Saturday, November 19, 2011

Two graying artists make my week shine

Two artists, graying and aged to their mid-60s, brightened my week.

That made me think: Is 60 the new 50? So, then is 50 the new 40? Is this just my wishful thinking? No matter. It’s heartening to see retirement-age folks Still the Same or better, and, as one of these artists sang to us, still with a Fire Down Below.

The week began with receipt of Stephen King’s 11/22/63, the newest of King’s more than 50 national bestsellers. I am an avid fan of King, who calls the ka-zillion of us his “constant readers.”  We’re proud constant readers, and in this book, he follows his own advice from On Writing, his memoir of the craft, and gives us a believable, flawed character we quickly care about and then asks “what if?” What if you could travel back in time and prevent bad things from happening? Could Kennedy’s assassination be prevented if Oswald was taken out before 11/22/63?

That’s the premise of this 842-page (not counting forward) book that King wrote in slightly less than two years. He lists the days he starts and finishes a novel, and where, at the end of each. You see, King is a constant writer for us constant readers. And, thank you, sir, for that.

King makes time travel believable as only he can; the portal is in the storeroom of the local diner. I’m on page 183 right now, and enjoying the journey every time I Turn the Page. Being able to take a journey to other places, thoughts and situations is why I read and try to write. That, and the language. Stephen King knows about the language and has tried to teach us. Thanks for that, too.

The second graying artist of the week is Bob Seger, who came to Birmingham for the first time in about 20 years Tuesday night, with his tight and right-on-target Silver Bullet Band. His songs, a few referenced in italics above, are rock, rhythm and blues background music for my generation and probably some generations behind ours.

Not graying, but gray, Seger let we happy fans sing along with him. We knew all the words. He fist-pumped, smiled and sang the songs he wrote over more than four decades about young love/lust (Night Moves), determination and growing older and wiser (Against the Wind), and, don’t ever forget, Rock ‘n Roll (Old Time Rock’ N Roll, which I read is the number 2 all-time juke box song behind Patsy Cline’s Crazy).

One of my favorites, Rock N’ Roll Never Forgets, was one of the encore songs of the night and is fitting for these artists and their determination to still shake ‘em down.

"So you're a little bit older and a lot less bolder
Than you used to be
So you used to shake 'em down
But now you stop and think about your dignity


So now sweet sixteens turned thirty-one
You get to feelin' weary when the work days done
Well all you got to do is get up and into your kicks
If you're in a fix

Come back baby
Rock and roll never forgets"

I don’t know, but I bet Stephen King – who plays with a sometimes band called The Rock Bottom Remainders with sometime-members including fellow writers Dave Barry, Barbara Kingsolver, Amy Tan, Ridley Pearson, Robert Fulghum -- is a Seger fan. He’s bound to be.

King uses music and lyrics as part of all his novels, either as part of the story or as quote introductions, often both. I recall Bob Dylan’s line: “The pump don’t work ’Cause the vandals took the handles” as an introduction for one of his books. Another, better King-constant-reader would remember which book.

More often, King weaves music into the thoughts of his characters, as they remember a line or have a song in their heads as they face the next challenge. One from this 11/22/63 book is a Ray Wylie Hubbard reference to that Texan’s song, Screw You, We’re from Texas -- because you know this time-traveling opus will end up in Texas, if JFK’s murder is going to be averted. Or will it?

That’s why we read and listen to songs like Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man, Seger’s first national hit, back when I was, really truly, just 12 years old. ("I ain't good lookin' but you know I ain't shy; ain't afraid to look a girl in the eye.")

The language and the music help us take a journey, and they accompany us on this fine adventure of life. 

We thank you for that, our writing, rocking and graying friends.


Song of the day
Against the Wind
by Bob Seger

Well those drifter's days are past me now
I've got so much more to think about
Deadlines and commitments
What to leave in, what to leave out


Against the wind
I'm still runnin' against the wind
I'm older now but still runnin' against the wind
Well I'm older now and still runnin'
Against the wind
Against the wind
Against the wind


Pictures of the day:
A Bob Seger then-and-now retrospective:



Great hair: I had a shag like that in the '70s too.


Performing in Louisville a few days after the B'ham concert.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Learn before you speak, Miss PETA

This is an open letter to PETA and Miss PETA person, a.k.a. Debbie Downer, who wrote The Montgomery Advertiser to decry the use of eagles in Auburn University’s pre-home game Eagle flight ceremonies, an inspiring tradition that’s been called one of college football’s best.

Lindsey Pollard-Post of the PETA Foundation in Norfolk, Va., wrote: "The crash of a bald eagle named Spirit into a window during a forced pre-game flight at the Auburn Tigers' stadium on Saturday is a sad example of how animals suffer when we drag them into human celebrations.

“The screaming fans, air horns, music and booming sound systems of sports games can be stressful, terrifying and disorienting for animals. If given the choice, bald eagles make their homes near lakes, rivers, and quiet forests, far away from human disturbance.”

Pollard-Post wrote the letter the week after Spirit, AU’s bald eagle, made contact with a luxury box and slightly buzzed some excited fans before Auburn’s game against Mississippi State. Debbie Downer, I mean the PETA person, then said the school should retire the birds to sanctuaries.

First, I’ll just say leave our eagles alone and mind your own.

Secondly, know what you are talking about before you talk or write, comment, exaggerate or advise.

Some points for the letter writer and PETA:

• Spirit, the American Bald Eagle, and Nova and Tiger, golden eagles, live at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine’s Southeastern Raptor Center, the oldest and only medical and surgical wildlife rehabilitation facility in the Southeast dedicated solely to raptors.

One of the first War Eagles, circa 1977, Photo by Gordon Bugg
• The eagles have been cared for and loved and have been flying for fans at Jordan Hare Stadium for more than 10 years.

• No Eagle has ever been hurt in the making of this War Eagle tradition.

• Spirit was not hurt by the contact with the luxury box. Spirit is not forced to fly anywhere, and could fly away if he wanted. However, Spirit could not survive in the wild.

• Spirit was found injured in Florida in 1995 and was brought to Auburn in 1998. Spirit made his first flight in Jordan-Hare in 2001. He is not releasable because of his damaged beak.

• Southeastern Raptor Center works in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to rehabilitate and release injured and orphaned raptors, educate the public about their role and importance, and to research raptor-related issues.

• At SRC, raptors are admitted with a variety of injuries and ailments. Many birds are rehabilitated and released. When release is not possible, the bird may become a permanent center resident or transfer to another educational facility.

• In addition, Miss Animal-Lover-with-No-Common-Sense, Auburn University is a vet school and agriculture and animal science research institution with strong schools and a history of innovation in agricultural, animal science, forestry, fisheries and wildlife studies. Auburn is so closely associated with the land and animals that some among our cross-state rivals call us the Cow College. (And, for the record, we don’t think that’s an insult.)

You see, Miss PETA, places like Auburn and the SRC do the work that you and PETA only talk about.

Because of land-grant, research universities like Auburn -- where researchers and students concentrate on the science of animals, wildlife, trees, plants, birds and raptors – animals and people are better off – and FALLEN EAGLES, THEY CAN FLY.



Picture of the day:


Mary Claire Walburn with AU eagle in the early 1990s.
This may be Tiger, who is now 31 and retired.






Song of the day:
When Fallen Angels Fly
by Billy Joe Shaver


There's a story in the bible about the eagle growing old
How it grows new sets of feathers, then becomes both young and strong

Then it spreads its mightly wing span out across the open sky
We will have the wings of eagles,when the fallen angels fly






Monday, August 22, 2011

Billy Joe Shaver tells stories in songs, survives

Billy Joe Shaver, who Willie Nelson believes may be the best songwriter alive today, didn’t feel good Friday night when we saw him at a steamy Zydeco concert. Nevertheless, the 72-year-old sang and smiled and told some stories, and with his band of players younger-than-half-his-age, entertained the small group of loyalists who knew the words to all his songs.


But, his shoulder was hurting – he’d had surgery and probably rushed to the tour without doing much of the recommended rehab (plus he told a story about falling and being picked up by that shoulder). And, it was hot, summertime-in-Birmingham hot inside the upstairs bar-slash concert hall. Shaver’s trademark snap-up denim shirt was soaked, and he asked the crew to turn off the white-hot back lights.


Still, he sang and told his stories. A performer and songwriter for most of his seven decades, Billy Joe kept coming back from the brief breaks during drum and guitar solos to sing another one. He gave us Georgia on a Fast Train, Live Forever, Tramp on Your Street, Honky Tonk Heroes, Black Rose and That’s What She Said Last Night. He did Wacko in Waco about the altercation that landed him in court last year, charged with assault. The jury of Texans sided with Billy Joe, whose friends Willie Nelson and Robert Duvall stood by him in court.

Shaver, whose been born again a couple of times, didn’t do many of his “Christian songs,” likely because he needed that painful right arm to properly emote songs like If You Don’t Love Jesus, You can go to Hell and Get Thee Behind me Satan.

Unknown to many in the world of popular country, Billy Joe Shaver is a songwriter’s songwriter and is known by loyal fans and other songwriters, especially Texas ones. Bob Dylan name-checked Billy Joe in the song I Feel a Change Comin’ On, from Dylan’s last album, Together through Life, singing “I’m listening to Billy Joe Shaver and reading James Joyce.” Kris Kristofferson, who helped Billy early during their Nashville songwriting years says, “He’s as real a writer as Hemingway. He’s timeless.”

I bought one of the six copies they had of Shaver’s book at the concert souvenir table, an autobiography called “Honky Tonk Hero” and on a normal concert night, he would have signed it for me, because that’s the way Billy Joe is. But, he left while the band was still closin’ it down. His people said Billy Joe just didn’t feel good. We could tell, and we thought, God bless him.

The book, with an introduction that is posted on his website http://www.billyjoeshaver.com/, proves Kristofferson’s real writer statement and tells the stories – how he survived, how he lost two and a half fingers in a saw mill accident, lost his wife to cancer (married three times, divorced twice) and lost their child, guitar-phenom Eddy Shaver, to a drug overdose, and how Jesus helped him see that his gift was telling stories through songs.

The book’s introduction begins, “I was not even born yet when my father first tried to kill me.”

From that rough beginning of his father beating his pregnant mother unconscious and then leaving her to die to today when Billy Joe reads his Bible everyday and looks forward to seeing his wife and son in Heaven, Billy Joe’s life is a testament to God-given talent and overcoming the odds, and sharing some of America’s best songs along the way.

In the book, which includes lyrics to dozens of great songs covered by everyone from Waylon to Elvis, Billy Joe says of his tough beginning and beyond, “I’ve lost parts of three fingers, broke my back, suffered a heart attack and a quadruple bypass, had a steel plate put in my neck and 136 stitches in my head, fought drugs and booze, spend the money I had and buried my wife, son and mother in the span of one year.”

No wonder he didn’t feel good.

But, as Shaver says in the book, “I’m not here to complain or to ask for pity. Life is hard for everybody, just in different ways. I’m not proud of my misfortune – I’m proud of my survival. “

We are too, Billy Joe.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Contest and writers conference: "Go home and write"

We gathered in Huntsville at the annual conference of the Alabama Writers Conclave to learn more about the craft of writing and to get our awards.

The “we” are writers -- folks who like to put words on paper and tell stories, through fiction or non-fiction, poems or humor. There are a few professionals in the bunch – people who have mostly earned a living by writing and communication, like me -- but this group is generally made up of folks who love the language and are willing, even compelled, to do the work and experience the sometimes-joy that is writing. There are executives and retirees, teachers, attorneys and sales people, all who close the door and write, because they love it, are good at it and have stories to tell.

At the AWC annual conference, we pile into rooms and learn about dialogue, showing, telling and playing with time in fiction, editing poems, op-eds, and that elusive “writer’s voice.”

Members can also pay a small fee and have a formal critique of a piece of work. I had my novel, first chapter, critiqued by our featured speaker, a rabbi with 24 non-fiction books to his credit. Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Ph.D, who spoke to us on topics including “What would Jesus Tweet? The Power of Writing Short,” told me I was giving away too much too soon in the second draft of my Southern, magic-laced novel. But, he liked it and the characters he met in the first 10 pages. So, I am revising, again.

Also, the AWC has an annual writing contest, a literary competition, in which folks enter from all over the U.S. and, this year, also Canada and Brazil.

This blogger placed in the humor category for Three Generations and Kid Rock: Seeing it in Color, and I was an excited as a kid with an all-As report card when I got my certificate. Now I can and will say I am an Alabama Writers Conclave literary competition award winner.

Selected works from the winners of each year’s contest are featured in AlaLit.com, posted on the AWC website. Here is the link, where my blog post on going to see Kid Rock with Granma, daughter and niece, which is about several posts back, is featured on page 184.

http://alalit.com/
Alalit.com is good reading. I’ll point you to:

• The winner of novel, first chapter, by Hank Henley, a scholastic book sales executive. It’s a stunningly clever first chapter that makes me want to see Hank get this published. We all want to get published.

• The first chapter, novel, by my new writer friend Jo Wharton Heath, a retired mathematics professor at Auburn University (my alma mater). The piece is called The Man in the Blue Demin Shirt.

• And, check out the humor piece by Birmingham Judge Debra Goldstein, about legal matters at a long-running mah-jongg group. U.S. Administrative Judge Goldstein published her first novel this year, a mystery called Maze in Blue.
When you have the time, check out Alalit.com, and let these folks tell you some stories.

I learned a lot at the meeting, and came back with tactics and knowledge I didn’t have before, plus revisions in my head and a renewed determination to “shut the door and write one word at a time” as Stephen King advises me from the post-it note on my computer.

A final word from the out-going AWC president Greg Screws, who is a television newman in Huntsville, summed it up. He said, “Go home and write.”

Monday, July 18, 2011

Missing the BEACH and all that goes with it

It’s been almost a month since THE WEEK AT THE BEACH.

I miss sound of the surf, the lazy mornings, afternoons and evenings.

I miss the shrimp. We had it steamed, fried, boiled, po-boyed, gumboed, saladed and sauted.

I miss the slowing of time but not the rushing by of days when all-of-a-sudden, it’s time to pack up and leave.

I miss the sand, the shells, the breeze, the salty smell, even the jellyfish surge that made tipping into the Gulf for relief an exercise in watching and wading, diligence and expedience.

I miss the sunsets, the days spent rotating angles with the sun as afternoon moved to evening, evening to dark.

I miss sleeping to the sound of the water moving in its continuous moon-inspired dance, sleeping the sleep of a child after a day in the sun and water, a child without worries.

I miss not having to go anywhere or do anything, but be there.

I even miss the morning appearances of the beach clean-up crews, still bankrolled (as it should be) by BP.

They cruised in early each day, stopping on the beach near our Quik-Shade beach outpost. They’d roll to a slow halt in their sand-worthy Mule-type vehicle equipped with a portable porta-potty, an unusual and glaring sight, likely a requirement of work safety standards but blending in on the beach like a mattress balances on a bottle of wine (Dylan reference).

The crew of two to five brightly-vested, wide-brim capped workers carried small nets and searched for tar balls, any remnant of the April 20, 2010 oil spill mess.

“Everyting’s fine, ma’am,” one of them told me in a Cajun accent, when I was out early with my book and a Screwdriver and asked what they were finding. Judging from their nets, they were finding water bottles, chip bags, cigarette butts and dried-up jelly fish. Once, we watched from our balcony as they dug a series of holes perpendicular to the beach, likely looking for year-old oil sludge layers.

I found the continuing presence of oil spill clean-up workers on the beaches I have loved my whole life both reassuring and unsettling. Grateful for the diligence and glad to see anyone with a job, I just wish it’d never happened.

I feared for our Paradise then and now, noting the SUVs and pick-ups in the condo parking lot and knowing without that oil and the gasoline producers we cursed in the spring and summer of 2010, how would I get to my WEEK AT THE BEACH?

But, I didn’t, couldn’t, can’t solve that problem, not during that beloved and missed vacation week, and not now.

I just miss the beach and all that goes with it.

 

Picture(s) of the day:
The oil-BP beach patrol on it's morning rounds.
That's our Quik Shade behind it, the best $50
ever spent for a WEEK AT THE BEACH.



     Last Sunset: Rolling in the Quik-Shade

Song of the Day:

Changes in Latitudes, Jimmy Buffett

These changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes,
Nothing remains quite the same.
Through all of the islands and all of the highlands,
If we couldn't laugh we would all go insane

Monday, June 13, 2011

Kathryn Tucker Windham, reporting the joys of life

Alabama’s storyteller and one of my writing and reporting heroes died Sunday, June 12, surrounded by friends and family. But, then, Miss Kathryn was almost always surrounded by friends. I think that’s because she made us her friend, accepted us – even this then-cub reporter who idolized her.


People who met Kathryn Windham -- or just those who read her Jeffrey ghost books or those celebrating folklore or front porches or listened to her on National Public Radio – became her friends because she brought us into her circle of care and laughter. She was 93 when she died Sunday, which is a good, long life for a journalist, storyteller, photographer, friend and mother of three who left a mark on everyone who knew her.

Through her writing, her care for others and her love for Selma, folklore and all things superstitious, Kathryn Tucker Windham’s fame had spread far beyond the Alabama Black Belt. Born in Thomasville, she lived most of her adult life in Selma, where she was a treasured hometown icon and where I was privileged to know her.

As a reporter for the Selma Times-Journal from 1979 to 1986 (and another stint as Lifestyle editor in the late 80s, early 90s), I was one of many young reporters who idolized this woman who used to work at the STJ and was the first female police reporter at the Alabama Journal in Montgomery. She told us stories about covering the police beat in the state capitol back during World War II, when most of the guys were gone, so they had to let a woman cover the police beat. Mrs. Windham, speaking to a group of journalists back in the day at a Selma meeting, provided my favorite line about being a reporter. “You get to ask people you don’t know things that are none of your business.”

Perfect. And that’s how her writing was, and her care for others.

I wrote a feature story about Mrs. Windham back in the 1980s, I think it was (I looked this morning in my yellowing clipping collection from the STJ and couldn’t find it). My Selma Times-Journal editor, Nikki Davis Maute, and one of Miss Kathryn’s many BFFs whose picture with Jeffrey helped start it all, assigned the feature to me. See, we had a list of prominent Selma folks and were doing profile stories on them, first to tell their stories, and also to have a file (these were paper files then) on our best and brightest, whenever that information was needed. “I know y’all are doing this to get ready for our obituaries,” Mrs. Windham, ever the newswoman, told me, laughing, during the interview which was more like a friendly visit.

Mrs. Windham’s house was always open to friends, especially on New Year’s Day, when she served up pots of black-eyed peas and corn bread. It was from Mrs. Windham that I learned that only Yankee cornbread has that teaspoon of sugar it in. She befriended the leagues of young reporters who came through Selma and the Selma Times-Journal, during my time being the three J’s: Jackie, Jeanette Berryman and Janet Gresham. Janet still lives and writes in Selma, using her substantial writing and photography talents to continue to tell Selma’s story, through your blogs and through freelance work publicizing Selma’s annual events, like the Selma Pilgrimage.

I’ll always think of Mrs. Windham as a reporter, a journalist, first. Because she was so good as a reporter, she was so good at telling stories of all kinds. Her writing voice was like she was talking to you, telling you a great story, but with carefully chosen, spot-on word choices and sentences that captured the recognizable truth inside her stories, even those ghost and folklore ones.

I last saw Mrs. Windham at Auburn two years ago when she was honored as a distinguished Alabama writer by the Auburn University school of journalism, my alma mater. Two of my heroes were honored that day, her and Rheta Grimsley Johnson. Mrs. Windham and I talked a little bit before the luncheon; I told her I was writing a book, set in the Black Belt, a story that is wrapped around newspaper reports, superstitions and some magic and things we don’t know are possible or not. I said I’d already used one of her books, Count the Buzzards! Stamp Those Grey Mules! as a resource for rural, southern superstitions. “Good for you,” she smiled at me, and added, “Just write it.”

Just write it. That’s what Mrs. Windham did, as an ambassador for Alabama, Selma and the Blackbelt. She wrote and spoke the stories of our lives and past lives and what’s so special about living here and loving family and friends, and, best of all, just the joy of living. What a testament and lesson to us all.

 
Mrs. Windham in picture from al.com Monday,
with a cutline that quotes Rick Bragg, 
"She's speaking of life and life lived, not life invented. That's a big difference."



I had to include this scanned version of the picture from 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey that started it all,
my former editor Nikki Maute, caught with Jeffrey the ghost.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy Birthday to Dylan; favorite lines revisited

Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan, and thanks for the words and the music.

The songwriting icon, born Robert Zimmerman on May 24, 1941, has provided me and countless others with songs and verses to map our lives, the ups and downs, with words and phrases, and figures of speech in thousands of verses, hundreds of songs, scores of albums and a lifetime of coolness.

As Bob’s 70th approached, the music and entertainment world counted down to the milestone birthday of the great one, the singer-songwriter who defined several genres of American music and along the way earned his own adjective, “Dylanesque.”

Other people have paid tribute and analyzed the mystery of Dylan’s genius better than I can, in the books and studies and websites devoted to him. For me, a writer and reporter at my core, it is about the language. That’s what Stephen King, a favorite author and Dylan fan himself, said about writing well in his book, “On Writing.” It’s about the language.

In the Dylan cover issue of the Rolling Stone (with an on-line version including RS’s 15 Dylan covers), Bono wrote about Like a Rolling Stone, the number one Dylan song for many. Bono of U2, a pretty cool dude himself, described Like a Rolling Stone as a “song that changes everything.” He called Dylan “the king of spitting fire himself, the juggler of beauty and truth, our own Willy Shakespeare in a polka-dot shirt.”

It’s about the language. My love for Dylan and his songs, I have figured out, is rooted in Dylan’s use of words and phrases, rhymes and verses, to paint us eternal pictures.

Sure, his music is legendary, having created some of the loveliest, funkiest, rocking and impactful melodies in the 20th century. I dare a doubter to listen to Blind Willie McTell, Just Like a Woman, Maggie’s Farm, Gotta Serve Somebody, Tangled Up in Blue, Mr. Tambourine Man and continue doubting. But alas, I am here today not to convert those who don’t get Dylan or care, but to recognize and share the impact his words and verses have had on my life.

There is rarely a situation where I cannot apply Dylan song verses or lines. So instead of counting down my favorite Dylan songs, I offer a short list of favorite lines from Dylan songs. I welcome those who read this to offer their own favorite lines. Also, I reserve the right to add to the list at anytime during Dylan birthday week or month, so here goes.

“You don’t need a weatherman
To know which way the wind blows”

 Subterranean Homesick Blues, Bringing It All Back Home

“Well, my back has been to the wall for so long, it seems like it’s stuck
Why don’t you break my heart one more time just for good luck.”

 Summer Days, Love and Theft

“Some neon lazy slut has charmed away my brains”
“This woman so crazy, I swear I ain't gonna touch another one for years”

 Rollin’ and Tumblin, Modern Times



“I can write you poems, make a strong man lose his mind
I’m no pig without a wig
I hope you treat me kind”

 High Water for Charley Patton, Love and Theft


“When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.”

 Like a Rolling Stone (LARS to we Dylan people), Highway 61 Revisited



“When I was down
You just stood there grinning...
You got a lotta nerve
To say you got a helping hand to lend
You just want to be on
The side that’s winning”

 Positively 4th Street

“You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don’t think twice, it’s all right”

 Don’t Think Twice, FreeWheelin’ Bob Dylan

“People are crazy and times are strange”

 Things Have Changed, The Essential Bob Dylan

“And she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girl”

 Just Like a Woman, Blonde on Blonde

“I see my light come shining from the west unto the east
Any day now, any day now I shall be released.”

 I Shall be Released, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, 2

“What’s good is bad, what’s bad is good, you’ll find out when you reach the top
You’re on the bottom..”

 Idiot Wind, Blood on The Tracks

“To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to..”

 It’s Alright Ma, Bringing it All Back Home


“May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
May you stay forever young…”

 Forever Young, Planet Waves


Monday, May 16, 2011

Images of tornado devastation include horror, hope

The images of the devastation of the tornadoes of April 27, 2011 and the aftermath come to me in many ways:

• Real time video of the tornado in Tuscaloosa we watched on television that afternoon, knowing people are dying and going to die. The weather tower-cam video showed a swirling, angry storm so large and so menacing that we blinked and thought it looked like a Hollywood-manufactured tornado. But this storm was Mother Nature’s deadly creation that tossed houses, bodies, vehicles, buildings, neighborhoods and lives.

• My daddy and stepmother, aged 83 and 74, when they finally made it to our house the day after, Daddy gasping for breath and Emily exhausted but still caring for others.

• Emily and Daddy’s place in Pleasant Grove, where his almost 100-year-old home of 40 years still stands, a wounded warrior with scars on its roof, siding and ceilings, surrounded by debris piled up like fortifications in an on-going battle.

• The homes and lives that didn’t make it through the storm, some 238 people in Alabama, including my niece’s mother in law, Gayle McCrory, whom Dawn says two weeks later she still picks up the phone to call. But then she remembers. The McCrory family’s loss was multiplied across the state and south in what will now forever be known as the tornadoes of April 27, 2011.

The images of the storm also include the debris collected from Daddy’s yard in Pleasant Grove, symbols of the lives forever changed, including:

• A picture of a young black woman holding her baby, probably minutes after it was born. We posted the picture on the Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/#!/PicturesandDocumentsfoundafterAprilTornadoes. People replied, “I hope she and the baby are okay.” So do we.

• One size 12 men's yellow dress shoe.

• A W-2 for a teen-ager who worked a summer at Alabama Adventure.

• A Christmas ornament and most of a ceramic wise man.

• A torn section of Bo Jackson’s book, Bo Knows Bo, four pages of the chapter called: “Set Your Goals High – and Don’t Stop.” Bo, who we Auburn people love, grew up in McCalla, not far from some of the storm’s worst devastation in Pleasant Grove, Concord and Tuscaloosa. Bo’s advice to “don’t stop” is council everyone affected by the storm, as victims or volunteers, must have as a mantra. So much has been done to help and care for others by regular folks from all over, and there is still much work to be done.

Other images follow me, here and now more than two weeks after the storms:

• Daddy, Emily and Dreama, their adopted daughter and the little sister I always wanted, telling the story of riding out the storm in the hall of their house.
  • A blanket on top of Dreama and Prancer the Chihuahua, they held onto each other as the storm raged outside, the windows shattered and the bathroom door blew out and the sucking wind grabbed Emily. Daddy recalls hanging on to Em, his wife of almost 50 years, as the wind grabbed her. They heard trees falling and ceiling crumbling, but they walked out of the hall, the only injury a nasty cut to Daddy’s arm and bruises that still shine purple on his right arm. They spent a miserable night in the house that night – trapped by the fallen trees, powerlines and devastation, and watched their neighbors walk out of the chaos – “like refugees from a battle,” Em said, folks clutching a few possessions, a garbage bag of treasures saved.
  • (My aunt and uncle-in-laws, Jimmy and Anne Adams, were among those Pleasant Grove neighbors who walked out with just the clothes on their backs, after surviving the storm huddled together as their house disintegrated around them. Aunt Anne walked out, they now know, with a broken leg. I tried to look for their house when we returned, but blocks and blocks and blocks of Pleasant Grove are gone, so that one rubble looks like the next, unless it’s your rubble.)

• Images of volunteers, helpers, saints, who came to help:

o The young man Cody who helped Emily get panels and tarps in place on the house the day after, so that Daddy would leave it without worrying too much about looters or rain taking what the storm had not.

o The folks at their church, Pleasant Grove United Methodist, who checked on them, sent volunteers to help clear the driveway, retarped the roof and are still helping. Em and I stopped by the church after meeting the insurance adjuster last Thursday, and we had a hot meal with volunteers from all over. I was amazed at the expert-level coordination of help and services and the caring – a front-line, “faith-based” rescue and help initiative duplicated in communities across the state. Churches have been the backbone of on-the-ground help in affected communities, and we praise the Lord for them.

o A man named Kevin and two helpers, who came Saturday before last, sent by the church, armed with chain saws and a diesel-powered loader to clear the rest of the drive way. They cut and piled and toted. We had a small family work party that day -- Frank, Will, Mary Claire, Em and Dreama. We shoveled insulation and dry wall in the living room and bedroom; Frank and Will cut and dragged limbs and piled debris that used to be the tool shed and tools, and they took down the pecan tree that pierced the roof. And, because of Kevin and helpers, angels from Daphne, we left with most of the debris at the curb and another step closer to the new normal.


Daddy and Emily, Dreama and Prancer, the yipping Chihuahua (or is that redundant?) spent two weeks with us before taking the invite to live in the basement apartment of friends Jeff and Tina Lindsey, nearby in Hoover. They are settling in and nearer to that new normal state, in this one-level apartment with kitchen. We have my list of what the adjuster said insurance will cover, expect the official one next week, and next on our list is getting bids from roofers, drywallers and painters. A reliable contractor to coordinate it all would be another wished-for miracle.

Meanwhile, like others whose lives were scrambled and tossed in these storms, my folks just keep going. They’re still shaken, but thankful, sometimes sad but happy to be here, and they do the next thing. They “Don’t Stop,” just like Bo advised in the four-pages that flew into the Romine yard in the storms of April 27, 2011.


Pictures of the day:


The bathroom door that went flying.


















A Pleasant Grove neighborhood, after the storm

Songs of the day:

The songs in my head that speak of the horror, fear and sadness and the hope, determination and caring that were a part of this natural disaster are many. And, most were written by Bob Dylan, of course, who in his 50 years of songwriting has addressed most emotions many times. I’ve thought of A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall, Shelter from The Storm, High Water Risin’ and even Blowin’ in the Wind. Since I can’t decide, and because Bob’s 70th birthday is my likely next blog, I’ll share some of them and close with a song I’ve only heard on a Bootleg album, Most of the Time, with words that ring true for those who survived the storm.

A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall, 1962 (Free-wheelin’ Bob Dylan)

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.


Shelter From the Storm, 1974, (Blood on The Tracks)

I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail
Poisoned in the bushes an’ blown out on the trail
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

High Water Risin’ for Charley Patton, 2001, (Love and Theft)


(Note: The Mississippi Flooding in 1927 inspired this song, a Dylan tribute for Blues Legend Charley Patton who wrote the first High Water Risin’; let us remember those in the wake of that pending disaster)

High water risin’, the shacks are slidin’ down
Folks lose their possessions—folks are leaving town
Bertha Mason shook it—broke it
Then she hung it on a wall
Says, “You’re dancin’ with whom they tell you to
Or you don’t dance at all”
It’s tough out there
High water everywhere

Most of the Time, 1989, (Oh, Mercy)

He’s writing about a woman here, but I suspect many storm survivors feel this way…most of the time.

Most of the time

I’m clear focused all around
Most of the time
I can keep both feet on the ground
I can follow the path, I can read the signs
Stay right with it when the road unwinds
I can handle whatever I stumble upon
I don’t even notice she’s gone
Most of the time

Most of the time
It’s well understood
Most of the time
I wouldn’t change it if I could
I can make it all match up, I can hold my own
I can deal with the situation right down to the bone
I can survive, I can endure
And I don’t even think about her
Most of the time

Most of the time
My head is on straight
Most of the time
I’m strong enough not to hate
I don’t build up illusion ’til it makes me sick
I ain’t afraid of confusion no matter how thick
I can smile in the face of mankind
.............
Most of the time

Monday, March 28, 2011

So sorry, I’ve been e-jacked

I was e-jacked on Friday, and I didn’t feel a thing.

The first hint that my gmail account had been hijacked came when I received a mail delivery failure notification for an e-mail to a bunch of folks I had not sent anything to.

Next, I heard from two of the 390 spammed recipients that my e-mail had apparently been hijacked, and one copied me on the original e-mail (including the very lengthy contacts list). Not coincidently both the folks who e-mailed me to let me know about the out-of-control e-mail were communications professionals, former corporate communications co-workers who would think to communicate with me about the strange e-mail they received. Thanks guys, and sorry about the spam.

And, it wasn’t enough that this worm, pickle, cookie or whatever stupid name there is for this spamming devil, sent an e-mail to almost 400 contacts -- everyone I’ve ever sent an e-mail to since I opened the gmail account in 2008 – including job prospects, other professional contacts, aunts and uncles. No, to make it just precious, the e-mail and link it sent was for: men’s performance enhancement products.


Great. Instead of just being annoying and embarrassing, this hijacked e-mail bearing my name is also “inappropriate.” Hopefully, it went to most folks’ junk mail or spam folder, and most really don’t think sweet-ole-me would zip ‘em a link about such as that.

In fact, I never opened the link that was sent to my unsuspecting e-mail contacts. I had already deleted the e-mail in “sent items” which showed it went out shortly after midnight on Friday, March 25. I deleted it and the sent e-mails. I deleted everything I could find to do with the e-jacking.

Therefore, I didn’t know what the spammers or hijackers were trying to sell or push or accomplish. Then, a communications friend, this one from Washington state, e-mailed, saying it looks liked your e-mail has been hacked and the link supposedly from me had directed him to “a Canadian health care link offering me – shall, I say – ‘performance enhancing drugs.’”

This former co-worker and I occasionally sent each other links about Bob Dylan or other music heroes. So, he clicked on the link from me, expecting Dylan or a video of roots music, but instead got an unsuitable surprise. However, he deleted all, and there was no apparent damage to his computer or e-mail.

Being a novice and newcomer to hijacked e-mails and one to try to learn lessons from embarrassments like this, I Googled and I Binged. I found out this e-mail hijacking is common, especially as a way to sell those male performance enhancing products. Sometimes, the hackers are after people’s contact information or passwords, or anything that can get them something for nothing.

Regarding e-mail hijacking and other security breaches, some remedies and precautions are recommended by the experts. If you got a strange e-mail from me, or from another innocent e-mail friend, here is some advice:

1. Don’t click on any weird-sounding-or-looking links sent in an unexpected e-mail.

2. Delete suspicious e-mails outgoing and in-going.

3. If you think your e-mail has been compromised, immediately change the password on your e-mail account.

4. Check your internal computer security system or program (mine is Trend Micro) and make sure it’s been updated and running. Ditto for your Windows security system; allow for the security updates when they come in, usually when you turn on your computer.

5. Contact a full system scan, including spam and malware with whatever antivirus and security software you have on your computer. (If you don’t have any security system, then getting your e-mail hacked is probably the least of what could happen.)

The IT experts went on to say that you can get a second opinion, and there are lots of pay sites and products to help with this. Bottom line: Keep your security up-to-date, and probably, change your e-mail password often.

And if you received an inappropriate e-mail from me, selling little blue pills or saying that you won $10K in some jackpot, please accept my apology, and DELETE.



Picture of the day:
I found this picture of hail in Alabama on TwitPic, taken March 27, 2011:

I share it because our camera was in the truck when we witnessed three hail storms in a row from our friends' Flint River camphouse front porch in Talbot County, Ga. Saturday. Some of the hail was at least this big, in each of the storms, which were followed by a gorgeous rainbow reaching to the horizon. 

Song of the day:
(I couldn't find a hijacking or hacking song, so I opted for Everything is Broken by Bob Dylan, who is scheduled to take his Never Ending Tour to China and Vietnam in early April. This song was released in 1989 and is a favorite lyrical tune with great rhymes for those times when it seems like every time that you stop and turn around, something else just hits the ground......)
Everything is Broken
By Bob Dylan

Broken lines, broken strings
Broken threads, broken springs
Broken idols, broken heads
People sleeping in broken beds
Ain’t no use jiving
Ain’t no use joking
Everything is broken


Broken bottles, broken plates
Broken switches, broken gates
Broken dishes, broken parts
Streets are filled with broken hearts
Broken words never meant to be spoken
Everything is broken


Seem like every time you stop and turn around
Something else just hit the ground


Broken cutters, broken saws
Broken buckles, broken laws
Broken bodies, broken bones
Broken voices on broken phones
Take a deep breath, feel like you’re chokin'
Everything is broken


Every time you leave and go off someplace
Things fall to pieces in my face


Broken hands on broken ploughs
Broken treaties, broken vows
Broken pipes, broken tools
People bending broken rules
Hound dog howling, bullfrog croaking
Everything is broken

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rheta memoir heralds: Keep moving forward

“Keep moving forward. Three words to remember when you want to forget.”

So ended Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s memoir, Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming, which I devoured as soon as Barnes and Noble delivered it to my doorstep.

Nationally-syndicated columnist, Auburn journalism graduate and my first editor, Rheta Grimsley Johnson was always my hero and mentor, even though we only worked together a few months, and through the years I only talked to her maybe once every 10 years and kept up only via the times I found and read her columns.

When we worked together at the Auburn Bulletin in circa 1979 and she was the editor, me the Lifestyle editor, Rheta used to tell me I was the fastest writer ever. She, on the other hand, was and is one of the best ever. Her writing is witty, honest, thorough, detailed, lyrical and well-thought-out and structured to the point where I find myself going back and rereading favorite sentences and phrases.

The same is true with Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming, in which Rheta traces her life from Colquitt, Ga., to Montgomery, Ala. to Auburn, Ala, where she was Plainsman Editor and met her cartoonist first husband Jimmy Johnson, of Arlo and Janis fame (yes, Janis looks like Rheta, but she claims she never acted like her). The memoir takes us to St. Simons Island, Ga., where she and Jimmy and friends started a short-lived weekly newspaper, then to Monroeville to work on that excellent weekly, then to Jackson, Miss., then Greenville, Miss. and the beginning of Rheta’s run as a syndicated columnist. During the last 30-plus years, she’s written about the South and southerners with carefully drawn prose that touches the mind and heart.

In this book, she writes with beauty and skill about growing up (I identified with the chapter: The Year the World Lusted for Barbie), being a journalist, then a columnist, about her relationships, her friends, her triumphs and mistakes. She wrote the book, I believe in part, to help her to begin to heal from the heartbreak of losing her husband Don Grierson, a journalism professor retired from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who died at their Iuka, Miss. farm-in-the-hollow a few days after heart surgery in 2009. I wish I had known her Don, but feel like I did after reading about their adventures in Cajun Louisiana, France and on the “Fishtrap Hollow” farm in Mississippi.

I last saw Rheta at Auburn two years ago, where she came with her sister-in-law Annie (Don’s brother’s widow) for Rheta to accept an award from Auburn University, as distinguished alumna, I believe. She came to the event, probably because she said she would, barely weeks after losing her husband – whose memory she and friends had celebrated with a gathering in the Mississippi hollow where only Hank Williams music was played (all Hank, all day) and echoed across the hillsides.

Even then, even with her heart still broken and a speech to make, she was kind to me and to the others gathered for the event which also honored Selma’s Kathryn Tucker Windham (another great writer I’ve been privileged to cross paths with and learn from).

You see, another reason I remember Rheta so fondly, in addition to her talent and the abilities, is that she was extraordinarily kind to me during my worst of times. My mother got sick with cancer a few months into my first, real post-graduate journalism job as Lifestyle editor, photographer and sometimes general-assignment reporter at the Auburn Bulletin (a twice-weekly – technically a semi-weekly) newspaper originally founded by Neil and Henrietta Davis (two more reporter/journalism heroes I was privileged to know and learn from).

Eventually, I had to be in Birmingham all the time, as we watched my sweet mother die. During those days that turned into weeks, it was Rheta who did my work, edited the weddings and recipes, wrote the features and pasted up the Lifestyle pages, so that I could still get the $125 per week salary that was keeping Frank and me in our honeymoon trailer house on Wire Road. Rheta did that for me, without fanfare, without wanting credit. Instead, she’d ask how I was doing, if I was holding up alright. She’d find something positive to compliment me about as she made light of the work that was piling deeper and deeper on her.

I never forgot that about Rheta, and I wished so much that day two years ago at Auburn that I could do something to ease her pain. But, as she writes so well in her book – which also celebrates Barbies, horses and men and grandmothers, food, music and newspapers:

“Pain is personal. When you rap your thumb with a hammer, nobody feels it but you. Nobody else cusses or cries. Grief is the same. The hammer hasn’t hit anyone but you. People will bring you a cold rag to wrap your finger and say they are sorry you are hurting, but the endless throbbing doesn’t go away when the sympathetic visitors do. It lasts. And lasts. “

But the book is not about the pain, but it includes it, just like life does.

I e-mailed Rheta about a month ago, to compliment her on her column on Auburn’s Cam Newton, which had been reprinted in Auburn Magazine, the alumni publication. In the column, she compared watching Cam on the field to Dancing with the Stars. It was great.

She replied to the e-mail, and in typical Rheta fashion with me, she apologized for not being in touch. She was feeling better, she said, after a year of “ricocheting off walls” after Don died. She didn’t mention her book, just out, but did comment on my almost-finished novel, which we had discussed briefly at that luncheon in Auburn, when I was just starting it. She offered praise for finishing the first draft, saying, “I'm delighted that you're finishing it. The two most common problems most of us writers have are 1.starting and 2. finishing. You've done both, it would seem.” See, she writes well, even in e-mails. Rheta also gave me advice on publishers and offered to write a blurb or anything I might need WHEN (not if) the novel gets to the publishing point.

There you go. That’s Rheta, and that’s why she is able to capture the soul and heart of the people she writes about and why her friends are her friends forever. And that’s why this memoir spoke to me so clearly and strongly about the joys and the pains that are LIFE, and how all any of us can do amidst the painful parts is: Keep moving forward.

Picture of the day:

Book cover of Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming, by Rheta Grimsley Johnson. I'm not sure, but the old typewriter (we used typewriters then!) and block walls look like very much like the Auburn Plainsman office.



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Song of the day:
In honor of Rheta's Don, let's pick a tune from Hank Williams, the songwriter's songwriter.
 
The Alabama Waltz
By Hank Williams (1950)
 
I was sad and blue, I was down hearted too
It seemed like the whole world was lost
Then I took a chance and we happened to dance
To the tune of The Alabama Waltz, waltz, waltz
The Alabama Waltz
There all my fears and cares were lost
There in your arms with all of your charms
We danced The Alabama Waltz

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Three generations and Kid Rock, seeing it In Color

When Granma Emily first told me she wanted to go to the concert with us, saying, “I love Kid Rock,” I had to pause and ask, “You mean Kid Rock? American Bad Ass? Bawitdaba? F-words and three-fourths- naked women? That Kid Rock?”

“Well, he seems nice on the TV,” Emily, a.k.a. Granma, said.

She repeated, yes, she likes Kid Rock and planned to get tickets, too, when she heard that Mary Claire and I were going to see Kid Rock and Jamey Johnson’s Birmingham show Feb. 19. She wanted to take Dreama, her 15-year-old niece/daughter. It’d be fun.

I suspected my 73-year-old stepmother knew the southern rocker, ballad-singing Kid Rock of CMT fame, not the expletive-rhyming, stoned-pimp, bouncing b-a-from-Detroit Kid Rock.

No matter, fast forward a couple of weeks – Dreama had a church trip, so granddaughter Elizabeth Dawn, my niece, replaced Dreama in the three-generations-of-Romine-girls-go-to-Kid-Rock contingent – and we were in da’ house (as Kid Rock would say). My only regret is that we didn’t have tickets for all the nieces to attend, especially Patsy, who with her Kid-Rock-like attitude would have given us some of the street cred we were lacking.

Regardless, our three-generations-Kid-Rock adventure – a Saturday night we’ll always remember --provided living proof that attitude doesn’t have an age limit and that music and charismatic bad-boy singers like Robert James Ritchie, a.k.a. Kid Rock, transcend generations.

“I thought he was fantastic,” Granma said, as she turned her hearing aid back on as we sat and waited for the crowd to thin out and the smoke to clear after Kid Rock’s two hour performance.

A few hours before, we had looked like an unlikely crew as we lined up to enter the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center Saturday night, amid young girls wearing daisy dukes and high-heel boots. Three generations of Romine girls were lead by Granma in a sparkly red shirt, sensible black pants suit and her comfortable walking shoes.

Apologies to BJCC security, but we made it through just fine, each of us with three Smirnoff miniatures stuffed into our bras – including granma’s ample bosom. Dawn couldn’t quit laughing at the thought of Granma stashing vodka minis in her granma bra. We bought Sprites (Granma paid) and settled into our seats in the upper deck, not sitting together, but close enough for me and MC to wave to Dawn and Granma, as opener Ty Stone entertained and Alabama native Jamey Johnson performed. Johnson gave several nods to our home state, in a cover of Alabama’s My Home’s in Alabama, David Allen Coe’s The Ride about riding from Montgomery with Hank Williams’ ghost (Mister, can you make folks cry when you play and sing?), and as a final number, uplifted the crowd with Hank Williams’ I Saw the Light. I loved Johnson and vow to download several of his songs, including In Color (song of the day).

Granma’s verdict on the openers when we met to buy more Sprites: “Boring. I’m ready for Kid Rock.”

Okay, Granma. Hold on.

For Kid Rock’s set, I traded places with Dawn, so she and Mary Claire could suitably dance and rock out without worrying about tipping Granma over. I sat/stood next to Granma Em, and seeing her reactions and comments made the show even better. If she was shocked at the lyrics or stage show with laser lights, timed erupting flames, a stuffed bear wearing Mardi Gras beads, a huge Longhorn skull spewing smoke and the stripper poles with the aforementioned three-fourths naked women, she never showed it.

Are those girls naked? No m’am, they have on bikini tops and thongs. I think they have those thongs for sale at the souvenir booth.

Granma drank her beer (having given me her bosom-warm vodka mini) and ate her popcorn as Kid Rock worked his way through Cowboy and All Summer Long.

“I think he’s a poet,” she said at one point. This was a hard point to argue, as I’ve admired Kid Rock’s musicianship and song-writing, his ballads like Picture and Only God Knows Why, as well as the fast-paced rebellious songs, including Cowboy, one of his most well-known songs. Not every poet finds a way to rhyme scotch and crotch, or chaos and Amadeus, but the Kid does it. Witness the lyrics (radio edit) to Cowboy:


“Cause chaos, rock like Amadeus
Find West Coast p---- for my Detroit players
Mack like mayors, ball like Lakers
They told us to leave, but bet they can't make us
Why they wanna pick on me lock me up and stored away my key
I ain't no G, I'm just a regular failure
I ain't straight outta Compton I'm straight out the trailer
Cuss like a sailor drink like a Mick
My only words of wisdom are just, Radio Edit
I'm flickin my Bic up and down that coast and
Keep on truckin until it falls in the ocean

Cowboy
With the top let back and the sunshine shining
Cowboy
Spend all my time at Hollywood and Vine
Cowboy
Ridin at night cause I sleep all day
Cowboy
I can smell a pig from a mile away
Cowboy
With the top let back and the sunshine shining
Cowboy
With the top let back and the sunshine shining
Cowboy
Hollywood and Vine
cowboy.”

Some of the lyrics I knew were x-rated, but Granma probably didn’t pick all those out, but when Kid Rock, who turned the big 4-0 this year, sang a new song called F---ing Forty and flashed the words on the big screen, there was no doubt.

“What’s he saying?” Granma asked.
“It’s about turning 40, called F---ing Forty. He says f----ing forty; at least I’m not f---ing 41.”

We looked at each other and laughed and said, “at least it’s not f----ing 54,” or “f---ing 73.”

Granma Em brought her binoculars, and I kept them around my neck through most of the show, getting up-close looks at the stage, at the cool lady drummer he’s had forever, and at his changing outfits, from the fuzzy vest at the beginning to the Alabama Rock On ’04 sparkly t-shirt to the flashing pimp outfit to his final change, bare-chested with the microphone he loves to flip and catch stuck down in the waistband of his blue jeans.

“He’s got an interesting body,” Granma kept saying. When he came out sans shirt for the Bawitdaba finale, and I said, “look, he took his shirt off.” Granma said, “give me those binoculars,” and spent most of the finale studying the interesting body and lamenting “I hope his pants don’t fall off.” Sure Granma. And then, “is that a phoenix tattoo on his back?”

“Yes, and I think that's his son’s name tatted around his bicep.”

The Birmingham News reviewer Mary Colurso concluded that the concert was a “Kid Rock party, start to finish.” Granma and I, Dawn and Mary Claire agree. And Granma, who taught me how to bop and jitterbug years ago, held her own during our three-generation rock concert experiment. We laughed a lot, and Kid Rock has a new or perhaps renewed fan of his parents’ generation.

What’s next?

Widespread Panic is coming to town this spring; better not tell Granma.



Picture of the day:

Romine girls after Kid Rock concert: Mary Claire Walburn, Jackie Romine Walburn, Emily Love Romine and Elizabeth Dawn Romine McCrory.











Song of the day:


In Color, by Jamey Johnson

(With a great refrain and lyrics that remind us of our parents, our grandparents or ourselves, In Color won multiple awards for Alabama’s Jamey Johnson and is just one of this great singer-songwriter’s to-the-point songs.)



“I said, Grandpa what’s this picture here
It’s all black and white and ain’t real clear
Is that you there, he said, yeah I was eleven
Times were tough back in thirty-five
That’s me and Uncle Joe just tryin’ to survive
A cotton farm in the Great Depression

And if it looks like we were scared to death
Like a couple of kids just trying to save each other
You should have seen it in color

This one here was taken overseas
In the middle of hell in nineteen forty-three
In the winter time you can almost see my breath
That was my tail gunner ole’ Johnny McGee
He was a high school teacher from New Orleans
And he had my back right through the day we left


And if it looks like we were scared to death
Like a couple of kids just trying to save each other
You should have seen it in color


A picture’s worth a thousand words
But you can’t see what those shades of gray keep covered
You should have seen it in color

This one is my favorite one
This is me and grandma in the summer sun
All dressed up the day we said our vows
You can’t tell it here but it was hot that June
That rose was red and her eyes were blue
And just look at that smile I was so proud
That’s the story of my life
Right there in black and white

And if it looks like we were scared to death
Like a couple of kids just trying to save each other
You should have seen it in color

A picture’s worth a thousand words
But you can’t see what those shades of gray keep covered
You should have seen it in color
You should have seen it in color

Monday, February 14, 2011

Some people are from evil, and some are from good....

It's called a Pitch or a Summary, that jacket-cover information on a novel that you read before you decide to buy or borrow a book. Here is the first draft of my pitch for my first-ever novel, currently named: Mojo Jones and the Black Cat Bone.

I think it still needs some work, like the still-being polished book, but please let me know what you think and if this pitch would make you pick the book to buy, borrow, or most importantly, to read:

Pitch: Mojo Jones and the Black Cat Bone

Some people are from evil, and some are from good.

Those opposites collide in this Southern story of right and wrong, good and evil and the magic that comes from ancient spiritual truths. Set in Alabama’s Black Belt, Mojo Jones and the Black Cat Bone challenges conventional views of good and evil, magic and reality, faith and mysteries, prejudice and understanding, justice and revenge.

A magic spell so powerful it crouches-in-waiting for more than a quarter century centers the action in Mojo Jones, as does the possibility of invisible, mysterious forces that intervene in human affairs and the question, what would you do?

Hoodoo, conjure women, a young newspaper editor, a law-school-graduate nephew and his retired school teacher-fried-green-tomato-cooking grandma, a big-city lawyer, a nun, the baddest man in the county and a conflicted rural grand jury play their parts in the story in which Desert Storm veteran and second-generation medicinal plant treater Mojo Jones tests himself, his family and his community. They all must come to terms with the magic in all of us and what it means to do the right thing.



Picture of the day:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



Finding shells at the beach: I'm ready to go.
 
 
 

Song of the day: Maggie's Farm

Bob Dylan made a rare Grammy appearance Sunday night, as special guest appearing with nominees Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers, folk-rock bands who reminded me of early Bob and The Band.

It was perfect that the song selection was Maggie's Farm, the tune Dylan went "electric" with more than 35 years ago at the Newport Folk Festival. Great lyrics. And, although Bob was raspy (what's my point?), it was a great moment for fans (and you could tell for these young musicians) as Dylan smiled and lead the two bands and at least a couple of his band members on a fast, rousing rendition of "ain't gonna work on Maggie's Farm no more," closing out with characteristic coolness and a few notes on harmonica.

I'll say amen.

Maggie's Farm, Bob Dylan

I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more
No, I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more
Well, I wake in the morning
Fold my hands and pray for rain
I got a head full of ideas
That are drivin’ me insane
It’s a shame the way she makes me scrub the floor
I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more


I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s brother no more
No, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s brother no more
Well, he hands you a nickel
He hands you a dime
He asks you with a grin
If you’re havin’ a good time
Then he fines you every time you slam the door
I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s brother no more



I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s pa no more
No, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s pa no more
Well, he puts his cigar
Out in your face just for kicks
His bedroom window
It is made out of bricks
The National Guard stands around his door
Ah, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s pa no more


I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s ma no more
No, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s ma no more
Well, she talks to all the servants
About man and God and law
Everybody says
She’s the brains behind pa
She’s sixty-eight, but she says she’s twenty-four
I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s ma no more


I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more
No, I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more
Well, I try my best
To be just like I am
But everybody wants you

To be just like them
They sing while you slave and I just get bored
I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more






Here's a link to a review of the Grammy's, and the Dylan, Mumford and Sons and Avett Brothers' performance and some other highlights.
 
http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2011/02/grammys-2011-best-performances-from-bob-dylan-to-eminem/71192/

Monday, February 7, 2011

Things Have Changed

Stardate: 2010.38
Location: Galactic Quadrant Alpha, in the Neutral Zone
Status: Polarity reversed = Things Have Changed

With a Vulcan salute that we all live long and prosper, this is my Treknobabble way of posting that my status has changed.

To clarify, the blogger jackierwalburnwrites is happily back to being a writer, editor, communicator, etc. seeking opportunities and being an everyday would-be author about to finish the first draft of her first novel. Another change that comes with change: updating this blog more than twice in 10 months.

“That’s all I have to say about that.” -- Forrest Gump in Forrest Gump.

In honor of these changes, let me quote some thoughts on change from some smart and thoughtful folks.

“There is no wrong way to change, if it is in the right direction.” – Winston Churchill

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“We change whether we like it or not.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The key to change is to let go of fear.” – Roseanne Cash

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” – Serenity prayer, Reinhold Niebuhr

“We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people act in a certain way. We can not change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.” – Charles Swindoll

“Things do not change; we change.” – Henry David Thoreau

“We fear change.” Garth Algar, Wayne’s World

“Change is the only constant.” – Proverbs

“Change is the essential process of all existence.”  -- Spock, "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield", stardate 5730.2

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” – Benjamin Franklin


Now, being the music nerd I am, I will offer these music quotes regarding changesonejackie:

“Still don't know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets and
Every time I thought I'd got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I've never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I'm much too fast to take that test

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes Turn and face the strange (Ch-ch-Changes)
Don't want to be a richer man
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes Turn and face the strange (Ch-ch-Changes)
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me But I can't trace time”

--Changes, changesonebowie, David Bowie


“I'm Gonna Make A Change, For Once In My Life
It's Gonna Feel Real Good, Gonna Make A Difference
Gonna Make It Right . . .

I'm Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I'm Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change”
--Man in the Mirror, Michael Jackson


“Well he's tellin' us this
And he's tellin' us that
Changes it every day
Say's it doesn't matter
Bases are loaded and Casey's at bat
Playin' it play by play
Time to change the batter”

--Rocky Mountain Way, Joe Walsh



“Its these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
With all of our running and all of our cunning
If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane”

--Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, Jimmy Buffett



Also: These Times They Are A’Changin’ by guess who? (not the Guess Who), A Change Will Do You Good by Sheryl Crow, and I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal, (but I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Some Day) by Billy Joe Shaver (previously quoted at jackierwalburnwrites, as Shaver is all that, and we will both be a diamond one day.)

But, the song of the day I choose on this posting about change is Things Have Changed by Bob Dylan.


For fellow music nerds, this song won an Academy award as best song for a movie, Wonder Boys, and can be found on The Essential Bob Dylan two-CD set.

This song – applicable lines quoted here -- has served me well, and once again, Dylan says it best.

Things Have Changed, By Bob Dylan

“A worried man with a worried mind
No one in front of me and nothing behind
……
Standing on the gallows with my head in a noose
Any minute now I’m expecting all hell to break loose

People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed

This place ain’t doing me any good
I’m in the wrong town, I should be in Hollywood
Just for a second there I thought I saw something move
Gonna take dancing lessons, do the jitterbug rag
Ain’t no shortcuts, gonna dress in drag
Only a fool in here would think he’s got anything to prove

Lot of water under the bridge, lot of other stuff too
Don’t get up gentlemen, I’m only passing through

People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed

I’ve been walking forty miles of bad road
If the Bible is right, the world will explode
I’ve been trying to get as far away from myself as I can
Some things are too hot to touch
The human mind can only stand so much
You can’t win with a losing hand
…….

People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed

PS:
If interested, here is link to You Tube, Things Have Changed video, featuring the movie’s stars and a sandwich-eating, distracted-driving, guitar-toting Dylan:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9EKqQWPjyo


Peace out.

 
Picture of the day:
 
Fiery sunset at our Wild Kingdom camphouse
seems to glow orange and blue. WDE

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Talk about lagging behind, here are the HEADLINES

Last post, I lamented lack of writing and blogging time and quoted my fav Bob Dylan's Workingman's Blues #2:

“Meet me at the bottom, don't lag behind
Bring me my boots and shoes
You can hang back or fight your best on the front line
Sing a little bit of these workingman's blues”
 
Talk about lagging behind. It's been more than seven months since I posted a blog here. Sure, I've blogged, Facebooked, written and websited for my development director job. But, my writing, my blogging has seriously lagged behind.
 
I have no excuses except a work-a-day life and fighting my best on the front line. However, I will take a minute to catch you up, with some headlines, in no particular order.
 
AUBURN UNIVERSITY WINS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP!
 
DAUGHTER MOVES TO NASHVILLE FOR NEW JOB IN LOGISTICS FIELD; MOM-DAUGHTER SET TO SEE KID ROCK AND JAMEY JOHNSON AT BRIDGEPORT ARENA IN FEBRUARY
 
AUBURN FANS FORM A CAMNATION, JOIN A CAMILY, SAY WAR CAM EAGLE!
 
MOSTLY-LAB LUCILLE PUPPY TURNS 1 YEAR, ENDS UP TO BE CHOW, SIBERIAN HUSKY WHO HERDS AND TURNS FANTASTIC CIRCLES
 
TIGER, MC'S 13-YEAR-0LD CAT, DIES; MOURNED BY ALL AND BURIED BESIDE SUZIE THE WONDER DOG
 
DYLAN ROCKS! JACKIE AND MARY CLAIRE SEE THE POET LAUREATE OF ROCK AND ROLL AT BJCC ARENA!
 

JACKIE AND KAY SEE (HE'S SO FINE) BON JOVI AT BEACH BENEFIT AND MEET AUBURN, ENSLEY FRIENDS IN LINE!

WHERE'S MOJO? NOVEL MOJO JONES AND THE BLACK CAT BONE AWAITS FINISH!

 
Those headlines ought to catch us up for now. Life seems to move just that fast.
 
Forrest Gump's momma always told him: Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.
 
The older I get, the  more I see the truth in this simple comparison. Forrest's momma was right. Mommas usually are.
 
 
Picture of the day:
 
Lucille with her toy skunk
 
Song of the post:
 
Old Chunk of Coal, Billy Joe Shaver
 
I'm just an old chunk of coal
But I'm gonna be a diamond some day
I'm gonna glow and grow
'Til I'm so blue pure perfect
I'm gonna put a smile on everybody's face
I'm gonna kneel and pray everyday
Lest I should become vain along the way
I'm just an old chunk of coal, now Lord
But I'm gonna be a diamond some day

I'm gonna learn the best way to walk
I'm gonna search and find a better way to talk
I'm gonna spit and polish my old rough-edged self
Til I get rid of every single flaw
I'm gonna be the World's best friend
I'm gonna go around shaking everybody's hand
Hey, I'm gonna be the cotton-pickin' Rage of the Age
I'm gonna be a diamond some day.