Sunday, August 23, 2015


  I love books. I have read most of my life. I read for fun and I read for knowledge. As I've gotten older I don't read as much fiction and I read mostly on my Kindle Fire where I can adjust the font and the lighting to my aging eyes. Still, I've often said that I don't know how a person forms a world view if they never read. I started out with comic books and ghost stories that I would order from my Weekly Reader. Sports stories and also mystery. I was never great at math or science. But, reading? It came natural to me. English? Sentence structure? Not so much. But, actually reading the words? They flowed. Always have for some  reason.

If you have ever read my blabbing on this blog then you know I love classic rock and even throw in some country. Some jazz and blues and gospel. But, I also have a secret about "rock stars." Authors have always been in some way my "rock stars." Yep, King and Straub and Lewis and Peck. Thurber and Rice and Oats and Koontz. Many more be they steady or one hit wonders. :-) So, it was with interest that I came upon a "list of bets books" on the internet. Oh, I knew I would not like most of em. Here's another little secret. Most of what passes for great literature in the English speaking world is dry, boring and pretentious. I remember having to read "Great Expectations" for a Lit class back in the day. I remember thinking to myself "If I didn't already love to read, this would kill it!" But, as usual I digress. :-)  So, here are some of my favorite books over the years. Both fiction and non fiction. Of course I don't include (although, they  really helped solidify my reading) Batman or Superman or XMen or Thor or Archie or countless other works of great literature (comic books of my youth) But, they have a special place in my heart. :-)

1. Salem's Lot...Stephen King: I read this a long time ago and really fell into the story. To me the town and the characters were what drew me in. Vampires? Well, yeah I was a big fan of all things that go bump in the night. But, I was living in a small southern town and this small town in New England just really resonated with me. The dude shooting rats at the town dump. The well meaning all around town employee finding the remains of a dog at the cemetery. The kids daring each other to go into the abandoned house which was surely haunted. The quiet writer falling in love with the small town girl. The priest and the haunted father diving into the  grave of his son who was one of the first victims of the vampires. My young head was (as you can see from the memory of the book) immersed for days in this story.

2. The Stand...Stephen King: Yeah, I know. With me if it's rock then it's Eagles and if it's  books then it's King. What can I say? See above about characters for the reason I loved this one.

3. Mystery Walk: Robert Mccammon: I remember thinking that Robert Mccamnon did for the south some of what Stephen King did for New England. This one from the early 80's was a story of a healer and a supernatural battle taking place in Alabama and also reaching Chicago and from what I remember was a lot of fun. I immersed myself in this one.

4. Interview with the Vampire...Ann Rice: This one came out in 1976. My senior year. The characters reminded me of people I knew. Also, what red blooded American boy hasn't fantasied about being a vampire? All the power and hold over women? The girls that wouldn't talk to you otherwise? Eternal life and being able to party forever?

Honorable mention:

Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, whose self-help book THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED and especially People of the Lie really made an impression writes a (in my memory from reading it so long ago) really moving and spiritual account of a nursing home. I honestly don't remember that much about it except that it moved me back then and I never forgot having read it.

The Abyss...Jere Cunningham: Written in the late seventies or early eighties. I don't actually remember much about this one. Chances are you've never heard of this or the author. But, if memory serves it was about a small southern town and the horror was set in a coal mine. Living in Altoona, Alabama (small southern coal mining town) might have something to do with why I remember reading this. It's also why my memory puts it way to high on this list. ;-)

Non Fiction:

1. Devil in the White City..Erik Larson: This one revolves around the Chicago Worlds Fair of 1893 and possibly the first know American Serial Killer H.H. Holmes. This isn't a serial killer book but rather a book about the upcoming turn of the century. The killer is interspersed with the story of invention and change that was first evident at that time and place. Chicago is wonderfully rendered and the first Ferris Wheel and other 19th century inventions are front and center. This reads like a fast paced novel and a history of the late 19th century. Highly recommended.

2. People of the Lie...M. Scott Peck: This was written in the early eighties. I was a young man starting to wrestle with my faith. Surely, intelligent people didn't still believe in things like spiritual evil or eternal goodness. Then along comes a very intelligent psychiatrist with a very revealing account of his own journey from hardened materialist to believer that we are on a spiritual as well as physical journey. This book talked of human and demonic evil. Not from a religious tract point of view. But, from a boots on the ground human experience.

3: Hostage to the Devil..Malachi Martin: This book scared me to death. Seriously, don't read this one unless you pray, meditate, surround yourself with light. I know that sounds really serious and even silly coming from a skeptical person. But, this one was intense. Not sensational but really serious. Father Martin was a Catholic Priest. A Jesuit I believe. His account of actual slow and steady demonic possession of five ordinary people is riveting. Thing is this isn't some "well they walked past a seance or insulted a Gypsy." This is really a serious account from someone who takes the subject seriously. No Green Pea Puke in this one boys and girls.

4. The Great Divorce: C.S. Lewis: Yeah I know. Including a book by C.S. Lewis from those of us who were a little intellectual and raised in the church. It's kind of like linking to a George Takei post on facebook these days. :-) But, this is a great book and it really had an effect on the way I viewed heaven and hell. Not because I agree with all of it. I don't. But, because it has a ring of truth to it. These people are on a bus trip from hell to spend a day on the outer reaches of heaven. But, they are so caught up in their own self righteousness or lust or hate or loss that they don't realize that they are in hell. Nor do they realize the outskirts of heaven. Good stuff here. Non fiction? Well, it kind of fits.

So, anyway there are many more books that I could list. There are even some that I like more than the ones I have listed. But, these had an effect and I thought I'd share.


Friday, August 14, 2015

58 years! I have grown up with people who are now 58 or approaching 58 or 59 and even 60. The youngest of the baby boomers! That's us. We grew up on rock and roll and t.v.. We lived through Vietnam and Watergate. A president was murdered in our childhood. A man walked on the moon. I remember something as I toss and try to sleep. A picture in the paper as 1969 was giving way to 1970. Back then there was a little cartoon in the paper depicting "Baby New Year" and the "Old year."

 Baby New Year of 1970 was fresh and ready to take over. But, as old man 1969 walked off stage he tossed (sorry, it's been a long time ago and my memory isn't perfect. But, it was something like this) Anyway, he tossed a look back over his shoulder at a headline: Man walks on the Moon! "Beat That" says old man 1969 to Baby New Year 1970 as he continues off stage!

Beat That! Gotta be a way to beat that says my young self as I ponder  the state of my life. I live for 16 years in the same neighborhood and "she divorces him" and I find myself in this little coal mining town finishing up my high school years and full of anger and angst. Graduation coming up and I'll get out of here. Out of here. I do have to admit that there are perks to this little town. The grass is so green and the sky so blue and...But, I hate it, hate it, hate it! I'm going to go out and get blasted for the first time in my life after graduation. I know it's wrong. I well, I pray a lot and my grandmother is so religious and I feel really guilty but...

Hey kid! Why don't you stop worrying so much! Although, I admit you might be right not to totally be comfortable with drinking or getting blasted! Oh, if that were the only time and the only thing..but, years are coming and you will sleep through most of them.

Now, am I dreaming? At 58 or 59? Am I young or old? who is this kid? Old man? Anyway, I wish I could tell him...But, "he's" to self involved to listen. Hey, kid! Yeah, be proud of that hair :-) The reason you hate barbers so much? Well, right now it's just simply that you don't like getting hair cuts. But, you will miss it one day too. Maybe, on some level you know that...

19 years....I am faster than I've ever been in my life. I feel like I could run everywhere I go. Hey, look mister. Why are you so worried? "Thinking to myself that I wouldn't be worried at his age." :-) After all, how many years can he have left? Old people! Just chill! Now me! I'm young and I have time.

What does an 18 or 19 year old have to worry about kid? Hah, you don't know much of anything yet! But, I wish I could tell you something Kid.

I'd tell you something old dude if I really gave a crap that is...Why I'd tell you:

Life is too short to worry so much! It passes so quickly. Sometimes, you just need to breathe. Take a risk. Talk to her anyway...Take your family on a vacation...Stop worrying. After all it's time to live a little.

Okay, let's stop talking at the same time. Your older so go ahead tell me what you have learned....I may be young but I can tell you are just dying to "preach at me." Go ahead!

Well, first off. You need to really look at your grandparents. I know, but really. Granddaddy has lived hard. Worked in coal mines and came though the depression. Alcohol has taken a toll but it isn't "who or what" he is.  Really look! Talk to him and even get out of you own ass long enough to give him a hug and some little bit of your "so important" time.

Your grandmother. Remember her telling you that her family was "Shanty Irish" when her daddy was young? You never listen to her stories though do you? Do you know there is more to her than being a religious person? Do you also realize in the coming years how much those fanatic prayers will sustain you in your own moments when you are talking to God yourself? Really look at her. Give her a hug. Look at people! Wake up!

Stop selling yourself so short! Stop living other peoples expectations of you. Stop living others religion and others sense of beauty and prejudice. Look at yourself! No, really look. Wake up!

Well, okay mister...But, let me tell you something! You have a family. You have a wife that actually cares what you do and where you go. You have a son! Part of you. Blood and genes and life that you have a part of. Life is short and you have a chance to enjoy this part of it! You still have pretty good health. Although, you need to stop being a glutton at the table. Dang dude! You put it away! Sorry about your hair though! But, really mister. Wake Up! Live and stop worrying so much about what other people think. What are you 65 or so? I mean I don't know if I'll ever get that old. Sorry, that wasn't polite. But, Oh, only 58! Well sorry, but at my age all you older people look like my parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles. But, really. Wake up! Relax.

I'll tell you something else young need to go ahead and decide. Go to Gadsden State and take some classes. You can work and take classes.Did you know if you join the Air Force right now that you could retire before 40 years old and start another career if you wanted to that is. Meet people, relax. Live!

Also, stop worrying. Yeah, there is a "God" maybe not the angry old man that you are so afraid will strike you down for that "skin magazine" you hid under your uncles house the other day. How do I know? I know a little. That first ever cigarette really made you light headed didn't it? Yeah, she does smoke and she is sexy. Well, guess what? Her opinion of you isn't the most important thing in life. Look around. Live a little. It goes by way to fast and you have your own head way to far up your own butt!

Live a little. Breathe. Don't stop talking to God even when the people around you think you must be nuts. It'll help you keep your sanity. It's also a big part of who you are. Always has been. Gets a little harder once you put aside the religious certainty. But, still...

Go to that Kiss concert in Birmingham. Oh well, you say that you don't like feeling like the third wheel so let Ricky and Deborah go. Well, Okay but you will really regret not going to more concerts!

Take your family to the beach...Hey, you live within 4 hours well, 6 the way you drive. But go ahead. Live a little.

One  more thing kid...This little slice of hell? You will look back one day and really miss these green hills and that blue sky. No, you shouldn't stay here. But, you should look around a little bit. Hell? Well, let's just say that word might not mean what you think it does. ;-)


Now: I gotta get going. Weird dreams and crazy thoughts and it's 3:30 and man what my thoughts get up to on these nights I can't sleep..Thinking about my youngoldyoungoldyoung...myself. Gotta finish out this year and get to the future. After all I'm young and it's early....get to work after all the I have responsibilities and I'm not young,old, young. these days.

And you, of the tender years can't know the fears that your elders grew by,
And so please help them with your youth, they seek the truth before they can die.
Teach your parents well, their children's hell will slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams, the one they fix,the one you'll know by.
Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you....Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young


Sunday, August 2, 2015

All I Ever Have to Be!

  Back in the eighties. I believe it was the very late seventies to the early eighties but honestly whats 2 or even 5 years in relation to 35 or so? It's been a minute as some of my younger social work colleagues say. I was really a fan of Amy Grant. What? Ya mean my little Foghat, Eagles, Queen, FleetwoodMac Loving self? Amy Grant? Well, yeah. I loved her acoustic stuff. Also, I was trying after several lost years to find myself and going though a very religious search. Loved her enough that I even went to a concert at the BJCC by myself to see her. One of the songs that stayed with me is "All I Ever Have to Be."

"When the weight of all my dreams is resting heavy on my head."

Young and full of young adult hopes and also young adult post teen angst. I just thought if "only" I had that opportunity, that girl, that job. I was hopeless, depressed and just wanted somebody to tell me what to do.

"And the thoughtful words of help and hope
Have all been nicely said"

Oh, yeah. Do this and God will love you. Say that and people will respect you. Get a job, cut your hair, Act your age. But mainly, just walk like a man.

"  But I'm still hurting, wondering if I'll ever be the one
I think I am - I think I am"

It just didn't really work. I knew that I needed to "change." I just didn't know how. I saw one person when I looked out of my eyes and in the mirror. But, the world must have seen somebody else. Seemed that way at the time.

" Then you gently re-remind me
That You've made me from the first
And the more I try to be the best
The more I get the worst"

Took me years to get this one. I don't and never did have to "improve" to catch anybody else. All I had to be was the best me I could be. The only person I had to catch up to and even pass was the person in the mirror.

"And I realize the good in me is only there because of who You are
Who You are..."

I finally started to feel that if I am a part of the creative mind of the universe then I am worthy. I should be humbled by the human experience. Because we are so lustful, warlike and greedy. But, I should be proud because in the midst of all that we are kind, compassionate and all in this together. In the midst of a funeral or another tragedy I still see God. I still see hope. I still see a plan, not always a comfortable plan. Not even always a good plan from my perspective. :-)

 "And all I ever have to be is what You've made me
Any more or less would be a step out of Your plan
As you daily recreate me help me always keep in mind
That I only have to do what I can find"

I had a friend at a church that I attended before and when I met my wife. Wonderful person but he had boundless energy and loved to meet and play music and worship. Thing is he would wear you out when you came in the door. Did you go to this fellowhip? that concert? Heard this song? I had another friend there who was so together looking. This guy was young, beautiful, smart and had a hunger for God. While I was aging and yet still young enough to think "Wow, I could never be that holy if I looked like he looks and could just walk into a bar and pick up girls." Finally, I had to just realize that I didn't have to be energetic or more holy than the next guy. I just had to find myself. My balance.

" And all I ever have to be
All I have to be
All I ever have to be is what You've made me"....Amy Grant

Disclaimer here: For all my post about religion and how I'm not religious. For all my beliefs (and I honestly do mean it) that it doesn't matter what religion or no religion you are. For all the times that I cringe when conservative Christians try to make God and Christ out to be blued eyed American conservatives. I have to say this.

Yes, I know my source of my being lives. Better to say I live in the source of my being. Yes, I do believe he put on human flesh and participated in the dance of life. Yes, I do believe there is a reason for life and death and there is an eternal observer to all of it. He/She/Source,Holy Spirit gives me hope. The Christian message of God become flesh is (to me) the very height of divine love.

But then again, I don't have to convince anybody else do I? All I ever have to be is what he (with my help or hindrance) is making me.