The Waiting Game

Waiting Game is a hit song by the English pop group, Swing Out Sister. Rumor has it that Swing Out Sister was the only thing the members could agree on when they were trying to come up with a name for their group, and all of them agreed that they hated it.

SOS has had a number of hit songs over the years: Breakout, Surrender, Twilight World, and my personal favorite, Am I the Same Girl?

The answer is: Yes I am, yes I am. Just in cases you were wondering.

Their songs have catchy melodies. And Corinne Drewery has some serious pipes. I have several of their songs in various playlists. You can find their videos on the YouTube® if you’re interested. Or bored, which is highly probable.

My lovely supermodel wife was so bored yesterday that she washed both of our cars. It’s something she hasn’t done in more than a decade.

* * * *

How’s it going out there in Quarantine Land? Today is the 175th day of the month of April. Yeah, that is what it feels like. And I actually like staying at home. Vehicles equipped with loudspeakers have been cruising the streets here in the Lakeside Area broadcasting messages in English and Spanish, telling everyone to stay at home. But if you must leave your home, you better have a facemask on to avoid infection, fines, and death.

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Have a nice day! ¡Que tengas un buen dia!

Lea made masks for us a couple of weeks ago. She said they were easy to construct, and she was happy to do it. Good thing. We might be using them for the rest of the year. Maybe longer, you know, like, the rest of our lives.

The world has changed, has it not? And when this whole Coronavirus thing ends, it will not return to the way it used to be. I don’t think any of us can yet see the full impact this is going to make, but I have a feeling that it’s going to be significant.

I was skeptical about the Coronavirus initially. I thought everyone was overreacting when they started talking about social distancing, isolating at home, quarantine precautions, and cancelling every interesting sporting event on the planet until further notice.

I’m no longer skeptical, but I am bummed out that March Madness, the Masters, and, yes, every other sporting event for this year has been cancelled, postponed, or will be rescheduled for a much later date. Even the Summer Olympics!

Many of the articles I’ve read talk about extending the precautions, not shortening them or, God forbid, ending them. I’m sure this will all end someday, but I’m no longer sure that it will end soon.

We’ve been planning a trip back to the States. We were originally hoping for April. Then we were shooting for May. It’s starting to look like June, but it might not happen until July or August the way things are going.

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These advertisements sum up the current state of affairs very succinctly

A couple of our friends were planning on coming down to visit us this year. Maybe they’ll be able to get here by September, but possibly, not until next year…

* * * *

One of the things you have to adjust to when you retire is suddenly having a lots of idle time on your hands. I guess some of you could think of this time as a preview of what your retirement life will be like. If you find you’re not enjoying it much, do yourself a favor and start rethinking your plans for the future now.

Todd, Lea and I have been trying to keep ourselves busy with various projects and hobbies. Todd has been working on several goldarn things in the workshop. I know because he’s been using a variety of power tools.

Lea has reading books on her Kindle®. A lots of books. And she instituted Operation Opossum. She feeds the herd of opossums that stroll through our backyard at night. Fortunately, opossums eat almost anything, so they’re easy to feed. She even named two of them: Ollie and Opie.

If you want to know anything about opossums, ask Lea. She’s probably read two books about them by now.

* * * *

Todd created Operation Oranges for Orioles. He started by hanging oranges in the tree where Lea has her hummingbird feeder. That worked great, until the goddamn squirrels started devouring the oranges.

So we built a small wooden platform and put it in the triangle garden at the far end of the swimming pool. The birds are happy. The squirrels don’t dare come that far into the yard.

Mischief managed.

* * * *

Todd and Lea have been cooking their asses off in the kitchen. Let me tell you something, it is hell having to be quarantined with two chefs!

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The Swedish Chef and Christy Turlington. She really does look like Lea

Kind of by accident, I started listening to cooking shows on TV. I’ve listened to all the home improvement shows multiple times, and I was getting bored with them. I don’t actually do any home improvement, so it’s not like I needed to master any of the things they do. I don’t actually cook either, but Lea and Todd started watching the cooking shows. And they say things, like, Ooh! That looks like that would be fun to make!

Maybe it wasn’t an accident…

* * * *

I’ve been making sure everything is clean and tidy, and running smoothly here at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa. We’ve had a couple of issues with the pool. All I have to do is call our property manager, Jaime Mendoza, and let him know something needs to be repaired, and he takes care of everything else.

The solar heater for the pool seems to be about as reliable as the LG refrigerator we used to have. It’s been repaired once already this year, and needs to be repaired again. The guy who installed it, and already repaired it, is supposed to be here today. We’ll see if he actually shows up. Then we’ll see how long it takes to get the heater running again. And finally, we’ll see how long this repair will last…

We’ve been hanging out on the patio a lot lately, and seeing how we’ve all been spending so much time out there, Todd and I put our heads and resources together, and we constructed a stereo system on the patio to listen to music while we do stuff outside.

I had an Aiwa® receiver/CD player, but no speakers. Then Todd remembered he had a big box with two sets of Sony® speakers and a subwoofer, somewhere. All we had to do was figure out where he put them.

We did. The patio stereo sounds pretty damn good, but I think we need at least two more speakers to make it perfect. Four would be better, but I’ll settle for two. Todd hasn’t had anything to say about my idea because Lea thinks I’m out of my fucking mind, and he, wisely, doesn’t want to do anything to piss her off.

* * * *

For me, this quarantine experience has been like unto Retirement 2.0. I have idle time that I can’t fill with any of the activities I used to do because I had nothing else to do. Like, golf. My golf course closed at the beginning of April. It will reopen again when the lockdown ends, whenever that might be.

I’ve had to resort to gardening to fill the hours until we’re given the green light to resume our lives again. I’ve written about my experiences with gardening before. In short, it involved drinking beer and playing in the dirt.

Now, it’s just playing in the dirt. And it’s become a bit of an obsession for me. It started innocently enough. I repotted a few plants on the patio because I hadn’t paid enough attention to them and they were more or less dead.

That’s on me. I never should have ignored my responsibilities for my plants. Our maid, Monica, waters the plants when she cleans the patio, but I think she’s kind of hit or miss when it comes to watering. Her main focus is cleaning.

I’ve got my mind right now. I’m refocused, and I won’t falter in my duties again. I replanted the patio plants that weren’t completely dead in the backyard gardens, and it all went downhill from there. I spent all of last weekend working in the gardens, which was just about the stupidest thing I could do.

My back and my right knee filed for divorce from me on Monday.

* * * *

My back has been a major pain in my… back… for about the last week. Normally, it’s my lower back that bothers me. Now, it’s almost my entire spine from the third thoracic vertebrae my to my sacrum and coccyx.

I can’t sit for more than a few minutes. And moving around doesn’t always do much of anything to decrease my level of pain. I eat Motrin for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It helps, but nothing makes the pain completely go away. Swinging a golf club appears to have been doing my back far more good than I realized.

I’ve been working on this post for five days because I can only write one or two paragraphs at a time, and then I have to take a break. If I’m fortunate, I might finish it sometime this week.

* * * *

Okay, back to gardening…  I’m not a master gardener. I’m more of a Chance the Gardener — from the Jerzy Kosiński novel, Being There. It was also made into a movie starring Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine.

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If you’re not interested in reading the novel, you can watch the movie. I love it

For those of you that don’t know, Chance was the original Forrest Gump. They’re both slow-witted, kind-hearted guys, and they both unwittingly influence everything that goes on around them. I resemble two of those three attributes.

I’m not a smart man, but I know a couple of things about playing in the dirt. Annual flowering plants are a quick way to add a lots of color to your garden. If you buy mature plants. And in a temperate climate, there’s a good chance these plants will automatically reseed themselves from year to year.

Further proof that I’m neither smart, nor a master gardener: I didn’t buy plants. I bought a bunch of packets of seeds. I’ve had some impressive results with marigold  and delphinium seeds down here, so I figured I’d have equal success with other flower seeds. All you have to do is sow them and abracadabra!

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See? I told you

I don’t know what kind of flower seeds I bought. The descriptions were in Spanish, and I was too lazy to translate the words. But the pictures showed pretty flowers. And that’s what I wanted. Pretty flowers with a lots of splashes of colors.

I picked three prime spots in the gardens, and I call them prime because other flowers were already growing around them. I cleared the areas, carefully planted my seeds, and watered them daily for a week. And not one flower sprouted. It’s probably closing in on two weeks as I write this, and I still haven’t seen anything that looks like unto a fucking flower shooting up out of the ground in those areas.

Todd says it’s possible they’ll sprout later this year, or even weirder, next year. I don’t doubt that he’s right, he knows far more about this stuff than I do. However, marigold seeds do not behave thusly. You throw them in the ground and they start growing immediately! All I know is that I’m incredibly bummed out right now.

Seeing no need to make any special preparation for my remaining seed packets, I picked a neglected corner of the gardens where nothing was growing – not even weeds – and dumped all of my remaining seeds on the ground, and watered it periodically.

I ended up with two hundred flower sprouts growing in about a ten inch by ten inch area. Yeah, of course that method worked. So, yes, I had amazing success, but no one needs that many flowers growing in a small area in a part of the garden that no one can see without a map and a pair of binoculars.

That’s how I ended up working in the garden for the entire weekend. I spent hours moving random groups of baby plants to multiple areas throughout the gardens. And I water the gardens daily. In a few months, maybe more, our gardens are going to look better than they ever have since we moved in. Maybe better than they ever have, period.

* * * *

Another thing we don’t do is go out to eat at any of the fabulous restaurants here in the Lakeside Area. We did that once after the Coronavirus precautions went into place. Our youngest daughter, Abigail, grounded us. On social media. From Minnesota.

* * * *

Social media has been both a blessing and a curse for me during this time. It’s been a blessing because I can stay connected to everyone that doesn’t hang out with me here in the living room. It’s been a curse because not all news is good news.

* * * *

Our very good friend from Arizona, Nikki Scheidecker, had a stroke last week. That came as a huge, unpleasant surprise to everyone that knows her. She’s one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, and she’s only 45. It was described as a minor stroke, but she spent the better part of a week in ICU on IV medications trying to get her blood pressure under control.

I’m not a real nurse, but this doesn’t sound like a minor stroke to me.

Her husband, Justin, has been sending out daily updates on her status via Facebook. She was moved out of ICU today, and now her rehab can begin. We wish you the best of success, Nikki. And know that you are in our thoughts and prayers for a complete recovery.

* * * *

The other Curse of Social Media has been all of the political posts. I’ve been trying to decide how deep I want to wade into the mud, slime and ooze in this post. I just took a shower, and I’m loathe to get dirty again.

I don’t post a whole lots of political posts, but if I see something funny, I’ll probably share it. I’m not a political expert, I see myself as more of a political dilettante. I despise Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and Lindsey Graham. And all the rest of the Republicans. But I’m not in love with the Democrats by any means. I think both political parties suck ass, and all of the current members of Congress need to be sent packing.

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I found this newsflash to be especially outrageous, and shared it on the Facebook

The average American household lives paycheck to paycheck. The $1200 stimulus checks that some families will receive is a drop in the bucket compared to what they really need to keep their heads above water if they are unable to earn a living during this crisis.

If you make more than $99,000 to $198,000, depending on how you file your taxes, you’re not even eligible for a stimulus check. Unless you happen to be one of the above noted select number of millionaires.

President Trump fired the man who was supposed to oversee the disbursement of stimulus funds. And he has gone on record saying that he will not adhere to a portion of the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill that would authorize an inspector general to oversee how $500 billion in business loans will be spent.

* * * *

I foolishly thought that something The Donald did would have to backfire with his supporters. I figured this would be the something that even they couldn’t ignore.

I was wrong.

Donald Trump owns his supporters; heart and mind, body and soul. He could take a shit on their living room floor, and they would have it hermetically sealed and preserved to proudly display on their mantle. And their friends would be envious.

His hold on his supporters is bulletproof against logic, facts, and the truth because there is only one arbiter of the truth. Donald Trump. And EVERYONE else is lying. I don’t know what he put in his Kool-Aid, but that stuff is 100 proof.

Today, The Donald suggested injecting disinfectants into your veins as a possible treatment for COVID-19. This is his quote: “…And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you’re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds — it sounds interesting to me.”

Roll up your sleeves and bend over, bitches. Trump supporters, you can jump to the front of the line. We don’t mind. After all, this is your boy talking here, and he can do no wrong.

I can’t wait to see how Dr. Donald’s Miracle Treatment works on you.

* * * *

There ended up being a fair amount of discussion on my Facebook post, both pro and con. And then the personal attacks began from the Trump supporters. It’s what their hero does all the time, so there’s no reason why they can’t do the same.

One guy chimed in that I live in a shithole country, and I should just keep my mouth shut. He’s never been to Mexico, but he’s heard a lots of stories…

A couple of people wondered if I was going to get a stimulus check. The answer is no, there are people who need the money far more than I do, like, a forty thousand millionaires who need to keep making payments on their McMansions, and their vacation homes in the Hamptons. And they have car payments on their BMW’s and Mercedes.

Someone suggested that I was jealous. Nice try, but I live in a gringo mansion in the middle of Paradise, that came equipped with a gardener and a maid. And I pay less for all of that a month than you do for the house you live in that doesn’t have a support staff.

I covet nothing. I have nothing to be jealous of.

I understand the need and the hardships that people are going through. We’ve made donations to more than one of the local food banks, as well as more than one of the local organizations that are trying to help all of the people that have been unable to provide for their families because they can’t work right now.

Hey Jealousy, can you say the same?

That same person added that some Mercedes and BMW vehicles are made in the USA. They’re probably made in China, too. What’s your point? Our Buick Encore was made in South Korea. It doesn’t mean, or even prove anything.

* * * *

Pop Quiz!

Pick the American car company because you want to Buy American:

A.) Toyota

B.) Mercedes

C.) Chevrolet

D.) BMW

Please take the quiz and leave a comment. I’ll post the results.

* * * *

And then the guy that suggested I was jealous implied that I was having sex with our maid. This guy has been a friend of mine since the 1970’s. We’re probably still friends, but it’s not the same anymore. I doubt it ever will be.

So, well done, my friend. You successfully defended a man who wouldn’t cross the street to piss on you if you were on fire. And he sure as hell wouldn’t let you be a member of any of his country clubs.

Big deal! I don’t play golf, so I don’t care!

No, you probably don’t. And once again, you’ve missed my point entirely.

I’m a guy. I might forget that you hit me below the belt, Bill. But I will never forgive you for doing it.

¡Que tengas un buen dia, pinche culero!

La Cuarentena

How’s everyone surviving the mandated isolation precautions?

When this all started I had no idea if this pandemic thing was serious or not. I’ve gotten past that. COVID-19 is a particularly nasty form of viral pneumonia. I had pnuemonia way, way back when I was a kid. It almost killed me to death way back then. I’m not in a hurry to press my luck a second time with that shit.

I’ve seen people die from a cytokine storm before. It’s a terrible way to die.

But in an attempt to provide some balance in this exercise, there are worse things than contracting COVID-19. You could be a Trump supporter. People that have been infected with the Coronavirus appear to have at least a 98% chance of recovering and getting better.

* * * *

In terms of complying with the Stay at Home orders we’ve all been dealing with, I’m the kind of guy that if you tell me I can’t do something, I’m going to try to find a way to do it anyway. I’ve talked to a few people down here who also struggled with this when the pandemic precautions were first instituted.

You have to learn to pick your battles.

That was probably the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn in my life. Russ Bacon, one of my friends and co-workers at the MVAMC told me that. Several times. Just in cases you are also someone that has had trouble with this, I’m going to give you some advice that you can ignore, much like I did for a long time:

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You’re only one person, not the US military. And even they pick their battles

* * * *

I hope you’re all doing well and haven’t gone completely batshit crazy being stuck at home with the people you love most. Yeah, those annoying assholes. A lots of my real friends and virtual friends have been complaining about being bored to death while they’ve been stuck at home on social media. I’d like to take this opportunity to remind them of something: To the best of my knowledge, you can’t actually die to death from boredom.

The entire world has essentially become the Hotel California. On the bright side, if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live in Iowa, now you know. And remember this, sooner or later the quarantine will end and a day will come when you wish you were still being told to stay the fuck at home.

That’s kind of how life works.

* * * *

Aside from my golf course closing for the entire month of April, my life hasn’t really been affected all that much by the government lockdown. I’m retired. I get paid to do nothing. And I’ve discovered that I’m really pretty damn good at it. If I could do my life over, this would be my dream job.

That said, it is nice to get out of the house every now and then. Yesterday, we all took a trip to the golf course so Todd and I could retrieve our golf clubs. Lea drove our new car. She loves to drive, and she probably needed to get out of the house more than any of us, if only for an hour.

Todd and I might want to practice chipping in the backyard or something seeing how we can’t play golf right now. We’re either going to end up really good at chipping, or we’re going to be replacing a few windows. Maybe both…

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Hey, Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of my–sonuvabitch!!!

On the way back from the golf course we stopped at Soriana. It’s like unto the Mexican version of Walmart. We needed a few groceries. And stuff. Todd and Lea knew what they were looking for because they do all the cooking. I wandered through the aisles purposelessly while they shopped because I didn’t need anything.

I spent ten minutes seriously perusing everything in the Barbie® aisle. And I wasn’t even stoned! Or planning on buying a Barbie® doll.

* * * *

Despite my earlier stated aversion to work, even I can’t sit on my ass all day. I’ve been busy doing stuff here at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa. I thought I had completed all of the things on my To-Do list a couple of weeks ago, but then I remembered all of the things I had procrastinated on doing for so long that I had forgotten all about them.

They were things that involved climbing a ladder. I can’t say that I’m afraid of heights, but I’m a lots less comfortable with them as I’ve gotten older. And I should clarify this statement. I don’t have any problems climbing a ladder. It’s the descent part that I seem to have problems with.

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I’ve taken more than one misstep on a ladder in my lifetime. Based on my personal research on this, it’s true what they say. The falling part isn’t that bad. It’s the sudden impact at the end that fucks you up.

I don’t think I’ve ever broken any bones falling off of a ladder, but my right knee cringes every time it even sees a ladder. Thankfully, almost everything involving a ladder has been sorted out for now, so my right knee can relax for awhile.

* * * *

I’ve been doing a little gardening over the last couple of weeks. I used to do a lots of gardening back when we lived in Minneapolis. My lovely supermodel wife loves gardens, but she hates gardening. She asked me to put some flower gardens in the backyard for her, so I became a gardener.

Our gardens in Minnesota looked great.

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See? I told you

I attribute that to the secret formula I had developed for successful gardening:

Step 1.) Buy some plants and flowers and stuff.

Step 2.) Open a beer and start drinking.

Step 3.) Dig holes in the garden and plant flowers and stuff until you run out of things to plant. Or beer.

Gardening back then was probably a lots more fun than it is now, which is one reason why I only do a little gardening now. That, and anything that involves me having to get on my knees is a very time sensitive undertaking. That’s the primary reason I only do a little gardening.

* * * *

I started doing some housework last Saturday because we told Monica, our maid, to take a few weeks off until all this Coronavirus stuff settles down. She’s still getting paid, so you don’t have to worry about that.

It didn’t seem fair that we should just wait for her to return to work before the house was ever cleaned again. Besides, we have two kit-tens, and they shed hair like unto an elm tree dropping its leaves in October. Last week, I vacuumed up enough cat hair to knit two sweaters. It wasn’t as bad this week, and there’s a reason for that.

Unlike my dad, I have no problem doing housework. My mom had eight kids. She put us to work doing chores around the house as soon as we could walk. And I think it’s important to have a division of labor in a modern relationship. No woman ever shot her husband while he was doing the dishes. Or vacuuming the floors. It’s probably saved my life more than once.

I vacuumed the entire house last Saturday. It took me two hours. I’m very thorough when I clean. I’m even more thorough than Monica, and she’s the best housekeeper we’ve ever had. It’s a byproduct of being a nurse, and working in the OR for a couple of years.

I use all of the attachments on our Dyson® when I vacuum. I move furniture. I remove all the cushions on our couches and suck up all the crumbs and stuff that collect under them. That’s why there wasn’t as much cat hair this week. I’m sometimes capable of an incredible single-mindedness of purpose, especially if I’m wielding a vacuum cleaner.

Today, I vacuumed the floors again, and Todd followed along behind me and mopped them. All of the floors are clean and the whole house smells like lavender. My lovely supermodel wife had had a few reservations about living with two guys when Todd moved in with us. But between cooking and cleaning, Lea says she thinks she’ll keep both of us around for awhile.

And no, we can’t come over to clean your house next week. I mean, we could, but we’re not supposed to leave the house…   I find doing these mindless kind of tasks is good for me. It gives me something to do while my brain, and my Muses, sort out what they want to write about.

That’s one of the downsides to being a writer. You never stop thinking about writing.

I’ve been trying to write my blog, but I haven’t felt all that inspired to write lately, even though I haven’t had much of anything else to do. It’s taken me about a week to get this far with this installation. That’s because I have been very inspired to delete everything I’ve written and start all over several times already. I’m not disappointed with this one so far, so I might actually post it when I’m done.

* * * *

One of the things that I did earlier this week when I got bored was I downloaded a bunch of CD’s onto our laptop and updated my music collection.

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I love music, but I have an intense dislike for our laptop. I should probably start spending some quality time with it. You know, get to know it better, become buddies with it; something like unto that.

I say that for a couple of reasons. One, it took me a few hours to figure out how to upload the CD’s I had ripped to the Windows Media Player® to my Google® Music account because I haven’t done it in a couple of years. And then I had to remember how to transfer the songs I wanted to all of my mobile devices. If I did that kind of stuff more often, I wouldn’t get as frustrated with it.

And it just occurred to me that it’d probably make writing my blog a helluvalot easier if I typed it on the laptop. I’m not sure if I thought of that or if someone just inserted that thought into my head because I’m evidently too goddamn stupid to think of it myself.

I’ll have to give this thought more thought…

I write almost everything on my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2®. I used to use my phone, so as hard as it might be to imagine, this is actually an improvement. I’ve gotten used to it over time, and it’s not like I have a deadline with any of the things I write.

At any rate, when I finally got all of the songs ripped, uploaded, downloaded, and transferred, I decided to create a few playlists to suit the four or five moods that I apparently still have.

One classical music playlist. Two rock and roll playlists; one male, one female. One country music playlist, all women. And one easy listening playlist, both male and female artists, with music you’d play at 3:00 AM when you’re coming down from an acid trip and you don’t want to fall off the ladder. Or wake up the neighbors.

I’m listening to the Guys That Rock playlist as I sit on the patio by the pool and slowly type this. Todd is floating in the pool. Lea is sitting to my right playing games on her Samsung Galaxy Tab E®.

Our backyard runs parallel to the first fairway of the Chula Vista Golf Course. A small forest of old growth trees lines the hillside of the golf course. They keep most of the errant golf balls fired in our direction out of our yard. By accident or design, the trees have also turned our backyard into kind of a bird sanctuary.

Lea feeds the violet crowned hummingbirds. We don’t have the hordes of hummingbirds we used to have at our last house, but we have enough of them to keep her happy. Todd puts out oranges for the altamira and summer orioles, and the blue mockingbirds. Vermillion flycatchers and pink house finches flit from tree to tree in a flash of color. If I remember, I’ll try to get some pictures. 

* * * *

Evening is falling here in the Lakeside Area. The rufous backed robins are chirping in the trees, signaling the end of another day. When it gets darker, the nightjars and the whip-poor-wills will add their lilting calls to the night.

In the dead of night I can hear owls hooting in the trees, but I’ve never seen an owl in Mexico. Maybe that’s a good thing. In Native American folklore, owls are a symbol of impending death…

In the morning, the great kiskadees will erupt in raucous chorus impelling you to wake up and get out of bed because a new day has dawned and it’s time to get moving. Now!! I guess they didn’t get the memo that everyone is sheltering at home, and no one needs to be in a rush to move from the bedroom to the living room…

So stay safe, and stay home. This, too, shall pass.

And if you can’t stay home because you work in an essential business, all I can say is Thank You for the service you’re providing. And to my friends and former co-workers in the healthcare profession, we owe you a debt that cannot be repaid.

And if any of you need a vacation after the dust settles, contact me. We have plenty of room, and a pool. And stuff.

And you can choose which playlist you want to listen to…

If Music be the Food of Love, Play on

Seven years ago today, my lovely supermodel wife and I were on vacation in Durango, CO. We had rented a cabin up in the mountains outside of town. It was very peaceful and scenic. We had a great time there.

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Vacations are wonderful. They’re time-limited slices of what retirement is like. No alarm clocks. You might have something fun scheduled, you might not. You mostly do whatever you want whenever you want.

Lea and I took a lots of daytrips while we were in Durango. Like I said, it was very scenic. One of our trips was to Silverton. We had lunch at Handlebars Food and Saloon. If you ever find yourself in Silverton, it’s worth checking out. It’s like unto Silverton’s version of TGI Fridays. And the food was good.

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That’s where I met The Most Interesting Man in the World.

That’s what I called him. He never told me his name, but he told me half of his life story while Lea and I had lunch. Lea had her back to him. She rolled her eyes and whispered, “How the hell do they find you?” It’s seemingly one of the hazards of being a psych nurse. If there’s a crazy person within one hundred yards of you, they’ll gravitate towards you.

He said was a Texas oilman who didn’t want to be in the “oil bidness” anymore. He wanted to be a songwriter in Nashville. And he wasn’t the only one. Apparently every Texas oilman wanted to be a songwriter. He had some talent, he assured me. He had sent some of his songs to a Big Name country musician that I’d recognize if he told me the name, but he wouldn’t. 

I actually asked him. I don’t usually ask a lots of questions when someone starts talking to me like he did. It just encourages them to keep talking…

The Unnamed Big Name musician had expressed some serious interest in his songs. Nothing had been finalized, but the Most Interesting Man in the World was very optimistic that his songs would become big hits soon, and that he would become a rich and famous songwriter who won a lots of Grammys.

* * * *

Little Known Fact About Me: I once wanted to be a rich and famous songwriter, too. Much like my desire to be a rich and famous author, it was something I didn’t have any talent at, but that didn’t stop me from doing it. In my mid-twenties, I wrote hundreds of songs. It was something I could do without really trying. The words flowed into me. All I had to do was write them down.

may have sent some of the songs I wrote to a music publisher in Nashville. It sounds like something I would have done. Honestly, I’m not sure if I actually did that or not. My songwriting years are lost in a drug and alcohol induced fog. Much like unto the lyrics of every song I wrote.

In retrospect, there was a reason I wasn’t successful at anything I attempted in my youth. If I had become even modestly successful, I wouldn’t have lived very long.

* * * *

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Most Interesting Man in the World never achieved the fame and fortune he desired as a songwriter, despite all of his vaunted talent.

I’ve been watching Country Music, the latest TV documentary by Ken Burns. It’s sixteen hours long, and I haven’t seen the Most Interesting Man in the World in it yet. Ken Burns has elevated the documentary into an art form. I describe his work as heartbreakingly beautiful. 

I wouldn’t describe myself as a huge country music fan, but I have a fair number of Country/Western CD’s in my collection. After watching this show, I might have to go to music shopping.

I love music. It’s not just the food of love as William Shakespeare claimed. It is the very food of life. 

Mr. Burns covers all of the Big Names in country music in his film, but he also highlights a whole lots of lesser known musicians who have made significant contributions to the genre. These complex, interwoven storylines are the ones I find most compelling.

* * * *

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Townes Van Zandt, was a singer-songwriter from Texas that almost no one has ever heard of. He looks like a minstrel cowboy. He drank a lots of alcohol, and was a heroin addict. He was quite possibly the only musician that never wanted to become rich and famous.

Townes wrote a lots of  songs that are considered masterpieces of American folk music: To Live is to Fly. For the Sake of the Song. Tecumseh Valley. And, Pancho and Lefty. Many of his songs have been covered by Big Name artists. His musical style has often been described as darkly melancholic with rich, poetic lyrics. Someone once suggested he try writing a happy song. “These are the happy songs.” he replied.

He died in 1997 at the age of 52 from the cumulative effects of decades of drug and alcohol abuse.

* * * *

Gram Parsons was born in Florida in 1946. He was a member of the American rock band, The Byrds. He was a founding member of the country rock band, The Flying Burrito Brothers. And he released two solo albums featuring Emmylou Harris. He was the original cosmic cowboy, fusing several genres into his music.

Like unto Townes Van Zandt, Gram was also an alcoholic/drug addict. He didn’t live long enough to become a member of the 27 Club, dying at the age of 26 from an accidental drug overdose.

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Emmylou Harris was a folk singer who transitioned to country music during her collaborations with Gram Parsons. Over the course of her career she has won 14 Grammys, the Polar Music Prize, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

In 1976, she released the album, Luxury Liner, which featured the first cover of Townes Van Zandt’s haunting ballad, Pancho and Lefty.

* * * *

Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard are country music icons whose songs helped to define a generation. In late 1982, they decided to collaborate on an album. The recordings went smoothly and swiftly. The album was almost completed but, as Willie said in an interview, “I didn’t feel we had that blockbuster, you know, that one big song for a good single and a video. Then my daughter Lana played me a song I had never heard before.”

Merle Haggard: “I was sleeping in my bus when Willie started pounding on the door. He said he had found the perfect song and wanted to record it. I was really tired, so I wanted to do my recording in the morning. But Willie wanted to do it that night. So I went in the house to sing my lines. I was so tired I don’t remember what I sang, but I figured I could re-record in the morning if I needed to…”

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The song Lana played for her father was the Emmylou Harris cover of Pancho and Lefty by Townes Van Zandt. The Willie and Merle version became the Number One country song of 1983 and sold well over one million copies.

It is one of the greatest country songs ever written. I get goosebumps every time I hear it. I’ll post the lyrics, but you should really listen to the song in all its versions. They’re all available on the YouTube®.

* * * *

Living on the road my friend was gonna keep you free and clean
Now you wear your skin like iron and your breath’s as hard as kerosene
You weren’t your mama’s only boy but her favorite one it seems
She began to cry when you said goodbye and sank into your dreams
Pancho was a bandit boy, his horse was fast as polished steel
He wore his gun outside his pants for all the honest world to feel
Pancho met his match you know on the deserts down in Mexico
Nobody heard his dyin’ words ah but that’s the way it goes
All the Federales say they could’ve had him any day
They only let him slip away out of kindness I suppose
Lefty he can’t sing the blues all night long the way he used to
The dust that Pancho bit down south ended up in Lefty’s mouth
Day they laid poor Pancho low Lefty split for Ohio
Where he got the bread to go there ain’t nobody knows
All the Federales say they could’ve had him any day
They only let him slip away out of kindness I suppose
The poets tell how Pancho fell and Lefty’s living in a cheap hotel
The desert’s quiet and Cleveland’s cold and so the story ends we’re told
Pancho needs your prayers it’s true but save a few for Lefty too
He only did what he had to do and now he’s growing old
They only let him go so long out of kindness I suppose
A few gray Federales say could’ve had him any day
They only let him go so long out of kindness I suppose