Be Nice

In the late ’70s and early ’80s I was involved in a Christian Pentecostal church which subsequently became very controversial because of its association with a high profile evangelist of dubious sincerity. I was young, inexperienced and, for the most part, dumber than a rock. However, in retrospect there were many great lessons to be learned apart from faith and scripture. Also, this experience exposed me to many fascinating characters; some good, some outright disdainful.

One of the good ones was an elderly preacher by the name of Glen Miller. As a musician I will never forget his name for obvious reasons. He was a sweet man who was extremely fond of the adage “A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.” In that regard he practiced what he preached. I once witnessed him in a heated debate with another preacher during which he remained kind and respectful throughout. All the heat came from his opposition.

The United States is moving forward with some historic Supreme Court decisions that step on very sensitive areas in our communities. Many people feel their rights and traditions are under attack. Perhaps the latter is true. I think it’s clear some traditions need to be attacked. After all, sacrificing virgins to the Sun God was once an acceptable tradition somewhere. With the way we are able to exchange information in modern times, there is no excuse for failing to evolve and become more enlightened.

The momentum of social progress can rise gradually like the tide, or come crashing like a wave. It’s the wave that concerns me. As we debate the issues of today, we need to understand that the adage is true. Human nature can be extremely defensive. If you start an argument with an insult, your words are completely wasted beyond their contribution to a mob mentality. You will not convert anyone regardless of the strength of your logic. However, if inciting a mob reaction is what you intend, be prepared for the consequences.

Am I guilty of this? Oh, hell yeah. That’s why I decided to do a little blog writing as self penance.

We are truly divided. There will never be a time when everyone becomes liberal or conservative. In fact, there are studies that indicate our political views may be more in our DNA than in our souls. Is it not wrong to attack someone for having tendencies that they were born with? I know this is a fuzzy line. Even I have moved from one end of the political spectrum to the other as the result of arguments put forth with the correct recipe of logic, diplomacy and persistence.

Keeping it real, I know that at my self righteous best I am still dumber than a rock in the greater scheme of things. When you spend enough time looking at Earth from the perspective of the Hubble Space Telescope you are forced to realize there will always be more questions than answers. It’s an exercise in humility. Like that line in the Lee Ann Womack song “I Hope You Dance”: I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean. Humility and diplomacy go hand in hand.

The country is experiencing growing pains. Everyone is cranky. The best advice I can give was better delivered by the Patrick Swayze character in the 1989 film Road House. Be nice.

Rickie

Rickie and JenniferI don’t really know how to say good bye. It’s really a struggle.

For those who know me as a musician, this guy was my first fan. Over the years he gave me more encouragement than anyone. For that, especially, I will forever be thankful.

Rickie was uniquely Rickie.

We were childhood friends about as opposite as two can be. He had a seemingly insatiable penchant for mischief. I was always a very reluctant cowardly type. Socially, he seemed to be able to connect well with anyone, at least from my perspective. I was the brooding introvert. He was into everything, never wanting to miss out on a good time. But he never made me feel pressured to follow along. He was a class rebel. I was the good student.

The two things we did share, however, were a passion for music and a love of the water. Ultimately, we spent more time jamming together than fishing or water skiing on the bayou.

Rickie loved playing guitar. But learning to play guitar came a little easier for me, probably because I was more withdrawn from the rest of the world than Rickie. So he started to celebrate my abilities in ways that always made me feel special. It was support I desperately needed at times. His kindness had no bounds.

We briefly separated when I went to college. Then he decided to take a stab at the college life himself and tracked me down. I tried to help him adjust, but it seemed his free spirit couldn’t be contained for any extended period of time.

Years later, we connected again in Maryland. I had rebooted my life up there. He was bouncing around after getting displaced by a hurricane. That was an eventful era with many stories. So many things have happened since, but we never completely got out of touch. He made a point to follow every band I’ve ever been in. I could never leave a musical project or start one without wondering how I was going to explain it to Rickie.

Many times Rickie would call or write me and say, “Remember so and so?” He never seemed to forget anyone or anything that happened when we were kids and beyond. My memory was not so good.

But I won’t forget him.

Ever.

 

Wiggly Tail Dreams

As a young boy growing up on the Mississippi River delta, I felt strongly connected to nature. This, of course, was a little before the technology boom that brought us personal computers, Xbox games and the internet.

stoop-275Oh, here we go. Only two sentences into this little article and I already sound like the old farts who preached to me as a child. “When I was your age, we didn’t have all those new fangled….” Well, whatever.

Hopefully, this won’t sound self righteous or condescending. Kids from any generation certainly can’t be blamed for what their era provides for them. But relative to this day and age, the kids I grew up with were more likely to spend their free time out of the house, roaming the neighborhood and bantering with friends. When we wanted to escape to an alternative universe, there were fewer options. The most important of which was our imaginations.

I recall spending many hours sitting on the concrete stoop attached to the rear of my family home where I taught myself to play guitar, or played with my dogs. Next to the stoop was a perpetually dripping water faucet. I would use that faucet to pour water for the dogs, but my hands were not strong enough to close the valve tightly, so it would continue dripping. There was always a little puddle on the ground underneath.

Lizard-275In the south Louisiana heat, a little fresh water will attract all kinds of critters. The area around this particular faucet was constantly visited by super cool green lizards. I loved watching those guys. They looked like miniature dragons or dinosaurs. My imagination would run wild with adventures of what life would be like if those lizards were gigantic, or if I was reduced to their size. It would be a short life, no doubt.

If you were really quick, you could catch one of these lizards with your bare hands. The only problem was that they would probably bite you in the process. They weren’t poisonous. The bite didn’t really hurt at all, but the idea of getting bit by one of these little creatures was still scary enough to give a young boy pause. The best approach was from behind, trying to catch it in a way that would minimize the risk of getting bit. Yep, I wasn’t taking these guys head on.

Now, apparently other animals felt this way about the lizards. Enough, in fact, that evolution provided these lizards with a particular protective adaptation. They possess a tail that will easily break off so they can escape while a predator is left with only a wiggling tail in its mouth, or, in my case, my hand. As long as my nerve remained anemic, I was unable to catch anything more than a tail that would oddly continue to wiggle for several minutes after it broke off in my hand.

Hang in there. I’m going somewhere with this.

Practicing guitar was a big part of my early years. By the time I got to college, I was rather accomplished. It wasn’t long before I began to realize that I would not fail to pass any audition I showed up at. However, in spite of knowing I was one of the most skilled players in the area, I still suffered from self esteem issues. I was mentally unprepared for success.

Like most guitar wielding young men, I had dreams of being on the big concert stage. I also wanted to record albums similar to those that inspired me to learn my craft. But, alas, for whatever reason my confidence was impaired. Word of my abilities spread and opportunities came my way, but I was afraid to act on them–afraid to take those challenges head on. I made excuses. Lame, cowardly excuses.

Now the universe has changed all around me. The music industry in no way resembles what it once was. I reflect on those dreams I once had and realize my music career is now at the wiggly tail stage.