MAKE UP YOUR MIND

Single in 1965 I never cooked. Married in 2021 –still can’t. When my roommates Joe Robinson and Phil Nordan and I got off work someone would eventually say “lets go eat”! Next would be “where do you want to go?” Then ” I don’t care Anywhere is fine with me.” Then, “me either”. Next–“…nah–I don’t want to go to Parkers.” Followed by 6 or so suggestions and rejections. Then we’d go to THE GOLDEN WEED.

Several of the high school football coaches would often be there and football was often the topic. Lesley Farris was the owner and would join us. One of the Coaches told Lesley not to tell them how to coach the team and they wouldn’t tell him how to cook the beans.

This isolation period reminds me of those days. What to eat tonight? Bless my bride, Margaret . She has been a trouper. My five year old grandson on his checklist admitted “… I didn’t do too well on vegetables!” Me either James.

So after this morning’s “what are we going to eat tonight?”followed by several personal staples (bean salad, rice, mac and cheese, burgers, spaghetti) were culled) I offered “… anything, but don’t ever put a goddamned brussell sprout in front of me again.”

That’s when the pan hit me.

Hang on –the vaccinations are working.

JUKE BOX—A NEW CHAPTER

The passage below is from an earlier book i wrote. About the jukebox and me. And Coach Bill Morningstar. ‘Star called recently asking if i wanted the jukebox back? He had it for ten years plus. enjoyed it, but needed the space. “Should I just junk it?” he asked.

It had some problems and Bill didn’t want to mess with it too much. Give me some time I said, And let me see if it is worth fixing.

The internet led me to Thorpe Music Company in Rocky Mount, NC. Jimmy Thorpe said “… I can fix any of them”!

Net result is that I now have the box in our garage. Coach Star had painted it black and it shines. Mr. Thorpe tuned up things up I didn’t know existed, put a new needle in her and drove her to Emerald Isle.

Quite the Dollbaby, Margaret and I are still laughing about this old friend. Bill had more country on it than me. But still a lot of originals. My stuff is rock and roll, starting in 50’s and taking off circa Motown (Supremes, Temptations. Ray Charles plus some olders. Folk, Dylan , Beatles piling in. Later here comes fFleetwood Mac, Bob Segar, Lyle Lovett, Emmylou Harris, and tons of great 60’s plus classics. Music is quite a hobby and shifting the records around again has been delightful.

***************

THIS FROM EARLIER BOOK:

The Juke Box

My first job paid $4600 a year in 1964. The only affordable housing I could find was a back room at Mae Hollowell’s Beauty Shop. A plumber named Luther Gott occupied the other rented room. Luther like philosophy aided by ancient age;
        “Sex won’t kill you, but running after it will wear you down.”

Joe Robinson, Carolina tight-end in the 1963 Gator Bowl, was rooming with a Tar Heel family. They charged him $5 a week. Joe and I decided to look for an affordable bachelor’s pad.

I found one. In a new concept for Wilson, North Carolina, Briarcliff Apartments were new and quite nice. My good friend, Jean Peake, suggested I move in with a guy named Phil Nordan. Phil was a liquor salesman.

        We were having a great time, car, Briarcliff, twenty-six years old and coaching. I was  paid            little. Sometimes that bothered me, but mostly I was doing okay.

        Then a bump. Joe got drafted. Phil got married. I was back on the street.

        I moved into all I could afford. Varita Court, downtown Wilson. I slept on a chaise  lounge until Jean heard about me. She sold me two single beds for $12.50 each from  hospital storage. The beds and the jukebox were my only furniture.

        The juke box featured a green light bulb. I located it so I could sit on the fire escape an  throw beer cans at the Shell Station chimney located below me. “Like a Rolling Stone”  was #1, “ A Whiter Shade of Pale”, “Since I Lost My Baby,” “Mr. Tambourine Man” and  other great 60’s music were my roomies. I was lonely. The total utility bill was $3.48 one month.

        I was the only male in the three story building, in apartment “R”. There was an elevator with a stroke-ridden black man named Jesse sitting in it all day. Most of the tenants were widows. They peered out their doors as I put the jukebox on Jesse’s elevator. Jesse giggled.

        Everyone ought to live alone for some period in their lives. It’s not all bad, but I didn’t  like it in Varita Court.

                                                                                        excerpt from “Play is Where Life Is”

The jukebox mentioned in this passage was a “god-send” of sorts.

One of the basketball stars was a young man named Larry Jones. Jones was called “Chief” because he was a handsome, “Indian-looking,” 6 foot 5 inch, 210 pound stud from Mt. Olive. I casually mentioned that I would like to find a jukebox. Maybe that would help with my loneliness in Varita Court. Jones said, “I’ll find you a jukebox.”

A week later he said he’d found one. “How much do they want for it?” I asked.

Surprised he asked, “You want to pay for it?!”

We did find one, to buy, for $100 from a black guy named Kay Wooten in Fremont, North Carolina. It was a 1954 AMI Wooden. Not the Wurlitzer Double (?) Circler (?) but it would play. Loud. It was too big to mount in a Corvette, but I do believe that I could have competed with the Wilson “Boom Boxes of 1968”.

I painted it red and kept it throughout my kids’ stay with us. When they left, I sold it to my good friend Bill Morningstar, the golf coach at Elon.  “Star” is a pinhook, he’ll buy anything. Mostly old cars. He painted it black. Macho. And he still has it.

You could rotate 40 records. The list below are some of the AMI Selections of 1968-1988.

1. Like a Rolling Stone-Bob Dylan
2. Cleo’s Mood-Jr. Walker and the All-Stars
3. Whiter Shade of Pale-Procol Harem
4. SInce I Lost My Baby-The Temptations
5. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down-Joan Baez
6. Yesterday-Ray Charles
7. The Weight-Jackie DeShannon
8. Light My Fire-Jose Feliciano
9. Any Day Now-Chuck Jackson
10. Ain’t That Loving You Baby-Jimmy Reed
11. Silver Threads and Golden Needles-
12. Walk On By-Dionne Warwick
13. I’ll Be Doggone-Marvin Gaye
14. Hey Joe-Jimi Hendrix
15. Sweet Baby James-James Taylor
16. Rescue Me-Fontella Bass
17. Baby Love-The Supremes
18. Good Golly Miss Molly-Little Richard
19. Don’t Be Cruel-Elvis Presley
20. Fire Lake-Bob Seger
21. What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am-The Tams
22. Born to Run-Emmylou Harris
23. Get Rhythm-Johnny Cash
24. Get Back-The Beatles
25. Honky Tonk Women-The Rolling Stones
26. I Still Miss Someone-Emmylou Harris
27. He Stopped Loving Her Today-George Jones
28. Knock On Wood-Eddie Floyd
29. Take Out Some Insurance-Jimmy Reed
30. Little Help From My Friends-Joe Cocker
31. Lay, Lady, Lay-Bob Dylan
32. Roll Me Away-Bob Seger
33. Still the Same-Bob Seger
34. Stand By Me-Ben King
35. America-Ray Charles
36. Georgia-Ray Charles
37. Busted-Ray Charles
38. Maybeline-Chuck Berry
39. Somewhere Over the Rainbow-Jerry Lee Lewis
40. I’m Walking-Fats Domino
41. Jim Dandy-Lavern Baker
42. Rave On-Buddy Holly

                                        “Music can save your very soul.”
                                                        -Don McLean, “American Pie”

“IF YOU EVER CHANGE YO MIND ABOUT LEAVING, LEAVING ME BEHIND,

THEN BRING YO SWEET LOVING, BRING IT ON HOME TO ME” eddie floyd

THE CHECK IS IN THE MAIL

One of my grandsons, Lennox, is undefeated. Told me so. He is five and lives in Boulder and we Facetime frequently. We were talking earlier this week and I remembered to ask him if he had received the letter I had recently mailed him.

He looked quizzically at his Dad who said it had not arrived. Lennox, wide eyed and excited, said he was going to the mailbox. Dad said he had already got the mail and the letter wasn’t there. Quiet followed.

Lennox then asked me, “… did you get my letter to you?” I told him I had not.

His Dad then asked Lennox when he had mailed me a letter?

Slyly Lennox revealed “… I really haven’t written it yet.”

One- ups- man-ship is a thing of beauty.

THE COQUIHALLA PASS

I retired almost twenty years ago. I’m glad. Don’t know whether I could have eased off enough to survive the current boredom traps. You have to work at retiring.

There are a few concerns and observations demanded by the great sequester. Will we recognize each other as we walk out like the “Walking Dead”. I’m up to about 250lbs (quarter ton of fat and fun). Haven’t been to a barber shop in a year. I glanced at a mirror and thought, “… You look a lot like Larry David.”

Reminds me of “GROUNDHOG’S DAY”. Same clothes. Same basic routine. I asked “Bonehead ” Dennis where he bought his pants?” Loose, with expandable waist. Wife calls them “soft clothes”. Forgot how to tie a necktie.

“Kelly sox” from Nester Hosiery are thick and I can’t wear them out. Like slippers. Only need two pair as Wife type washes every other day. Vacuums daily. She likes to stay busy. Keeps things “neat and tidy.” Someone said footballer “Big Daddy” Libscomb” serviced so many maids he had an erection every time he heard a vacuum cleaner.

Wife Margaret should have been named go. Truly a nomad–anywhere, any time. When she gets that look we have to ride. If you live at our ocean you can’t drive east. We have covered every area within a day trip. She drives. We did go to the mountains to the far north of North Carolina. Drove for two days but that “…still doesn’t count as a real trip!” Lot of short ventures. We have driven around Beaufort so many times, we are being watched.

We literally rode to the dump one day. One day the landfill of a development had a sign on a house that said “Ground under repair”.

In November I wrote about THE POINT. Just about daily we ride down. Savior of a mini-trip. Average five days a week.

Thank God for Facetime. A grand child in Boulder thinks we live in box. He’s five and can play chess and “Texas Hold Em”. That’s my boy!

I’ve played so much online poker I know every tell the computer is programmed for. Elon President, Fred Young told me “you have to have something planned every day.” Last summer I learned how to call up the village owl and capture carpenter bees. My late friend, Bob Johnson, told me his Uncle Tazzo bought the first color TV in Jacksonville, Florida. $900! Tazzo had just declared candidacy for public office and invited the entire family for Sunday dinner and the announcement. Bob said when the TV commentator called Tazzo the most corrupt individual in the county, he kicked the new TV in. Color me angry. I fear we may suffer “Trump Withdrawal” if covid continues much longer. Pro or con–you watched that TV, didn’t you? Ever cuss?

If you didn’t watch news channels between 8 pm and eleven, it was Noodlin, or Swamp People, or Duck Dynasty reruns. Recruiters for the Washington assault went to Wal-Mart, Pro-Bass, and evening TV a lot. (“Ninety percent of the time I got in trouble Uncle Si was involved somehow!” ) ***Admit it, you watched the Cornhole Championships, didn’t you.

In fairness TV has saved many. And saved most money. When you don’t play golf, fill up the tank, travel, or eat out, etc. you save $. I do feel sorry for the cooks, trying to figure out the daily menu. I suggested “meals on wheels”. A reciprocal dirty look ensued.

I’ve ridden the Coquilhalla Highway, British Columbia in Canada. Where they wreck 18 wheelers for TV. I was there in July and it was a hairy trip. The weather channel has amazing film of fires, flooding, hurricanes. I had never witnessed bouncing tornados until recently. By God, something is changing. (“…don’t ask for deluge”) Starbuck from THE RAINMAKER).

PATRIARCHAL ADMONITIONS

As a pre-teen and younger I was a tag along with my Mom and my older Sister to visit a couple with three daughters. Often Mom and Sis would try to make me aware of the middle girl, who was about my age. “Better be nice to that one, boy. The day is coming!” At 10 years in 1950 my gang was shooting Yankees and Germans on the Dan River banks or the city dump. Or playing tackle football. No girls allowed.

At 12 years old we moved. Fond of my lost buddies I stayed in touch by mail, or occasionally rode the bus to visit. Soon the older ones changed topics. About driving time they were myopic. “Have you guys been noticing ( name withheld)?” To “God Amighty. She’s filling that blue blouse out!” To ” how could we have neglected her?” To”holy shit!” she’s killing me!”

My bad, Sis.

But never did my Father do his duty. Should the male warn their offspring of obvious preteen ignorance? “That un is gonna ripen up soon, Knothead. All you gotta do is be nice for a little while!”

I have three Grandsons. Maybe its Pop’s job to clue them in on what’s important!

INTERVIEWS

My sister’s granddaughter visited last week with two other lovely young graduate students. They are finishing up advanced degrees in the fields related to data, analytics, etc. The conversation turned to job interviews and their excitement and concern upon this next step. I noticed an odd thing about the three as they spoke without consulting their phones. Five years ago my Sister asked me to talk with the same young college applicant about college admissions and related interviews. I now remembered I had rebuked granddaughter about her watching her phone while I was giving her my time and best advice. I had wondered if I had been too harsh. And that now, she had warned her friends of that day.

So I did remain quiet for a while. Then I blurted out “what have you decided to do on your interviews?” Silence. I then asked my Wife the same question, reminding her of her role as head of selection for National Merit Scholars where she taught, She caught on and remembered crucial fundamentals. I bit my tongue and did remain silent for ages it seemed. After related discussion. one of the aspirants opened the door by asking if I had conducted interviews?

“Hundreds”! Who? Mostly coaches and /or teachers. Plus I’ve been interviewed a number of times.

Bright one #2 : “What is your advice?”

Finally!

Here are some ideas: 1. Somewhere before the session is over ask the panel or person this basic question: Is there anything you have heard or noticed about me that may not be true. If it influences your thinking I’d like the opportunity to address this criticism.

2. Keep in mind that even if you are not selected, these people in your arena may be able to recommend you to someone pulling the trigger on the next similar (maybe better opportunity). Headhunters often go to this panel to search for the next best candidates they are aware of.

3. Or you may have been the best, and missed this once. I can tell you that very often when the candidates have been studied, it is often really hard to chose a “best” one.

4, I asked about books that they have been impressed by? Having an interest in their field I wondered if they had read Sapiens? Yuval Harari? Homo Deus? 21 Questions for the 21st Century? Malcolm Gladwell. Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything? One said, “My dad has that book” (Sapiens).

5. I asked for those who had helped them. I told them of a really impressive teacher on their faculty who had broken some “ceilings” and maybe they could look her up. I offered to call her.

At this point I notice they one by one pulled out their phones, taking notes: “…How did you spell her name? What were those books again? Tell us about jobs interviews you had or hosted.”

The phones didn’t bother me.

THE HIGH FOREHAND VOLLEY (for Andre)

Thanks to Facetime and Zoom grandparents can see more of theirs who have gotten far from the home. My Grandson in Boulder is 14 and played tennis tournaments this year. I offer my suggestions from time to time, having modern access to technology. A sample is below:

THE HIGH FOREHAND VOLLEY (for Andre)

As mentioned earlier, the recent videos your Dad sent are great help for me.  And your improving and growing are impressive.   I have found many players learn quicker if they focus on one shot at a time.  Or a physical or mental shortcoming.

Some one said “… a tennis player is as strong or as weak as their weakest link, and the weakest link in tennis is the second serve.”  Ugh, double faults.  Your second serve is sound and getting better.  My guess is the second shot most vulnerable is the high forehand volley.  It looks so easy, then oops, in the net, etc.  There was a lot of times I heard some losing player say,  “… yea, I had that break point right here (mimics the hfv (high forehand volley) and blew it.

You like to play at the net and the last videos concentrate on volleys.  Your backhand volley is excellent.   You seem to PUSH the forehand.  And sometimes let the ball get in a less than PERFECT volley spot.  It should be “V” shaped.  Tighten your hand at hit moment.  The harder they hit it the easier you swing.   A lot of times you just “touch and tighten!”

Remember most volleys are hit with a continental  or even a backhand grip.   There are seven volley spots (see green book on volleys).  I do think the HFV is the only volley grip you change.  And  a clue or two ideas may be:

  1. Try more of a forehand grip on HFV.  This  is less awkward I believe. 
  2. Perfect volley spot is sometimes sloppy on the HFV because it looks so easy (like overheads).  Perfect movement and concentration to “…keep it in the perfect hit-spot.”
  3. Many fine players select to overplay, or chose the dependable backhand volley on marginal volleys.
  4. I agree swinging volleys are now in vogue and effective.  First develop a firm dependable “touch”, not power bomb.
  5. Lots of pros now use the “stinger strategy” that forces a weak return —-which is vulnerable to a swinging put-a-way.   Recall the stinger?  REMEMBER, TOO ,  VOLLEYING DOWN IS BETTER.  LOW ONES GO STRAIGHT AND DEEP AND THEY GET TO HIT THEM.  DOWN ONES WIN.  QUICK LEGWORK TO PERFECT VOLLEY SPOT.
  6. THE GIRLS AND WOMEN SECTION IN THE BOOK HAS SOME GOOD VOLLEY REMINDERS

Happy New Year.  Love, Pop

MA RAINEY

Where Ma Rainey and Beethoven once unwrapped their bed roll
Tuba players now rehearse around the flagpole
And the National Bank at a profit sells road maps for the soul
To the old folks home and the college FROM “TOMBSTONE BLUES” by Bob Dylan.

TOMBSTONE BLUES WAS ON ALBUM–HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED. 1965, He wrote it when he was 25 years old.

“SIDE GAMES”

Veterans of the World Series of Poker will tell you that more big money games, or “side games”, are off camera.

Side games show up in various arenas. Several years ago we attended a recreation basketball game my oldest grandson was playing in. First time to see a game for me. However as my son opened the door to the gym we were met by Spider Man. Lingering a moment he, at 5 years old DEMANDED of my son and grandson. “Where’s Lennox?” Lennox was Spider Man’s right hand bower, Son Tee explained. Just watch him. Spider Man was our coaches son. The coach said he wore his Spider Man suit everyday. “Sleeps in it.”

At the next game we took #2 grandson, Lennox ( at 3 and 1/2) along. Watch these guys Son Tee advised. They ranged from 5 to 7 years old and no holds were barred. Whatever their self designed contest required Lennox and Spider Man hung tough. Time out for crying, peeing, and first aid. I couldn’t have been prouder.

Every high school football game has a side game for younger brothers and stout hearted . While all towns differed in 1946 the side games were very similar. Called “tackle the man with the ball” or the unquestioned “smear the queer.” No ball no rules. Maybe a wadded up paper cup and whoever had it was fair game.

As a second grader, I suffered my first permanent injury in Madison, N.C. The Wildcats, on a dirt field, with about ten sixty watt light bulbs, Foot Feynolds (quarerback) led Coach Raymond Cure’s team —featuring Leon Tucker and Lee Anglin. Our game with about twenty kids was on the west end, parallel to the goal post.

Ball ( cup) in my possession, goal not to be felled as long as possible, an unknown lowered his forehead and found my newly minted right front tooth. It almost fell out so I pushed up it with my thumb. Now on the disabled list, I sat in the stands hand to mouth thumb pushing upwards. It stayed in! Might have ushered in the new popular color, charcoal grey, as time went by. As an adult with a little money, I had Dr. Billy Boles cap it and close the natural gap to where it looked pretty good. And served me well for a long time.

As the tooth darkened I told my parents reluctantly what happened. But I begged out of the dental exam. There was hardly any one my Dad’s age that didn’t “come up poor”. His lack of upper teeth age 45 confirmed his back ground. That upper plate in a glass of water scared hell out of me but not as much as our dentist, Dr. McAnnally of nearby Walnut Cove. Nothing has ever generated a fear or pain next that Ballpean hammer of a drill. Nothing. Those who ducked this with the advent of flouride should genuflect daily for that discovery.

Alas the crowned and altered tooth fell to a crust of pizza. Looking like the “what me worry kid a.k.a Alfred E. Neuman, my local Swansboro dentist . Cratg Brown, skillfully drilled and posted me to a new front bumper. The nurse warned me not to bite apples and hard food choices. “This is not a biting tooth. It is a smiling tooth!”

I’m running out of teeth. My left “backuns” are only singular now. And it’s a little shaky.

And on the right my heavy duty, root canal gold cap gave up after thirty years. Dr. Dickie Hogan did the deed for $900. $3 a year i figure. All in all I guess I’m lucky with dentists. Br. Bill Crouch in Elon was good. He didn’t like me calling him Dr. “Ouch” Crouch. Wilson’s Dr.Dwight Johnson caused the least pain, but that was because assistant, Nancy Tyson, was so rough cleaning them you were glad to see Dr. Johnson.

Eating is tricky now. With only a sore side, a gold capped one too far gone to save, and smiley, I have to think hard to locate food with a chewable remainder. Quite a contest. A side game.

“…a man should shed his (‘testicles’) and keep his teeth. hell, he NEEDS his teeth!” (Country’s uncle, Roma Boykin)