A to Z Theme 2016

For my 2016 A to Z theme I used a meme that I ran across on the blog of Bridget Straub who first saw it on the blog of Paula Acton. This meme is a natural for me to use on my memoir blog. It's an A to Z concept and it's about me. No research and nothing complicated. I'm given twenty six questions or topics to discuss that are about me.

In April I kept my posts short and uncomplicated. In the midst of it all you might learn a few things about me that you didn't previously know.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Newspaper Stacks and Other Hoards

English: Photo of the living room of a compuls...
 Photo of the living room of a compulsive hoarder --not mine though
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

      I confess that I am a pack rat.  I haven't reached the stage of the hoarders you see on television or the reclusive oddballs who have been found dead, buried by toppled stacks of accumulated junk.  Not yet at least.  But my wife has her fears.

          Actually I have gotten better as I have attempted to pursue a goal of getting rid of something every day.  I do try.  Really.  I'll admit that new things get added on a regular basis, but so do the outgoing things.  Well, maybe I've slacked off of late, but my intentions are good.

          Stuff piles up.  Even when I was on the road with a touring stage production I tended to accumulate stuff.  If I hadn't have had my own vehicle during those years, my collection of material things accumulated during those travels would have been undoubtedly far less.  When I have a place to put things, I am apt to keep more. At the end of each tour year we'd empty our van to store stuff wherever we'd be provided space.  In most cases that would have been my parents house.  They had a lot of space even though they too managed to store a lot of stuff.

          Part of my pack rat nature probably came from my parents.  They were not "hoarders" in the absurd extreme sense of the word, but like most people they kept things.  Some things just accumulated because they rarely got sifted through while many others were kept for sentimental reasons, family history, or just because they seemed worth keeping.

          After my mother's passing I can't say any of us were amazed or even mildly surprised by all the stuff that was in her house because it was stuff that we often saw when we were there.  There were times when, with my mother's blessing, I'd undertake a mission of sorting, organizing, and weeding out.  That helped some, but still that daily incoming flow of stuff typically outweighed the stuff going out.

         In my own home I've had some energetic bursts of stuff removal with items being sold, donated, or thrown away.  This can be tiring and for me it is often a mission that digresses into diversionary exploration and study of what I have in our home's possession.   Memories are often stirred as well as the puzzling pondering of "why did I keep this" or "where the heck did this come from".

          My stacks of newspapers have dwindled considerably as I've cut back my subscription to just a Sunday paper.  I've been slowly going through the accumulations of old newspapers and moving them to the recycling bin.  I've had a thing about newspapers since I was in high school when I felt compelled to read every word, study every picture, and look at every advertisement--an undertaking that seemed to never gain ground as stacks became higher and higher.

         This never seeming to get ahead of the stuff accumulation is what leads to a purging now and then.  My frustration with not reaching my objectives of wading through the stuff that piles up will sometimes spur me to start eliminating things as quickly as I can.  Or I'll sort things into piles, storage spaces, or boxes in order to create some semblance of neatness until I can get to it all later.

          So it goes.  Stuff comes in while some of it goes out.  What doesn't go out becomes set aside for someday.   I suppose that one day after I have passed from this life there will be stuff for whoever I leave behind.  They will sort through it all in wonderment or perhaps even disgust.  I've got some pretty cool things tucked away.  I wonder if they will recognize that?

           Now excuse me while I carry another load of stuff off to the recycle bin.   Not all of this stuff is all that cool.

           Do you find yourself in a never-ending battle with accumulation?   What kinds of stuff do you tend to keep?    When do you throw something away?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Mom, I Miss You

      It has been one year since you left us, Mom.   In some moments I forget that you're not there for me to call.  I think of something I need to ask you or want to tell you and reach for the phone, but then suddenly realize that you won't be there to answer.

      Life sometimes seems long while we're living it, but looking back it all went by too quickly.  Our family had some great times and so often it was you coordinating it all.  We never lacked for anything.  Food was always on the table at mealtimes.  Our house was a home where all my friends were made to feel welcome.  You were like a second mother to many of my friends as well as the friends of all of your children.

      Now the living room of your old house is still and silent.  There is rarely activity in your kitchen.  The furniture was all taken out last weekend with few traces of a home that once was bustling with people coming and going.   You reigned like a queen and indeed you were the queen of that house.  

       That house will soon be sold and only be another part of my memory and the memories of your children.   Happy times and sad times in the shadowed corridors of our personal histories.   We will remember and pass the memories to our children who also remember from their own experiences.

        Mother, you shaped lives and created a home that may no longer exist in a physical tangible place where we can be,  but will continue to exist nevertheless as a place of comfort, warmth, and safety in our memories.

         I love you, Mom, and I miss you.

                    In Memory of Lois K Jackson

                                    April 11, 1929 -- November 21, 2014

Saturday, November 14, 2015

El Cumbanchero (from the Soundtrack of My Life)

      Have you ever imagined living your life with a soundtrack playing through key scenes?   Do certain songs evoke special moments or eras in your past?  This is what I've been doing with my "Soundtrack of My Life" series of posts:  Looking back and putting my life to music.

       Robin has been doing the Soundtrack of my Life posts on her blog Your Daily Dose.      I had done a few of my own "life soundtracks" on my Tossing It Out blog as well as the song series (starting at this post) I did for my 2014 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge on Wrote By Rote.    Be sure to visit and follow Your Daily Dose  for more Life Soundtrack info.

A set of juggling clubs.
A set of juggling clubs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

"El Cumbanchero"

        For effect you can listen to the music as you read the story below.

"El Cumbanchero"

           My earliest memories of music are the ones that involve the musical backing for my parents juggling act.  When they performed they had live music.  This was the performance norm in the 1950's.   Any nightclub that provided entertainment had a house band.   Stage show productions assembled union musicians to play the dates.

          A professional act had to provide orchestral scores to the musicians if they wanted music back up.  My father bought sheet music copies for a number of different instruments and eventually even went to the expense of hiring a professional to orchestrate some of the songs they used for their acts.  All of the music was neatly organized into folders for each section of the orchestra.   He was ready for a small combo or a big band--whatever the producers had provided for the acts.

          Early on for my parents passing act they used songs like "Fine and Dandy" and "Happy Days Are Here Again".   But my father wanted to create a perception of greater speed for an act where fast juggling was becoming what they were most noted for.  They had developed an exciting act and wanted the music to match.

         Though Latin music had been popular for decades, the fifties saw a surge in popularity of the Latin rhythms of the cha-cha, rumba, mambo and many other snappy percussive styles.   The bands of Perez Prado, Xavier Cugat, and Desi Arnaz were well known to American audiences.  This music did not slip past my father's ears as music ideal for fast juggling.

           "El Cumbanchero" was a gold standard song of circus acts and entertainers looking for fast rhythms to back up what they were performing.  The song was quite popular during the 1950's appearing on many albums and released as a single by many artists.  I'm not sure when my parents first started using "El Cumbanchero", but I believe it may have been around 1957.  The song became a staple performance song for the Juggling Jacksons duo act and then later for our four people act.  Due to the fast paced excitement of the song it was used as the grand finale number for the fastest part of the act.

         Sometimes the strains of "El Cumbanchero" echo in my mind as I recall the clap clap rhythm of juggling clubs flying among my family members slapping firmly into our hands.  The driving rhythms made us want to pass the clubs faster and harder.  If it was exciting for us I can only imagine the excitement the viewing audience must have felt.  The applause during the performances and the accolades heard afterwards indicated that the audience enjoyed what they saw when we performed.

           There are several songs that we, the Juggling Jacksons, used in our act, but "El Cumbanchero" is one that stands out most for me.  Not only did I hear the song repeatedly as a child watching my parents perform, but it became my soundtrack feature song when I became part of the juggling act.  Even now I'm juggling in my mind as I listen to the frantic strains of "El Cumbanchero".  

           Have you heard the song "El Cumbanchero" before?    Is there any particular memory or situation that you associate with Latin rhythmic music?    Is there a certain song that you would associate with a work situation in your own life?

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Bali Hai --The Soundtrack of My Life

      Robin has been doing the Soundtrack of my Life posts on her blog Your Daily Dose. I had done a few of my own "life soundtracks" on my Tossing It Out blog as well as the song series (starting at this post) I did for my 2014 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge on Wrote By Rote. Be sure to visit and follow Your Daily Dose for more Life Soundtrack info. 
"Bali Hai"

       After the film version of the musical South Pacific was released in early 1958, my parents took my sister and I to see it in the theater.  They also bought the vinyl LP version of the soundtrack. It was an album that I listened to frequently when I was a child.  I was most drawn to the haunting sound of the song "Bali Hai".   This mysterious sounding song made me think of places that I'd like to go one day as well as places I'd been that stood out in my memory.  The lure of that certain special place is something that is likely common with all of us.

        Here is a version of the song as played by a "10l Strings" style orchestra.  I'm not quite sure if this is the original 101 Strings Orchestra that released so many albums over the years, but if not, this version is certainly close to it.  My mother used to have several albums by the 101 Strings Orchestra and other similar groups.   This recording I present here might be the same one that I used to listen to or at least close to it.

The Bali Hai Lure of Adventure and Experience

          My spirit for adventure was inspired by my father.  He was always ready for a road trip or to go visit someone.  We used to go to movies, circuses, unique attractions--wherever my father's sense of curiosity drew him.   If he wanted to meet someone he would make every effort to make contact and usually it worked.  Often when visiting circuses or other similar entertainment venues he'd get us free access by explaining that we too were entertainers.   Good for his pocketbook and great for our being able to experience more.

         The lure of the unknown, the exotic, and the interesting has always been within me.  Even my own backyard was a place of adventure ready for me to explore or invent new forays into my imagination.   Moving to San Diego in 1959 delivered me to a young boy's dream.  I was 8 years old went we first arrived.  The vast tract neighborhoods were new and still under development.  The canyons near our house were still wild, a veritable wonderland for a boy's imagination.

         My sister, my friends, and I would spend hours of summer days exploring those canyons.  An abandoned old ranch house with debris scattered about the yard was a draw for us though we were cautious about entering the structure.  I made up stories in my mind about who might have lived there.  For me the spirits of Indians who had once dwelt in those canyon lands seemed to be all around us.

         Once we had bicycles our ability to explore the neighborhood and the communities surrounding us increased even more.  Any concern about kids being out on the streets was not particularly on most parents minds and we as kids felt little fear about our safety.  It was a different world then.  We exploited our freedom to the extreme and life was fun and free.

          The thrill of exploration and discovery continued into my adult life with adventures in hiking, camping, and long drives.  This was expanded even further for me once I started working on the road.  My travels allowed me so many opportunities to see places and meet people that would have been unlikely if I'd been tied down to a normal type job in one place.

          How many "Bali Hai's" I've been to in my life is something of which I have lost count.  And more wait for me.   There are places to which I'd like to return as well as places I haven't been to yet but would like to visit one day.   One Bali Hai?   Not one but many.   The world is such a vast and varied place.  The song "Bali Hai" plays in the background as I gaze upon pictures of exotic places and run my fingers along the highways on the maps in my road atlas.

           Bali Hai is calling me.  It always will until the day I leave this Earth.  Then maybe I will reach that ultimate Bali Hai.

           Do you have a special "Bali Hai" that lures you?   Is there a special place that you've been that stands out in your memory?   What is it that constitutes your concept of a Bali Hai type of place?