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Archive for the ‘Elvis Presley’ Category

For most of my life, I’ve considered me a “living room guitarist.” In recent weeks I’ve concluded I had way too high an opinion of myself in that regard.

In 6th grade, my parents gave me for Christmas a $15 Kay guitar they had purchased at Sears. After learning how to tune it with help from a book from the library and the family’s Chickering upright piano, I lasted a year without learning how to play a chord on it. The hard-bound books were technical, for grown-ups. I was 10 years told. Even so, in spring of 1959, in a classroom at Black Hawk Elementary School, I “pantomimed” (they call it lip synch now) “Problems, Problems” sung by the Everly Brothers on a big hole 45 RPM record. The kids loved the “performance.”

In 8th grade at Benjamin Franklin Junior High, during a school sock hop, I had been chosen to be one of three disk jockeys who spun records from the gymnasium stage. In the middle of my allotted time, with help from my friend Tad Baumann, I disappeared from the stage and came back in a sport coat and guitar as Elvis Presley and pantomimed “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog,” to an astounded audience. For the rest of my time at my favorite school of all time, friends and strangers occasionally called me Elvis.

In 9th grade, in Mr. Nika’s choral music class, I played my own guitar and chords I had learned from a Mel Bay book for beginners. I sang three songs, but the one I remember is “Undecided,” a big step BACKWARD from Mr. Presley’s repertoire.

My family loved my music. They seemed to think I was some sort of a child prodigy — WAIT — Well… maybe THEY didn’t . . . but I sure did.

There are days I still do.

In high school and college, I was part of three folk groups; played at some interesting venues in the groups and as a solo singer-songwriter in Springfield, Jacksonville and Bloomington=Normal, Illinois.

Guitars have always been part of my life though I have gone months without practicing and playing. Though I’ve written songs inspired by religion, my love life (about as successful as my music career) and politics all my life, I never found a body of good people who listened to me regularly, apparently enjoying the music, until I joined the local Poets & Writers Literary Forum in the early 1990s. The connection has been relatively steady through the years, though I’ve “dropped out” occasionally.

As an adult, my connection with my instrument has become more tenuous than it was in my 30s. By the time I was that old, I had played many open mics in the area. The audiences were always kind. One fellow asked where I’d been playing in the area, flatteringly assuming I was more popular than I was. Glances from friends and strangers began to tell me I was IMPOSING myself on them. They were too nice to say “STOP! GO HOME!” and because I was a “performing artist” I continued playing despite growing disappointment with MYSELF (because I wasn’t practicing enough and my finesse with the finger picking was going to hell) and the audiences weren’t as communicative as they used to be.

Since spring 2013, friends whose attention and conversation I valued IMMENSELY have literally disappeared after I finished my set of three or four songs at open mics. At parties, twice, I’ve felt like a blind man with a tin cup, waiting to play a few songs. Someone tolerated. People looked through me as though I were a ghost.

Part of the circumstance is self-induced. I’m not as accepting of the incapacities of others. People resent me for that and the snowball to self-oblivion continues.

So a few days ago, I did not include my guitar on the guest list at a party a long-time friend, cherished friend, invited me to attend. I Invitations had been sent to a relative privileged few, and I was one of them. Since had departed two previous parties attended by many of the same people, two parties from which I departed unhappy with myself and a few almost-strangers, I left my guitars at home. It was my decision. No one asked me, directly or implicitly, not to bring my guitar. This was the best way I could avoid getting angry at good people who would likely exercise their God-sanctioned Constitutional right not to pay attention. I could not play badly if I didn’t play at all.

I left early and unhappy anyway. When the usual musicians began coming together to jam, I decided I would not be in the room where they would play. Better yet, I should leave anyway; avoid the inevitable discomfort of coming face to face with my own stupidity. I wasn’t rude to anyone. I departed via the back door so most of my friends would not see me leave.

When I arrived home, I was still terribly out of sorts. I decided I would not play my guitars for a year or forever, whichever comes first, on Facebook, and I did. Reaction to the post touched my heart. Many who haven’t even heard me play shared concern.

One friend LIKED the news I wasn’t playing guitar for a long time. Total bummer! I guess that was “payback” for an opinion I voiced several years ago. But we’ll never be even; never be square, and we’ll never be friends. And that will likely cost me more friends.

I commented on Fb that I would blog about it on Honey & Quinine. This is the post.

It’s the post of a kid who failed in his assumed career as a living room guitarist. At least I’ve gone on hiatus. I’m not going to play at home where only the mice are listening, I”m not going to practice. The guitar I kept at my aviation museum is in a corner of my bedroom at home now, along with the others.

I’m not anti-social over this. I will recite my poetry and Vachel Lindsay’s poems where I feel good doing it, and today I’m going to start smiling and attempting to engage friends who are still my friends in convivial conversation.

The music has died. Maybe it only fainted, but looks and feels demised. We’ll know . . . in a year or forever . . . whichever comes first.

Live long . . . . . . .and proper.

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I want to die the way Elvis died. I know this is not the way most H & Q readers would choose, so let me give you my perspective, and maybe you will agree.

My fondest hope is to die in pleasant surroundings. I am pleasantly surrounded in my home’s bathroom. There is always the aroma of bar soap on the little shelf in the shower. Recently, I came to the end of an almost three-year experience with a soap called Safeguard. I remembered it fondly from my 20s, but I discovered after I purchased NINE BARS it that the soap had changed in shape, scent, and satisfaction. The new version (current version, I believe, so buyer beware) disappointed me with every shower. So last week, I replaced it with the new Dial for MEN bar soap, I like the new soap a lot. I purchased it ONLY because no matter where I shop for groceries, I cannot find my all-time FAVORITE soap which disappeared from the supermarkets I shop and resulted in three years of ho-hum new Safeguard, I am looking high and low and cannot find Lifebouy in the BLUE BAR.  THAT, my friends, second only to the original Safeguard, was a terrific bar soap. If you know where I can purchase more of it, please let me know. . . . . . but I digress . . . . .

As I was saying. my bathroom is a pleasant place.  Only the scent of an affectionate woman could make it any more pleasant. Even so, often the aroma of a still-wet towel from the Saturday shower soothes me like the fragrance of old-old paper rising from newly opened old-old books. I suspect Elvis felt the same about his.

I do not want to be drug-addled as Elvis was if I die in my bathroom. The way he died appeals to me. He was having a hard time letting go, so to speak. If he had taken a laxative, Elvis might be alive today.  Using his lower abdominal muscles to “force the issue,” as they say, the increase in blood pressure in his head caused a brain aneurism. He likely experienced a searing headache leaned forward, fell off the “throne” and came to rest in a semi-sitting pose on his side with trousers still around his ankles.

While writing this post, I searched the Web for details of his death, and I must confess, a brain aneurism isn’t mentioned in any of what I read. Constipation was a factor. This affliction is something I would have to develop because I think I was 11 years old the most recent time it was an issue. And with friends like mine, who needs enemas?

Still, a brain aneurism would not be a bad way to go. So Elvis or no Elvis,  I’m stickin’ to that demise scenario in my bathroom.

It appeals because the end would come quickly. Even if I vomited as Elvis did (they found him in a small pool of vomit which experts in the vomit field diagnosed as having come from the inner workings of “the king of rock’n’roll.” Knowing I would not have to awaken later in the mess, as I went, I would not begrudge myself leaving a little on the floor on the way “out.” By the time anyone would find me in my home’s bathroom, with doors locked from the inside as they usually are, considering my social life. Suggesting the term “near nil” to describe it is gross grandiosely flattering HY-freaking-PERBOLE), considering how it would probably take three months for enough conventional mail to accumulate in my front porch mailbox for the postman to consider calling the police and coroner, I think the bile and foody bits would be long-since dried; but my body . . . not so much. As a man who hates to go more than a few days between showers, I would hate to encounter me on my bathroom floor two months after my last one!

Another positive about being single — not that you asked — is that any kind of serious distress I encounter at home — away from playing and singing my songs, away from poetry readings and Vachel Lindsay recitations, away from my aviation museum and my employer — is likely to be my last serious distress. I won’t be “clinging to life” in an ICU at hospital — not that anyone would admit me after they examine my financial health.

Dying like Elvis simply seems a tidy way to go — not that it’s part of my “to do list” for awhile. Still, as my hero Ringo Starr once wrote, “tomorrow never knows.”

Don’t give this post a second thought, It was a humorous idea when I began writing it. Now . . . not so much.

Live looooooooooooooong . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and proper.

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