In Love with the Guitar

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I’ve been in love with guitars since I was a small child. I still recall visiting my best friend and fooling around with the stringless guitar–it was a real one–his family kept around the house. I didn’t have any image of myself up on stage using it, but I did pretend to play it. The funny thing is I’m not sure I even knew what a guitar sounded like. I just knew I’d like playing one.

I finally got my first toy guitar. I was heart-broken when I stepped on it. That plastic wasn’t durable enough to survive. My second toy guitar was an inexpensive replacement. Neither of those guitars could have been used to play real music, but they maintained my interest over the years.

When I was a junior in high school–yes, I’d long since given up the toy guitar, but not my dream–I was saving for a class ring. But the $18 Silvertone guitar I found at Sears appealed to me more at the time than the prospect of a class ring. That was during what I refer to as “the folk fad of the 1960s and 1970s.” So it was only natural that I would develop a finger-picking style.

That was tough on a cheap steel-stringed guitar, but I kept at it. Believe it or not, I made my first real progress in finger-picking during the days immediately following President Kennedy’s assassination. There was nothing else to watch on TV, so my guitar stayed on my lap and my fingers finally started to catch on.

I took seven lessons one summer. They taught me a little about reading music, but nothing about the kind of playing I wanted to do. Besides that, I realized I couldn’t afford lessons and dating. As it turned out, I couldn’t afford dating either.

I got together with two friends from church to form a trio–The Flatlanders. Very appropriate name for people living in country as flat as Tidewater Virginia. We had a lot of fun and actually got to perform some for other people.

I wanted–I desperately needed–a better guitar. At first my parents didn’t want me to save for one because they’d seen how many projects I’d started over the years without ever finishing. But I kept saving anyhow, and by the time I had close to enough, they had to admit I was really doing something with my playing. My first good guitar was a $151 Gibson. (I don’t think you can buy a Gibson now for less than $2000.)

When we moved away after high school graduation, I became a soloist. I stuck with folk music for a while, but when the fad died out, I realized I would have to do something else if I wanted people to listen to me. I had written my first song as the Flatlanders’ theme song, and I discovered that I really enjoyed writing songs.

So I ended up doing only my own songs. I’ve written over two hundred during the last fifty years.

Like most guitarists, I was always on the lookout for a better guitar–the perfect one. Probably the best one I ever had was an Ovation Anniversary model. But I sold it for two reasons. The volume control was not well placed. (Its location made me accidentally hit it and change volume when I didn’t want to.) And this guitar was one of the deep bowl models; a very convex guitar body against an equally convex tummy was difficult to hold.

I currently have a Martin acoustic-electric, a Taylor GS-mini, and an Ovation Celebrity. The Martin has the best sound, the Taylor is the most portable, and the Ovation has the fastest neck. I also have a Fender Precision bass.

My interest in guitars has led me to some interesting places. Like Connecticut for a tour of the Ovation factory and Pennsylvania for a Martin factory tour. Both of those were wonderful.

While visiting the in-laws in Memphis, I also toured the electric guitar Gibson factory. The acoustic guitar factory is in another state. But those doggoned people didn’t permit photography. Oh, well.

This October my wife and I are going to vacation in the San Diego area–close enough for a tour of the Taylor factory.

I keep saying I’ll never trade or sell the Martin or the Taylor. But–doggone it!–I don’t have the perfect guitar yet and couldn’t afford it if I found it. But I could find closer-to-perfect if was in the budget. I would probably need to publish a novel with a publisher that paid advances for that to happen, though.

What about you? Do you have a special musical interest? Or maybe another hobby that keeps you looking for better and better tools and accessories? Please drop a comment and share.

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out here. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list here.

Best regards,
Roger

A Time for Downsizing

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[NOTE: Last Wednesday was an unsaved post. Today's problem was Internet speed. Sorry this is late.]

When my first wife and I decided to divorce, I was faced with a decision. Many of them, actually. But the one I’m talking about now was where to live. And not just where, but how.

We planned to sell our less than ten-years-old 2100 square-foot house. I had no idea whether I would ever marry again, but our daughter was going to live with her mom and visit me as often as she could. So I wouldn’t need but so much space. I certainly didn’t need a house or a mortgage.

At the same time, I didn’t want to throw my money away each month on an apartment that might  not even provide the kind of peaceful atmosphere I longed for.

My ex- and I had once lived in a mobile home. Yes, there are “trailers” out there, but please don’t label all mobile homes that way. We’d lived in such a well-kept park that we got notices from the front office if we failed to cut the grass when it needed it. But at least the home had been ours, and it had provided every advantage we needed at the time.

And living in a house–even a new one–sometimes left me missing the kind of compact living I’d once been used to.

So a mobile home seemed to be a natural solution. Because my ex- and I were on good speaking terms, I let her join me on my home-shopping expeditions. In fact, I followed her advice about which of two homes to buy, and I’m glad I did.

My new home had close to 1200 square feet of space, and–considering how compactly mobile homes are designed–I probably had more usable space than I would’ve had in an apartment of comparable size.

My share from the sale of the house didn’t quite cover the complete cost of my new home, but I borrowed from an annuity to pay cash for the balance. Paying my annuity back was a pleasure. Less so my monthly land rent.

I was thrilled with my purchase. I designated one of the three bedrooms as my daughter’s and turned the third bedroom into a music room, where I could record and listen to music to my heart’s content.

I moved into the mobile home years before I was old enough to retire. My wife (yes, I did remarry) and I agreed that this would be all we needed. Neither of us is much interested in things. Especially useless things that just sit around and collect dust.

So this kind of lifestyle–with its limited space–has kept us well-motivated to be careful about buying only things we really need–and a few of the things we want as well.

But when one of us dies, at least the surviving spouse won’t face what my ex- and I did when my mother died a year after my father. Their attic was full of more stuff than we could figure out what to do with, and it took months for us to go through enough of the important papers to conclude that my mother must not have had life insurance.

So we highly recommend downsizing when the time comes.

Have you faced anything similar? Please leave a comment.

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”check it out here. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list here.

Best regards,
Roger

 

Planning a Funeral…Mine (Part Two)

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[The dog ate today's blog post. Or at least it fell somewhere into that mysterious bit bucket. Although I wrote it immediately after writing Sunday's post, I must've failed to save the draft, and I didn't discover that until this morning when I added the above image in preparation for posting. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to rewrite the post before leaving for the Wednesday nursing home ministry, and I didn't think you would appreciate my slopping something together just so I could get it out at its usual time. Thank you for your understanding.]

This past Sunday, I shared with you that my wife and I plan to be cremated, and that’s about as far as I got in talking about my funeral. So here’s the rest of the story.

For years I’ve wanted a recording of Chi Coltrane’s “Go Like Elijah” to be played at my memorial service. It’s an energetic song. Very positive. One that is likely to get people’s feet tapping. That’s what I’d like.

Why be mournful? I’ll be in a better place. (Well, yes, I do want people to miss me, but why do it mournfully? And, yes, I’d rather that Jesus’s second coming took place soon and made this planning irrelevant.)

I also want a recording of the song pictured at the top of the page to be played. (Click here for a downloadable copy of the lead sheet.) It’s one of my original songs, and I recently updated a few of the words and changed the tune a little at a place where I could no longer reach the notes. Then I spent days making a digital recording of it.

As a frustrated perfectionist–it’s not within my power to do as good a job as I want–calling that recording finished is hard. But I’m reasonably satisfied. You may listen to it by clicking here.

As you’ll undoubtedly gather, I hope the people who hear this song at my memorial service will associate the good things the song talks about with me and not the bad ones!

Yes, we’ll have other music, too. Congregational singing, though. Not the choir. They deserve to have the day off.

“It Is Well with My Soul” is probably my favorite hymn, so I suppose they ought to sing that. And maybe “Amazing Grace.” And let’s not leave out “Victory in Jesus.”

And, yes, I want the pastor to present a brief evangelistic message for those present who might not yet be Christians.

Hmm. Sounds like a grand time. Too bad I won’t be there to enjoy it. Especially when it’s time to pig out afterwards…

Do you have your funeral planned? Do you have favorite songs you want sung? Anything unusual done (e.g., dancing on the coffin)? Please share a comment.

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I’ll be back again this Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out here. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list here.

Best regards,
Roger

Planning a Funeral…Mine

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Some folks were probably horrified at reading the title of today’s blog post, but I didn’t intend for them to be. Whether we want to admit it or not, all of us are going to die sometime, and it makes a lot of sense to get the decision-making out of the way ahead of time. Especially as it relates to money.

My parents did that, and it made things so much easier. They had not only selected their coffins, they’d also prepaid almost all of their funeral expenses.

My wife and I are taking that one step further. Why make our heirs spend hundreds of dollars of their inheritance on coffins that will be visible only for a couple of viewings and maybe a little while before the funeral ceremony. We are FAR too practical for that kind of wasteful spending.

Not only that, however. Why purchase a grave plot or even a small stone marker? As Christians, we believe that–like the repentant thief who was crucified beside Jesus–we will be with Him in Heaven immediately upon dying.

(Don’t tell our friend Eric about our plans, however. He believes we’ll remain completely dead until the time of Jesus’ second coming, and we can’t convince him otherwise.)

In case you haven’t seen it coming, that means Kathleen and I both want to be cremated. Yep, ashes to ashes.

And forget putting those ashes in a fancy jar that somebody had to dust periodically. We want our ashes thrown to the wind. And why not? I learned to play guitar during the Bob Dylan era…”Blowing in the Wind.”

Thrown to the wind…somewhere. The location has yet to be determined.

One of Kathleen’s girls suggested celebrating our deaths by taking a family cruise and throwing the ashes into the ocean to be consumed as fish food. Fine with us, as long as they don’t expect to inherit enough to pay for them, their spouses, and their kids to take that cruise.

They might also have trouble convincing their employers that a cruise for that purpose is a legitimate use of paid time off for a funeral. Go figure. Employers are funny people.

I suppose our kids could just store the ashes in a mason jar until vacation time. Properly labeled to avoid mistaking them for a cooking ingredient, of course.

This has been fun, readers, but it’s not really what I’d intended to write this blog post about. Looks like I’ll have to write a Part Two to cover that. Come back on Wednesday.

But–just in case this post has upset you–Kathleen and I don’t have any plans for dying. We’ll be more than happy to let that happen whenever God desires. And we can rest more comfortably in the meanwhile, confident that our eternal futures are as well provided for as our return to the earth.

Please share your reaction in a comment. And don’t think I’m criticizing anyone who feels differently from us.

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”check it out here. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list here.

Best regards,
Roger

 

 

Everyone Has a Twin Somewhere

 

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On one hand, we’re taught that each of us is unique. Just as unique as our fingerprints. And, as I read somewhere recently, as unique as our eyes.

On the other hand, a popular common belief says that each of us has a twin somewhere in the world. Not quite identical in appearance, but close enough to make the observer look twice.

When I was still married to my ex-, her sister went on a Mediterranean cruise, if I recall correctly. When she came home and reported on her trip, she said she’d seen a guy who could’ve been my twin–somewhere on a Greek isle, if I recall correctly.

And then there’s Jeff Meyers, who at that time was a columnist for the St. Louis newspaper. No idea about his status now.) And he wrote “whimsical, offbeat” articles. Wow! Does that sound like me or what? Check out the picture above and compare it to the fourth picture from the right in my banner. Sure, my beard was never that thick, even when I had a full one. My hair, either.

But the resemblance is close enough to startle me.

But my favorite twin story goes back to my temporary stint at Target. When somebody told me about one of the vendors–at least that’s what I understood him to be–who looked like me, I asked that they send the guy up front for me to meet the next time he came in.

And so they did. And that picture of two bearded guys in red comes as close to proving the theory of my having a twin as I ever expect to see. Believe it or not, I have to look closely to remember which one is ME!

What about you? Do you have a twin–real or coincidental? How about leaving a comment to share that story with us?

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I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”check it out here. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list here.

Best regards,
Roger

The Oldest Living Orphan

Uh, okay.

I didn’t say “oldest living orphan in the world,” now did I?

No, but I’m the oldest (and only) living orphan in my household, and I don’t like it.

Hearing a sixty-seven year old man say that might sound a tad strange, but here are the facts. My father died in 1993 and my mother died fourteen months later. That left me parentless, right?

Of course, if you want to get technical, the word orphan normally describes a parentless child. But why shouldn’t it apply to anyone without parents–without regard to age? After all, we’ll always be our parents’ children, even when they’re gone.

And suppose that older man doesn’t have any siblings. And almost no relatives left on his mother’s side; he only hears from them when and if they think to let him know another family member has died. And the relatives on his father’s side are so distant he doesn’t know how the ones he has connections with on Facebook are related to one another. Or to him.

I used to say that if I ever remarried, I could only marry someone who didn’t have any close kin. Having in-laws I felt close to would have seemed too strange.

As things turned out, my wife, Kathleen, still has a full complement of living relatives. Her parents–though quite aged–are still managing on their own, and she has two brothers, sisters-in-law, and a good variety of nephews and nieces.

They’re all fine folks, and I’m glad to know them. I appreciate them. I even like them. A lot.

But by no fault of theirs, I still feel like an orphan at times.

What do you say? Does this make sense? Can you relate to what I’m saying? Please share a comment if you can.

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing”check it out here–to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Best regards,
Roger

 

 

 

How Much Solitude Is Enough?

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My wife, Kathleen, flew to Memphis today to visit her aged parents. We decided it would be simpler for me to stay home with the animals, Ashes the white cat and Happy the miniature dachshund. She won’t be rooming by herself at her parents’ place, though. Her older daughter arranged a few days of vacation time to join her mother and grandparents.

The good news is I enjoy solitude. Those of you who’ve been following this blog may recall the post I wrote about enjoying peace and quiet–something Kathleen and I both like.

But solitude is different. It’s the state of being alone.

Okay, so Happy is sitting in my lap at the moment with her chin across my arm. And Ashes has spent most of the day on top of the rocking chair cushion–right behind my head. So I guess I can’t really claim to be alone.

I can’t say that the animals do a whole lot of talking. Not to me, anyhow. Happy barks at Ashes when she wants (and can’t get) his attention. And Ashes meows ferociously when he wants to be fed. Both animals seem to have the afternoon routine down pat.

But their internal food clock is always off by thirty to forty minutes. To try to maintain some semblance of normalcy in the morning, I hold off feeding them until 4:15.  By that time, Happy goes to the door and scratches as if she needs to go outside. As soon as I get up, she heads to her food bowl.

Let’s go back to the original question. How much solitude is enough? And does the company of my two animals preclude my having solitude?

I’ll admit one thing. I’d be a lot lonelier without them. But I still miss Kathleen.

It’s not that I can’t take care of myself. I’ll start fixing sloppy joes for supper in a few minutes, and tomorrow is my normal laundry day. I was a bachelor for a few years before marrying my first wife and didn’t suffer too many ill effects from it.

But a guy does get used to the company, I admit. And the animals don’t cut it. Their company just isn’t the same as Kathleen’s.

I may not have reached the “too much solitude” state yet, but I’ll get there long before Kathleen gets home next week.

Some people can’t stand being by themselves. Are you one of those, or do you enjoy being by yourself? How about leaving a comment and sharing your thoughts with the rest of us.

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If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

I have another blog–“As I Come Singing”–where I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Click here to visit the blog. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Best regards,
Roger