Spring is a temptress

by Dave Williams

I don’t like bright sunlight and hot afternoons.

I don’t understand people who love summer, the hotter the better. That makes no sense at all.

I’m a pluviophile though I don’t know why.

I was born and raised in the heat of the Sacramento Valley and that was fine when I was a kid. Children in my day paid scant attention to sweat, dirt and scraped knees. But by the time I was too old to run through the neighbors’ lawn sprinklers I began dreading summer.

For me spring is a sinister warning of what’s to come

For the past forty years or so I’ve tried hard to find a radio job in cold, wet and perfectly dreary Seattle or Portland. I love the Pacific Northwest with its year-round sweatshirts, smokey chimneys and soggy green everything but I could never get a job there.

Instead, I landed in Texas.

Everything you’ve ever heard about Texas weather is true. We have 60 degree swings in 12 hours. We get heat, snow, flash floods and tornadoes, sometimes all in one week.

I’ve seen hailstones pounding my yard on a 100 degree day.

Summer in Texas begins in April and lasts until Thanksgiving. It is a withering, humid, debilitating heat. If it weren’t for the otherworldly buzzing of cicadas hidden in native oaks you’d swear there was no life on the planet during the heat of a Texas summer afternoon.

Nights cool down to maybe 85.

So, here it is mid-March. I know what’s coming and I dread it.

But, for today only, I must confess: spring is beautiful and reinvigorating, even for a pluviophile in Texas.

We have the biggest sky I’ve ever seen. In spring we have our famous bluebonnets painting hills and prairies stretching to every horizon.

We have colts and calves romping in green pastures and baby bunnies learning to hide for their lives from their many flying predators.

Mesquite smoke flavors the air as folks throw big slabs of brisket onto chunk charcoal before dawn.

Texas kids are back on the lawn.

It’s an early spring Saturday morning in Texas and it gives me pleasure. Yes, it does.

Still, I know what’s coming.

 

Brain farts & checkbooks

I have a young mind and I’m proud of that.

Pushing 70 I still get excited about all the things I’ve loved throughout my life and I still embrace all the new stuff: new technology, new social trends, anything and everything that makes me think, “Wow, that’s cool!”

As we used to say a thousand years ago, I’m hip.

But lately I’ve noticed my brain occasionally slips a cog and loses its place.

I just wrote a check and dated it 3-14-75.

March 14, 1975 was 44 years ago today. I have no memory of that day being significant in any way. As far as I can tell it was just one normal day among the 24,837 I’ve enjoyed so far.

It was a brain fart.

Just this morning I was telling a much younger friend at work that I have a young mind but my body is going to hell. Now I’m thinking my brain may be limping along quickly to catch up.

I like to believe that brain farts come from trying to sort too many wonderful memories mixed with meaningless combinations of old dates and images, all stuffed into the same leaky mental file box containing a glorious lifetime of days.

One thing I know for sure is that you people who still insist on a handwritten paper bank draft (a check) should catch up with the rest of us and accept digital payments. You’re embarrassing yourself and confusing me.

And now I’ve lost my checkbook.

Cough drops

by Dave Williams

I’ve had a chronic cough since just before Thanksgiving, 14 weeks to be exact. That’s a long time for a cough to linger and I’ve not ignored it. After two visits to my doctor, a chest x-ray (turned out clear) and a passel of expensive steroidal and antibiotic prescriptions and inhalers, to say nothing of a hundred bucks worth of over the counter cough syrups, suppressants and antihistamines, I’m still coughing. My doctor is a learned and experienced man but he’s stumped. He’s talking about sending me to a pulmonologist. (I had to look it up: that’s a specialist in respiratory matters.)

I’m not writing this because I’m worried about my cough. I’m just taking note of this moment in my life. At 67 I’m experiencing something totally new: the unexpected idea that I may be entering an age of increasing infirmity, of nagging pains and niggling problems that I might have to drag around to the end of my days.

I rarely get sick, not even a cold, but suddenly I’m starting to feel a bit frail for the first time. Coughing wears you out and makes you think.

Roughly 40 years ago I suddenly realized that I would never play baseball again. Real baseball, I mean. Unwillingly I made the transition from hard-breaking fastballs to the high arcing lobs of a bigger, softer target. Slow-pitch softball is fun but it’s not baseball.  Now, a couple of decades later I miss them both.

About 20 years ago I was suddenly relieved of the daily responsibility of parenting. Our oldest son was married and our youngest son had just moved out. CarolAnn and I celebrated our freedom as new empty-nesters. We loved it yet we missed having children in the house. Family time became the two of us time, which is wonderful though still bittersweet. We will always miss our boys.

There have been other life transitions of course, less notable and too numerous to mention. The thing is, after nearly 70 years of living I’m starting to see a pattern, a constant ending and renewal of a single life’s experiences and perspectives. In 1984 author Gail Sheehy kicked off her enormously successful series of books about the subject she called Passages.

From toddler hood to old age we who are lucky enough to live long lives are constantly saying goodbye to one time of life and entering the next with some trepidation. That’s the excitement of the journey. With great luck, or by design if you prefer, life is a very long road of wondrous yet worrisome discovery.

I feel like a slow student, coming to this realization as recently as I have but I’ve been too busy living to take notice of passages. I’m just now beginning to understand something that should have been obvious:

Lives are lived as chapters of precious stories belonging to the world and yet as unique as ourselves.

I don’t miss baseball as much as I did 40 years ago. And frankly, though I will always enjoy memories of having our boys at home, I’ve gotten over wistful nostalgia pretty well and cherish my daily solitude with CarolAnn more than ever.

This cough is forcing me to hire a younger man to do my yard work. I hope that’s just temporary but the fact is I may never mow a lawn again. That seems trivial but I’m starting to miss trivial things as well as the big, profound stuff. At the same time I’m learning to shrug off the life I’ve known for whatever surprises come next. We all are.

Life is a kaleidoscope. Every slight turn brings a shift in perspective and a dazzling new view of the world we’ve always held.

If this all sounds a little loopy, just blame the meds.

Mornings

Amarillo by morning
Copyright Dave Williams 2012

I’m a morning person. Always have been.

Oh, but I’m not one of those chirpy, can’t-stop-chattering morning people.

I wake up quickly but quietly. I love my sunrise alone time.

Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturbed.
– Walt Whitman

Science has proven that there really are morning people and night people. They’ve done a lot of research to assure us of what we’ve always known:

Some of us are energized when the sun goes down. We morning people go down with it.

Everything will look better in the morning,  you’ll see.
– Nancy Williams, my mom

 The days of my life have nearly always started in the dark. I was never late to school, I was early.

I’ve begun my work mornings long before dawn for the best 40 of my 50 years in radio. On those rare occasions that I’ve slept in until after sunrise I feel like I’ve cheated myself of a whole day.

Some people function better at night, they just do. I’ve never pitied or envied them, not out loud, anyway.

They are always horrified to think of awakening before the crack of 10 a.m.

We laugh at each other but neither of us would change our ways.

—————————

My friend and blogging partner, Anita, is a morning person, too. Here are her thoughts:  http://theagingofaquarius.com/ag_blog/morning-people-versus-the-world/

 

Father’s Day in Judgment City

by Dave Williams

Jeremy and me, the early 80s, Fairytale Town at Land Park, Sacramento..

One of my favorite movies is Defending Your Life starring, written, and directed by Albert Brooks. It’s about a man who dies on his birthday and wakes  up in Judgment City, a Purgatory-like waiting area where he must justify his life in order to proceed to the next phase of existence. It’s warm and funny and will keep you examining your own life for a very long time.

My son Jeremy loves this movie as much as I do and today is his birthday.

On my birthday 17 years ago, shortly before he died, my dad told me he couldn’t believe he had a son who was 50. I know the feeling.

Jeremy was born 42 years ago today. Like all loving parents at this age I understand that he’s an adult with a family of his own and our relationship has grown with us. But like all parents, in my heart he will always be my little boy.

You have to be careful about that when you talk to a middle-aged child. Occasionally I still have to stop myself from calling him, “Kiddo”.

I’m not going to wax poetic about Jeremy and me. Many fine words have been written about ideal father-son relationships and the bonds of love that can’t be described. I have nothing to add. We know how we feel and how we’ve enriched and informed each other’s lives.

I will say this, however:

I am a far better person for his existence than I would be without his love, influence and instruction.

Parenting is a two-way street. You get as much as you give; you learn at least as much as you teach, probably more.

If you’re happy with who you are today you can thank your children in large measure.

When I arrive in Judgment City I will point fearlessly to my boy and testify, “This man is my justification for everything.”

***************

 

 

An unrepentant underachiever

by Dave Williams
February 8, 2019

I don’t remember when I first realized that I was never going to be special. I don’t mean as a person. I’m a good guy and I’m proud of that but when we’re very young we imagine a world of glory and achievements just waiting for us to arrive and pick them up as fate has arranged.

As kids we’re told we can be anything we want to be. It’s a lovely lie.

I wanted to be a major league baseball star. I daydreamed about it for years and played the game joyously. I was good, too. I could hit the ball a mile but at some point I suddenly understood that hitting World Series winning home runs would always happen only in my imagination because I could never be good enough to play center field for the Giants.

The seed of doubt was planted in me early. Fourteen or fifteen, maybe.

I wanted to be a professional actor and as a young adult some pretty knowledgeable people told me I was good enough to get better and succeed. I’m still not sure what stopped me from trying. Fear of failure, I guess. Though, my wife, the lovely and feisty Carolann Conley-Williams, says I actually fear success. It’s an interesting possibility.

And that’s where I am now: 67 years old, most of my futures behind me and sometimes still wondering why I’ve carried self doubt with me through a lifetime.

I’ve had a very good radio career. I’ve worked morning shows in major markets and learned my craft as well as anyone in the business. I say that with expert objectivity. I’m very good but I’m not great.

I can write but I don’t. I want to but I don’t burn for it. Writers always say they write for their own satisfaction but I think that’s a nifty bit of self deception. What’s the point in writing if lots of other people don’t read your work and love it?

Writing is hard, lonely work fraught with doubt.

I describe myself in social media as, “Happy husband, proud dad and grandpa, unrepentant underachiever.” I wrote it to be charmingly humble but it has suddenly dawned on me that it’s true. I am an underachiever in one sense but I love my life, every bit of it. I wouldn’t change a thing. Not one instant.

Pushing 70 I’m beginning to understand that finding glory in one’s ordinariness can be a deeply satisfying thing.

My old friend, doubt, brought me here.

Pictures courtesy of the free online photo share source, Unsplash.com.

 

 

That’s entertainment?

by Dave Williams

Today I somehow wound up Internet surfing upcoming concerts and live theater events in Dallas-Ft. Worth. Here’s a short list of shows I would enjoy seeing but will not:

Elton is retiring from touring, not being canonized.

1. ELTON JOHN’S FAREWELL TOUR – Cheap seats, $282 each. (In a basketball arena that seats 21,000.)

2. PAUL MCCARTNEY – Cheap seats, $82 each. (Third deck of a 50,000 seat MLB stadium.)

3, The Broadway tour of HAMILTON – Cheap seats, $345 each. (For that price CarolAnn and I can fly round-trip to California and spend a week with our kids.)

As a self-conscious old fart I figured that I’m just way out of touch with the cost of living these days. So, I did some quick Google work on cost of living comparisons and here’s what I found:

Presumably $2.50 to see The Stones and 25 cents for the Homecoming Queen Contest

— When I was a teenager in the late 1960s the Rolling Stones played the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium. Ticket prices were $2.75 (including a Homecoming Queen Contest). In today’s dollars that’s just shy of $16.00, not the $282 and up for nosebleed seats to see Elton John.

— In 1966 The Beatles played their last-ever live concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Tickets were $4.50 – $6.50. Paying $82 next year to see McCartney in a baseball stadium is a price increase of 551.77% and that’s just for one Beatle, not all four.

— Broadway tickets prices for Orchestra seats were $15 in 1970. That would be roughly $94 now, not the $345 they want for a seat that would require me to carry a telescope to see Hamilton.

A founding “father” at age 19, Hamilton was a lousy shot, killed in a duel by Aaron Burr who still has no musical to honor him.

Look, I believe in capitalism. If people are willing to pay these prices for two or three hours of big show entertainment who am I to protest?

I’m just kicking myself for skipping that Stones show.

The common cold

 

by Dave Williams

I have a lousy cold. It’s a terrible cold.

You ever notice that people who have a cold almost always beef it up a bit with paralyzing adjectives that make it sound like an exceptionally bad cold, not just a “common cold”?

This cold of mine is the worst cold in the history of colds. Trust me.

Thirty years ago when I was still young, eternal and bullet proof I just ignored any illness that didn’t force me into a hospital. A cold? Flu? Please. It will go away no matter what I do or don’t do. That was my attitude then and it was proven correct time and again.

I spent a lot of my 1980s evenings in a Northern California honky tonk wearing boots and hat and sucking on beer bottles, smoking Marlboros, chatting up the ladies and laughing with my friends.

Don’t go getting all judgmental on me, it was a different time and socially acceptable. To say nothing of hella fun.

In those days I learned that if I caught a wicked cold I could stay home, get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids and I would gradually recover within a week or two. On the other hand, if I went out and smoked, drank, danced and laughed as usual it would take seven to 14 days for me to regain normal health, such as it was.

I don’t live like that anymore, I’m too old, and I don’t recommend it because it’s not socially acceptable these days. But I’ll tell you one thing for sure:

Dancing and drinking and smoking cigarettes with a cold made the time pass much more quickly than shivering on the couch alone and feeling sorry for myself.

We didn’t have Facebook or Snap Chat or Twitter in those days. Whining about a cold had to be done in person and your real life friends helped you get over yourself.

The Happiest Place on Earth

She must have been about ten, maybe a little younger. Holding her daddy’s hand she walked solemnly down Main Street next to me, surrounded by  hundreds of other people, all headed toward the exit.

Snowfall on Main Street, Magic Kingdom, Disney World

Bright colors fired both sides of the street; joyous music came from nowhere and yet everywhere. Imagineered snow flakes floated in the air all around us.

We all wore silly grins for no reason at all except that we were together, ageless and happy.

The little girl’s daddy leaned over and said, “Isn’t it pretty? It looks just like real snow, doesn’t it?”

Her reply was succinct, matter-of-fact and grown up:

“I think I’ve had enough.”

“The important thing is the family. If you can keep the family together  — that’s what we hope to do.” – Walt Disney

I told Mickey, “I’ve loved you for more than 60 years.”

CarolAnn and I celebrated our 30th anniversary at Disney World in Orlando this past week. For all the technological magic and excitement we found everywhere we looked our greatest pleasure was watching young families and remembering our own. 

The small moments that bring families closer together work their magic on everyone nearby. We love being collateral beneficiaries of joy and sharing with each other the children we still are at heart.

“A dream is a wish your heart makes…” 

Hang the expense, it’s worth every penny and more.

Voting at the fire station

by Dave Williams
November 6, 2018

Voting in a fire station is very cool.

Half the registered voters in Texas voted early this year. When I got to my polling place on time today, Election Day, I felt ashamed for being late.

I’m just kidding about that. Everybody in the place was all smiles: poll volunteers, voters, kids tagging along to get a whiff of democracy.

I still like voting on election day. This morning it was in the neighborhood fire station. Last time I went into a school cafeteria. Often I’ve met my neighbors voting in a garage down the street. Garage voting is neat. It smells a little like bicycle tires and sometimes they have a dog I can pet while I’m waiting in line. Sometimes they have free coffee and if you get there early enough, maybe even some doughnuts.

That seems like real grass roots American democracy to me.

Voting early and by mail is convenient but I don’t want to vote from home. It makes me sad to think that before long we’ll all be voting with our smartphones. We will, you’ll see.

I think we should spend more time with our neighbors, shaking hands and introducing ourselves, smiling and feeling good about being there.

Happy election day, everyone.