It's been too long since I set aside time to write. Today I had business in Jefferson, at the Greene County Courthouse. I won't write much. the pictures speak to the beauty of the day, and the town.
It's humbling to walk into a courthouse under the watchful eye of the role model for all country lawyers.
I offered a silent prayer, and gratitude.
Of course, electronic media "news" people have no interest in keeping us inseparable.
Two of four murals.
Jefferson's square still has the stores I knew in my youth; an Ace Hardware is not pictured. My old Watseka friend Brian would appreciate the blues music pumped from the speakers on the roof of the Ben Franklin.
Someday I need to write about Carnegie Libraries. My friend Nancy got me interested in them. I've photographed a dozen or so, throughout Illinois and Iowa. Years ago we realized knowledge made our Nation stronger. There were neither soundbites nor memes in these buildings.
The North Raccoon, looking east (above) and west (below). It's high for September.
I've driven by this old farmstead a half dozen times. Today, for the first time, I spotted this root cellar. That apple tree was productive.
There's no house but somebody is tending to the place. The grass was clipped and there was a nice garden.
Songwriter” Magazine has a cool contest. Every two months readers can submit
the ten albums they’d listen to on their deathbeds. Somebody wins. The prize is a Martin guitar. The winner’s, and several other people’s, selections
are listed in each issue. It’s a great way to find out about cool albums, and get
reacquainted with old classics.
criteria for winning are not set forth – at least not anywhere I can find. Although
I submitted my selections for the most recent issue, I didn’t win.
any given day, my deathbed albums could change. These are the top 10 deathbed
albums I had in mind a month or so ago:
Little Feat, "Waiting for Columbus"
This is one of my all-time favorite records. I’ve listened to regularly it
since I was in high school. I have led a rich life; the only thing I missed was
not seeing Little Feat with Lowell George. Accordingly, this live album is a
treasure. I know "Americana" is an overused hipster term but this is
clearly at the forefront of whatever Americana is. The songs work well together
despite not having been written by the same person. The musicianship is
excellent. This album exemplifies genius.
“Time Loves A Hero” and time loves this album too.
John Prine, "John Prine"
What can I say that the liner notes, particularly Kristofferson's comments, do not?
These songs, written while Prine was young, run from tongue-in-cheek ditties to
tearjerker laments. They remind us of what’s important. Doesn't everyone know
of a "Paradise?" Prine lets us know: simplicity is perfection; we
should write about what we know, and what we don’t; and that it’s okay to take
on serious subjects with humor. Finally,
try to listen to “Hello In There” and not call your mother – you’ll pick up
Grateful Dead, "American
This album is splendid. It’s a collection of roots-based, harmony laden, catchy
songs. “Friend of the Devil,” “Sugar Magnolia,” “Ripple,” etc. I dare you to try not to hum any of these
songs after you hear them. Robert Hunter was at his best. The Grateful Dead
sounds folky and melodic. This album, unlike many others by the Dead, is appealing
to a cross-audience. My grandmother would've liked these songs.
Greg Brown, "Slant Six Mind"
All the songs on this album have earthy lyrics and down-home musicianship. Bo
Ramsey's guitar work is understated and brilliant. There is not a weak song in
this collection. From the title track to the whimsical yet melancholy “Spring
and All” this collection is a premier example of Midwestern music at its
Joni Mitchell, "Hits"
The open tunings, her lovely voice, her superbly crafted songs; the only
hesitation I have in naming this as a "my deathbed" record is that I
might hear it and think I have died because a real angel is singing to me. Joni
Mitchell is a songwriter’s songwriter. However, she’s not just for songwriters,
“Hits” should be in everyone’s record collection.
Marvin Gaye, "What's Going On"
needs no explanation.This album is
forty-four years old and the songs sound brand new. They are still relevant.
The big three songs: “What’s Going On,” “Mercy Me (Ecology),” and “Inner City
Blues” are so well structured, and so meaningful, every songwriter should study
them. The rest of the album’s songs are
in line – it’s meditatively beautiful.
fifty-year-old didn’t sing “This Land Is Your Land” in school? Every American
who has strummed a guitar while singing is mimicking Woody Guthrie. This
collection, maybe not technically an album, has songs about it all - poverty,
farming, work, politics, love . . . . This stuff is quintessentially American.
I want to die with these songs in recent memory.
Johnny Cash, "At Folsom
love this album. It has a great back-story – not necessarily the one portrayed
in the movie “Walk the Line.” It has songs written by Jack Clement and Harlan
Howard. It has a ditty by Shel Silverstein. Glen Sherley’s song, “Greystone
Chapel,” is very good. That Sherley’s
song was included on the album lends credibility to stories about the
generosity of Johnny Cash. Finally, read about the players in the band on this
record – then listen to “Cocaine Blues.”
Only those musicians, and Johnny Cash, could have created the raw intensity
that comes through on that cut.
Craig Carothers, "Nothing
few years ago a friend called me on a Friday evening. He asked if I wanted to
attend a house concert. The catch was that the concert was starting in an hour.
I’m a homebody - I didn’t know the hosts, hadn’t heard of the performer (Craig
Carothers), and had just settled in at home after a long work week. Regardless,
I broke character and agreed to go. I
wasn’t expecting much and hoped the concert would only go for an hour or
so. However, from the first line of Craig
Carothers’ first song I knew I was in the presence of a great songwriter. Craig
is very clever and compassionate, and those traits come through in his songs. I
have several of his records but “Nothing Fancy” (it’s just Craig and his
guitar) is my favorite. From the introductory track “That’s How Easy Goes,” to
the final song, the album is emotive and brilliant. “Schenectady” registered with me more than any
song I’ve ever heard. If I could only listen to two albums on my deathbed, this
would be one of them.
Guy Clark, "The Essential Guy Clark"
could, on another day, have listed any of Guy Clark’s albums as nine of the ten
records I’d want to hear on my deathbed. This album’s only flaw is that there
are several of Clark’s songs, including his songs from after this album’s 1997
release, that aren’t on it. I won’t knock Bob Dylan, but when I’m knocking on
heaven’s door I’d rather have Guy Clark in my ear-buds. If I take my last
breath to the last note of “L.A. Freeway” my obituary can accurately state I
I recently suggested that people seem to dismiss the importance of words. A friend suggested words are not as important as actions.
Actions are more important than words. Anyone on my email list knows I am fond of the quote (often attributed to St Francis): “preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary, use words.” Pee Wee Reece’s stance next to Jackie Robinson is a classic example.
My favorite recent example, of actions speaking louder than words, involved a friend who brought a cold beverage to a person with whom he disagreed – while that person was protesting outside a church. The person was protesting because the church had taken the position with which my friend was then aligned.
Words, however, don’t exist in a vacuum. They incite actions. The words in Patrick Henry’s speeches, and Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence, emboldened colonists. Our Constitution is brief, but its words bind us. The words in Matthew 25:31-45 unite (otherwise divided) Christians in service to the least of their brothers and sisters.
Words are dangerous too, and incite evil. Hitler’s and Goebbels’ words stirred a significant portion of a populace to hate and commit, or stand silent in the face of, mass murder. The “Turner Diaries” stirred a miscreant to plant a bomb outside a federal building; resulting in the murder of innocent people and children. The reckless revisionist history spewed by get-rich-quick pseudo-ideological pundits stirs us to shout at (and think less of) each other – it is deliberately designed to divide us.
Words matter because they unite and/or divide. Words matter because our choice of words often exposes our propensity to act appropriately, or not. Words matter because we use them to express our opinion of the value of those with whom we co-exist.
Recently, I've seen several articles about misconduct in the
military. There is, I am sure, misconduct. There is, however, also
misconduct everywhere there are human beings.
because of those articles - I woke up thinking about an Ernie Pyle (the
famous, soldier oriented, WWII correspondent) article I read thirty
years ago. I googled the article, about "Captain Waskow."
When I was in the Army I knew many Captain Waskows.
of the people I know who served in the military (like my WCHS
classmates) exemplify the words Captain Waskow wrote in a letter to his
"Try to live a life of service—to help someone where you are or whatever
you may be—take it from me; you can get happiness out of that, more than
anything in life."