?

Ok, so there you have it, “Father, I have sinned and I look forward to some more.”

What have I learned? I am not such an enlightened person after all. In my core lives both angels and demons, heaven and hell, forgiveness and an AK47.  I don’t like mean people and that includes me. I wouldn’t blame you if you decide that you shouldn’t read my blogs or listen to my songs any longer. I need to run now and go review my security videos of the drug dealers and common thieves in my neighborhood and also see if I can buy a mountain lion on Amazon. Don’t worry, I got Amazon Prime,… shipping will be for free!

Please be a better person than me.