Saturday, January 08, 2005

Good word

"The last word in lonesome is me."

--Roger Miller

Friday, January 07, 2005

Good word

"No one ever died saying, I wish I'd spent more time by myself."

--Drew Pinsky

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Yee haw

My stepmother's dad, Wayne, is head of security at the "Grand Ole Opry," and he often scores me tickets when I travel home to Nashville. This thrills me: I love the show in all its retrograde glory. Some of the stars may not have had a hit since the first Nixon administration, but frankly, I'd rather hear Jean Shepard sing "Wabash Cannonball" than most anything sung by the likes of whoever they're playing on mainstream country radio these days.

At first it looked like an "Opry" show wouldn't be in the cards this holidays. But a nasty winter storm changed our travel plans, so we were in Music City on Christmas. That was a Saturday, and there was indeed an "Opry" broadcast that night. Wayne invited Ereck and me to come on down to the Opry House.

It was my most exciting visit to the "Opry" ever. We were on the comp list for parking, and we got to use the artists' entrance. After we arrived, we milled about the dressing area and rubbed shoulders with the likes of Porter Wagoner and Jeannie Seely. Bluegrass legend Jesse McReynolds said hi, and "Opry" announcer Hairl Hensley looked at me as he got stuff out of his locker.

At last it was time for the show to begin, and Wayne took us to the stage, where for a time we sat on pews behind the drum kit. These always look from the auditorium to be the best seats in the house, but in fact the sound is not good back there. So we weren't able to fully appreciate the opening performances by Seely, Jack Greene and country up-and-comers Pinmonkey. After a time, though, Wayne moved us out front, where we saw performances by Wagoner, Shepard, Jim Ed Brown, the Osborne Brothers and Australian newcomer Sherrie Austin, among others.

It was a fabulous show, and it recharged my country-music batteries. The "Opry" moves so quickly and so smoothly, and the smoothness is epitomized by its--you'll pardon the expression--unsung heroine, Carol Lee Cooper, who leads the quartet of backup vocalists that accompanies many artists. The Carol Lee Singers are effortlessly polished, and I have fantasized about joining their ranks. (I was delighted, the day before yesterday, to learn that my mom has entertained the same fantasy.)

But as always, my favorite part of the show was the Opry Square Dancers, the troupe of young cloggers who bring to the "Opry" a considerable amount of sex appeal. These dances are tremendously exciting, and they make me wish I could clog.

Good word

"This is what liberal education is. It is the education that prepares us to be free men. You have to have this education if you are going to be happy; for happiness consists in making the most of yourself."

--Robert M. Hutchins
The spirit hits me

I'm not particularly religous, but dang if Red Foley's 1950 recording of "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" isn't the most beautiful piece of music I've ever heard.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Talking head

I get a little discouraged when I look at the grey at my temples, but then I think about that CNN hottie Anderson Cooper, and I am comforted. Grey is beautiful. So are Prada suits.
Not bad

I had only one family member in jail this Christmas, and he actually got out that day.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

All's well

After a week visiting our families in Nashville and Knoxville, I was ready to come home. Not that I didn't enjoy myself. I had a nice time, in fact, and the nicest part of all was that after several years when the holidays filled me with dread and apprehension, this time Christmas was merely pleasant.

But the drive from Knoxville to Madison is a bitch. It takes about twelve hours under the best of circumstances, and that's a lot for one day, even for two drivers. (I once did the drive by myself; I'm not sure how.) Nevertheless, by the time we miraculously passed through Chicago without hitting any traffic, I was starting to relax. It was about 8:00 p.m.

Rain was falling when we got on the Northwest Tollway toward Rockford, then stopped briefly at the Des Plaines oasis. (You initiates: in Illinois, an oasis is a highway rest stop where you can buy stuff.) As we pulled in, I heard a strange sound coming from some part of the car. I decided it wasn't serious. But when we pulled back onto the tollway, the sound became more pronounced: whump whump whump whump. I pulled off at the next exit and drove into a gas station, where I looked at the left rear tire. A piece of thick metal wire was sticking out, and now I heard this sound: ssssssssssssssssssssssss.

It was a flat. Actually, the tire wasn't flat when we pulled in, but after a few minutes it certainly was. Fortunately (I never thought I'd say that), last summer I ran over a screw that deflated a tire while my truck sat in the driveway, so I knew exactly what to do. The mechanisms for changing a tire on my truck are actually quite ingenious: the jack that fits under an axle, the spare tire that descends on a cord from under the bed. Not that I was in any mood to appreciate these things.

But as I worked under the brightly lit shelter, I thanked the universe over and over for letting it be there that I was changing the tire, not the dark, wet (did I mention intensely windy?) shoulder of the tollway.

Do you know how to change a flat on your car?