Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Talk to Your Mother While She Is High

A while back, Mama C had a problem getting her Parkinson's meds. This problem had occurred before, but this time, we couldn't get the neurologist to OK the prescription before her supply ran out. So, by the time we got her more pills, she had gone without for a couple of days.

So, once we finally got the prescription filled, we--Billy C, Pammy C, the care-giver, and yours truly--all just figured we'd better put her back on the meds.

Soon, she became loopy: getting confused, hallucinating. This has happened before and was, as far as I can tell, meds-related. But Parkinson's can cause dementia, so each time this happened, we all wondered if we'd get her back. After a visit with her general phyzish, we'd get the meds cleared up and she'd eventually come down.

Brief Editorial: Yes, both Parkinson's and our health-care system are terrible.

Billy C and I take her to Doc Lars and, once again she gets things straightened out and instructs us to gradually re-introduce Mama C's meds just as if she were taking them for the first time.

Afterwards, I take Mama C out for a steak. But she's still kind of loopy, see. She's coming down, but she's loopy. We'd sit there talking, when her attention would suddenly focus on a large, illusionary spider crawling along the wall of our booth. Of course, I'd tell her it wasn't there and she'd come back into focus.

So she brought up the pictures of Officer Bertino at dinner.

Officer Bertino was the father of her boyfriend Kenny Bertino. She dated him before WWII. Officer Bertino died in the line of duty answering a routine domestic disturbance call that took him to the home of this guy he had arrested many times before in the "Mexican" part of town. This guy get drunk, get into a fight with his wife, maybe hit her a couple of times, and Officer Bertino would drive down and arrest him. While this guy sat in the jail cell, Officer Bertino and the other cops would get him cigarettes and play cards with him.

Except for this one night. The guy had a gun. He shot off a couple of rounds, one of which hit Officer Bertino in the head.

I learned about this one day while Mama C still lived in her house. She had been going through all of her old pictures. I came over and saw these three pictures of this middle-aged man in his police uniform: one with him just standing there, one with him and a little neighbor girl, and one with him posing on his motorcycle.

Apparently when she had found these pictures and contacted Kenny, whom she hadn't seen in about 60 years or so. She told him of the pictures. He told her that he didn't have a single picture of his father.

So, she promised to send these to Kenny. The next day one of the ladies that came in every other day to help Mama C around the house "put them away" and we couldn't find them anywhere. We knew they were in a manila envelope, but there were so many manila envelopes in every corner of Mama C's house. Everyone had kind of written them off as being thrown out with the trash.

Fast forward a couple of years. As I am taking out the last few boxes of keepsakes from Mama C's house, I find a manila envelope just sitting on top of one of the boxes of pictures that has been sitting out in the open in the same spot for the last two years. Yep, it held Officer Bertino's pictures.

This was just before Mama C's latest medication hub-bub. I had just mailed them to her Kenny. She has been very anxious about them and had asked me again if they got to him. And wondered why he hadn't called to say he had gotten them.

Knowing old people as I do now, I realize that the answer to that question, my friend, is blowing in the wind.

So she tells me her memories of Officer Bertino's funeral procession. She desribed how the entire Rio de Nada Police Department came out in their dress uniforms and lined Orange street as she sang "Ave Maria." She finished, saying "I was just never sure he cared about me."

"Mom," I said. "Are you saying that dad was your second choice?"

"No," she said. "It's just that Kenny was such a good-looking kid and all the girls just loved him."

Then she went on.

"I broke up with him during the war, while he was overseas. I wrote him a letter."

The things you don't know about your mother could fill a book, couldn't they? And if we were all given that book early on, we'd understand the so much better.

Monday, October 22, 2007

As the Day Begins

You never know where the day will take you.

I teach with another teacher four periods a day and we share a big double-sized classroom. We also each teach a class alone. His single class is first period.

So I walk into our classroom during his first period, smile (or scowl--it IS 7:45 AM) at his students--many of whom I know well. My colleague is instructing his students to start an assignment while they wait for the bell to ring.

So, I sit at my computer and log on, when I hear a girl sobbing hysterically. I turn around, and this girl has her hands over her face and, as I said, is sobbing. A couple of students get up to comfort her, but she says nothing and just keeps sobbing. My colleague walks over and starts patting her on the back and tells her it's ok, but gives me a look that shows he has no idea what's going on either.

And she keeps sobbing. Usually, you can expect high school girls to begin crying like this at a moment's notice, but they usually calm down. This poor girl was heaving and sobbing and clearly unable to talk.

We both realize that she's not crying but is having problems breathing. So, I quietly tell my colleague that I'm going to call the school nurse and I do so.

The nurse walks in, very calmly, and goes to the girl. She knew who this girl was when I gave her our room number and begins telling her in a calm voice "It's ok Christy. Breath. Just breath."

The girl starts breathing and gasping and soon sobs "My body hurts! My body hurts!"

The bell rings and I shepherd the students out. I tell my colleague that I'm going to keep the students outside, thinking at the time that the girl will be alright once the crowd leaves.

So the class and I sit over at the lunch tables and wait. By the way, it's very windy outside, so dust is blowing everywhere.

Soon administrators come. Then the girls mother comes. Then the paramedics come.

I take the students to the library to get out of the wind and because I don't know what's happening or how long it will take.

Meanwhile, my colleague is in there with the girl, the nurse, the girl's mother, and several administrators. Tells me later how the girl went into seizure five times and actually turned blue. All the while, the nurse gently reminded the girl to breath.

The paramedics took her to the hospital and I don't know how she is but I haven't heard from my colleague or anyone else, so I hope that's a good sign.

But what a day.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Designed for Dogs by Dogs

I got two puppies in August. I named them Ruby and Pearl. They are the mongrel offspring of my brother's latest dog, who is herself one of the ugliest dogs I have ever seen. Someone found her as a stray and somehow, Billy C got bamboozled into adopting it. Turned out she was pregnant to boot.

For mutts, they are quite beautiful. If I can get a picture of them where they don't jump up and try to eat the camera lens, I'll post them.

Anyway, when I moved into this house, the dog run out in back had an old dilapidated dog house, ripe with termites and other vermin. Gloria wouldn't go near it, but Joey would. It was so unsightly that I dismantled it (actually, it just sort of collpapsed when I touched it) and got one of those Dogloo things. Neither dog ever went inside it that I know of. It didn't matter if it rained, if the wind was blowing, or it was cold outside. Whenever I put a mattress in it, they would pull it out and sleep outside the Dogloo.

Roscoe, Gloria's replacement, would go inside either.

When I brought Ruby and Pearl home, I cleaned out the dog run and tried to give it some feng shui. I cleaned out the Dogloo and put in a mattress. At first, they'd go inside once in awhile. But, like their predecessors, they'd take the mattress out and sleep outside.

There was this old plastic garbage can on wheels that I got before the city started providing receptacles for the various grades of garbage. It's been sitting in my back yard for the past years--only being used when I had extra garbage. Ruby and Pearl knocked it over one day and discovered that it made a great doggie fort. They would use it to play hide-and-seek, king of the mountain, and some doggie games for which I don't know the rules.

The morning after the rain last week, I went outside and found that, instead of using the Dogloo for shelter, Pearl had used the garbage can. Then I thought, hey, it's big, durable, and the wheels make it easy to move around--the perfect dog house.

So I cleaned the thing out and put it right next to the Dogloo. They love it.

The only problem is that, when they are playing king of the mountain, the think makes a racket like a cannon every time one of them jumps on top of it.

I hope they don't play at night.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Riverside Ukulele Liberation Front in the News and the Meeting that Wasn't Going To Happen but Did

Here's a link to the Press Enterprise article on the Riverside Ukulele Liberation Front:

If you scroll down to just below the byline to where it says "Interactive: The Riverside Ukulele Liberation Front" and click on the "Riverside Ukulele Liberation Front" part of it, you'll see a cool slide show featuring me taking to much time tuning my ukulele, as well as some f the circles musical stylings.

Last month, we had decided to postpone this month's meeting until the weekend after labor day. Big mistake. The article appeared and pretty soon, people were calling and asking about it. So, Do and I showed up just in case any newbies came.

There were seven.

So, we met some new folk and played a little. Not everyone stayed because it was so hot in the basement (today's temp was a round 110). Do sent home for a fan, so that helped a lot. Next week, we all bring fans.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Taos Poem 2

Who leaps into the center of Chaos?

Consider powerful men wearing fine suits,

whose shoulders are lined with stars,

or pundits
whose words click from their keyboards
or spit across the airwaves
into the wild confusion of debate.

Consider those who,
eyes wide,
smile the sad smile of duty,

whose expectant brown eyes
will be scorched with fear,
forever cleansed by the many ways one can die in war.

Theirs are the words of contemplation,
the candlelight of being,
the murmuring lips of prayer,
that light feared by all.

They enter that light,
while others—
their suits and uniforms
unstained by blood or debris—
can only avert their eyes
and clear their throats

and keep talking,
assuring us that all is well.

But who dives into the eye of God?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Taos Poem

American Flag crawls along the freeway.
A corner flutters weakly on the asphalt
as cars speed past.

Drunk stops at the roadside to piss.
Fireworks burst in the horizon behind him.

This is your warning. This is your only warning.

Mothers and children keening in the market place as coffins are carried past.

Dinner time:
family watches TV
and feels the compassion of distance .

Dogs, wolves, coyotes howl.

The internet bares its teeth,
and rears up,
ready to attack.

silhouette of a mountain, framed by a distant blaze.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Not Obssessed

I visited a Barnes and Noble with my sister and bro-in-law this evening and couldn't resist picking up the new Harry Potter and reading the first few pages.

I should say that I pre-ordered it and that it awaits my return home. If I had planned ahead, I probably could have had it sent to my sister's house so I could read it while visiting them--thus not falling prey to the spoilers out there who are determined to tell everyone how it ends. Frankly, there are only three possible outcomes for Harry: he lives, he dies, or he limps. And, as anyone who has read the books knows, there is heavy foreshadowing as to what that ending will be. As I told one of my ex-students who tried to spoil the ending, it really isn't how it ends, but the journey that takes us there. Otherwise, why would so many people have read book six, already knowing what happens to Dumbledorf? For that matter, how long has the Lord of the Rings been around and still the latest movie adaptations made millions upon millions?

Hell Agatha Christy and Arthur Conan Doyle are still big sellers.

But back to my story. I should have known that by standing next to the Harry Potter display and just opening the book, I was inviting trouble. But there I was, reading the first few pages, when I hear a voice behind me saying "That's the idea. Come to Barnes and Noble and read it for free."

The voice was not familiar to me. I turned t face the speaker: a man not too much younger than me, unshaven, bespectacled, balding, carrying a Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows canvas tote bag.

I knew this guy wanted to discuss the ending in the worst way, so I turned from him and said, "I don't get what you people see in this crap," and walked away, heading up the escalator the 2nd floor.

I might have hurt his feelings, but that canvas tote bag assured me that I needed to get away.

Sure enough, I noticed later that he had pounced on another victim. His voice was pretty loud, s I could hear that he was still talking abut Harry Potter, although I couldn't hear all of the particulars.

I may not be successful in isolating myself from all the spoilers, but I am determined to just not know until I've read it myself.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

High and the Mighty

So my flight to Philly ended with me landing.

As I walked through the metal detector, I kept setting it off. The third time, the lady in charge called for a specialist to come wand me as I tried to figure out what about me kept the thing buzzing. I realized that one culprit was my medical alert pendant that I wear to alert any emergency guys of my diabetes so they don't pump me full of candy should they find me unconscious. I pointed this out to the lady calling the wand guy, but she made me wait for the wand guy anyway.

He asked me if my hat had any metal in it. I didn't think it did, but sure enough it had a wire running through the rim.

So he wanded me and patted me down. I tried to feel good about these security measures keeping me me safe in the air, but couldn't since I already knew that I wasn't a terrorist. I don't get the feeling that any of these security people are any brighter or more professional than they were ten years ago.

Friday, June 22, 2007

A Gratuitous Attempt to Keep My "R" Rating

I have figured out that my "R"rating is due to the violent content--specifically, my uses of the words "death," "shoot," "bomb," and "pissed." The last one surprises me because I so rarely use that word. Maybe once in awhile in conversation for shock value, but rarely. Anyway, the next few sentences just to help me keep my rating so as to lure more readers, since the "R" rating attracts the average consumer.

I bombed my recent driving test, which pissed me off to death. Shoot, I guess I should have practiced. But it is in my nature to shoot from the hip in all things and not really plan ahead. As often as not, that is the death of me. Otherwise, life is da bomb.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

My Blog Rating

No child under the age of 12 will be permitted to read this blog without parental supervision.

What's My Blog Rated? From Mingle2 - Online Dating

Mingle2 - Online Dating

I'm so proud!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What Else I Have Seen

Yesterday, as I left the house, I saw a hawk soaring by, clutching something furry and dead, or dying.

Walking the Roob, I saw two hawks making loop-de-loops. One casually left the formation and disappeared behind the hillside.

Too many dogs. Seeing as how few people ever clean up after their dogs, I have begun not to like the presence of dogs.

A couple walking a mini bike up the trail. Too late to disturb my reverie.

Dana M. Psycho-son of a friend of Mom's at the supermarket. He is a successful contractor or engineer and is known to have had violent outbursts. He has attacked both his father and his brother on separate occasions. He always was a weird kid.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Oh, the Things I Have Seen This Week

As I searched a CVS pharmacy for twine and Depends one day, I found a display for Trim Spa featuring several splashy photos of Anna Nicole Smith, looking sexy and vibrant.

As I drove a truckload of stuff to the Salvation Army, I had to pull over four times as police cars sped past in the opposite direction towards Meade Valley. I counted nine cop cars.

Of course, the bunny.

As I sat in a restaurant, a family, each adult member of which was covered in tattoos of the gangster variety, entered and took a booth nearby. The children, or course, were antsy. One child began crying because he wanted to sit next to his big sister. The father responded to him by threatening to take him outside to spank him.

Twice someone has rung my doorbell this week and has walked away before I could get to it. In both cases, solicitors dropping off flyers that I will never read.

An evangelical team for some local church. Three of them, all wearing mismatched clothing, complete with loud paisely ties and checkered shirts and sportcoats on a hot summer afternoon. None of them seemed very smart.

In front of the Local Barnes and Noble, a busker playing guitar to no one. But it looked like he had taken in some respectable money.

A baby bird that had apparently fallen from the nest running from me as it saw me approach. It looked like it could have flown if it had really wanted to.

My favorite pho restaurant had a "B" rating sitting in its window. I took a chance anyway.

One of my favorite pastimes during the summer is to sit outside Starbucks, kick of my sandals, put my feet up in another chair, and sip iced tea while I read. Today, as I got up to get a refill, I left my book on my table to claim my spot. When I returned, a guy had taken my footrest chair and sat at my table across from my book. I picked up my book and moved. Does no one respect anyone else's boundaries?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Harboring a Fugitive

Today, the rabbit let me pet him again. In fact, he stretched out and just let me scratch and then looked a little angry when I stopped. On my way to pay some Mom Bills, I saw that my neighbors were home and decided to go ask them if the rabbit belonged to them. I had actually considered keeping the rabbit, but yesterday, while out walking, I could see through there front gate an empty cage--like a rabbit cage, only smaller. So I decided that I'd better at least ask them if my new little friend was theirs.

It was.

So we walked to where the rabbit was lounging. When he saw his family, he perked up as if to say "uh-oh!" and skeedaddled under my front gate, across the yard, and under our common fence into their yard, where he tried hiding behind some bushes to no avail.

Poor guy.

When I first asked them about the rabbit, the dad asked me if I wanted it, implying that he abut had it.

Apparently, it kept escaping from its tiny cage and getting into their garden. Also, they were told it was a dwarf bunny. It might have started out to be a dwarf bunny, but it grew into a hefty bunny. In fact, when I think about it, I bet this rabbit was an Easter gift. The timing is about right for him to grow beyond cute size. And the bunny cage looks about the right size for a tiny bunny.

I don't think he wanted to go back. I have the feeling this is a too-many-pets type family--one that keeps all of their pets alive, but loses interest. I may drop the hint that I know where they can place the rabbit if they decide to get rid of him, creating the opportunity for getting him back, but nt appearing t anxious.

I'll think on it.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Another Little Visitor

This time, I fund a rabbit loitering in my wee... er, lawn. He/she was clearly a per rabbit as he/she was too handsome/beautiful to be wild. The rabbits I've seen around here are all grey and brown with white fluffy tails and are usually smaller and leaner. This rabbit was big, plump and had a chestnut brown color. Also, although it hopped away from me, scurrying under my fence into my backyard, it let me get closer than local wild rabbits do. At one pint, I got up very close--about two feet from it.

I set some dog food and water, along with some carrot sticks and left it to hang out in my yard. If it's there tomorrow, I'll decide what to do with it. It has to be a pet, but neither of my next door neighbors has any rabbits. Maybe the neighbors behind me.

Seems like all our pets are getting sick and that all of us then get visitations from other animals.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Little Visitor

Around 4 PM today, I had just loaded into the pick-up truck my mother's dome-shaped barbecue that looks kind of like one of those three-legged thingies from War of the Worlds except it's dome-shaped. I had to carry it through the side yard and, when I went back to close the gate I spied it.

It had crossed half the length of the front porch and had reached the open screen door of my mother's house, sniffing around, exploring, possibly looking for adventure.

A baby skunk.

My first thought was about it's cuteness.

My second one was about how it stood by an open screen door and had I remembered to shut the actual front door of my mother's house as I had been entering and exiting absent-mindedly all afternoon, carrying stuff to the pick-up.

I watched silently as it sniffed towards the door. My first impulse was to take a step towards it to see if it would run away.

Oh yeah, skunk! I tried to remember in all of my knowledge about skunks whether or not the baby skunks could shoot very far with their spray. I decided I'd better not experiment with that idea.

So, I thought I'd take a wide girth around it and see if it would continue across the front porch. Thankfully, it galloped across the porch and into the bushes in the neighbors yard.

I thought about warning them. Then, I realized that this baby skunk was a sign of a healthy eco-system somewhere nearby and that, if I did tell them, the neighbor lady would have wanted it dead. Not only that, but she would not have rested until every member of its family had been found and killed. I realized that, if I did not tell them, it was possible that the baby skunk and its family might actually thrive for years to come. They might even be a source of food to the owls and hawks that nest in the area.

Plus, I wouldn't want to deny my neighbors the joy of discovery I had just experienced.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Stephanie, Stephanie, and Stephanie

I drove to Borders this evening to look for a book, The Brothers K, by David James Duncan, author of The River Why. After I found it, I browsed a for awhile. I rounded the corner to check out the Afro-American studies when, who should I run into but two former students from about 5 years ago, both named Stephanie. I hadn't seen Stephanie since she had graduated, although Stephanie had stopped by school a couple of times to visit.

On her last visit, Stephanie and I talked about our common interest in music. We discovered that we both were fans of the Ditty Bops. She always had an indie streak in her. She liked the Donnas and had her own band modeled after them. I'm not sure how successful the band was--or that it even actually performed anywhere. She told me that she is majoring in Journalism.

Stephanie, on the other hand, is majoring in History. I noticed that she now wore braces and had darker hair than I remembered. I recall that she read an essay to the class about the importance of reading in her life.

As we chatted there in Borders, Stephanie's cell phone rang. She smiled and said, "Hey, it's Stephanie--Mr. Babor, she's here with us!"

A third Stephanie walked out of the Sci-Fi section. She always had this intense way of speaking so fast that I got dizzy sometimes listening to her. She liked Kerouac. Her major was International Politics. She was with a friend who had an Arabic name and complained about how boring it was to read Camus in French.

I agreed.

What a great way to end a day. I'm just sorry their friend Gladys wasn't with them.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Running with Scissors at an Institution of Slightly Higher Learning: a Trilogy

Once, while still attending Grad School, I sat at my usual table on the patio at Starbucks, reading Death in the Afternoon. This group of Bible Study kids shows up. There were about four or five of them, one of them being an odd young man who felt that his duty was to be extra loud so that everyone could appreciate how much fun he was. A thin young man with long unkempt auburn hair, he would shout out the most idiotic comments while the others tried to discuss the Bible. They weren't biblical comments, they just were stupid and loud and meant to be funny.

On this particular day, the kids had brought artsy-craftsy stuff and had planned to create something. At one point, the loud kid, holding a pair of scissors in his hands, shouts "I'll go get it!" and runs down the sidewalk to "get it" with the scissors still in his hand.

Another time, after school, I stood in my classroom looking out the window. I saw the usual group of students sitting at their usual lunch bench, playing their usual role-playing card game. Two girls stood over them and one seemed to be nagging one of the boys as he played the game.

Suddenly, this boy, who was about 6'6" leapt to his feet and chased the two girls, grabbing the nagger in a choke-like hold, held her for a moment, and then gave her neck a jerk. She fell like a ragdoll as he marched triumphantly back to his game.

I hurried out to where nagging girl lay, her friend hunched over her. Nagging girl was sobbing in a heap. I asked her of she was okay. She said "Yes," through her tears.

As I walked over to the gamers, I asked another teacher to call security. I stopped behind the tall kid, who had now continued his game as if nothing had happened, and asked him "What did you just do?"

He looked at his cards and not me and said "She pissed me off."

I said, "That's not what I asked you."

"It's cool," he said, "She's my sister."

A couple of weeks ago, on my way to teach my night class at Rio de Nada Community College, I stopped by the cafeteria to get a bottle of water and a snack. Inside, in a booth, another group of gamers sat playing their game. Shouting ensued. One guy yelled something about wizards or trolls or death cards or something and started running out the automatic doors. Another guy jumped up an chased the first guy, grabbing a pile of campus papers on his way out the doors. They ran across the campus and the second guy threw the papers at the first guy and, of course, the papers flew everywhere. Second guy then stopped running, turned around, and headed back to the cafeteria, leaving the papers scattered on the ground.

As I walked to my class, I watched him to see if he truly was going to leave all of those papers scattered across campus. For a moment our eyes locked and I wondered if I really was going to have to tell this guy--a student at a college for God's sake--that he needed to go pick up after himself. He flinched at my look, turned around again, and picked them up.

There is no moral to this. I just wanted to let you know that we may be outnumbered

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Riverside Ukulele Liberation Front, 3rd Meeting

Each meeting gets better and better. We had nine folks today. Three of our regulars were absent and sorely missed.

The playlist: Beautiful Sunday with Do taking vocals. Jamaica Farewell, with Billy C singing. Eric lead us in Daydream. Then, Eric brught in Psycho Killer and we worked on that ne for awhile. Carl and Liam the Younger took uke solos.

What made it fun was that we really worked the songs, really layering the music. A great afternoon.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Jammin' with Bill

I served the folk music public today as a volunteer for the 27th Annual Folk Music Festival Today. I took the morning shift, working first at a musical instrument check-in room and later as a runner for the fiddle workshop. I thought the fiddle workshop would be fun, but the instructor mostly talked and the group did very little fiddling. Only two participants played the fiddle with any skill. So the fiddling was Jack Benny-esque at best.

Otherwise, music filled the air.

The Canaries performed at the open mike stage, but we weren't ready. Do performed her bosom song. As she left the stage, we shouted for her to sing a song she plays on the uke, so she got back onstage and sang that. Then we shouted for her to do "Tinfoil Hat," so she did. She was very good.

Billy C and I got to see and hear John McEuen who used the play banjo and fiddle with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band back in the day. McEuen also taught Steve Martin how to play banjo. McEuen's guest was some 14-year-0ld mandolin prodigy who played like a possessed mofo.

After that performance. It was time for the final workshop of the day. Uke Forever was on schedule to teach a ukulele workshop, but Billy C and I wanted to go t a folk historian's workshop instead. Then, on our way, we saw an elderly man being guided to UF's room. He had to be in his 90's. He appeared quite feeble, in fact. I noticed that he had very thick white hair. That's when I realized that it was none other than ukemaster Bill Tapia. I realized that, indeed, he must be appearing in UF's workshop.

So Billy C and I zoomed over to UF's workshp and, sure enough, there sat Bill Tapia. He looked like he could be any elderly gentleman--frail, maybe a little alone. But when he began playing, he transformed. You could see the eyes light up and the body energize. He dominated the workshop, regaling us with stories from his early days playing in big bands and singing songs. His playing was spot on.

So there we were, about 30 workshop attendees, getting a performance from a uke legend.

UF ocassionally stepped in to show the newbies some chords and teach them some simple songs. UF led us in "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." I led the singing because no one else seemed to know the words.

I think Bill Got a little bred because he out of the blue asked me "How do you make a 'C' chord?" I made a "C"chord. Then "How do you make an 'E7?'" I made the "E7." I kind f panicked because he kept throwing chords at me. But I showed him every chord.

Then he turned to Billy C with the same drill. Then he asked "Now, everybody play those chords as I call them." Pretty soon, we were all playing the chords to "Ain't She Sweet" while Bill Tapia took the solo. I soon realized that I was jamming with Bill Tapia.

UF handled everything very well, allowing Tapia the spotlight, while making sure everyone walked away with a few basic chords.

Hey, I got to jam with Bill Tapia. It just doesn't get much better than that.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Spelling Tip for the Day

I just read a blog where the writer misspelled "weird." They followed the old "i before e except after c" rule. But "weird" is an exception to that rule. In other words, "weird" is weird.

Monday, April 02, 2007


The second conflaguration of the Riverside Ukulele Liberation Front spilt int overtime, in part because the lengthy tuning session at the beginning, I guess and in part because I kept asking if anyone had anything to play after I knew we had reached 3PM, our scheduled ending time. We had four new people. Carl, an older guy (probably a little older than me, actually) who brought his 8-string Lanakai and did a classical piece and a latin piece to play. Kurt, a local press photog that I've known for awhile but don't see very much. I invited him once during a chance encounter walking the Roob. He and I had been hiking two different routes when we crossed paths at the top. He joined me on my way down and we started talking about music and pretty soon, he was yearning to play the uke.

Two teens showed up. Friends of Leemo (Blowhard Canary's new nom de blogue).

'Twas a good afternoon.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


This is me and the Stealth Bomber, or should I say the Stealth Bomber and I. Billy C took it. It was very difficult for the pilot to hold the plane still for that long.

Hey. Really. That's the Stealth Bomber and I together. No tricks. Really.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Riverside Ukulele Liberation Front's Next Meeting

This is no joke! Don’t forget! The second convening of the Riverside Ukulele Freedom Front will take place on April Fool’s Day from 1 PM to 3 PM in the Gallery (i.e. basement) of Back to the Grind, located at 3575 University Avenue in Riverside, California.

Proposed Hidden Agenda:

12:49--1:00 Arrival of Dignitaries on Red Carpet
1:00--1:01 Tuning and facial exercises
1:01--1:03 Opening beffudlement
1:03--1:05 Return to decorum
1:05--2:59 Make beautiful music together
2:59--3:00 Closing Pie Fight

Bring your ukes, your music stands, a thirst for froo-froo caffeinated beverages, AND a song that you have been working on and/or a song that you would like to add to the RULF Hymnal.

In honor of the holiday, a silly hat would also be appropriate.

See you there!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Rio de Nada Ukulele Liberation Front Maiden Voyage

The anticipation of this whole thing consumed me as the ,moment of truth arrived, but the RULF had its first Ukulele Circle today in the dank basement (or "gallery") of Back to the Grind, a local coffee house. We thought at first this venue might be too depressing, but it turned out just fine.

We had a dozen attendees, nine uke players, 3 significant others who came to listen. Ukers present included Billy C, UF, E Barr of UCR, Blowhard Canary, his doppelganger Liam, Do, Susie H, Chuckster from R-So-So, and myself. Among the listeners: Vivage, E Barr's wife Karen and Liam the Doppelganger's mother.

The playlist: Blow the Man Down, Boil that Cabbage Down, Camptown Races, The Crawdad Hole, Quinn the Eskimo, The Midnight Special, and several others I have forgotten. I selected mostly easy songs because I wasn't sure what level of players we would have. Each attendee played a song or two he or she had been working on. They all performed well. Chuckster gets the nod of the day for playing a song by Devo called "Mongoloid."

Among the colorful details: Once in awhile someone would come down to the gallery for their own purposes, give us a look, grimace, and walk up back the stairs; a speed freak came and listened and I think he liked us but it was hard to tell because nothing he said was coherent.

Totally bitchen afternoon, as far as I'm concerned.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Rio Nada Ukulele Liberation Front

This Sunday, Billy C and I are hosting Rio Nada's first ukulele circle. At least that I know of. I've sent out e-mails to parties I thought would be interested and he forwarded each of them to parties he thought would be interested. There are eight to ten people we know of who could show.

My plan is to run off some simple songs that we can all play together. I've asked everyone to bing a three-ring binder in which to put the songs. We're going to number them and call it our "Hymnal." Each week, ukesters will be free to bring new songs to add to it.

At this meeting, we willcollect e-mail addresses and names and the like and get it set up.

This week, I talked to UF at school and he said that word might have gotten around to even more people than I was aware of. So, it could be a bigger group than I had anticipated.

Anyway, I'm excited about this.

I Turn 53

I celebrated my 53rd birthday Tuesday. Got a phone call from Billy C and Princess C singing(?) to me. The rain and the traffic almost made me late.

Two girls in my first period gave me a Disney Princess gift bag full of inappropriate gifts: a pair of pink socks, a pair of used non-perscription glasses with greasy lenses, a scrubbing stone for her, and a card of this old guy mooning the camera but he's so old you can't tell where his ass crack is. They got a kick out of it.

Another class sang me happy birthday and two girls baked me a cake. They also gave me a hand-made card signed by all of my students. One of the girls decorated. She drew a stick-figure me playing my uke. On another page, she pasted my head on Superman's body. Funny.

My 7th period 9th grade class gave me the gift of not being too squirrelly, God bless 'em.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


We are trying to get Mama C's house empty so we can either rent it or sell it, thus increasing her income for the years ahead, as her need for care increases.

Part of the process has been for her to give each of us items that should stay in the family for one reason or another. My sister got some china. My brother got Papa C's old tool chest--an old wooden chest--not a Sears and Roebuck tool chest filled with Craftsmen tools. Dad was a machinist and these are specialized tools that none of us could ever use. But it's a part of him. The first time I opened it after Papa C died, I was surprised to find three pictures fixed inside: one of Mama C, one of Pamela C, and one of his pal Clarence Matthews.

Clarence is a story unto himself--he has reached legendary status in our family and I would need my Papa C here to embellish the stories with dialog and other details.

But, I digress.

I got the piano. Mama C's upright piano. Right now, it sits in my living room near the sliding glass door, but well out of the way of incoming sun. Atop center sits old clock that, the last time I heard, sounded the time increasingly out of tune with each passing hour. Next to that, I have a framed photo of Mama and Papa dashing out of the church on their wedding day, their faces alight with smiles and youthful energy. To the left of the clock is my Oscar Schmidt uke and the last portrait of Papa C taken by Mama C's cousin Jimmy Rose.

There is another picture I am tempted to dig out and put on it--one of a young Mama C as a teenager sitting at the same piano in her parents home. The same clock is there--as is a bust of Beethoven. This is from her days as a young singer of local notoriety. The piano still looks new, as does she.

The piano I have still has a fine tone. But it looks a little worse for the wear. Along its once-perfect smile of a keyboard, one key sits broken like a missing tooth. The tapestry that once protected the insides from dust is torn (I don't know what this is called, but it is tacked behind the carved face board of the piano and was once made of beautiful fabric. I've googled for images that might show you what this looks like, but can't find any).

I made many of those tears as a small child. I imagine I found and imperfection and began exploring it. In spite of Mama C's pleas to leave it alone, I still explored the tears when I found myself alone with the piano. Why? The same reason I drew on the newly painted walls of my bedroom or ate the paper wrapping from the cupcakes Mama C bought from the Helms Bakery truck.

So, while I don't play the piano, it is a part of my history.

While most of the memories of Mama C accompanying herself on piano blend together into one, two stand out for me. The first comes from my childhood, when Billy C was a tween and I was probably in 5th grade. I think Papa C and Billy C were arguing over something--hair, friends, whatever. 'Midst the din, Mama C inexplicably started playing loudly and singing a song hymn and when she got to the refrain, got up and patting Papa C's chest, sang loudly "Bless this house firm and stout!" Or something like that.

The other was right after Papa C died. She was sitting alone in the living room (I was in the den), playing a song they had heard when they went through Marriage Encounter together.

Friday, February 09, 2007

More Reflections on Patti Smith's "The Jackson Song"

Vivage had mentioned that she first heard this song when she was prego with Blowhard Canary. That's when I heard it too, while I lived in their house with them. Billy C had a radio show on a local college station. I rarely listened to it on my car radio because the reception was iffy. But I did one time while driving around UCR shortly after the child prodigy's birth and just caught the end of this show, where Billy dedicated this song to his new infink son.

I think now that it might need a female voice singing the lead (Princess?) with the boys' lush harmony wafting in the background. There's a line about seeing a hero's wing and thinking of daddy followed by a line about a nestled wing and thinking of mommy that just sounds better coming from a female.

I supposed you could juggle that part around somehow, if you had to. Plus, there are plenty of songs out there written and sung by men where the persona is a woman.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Now to Change the Subject

How do you like my Google upgraded blog?

UF recently advised me not to be so dependent on tabs and songbooks, but to just listen to my heart and let the chords of new songs find their way there or some complicated sappy metaphysical crap like that.

But, hey, I think it works. I've got two new tunes that I am figuring out based on his advice.

Do had suggested a song, "Tiki Torches at Twilight" by David Lindley and, when I tried to get it on, I couldn't find it. So I just bought it on I tunes (both the David Lindley version and the Petty Booka version) and just listened. Then, I began to sing along and figure where it was in my vocal range and, relative to that, I think I got most of the chords figured out.

Then, I got a hankerin' to learn a Patti Smith tune, "The Jackson Song." But Chordie was also pretty chintzy with Patti Smith tunes. I found this odd, because awhile back I'm sure I found a load of Patti Smith tunes on some guitar tab site and now I found chordie was packing light, as was every other tab site I could find. Dunno. Funny thing: One of the Patti Smith tunes was actually the Patti Smyth tune "Good-bye to You." I thought the Chordie guys were hipper than that.

Anyway, I did the same thing with that song--more easily, because I am more familiar with Patti Smith's work and know kind of where her vocal range is and what chord progressions she uses a lot. So I am a little pleased with myself tonight.

Anyway, I want to learn "Tiki Torches." I think "The Jackson Song" would be a good Canary song with Billy C on the lead because he's a father and with Blowhard and me coming in with some fine harmonies (and Princess as well?).

Those of you who are thinking what the F**K! Patti Smith? Harmonies? Listen to this song. It's on the Dream of Life album.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

A Mighty Wind

I've told most people this story, but those of you who don't live around here shouldn't be cheated.

My friend PJ's mother died just before Christmas. They held off on the memorial service until shortly after the holidays.

Like my friend Do, PJ's family does not adhere to tradition when it comes to celebrating a life. Where Do and her family take a musical approach, PJ and his family prefer a lot of speaking. A harpist provided music and PJ's vegan friend Dick provided guitar and raspy singing, but testimonials ruled the day.

Cut to the chase: As PJ closed the memorial, he asked that we all stand for a moment of silence in honor of his mother--that we pray, meditate, or just think of our favorite memory of his mother. Just as the crowd fell silent, someone released a hushed but potent fart--loud enough for only a few of us to hear. I looked up and met the startled gazes of four or five others--all of whom immediately averted their eyes back into meditation mode. I felt the urge to giggle, but suppressed it.

PJ ended the moment by saying "Now we hope you hold your memories of Mom gently in your heart."

Again, as if paid to do this on cue, the phantom farter released again.

This time, I kept my head bowed and I chuckled quietly. I couldn't help it.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Jim's Farewell

Saturday, Donita and family honored Jim's memory with a party celebrating his life. Yeah, that's the way to do it. No church. No ceremony. No formality. Just opportunities for everyone to honor Jim in their way. Jim and Donita come from musical families, so there was lots of music.

Jim's bro and cousin ran things, along with Donita of course.

They encouraged people to tell Jim stories. Those of us who played instruments performed. Jim loved progressive rock, so I played "I've Seen All Good People/Your Move" by Yes on my uke (minus the "I've Seen All Good People" part. The afternoon was chilly and I had a hard time getting my fingers to move, but I got through it. Soon after, the Canaries joined me on stage and we did our Dylan repertoire, with Blowhard Canary on vocal and Billy C and I on ukes and harmonies. The youngster's voice is really becoming more confident. I think he will shape up to be a fine singer. I think he can hit lower low notes than his father.

Many other people sang and played including both sides of the family: with both TV's Kyle and the Jimmy Jammers (Jim's band with Do, daughter, and Daughter's boyfriend), Casual Sunday (Jim's band with Bro and Do), and various other musicians and singers Jim has performed with.

Jim's keyboard was missed in every sense of the word. But he would be so proud of his family. He was a guy for whom music was life.

Do and a friend sang this sea shanty that Jim used to play with them. It was beautiful and and brought tears to everyone's eyes. Wish I could remember the title. I know it was written in the early 20th century in the traditional way.

A lot of people I had known once as teenagers were there, looking to me more like their own parents.

People mingled. Some found their own corners to sit and mourn.

Jim, you were a much-loved man.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

To Honor Jim

I browsed my blog last night, looking for comments from Jim. One of his last comments was a request that I post the recipe for my semi-healthy chocolate chip cookie recipe. So, Jim, this is for you.

1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cups lightly-packed brown sugar
2 to three egg whites, beaten stiff
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup nonfat milk
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup or more (preferably more) chocolate chips
3/4 cups chopped peanuts
1 cup sunflower seeds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add egg whites, vanilla, milk and beat until fluffy. Stir together flour and baking soda. Add wet ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips, peanuts, and seeds. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet and bake until browned, 10 to 15 minutes.


I'm not sure why, but these cookies often have little green flecks in them after baking. I think this is from the flour. But I haven't died from eating these yet, so it's not anything poisonous.

To maximize sweetness, use salt-free ingredients whenever possible.

Instead of brown sugar, try date sugar. You can find this in most health food stores. It makes the cookies sweeter and is better for you if you are diabetic.

Instead of wheat flour, try brown rice or amarinth flour.

I call these semi-healthy because the combination of nuts, seeds, and flower makes a complete protein. Also, I recently read where dark chocolate has some sort of health benefits.

Also, I don't always go to the trouble of beating the egg whites until stiff, but the cookies still come out fine.

These cookies are not as sweet as regular chocolate chip cookies. They have a unique, mild flavor. Anyone who has ever tried them, regardless of their eating habits, has loved them. In fact, when I take them to potlucks and put them with the desserts, theirs is the first plate to empty.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Donita's Blog isn't up to date as of this posting, but you can go there to get the details of what happened. Her husband, Jim, had a bad stroke Sunday night and it looks like he won't make it.

This is one of those times where you search for the words that make sense. The wise realize that there are no words.

Donita called me with the update, after a more positive call on Monday.

Jim is one of those people who has this sweet nature and you just wouldn't want anything for him but a long, happy life. He is one of those rare individuals who is possessed by his music. When he plays his keyboard, he becomes the music and he seems to be able to fill in on anything you throw at him. He and Donita are two people who together are a vortex of creative passion.

I love them both and, as is my nature, I hold on to hope, but it looks very bad right now.

Just love your life people. Love your life. Each day is a gift.