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K-Tel vs Amazon… and the Winner Is?

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Capitol record club

Those were the days my friend…

OK, dammit I’ll admit it… it really gets under my skin when people talk about the “good old days”.

Good old days… Did you mean those good old days of cruel slavery and gruesome world wars and where women were unable to vote or own property?

Hmmmm… are we talking about the REAL “Good Old Days” or “New Age Trump days”?

Good old days was one of my Dad’s favourite expressions and I often hear it today when I’m in the company of the elder generation (notice how I’m carefully avoiding placing myself in this category… you know… VANITY is my name!)

I’ll know I’ve crossed the Rubicon to advanced Seniordom (SeniorDUMB?) when I believe that ALL things in the world were better when I was younger. Canned peas definitely were NOT a positive feature of my childhood dinners.

C’mon, every day is fresh and new and has the wide-eyed capacity to be a good day, or sometimes bad. Let’s face it, there are days of exhausting trial.

There are so many exceptionally positive things about the world of 2018 compared to, say, the world of 1918 (speaking of world wars).

Under the category of not better but different makes me search through my inner hard drive for some stuff that was popular in my young days and is now defunct, non-visible, like, gone… gone… gone.

I cast back in my memory banks wondering whatever happened to Capital Record Company, or K-Tel, or Book-of-the-Month Club.

In my 1960’s and ’70’s early youth, I loved all of those companies.

What a delight I’d feel, almost like a Christmas morn awakening, when I opened a cardboard mailing package containing a monthly LP record by Three Dog Night (“One is the loneliest number….), or peeling the plastic covering off K-Tel’s 40 Greatest Beach Hits of 1969… or a brand new shiny hardcover edition of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.

three dog night

It felt like the planet had delivered the Science-Fiction model of humanity that Montreal’s Expo 67 promised visitors with its motto, Man and His World.

The Jetson’s maybe wasn’t just a cartoon. Good dog Astro!

Further, whatever happened to daily milk truck delivery or eggs, or potato chip or soda pop or orange juice deliveries, all brought by separate delivery truck?

It was crazy the stuff that could be trundled up my street by some middle-aged family man (or woman, we had an egg lady) in an old delivery truck. We never locked our house so they could deposit their goods inside the door.

These were iconic entities of my youth along with the one-armed Fuller Brush man who’d regularly appear at our door, or the knife-sharpening guy who walked up the road ringing a handbell and dragging a pull cart.

But best of all for us kids, was the Good Humor Truck, more affectionately known as the YUMMY MAN.

Yup, the ice cream truck with its sing-song jingle and its heavy insulated doors that hid the delectable Strawberry Shortcakes and Buried Treasures and Tiger Stripes.

He’d open one of those doors and big wafts of ice-cold clouds poured out while he reached in for our precious jewels of creamy sweetness.

good humor truck.jpg

Over the decades we lost these services as bigger and bigger grocery chains took control over the shopping experience with lower and lower prices and the convenience factor that put most of our daily needs and wants in one spot.

Gone was the need to traipse from the baker to the butcher to the dairy, the megastore had them all.

Truck-to-door delivery service wilted away like autumn frostbitten flowers… but much like clothing fashion that circles back around… the Phoenix has arisen from the ashes and we now have…

… a return to the past with home delivery of millions of products by the likes of Amazon and Best Buy and grocery stores and hundreds of others online.

The good old days we hear about have returned with steroidal gusto…

The crazy busy, the telecommuters and agoraphobics of the world have found a sweet spot where they really never need leave their safe houses.

Want to watch a movie tonight? Easy-peasy, just order from Apple or Netflix. You can lie back in bed, wireless iPad linked in, while the pizza boy delivers your intermission snack right to your comfy bedside.

The world will once again come to you with low prices and free delivery. Eggs and milk and books and music (oh, did someone mention PORN?) are available in a flash and a click.

Soon enough the Gen X’ers and Gen Y’ers and Millennials will be looking back in their rearview memory mirrors and reflecting fondly on their good old days just as every generation before has done.

It’s the Circle of Life where everything old becomes new again and the world wakes up from its humble slumber and forges off to work newly dressed in a shiny tech-happy wrapper.

From time to time in my nostalgic moments, I find myself wondering why songwriters and musicians don’t make music of the quality they used to, you know, like in the good old days?

But know what? I’m kidding myself even there. I’ve paused at the edge of the Rubicon, not quite ready to make the crossing.

In my youth there was only one Three Dog Night.

Today, there are dozens, hundreds… thousands of musicians and songwriters as good as or better than Three Dog Night…

Yes, these ARE the good days my friend…

Good-old-days

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I Do Stupid Things

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Dumb and dumber.jpg

Everything was fine until I did something stupid.

Isn’t it always that way?

We looked first-class as we entered the east-end restaurant where her friends and classmates had gathered.

It was a fun evening with hoots of laughter and discussions of the ordeals and traumas and goofy occurrences that happen when a group of young people have shared time together for four years.

Long ago in a galaxy far far away…. her high school graduation and prom. I was her date.

Her short, dark brown hair pulled into an up-do, she looked artistically lovely in a flowing amethyst dress and I looked late-teenager handsome(-ish) in a late 1970’s kind of way. It was a toss-up of who had the longer locks that evening.

The night passed, we drank Labatt’s 50 beer (I was legal, she may not have turned 18 yet) and danced to a DJ, and then after the “prom” we adjourned to her friend’s basement rec room for the “all-nighter party”.

Angela was cute. We had a fun night. I liked her. Friends. That’s all.

boy and girl shake hands

This is where the stupid part comes in.

We had been chummy for a few years while working evening and weekend shifts at our local McDonalds. She was a friend and classmate (at the nearby Catholic high school) of the girl I had a mad love for – the one I had taken to my own grad a year earlier – and who had dumped me a couple of months earlier.

As the all-nighter party approached morning and the excited momentum of the evening quietly slowed into an adagio, I could feel the devastating disappointment in her eyes… disappointment that all her girlfriends were making out with their dates… but we weren’t.

And so, as the sun rose – against my best judgment, and while paradoxically trying to make her feel better – I made out with her sans feelings of attachment or sensual desire.

“Made out” in the sense that no clothes were shed but lips touched. Maybe a breast was fondled, I honestly don’t remember now.

We drove down her street in my old tawny-toned Rambler American as daylight settled over the cool dew glistening on the lawns of her neighbourhood.

She was giddy and blissfully happy when I left her at her parents’ front door.

I felt crappy inside knowing the love in her eyes didn’t catch a similar reflection back from mine.

She had a major crush on me that lasted for a couple of years afterwards that I never reciprocated… at least after that one night.

In today’s parlance, I “ghosted” her.

And to show you how stupidity isn’t always a one-off, I did a similar thing with another amiable young lady when I moved to Yellowknife a year or two later. That time, clothes were shed.

Stupid.

Some things are plain old Stupid-dumb.

Some things are Stupid-hurtful.

Angela was Stupid-hurtful. I’m sorry Angela.

Minions stupid.jpg

And stupid-hurtful isn’t just something we do to others. Sometimes it’s self-inflicted.

… stupid-hurtful like… I blame myself for my Mom’s early death at age 60. I can’t leave behind the internal message that if I’d known CPR or artificial respiration, she might have breathed long enough, might have had a heartbeat long enough for an ambulance ride into the skilled hands of a real doctor. Her heart health wasn’t my responsibility as a 15 year-old, but a basic CPR course may have given me more time with her.

That’s stupid-hurtful to me, and yet at 2 a.m. I can’t shake the bastard thought despite it being nonsensical.

Some things are plain old stupid-dumb.

… stupid-dumb like… to keep my McDonalds job as a pimply teenager, I wore a wig… a short-haired wig that kept my non-corporate-conforming shoulder-length locks from the critical eyes of management.

… stupid-dumb like… as a 12 year-old, I cooked fried rice for my family’s traditional Sunday night dinner… clink tinkle tinkle… those are the sounds of hard rice landing on dishware when you don’t boil the rice in water first before frying.

… stupid-dumb like… as a student lab intern, reporting test results that had the potential to kill an unborn baby had an astute surgeon not called my lab supervisor for confirmation of my calculations before making the first cut into the Mom’s abdomen.

… stupid-dumb like… walking off the edge of an elevated deck in my yard where I had removed the stairs for renovation just a day earlier.

… stupid-dumb like…

Well, you get the idea, right? Even Forrest Gump had it right: “Stupid is as stupid does

Stupid must have a weight attached to it because sometimes my head feels heavy.

For all of the things we forget in our worlds – and we all forget sooooo much – the stupid things have a way of indelibly ingraining themselves in our psyche, like burrs in deep grass.

It’s fascinating and maybe even infuriating that I struggle to see the cherubic faces, to hear the angelic voices of my young children at their many Christmas concerts and dance performances and basketball games, and yet, I can vividly see and feel the sharp ends of a projectile nail protruding from my 11 year-old leg while playing a dumb game with childhood friends.

Stupidity doesn’t play fair.

And somehow, when I search for a silver lining to my playbook, I reflect on the conclusion that stupidity is directly related to life lessons and humility because the end result of any stupid thing I’ve done has a positive rebound effect of making me more aware of my terminal ordinariness… taking me one baby step forward on the bumpy road to becoming humble and kind.

I wonder if Sir Isaac Newton understood a few centuries ago that a whole lot of stupid does the job of gravity, holding us firmly to the ground?

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These Are The Good Old Days…

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Carly Simon kinda summed it up way back in 1971 (before it became the Heinz Ketchup jingle) when she strummed and sang ANTICIPATION:

Stay right here…

…’cause these are the good old days”

 

Ah yes… the GOOD OLD DAYS

During my childhood, Dad frequently spoke warmly of the “Good Old Days“… halcyon times before electricity, before cars, before long-haired hippies.

… but Dad left out the parts about millions displaced and brutally killed during World War 1 and World War 2 and the Depression era… worries and tragedies.

dust-bowl-refugees.jpg

In my local Okanagan newspaper last week, celebrated Canadian author Jack Whyte wrote about the good old days of advertising when ads were so much more honest way back when…

… but Jack left out the parts about doctors advertising the health benefits of smoking and cartoon camels and singing DDT characters… sorry Jack, but this was honest advertising of a bygone era?

Bust enhancer  sugar-ads1.jpg DDT1.jpg smoking-ads11.jpg

And today we have Donald Trump mewling through angry pursed lips about making America great again. Seriously Donald?

… but Donald? Donald! Bad boy!

You left out the parts about… and I’m only scratching the surface here… about the good old days when we lived in a world of:

  • slavery and segregation
  • lack of women’s rights and the vote
  • no government pension, medical or welfare payments
  • the 1960 average North American lifespan was 68 (versus about 79-82 today)
  • North American infant mortality was 58 per 1000 in 1933 (6 per 1000 in 2010)
  • hand washing clothes
  • African women with a lifespan 16 years lower in 1960 than today
  • no fridges, freezers or microwave ovens in every home
  • women with no tampons or HRT
  • banks with long lines that closed tight by 4 pm Monday to Friday
  • no air conditioners
  • no seatbelts or airbags in cars
  • no open heart surgery, no diabetes treatment, no effective treatments for depressive and bi-polar disorders, no effective treatments for smallpox, tuberculosis, syphilis, whooping cough, and measles
  • nothing remotely resembling gay, religious, or aboriginal rights

You’re right Donald, I agree that those were the good old days.

But more importantly I say… BULLSHIT Donald!

bullshit

THESE are the good old days!

YOUR good old days were good because, like most of us, you selectively remember the untroubled sunny moments lying out on sandy beaches by the lake or ocean, the mouth-watering taste of Mom’s steaming apple pie, the fresh scent of Dad’s new gas-guzzling car.

These are all the faint, selectively sequestered memories of the wonderful, pleasant things that happened years ago. We all do this, remembering the positive times, the broad smiles, the cute giggles, the glories.

Selectively, most of us push aside memories of cruel bullying that occurred in schools, sexual molestations by creepy uncles, fears of barbaric dental visits, nasty horrible tastes of cod liver oil pushed down our throat by Mom, scary draft cards and eviction notices received in mailboxes.

Of course, good old days are much much easier to re-create and glorify when you’re male, white-skinned, wealthy, straight, or privileged in any way.

But regardless of our plights, all of us are living in the good old days right now because the good old days are a combination of a reality AND a fiction we create in our minds.

Tiny Tim Crachit and Oliver Twist lived in the (fictional) good old days in their better moments.

Adolf Hitler and Idi Amin and Pol Pot and Josef Stalin lived in the good old days.

Helen Keller and Anne Frank and Mother Theresa lived in the good old days.

You and I are living in the good old days today… the same as we were when we were children.

WRONG!

There NEVER were and there NEVER will be good old days.

EVERY day has always been good. EVERY day has always been bad.

Somewhere. For Someone.

YOUR chance, your choice. Every moment in life is a wonder or a catastrophe. Again, your chance, your choice.

Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl said:

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”

Good is a concept interpreted by every person individually.

Donald Trump has chosen to find despair and evil all around him despite the factual reality of humanity’s improvement in almost any realm.

Trump has chosen, and more heinously is using, the sad pessimist’s road that says yesterday will always be better than today.

LA-DI-DA Donald.

Never will this world be the Shangri-La, the perfection.

The epitome of heaven for every person on this planet will never exist.

EVERY day has always been good. EVERY day has always been bad.

Somewhere. For Someone.

But the bright optimists in our midst will always believe that sunshowers are a legal reason for skipping school and swaying, dancing in the rain.

I choose optimism.

I choose to believe, to know… that we’re living in the best of times, so I’m gonna dance bare-footed in the streets like no one’s watching…

Stay right here… 

…’cause these are the good old days”

 

dancing in the rain.jpg

Nostalgia In The Water…

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ironman1990.jpg

There was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide, just arms and legs violently slapping and punching into my head, my legs, my torso.

OMG, what am I doing?

Bedlam and panic ruled for 10 minutes that felt like an eternally long sleepless night before the dawn calmly re-established itself.

A thousand wetsuit-encased bodies thrashed and maneuvered like spawning salmon rushing upstream in claustrophobia for the first few hundred metres… Men, Women, Canadians, Americans, Germans, Japanese, Australians, Brits and so on, all attempting to move forward, immersed in the chilly dark waters of Okanagan Lake.

Raising my head above the roughly churning water, I gasped desperately for air, moving my arms in an unfamiliar breaststroke motion.

Attempting to efficiently freestyle swim wasn’t a possibility without adding to the chaos and physical harm of others.

Momentarily, I distracted myself from the hysteria by trying to guess how many of the swimmers around me were peeing into their wetsuits at that moment. Take a deep breath…

BANG. Oh Shit!

An arm crossed in front of my face and dislodged my goggles, water flooded in and my sightlines suddenly blurred as I coughed up a mouthful of unwanted water from my lungs. Please let me out of here before I drown!

……………………..

You’ll have to excuse me this morning but I’m feeling a bit nostalgic. Funny, isn’t it?

I’m at a time and age where significant events of my past occupy a significant part of my present moments, sweet fragrant flowers blooming over and over again for me to enjoy and savour.

Nostalgic?

Yup, I’m feeling nostalgic over suffering an anxiety attack for the first 10 minutes of an IRONMAN triathlon race that I swam, biked and ran in 26 years ago this weekend. I’ve spoken to many triathletes since that day and my experience of panic was and is a common one.

26.YEARS.AGO.

August 26, 1990.

I had plenty of dark hair, few wrinkles at 33 years of age, and well-defined quad and shoulder muscles.

Although I loved participating in most sports, I was never a great Olympic-style athlete, but here I was razor thin and fit beyond my own imaginings.

I was an ordinary everyday Joe doing something that at the moment felt unimaginable and extraordinary.

My now-grown kids were so little and dependent, wearing tiny cute T-shirts that said stuff like: “Iron BabyandIron Tyke“… Maureen should have been wearing an Iron Widow” shirt given the hours and hours I spent out on the roads training for a full year ahead of time.

Emma Iron Baby.jpg

My youngest Emma gets ‘psyched”…

In so many ways it seems like yesterday and yet I can see a whole generation of people have been birthed, grown up and been schooled, married, started jobs and families all inside that very time frame. And all those years somehow happened in the span of an Okanagan minute.

If anything should send me to the cliff’s edge of a panic attack, that knowledge alone should do it.

Nostalgia is a wonderful, happiness-inducing, but nonetheless bittersweet part of our humanness.

All of our sentimental, happy, heart-lifting moments are harmoniously stirred in a Mix Master with strains of melancholy sadness for times when others we loved – relatives, friends, pets – still inhaled the delicious wonder of the morning air and were a special part of our daily lives.

Inside our heads we hear long-gone voices and laughter, we smell a familiar perfume or cologne, we remember a kitschy expression used only by a grandparent or an aunt we loved.

Time and nostalgia are like ice cubes melting in our glass where we try to catch the best of the potential that exists inside.

Yet slowly and inevitably the energy dissipates until the last vestige of ice disappears and for a time we still enjoy the stimulating chill that fortified us but can never again be re-captured totally.

………………..

Touching the sandy lake bottom 3.8 k. and an hour and 18 minutes later, a brief sense of relief set in. The pressure and worry of the crowded swim portion was burned away in the early morning sunrise.

Strangely now – comically really – the only real pressure I felt settling my chilly bum onto my bike seat for a 180 k. ride through the sultry Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys was the need to hit the finish line ahead of Sister Madonna Buder from Spokane, Washington.

I’m not an uber-competitive person.

I compete to improve myself, not to better others… but I wasn’t going to allow Ms. Buder, aka the Iron Nun – 86 years-old now and still participating in triathlons, but a mere 60 in 1990 – break the finish line banner before me.

My sexist/ageist/secularist ego couldn’t handle that small measure of faux disgrace.

………………..

I’ve learned other life lessons along the way, but the ones that I’d look back and tell my twenty-something self now are: It’s not what you say, it’s what you do; don’t pay attention to how old you are, only focus on how old you feel; and be patient — one of my worst enemies is patience, I’m still trying to fine-tune it so that I’m able to stop and smell the roses.”

Madonna Buder

Madonna Buder.jpg

………………..

It was time now to settle into a rhythm on the bike ride that would last for over 5 hours, followed by a run of a similar time.

The hours passed by like minutes.

There were so many distractions along the way, from tossing used-up water/Gatorade bottles into hockey nets at the numerous Aid Stations, to interacting with other athletes along the route, to watching for salty urine spray coming from the rear bike tires of those who refused to stop at the side of the road and pee. What the…

Making the transition from the cycling motion of the bike to the running motion was like handing me a 50 lb. medicine ball and asking me to go for a light jog.

A quick massage (and the… ummm… surprise of the massage volunteer slipping her hand beneath my shorts to rub my weary gluteus muscles back into running form!) helped the transition go slightly less difficult.

Ironman 1990 Run Larry.jpg

But honestly – truly? – the highlight of the 5 hour marathon run along the shimmering afternoon waters of Skaha Lake was that amazing … sensational… joyful… moment when I closed in on, then passed, the Iron Nun and felt the elation of knowing that my young male ego would survive the long day intact.

The hours passed, I chatted with a panoply of painfully downtrodden as well as cheery runners, one foot ahead of the other plodding at a terribly slow but consistent pace. Amazingly supportive family and friends boosted my spirits throughout the long day.

Finally, I saw the sign at the side of the road: “1 Kilometre to finish line“.

That final kilometre coming into downtown Penticton, as the sun hugged the western horizon over the West Bench was where I lost any sensation of fatigue or pain and ran as if supernaturally possessed.

I had pushed my body for well over 13 hours but the endorphins flooded in, the euphoria pushed me at a pace I didn’t believe possible.

And then… then… the sight of the FINISH banner floating in the twilight haze in the near distance.

Spotlights blazed brightly, rhythmic music saturated the space around me, a huge cheering crowd and the familiar British-accented voice of announcer Steve King in the cozy, thick evening air beckoned me closer and closer to the welcoming light as if I were entering a rapturous near-death experience.

Ironman 1990

………………..

I’m always happy when I feel nostalgic.

Nostalgia means we’ve lived and loved and felt something deeply, memorably.

We should seek out and create the experiences in our lives that lead us both forward and backwards to nostalgia.

Then, when the endorphins fade from those special times, we can sit back with a big bag of popcorn and enjoy our own life movie.

To be laden with nostalgia is a gift, a wondrous Santa bag filled with joy and warmth that supports and sustains us in good times and bad.

It’s a gift we give ourselves even if we have to outrun a nun to get there.

 

 

We’re Only BIG Kids…

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“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
—Flannery O’Connor

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Sleep is the new …

Do you ever wake up with library stack volumes of penetrating thoughts, insightful ideas, nagging worries… racing around the Indianapolis Speedway in your head?

Of course you do. We all do. Some to far greater extents than others.

The Speedway motor sounds are far too deafening to catch any more sleep and the racing cars keep knocking over the sheep you were counting jumping a fence.

Once the green START flag is raised, you might as well hold up the white flag of surrender and give up on any further zzzz‘s for that night.

I spent a good couple of hours during my “sleep time” a couple nights back reflecting, thinking foggy mountain circles on what I might write about this week.

This is a bit unusual for me. Tap tap tap.

More typically a blog topic idea comes fairly quickly at the start of each week; something catches my eye or my quirky imagination and then it’s my job to whip out a trusty lasso and wrangle the thought, the image, the idea into submission.

After doing this a couple of hundred times now, it’s rarely that difficult to electrify bright luminescence from the light bulb floating above my head.

My ADHD mind winds along the railway tracks, surmounting craggy hills, plunging down through lush green valleys, then presses through some dense Coquihalla fog as my writerly passageway gathers momentum and fills with a multitude of varying tangents… investing, running and other exercise modalities, gardening, writing, music writing and guitar playing, building things, Kama Sutra positions.

I try to read a lot of varied articles and book chapters to stimulate my thoughts, procreating the idea sex that directs me somewhere useful from a blog writing perspective.

This week the idea train had difficulty finding the station. I know it seems impossible, there being guiding tracks and all – clickety-clack – but nonetheless I struggled. A minor case of writer’s constipation?

Where did I end up when the train finally did pull into the station?

No dead ends.

1960 playground

CHILDHOOD

Back to childhood thoughts.

Eager boyhood dreams filled with impressions and memories about the innocent playfulness and the reality of childhood, then gazing into the grown-up future and living, loving and working as a big person.

I was virginally green, wide-eyed.

I thought big people were infallible.

Always right.

All knowing.

To be totally trusted.

Kind of like human forms of the God I heard and sang hymns about in church. I could have been abducted so easily, but then… who would have wanted me, this cherubic little hockey-playing paperboy?

It never occurred to me until years later – and it came as a shocking surprise I have to add – that grown-ups were… really… wait for it… little kids in big people clothes. Yup.

I could have written that 1988 movie “BIG” that starred Tom Hanks (I’m still dying to get a floor model piano that you play by jumping with your whole body) as a kid in a man-sized body playing in an adult world.

It hit the nail on the head.

We’re kids still inside, fallible, and nervously wondering if we have the right answers to the test questions.

big piano

The grassy playground beside my elementary school, Glen Echo, was a precursor, a SimLife preview of grown-up reality charged with more responsibilities and worries.

Years passed by and I grew bigger and older but I was still hopeful little Larry Green running around on the green park grass chasing after the Lucy-held football like Charlie Brown… chasing after the cute little Red-Haired Girl looking for love and affection… chasing after good marks in Arithmetic and Social Studies that would please my teacher Mrs. Putns… chasing after the excited crowd on the playground circling around one of the bigger bullies beating the bloody-nosed tar out of some poor pint-sized kid… chasing after a few dollars from my Hamilton Spectator paper route so I could buy that beautiful shiny bike with the banana seat (I soooo loved my bike with the banana seat!)

banana seat.jpg

What a gorgeous banana seat!

One day we wake up in an office cubicle or behind a cash register or computer keyboard.

Now we’re the grown-up. (Cue Elton John’s Circle of Life!)

The expectation and belief that adult-life is, would, be perfection and all-knowing is long gone in the realization that the playground grass has wilted but the players are pretty much still the same. It’s not a bad thing, rather only an eye-opening observation that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

We spend our years in cycles, patterns that replay from childhood to grave.

Within those patterns from time to time we experience the very human but mysterious deja-vu sensation, a memory of a flower’s perfumed scent from summer camp, a flush of arousal reminiscent of a teenage kiss, a catchy song chorus that transports us to Grade 9 math class.

Forget Elton John, cast aside the Pride Rock scenario.

My BIG dream, once I finally fell asleep the other early morning was filled with another song.

Harry Chapin sang, “All My Life’s a Circle“,

All my life’s a circle;
Sunrise and sundown;
The moon rolls thru the nighttime;
Till the daybreak comes around.

All my life’s a circle;
But I can’t tell you why;
Season’s spinning round again;
The years keep rollin’ by.

It seems like I’ve been here before;
I can’t remember when;
But I have this funny feeling;
That we’ll all be together again.
No straight lines make up my life;
And all my roads have bends;

There’s no clear-cut beginnings;
And so far no dead-ends.

moon road

WTF! WAS it TRUTH or FICTION?

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false-memory-dilbert1.jpg

It’s all a lie.

We lie to ourselves without even trying.

Over the past few years there’s been lots of talk about False Memory Syndrome.

We’re swimming in a raging turbulent river of false memories – both in our personal stories and those that chronicle the entirety of humankind.

I’ve been reminded lately that what we “know” to be totally true from our younger years may just be a fractional truth with a good-sized dollop of “memory muscle on steroids”. False memory syndrome.

Remember the big house you grew up in? The one you visited again years later, and it’s much smaller than you recall?

My old home on Rainbow Drive in Hamilton sure is. How did 6 of us ever live together in that shoebox? How did my Dad ever squeeze an in-ground swimming pool into that tiny city lot?

Or the immensity and majesty of the horse you sat on for that now-yellowing photo taken by Mom, and how over the years the huge stallion where your legs didn’t quite reach the stirrups mysteriously transformed into a small pony.

We have a picture book of stories in our head, but is it reality, or the imaginings of a romantic mind?

mind images

Do you believe memories are real and trustworthy?

The second that a moment slips into our past, it becomes a malleable impression for kneading and manipulating by our inner interpreter.

Sure, obvious facts remain intact – the date and time of our birth, the names of our ancestors – but very quickly the steamy temperature of that humid August day in the Rockies and the whopping length of the fish that got away morph into a slippery new world of fiction.

How can I trust any collective knowledge we have about actual history? We constantly rewrite our own memories, and we constantly rewrite history. We see the past through the lens of our current, very personal, eyes.

When I was a schoolboy, explorer Christopher Columbus was a European hero who “discovered” North America and made my beautiful world possible. HAIL Columbus!

Somehow, while I was boyishly crushing on my pretty blond teacher Miss Taylor as she outlined Columbus’s glories at the front of my Grade 4 classroom, she left out that small part about Native peoples’ annihilations with weaponry and merciless viral diseases brought along in the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. Not to mention that Leif Eriksson touched down in Newfoundland almost 500 years earlier.

Why would you lie to me Miss Taylor?

Our memories of events change, evolve, grow, embellish with time.

This all makes me suspicious of ANY history.

History and its stories for the most part are written from the memory banks of human beings, people looking back and recalling the events as they occurred from their own personal perspective. Hatred, love, compassion, heartbreak and ecstasy all change the nuance and colour of the crayon colouring of the picture.

This is the nature of all our lives and the reason that we men have hoisted this “6 inches can be divided four times by the length of a 12 inch ruler” fiction on women. (don’t worry if you missed my point here!)

The-fish-that-got-away.jpgAre we talking fish … or something else??

Sensational stories make for better history and also an improved recollection of the moments of our lives?

Who amongst us wishes to believe our days and life highlights were really just mundane minutes amplified from within.

I think we all want our lives to reflect something bigger, something better than they may have truly been. This is a good thing, because we should all believe we’ve lived a life of meaning and importance, whether a tadpole in a small pond, or a shark in a huge ocean.

My own interior false memory syndrome memory of my hockey prowess is built upon a single game played on soft outdoor ice on a November evening sometime in the mid-1960’s. Under the floodlights on that night I (factually) scored 7 goals for my Parkdale Steelers against the opponent team.

Yet years of inner mind-manipulation have transformed that one glorious event into something akin to how I was “this close” to being the next Bobby Orr or Wayne Gretzky. I became a bigger “house” than the facts would ever bear out as true. And I’m just fine with that.

When I step down after performing, playing my guitar and singing on a small stage, the inner movie that shines on the walls of my mind is that of a famous rock star, a revisionist story of myself as Elton John.

Am I seeing and remembering reality or just an imagined vision? And … does it matter? What hurt am I inflicting by making myself bigger and better?

Have you noticed at family gatherings when aunts and uncles, or brothers and sisters, chat about events of the past, the stories sound very different to your own even when they are about the same moment in time?

Those moments have all been sifted and recalled through a different filter in each mind present. What was so obviously happiness and joy for Aunt Cathy somehow looked like sadness or rejection from your perspective.

Your reality is different from mine. We each have to interpret our lives in a way that makes sense to us. The books, the music, the movies you love so much will not be exactly the same as those I treasure.

It’s not truly important that our memories and recollections of our own personal histories reflect “facts” and a full reality. Reality is of our own making and choosing – a collage of our own interpretations.

I’m still happily living in my own little “Walter Mitty” world where I depart from my enormous Downton Abbey Castle each morning to score the big game winning touchdown for my Hamilton Tiger-Cats before singing to a SOLD OUT audience that evening in Madison Square Gardens alongside Billy Joel.

It’s my party and I’ll decide which memories are true or false.

WTF! It’s all true. Just ask my “good pal” Martha Stewart, “… and that’s a  good thing!

martha stewart.jpg

 

 

Winter Games and Alzheimer’s Sex

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Lucy-chocolate-factory

I’ve heard you asking…“Larry, why aren’t you writing about Idea Sex anymore?

Well …. I’ve listened and so … here’s another blog post about IDEA SEX! You’re welcome…

Today I’m mating my Teenage Virginity with BC Winter Games with Alzheimer’s Sex … you’ll understand in a minute.

Last week, we volunteered to make a few sandwiches and lunches for aspiring young athletes from across and up and down the province of British Columbia. Right, just a few.

Maybe … let’s see … 5,000,000 sandwiches constructed from 10,000,000 slabs of whole-wheat bread layered with sliced ham or beef, plastic-wrapped (OK… it was 5,000 sandwiches! But it felt like 5 million) … then pitched into brown paper bags to cuddle with a banana, an English Bay chocolate chip cookie, Kellogg’s granola bar, SunRype juice box, and a packet of mustard.

Truthfully, the lunches were extremely boring … which errant sock drawer did the organizers’ creativity gene get lost in?  Lunch of champions? Perhaps not.

The work itself was reminiscent of watching TV’s Laverne and Shirley on the beer-making assembly line, or Lucille Ball standing by the conveyor belt as chocolates raced past her. Fun, but a touch mind-numbing too.

sandwich assembly line

A lot of random musings roll through your head – like fluffy clouds drifting lazily across an azure sky – when you’re on an assembly line.

But mainly? SEX.

Things like, how –as a guy –  you spent your entire teenage years dreaming and wondering what it would be like to lose your virginity. Scrumptious virginity-plundering sex with a satin-skinned, sweet, floral-scented honey.

Carnal fantasizing yet feeling the pure undefiled terror of not knowing what to do, how to do, where to do … oh the numbness and freedom of the assembly line.

After fabricating the daily athlete energy packs, we’d wander about to the various sports sites and observe the up-and-coming potential Olympians.

There were moments of breathtaking inspiration watching a sleek speedskater zoom ahead of the pack like he was wearing a jet pack, pulling away from the other skaters as if they had parachutes dragging from behind.

Or the tiny little fella, maybe 11 or 12 years old with figure skates holding his feet to the ice … watching as this minuscule dynamo, solitary on the expansive ice surface, floated upwards, spinning round and round, almost taking off into orbit, before finally, slow-motion returning to the icy earth with balletic grace and an excited grin of satisfaction.

Speed-Skating.jpg

But while I watched on, I found myself becoming more interested in the anxious parents gazing over their young charges.

I scanned the faces of the young parents emoting their own hopes and aspirations, replaying the life they had lived or wished they had lived.

Dreams enjoyed, dreams quashed.

The drama and grace of their child’s activity played out on the drawing board of their faces.

Then the memories began resurfacing.

I began re-living the inner atmosphere of fear, of pride, of the emotion and pleasure, the soul-searing heartbreak and joy of raising these creatures from a precious pairing of two individual gametes to this remarkable moment.

Because 10, 15, 20 years ago? That was me.  Sitting … cheering … jumping up yelling out a hurray … lowering my head into my hands in frustration.

Snapping back to the present, the milieu was like an out-of-body experience. I was a heavenly angel calmly observing the whole scenario detached from above.

Harry Chapin sang about this still-life moment in All My Life’s a Circle, the rising of the sun each morning, the day’s commute to and from school or work, the birthday and Christmas celebrations.

This circle of life where – as my adult son and I discussed only yesterday –  one day we’re listening impatiently to our father’s unwanted words of advice or reprimand, then, in what feels like a few short breaths later, hear ourselves repeating those same words to our own offspring.

It was a shock the first time I heard my father’s voice coming from my mouth.

And it occurred to me while watching this sports’ stuff, you know, the kids, the coaches, the parents, it was great fun at the time but like Alzheimer’s sex, as much fun and as enjoyable as it is, you forget about it.

The beauty, the excitement, and the delicious passion of the moment drifts further and further back in dusty eddies and recesses in your mind.

Eventually, barely realizing the loss, it becomes a mirage beyond sight, almost as if it never happened …

… until …

… you go to the Winter Games and the electrified feeling of being a sport’s parent returns.

You get to enjoy the present moment and the excitement and enthusiasm while simultaneously feeling an inner joy at the passionate memory of similar moments in your life.

I admit that I fear and maybe even shrink from the notion of growing older. I relish and prefer the sunny days when my thoughts revolved around the loss of my teenage virginity more than I look forward to twilight Alzheimer’s Sex.

I can’t turn back the clock or slow the aging process in any meaningful way, but I can capture moments of grace and beauty surrounding me today and enjoy the warmly satisfying reconnection to earlier days.

For me, it’s like concocting a fancy new cocktail in my bartender job … Idea Sex is another way of marrying our present adventures with our past.

ALZHEIMER

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do Your Memories Exceed Your Dreams?

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Loser2

I’M A LOSER. YUP …

  • I’ve never won a championship in any sport.
  • I’ve never published a bestselling book.
  • I’ve never started a hugely successful business.
  • I’ve never performed lifesaving surgery on a comatose patient.
  • I’ve never designed an art gallery.

Must I continue? A loser, right?

I just do what I love …

I dream about what I love … I hear whispers inside my head.

Just like Walter Mitty, I’m a terrible dreamer!

I wanted to be Bobby Orr, doing spins around my opponents on the hockey rink, scoring highlight goals that defied believability.

I wanted to pull on a Hamilton Tiger Cat football jersey and jump 3 feet high into the air, snatching impossible end zone passes, smashing to the turf in exultation to win the Grey Cup,  then High-5’ing Garney Henley and Angelo Mosca.

I wanted to sit down at the piano and pound out Crocodile Rock and Yellow Brick Road like Elton John, wearing goofy eyeglasses and exotic flared pants, looking out over 15,000 flickering lighters swaying back and forth through the warm summer air.

elton-john

I wanted to sit on a stool under a solitary spotlight at Centre Stage and sing out beautiful songs that made people weep, like James Taylor singing Fire and Rain … or Harry Chapin intoning Cats In The Cradle  … or John Denver singing My Sweet Lady …

I wanted to cross the finish line of a half marathon or an Ironman race, rapturously jubilant with my hands raised high as the 1st place competitor.

 

Larry Ironman 1990

Ironman Canada 1990… 650th place out of 969 competitors …

I’ve never succeeded in truly fulfilling any one of these dreams and so I can accept it if you tell me I’m a loser.

Perhaps I’m just rationalizing, but for me, reaching the top of the pinnacle, achieving the dream, has never been about winning it all.

The dream comes in making the attempt, savouring the road I’ve travelled.

I am my own jail-keeper and I decide which lights will stay turned on.

I’ll never be a loser so long as I dream and play the “games” that excite me. Just being on the playing field, feeling the grass beneath my feet, the smell of popcorn in the air, is enough.

For me, sitting on the sidelines as a couch potato, only ever watching, never trying, that’s when I become a loser.

I tried writing some songs in my teen years. They sucked.

I write songs now and most of these suck too. But I’m enjoying the process, the road I’m travelling.

So I’m not backing down this time because I know that persistence means that if I write 20 songs… one of them will be a keeper that I feel pride in.

I have one of those songs in my repertoire now and I feel really good when I sing it. I’ll even sing it in public.

JUST_PLAIN_FOLK_1977

Earlier days of performance – making music with friends Nancy and Jim in the bars of Yellowknife…

Last week, when I sang one of my songs before an Open Mic “crowd” of 30 or 35 people I felt happy inside. There were no lit up iPhones swaying to my song. But I was doing something that I love. That was a dream fulfilled.

When I ran a half marathon race last month and pulled out early because of a nasty pain in my ass (yup, a literal pain in the ass) I was still smiling. I was doing something that I love.

If my family genetics from my parents’ generation have any bearing on my life … then I have 17 years left … maybe … maybe more… but maybe less too. Seventeen more years of delightful memory-making moments.

I’m filled up with past memories, so many memories. They’re wonderful friends that fill me with joyous smiles, some sorrowful tears, many warm emotions.

I’m also filled with future dreams… adventures of all sorts, books to read, songs to sing, places to travel, people to meet.

Dreams are great expectations, friends that we have yet to meet. Dreams are filled with potential and promise.

And that, for me is what life should be. Promise, expectation, dreams.

Dreams make me tingly.

I’m embracing this being a “loser” thing because it’s what sparkles on the freshly fallen snow, it’s what illuminates the moon and stars above me, it’s what makes every breathe like scrumptious melting chocolate on my tongue.

All of this might make me a loser to some, but I sure feel like I’m winning.

Isn’t that what’s important?

Dreamer

Are There Ghosts Living In Your DNA? … Song For A Winter’s Night …

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winter night2

It was a rapturous moment … sitting in the just-darkened theatre.

The din of voices dimmed in harmony with the overhead lights.

As the light melted away, the honey-mellow sound of soft acoustic guitars rose like the swoosh of a hot air balloon lifting, and I felt that strange simultaneous mix of warmth and chill in those first melodic moments as I always do when I attend a concert.

Is there anything more soul-stirring than the first 30 seconds at the opening of a musical performance, whether rock, country, folk or classical?

It’s a mild, late fall evening on the western side of this rocky Canadian country and I’m listening – live for my first time ever – to the well-worn Canadian singer-songwriting icon named Gordon Lightfoot.

His voice is a wispy shadow of its original timbre – at least he sings on key, otherwise I’d go crazy – but the brilliance is buried inside his tones.

Lightfoot was a huge international phenomenon in the 1960’s and ’70’s with his lengthy song list that included The Canadian Railway Trilogy, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Sundown, Daylight Katy … and … Song For a Winter’s Night.

Song For A Winter’s Night is a metaphorical wonder of wintry snow and cold, and warm romance. True Canadiana.

There’s a lyrical beauty in it whether sung by Lightfoot himself or magically covered by another iconic Canadian, Sarah McLachlan.

I’m watching the stage, mesmerized, and as the song begins I silently ponder if the two versions could be pixie-dust consummated into a single duet akin to Natalie singing Unforgettable alongside her long-dead father Nat King Cole.

Gordon then

Gordie then…

 

SONG FOR A WINTER’S NIGHT

The lamp is burning low upon my table top
The snow is softly falling
The air is still in the silence of my room
I hear your voice softly calling
 
If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter night with you
 
The smoke is rising in the shadows overhead
My glass is almost empty
I read again between the lines upon each page
The words of love you sent me
 
If I could know within my heart,
that you were lonely too
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter night with you
 
The fire is dying now,
my lamp is growing dim
The shades of night are lifting
The morning light steals across my windowpane
Where webs of snow are drifting
 
If I could only have you near,
to breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
And to be once again with you
On this winter night with you
 
GordonLightfoot now

The same Gordie now …

Ahhhhhhhhhhh.

The guitars return it home to a hazy finish of sleigh bells and I find my head in fluffy clouds of musical thought.

It’s here where a part of our existence dwells in a log cabin in the backwoods of northern Ontario or standing on a breathless wintry Saskatchewan lake frozen over with rabbit and deer tracks criss-crossing the barren snow-covered distance.

We close our eyes, our minds drifting like smoke from a moonlit chimney with curlicues of wonder and memory.

Often, a song carries us to an emotion-laden time and place where we experience our senses overflowing, telling us of the smells and sounds of euphoric good times or maybe, the heartbreakingly not-so-good.

But sometimes, just sometimes, a song takes us on a journey into a story of our inner heritage and even though we may have never felt the soothing warmth of a fire crackling to comfort us, we know inside ourselves what it means. It’s as if a mystical seed has been planted in our brains, a historic reminder of where we originated, who we are.

Each and every one of us is a product of countless generations that lived and loved and struggled, so it only makes sense that tiny fragments of those lives reside inside our makeup.

We tend to think of ourselves as an amalgam of our Ma and Pa, and maybe sometimes we see our grandparents contributing to our mix.

Child-JigsawPuzzle

 

But in reality, we are a huge jigsaw puzzle constructed of genetic pieces going back centuries. A corner piece that is the unexpected curl in your hair may originate in Great-Great-Great-Great Grandma Elizabeth’s DNA, a pun-filled sense of humour the little piece that was your G-G-Granddad’s mischievous demeanour.

Don’t ask me how listening to a musical tune brings these thoughts floating to the surface. Is it possible that the past is reaching out to me? Is there something in the words and tune that reflects something existing deeper within the chasms of my core structure?

Perhaps Song For A Winter’s Night has unearthed a wistful story of the lives of a man and a woman in my distant DNA.

Each impatiently yearns for the time when they can once again find solace and warmth in the other’s arms after a lengthy separation because of war, religious differences, or difficult times. It’s a story that somehow developed without the modern interruptions and connections of motorized vehicles, cellphones, or eHarmony.

Gordon Lightfoot won’t be with us for a whole lot longer – yet his lyrical memory will wander the musical stage for generations.

But the dimensions and associations that originate in his words, his melodies, like so many other gifted artists, linger on in our DNA to be shared the next time you sit in a theatre and sweet notes float over you, caressing you like a gentle river.

Goodbye

Summer Lovin’ … Tell Me More Tell Me More…

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Grease_Sandy

TRUE FACTOID: France’s Eiffel Tower can grow by more than 6 inches in summer due to the expansion of the iron on hot days.

RUMOUR: On the beach on a hot bikini summer day, many men find that the same … sorry … I got lost in a lustful side thought, won’t happen again.

……………………….

I can feel my hands gripping the wheel of my 1967 4-door brown Rambler American sedan, cruising along Hamilton’s Van Wagner’s Beach overlooking Lake Ontario, thick, humid air blowing through my long, dark 1970’s hair.

There’s an incredibly salty scent of Hutch’s french fries drifting on the breeze that makes my stomach rumble as I drive along. My right hand rests gently on the knee of my girlfriend who’s tempting me maybe even more than the french fries with her firm, tanned legs reaching from her navy blue stretch shorts to the floor.

The 8-track player that just about bankrupted me to buy, pumps out Beach Boys, America, Peter Frampton, and Eagles’ harmonies.

Intermingling with the music is the raucous percussive mating symphony of the little cicadas bursting from the trees.

And just like I still do today, I’m singing the harmony part unashamedly at the top of my lungs.

Even at that time, I was aware enough to think to myself, “could life get any better than this?

HUTCH's2

With July now sending its sizzling temperatures our way in the northern hemisphere, it puts me to wondering:

What songs are your favourite to croon along with?

And … What makes a great summer song? 

  • Is it the hint of romance?
  • Is it about youthfulness and escape?
  • The fast tom-tom beat in the background?
  • The perfect layering of harmonies?
  • Calypso rhythms?
  • The mention of buff tanned boys and bikini-clad girls on the beach?

I think the answer is yes to all of the above and a thousand other things that somehow give each of us an eyes-closed-floating-on-the-water feeling and the sense that the sultry sun is lighting us up from within. Hot liquid energy exudes from our pores when the music’s beat is absorbed.

 

Summerland to Peachland

The scene from Summerland’s fruit orchards and vineyards towards Peachland …

Every Thursday morning, I chauffeur myself along highway 97 through Peachland and Westbank to work in the lab in Kelowna, about 40 k north of my home in quaint little Summerland.

And on that one day each week I have about an hour and a half of driving (there and back) through Canada’s verdant Okanagan Valley orchards and vineyard scenery.

I cast my eyes out over the sparkling water for Ogopogo and imagine that every ripple in the water’s surface is actually the tip of the beast’s- akin to the Loch Ness Monster – dorsal fin.

It IS spectacular to make this winding journey in the summer months but this drive and this blog aren’t about the vistas of lakes and mountains … it’s about Summer Songs and Singing … in cars.

Cars are amazing things. They were built to move us rapidly from Point A to Point B, but I think the real reason cars were created – this is true, right? –  is 3-fold:

  1. to put babies to sleep
  2. to allow young children to prove/disprove Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest while bickering and slugging it out in the back seat, and
  3. make the best music studio for personal singing … ever.

Oh… and I suppose you could add:

4. which is to give young and old lovers alike the chance to test out their yoga skills in backseat lustful encounters.

The steamy shower stall may be your song studio of choice, but driving alone for periods of time in a motor vehicle is when I do my best singing. A car stereo system cranked up is the perfect accompaniment to belting out a song I love.

Car stereos give us all sorts of options for song choice. The old days of singing along with limited choices on a car radio are now replaced by not only the radio itself, but also CD’s, iPod tracks by the thousands, and satellite radio stations.

In an earlier post, I told you about my, and asked you for your, SADDEST songs … but this is summer and summer has its own vernacular, right?

Just to get you thinking along the summer song track, let me give you some examples of tunes that strike a summer chord for most of us.

Billboard 100’s Top 10 Summer Songs

Summer Songs

*Based on each track’s performance on the Billboard Hot 100 chart from August 4, 1958 — the inception of the chart — through the chart dated May 31, 2014.

10 Summer Nights, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John (1978)

9 Hot Fun In The Summertime, Sly & The Family Stone (1969)

8 Surfin’ U.S.A., The Beach Boys (1963)

Summertime, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (1991)

6 Endless Summer Nights, Richard Marx (1988)

5 Surf City, Jan & Dean (1963)

4 Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini, Bryan Hyland (1960)

3 Wipe Out, The Surfaris (1962)

2 Summer In The City, The Lovin’ Spoonful (1966)

1 California Gurls, Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dogg (2010)

Kind of interesting that 6 of the Top 10 were recorded in the 1960’s, isn’t it? Just one came from each of the 1970’s, ’80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s.

My own personal summer playlist will give me away and pinpoint me as a Baby Boomer whose formative years were the 60’s and 70’s… we all have an era that lives inside us as our own personal “Primetime”.

What does YOUR personal playlist sound like?

Let me list a few of my summer favourites:

  • Take It Easy … Eagles
  • Firework  Katy Perry
  • I’m Sexy And I Know It … LMFAO… there’s nothing like “wiggling” along the highway to this at 6 am! Makes it hard not to spill my Tim Hortons coffee in my lap which would make it a REAL hurtin’ song!
English: Katy Perry performing at the 2008 War...

(I’m behind Katy singing right along)

and finally, just for boppin’ through the  summer of 2014

  • HAPPY   Pharrell Williams
Then He Kissed Me

What would summer be without convertibles and  Beach Boys?

 

I could go on and on as I feel myself drifting back in time again just hearing the names to these songs. I can hear the old voices and smell the hot summer scents – even feel my heart quickening with the sun-kissed emotions of the moment.

There must be a million songs that work their summer charm when it’s time to roll our car windows down ….

So Tell Me More, Tell Me More.

When you get a minute, tell me, if you had to choose just one song to sing in the sizzling summer heat of your car, what would it be?

Grease-Summer-Nights

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