Month: October 2015

Brother-In-Law, what are they good for?

You know, for as long as I can remember it’s a known fact that when we talk about extended family the infamous “mother-in-law” has always topped our list of conversational topics and mostly gotten a bad-wrap to boot. There are certainly some beloved mother-in-law’s out there but we mostly hear about the mother-in-law from hell. But given my most recent birthday, I have given considerable thought to what is considered the standard norm when it comes to talking about individuals who are members of the extended family.

Now I have two brother-in-law and we all seem to get along fine when in each other’s company, or so I thought. In fact, I have always assumed that we actually enjoy each other’s company. However that assumption came to a screeching halt recently with the advent of my birthday.

Now you have to understand that my two brother-in-law don’t play golf together or have lunch with each other from time to time or just in general hang out together in any form or fashion. So I found it somewhat disturbing when I got birthday cards from each of them which were almost identical when it came to the birthday card’s cover art and subject matter. Now, either it is one of the most profound coincidences ever or they are both “ass” holes, to coin a term I was able to derive from the creature depicted on the cards I received. The damning card cover’s are shown are below….

Randy’s Jackass 2
Vergil’s Jackass 2

Of the hundreds of humorous cards that are on the market, what in this universe would have been behind such an unfathomable coordinated event? Astrologically I am a Scorpio but at the moment I feel like someone has bitten the tail off my scorpion. They think I’m a jackass?

Well, so be it I suppose but I must surmise that when I attend future family get-togethers or join my sisters and their husbands for dinner out… there will be a palatable chill in the air courtesy of this jackass brother-in-law as reflected in their loving birthday greeting! 🙁

Is the final demise of the dreaded Polio Virus finally here?

My generation was born into an era where the most dreaded disease affecting our Nation was that of polio. It could affect anyone at any age but it was most prolific in the children and young adults. Not unlike earlier generations, we lived with a palatable underlying fear of the polio virus visiting us and leaving permanent physical destruction within our families if not death itself. And without the dreaded but life-saving iron lung, death would have been almost certain for those in the photograph below.

Children’s Polio Ward - Iron Lungs

A Children’s Polio Ward

Polio Vaccine HeadlinesIt was the grandest of news therefore when in 1955 news was splashed across the the front pages of our state and national newspapers that a vaccine had finally been developed under the guidance of Dr. Jonas Salk that would begin to wipe the scourge of this disease from our mist which gave us a moment of pause and thankfulness to reflect on the past but more importantly, a much more secure future from the dreaded disease.

But the even better news of the this day is that we are apparently nearing a point where the disease will be completely eradicated from this earth. The disease left our nation’s shores and subject of conversation years ago yet continued to wreak its havoc across other areas of our globe. But here in the United States, out of sight – out of mind.

A piece was written and published on the NPR (National Public Radio) today that details the demise of polio and declares that quite possibly by the end of next year, 2016, the disease will be completely eradicated from the entire globe. You may review and read the article “here” along with several interesting interactive charts.

This news is surely something well worth noting, acknowledging and celebrating but due to our fortunes here in this country and medical research in general, only those mostly from my generation and earlier will make any note whatsoever of today’s news on one of the greatest nemesis of our lifetime. One down but oh so many more to go…. 🙁

Thar’s A Skunk in the Outhouse….

Over my lifetime as a struggling musician I have written several songs falling into several different genres but it was late in my musical tenure before I was inspired enough or tempted enough to write a song that by any stretch of the imagination could actually reside the Bluegrass genre. I have always really liked Bluegrass but just never was in a position to play that type music.

But in the late 1990’s that is indeed the challenge I embarked upon. I had actually been inspired to do so indirectly by the branch manager of the company I was working for at the time. He came in to work one morning telling of this incident occurring the night before at his home and about how they had to deal with a skunk that had gotten into their garage. For some inexplicable reason my mind immediately made the strange correlation of that skunk in a garage to a skunk in an outhouse. Both subjects, the skunk and the outhouse, bred thoughts of unpleasing odors course based on the odors one might incur when approaching either. Besides, if you approach an outhouse and are met with a unpleasing odor, how do you really know it’s not because there is really a skunk in the outhouse? 🙂

Skunk and Outhouse

Shortly thereafter I came up with the title, “Thar’s A Skunk in the Outhouse” for a song I had yet to write. So there I was, I had the title… all I needed now was a musical ditty to carry the title. I immediately got to work in my little studio with the synthesizers that I loving refer to as “The Electric Key Orchestra” and in a short time we had that little musical ditty, for better or worse.

And that, in conclusion, brings us to my music selection posted below….

“Thar’s A Skunk in the Outhouse” – featuring The Electric Key Orchestra

I’ve never really been sure if the critics who watch over the Bluegrass genre would bring me up on charges or sue me for claiming to be a Bluegrass songwriter but given the fact that only a handful of people have even heard the song, I feel fairly safe. I do however have a good Facebook friend who is quite versed in the genre who may report this as Internet abuse to Mark Zuckerburg once its shared to an unwary public….

The Week in Photography….

I don’t get in as much photography as I use to unfortunately. Goodness, even that statement implies I’m doing at least some but no, not really. If a subject is just begging to be captured in a photo, happens to fall into my lap so to speak and the camera is handy I may actually get up off my ass and try my luck at taking some measure of a photograph, but nothing like I use to do.

Last week while sitting on my patio a very large grasshopper made his appearance on one of my landscape timbers right in front of me. A rather handsome specimen I thought, assuming that you even like grasshoppers, so I begrudgingly got out of my chair to go get my camera with little hope the grasshopper would even be there when I returned. But alas, upon my return there he was and he seemed quite willing to strut his stuff for the camera….

Grasshopper 01(Click to Enlarge)

Grasshopper 02(Click to Enlarge)

Then this past weekend when supper time rolled around I declared it “chicken night”. I decided to cook up a small batch of my extra crispy, extra greasy, famous chicken wings. Not normally being one associated with the many food photographers that seem to inhabit our planet, I just could not help myself when I took a look at my famous chicken wings lying on that plate so off I went in pursuit of the camera. A few minutes later the photographic deed was done and then it was time to express my sincerest condolences to those chicken wings and put them out of their misery!

Big Bro’s Extra Crispy Chicken Wings(Click to Enlarge)

And there you have it, this week in photography as seen through the eyes of a very lazy photographer. Not impressed? Well, I’m not sure I am either but sometimes you just have to give it your best shot (no pun intended) and move on with some hope better times lie ahead. 🙂

Littering – A Study in Still Life

I was recently inspired to write this post by a blogging acquaintance who resides at her blog, PiedType, who just in the last few days featured a post titled “Haute couture made of Senegalese garbage” which highlights the human pollution that is a very serious issue in areas of Africa and features photography as a means of exposing this growing problem.

I was reminded as I read the associated article from her post and viewed the associated photographs of my own endeavors somewhat along those lines although to a much, much lesser extent for sure. Nevertheless, my intent was similar in nature regarding our own attitudes here in the United States regarding litter and garbage.

Certainly our issues here are far less critical than those in Africa but nonetheless, constantly they deserve our attention. Our landfills are certainly of concern and have been for some time now but on a better note, our efforts to eliminate littering have much improved. Not solved by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly improved over what we were dealing with a generation ago.

I have submitted a few samples my own photography work in the area of littering and thought I would share them here today on my latest blog post….

Chicken Noodle Soup Can(Chicken Noodle Still Life)

Spam Can - 01(Spam Still Life)

Gold Medal Flour Bag with Flowers(Recycled Flour Bag & Flowers)

Tomato Soup Can(Portrait of a Soup Can)

The only confession I suppose I should make with regard to the subjects of my photographs is that there may be noted a palatable influence by some of Andy Warhol’s work if the soup can subjects were to somehow catch your eye.

Other than that, I figured that if we as a society enjoy littering so much that surely there is also a place in our culture for the art that celebrates such things…. 🙂

Natalie’s Birthday Tape….

Featuring “Natalie’s Birthday Tape”

Natalies Birthday Tape - 05

I should preface this particular chapter of my music anthology by noting that not all my recording endeavors involved singing or playing. Such was the case when it came to what is known around my house as Natalie’s birthday tape….

Well if you recall the subject of this post, Natalie, who was featured in an earlier post was targeted as the unsuspecting victim of a prank that proved to be of considerable embarrassment for her, even though unfortunately for me, the perpetrator, it was a short-lived prank. But although embarrassed by the whole ordeal, she was a terrific sport about it. And because of that I decided that I would put together for her a compilation of Christmas music for her on a cassette tape because we were aware she had an upcoming birthday. The reason I chose Christmas music was that in previous conversations with Natalie I had learned she really liked Christmas music and loved to listen to it any time of the year. I had also learned that she was an Elvis fan also.

Now at the time I just happen to have had a pretty good selection of Christmas music in my music collection along with several of Elvis’ Christmas songs. So it would be fairly simple for me to record these songs to tape and give them to her for her upcoming birthday. On the other hand, I was wanting to somehow try to make it a little more special than just simply a bunch of songs on a tape. So the wheels started spinning…

Mice - 04Somewhere along the way, perhaps inspired to some degree by Alvin and the Chipmunks, it hit me that I should try and create some sort of scenario where chaos and catastrophe ensued when I tried to do something so simple as to record her Christmas songs on a tape. That’s when the idea of creating a scenario where I had three mice who lived in my house who I had become friends with over time. I would record an audio episode of my working on the tape with my three mouse friends helping me, who by the way were named Mike, Ike and Clarence. Mike and Ike were twins while Clarence was what we refer to in the trade as the loose cannon!

Natalies Birthday Tape - 02I did have at the time a rather sophisticated cassette recorder which allowed the recording of several tracks on a tape along with allowing me to control the speed of the tape during recording. Those two things combined allowed me the capability to create a tape with four interacting parties, myself and three mice. It all actually seemed to come together quite quickly and I felt I had accomplished my goal in the end. So if I may, here is that recording of the chaotic introduction and associated dialogue that preceded that tape of Christmas music….

“Natalie\’s Birthday Tape” – featuring Alan, Mike, Ike and Clarence

In the end I’m happy to say the effort was well worth it and Natalie liked her birthday gift. It wasn’t long after that I moved on to another job in another state and left Mike, Ike and Clarence to their own demise. I did consider bringing them along with me to see what havoc we might create together in the future but in the end, I though better of that and decided to leave well enough alone…. 🙂

Do you remember that very last time?

My little sister recently questioned me as to how I remembered some of the old personal stories I have related on my blog over the years. I’m actually not sure why I do remember, even remembering some of the finer details of those events in my life. I think it must have been because they were part of the really happy times of my life. I also remember a lot of bad times in my life in the same manner but those are moments I choose not to tarry in or share on my blog, regardless of their nature and/or entertainment factor.

Memory Loss - 02As I have gotten older, especially in the last few years, as appreciative as I am that even at age 74 my memory has kept itself fairly intact, I have realized that there are things that I have forgotten that were of some consequence in my life, at least from my perspective. I’m single and have been for over 30 years so my life experiences and the things my life revolves around will certainly be different from others, especially those who are married or were married for most of their lives. Also I have no children so that also plays a huge role in those memory moments I relate to in this post. Some of those moments I refer to were things that brought joy and pleasure, other moments not so pleasant and best left to their blissful demise in the halls of the forgotten.

The majority of things I “don’t do” any longer that I use to really like to do have been tabled for the most part due to health issues. As we all know health issues themselves certainly vary from person to person, especially as we become elderly, but I think for the most part it is those issues that drive our cessations of those things we enjoyed doing otherwise. Many of those things were just some of life’s little pleasures that make this life worth the living. Simple things usually like taking a walk in a park or riding a bicycle.

But there comes a time in those contemplative moments we often have with ourselves that we realize those mostly little things that were so important to us in living our lives are gone and what seems to make it worse is the fact that we can’t remember for the life of us when the last time was that we even had the pleasure of doing them. That is in fact what this post is all about.

Below is a list of some of those things that I refer to above that were part of my life, things I enjoyed doing but no longer do that fit into that unfortunate category of forgotten final moments….

The last time I went hunting in the woods….
The last time I went fishing….
The last time I made love….
The last time I rode a bicycle….
The last time I went to a movie theater….
The last time I sang or played in public….
The last time I sang or played in private….
The last time I put on a pair of roller skates…. (Probably around the year 1986)
The last time I went bowling….
The last time I danced with someone….
The last time I went out on a date….
The last time I smoked a cigarette…. (I use to know but have since forgotten)
The last time I played golf…. (I remember where, North Hills Country Club, but not when)
The last time I went swimming….

Perhaps I could go on for a bit longer but if just to make a point, I think these from my perspective fill the bill. There are other final moments and their associated dates that we do indeed tend to remember such as the last time we saw our mother, or our father or perhaps other deceased loved ones. On the other hand, there are many of us who had beloved pets in our lifetime and find that except for the pet itself which was so very special, we remember little else about them.

Memory Loss - 03It’s worth noting I think that these ‘last time’ moments of our personal lives are normally something that won’t be brought to one’s attention at the moment they’re happening. With regard to most of these things, you will never be conscious of the fact you are doing something for the last time. You will just wake up one morning and realize that there is something you use to do that you can no longer do, for whatever reason, and that memory of the last time you did them is gone. You know there was that “last time”, you just don’t know when it was or perhaps even where it was or who it was with.

I guess for the record these type events in our lives would be best referred to as the ‘milestone’ dates of our individual lives. They are the dates that are for the most part, only important to us and have no consequence whatsoever on the lives of others or the fate of the world. They can, on the other hand, be the seeds of depression if we treat them with more importance than they deserve. When we get older and are fortunate enough to be able to retire that is often when the stark reality of those lost pleasures tend to have their greatest impact. There is a point in our lives when we become less and less able to do the things we use to do. We may recognize that point when it happens but it’s only later, often years later, when we reminisce about those things that we actually come to the realization that we don’t remember the last time we did them.

So if you find yourself approaching those elder years and you are a person who likes to keep close tabs on the milestones in your life, you might want to start jotting down on those calendars the when and wherefore of those little things you love to do that make this life worth living just to have the satisfaction that you “will remember” the last time you did them…. 😕

The Telephone Maintenance Work Order….

It was probably around mid-summer of 1988 and I was living in Millwood, Alabama and working at a General Electric Lexan Plant in Burkeville, Alabama. Both locations were in the proximity of Montgomery, Alabama just to give you a little better perspective of where I was living and working.

Open Bay Office - 02I was working in the Field Engineering office which was a large, open bay area where desks sat either side by side or back to back. There was probably some twenty or so desks located in the area where some of the engineers and superintendents would sit and work when they were not out in the plant. Also working in the area was a young clerk named Natalie who was just barely out of high school. She pretty much just ran errands around the office or made copies of documents on the large office copy machine for the various engineers.

Now my best friend Jimmy, one of those superintendents I previously mentioned and myself were of such a disposition that we were seldom up to any good. And we both agreed one day that Natalie was a prime candidate for the old telephone maintenance farce and so it was that on one particular afternoon Jimmy and I decided it was time to put the plan in action.

Now the way this little scam worked, someone had to make a call to the office and impersonate a telephone maintenance worker so it was imperative that the impersonator be in the correct mental mindset so as to not bust out laughing right there on the telephone when you get your unsuspecting victim on the phone. So it was that on one particular day I opted to play the role of the telephone worker so when we knew Natalie was occupied Covered Desk Telephone - 01with work at her desk, I went to get on a phone in one of the back offices of the building and made my call to her desk. She promptly answered, I explained to her that I was a telephone maintenance worker and explained to her that once a year the local telephone company had to blow the dust out of the telephone lines. I informed her that in approximately a half-hour we would be blowing out the dust in the lines of the phones in the office where she worked and that we needed someone to go around the office covering all the phones so that when the dust came out of the phones it didn’t blow all over the office or the workers. She assured me that she would take care of it immediately and hung up.

I immediately gasped a sigh of relief that I had gotten through my role in the scam without busting out laughing so I started heading up the hall to the main office to observe what I thought would be poor little Natalie running around covering telephones.

Now Jimmy had remained in the main office as an observer so he could relate to me Natalie’s actions during and immediately after the call. It took me a bit of time to get back to the main office but when I did the first thing I see is Jimmy laying on the floor laughing his ass off. Embarassed - 02Some of the other engineers had huge grins on their faces. Natalie was standing there obviously overwhelmed with embarrassment, then a few minutes later staring piercing daggers at the entire bunch. There were only two or three phones that had gotten covered up before apparently my partner in crime just busted out laughing and laid bare the perpetrated scam. And as it turned out, Natalie may have looked like she could bite nails into but she immediately joined in on the laughter and then began to tell us all how terrible we were.

Of course I was ready to kill Jimmy for blowing the whole thing. If anyone was going to give the scam away, I always feared it would be me. Jimmy claimed the reason he lost it was when little Natalie went into a panic because she was having trouble finding rags and stuff to cover the phones.

And I will readily admit that to this day I still wish the scam would have held up and I could have watched Natalie cover all those phones, especially when she got to the bosses offices. That was the only time that Jimmy and I ever ran that scam on anyone. It is, however, one of the really great ones when it can run its course. 🙂

I should confess in conclusion that I do have a bit of an ulterior motive for sharing this little antidote and that is to somewhat lead into an upcoming post featuring another of my recording projects that I consider part of my ‘music anthology’ where Natalie is once again the unsuspecting subject but for now, this will have to do…. 🙂

The Mater Man….

Featuring “The Mater Man Song”

Tomatoes - 05Somewhere down in Elmore County, Alabama legend has it that he still roams the hills and hollers of that county looking for hallowed ground to once again lay the seed of his beloved tomato plant. Some say they’ve seen him, others have said they’ve only smelled him but were the truth to be known, no one knows for sure. There are two mysteries that still seem to haunt the Old South, one is the illusive Sasquatch and the other, the Mater Man.

Thinking back now on how it all started I recall it was around 1988 and I had recently been transferred to a General Electric Lexan Plant located a few miles from Montgomery, Alabama where the company I worked for was doing some modification work at that plant. What was great about that assignment was that my best friend whom I had worked with for a number of years had also been transferred there, which was a real plus for him since he was from the area. His name was Jimmy and he and his family had a really nice place with some acreage in a small little village called Santuck, about twenty or so miles from Montgomery.

Now Jimmy loved tomatoes and decided that spring that he was going to raise some tomatoes on part of his land. Well, when it was all said and done, he had put a piece of land in tomatoes about the size of a football field. When I asked him what the hell he was going to do with all those tomatoes when those plants started producing, his response was, “We’ll give a few of them to family and friends of course but the large majority of them we’ll eat.” I could only cautiously nod at his response while continuing to harbor my doubt.

Tomatoes - 04

Well when the tomatoes came in, as luck would have it he had by all accounts a bumper crop. They produced and produced, and then they produced some more. Can you imagine a family of five with a football field of tomatoes getting ripe on the vine? He ended up an undeniably big mess but for me it was a joy to watch and a source of unlimited humor. And he was eating tomato sandwiches for weeks at work. But to the point of this post…..

I decided I needed to try and write a little musical ditty in an effort to immortalize my friend and his tomatoes. Musically speaking, I had everything I needed to accomplish that project including a pretty sophisticated tape recorder that allowed me to lay down multiple tracks which allowed me to sing along with myself and over-dub up to four different tracks so I could get fairly fancy with my creation. I also decided that rather than writing a new melody, using the tune for “The Banana Boat Song” would do perfectly for my project. So it was that one particular Saturday I sat down, wrote some words for my ode to Jimmy’s tomatoes and recorded the song which I have posted below. Perhaps for your listening pleasure – perhaps not!

(“The Mater Man Song” – featuring Alan Ginocchio)

Well, as I understand it now, the recording has become a family heirloom much to the dismay of Jimmy. Oh, he loved it, but you would never get him to admit it. It’s rumored that the following year that his wife had suggested he plant some of those giant sunflowers in lieu of tomatoes. Now I’m not sure how much land he put into sunflowers that following year but again rumor has it the Atlanta Braves and a host of the southeast United States minor league baseball teams had gotten their summer stock of sunflower seeds for that year from a secret location somewhere in Elmore County, Alabama.

I’ve seen Jimmy a few times over the years since then and he doesn’t seem to want to talk too much about his days as a part time farmer. He did confide in me that he still loves tomato sandwiches but I did notice during our visit that he was continuously spitting out sunflower seed shells. I understand that this there is a serious pumpkin shortage this year and pumpkin growers are hoping for a better year next year. I suppose I should suggest to Jimmy the possibility of putting his land in pumpkins this upcoming year but I really do hesitate to do so. You just know once I do that, Halloween will just never be the same…

And then there was the gospel music tour….

Featuring “Mercy Rewrote My Life”

Alan Ginocchio - Album Art 02There have been times in some of my past blogs I have posted some of my personal music and recordings for public consumption but it has always been quite limited. I often think that the reason for that is that I just don’t want to give any wrong impressions of who I am or even more importantly, what I think of myself when it comes to my music. Music is one of my first loves… I loved playing it and especially loved singing it because singing is a way to express and share your personal emotions with friends and strangers in a way you could never do otherwise. In the truest sense it’s a very honest way of saying, “This is who I am.”

Although those days have since gone for me unfortunately and I am no longer able to express myself through music any longer, the desire within still remains. I lost my voice for the most part in the mid 1990’s and pretty much due to that loss, several years later donated ‘all’ my musical equipment and audio gear to North Little Rock High School.

With that said, I have decided to start posting recordings of a lot of that music that I have accumulated over the years. A few of the recordings will have been previously posted in earlier blogs while others will not have been.

As odd as it may seem, I finally came to a conclusion that I wanted to do this basically for me. There will come a day not too far into the future for me that indeed will reflect the line from Don McLean’s “American Pie” which is “the day the music died”. Call it my last musical hoorah if you will. So with that perhaps somber prelude I shall begin….

It seems that many musicians and singers over their lifespan of entertaining seem to enter their ‘gospel’ period. There can be a number of reasons for this change in their chosen musical repertoire but be that as it may, we often see the transition.

My personal embarkation into the gospel realm would occur in the early 1990’s and perhaps in a way could now be perceived as somewhat of an omen as to what would follow only a few short years down the road. That being the complete loss of my singing voice and regardless of the quality of one’s talent in that realm, losing that voice is in all truth heartbreaking. I try to look a lighter side of the ordeal and just tell folks that apparently the good Lord decided that I may have chosen to ruin a lot of other folk’s songs but His music wasn’t going to suffer from the same fate.

I’ve written, or at least written at, several gospel songs over the years but the only ones I ever actually got around to recording were those I did using ‘tract’ tapes of other folk’s songs. Those of course are commercial music tracks of specific songs that are recorded and when played allow an individual to sing along, karaoke style if you get my drift. One of those songs, the song posted below, was the first of those gospel songs that I recorded and remains one of my personal favorites….

“Mercy Rewrote My Life”

To be continued, for better or worse… 🙂