Dec 20, 2019

"You gotta know when to fold them..."



One would think that after I have clocked in/out as many days as I have in my lifetime that I would have learned to just say "No"...I would have learned to say, "Nope, I've had enough....and even after a lifetime of drinking and then remaining sober for over 20 years, one would have thought I would have learned my lesson and that I guess I just have an addictive personality and just have to know "when to fold them"....Don't despair tho, the outcome of this story is kinda outrageously funny.

I finally after all of these years had an opportunity to do something I have coveted most of my entire life, well at least for as long as it has been popular....yep, "To Sing Karaoke!!!!" Now I know you naysayers are already moving on from this story but hang in there, there is a lesson to be learned.

One of the places I have been checking out to relocate to if and when my house sells is a community for "55 and over". No, it's not a Senior Home., No, it's not an Assisted Living residence, it is simply a wonderful place where most of the residents have made the decision to scale down and enjoy life by turning over the responsibilities of maintaining a household over to someone else. The places I have visited are full of people many of them younger than me who have decided they just don't want to mow the lawn anymore, don't want to paint the house anymore and just want to spend the rest of their lives having fun and being around people with similar interests, including KARAOKE.

The barons of residential living have discovered that marketing these communities to people who are still viable and fun-loving can be a gold mine and they go all out making the transition a wonderful experience.

So, back to the scene of the crime. I'm on the mailing list for receiving daily notices of activities at this particular location. And last night was the long awaited time to finally have a chance to join the millions, or maybe just the thousands of people who have sang solo in front of an audience, albeit with a projector displaying the words and a sound track keeping you in tune.

 The event started at 5:00 pm because it was a combination dinner/theater get together .I had contacted a Facebook friend, Kate Cashman,  earlier in the day that I was aware of that has spent years singing at such a venue. Her advice was to have a back up song or two or three and most of all to have fun.

Upon entering, there is a catalog of songs probably thousands to choose from. Since it was the holiday season I decided to go with "White Christmas" , but another song I spotted immediately was "Shallow" , a song popular today from the movie "A Star is Born" and one I have been learning on the piano.

I was the first one to showcase their skills and I immediately knew I was where I was supposed to be when I was handed the microphone. The music started and I began pitch perfect, at least in my mind, as I "worked the floor" (that's show business talk) and made eye contact with people in the audience. I was loving the moment until some lady decided she wanted to finish the song beside me and kind of stole my thunder. 

I had a raucous reply from the audience and sat back down with my friend who I had invited to provide me support, Monica Evans,  as we planned our get away knowing anyone after me would be marginal at best.

And then it happened....I wanted more....that addictive personality kicked in as I drank from that "bottle of  recognition".... I should have stopped then, signed a few autographs and left feeling on top of the world. Nope, I didn't "know when to fold them"... I thought, maybe one more song.

This time I took the microphone, had a little banter with the audience, told them "I'd be in town all week", thank goodness I didn't ask if anyone was from out of state. I told the over 55 group of people that "Shallow" was a popular song from a recent movie sung by Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga and I could see people mouthing the words "did he say Gaga?"...and then I said to the DJ "hit it" like I was a seasoned performer.

I felt like I did a pretty good job which was confirmed by Monica but the applause was only half of my first performance. I think they just didn't know what the heck the song was.

And so it was,  just another lesson in my newest Journey.

 Be aware of your surroundings, enjoy what you have and don't be greedy, and most of all....just have fun.

Peace


Dec 14, 2019

Shame on me....."Box step Tommy"



It was just a week or two ago when I wrote a story about pleading with people to live their lives to the fullest and quit playing the piano in "Middle C".  I suggested to get out and enjoy new things, try something different than just the "missionary position" of Life..

So what's happened since then, you ask? Well, for starters I'm now calling myself  "Box-step Tommy" . Sure laugh if you want to, but it's a plight I am trying to overcome.

As many of you know I have been dancing twice a week at the Senior Centers both in Richardson and Plano. I've met some wonderful people there who in addition to enjoying dancing, they are enjoying life and squeezing every ounce out of each day and night. Many of us have experienced the same losses in one way or another and we are determined to not let a day go by that we don't create new memories in our Journey.

In addition to dancing twice a week, I  also take a group dance lesson on Friday afternoons. The first one I took several weeks ago conflicted with the weekly pool tournament that starts on time at 1:00 at the Richardson Center that I participated in and the lessons start at 2:00 pm

Here I was, just going into the winners bracket final game and I had to forfeit in order to go into the adjoining room for my dance lesson. I did get a few scofflaws from the guys in the tournament when I had to turn in my cue and go to the lesson but I'll ask the men reading this, "would you rather shoot pool with a bunch of guys and talk guy stuff or dance with lovely ladies to ballroom music?". If you don't want to answer publicly, send me a message.

So anyway, I admit I'm learning many steps and several different dances including, the waltz , foxtrot and more. And my faithful dance partner, Monica Evans, who is a wonderful dancer, puts up with my clumsiness and continues to encourage me with "you've got great rhythm, you just need to learn the steps".

I think the same thing is happening that has happened most of my life in that I tend to rely on my smile and charm to get me through difficult situations rather than stepping up to the plate and getting the job done. Maybe that smile is starting to turn upside down and that charm is wearing thin.

Or maybe I'm just getting frustrated. It seems like every time I learn a new step, then I have to learn a new one and a new one and a new one. I just want to scream, "I WANT TO JUST BOX STEP". I just want to be "Box step Tommy" and sit out the more difficult dances and not learn how to "waltz across Texas".....

HOLD ON....What was I thinking. I'm not a "Box Step Tommy" kind of guy. I want to compliment my dance partner. I want to have people ooh and aah as I spin and twirl and do the "conversation step". Heck yeah, I'm a winner and I won't take second place. I'll learn these new steps by gosh and enjoy myself as I do. The one thing I have learned is the most important thing is to have fun and if you can learn new things while having fun, well then that puts icing on the cake.

Alright, I feel better already. Time to get to Youtube and watch and then practice, practice and practice and occasionally give you an update.

Peace

Nov 27, 2019

Life is more than simply playing the piano in "Middle C".....



Hang in there with me as I explain my opening title.

If you have ever played the piano then you know what I am talking about and I'm certainly not trying to show off by acting like I know all of these piano "words" (actually I kinda am) even though I've only been taking lessons for about 5 months. But I've realized the piano and my taking lessons has become the perfect metaphor for describing my new Journey.

During my weekly lessons, I sometimes interrupt my wonderful, patient teacher, Amy Munro, and ask questions that race into my mind while I am trying to stay focused, specifically about the piano and generally about music.

 I've recently broadened my range of two octaves and 5 notes, located in the middle part of the piano keyboard, ergo Middle C, to yet another octave as well as two more keys, A and B, in addition to now sharps and flats.

We talked briefly about how the piano encompasses so many different combinations of sounds and to me it seemed like the ultimate in a musical instrument since the permutation of so many different sounds could be achieved.... 88 keys X two hands  X playing two or three of four notes at a time equals, well more than my head brain could compute.

And then she added that there are so many more instruments that exude wonderful tones and sounds some of which many of us have never heard before.

Music is like the alphabet. We have only 26 letters in the English language
but we are able to take those letters and create words, from which we create sentences, from which we create paragraphs and then stories. Notes by themselves are simply notes, but when we string them together we eventually have a melody and then finally a song. All of the stories have not been written nor have all of the songs been sung.They are waiting for you to add yours to the collection.

This caused me to realize how important it is to get out of "Middle C" and experience the entire Keyboard of Life. Sure, you can play most melodies in your safe haven, sing any song in your range, even watch TV  where your 4 or 5 channels are located and not travel through the other 200 channels. But expand your horizons. See what is around the corner. See if you can hit that high note when you are singing in the shower. And learn to play more octaves, more chords, more keys.

You can dance all night long simply doing the box step or swaying to and fro, but occasionally spin your partner around, glide across the floor as you keep beat to the music and what the heck, throw in a little free-style when you want to. Learn to play more notes, sing more songs and dance whenever you feel the need.

You don't need a piano to learn music. My niece's husband, Eugene Taylor, learned to play the harmonica while waiting in traffic. If you can simply breath you can play a harmonica.Maybe it's just a note at a time. Or a step at a time. But please, life is worth living.

I'll send you a harmonica if you promise to play it. I'll write you a story if you promise to write one yourself. And I'll sing you a song if you promise to dance to it.

Enjoy life, it's the only one we have.

Peace


Nov 16, 2019

OK, Fine. I finally admit it that I don't know everything...



I'm going to let some of you gloat over the fact that you finally have found something that you know more about than I do. But in reality, I've never claimed that I know more things than all of you, it's just that well, I kinda give the impressions that I do.........or hmmm, maybe I do know more......regardless, go ahead and have at me.

All of this refers to something I saw the other day out at the Frisco Mall just north of town.

Now let me first mention this, and as they say in Texas "It ain't braggin,  Maam, if it's fact".

You're talkin' to a guy who is pretty sharp when it comes to high tech stuff. I've been buildin' all kinds of electronic things for a number of years. I built my first couple of computers. I can fix anything electrical or mechanical in a home. Heck, at one time I was even braggin' that I was gonna do my own head-brain lobotomy until someone talked me out of it.

Anyway, back to what happened.....And I was just tryin' to kind of put my credentials out there, but ok, I concede to what happened the other day because it simply had me starin' with my jaw opened up and in a daze you coulda' knocked me over with a feather.. So, even as smart as I am, some of you are gonna be smarter than me when I tell you what I saw.

I parked my car and headed up to the main entry doors and as I got closer to the entry way and all of the parking spots came to an end, I see these, well, I see these thingys that kinda look like fuel pumps but they have a long electrical cord comin' out of the side of them. I get closer and practically get run over since I'm standing in the roadway and I'm starin' and starin' and for the life of me, I had no idea what they were and then suddenly it hits me, "OMG, THEY ARE CHARGING STATIONS FOR ELECTRIC CARS!!!"

I actually said aloud, "You gotta be sh**en me."

A security guard walks over and greets me. He looks like he is barely out of high school and just smilin' away. He sees the look on my face as he has probably done many times before when people my age get their first glimpse of the future. He says, "Pretty impressive, huh. Free fuel for your electric car".

OK, go ahead and gloat, those of you who have seen these and God forbid if I know any of you who actually have an electric car, but I have to admit, "Yes, I'm kinda impressed"

Now realize, I cut my eye teeth as a young man working in the Oilfield business. I spent several years out in West Texas selling oilfield equipment and chasing every rig from Sonora, Texas all of the way up to Hobbs, New Mexico. I made my living, a substantial living I might add, and then later came to Dallas in the late 70s when Oil was King, and I was a Prince. But then in the 80s, the bottom fell out and most of us became paupers.

So, I have had an affinity to the Oilfield Industry. It has kept the world's lamps lit for over a century. It's moved automobiles from one side of the continent to the other and despite all of the negatives, it made this country a better place.

But, I guess "time marches on"

I'm certainly not against electric cars. They make a lot of sense although, there is still a lot of research that is needed such as storage and overall cost. I guess if you had a long enough extension cord, though you wouldn't have to worry about that.

So, here I am at 71 and willing to admit that maybe I just have not been paying attention and some technology has slipped by me.

And in fact, it actually was kind of fun and enjoyable to see something new and exciting.  Maybe I just don't get out often enough as I should or perhaps I'm not looking around enough and there are many new things that I just haven't noticed.

Regardless, I admit some of you have something on me now, but this day too shall pass.

So "hello future", I'll be catchin' up with you soon.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the story and as always,  (and you can quit gloating now)

Peace



Nov 13, 2019

"Some Corner of a Foreign Field that is For Ever England."



"You are only 18 years old. The home that you grew up in is now in ruins as a result of enemy bombs being dropped from airplanes belonging to a nation determined to crush your country.

Family members and friends have died in this horrible act of war. And now you have been asked to leave your birthplace to fight for your country against this aggressor. Of course you are willing and are ready to take up arms, but your calling will first take you to a distant land. A land some 5,000 miles away for your training. Away from your surviving family members. Away from your surviving friends.

You will first go to America and the possibility exists that you might never return home again."




This story certainly didn't sound familiar to me, even though I knew a lot of the history of World War II. I knew that England had first been bombed in 1940, a year before the United States entered into an Alliance to defeat Germany. But, English servicemen coming to the United States to train?  I had never heard that story. And not only coming here to within 50 miles of my home in Dallas, but 24 of them died while here in training and 20 of these brave souls were buried in a small private cemetery in Terrell, Texas.


I had the privilege and honor to learn this story of these cadets from the Royal Air Force (RAF) that found themselves in a small Texas town when I was invited by a new, dear friend to visit the No. 1 British Flying Training School Museum and the cemetery where they are buried over the recent Veterans Day weekend.


The day chosen by the British Commonwealth to honor their fallen heroes falls on the same day that America celebrates the lives of all of the  men and women who served their country. The reason being is that both days, Remembrance Day for the British and Veterans Day for the United States both evolved out of what was originally known as Armistice Day.

During World War II, many Western countries and associated nations changed the name of the holiday accordingly to commemorate the end of World War II in Europe. Member states of the Commonwealth of Nations adopted Remembrance Day, while the United States government opted for Veterans Day.

Thousand of British pilots learned to fly at six civilian training schools in the United States. The first of these schools was in Terrell, Texas. After the United States entered the war, American Aviation Cadets also trained at the school.

Our day in Terrell began with a visit to the Oakland Cemetery. The following description is from an information brochure made available to the visitors:
Members of a RAF unit assigned to Greenville, Texas
participated in the ceremony honoring RAF Cadets from World
War II

  

A simple sundial and a flagpole flying the RAF ensign perpetually at half-staff marks a peaceful hedgerowed plot in Terrell's historic Oakland Cemetery, which holds the graves of 20 British Royal Air Force pilots killed in various training mishaps while attending the British Flying School #1 in Terrell, Texas, during WWII.

The sundial historic memorial marker reads as follows:

"This ground dedicated to the Royal Air Force by the Oakland Memorial Park Association and cared for by the War Relief Society

"Some Corner of a Foreign Field that is For Ever England." 
A new, dear friend, Monica Evans
invited me to a tribute to honor
RAF Cadets buried on American soil.

Invocations, Meditations and Scriptures were read. The flag was lowered to half staff and a placing of a wreath by a surviving cadet, Flt Lt. Robert F. Reynolds, RAF (Ret), doing the honors assisted by members of a RAF Unit assigned to nearby Greenville, Texas.

Tears welled up in my eyes as well as most in attendance as I surveyed the immaculately groomed graves that marked the final resting place of the ever so young men. It truly was humbling to think of how courageous and brave they were to shoulder this responsibility only to have their lives cut short before allowing them to fulfill their dreams of protecting their country.

As the cemetery observance came to an end, and we headed to the Museum that houses hundreds of memorabilia of those years of training, it reminded me of friends I had lost to the Vietnam War and how my time in service was spent.

Whether it be Remembrance Day or Veterans Day, our two great countries, the United States and Great Britain came together to defeat a tyrant. And, sadly, thousands and thousand of young lives were lost trying to protect our way of life.
Flt Lt Robert F Reynolds, RAF (Ret)
a survivor of World War II laid a wreath
as the base of the monument.

It will be a Veterans Day weekend I will always cherish and a tribute that I hope I will have a chance to witness again. And, oh yes, another group of friends that I can now add to my life as I continue on my new Journey. Wonderful British men and women who now call America their home along with the young 20 cadets who remain with us now and forever.

Peace

For more information about the British Flying Training School and the joint effort that Americans and the British and the  sacrifices made during world War II you can visit their website at https://www.bftsmuseum.org/