Month: December 2011

Bill Clinton and My “Yellow Bird”….

Bill ClintonOn a previous blog a few years back I related the story of an encounter I had with Bill Clinton while moonlighting at a restaurant playing organ and singing back in the mid-seventies. I submitted the story this morning for publishing consideration to our local state newspaper and thought, “What the heck, why not just post it and expand on it a bit here on the blog!”

The story revolves around a song made popular back in the sixties. The song titled “Yellow Bird” was released by a group called the “Arthur Lymon Group”. The year was 1961 and the song charted on the Pop Charts at Number 4. The famed “Lawrence Welk” also had a version that sustained some measure of popularity. If you don’t quite remember the song – then give it a listen….

“Yellow Bird” – Arthur Lymon Group

But as to my association with the lovely song and what if anything it had to do with our past President Bill Clinton, well I’ll let you decide for youself. Below is the article as submitted….

“Bill Clinton & My Yellow Bird”

Yellow BirdI think it would be fair to assume that most citizens who exercise their right to vote do so with some measure of discern and understanding – both on the issues and in regard to their chosen candidate’s positions. Perhaps on the other hand however there are those of us who from time to time make casting their vote more of a personal thing. I would like to say that I have never found myself to be quite that superficial in choosing a candidate but alas, that is something that I cannot say unfortunately. I can certainly recall one particular instance that instigated that to be precisely the case.

It was in the early fall of 1976 and as I often did back in those days, I was moonlighting filling my evenings by playing organ and singing at a local restaurant, The Marina, located in Lake Dardanelle State Park in Russellville, Arkansas. It was your typical weekday evening and business at the restaurant was relative slow on the evening in question.

As I recall I had barely begun playing a favorite old instrumental of mine from my repertoire, “Yellow Bird”, when the front door of the restaurant opened and in walked a young man in gentlemanly attire and smiling for no apparent reason from ear to ear. He immediately started shuffling from table to table, greeting the customers with a loud voice, laughing loudly and talking to any mouth not encumbered with chewing or shaking any hand that wasn’t preoccupied with an eating utensil.

As I earnestly labored at the task of weaving the melody of the beautiful “Yellow Bird” between the loud talking and laughing I became more and more irritated at this loud-mouthed imbecile who had rudely interrupted my digestive concert. At some point I finally cut my song somewhat short and curtly announced to my unsettled audience I would be taking a break. In fact, it crossed my mind that perhaps inviting the a** hole who interrupted my lovely “Yellow Bird” out to the parking lot might be in order – business suit or not.

Well, the first thing I did after leaving my bench behind the organ was to approach the owner who was sitting at a small corner table by chance and immediately queried her as to who that loud mouthed idiot was? She chuckled and informed me it was some ‘not so dry behind the ears yet’ wanna-be politician named Bill Clinton running for State Attorney General and he had apparently stopped in to do a little campaigning. I immediately chimed in with a rather loud and emphatic, “Well the a** hole won’t be getting my vote!”, secretly hoping of course that my words of displeasure would somehow knife their way across the room imposing on his rhetoric and raining on his parade.

I then got myself a glass of refreshment, lit up a cigarette and went and found my own corner of despair and drowned my misery in my iced tea! He finally left shortly thereafter and things in my world were seemingly restored back to some semblance of order so I returned not long after to my musical perch and finished out the evening.

But when November rolled around a month or so later, well I suspect I don’t have to tell anyone who I “did not” vote for! I suppose in hindsight my self-sought justice was for naught since casting my vote in perhaps a vindictive manner to keep it out of the hands of my yellow bird nemesis had little bite since he was elected to his first public office in spite of my efforts. And is often the case, misery sometimes manifests itself in “3’s” as we’ve all learned. That proved to be the case because in the election cycle two years later my yellow bird nemesis was elected Governor of Arkansas – that’s “2”. And after years of continued convalescing from the traumatic event I had suffered, in 1992 he gets elected to you know what – President of the United States and that’s “3”!

Pets - 004That was almost forty years ago and as I think back on it all now, I suppose in my old age I have mellowed out and don’t any longer hold any measure of grudge against the fellow. He never, ever got my vote but as these things often turn out – it seems he never needed it. And you know he actually turned out to be quite a likable fellow when it was all said and done.

But, just as most folks probably think of Christmas anytime they hear “Jingle Bells”, so it remains to this day that anytime I hear “Yellow Bird”, well I’m forced to think of Bill Clinton!

That’s pretty much the whole thing I suppose. After initially posting this story on my blog some years back as I mentioned in the beginning, I did decide to play and record my own version of this piece of music in the quite of my home studio well away from any possible interruptions. Although I never quite completed it, which was not unusual for me when I was still writing and arranging, I have included just a short excerpt of my recording and arrangement below and I should again note that “The Electric Key Orchestra” was a pseudomym I used in lieu of my real name – but then that in itself is another story.…

“Yellow Bird” – The Electic Key Orchestra

And with that, I leave you with yet another blog post that just seems to go on and on and on…. :?’

Sugarbaker & Associates Interior Design – “For Sale”

If that name in the title sounds a little familiar well it should I suppose. That was the name of the business associated with the 1980’s hit television show “Designing Women”. And speaking to the point of the business being for sale, well not really of course because we all know it was only a “make believe” business anyway! But nevertheless it is being sold….. sorta!!

Designing Women - 02(Designing Women)

If you can recall the opening credits of the popular television show you will remember perhaps the elegant Victorian home portrayed as the location of their designing business in Atlanta, Georgia. I have included below a couple of screenshots from a couple of typical episodes from their television show which were used in those referenced opening credits….

Screen Shots - Sugarbaker & Associates Interior Design(Television Screen Shots – Sugarbaker & Associates Interior Design)

In actuality, the structure they were showing and portraying as their business is actually an old home located in Little Rock, Arkansas. It is known here as the “Villa Marre” and was placed on the state’s “National Register of Historic Places” in 1970. Perhaps a brief history at this point would be in order….

The elegant Victorian style home was built in 1881 by Angelo Marre. Angelo died in 1889 and his wife continued to live in the house until her death in 1904. After that the house had a sordid history being sold to various owners and for various purposes to include a nursing home, dance studio, Alcohol Anonymous meeting hall and rental property. Beginning to suffer from major deterioration due to lack of upkeep and neglect over those years, in 1964 it was decided by the city to bulldoze the property but fortunately a buyer named James Strawn Jr. stepped in and bought the property for $11,550 (not a typo) in January of 1964. Mr. Strawn was a prominent Little Rock businessman concerned over the loss and tearing down of so many of the cities old historic homes in the name of urban renewal.

After two subsequent years of renovations to the home, Mr. Strawn christened the home “Villa Marre” in honor of its builder. After its completion he sought a guardian who would insure the home never again fell into neglect. In 1974 he gave the home to the Quapaw Quarter Association who assumed the responsibility for its preservation.

In 2002 the home returned to private ownership when it was sold to Michelle and Grady Trimble for $233,000. The many historic furnishings in the home were sold at public auction at that time. And now we have come full circle and arrived back at December of 2011. And once again the home has entered the real estate market and the current owners are asking $450,000 for the stately old place. I won’t lie and say I wouldn’t like to have it but I have always assumed that owning one of these stately old homes and the associated energy and upkeep costs can be easily compared to Mr. J.P. Morgan’s quote regarding the same for yachts, “If you have to ask how much it costs, you probably can’t afford it!”

But even I can boast as to having had at least a small amount of personal history with this magnificent home myself. For me it all began in the mid-fifties with the onset of the birth of Rock & Roll. My young life would intersect with the Villa Marre when….

A prominent Little Rock dance instructor named Dorothy Donaldson had moved her dance studio into the old home in the early to mid-fifties. One of my sisters was taking ‘tap dancing’ there from one of her other teachers during that time and it was also during the time when Rock & Roll was taking the kids by storm. I was having a heck of a time trying to master the latest dance moves as part of the associated “jitterbugging” craze. We found out that the dance studio was also offering classes on jitterbugging – the perfect place to hone my “cut-a-rug” skills.

At this same time there was a nationally popular television show called “American Bandstand” which almost anyone will be familiar. And here in Little Rock one of the prominent TV personalities, Steve Stephens, thought we needed a similar show here locally so the television studio he worked for, KTHV, created a dance show namedSteve’s Show” which aired around four or five in the afternoon.

After a few weeks of honing my jitterbugging skills my instructor, who was a young girl herself, and I decided to get tickets to be on Steve’s Show and go down and show our stuff. Now, one of the things they did on the show each day was have a dance contest and award the winning couple a carton of Coca-Colas. We quite honestly had no high expectations but nevertheless we gave it our best and lo and behold – we won the carton of cokes that day! It wasn’t the Academy Awards you understand…. but perhaps at that age it was reasonably close.

In addition to the association with the home I had as a young teenager, the home also found its way into my photographic passion for architectural structures. Below are a couple of renditions of the old home reflected in a photograph I took of the home back in 2006. Architecturally speaking, of all the old homes still alive and well in Little Rock, it has always been a favorite of mine. The second photograph is something I created using a special rendering technique using the graphic’s software program Paint Shop Pro.

Villa Marre - Quapaw Quarter Historic District
Villa Marre - Extract Photo

Well, I think I have milked this subject for about as much as I can. But I do so enjoy and appreciate these old stately homes that can be found here in Little Rock. I’m sure they attracted much attention in their heyday and for some of us, they still do. Anyway, the main thing here was to give everyone a heads-up in case anyone was interested in purchasing a little memorabilia from the Designing Women television show for a measly $455,000!

Remembering that first love….

Perhaps many of us can remember that first boyfriend or girlfriend and the terrible crush that accompanied that moment in time. I have never forgotten mine or even the girl’s name. We were in Mrs. Dunn’s fourth grade class together at Rightsell Elementary in Little Rock, Arkansas. Below is a picture of Jeanette and myself I cut and pasted from our fourth grade class photo…..

Jeanette & Alan - Fourth Grade (4th Grade Class Picture – Jeanette & Alan)

She only lived about four blocks from me and there were times after school when I would go to her house for a brief visits. On one particular afternoon we were in her garage looking at something on a work bench and when she wasn’t looking I reached over quickly and gave her a stolen kiss on the side of her cheek. As I recall she wasn’t all that happy about the move but at that age I was a bit challenged when it came to matters of love.

At some point during the torrid love affair we were allowed to go to a Saturday matinee together one Saturday afternoon at the local neighborhood theatre. That would be my first date ever. I just mostly remember we held hands walking back home from the movie and that was the highlight of the afternoon for me.

But sadly, not long after that day she informed me that her father’s work required that they relocate to Mississippi and so my little heart would be shattered one afternoon as they pulled away from their empty house and drove away. I would never see my little Jeanette again.

If you watch the music video by Phil Collins titled “Do You Remember”, I think after reading the above you will know just why this particular video is so very special, not so much the song itself but the associated boy/girl relationship, their ages and the fact that one of them moved away……

Timex Watches & Polaroid Cameras….

An advertisement in this morning’s newspaper struck me as a bit humorous as well as stimulating some of those old memories from the past. Beginning with the advertisement itself, I have posted it below….

(Timex Sale Advertisement from local newspaper)

It struck me that although the ad seemed quite definitive to a large degree, it left out one small but yet very important detail – where the hell was the sale located?

The humorous, yet questionable ad is one thing but Timex itself is quite another since I had a personal direct relationship with the company many long years ago. After being discharged from the Air Force while stationed at Warner-Robbins Air Force Base near Macon, Georgia in November of 1968, I traveled to Atlanta, Georgia where I worked for a very brief two month period. But wanting to return to Arkansas after 7½ years in the military, I left the job after that very short period and did indeed return back home to Arkansas.

Fortunately I found a job in Little Rock in a relatively short period of time and that job was with none other than the Timex Corporation. At that time, 1969, Timex Corporation, whose home office was located in Middlebury, Connecticut, had two manufacturing plants located in Little Rock where they manufactured numerous models of the Timex watch but unknown to many individuals was the fact that Timex also manufactured the Polaroid camera for Polaroid Corporation. All the Polaroid cameras manufactured during that time were manufactured at the plant where I worked with one exception. Polaroid made a relatively low-priced camera called the “Polaroid One-Step” which was manufactured by Bell & Howell at a plant location near Chicago, Illinois.

Digging through some old memorabilia I was surprised to find that I still had the old ‘New Hire’ slip showing my start date and starting salary. I was hired basically to handle their electronic drafting which meant I would mostly work with the plants Polaroid camera manufacturing responsibilities.

Timex New Hire Slip(Timex Corporation New Hire Pay Slip)

Anyone who watched any television from those days will probably well remember the many Timex watch commercials that filled the airways. Most will remember John Cameron Swayze as their primary spokesman along with his familiar buzz line at the end of most commercials, “It takes a licking but keeps on ticking”. Below are a couple of those old commercials from those days….

I worked for Timex from March of 1969 until July of 1970 at which point I was laid off due to a mild recession affecting the entire country and a large slump in the sales of the Polaroid camera. I had really liked that job and was very disappointed when I got laid off. But as often happens in those cases, that caused me of course to look for opportunities elsewhere and in September I began working for Bechtel Corporation involved in the construction of a nuclear power plant in Russellville, Arkansas and that career change in the end carried me through a successful career until semi-retirement in 1990.

In closing, curiosity got the best of me this morning so I dug a little deeper into the location of the Timex watch sale reflected in the ad posted at the beginning of this post and found that it was actually at what is called a “Timex Outlet Store” which as it turns out was located only a couple of miles or so from where I lived. I drove over there and the store was actually part of a much larger Timex facility of some sort. I went in and talked with a receptionist in what appeared to be the main office, informed her of the ad with no address and asked just what Timex related work the facility did. Turns out the location is the central United States distribution center for Timex watches which, and this will probably not come as any big surprise, are “all” now manufactured in the Philippines and shipped to this facility for said distribution. The facility also houses the main authorized repair center for Timex watches.

So there – now you and I have the rest of the story! 🙂

Just another day at the office I suppose….

Albert Pujols(Albert Pujols)

So the news is out! It seems Mr. Albert Pujols will be trading in his old Saint Louis Cardinal baseball hat for a new Los Angeles Angels hat since having accepted from them what he considers an equitable salary. So, let’s look at the “number” just to be sure he’s not being ripped off or taken advantage of in some manner….

For the next ten years Mr. Pojuls will be squeaking by on a measly grand total of $254,000,000 million.

Now granted, that does seem like a lot of money but let’s break it down a bit – all the while keeping it in its proper perspective. There are 162 games per year, excluding the All-Star game, so that comes to a little over $156,790 per game.

Assuming an average game is around 3 hours long – that comes to about $52,263 per hour.

Putting that in perspective for those of us in the middle class, a good middle class employee with a little better than average job might make $52,000 in a year – that’s what Mr. Pujols will make every hour when he takes the field to participate in America’s favorite game.

There you go! That just seems to put it all into better perspective for me. I don’t know about you but I feel a whole hell-of-a-lot better about it now. See….sometimes it really does help to just talk these things out! I knew all along all this talk about the 1% versus the 99% was all just a crock!! 😕

A Camera Lens Coffee Mug?

I suppose one would have to be a bit of a “camera bug” to find any real interest in the subject of this post but this past week I ran across something that struck me as somewhat clever. Nikon is apparently now selling a couple of coffee mugs that have been fashioned to look just like camera lenses for a Nikon camera. Certainly one would think this would have a widespread appeal to those of us who enjoy photography, whether as an occupation or as a hobby.

Lens Cup 1(Nikon Lens Coffee Mugs – Click to Enlarge)

But of course Canon was not about to be outdone – they have their version also….

Lens Cup 2(Canon Lens Coffee Mugs – Click to Enlarge)

I would also find out that these coffee mugs have actually been on the market since June of 2010 which gives you some idea as to how in touch I am with the latest market offerings. They are a bit pricy I suppose at around $25 to $35 but then again, it is a “Nikon” or “Canon”! However, being slow on the uptake of the latest gadgets does have its advantages since they were asking around $50 initially so I understand.

Perhaps now they should turn their efforts toward manufacturing something along the lines of a Tupperware Sandwich Keeper fashioned to look like a camera for those morning pastries and doughnuts?

A Man and His Cars….

Recently I began thinking about my history with cars over my lifetime. As best memory serves me, I can remember owning nineteen different cars during my lifetime. Of those, seven of them were purchased as used cars and twelve of them were purchased as new cars. I dug up either the window price sticker or contract on eight of them, not to mention finding a set of spare keys to a 1972 MGB-GT I had owned. And seven of the cars were small sport cars or sub-compacts which leads me to the very beginning of this ‘man and his cars’ saga.

Now unlike a large majority of my male counter parts, when it came to cars I never had the least bit of interest in all that mechanical gibberish that so many men seem to dwell on when discussing cars. All this talk about horsepower, carburetion systems, acceleration, suspensions, transmissions, engine sizes…. No, that just never was my cup of tea. It has always been about looks, class and style for the most part for me.

My love affair with cars was somewhat of strange one I suppose. I have always suspected that I may have incurred some sort of serious psychological damage as a young child that would directly affect my relationship with cars for my entire life. As a young child, I like most male children, desired to be the proud owner of a “pedal car”. The small, tiny little cars captured my childish imagination and dominated my dreams but alas, it was never to be for n those days it was just not a purchase my family was in a position financially to make.

My mother’s sister, economically speaking, had fared at that point much better in life so her two sons, my cousins, were lucky enough to get their pedal car. I always idolized my two cousins while growing up but unfortunately from their viewpoint, that admiration was not reciprocated when it came to sharing their pedal car. The moment in time when I am sure I was traumatized pretty much for life was actually documented by my mother through some personal photos.

Me & Cousins 1(Me, the two cousins, & the pedal car – Photo 1)

Me & Cousins 2(Me, the two cousins, & the pedal car – Photo 2)

Although I don’t remember the incident, probably because it was just too much for my little brain to process, we had apparently gone over to my cousin’s house for a visit. My mother had obviously taken her camera in anticipation of getting a picture of her darling little boy at least sitting in the pedal car. Well, as you can see from the photographs above, it would appear I wasn’t even allowed to touch the magnificent beast. I’m the one in the dark, corduroy jump suit who unlike his two beloved cousins, have been afforded absolutely no transportation whatsoever. In fact, it would appear that in that second photo my older cousin, who is sitting in the pedal car, seems to be quite displeased with even my proximity to his vehicle.

Well, I have had to relate all of the above because as previously stated, that childhood event coupled with the fact that I never got my own pedal car apparently had a life-long effect on my personal relationship with cars and subsequent choices of personal vehicles over the years – in particularly with the smaller cars which as previously noted I owned seven of them at last count.