Plots for a Proposed Young Adult Book Series

Book 1 — boy meets girl
Book 2 — boy and girl fall in love
Book 3 — girl’s friends dislike boy
Book 4 — girl dumps boy
Book 5 — in despair, boy drives too fast and hits a tree
Book 6 — girl realizes her friends were wrong and sells her hair to pay for boy’s funeral
Book 7 — girl adopts a puppy from the local animal shelter to keep her company
Book 8 — puppy digs up boy’s corpse
Book 9 — boy has become a zombie
Book 10 — as revenge, boy finds girl and eats her brain
Book 11 — puppy grows up to win the Westminster Dog Show three years in a row

Rock and Roll Music

My boyhood friend and later rock and roll band-mate, Dennis Willard, posted a blog awhile back ( http://dennywillard.blogspot.com/2012/02/smooth-jazz-in-seattle.html ) that traced his musical roots. That got me to thinking that this might be a good time in my life to do the same. So, herewith is my best recollection of how playing music was a big part of my life for a period.

Other than those ubiquitous elementary school recorders, the first instrument I picked up was a trombone I inherited from my Uncle Jack. He had played, briefly, in the high school band until he got his growth spurt and then, at just over 6’, he was recruited for the basketball team. In those days (late ‘50s), a six-footer was a highly valuable commodity on a high school team. In came the hoops, out went the toots. I got the trombone as I was entering the fifth grade and I remember very clearly not being given even the basic instruction on how to hold it. My grip, for the first week of practice, was such that every couple of minutes the bell would fall off the slide assembly. After several loud crashes that interrupted the proceedings, my band director finally showed me how to hold trombone to make sure there was a good solid connection between the two important pieces of the instrument.

Despite its dents, I played that trombone through elementary school, junior high and the first year of high school. I was accomplished enough on it to sit in “first chair” beginning my sophomore year. I managed to talk my mom into buying me a new horn that year, a shiny Olds “Special” that looked something like this.

Olds trombone
So, that horn saw me through concert band, jazz band, marching band and a non-school conglomeration called the Dixieland Group.

Early Dixieland GroupLeft to right: Johnny Cain, me, Linn Allen Weiss,Mark Pettiford, Mike Mulvaney and Ricky Cook

Mind you this was just before the Beatles took over the universe, so playing in a band like this was not looked on as being exceedingly nerdy. It was, of course, pretty nerdy, but at the time, folk music was ascendent so Dixieland was not too far removed. Besides, we had paying gigs! We appealed to the over-fifty age group and played lots of the summer picnics put on by the VFW, Lions, Elks, and assorted churches. Dixieland was “safe” music, so we were in demand.

Linn Allen graduated in 1964 and went off to the University of Missouri, so we lost our piano player and I switched to standup bass. Here’s a photo of our new configuration. Notice we graduated from suspenders to vests and spiffy bowler hats.

Later Dixieland GroupI was strictly dixieland until the dying gasp of my senior year in high school. Ok, by then we had all seen the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, along with the Stones, Herman’s Hermits, Chad and Jeremy, Petula Clark, the Supremes, the Four Tops, Jan and Dean, the Beach Boys and the Animals, but when the Approximate Thots took the stage at Monett High School talent contest in 1966, those other bands faded into the background, as did the Dixieland Group. Here’s what took their place:

Talent cropped

I wasn’t in the group that night, but knew that I wanted to be. They didn’t have a bass player, so I went out and bought an Airline bass from Montgomery Ward, something like this one.

Airline bass
That bass worked long enough to get me in the band but I realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t good enough for real rock and roll. After our first paying performance (probably at the Monett Casino; it was not really a casino, just a building in the city park that hosted weddings, family reunions and dances), I had enough money to get the local bank to loan me the money to buy a Fender Precision bass. Here’s a photo of the band (renamed The Water’s Edge) with me and my new bass.

Waters EdgeHere’s a better picture of the bass:

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 10.57.30 AM
That was a terrific instrument, but it was pretty heavy and one day, a couple of the band members and I were in a music store in Springfield, Missouri, where we were all going to college and I happened to see a Hofner bass like the one that Paul McCartney played. Now I wasn’t then, nor am I now, a fan of Paul’s but I did admire his bass, so I managed to trade the Fender for the Hofner.

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 10.59.49 AM

During the summer of ’67, the band underwent some personnel changes. We added a new drummer and guitarist, and lost a couple of the old members along the way. Once again, we changed our name to The Ultimate Purpose.

img055

Here’s a photo of us in action.

Ultimate PurposeThe lineup was Steve Vermillion on organ, Dave Boger on rhythm and vocals, John “Breeze Blues” Mitchell on drums, me with my Hofner, and Dennis Willard on lead and vocals. That configuration lasted through the summer until Dave decided to go back to Arkansas. That left the heavy vocals to Dennis and occasional fill-in vocalists. Fred Gann, who had been in the original band, rejoined for a few performances.

Our repertoire through most of this time was made up of covers of the Lovin’ Spoonful, Rascals, Cryan’ Shames, Turtles, and Buckinghams numbers, but Dennis, Breeze, Fred and I had been to see The Who in St.Louis and decided we’d add a few loud songs to the mix. Things in Viet Nam were getting increasingly heated about this time and Steve got drafted. Rather than replace the organ parts, we tried out a few guitarists, but none of them really clicked. The band became a three-piece group modeled on Cream, Jimi Hendrix and The Who. We got my mom to make us costumes like the ones Hendrix and the Beatles were wearing: Nehru jackets in bright paisley, very psychedelic.

When we started doing the new music, I decided the Hofner didn’t project quite the right style. I was in a pawn shop in Springfield one day and came across a Fender Telecaster bass, something like this one:

Telecaster bass rotatedIn keeping with the psychedelic tenor of the times, I repainted the body of the bass white and spray-painted it in neon swirls. It was a terrific bass; heavy, wide-necked, groaning through those songs like Purple Haze, Sunshine of Your Love, I Can See for Miles, and Manic Depression. During a few performances, we even “destroyed” our instruments, a la The Who. Sadly, our good times came to an end. Viet Nam and the draft were breathing down our necks. Dennis decided that joining the Navy was the prudent thing to do and I made a brief foray into draft doggerdom, going to Canada for a bit, but that’s another story entirely.

Since those heady days of rock and roll, I’ve only been an attentive and appreciative listener. No trombones or bass guitars around my house, but I do have tons of CD, tapes, original vinyl and a good Internet connection to keep music pulsing through the house. Every now and then, I even turn my stereo up to 11.

Helpful Hint(s) for the Home

This is my first post in months. It’s not that I haven’t been busy being creative; it’s just that the journey from computer screen to blog has been circuitous and interrupted. But, today, I’m getting started again. To begin…

I had one of those “duh” moments yesterday (they used to be called “ah ha” moments; I’m not sure when that changed; something to look into). Over the last few months, we’ve collected a box of old documents that need to be shredded to avoid the dreaded “identity theft” that seems to be so ubiquitous these days (actually, I think the threat is actually more ubiquitous than the actual theft, but I could be wrong; I’ve always been of the opinion that if some fool really wants my identity, he needs to be prepared to pay my bills, too). Usually I take the stuff to one of those free shredding events that happens around town now and then, but I haven’t been able to find one and I’ve been carting the box around in my car for a couple of months. Finally, I called a commercial shredding company to see what it would cost to shred my copy paper-sized box of documents. After I recovered from the shock, I realized that I could buy an adequate shredder for only a little more than what I would have to pay to have them take care of the box. And so I did.

I went to Best Buy and bought. When I got home, I set it up the shredder as directed and proceeded to pulverize old tax documents and bank statements and credit card stuff. The shredder came with a smallish wastepaper basket to catch the tiny little pieces of paper it produced. When the basket was filled (which the machine helpfully signaled by a flashing red light; at first, I had an image of Robbie the Robot waving his arms and saying “Danger, Will Robinson” but it was just part of the vocabulary of the instrument panel on this thing), I removed the shredding apparatus and dumped the pieces in a plastic trash bag. Pieces went everywhere. Tiny little pieces, no bigger than neutrons or quarks or one of those viruses that grow into fifty-foot long worms in your stomach, and come out your eyeballs while you are sleeping (according to a program on Animal Planet I saw last week) (well, maybe the pieces of shredded paper were the size of Chiclets — do they still make Chiclets? — something to look into). Then the “duh” moment arrived: why not put the plastic trash bag in the wastepaper basket first? Why not indeed. And so I did.

When I took the shredding thingy off the basket this time, most of the pieces stayed in the trash bag (there were still a few that escaped, but not nearly as many; a couple of them looked like one of those Animal Planet viruses, but I’m going to pretend I didn’t see them scurry away). Problem solved. I’m going to write a letter to the shredder-maker and suggest that they include this option (trash bag in basket first) in their set-up directions. It might save others a bit of a mess.

You can thank me later.

Three Wishes

Chapter 1

If I had intended to break the amphora, I certainly wouldn’t have done it right in front of the museum guard; I’m not that stupid.  He, it appeared, wasn’t convinced of that.  At least at first.  Perhaps it had something to do with the cloud of dust that arose from the shards of pottery on the floor.

Chapter 2

“You’ll have to come with me,” the guard said, but looking around, he seemed confused about where he would be taking me.  “I think I need to lie down,” which is exactly what he did, crumpling into a heap on the floor.
When I looked back at the broken vessel, I was astonished to see that the dust cloud had coalesced into something resembling a human form, dressed as the stereotypical Aladdin from Disney movie fame.

Chapter 3

“I know it’s a cliche, but just wait till you see what people in the future imagine ‘60s fashions were like.”  The genie dusted himself off and got right down to business.
“You have three wishes.  The first wish can be anything you want, but the second wish has to relate to the first and the third wish has to be connected to the second.  You can’t wish for additional wishes and I know all the tricks, so don’t try to be clever.  Well, get on with it.”

Chapter 4

“This has to be a dream,” I thought.
“It’s not.  It’s real.” the genie said.
“Great, he reads minds, too.  I wish I could do that.”  I thought again.
“You have two wishes left,” the genie said.

Chapter 5

“OK, genie, you got me there.  I’m sure that will come in handy some day.  But now my second wish has to fit with the first one somehow, is that correct?”
“That’s right and if it doesn’t, you lose the first wish,” he explained.
“You forgot to mention that in your earlier explanation,” I said, annoyed.
“What do you expect?  I’m four thousand years old.  I forget details occasionally.”

Chapter 6

What could I possibly wish for that would be related to mind-reading?  Perhaps a good lawyer to get me out of jail when I have a look on my face that says “I know what you are thinking”?
At that instant, a man in an impeccable dark suit, white shirt, blue tie and carrying a briefcase appeared.
“Wait, I didn’t ask for him.”  It was clear that the genie had read my mind again and had given me a high-priced attorney for my very own.

Chapter 7

“I can tell that you are the type that will need this fellow.  Say ‘hello’ to R. Bradley Ashton, III, of the firm of  Higgins, Ashton, Harrow and Walls.”
“Terrific, my very own legal team.  I suppose I should wish for enough money to pay their retainer in perpetuity,” I said hoping that genie wouldn’t considered that to be my third wish.

Chapter 8

“As a matter of fact, Mr. Ashton is working pro bono, so you don’t have to worry about his fee.  Now, what’s your third wish?”  The genie seemed a bit impatient, like he had a date to play squash or have drinks at the Blue Room.
“This is getting way too complicated.  I wish I’d never broken that amphora.”

Chapter 9

And with that, the genie disappeared back in his cloud of dust, the amphora, magically repaired, flew back to its pedestal and the museum guard picked himself up off the ground, looking around again in bewilderment.
“I just had the strangest dream,” he said.  “Must have been that falafel I had for lunch.”
“They do the same thing to me,” I said as I headed for the museum exit, making sure I kept a good distance between myself and the breakables.