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Welcome to my website. I hope you will enjoy the eclectic collection of short stories and essays. They are all very close to my heart, in whichever genre. I always welcome comments and feedback. Once again, I hope you enjoy my site. Thank you.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

"A Meaningless Life"

  • Inspired by … “Desperado” by The Eagles

The barroom lights were low.  He came in here early after work, as he did every night.  The faces were familiar, yet daunting.

“What will it be tonight?” the barmaid asked him with a smile on her face.  She had seen him here very often lately. 

“I finished up college around here, a couple years ago,” he told her once.  “I’ve been trying to settle myself here since I graduated.”

She thought he was an especially good looking guy, but very quiet.

“I’ll start out with a Budweiser,” he politely asked the barmaid.

“It will be right up,” she told him.  She reached under the counter and handed him a bottle of beer.

“Do you want me to put it on your tab like I always do?” she asked him automatically. 

He came here often and he didn’t say much, but he was always a good tipper and she always appreciated that.

As she handed him his bottle of beer, he put a dollar on the table as a tip.

The music was playing in the background.  It was a song he knew and sometimes enjoyed, but as he typically would, after he ordered his first beer he went to the jukebox and put five dollars in to play an assortment of his favorite music.

He listened intently to the music as he vaguely paid attention to the conversation the guy on the next stool started.

The conversation was dull and routine as it always was at the bar.  He didn’t come to meet any women, or to meet up with any friends, he came to the bar simply so he wouldn’t have to spend the evening alone. 

The music continued to play in the background.

As he sat at the bar, he would often contemplate his life.  He was still very young, shortly out of college, but it seemed that he had missed out on a lot in his life.  Not that he could think of what to call it, but he had a vague impression that his life lacked passion.   Even in college, he showed up to class and did his homework, but he never put any actual effort into it.  His social life seemed to be lacking and he was unable to make close friends or have any sort of special relationship with a woman.  The monotony consumed him.

The music continued to play in the background.

“What do you think?  Will Seattle win The Superbowl again next year?” one of the patrons asked the group of friends. 

It was not football season yet, but much of the barroom conversation existed of talking about football and talking about women.

Justin, eager to discuss football because it was one of the topics he actually knew something about, rebutted.  He said, “I think the team that has the best shot of going all the way this year is Green Bay.  If Aaron Rodgers stays healthy and the running game continues from where it left off last year, I think they can beat any team in the league.”

It was mundane conversation, yet it seemed to break the nothingness in his life. 

Every weekend, more often than not, he would come to this same bar; he didn’t have any friends, but it was better than time spent alone.

The barmaid listened intently to the three men discussing football.  Not a football fan, Rebecca, enjoyed the conversation that served as mild amusement while she worked.

“Could I have another beer?” Justin asked the barmaid.

“You just ordered that first beer five minutes ago,” she told him as she handed him another Budweiser.  “If you keep it up, you aren’t going to find your way home tonight.”  The modest flirtation lifted Justin’s mood for a brief moment.

He, once again, put another dollar on the counter as a tip for the beer.

The music continued in the background.

The conversation in the barroom continued as the three patrons’ inebriation grew.  They discussed football and baseball.

“I would like to see The Dodgers do something this year, but I just don’t think it is going to come together.”

“I am interested in what The Cowboys will do in the offseason,” another of the patrons said.  “There offense was excellent last year and I think it is only going to get better.  I’m interested to see if they make some key moves on their defensive team.”

The barmaid cut into the conversation, “Any of you want another beer?” she asked the three men.

All of them vigorously nodded and she laid a beer down for each of them.  Justin put another dollar on the table and thanked the barmaid.

The music continued in the background. 

Justin thought of the chances of something meaningful that could happen in his life.  He thought of the void in which his life was now engulfed.

One of Justin’s fellow patrons, absorbed with his own typical drunkenness said to him, “What’s wrong buddy, something wrong with that beer?  Let me buy you another one.”

Justin gave a painful grimace which was all that was needed to disguise the solitude of his soul.

“One more beer for my friend,” he asked the barmaid. 

Justin looked into the mirror and kept drinking his beer as his two compatriots continued their own conversation.

His morbidity was well hidden, all of Justin’s compatriots thought Justin was having a good time.  Oblivious, the people who Justin considered to be strangers all considered Justin to be a friend.

The hours passed and the three friends got drunker and drunker.  The music continued to play in the background and Justin listened more intently to the music than his two friends.    His stone-cold drunkenness covered the blur in his mind.  Shortly after 1:00 in the morning, it was time for Justin to go home now. 

“Could you call me a cab? He politely slurred to the barmaid.

She grabbed the phone under the counter and dialed up a cab.

“It will be here in about fifteen minutes,” she said to him.  “Are you o.k.?” she asked slightly concerned with his level of drunkenness that was a little bit more than typical today.  “Do you want another beer while you are waiting for your cab?”

In a drunken stupor he thanked her.  He paid his tab leaving an extra five dollars for a tip.

As he walked out the door he the patrons wished him a good night and said, “See you tomorrow night, buddy.” 

The barmaid, not inflicted by the same drunkenness, looked upon Justin as he left.  She, although not
interested in the man, felt some level of empathy in a quiet understanding of the real reasons he was drinking.  She brushed it off along with a tear which almost welled up in her eye.

During the ride home in the cab, Justin, too drunk to sit up, nearly passed out in the back of the cab.

He arrived home, paying the cab driver his fair and a tip.  He went into his one room apartment and fell asleep immediately. 

Another day would end as it did before.  Another morning would start in a similar fashion.

Monday, March 24, 2014

"A Blessed Day"

  • ·         inspired by … “Lord have mercy on the working man” by Travis Tritt

“5:30 in the morning; time to get out of bed.”

Miserably tired, Steven must face another day.  It was Thursday, with only two work days left until he could enjoy the weekend and get some sleep.

Working with the union at the automobile factory, the work was hard, but the pay was good.

First thing that he did after he awoke was to walk into the kitchen and make a pot of coffee.

Savoring every sip, he looked out into the yard and noticed the sun coming up through the leaves on the trees.

“No breakfast this morning, there wouldn’t be time.”

He finished his second cup of coffee to go upstairs and shower before work. 

His wife and children were still sleeping.  His wife, Penelope, would be awake very soon to make the kids breakfast before they went to school.

Penelope was sleeping and Steven felt the familiar warmth of love in his heart as he looked upon her. 

He went into the bathroom and shaved and brushed his teeth before showering. 

It was still very early.  He had to be to work no later than 8:00 o’clock and traffic was always bad.

Steven finished shaving.  In the mirror, he noticed the dark circles under his eyes.  Brushing his teeth, he contemplated the new day.

The monotonous nature of his work created a mundane routine in his life.  He had co-workers and some friends at the factory, but every day at work he kept an eye on the clock waiting for the bell to ring and for it to reach the time to clock out and go home. 

He was good at his job and had received a number of promotions over the years which now placed him as a stationary foreman in his sector.  He was in charge of over twenty men and enjoyed the latitude his placement allowed.

As he drove to work this morning, traffic was heavy on the freeway.  He stopped at a donut shop on the way, as he often did, to grab a glazed donut and a cup of coffee.  The familiar faces were welcoming.

He picked out his donut and asked for a large coffee as the clerk wished him a good morning and sent him on his way.

As he continued his journey to work, he listened to the news station on the radio.  The newsman discussed the situation in TheUkraine in a daunting manner.  It seemed that many were worried about the ramifications that might result from the crisis. 

As for Steven, he didn’t let it bother him much.   He figured that the situation would take care of itself and that everything would turn out right.

Baseball season was going to start soon.  “I’m betting on the Yankees,” he thought to himself.

Steven changed the station.  In another fifteen or twenty minutes he would arrive at work.  Right now he felt like listening to some music on the radio.

One of his favorite songs started playing on the radio.

“How come you never call me sugar, baby?  How come you never call me sweetie, honey?”

He almost began singing along to the catchy lyrics, but chose not to because of his insecurities about his own singing abilities.

Yet, the song playing on the radio immediately lightened his spirits and made the impending day seem less intimidating. 

Arriving to work, he had a parking space reserved.  It seemed like a minor convenience, but it made his trivial day more accommodating.  On salary, he still needed to clock in every morning.  They said it was a matter of bookkeeping or something.  But, it was no matter to him.  He got paid the same regardless of showing up ten minutes early or fifteen minutes late.

“Good morning, Steven,” one of the workers greeted.

“Good morning, Bob,” Steven retorted.

As the crew arrived each of them would meet in the lobby to enjoy one more cup of coffee before they got ready for the new work day to begin.  Welcoming each other with smiles, it brought camaraderie to the floor of the factory. 

Most of the employees arrived around 8:00 in the morning, but their work didn’t begin until about 9:00.  They were all very familiar with their jobs and were quite good at it. 

They all shared similar routines, in which Steven was the boss.  If there was some sort of problem with the equipment, Steven was in charge of getting it fixed.  If it were time for a break or anything else of that nature, it was Steven’s call. 

The only change to the routine was when there was a new worker and Steven was in charge of training the new employee to do their job.

The repetitive nature of the work allowed a break for lunch in which they all would gather in the cafeteria to share a meal with one another.   The food was surprisingly good for an automobile factory’s cafeteria and it kept the workers in good morale.

The day would continue after lunch.  Between 1:00 and until 5:00 they would continue with their work.  The work day would slow down after lunch, with many of the workers letting their lethargy get the better of them.

The hours past and it was time to conclude the work day.  Steven, as foreman, alerted the crew around 4:30 that it was near time to clock out and go home.  The workers, skilled in their routine, would shut down the equipment and return excess supplies to the storage area.

Today, like every other day, 5:00 finally arrived.  The work bell rang as the workers were finishing their work. 

It was time for Steven to go home to his wife and children to spend precious time with them which was all-too rare.

Driving up that Thursday evening, traffic was bad as it always was.  He listened to the news on the radio.  It looked like they had finally tracked that missing plane.  However, it didn’t seem like much of a success since there probably would be no survivors.  For some reason, the newscaster seemed more optimistic about it then Steven did.

Baseball season was starting soon.  “Boston could give the Yankees a run for it this year,” he thought to himself.

He changed the station on the radio to listen to some more music. 

George Jones, George Strait, and Jason Alean; Jukebox heroes, that’s all that they are.  But, when they play those sad-drinking songs, my heart can’t help but sing along.”

“When Alan Jackson sings, ‘Midnight in Montgomery’ and Tim McGraw sings ‘The Ride’, the songs of Hank Williams take hold of my memory.”

He continued his drive home.  Penelope would surely by ready to serve dinner when he arrived home.

After a hard day’s work, he could not help but have a smile on his face.  The work was physical and monotonous, but it allowed him to share the grace of living with his wife and a happy family.

As he parked in his driveway, a brighter smile appeared on his face.  He opened the door, only to be greeted by his wife.  Once again he realized how much he loved her and how much he always would.

His family sat down to share dinner.  It was him, his wife, and his two daughters.  They shared an expertly crafted dinner prepared with care by his wife.  It was fettuccini alfredo with lemon-herb chicken and garlic bread.

As they sat down together to enjoy their dinner, he realized how much happiness the monotonous routine of family life meant to him.  He had a good job, he had a beautiful wife that loved him and that he loved, and he had two children who he adored.

He blessed the day only to wait for another.

Friday, March 7, 2014

"Country Music Artist of the Month ... Dwight Yoakam"

 “Country Music Artist of the Month … Dwight Yoakam”

Dwight Yoakam was born October 23, 1956.  As a singer who emerged onto the country music scene in the mid-1980’s, he has a hillbilly sound quite unique to himself.  Dwight Yoakam’s pining vocals define the purest of country music.  His first major label recording debut was for his album, Guitars, Cadillac’s, Etc.,Etc. It included the title track as well as two other hit country songs.  The album was very commercially successful as well as critically acclaimed, serving as an introduction to the singer’s distinguished career.

Dwight Yoakam’s music, in the tradition of “The Bakersfield Sound,” has established him a large niche of loyal fans.  The song, The Streets of Bakersfield, became a number 1 hit on country radio in 1988.  It was a duet with Buck Owens, who is one of the originators of the sound.  This song, more than any other, marks the sound of Dwight Yoakam.

Dwight Yoakam’s biggest album, This Time, was released in 1993.  It sold more than 3 million copies and contained the single, Ain’t that lonely yet, which received the Grammy that year for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.  The song’s lasting eminence as brought it popularity to this day.  Other songs on the album, such as A Thousand Miles fromNowhere and Fast as You were also successful on country music radio.  However, the song, Ain’t That Lonely Yet’s critical praise is matched by few other contemporary country songs by any artist.

As well as being a singer, Dwight Yoakam has achieved success as an actor.  Most noticeably were his roles in the movies Sling Blade, and in Bandidas, in which he starred with Selma Hayek and Penelope Cruz.  In addition to these two films in which Dwight Yoakam starred, he also appeared or starred in a total of 33 film and television roles. 

Dwight Yoakam discography contains 24 albums.  From these albums, I have chosen 5 songs that are among my personal favorites and are most definitive of the artist.  Along with the testimonial to each song, the music video is also included.  I hope that you enjoy these five songs and I hope you enjoy the rest of the collection from this artist.

·        LittleSister Video Link
This cover of Elvis Presley’s hit song has a quite different sound than the rockabilly original.  The original version’s epoch longing remains, however, the distinctive style of Dwight Yoakam has changed its connotation.  Dwight Yoakam interprets the song as a lament of an adult rather than an inconsequential crush of a child; bringing a mourning feel to the song.

·        Fast asYou Video Link
This track off his 1993 Album, This Time, supplemented the hit song, Ain’t that lonely yet, as if it were scripted.  The song, with an upbeat, reverberating sound, discusses a lost love in a distinctive and novel way.  This song tends to grow more poignant as the emotion that is conveyed becomes fully understood.

Barroom antics fit nicely with this song attributing the protagonist’s drunkenness on a girlfriend who, “Taught him brand newways to be blue”  The song tells the story of a man attempting to get over the recent breakup by hitting the bars.

·        HonkeytonkMan Video Link
This song has the distinction of being the first country song to be played on MTV.  The song, once again, has a traditional, bluegrass sound which matches the singers “Bakersfield Sound” roots.

This song, arguably one of the best heart-broken country songs in all of country music, imbues the feelings of loneliness upon its listeners.  Instead of preaching a longing to return to a failed relationship, it discusses the man’s belief that what has transpired has reached an end, although a bitter end.  The lyrical interpretations of Dwight Yoakam, as well as the masterful orchestration, etch this song as a song for generations.

I hope you enjoyed this “Country Music Artist of the Month … Dwight Yoakam” post.  Keep an eye open for other country music features.

Monday, March 3, 2014

"On the Cusp of Manhood"

  • ·        “Inspired by … The house that built me” by Miranda Lambert

Trepidation filled Alex’s arrival to college.   A recent high school graduate, he felt ill-prepared for the challenge for which he was about to confront.  All his life, as far back as he could remember, he had lived in the same town with his family and friends there beside him.

He arrived at the college for freshmen orientation.  His father and his mother came with him on the seven hour trip up the coast.  There to celebrate this new beginning, they supplied to him parental assurances that all would be well.

Alex had many friends in high school, but all of them had chosen other colleges to attend.  He had yearned to go far away to college, away from everybody that he ever knew, and to make friends while building a life. 

During the drive up from his hometown, he was silent.  He listened to music on the radio while looking out the window as his father surveyed the road on the long journey.

It was now time.  It was now time for his parents to leave and for him to begin his new life.  He was alone in a venue to which he was unfamiliar, but was meeting the challenge with bravery.  He noticed the multitude of college freshmen sharing the same adventure.  However, he felt very alone.  He was completely unaware that many of other in-coming college students were feeling the same nervousness.  The foreboding faces surrounding him numbed his senses.

Family by family got into their cars, leaving the new college freshmen alone in the college dorms to somehow make friends with people they had just met.  They were confronted with the task of living with strangers who, in years to come, would be considered some of their best friends.

With carefree gusto, the roommates gathered in their apartments.  It was nearly sundown and all the parents were in their cars on the drive back to wherever they had come.  The freshmen, three by three and five by five, sat down together.  Newly introduced strangers, they ate dinner with each other.

The time had approached for the ageless ritual of high school graduates freshly attending college.  The introductions were made and the strangers spent the rest of the night familiarizing with each other with cheap beer that they had purchased at the liquor store down the street.   The festivities included the five roommates as well as other college co-eds in the nearby apartments.

Alex had spent his first night at the college dorms.   It was not nearly as threatening as he feared.  He had talked with friends and neighbors and he felt the ominous haze lift from them all.  Young college girls had attended the party along with his roommates and other college freshmen at the dorms.  He woke up early in the morning energetic.  The Sun shined upon the dorms and he went to the dining commons to have breakfast.  A neighbor girl met up with him and they shared breakfast with one another.  College life did not seem nearly as daunting as he thought it would.

Alex spent the rest of his freshmen year at the dorms with his roommates and neighbors.  The strangers became acquaintances and then became friends.  The girls that he met he began to know better and he found a girlfriend. 

The parties became less frequent as the college students found their own routines.  Many of the college freshmen found part-time work and most of them began to bury themselves in their school-work. 

The relationship that Alex had formed with his the neighbor girl stayed trivial, without much meaning.  Although she was beautiful and he enjoyed the time spent with her, he knew it was transitory. 

As a college freshman, newly out of high school, Alex’s arrival to college had been intimidating.  However, he had been quick to make friends.  The scholastic burden of college, which he had thought would be a far more difficult mission, had been less chilling than he thought it would.  His acclimation to the new environment, far away from home, had been easily facilitated with worries that quickly vanished.

As an adult, 20 years later, Alex often looked back to his time in college.  His time in college had been a growth experience and, more so, were his times in the freshmen dorms. 

In addition to the college degree that he earned which virtually assured him a prosperous life, he also grew to manhood.  The college scenario facilitated the journey as he was able to choose his own terms by which to live.   As an 18 year old man fresh out of high school, Alex had been nervous and unsure of himself; fraught with all of the trifles that face young people.  However, upon graduation he had become free from these insecurities and now had direction in his life as well as in confidence in everything that he did.

After his freshmen year he lived with a few of his friends that he had made in the dorms.  With high school behind him, these were now his best friends.  He lived with his dorm friends for two years and finally was able to get a small-studio apartment to live alone. 

All of college was a time for fun, a time for camaraderie, and a time for growing up.  However, upon reflecting on his time in college, Alex would think most of his time at the dorms.  He would recollect his arrival and meeting up with strangers he had never before seen.  He would also recollect the time that these people became his friends.  Most of all he would remember the maturity he gained and the confidence that was found that later would bring him success in every aspect of his life.