Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Music Of Your Life

I had the opportunity last night to watch an "Elvis" impersonator. I person...and not at gunpoint.

For the record I didn't pay for the experience nor did I take advantage of the offers to have my photo taken with the impersonator for $5.00.

He actually was very entertaining. This impersonator and his entourage are known as Michael Albert and the Big "E" Band.

I've heard it said, and I tend to believe, that most of us identify with the music from our high school years. Whatever we listened to during those years is the type of music we associate with the best times of our lives, even though I suspect high school would not rate as the best time in most of our lives by any means.

Elvis' popularity peaked (at least on the music charts - in general terms it could be debated he might be even more popular today) before my high school era and my music tastes - or at least the types of music I am most familiar with and link to the "good times" in my life - are from the early 70's to early 80's.

Not that I didn't occasionally listen to Elvis music - and I still do today.

Elvis impersonators are a different story. Michael Albert is the first Elvis impersonator I've ever gone to see "live."

I was struck by a couple of things during his performance and make no mistake he put on a very fine performance. He's not a dead ringer for Elvis, in fact I'm sure when he removes the white, rhinestone covered pants suit and the over the top black wig with sideburns, he can probably go just about anywhere without anyone thinking he's "Elvis." However on stage he did demonstrate the same type of charisma, he knows how to work the crowd, and appeal to his core audience while entertaining those of us who were not quite as enamored with Elvis or his legacy. However make no mistake if you truly want to enjoy the full show of an Elvis impersonator, you need to watch more than the performance. Such events, at least to me, are much like watching professional wrestling...if you aren't spending as much time observing the audience then you are missing a major component of the show.

There were people a decade or three older than myself who were swaying in their seats, many were mouthing or singing the words to songs which I had never heard performed before - by Elvis or anyone else. In fact I initially thought that I might be watching the only Elvis impersonator who specialized in doing the "B" side of Elvis singles. However he eventually started singing a few more songs with which I was familiar...and the crowd ate it up even more.

I didn't stick around for the whole act...or even the entire first half of the program. Still what I did watch was entertaining, and some of the elder members of my family stayed for the whole show and seemingly loved it.

As I left I couldn't help but wonder if in 10 or 15 or 30 years this same auditorium might be packed with folks watching a similar program. A "tribute" act to a musician representative of a time in their lives when the healing power of our memories eventually tilted life's ration of good times to outweigh the bad.

I would feel equally out of place since that entertainer also reached his peak at a time outside of the most influential musical era for me.

Like Elvis though, he was a musician who had a lot of imitators when he was alive and who died too young and too suddenly.

Both were pioneers.

It will be interesting to see if Michael Jackson's legacy will include a "tribute industry."

Time will tell.

However if there are Michael Jackson impersonators working the circuit in 15 or 20 years...take my advice...try to catch the show...and remember to watch all the participants, including the folks in the seats in front of you.

If nothing else, I think you may have a better understanding of the cliche "larger than life."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Business End

"Have you done your business?"

That's a euphemism at our house when dealing with our dogs, usually when we don't have the patience to deal with them much longer.
Amy or I will often try to hurry the dogs along so we can put them in the house after we're certain they've eaten their most recent meal. However before we can be certain that they won't intrude upon our sleep or other highly important project by whining, or howling or suddenly barking incessantly (their three individual ways of communicating with us) we've been trained to make sure they've taken care of their basic digestive functions. Thus we'll often stand around on the patio asking, "Have you done your business?"
Or encouraging, "Hurry up! Be good dogs. Go do your business!"
If our patience is wearing be bit thin - we may be more demanding, "GO DO YOUR #%*!( BUSINESS!"

Except for our dogs and possibly my physician, I do not willingly have discussions with anyone regarding the "business" side of life, albeit I have been roped into some conversations about babies where this topic seems to be appropriate and for some, the source of great glee. I usually try to get out of those discussions post haste.

All of us have our personal boundaries and one of mine is that I also really don't want to discuss anything while "taking care" of my own business.

At home, this is not really an issue. I mean when the kids were young, they might wander by the "reading" room and I'd hear someone mutter, "Gross!" and during my college days I had a roommate who was fond of remarking as he passed by occupied facilities, "Whooa! Somethin' crawl up inside ya and die?"

Without exception, I've always considered such comments to be rhetorical rather than actual conversation starters.

On occasion at my office I've found myself trapped "mid-business" when someone, whose identity I can often only try to guess by their shoes, will park themselves right "next door" and begin conversing. I believe these type of people do not care with whom they are striking up a dialog, they are happy simply to have a captive audience.

I realize many people have differing views about how manners/propriety/personal hygiene and other matters come into play when it comes to this topic. Let me make one thing clear: I don't care what you think about the topic. I do not wish to discuss your thoughts and most certainly I don't want to hear your thoughts, or anything else emanating from you, during the actual course of "business."

So, when confronted by such situations it is my policy to completely ignore the other person except to study their shoes as closely as possible so I can avoid them in the future. I also make a mental reminder to always try to use our company's "same sex" facility since it is not designed to be shared while in use. Should a conversation erupt in that room, it would be symptomatic of a larger problem... or certainly the fodder for a rather lurid office scandal.

Considering my personal policy, my writing about this topic must seem a bit odd to some of you...actually I would hope it seems strange to all of you.

Not to worry...blame DFW airport.

Amy and I were at DFW yesterday waiting for our flight when I decided to take advantage of one of the few, if not the only, things at that immense and lavish travel hub that doesn't require you to possess either an amazing amount of cash or a credit score on par with that of a pre-stock market crash Bill Gates.

The Mens room.

So I asked Amy not to let the our plane leave without me and then boarded a tram, rode the moving walkways, zipped up an escalator, two or three stairwells, bypassed sixteen or seventeen 5-star restaurants as well as the only Taco Bell on earth where a taco costs more than many small cars, and I finally arrived.

I knew, of course, that should I need to "attend to business" during our upcoming flight I wouldn't be bothered by someone striking up a conversation "mid business." However that benefit could not outweigh memories of the untold number of unpleasant past experiences with on board aircraft facilities. The fact is I knew that in flight I would be risking all of the disgusting prospects presented by what can generously only be described as an "airborne Port-o-Potty" - only less spacious than the ground versions and apparently designed by the same folks responsible for the amenities which brought fame to the Hanoi Hilton. Although I will concede that it took me a while to understand that not having the ability to actually inhale while inside aircraft restrooms should indeed be considered a plus.

Also I didn't realize that an airport the size of DFW apparently has a strict policy of no more than one restroom every six or seven miles.

Anyway, as is the case in most airport facilities, the people using them tend not to break into spontaneous conversations with one another, since no one knows anyone else. This obviously is fine with me...I think it should be the law everywhere.

Also, to put this delicately, the nature of my particular "business" at that moment was such that it could be done while standing, so to speak. Therefore I wasn't running the risk of being trapped next to some chatty guy while worrying that DFW Airport might institute a "pay as you go" policy while I was seated.

So, after recovering from the journey that's required to actually reach the Mens room, I entered with little or no concern.

I selected one of 4672 available places of "business" set aside for standing clientele and was occupying my thoughts by trying to remember the course I'd need to take to get out of the restroom, not to mention directions to the gate where Amy was still waiting, when my thoughts were suddenly interrupted:

"So, let me tell ya! This is BIG! I mean it's HUGE! Giant I tell ya! You really need to meet me so you can personally SEE the size of this deal!"

It was a very loud voice and every word resonated thanks to the fact the walls were all covered by an elaborate display of hand carved marble tiles each of which was I believe individually selected and flown back to DFW on separate aircraft paid for by the profits from the airport's Orange Julius stand.

I couldn't discern the speaker's precise location, but I knew he was behind me and in a seated position amid the 4682 places set aside for clientele of that nature.

"Joe....I'm tellin' you...this is something you will want to see to believe! Get on a plane now!"

I was somewhat amused but also cursing my imagination for conjuring up any number of distasteful images as a result of this guy's desire to make sure everyone at the airport (and possibly all of Texas) could hear every word he was hollering into what I now realized was a cell phone. I was starting to feel a bit relieved that at least the echoing gibbering fool was not making a sales pitch to some poor schmoe helplessly locked in the next enclosed seating area when I heard:


Mercifully my mind could not react quick enough to incorporate that sudden addition to this sickening serenade with the previously conjured images I was still processing..

"Honestly, if you miss out on this opportunity fella, yer gonna feel like...."


"Noise? What nois....Oh! Ya know what that is Joe? That's the sound of the last guy who passed up on seeing this thing Joe..."


"I'm tellin' you it's unbelievable..."



I'm not certain how long it continued...too long I know. One guy talking and another apparent half man/half giant cat trying to extricate a giant hairball....behind closed doors, but certainly not in private.

All I can remember from that point is running by 3893 wash basins designed to remain untouched by human hands which all simultaneously began spewing water.

I was well on my way down the first flight or two of stairs while still hearing the whir of hundreds of automated towel dispensers as they each churned out a precisely measure piece of paper towel scientifically determined to be exactly enough to be of no use if you actually wanted to dry anything....but I wasn't moving fast enough to out run the haunting echo...

"Joe??? Joe?"


"Joe!! This deal will make you flush I tell ya!!"

When I finally made it back to where Amy was still seated - on the rich Corinthian leather lounge chairs provided at no cost, unless you want to look out the window - she gave me a curious look. I couldn't bring myself to tell her of the horror.

Instead I simply said, "This is no place to do business."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Talkin' Stuff

Are You there?

"I Am."

Sorry, I suppose that was a silly question...I mean I know You're always there it's just that it seems like such a long time has passed since we've talked....ya know?

"I'm glad we're talking now."

So am I, guess I just needed to know You were listening.

"I'm always listening."

I know...I must sound so stupid to You, but sometimes..

"You do not sound 'stupid'...please, go on."

Okay, stupid is the wrong's just that there's so much 'stuff' I'm trying to cram into my life and when so much time passes between our talks...well, part of me has to wonder why You would even bother listening to me...

"Was that a question?"

I...uh, oh of course, no that really wasn't a question...gee, now I feel really stup...uh...ungrateful.

"It saddens Me that you would make yourself feel that way."

Well, uh...oh darn this is not coming out right.

"I hear more than your words."

I'm sorry....maybe it's just that with so many really good people out there.. I guess there are times I...well, so often lately I seem to lose my focus and direction...and I guess I find it hard to believe You'd still be there for me...I guess I think that You'd consider me a waste of time.

"I consider you precious. We could talk a lot about 'time' but let's agree that I have a different perspective on that issue.

You certainly are 'guessing' a lot, but I think you also should concede that I'm going to win any guessing games."

Ha! That's for's true! I'm so sorry, I must sound...

"You 'sound' like you want to talk."

I do! That's the whole thing! I want to talk more often and I feel so ashamed that we haven't and even more confused about why we haven't ...

"I understand that particular confusion.

Your "feelings" however are of your own making. We are talking now and that gladdens Me."

Me too! I suppose it's all the other stuff in my life that's preoccupied me...ya know money, work, family, worrying about this, or that, the kids, the future, friends, repairs...smelly dogs...and

"I agree you have a lot of 'stuff.'"

Okay, sure...sorry.

"I've already forgiven you."

I'm sor...I mean, I know...and I'm so thankful believe me.

"I will always believe in you."

Oh man....You are so wonderful, I can't believe I've let so much time pass without us talking. I suppose...what I'm trying to say is that maybe I need to get rid of all this other stuff so I can have more time with You.


Perhaps? Are You saying there's another way? Like maybe You could give me a dose of Your time, so I'd have more time and then we'd have more time?

"It's hard to confuse Me, but I admire and am admittedly amused by that attempt."

Ha! I love Your sense of humor ya know?

"I love yours too."

I suppose thinking I could even comprehend Your time is silly. It's really pretty silly to think I could actually go "all Thoreau" on the world and rid my life of all the 'stuff' too.


I mean, that's where You're leading me isn't it?

"I'm simply listening. You seem capable of finding your path."

See! That's one of the other things I really love about our talks...I feel like they clear my thinking.

"The feelings you create that bring you joy, bring Me joy."

So...I mean I don't wanna take up too much of Your time...I

"Let's not revisit the time thing."

Okay, alright...but You know, well, of course You know what I mean. Well, what I'm getting to...or ...uh...well it's that mean not maybe. I mean the answer is definitely not ridding my life of everything... of all the 'stuff' that seems to be between us.


"I'm still listening...always. Remember?"

Ha! Of course, but You gotta admit that I'm flyin' a little blind here. I mean I can't see Your reaction to what I'm sayin' and all... I mean if someone were watching me right now they'd think I was talking to myself.

Crazy guy.


You're leavin' me hangin' here for fun...aren't You?

Got it...silly train of thought that's already been covered.

But that's the's all this silly stuff that I let in the way.

"I see the stuff. All the stuff."

I know, I'm sor...I mean thank You so much for tolerating my babbling. I know what I need to do now...I think. I mean I'm sure I know.

"That pleases me greatly."

Wow! What a concept... me pleasing You!

I forgot what I was going to I didn't. ....The answer is all the silly stuff stuff!

"The silly stuff stuff.

Do you think that might need a bit more fine tuning?"

Well, truthfully I was going to say 'stupid' stuff stuff, I've got your point. Poor choice of words. What I'm trying to say is that the stuff isn't the problem... the stuff is the solution!

I don't need to get rid of it...I need to share it!

All of it.

"Sharing the silly stuff stuff is the solution."

Hey, now You're just mockin' me know what I'm getting at.

Okay...okay...fleshing it it.

You are always here right?

"I am with you always."

Exactly! But until I let You be with me AND all my silly stuff, I'm not always entirely with You!

I should be letting You in on my fears and frustrations, asking You for guidance about the bills, the car repairs, work, The big stuff, the little stuff...all the silly and not so silly stuff.

I know I'm babbling again, but the more I share with You the more we are together and talking...and...ya know...having a real relationship., I suppose that's it.

I need to share my stuff...with You.

Whether that makes sense to anybody but me is, as always, debatable.

Not to be pushy, but I really think some acknowledgment on Your part is due here....

"I apologize. I was smiling.
Your thought process really is quite amusing.


I am glad you've come to this conclusion. We will make a good team. Let's conquer the silly stuff! I'm going to enjoy this...we're going to enjoy this!"

Great! And thank you!

Um...and not just thanks for agreeing to helping me deal with all my stuff, but thanks for listening too.

"The listening thing is a two way street."

Ha! true. Anyway, we'll talk more soon. Thanks again!


One last thing.


Happy Father's day!