In Memory of Greg Allman

For those of you who were never fans of the Allman Brothers band, the title of this post is a tribute to one of my favorite songs of theirs, “In memory of Elizabeth Reed.” The Allman Brothers were an iconic band for my generation. They were still playing together, with some new personnel, a few years ago. I saw them on TV (one of the music stations on cable) front a performance in 2013 or 2014. Given the fact that a number of the members of the band where into their 60s then, I doubt they performed all that often, which is way sad.

 

The Allman Brothers were basically a blues band. Greg was the lead vocalist and keyboard player. Boy, did he have the voice for the blues: kinda low and gravelly. The band has gone through more personnel changes over the last 50 years than even the Rolling Stones. Their first two losses there were the loss of Duane Allman to a motorcycle accident just when the band was getting popular. Duane also appeared on the Derek and the Dominoes album. It is his guitar that is at the forefront on “Layla.” For someone to outperform Eric Clapton is really doing something and Duane does on that song.

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The Summer of Love 50 Years Later

This summer will mark the 50th anniversary of what has become known as “The Summer of Love.” In 1967, my generation – or at least part of it – espoused that hippie philosophy of peace and love. That summer was marked by many gatherings of young people all over the country. These gatherings were called “be-ins.” The biggest one was held in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Those of you who are close to my age probably remember the anthem of that summer: “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.” Yes, I did wear flowers in my hair that summer. No, I did not go to San Francisco until a few years later and then only for a visit.

 

However, I have my own little story of what happened that summer. I was in The Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia one day at an impromptu gathering of “flower children.” We were just sitting around the park playing music and singing, celebrating life and the summer weather. The police, however, took exception to what we were doing. We were all arrested for disorderly conduct and hauled off to jail. We all posted bond and were given a court date – all on the same day.

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The Music Of My Life

I cannot remember a time in my life when music was not an important part of who and what I am. It all started when I was five or six years old. My parents hired a piano teacher to come to the house to teach me how to play. I took lessons for the next 10 years or so. I actually got pretty good at it. The only problem I had was that I could never really memorize anything. I remember when I was in junior high school, my piano teacher wanted me to learn to play Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” Actually, it was only the first movement that was more than my poor musical memory could handle. She wanted me to play this piece for the annual recital her students presented every May at the Willow Grove Methodist church. I ended up playing it, but I had to have the sheet music in front of me. Sight reading was never a problem. In fact, in my heyday I could pick up pretty much any popular tune and play it respectably the first time I saw the music. In high school I had a book of piano arrangements of Bob Dylan’s “Blonde on Blonde” album. I loved playing that album and singing along. My parents hated it. LOL

 

Speaking of singing, in both junior high school and high school I sang in the choir. I started out as an alto and by my senior year I was a baritone. I wasn’t great, nowhere near as good as my daughter Heidi was in high school, but I managed to stay in the choir all those years. I still sing when the mood hits me, but now I sound like a frog with a sore throat. LOL! That’s what 50 years of smoking will do to you. I actually started smoking in junior high school and I suspect that had at least a small part in my voice changing so much.

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What the Hell is Going On?

That when I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s we Americans were involved in a “Cold War” with the Soviet Union. I suspect that the Cold War had something to do with my parents (and of course, my brother and myself who were small children at the time) emigrating to the United States and Germany, specifically what was then known as West Germany. We came to the United States around the time of the Berlin war, when East Germany, on orders from Moscow, blockaded West Berlin.

 

In elementary school, we did air raids probably every month. We were all frightened of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. That attack, fortunately, never came. But there was a constant state of very high tension between the two countries. I remember seeing Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe on the podium at the United Nations condemning the United States. I remember the Cuban missile crisis during the Kennedy administration. I remember watching public service announcements on the television networks showing how to protect yourself in case of a nuclear attack. I remember the commercial for fallout shelters for those who could afford them. Boy, if they ever wanted to get rid of poverty by eliminating poor people, that would have been the time to do it.

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Through the Doors Of Perception

The Doors of Perception is the title of a book about taking hallucinogenic drugs, especially LSD. It was written by Aldous Huxley almost 100 years ago, now. Jim Morrison, the late lead singer of The Doors read this book. It inspired the name he chose for his group. Timothy Leary read this book and became a prophet of LSD. I read the book back about 1966 or 1967. It took me until fall of 1968 to screw up the courage to try LSD. That first trip is an experience I will never forget, along with a few other memorable “trips.” “Trips” are what we called the experience of taking LSD.

 

The first trip was on a nice warm day in October, I think, as I was hanging around with some friends on the streets of Old Town in Chicago – the hippie district. The reason the trip was so memorable was that was when I called my father back in Furlong, Pennsylvania, to tell him that I was in Chicago and I was not coming back. A very interesting conversation, indeed.

 

About two years later, I was working at an auto parts store on the South Side of Chicago. I had recently moved in with the woman who became my second wife. We shared a large apartment on the North Side of Chicago, a couple blocks from an elevated train station. The reason that is important to this story is that I used public transportation, a bus and the elevated, to get back and forth to work. I had been there at the auto parts store for several months and had made friends with several of the guys who work there. One afternoon, when we were outside on a smoke break, one of the guys I knew handed me a little orange barrel shaped pill. I knew exactly what it was – a very, very good form of LSD called “orange sunshine.” It was recognized as one of the purest forms of acid available on the street. My friend said I should take this as I was leaving work and I would be tripping quite nicely by the time I got home an hour later.

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Backsliding Away

Today is the last day of March in the year of our Lord 2016. That means it has been five years since I had my pulmonary edema/heart attack/kidney failure. I had one foot through the veil. Nothing like a close encounter with the Grim Reaper! It makes you appreciate all the things you have, even if think only have a little. I think my last post explains how much I really had to lose.

 

One of the results of my near-death experience was that I quit smoking altogether. Cold turkey! No messing around! Although it has been five years since I spent two weeks in the hospital, it has not been five years since I gave up smoking altogether. In the last month or so, I have gone back to smoking my pipe occasionally. That is the backsliding I am referring to in the title to this post.

 

I know I will get a fair amount of criticism for my apparent weakness of character, at least from some of the fundamentalists on the Internet. So be it! I am almost 69 years old and I am fully aware of the consequences that I face for going back to smoking. I believe the consequences of smoking my pipe occasionally will be minimal. Certainly nothing like the consequences of going back to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, which I did for about 50 years. I know my doctor will give me all kinds of crap, if he finds out, as will my cardiologist. But, it is my decision and no one else’s. I accept the consequences. That is what a real adult does. Make a decision and live with your decision and its consequences. Don’t go blaming God, Satan, the tobacco company, the Marlboro man or anyone else. If you choose to smoke, like I did to some extent still do, it is no one fault but your own.

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Happiness is….

How do you define happiness? What makes you happy? Money? A big house? A big fancy car? Maybe a lucrative career? Or something else…

 

What makes me happy most of all is love. I need someone to love and I need to be loved. It seems I have been looking for love my whole life. Usually in the wrong places or with the wrong person. Before any of my ex-lovers get insulted, what I mean by wrong places is that there was nothing inherently wrong or evil with that person. It is just they were not what I needed and I was not what they needed. In situations like that, the best thing you can do is move on.

 

I have been married four times, divorced three times and have had several other non-binding relationships. Not that I consider marriage something nonbinding. Human relationships are not written in stone. God has nothing to do with our interpersonal relationships. We manage to screw those up all on our own. Lord knows, I’ve done it enough times in my life. Nothing to be proud of, but also nothing to beat myself up about either. Relationships come and relationships go. That is human nature or nurture, whichever you choose.

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Scuttling Obamacare

Maybe the Republican congressman aren’t quite as crazy as they let on. (Yes, I know. I ended the sentence with a preposition. My English teachers in high school would kill me if they were still alive. Unfortunately, I don’t think they are.) Congress voted down a Republican sponsored bill that would have repealed Obama Care and replaced it with something that would cost 24 million people their insurance coverage. Apparently, there are enough Republican Congressman with some sense that helped vote this bill down. God bless them!

 

My wife and my son would belong to that 24 million that the proposed bill would have left coverless. My wife’s employer does not provide healthcare coverage for his employee. I am not going to use his name here, just his initials – RC. RC is a very nice person. He has done a lot for Elizabeth over the years that she has worked for him, currently as the owner of the restaurant where Elizabeth is the prep cook, as well as the McDonald’s she used to work at for a long time. One of the reasons that Elizabeth left McDonald’s was so she could go back to work for RC. That’s how much she thinks of him and I do to. He is also a good practicing Christian as is his wife and his sons. However, the prevailing philosophy here in Arkansas as well as much of the rest of the so is that healthcare is something individuals need to pay for themselves what the people that think that way do not take into consideration is that they are not paying their employees enough to cover the premiums for that healthcare coverage and still provide food, shelter, clothing, and other essentials for their family.

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Welcome to the Crazy World of Donald Trump

In case you are not familiar with where I got the title for this post, it’s a variation on a very strange rock album from the late 1960s called “the Crazy World of Arthur Brown.” The album is notable for a song that the catchphrase from that song is “I am the God of hellfire and I bring you fire!” Arthur Brown was definitely crazy, and I am beginning to think that is also true of Donald Trump. The difference between the two is that Brown was only an off beat rock and roll musician while Trump is the leader of the Free World. I use the word leader very loosely, because if he thinks we are all going to follow him on his merry little dance, this country is going straight to hell. I haven’t seen this kind of craziness in the political arena since the days of the attempts by the Republicans members of Congress to impeach Bill Clinton. I wonder if insanity is considered grounds for impeachment. If it is, Trump needs to watch his step

The problem I have with Trump’s craziness is I don’t know whether to laugh my ass off at his antics or whether I should be frightened to death of what he is doing. The Trump Presidency seems to be a cross between the smoke and mirrors of the Wizard of Oz combined with the hype and hyperbole of an old time carnival! Unfortunately, that is one way to describe what happened in Germany in the late 20s and the 1930s. This is why Trump scares me. I really don’t know what the the man is a buffoon or a maniac, and I mean maniac in the most diabolical sense of the word.

My mother was born in Germany in 1923. She grew up during the reign of one maniac named Adolf Hitler and like many Germans of that time, she had a hard time explaining why so many good decent German people allowed him to reign as long as he had. I have seen a couple of the Nazi death camps in person in 1983 when I went to Poland. There is no way you can convince me that people living nearby had no clue whatsoever as to what was going on there. You would hope that, assuming someone knew, and I do assume that, these people would have said something to their neighbors, talked to other neighbors, talk to people all across town, talk to people in the next town over… You get the idea! News of what was going on would have traveled quickly if anybody really paid attention to what the Nazis were doing. Apparently Germany was full of ostriches with their heads in the sand.

I consider myself a German-American, and I am proud of my German heritage for the most part. However, what went on during the Third Reich makes me ashamed to be German. When we toured those two death camps back in 1983, I could not finish the walking through the camps part because I felt such shame and sorrow for the victims that I broke down in tears and went back to the bus until I stopped crying. I don’t know whether this country is headed down that road. I am not a prophet and make no claims to be one. However, I consider myself a student of history and of social behavior, and what I see going on in the USA now is much too reminiscent of what went on in Germany during the 1930s. Between his condemnation of Mexicans and Muslims it appears Trump is looking for a scapegoat that resonates with the American people like the Nazi scapegoating of the Jews during the Nazi rise to power. It appears that the only real difference is that the thugs committing hate crimes reminiscent of what the Nazis did are not yet wearing brown shirts!

Am I crazy? Maybe…. But then, maybe not. Only time will tell. I would hope that, should Trump take down that dark road and try taking the United States with them, the American people will not behave like a bunch of ostriches sticking their heads in the sand or a herd of lemmings marching to the seat. Hopefully, there is still enough intestinal fortitude left in the American people to stand up and say “this is wrong! We will not allow this to happen here!” It is this faith in the American people that gives me a great deal of hope that we will survive the crazy world of Donald Trump.

Post-Election Comments

Well, it has taken me a bit longer to get back to posting than I thought it would. Life somehow has a way of throwing, as they say, “the best laid plans of mice and men” into the garbage. That’s why it’s so important to always be flexible in your intentions, even those of us who are considered irascible, unyielding, ornery stick in the mud. LOL!

It seems that our illustrious new President is off to a very rocky start. That comes as no surprise. Just about every new president gets off on the wrong foot. That is especially true when Congress does not really support his agenda. Contrary to what some Republican leaders say, the majority of Republicans have some serious doubts about Donald Trump. The Democrats think even less of him. It is really hard to do much when people who should be supporting you – after all he IS the President – do everything in their power to cause you embarrassment and create roadblocks. I am not saying Donald Trump Is going to be a great President. Far from it. But I do think he should be given at least a few months to show us what he wants to do for this country. Continue reading Post-Election Comments