21Dec

Merry Ding-a-Ling Day

Me, I am a masterfully created whirling blend of mongrel on my dad’s side and Native American Cherokee on my mom’s side, and I think of myself as a blended believer. I have worn a Star of David around my neck as well as a cross, and at one time I actually wore both at the same time. If someone wished me a Happy Hanukkah, I would smile and say “the same to you.” I dressed up once as priest for a play and had to go to the store in costume, and I was treated like royalty. (I am not a Catholic, either.) My mom was Southern Baptist and my dad—I’m not really sure. In the custody of my mother and an aunt, I attended a Southern Baptist hand-clapping, song-singing service at around the age of 10, but the rapture passed me by. I figured I was too young for rapture. At one point in my life, I fiddled with the idea of becoming a Jesuit, the troublemakers of the Catholic Church, and I have always been drawn to many Eastern religions. Someone once asked Gandhi what he thought of Western Civilization, and he replied, “I think it would be a great idea.”

The first chief of the Cherokees was Drowning-Bear, the adopted father of Col. William H. Thomas. Drowning-Bear was the most prominent chief in the history of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, although his name does not occur in connection with any of the early wars or treaties. This is because he was a “peace chief” and counselor rather than a war leader.  He was born in 1761, but because of record-keeping practices, or lack thereof, there is no exact day. If there were, though, and I said “Happy Drowning-Bear Day” to you, would you call PETA on me? And if as a Hindu, I wished you Happy Diwali, how would you respond?

Christmas (it’s Old English spelling is Crīstesmæsse, meaning "Christ's Mass") simply commemorates the birth of someone named Jesus Christ. If you believe as I do, there was this remarkable person named Jesus Christ and his teaching was all good, regardless of whether he was the son of God or the son of Simon and Ruth Allen from Kiryas Joel, New York. Would it be less offensive to anyone if I said “Happy Birthday, Jesus Christ” instead of “Merry Christmas”?

To me the season of Christmas or Hanukkah or Diwali or whatever is truly about peace and happiness. If it makes someone happy as a pig in a mud puddle to say “Happy National Ding-a-Ling Day” (a real day occurring on December 12), and they are peaceful, then who am I to stand in the way of their happiness? So I will say Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Drowning-Bear Day, Happy National Ding-a-Ling Day, and any other greeting of peace that makes me happy, and I hope you will do the same. 

There’s more on the shores of Rambling Harbor, so please drop in. Use the chimney, if you want.

 

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14Dec

From the Logger to the Blogger: The Gift of Giving

Yesterday, I took the day off. After three or more late nights coupled with early mornings and screaming back pain, it was a flatter-puss day for me.  I did some reading as Chloe Cat and I snuggled and watched the wind-driven rain, a Nor’easter that moved through New England, dumping a lot of water on the harbor and snow in the mountains.

I had not purchased a book in years. Either I was fortunate enough to have them given to me, or they came from the library. My wife was an avid reader, sometimes reading as many as three books at a time, which she kept separated in her mind. That was phenomenal to me, but she did it, so there were always books around.

I started blogging out of desperation. My talent was in the spoken word, and in the good old days of radio, my patter was allowed to be 40% thought and the rest spontaneous combustion, just like my podcast (although don’t dwell on those percentages as they may change rapidly). My desperation came from many long days and nights at home tending to my wife who was battling cancer, and I needed a creative outlet of some sort. Singing loudly on the front porch was not going well with the neighbors, since I cannot carry a tune in a bucket with a handle on it.

At the time I didn’t have my own website, but with some strong encouragement from said neighbors, I joined a few blog sites for writers. I was more like a logger than a blogger, chopping my way through, a little like surfing a giant wave before you learn how to swim. I didn’t even know the technical aspects of posting a blog, and then along came Cher.

Cher Duncombe is an English and Speech high school teacher, artist, and private investigator for an attorney general (that last occupation had me a little worried at first), but of all the people I encountered who helped and encouraged me, especially in those early days, Cher stayed with me for the whole trip, a true gift of giving. So the first book I purchased since the release of Moby Dick was Cher’s Gandy Dancing on the Second Floor.

Cher writes from the heart, exposing herself to hurt as a true artist does. Her story “Murder of the Spirit: A Story of Domestic Violence” is true and heart-breaking but also the story of a survivor. “Sometimes She Goes to Keening” is another fine example of her work, and here are the last lines: “All those gone before her must surely know how very lonely she is at times. She closes her eyes. She rocks in the chair and she keens.”

Her book published just a few weeks ago and is available on Amazon. Cher Duncombe the artist beautifully illustrated the book as well.

There’s more on the gift of giving and other stories on the banks of Rambling Harbor. Come on ashore.

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7Dec

A Radio Christmas to Remember

December, around the year of ’82, 1982, wind-blown snow, middle of the night (or morning. After all, what is 3 a.m.?). The snow, the kind that sneaks up on you, slowly drifts, quietly getting deeper. It moves across a large deserted parking lot, transforming this lonely place. This deserted piece of asphalt is being molded into the Montana or Wyoming Prairie, a perfect backdrop as Merle Haggard asks the Big City to turn him loose. Though not that far from the city of Boston, it is easy to feel cut off from the rest of the world, watching this snow fashioning beauty from desolation. I will likely not see another human for at least three more hours. I am the keeper of the light from midnight to 6 a.m. I can still see most of my car, but whether or not I’ll be able to move it when the morning comes is doubtful, even if relief is able to get to me.

As keeper of the light, I maintain contact with others who dwell in the darkest part of day, the night people. I love night people. They walk on the other side of life, often by choice, and my way of reaching them is from a country radio station operating from the basement of a small strip mall in the middle of nowhere but reaching everywhere, an AM signal that sails across flat lands and water, especially at night, and I am the only show in town, the only one playing music on the AM dial in the middle of a lost time zone.

 About once a week I get a call from a cross country trucker. As he enters Rhode Island and starts to pick up my signal he calls—“The California Kid is on the line”—and this time wishes me a Happy Holiday and as usual requests a few tunes to help him reach the state of Maine a few hours away. I am his traveling companion.

I also get calls from Alice. Alice drives all over the area maintaining ATM machines, and she calls once or twice a week as she makes her rounds. I never meet Alice as she is a little like the coyotes that patrol the prairie parking lot, preferring to remain elusive. I call her Dallas Alice, from the Little Feat tune “Willin’,” which goes out to her each time she calls.

On this snowy night, Alice calls to wish me a Merry Christmas and says to wait a few minutes then look outside the door.  We end the call, I queue up “Willin’,” and go up the few steps to the door. There waiting for me, already collecting snow, is a small prelit Christmas tree and a card that says “Merry Christmas from Dallas Alice.” I see her footprints across the snow. She had parked near the entrance so she could easily get back on the main road.

I never met Alice, but she left footprints in my mind, and I never met the California Kid, but we road many a lonely highway together. A woman named Alice, Dallas Alice, and the lonely trucker, the California Kid, on a cold snowy night so many years ago, gave me a lifetime of Christmas smiles.

For more, join me on the snowy banks of Rambling Harbor.

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