Growing up with the Beach Boys

My favorite movie in high school was “American Graffiti.” The film, directed by George Lucas four years before “Star Wars” made him a household name, told the story of a group of California friends in 1962 as summer and the cruising culture of the ’50s were drawing to a close, forcing them to make hard decisions about the directions of their lives. It meant a great deal to me because I experienced similar doubts at the end of my senior year. As Curt — played by Richard Dreyfuss in a star-making role — said, why should I give up a perfectly good life for one that is unknown.
The film ended with convincingly realistic synopses of the main characters’ lives after the events of the movie, each person’s short bio accompanied by a head shot. No music played, and the only sound was the airplane’s engine taking Curt to college and a new life. Then the Beach Boys’ “All Summer Long” burst onto the film while the credits scrolled by, and the song’s story of a summer romance coming to an end perfectly fit the movie’s farewell to Curt and company. Continue reading

Posted in Commentary

Fourteen Years Before The Masthead

Nearly 14 years ago I bought a bag full of heavy, hardcover reference books at the late Borders Books on The Strip. I had started at The Alliance Review a few weeks earlier and found in my new job as a neophyte reporter a nice excuse to buy books. That began an intense interest of reference books that parallels my time at The Review.
I’ve always loved dictionaries and thesauruses. Thorndike-Barnhart dictionaries conjure happy memories of elementary school, and I still own the Hammond world atlas, a paperback French-English dictionary, a paperback thesaurus and a paperback American Heritage Dictionary from my high school years. I mentioned these ideas last August in a column about Brewer’s, but for a reason yet to be named I want to again discuss one of my great passions. Continue reading

Posted in D. Books, Language

Living in an extroverted world

The steady beat of what I assume was music never stopped while I waited for my carryout order last week. I say I assume it was music because I could hear only an annoying artificial electronic drumbeat that seemed to never vary for the length of my wait, which was plenty long enough for two or three songs to play. If any other instruments were playing, they were lost in the echoing vastness of the high metal girder ceiling that is the fad in stores and restaurants.
I remember being puzzled several years back when a grocery store moved to a new building and adopted that warehouse style. I believe the reasoning was, make it look like warehouse bulk stores and people will shop there, subconsciously thinking they’re getting bulk prices. Fashion in stores and restaurants greatly influences shoppers because packaging and presentation, for better or worse, can equal or even outrank the product inside when consumers are making choices. Continue reading

Posted in Commentary

The first true battle of the revolution

Woolgathering and Widdershins

September 11 was proclaimed Patriot Day in 2003 by President Bush. It should not be confused with Patriot’s Day, April 19, commemorating the start of the Revolution. On that day, what was meant to be a quiet confiscation of arms ended up instead as a violent clash of arms.
The Ministry in London had ordered Gen. Thomas Gage in Boston to quell rebellion in Massachusetts by capturing Samuel Adams and John Hancock, but Gage chose instead what he thought would be a less incendiary step, the capture of arms at Concord. The expedition, meant to be secret, was well known to the colonials and was hampered by hours of delay.

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Posted in Language

Give me my maps

I took an accidental tour of the south side of Lexington, Kentucky last weekend while searching for my brother-in-law’s house. My mistake lay in not doing my usual research beforehand.
I make it a point when going somewhere new to never depend solely on someone else’s directions, to study maps and memorize the route, but this time I ignored my own dictum. I had an online printout with driving directions Buzz had sent me, I did not take a Kentucky map, and the atlas in my car was a small midsize with little detail.
Arriving in Lexington, we exited I-75 onto Man O’War Boulevard but could not find our turn, Todds Road. Adding to my confusion, I got mentally turned around and thought I was driving east but was going west. After driving several miles I suspected we had missed Todds, although we had carefully checked the names of all crossroads. We finally knew we had missed Todds when M-O-W ended at U.S. Route 60 and we entered an elaborate entrance to a horse estate. We turned around and found a cul-de-sac where we called Buzz, who told us Todds was Todds on one side of M-O-W and Liberty Street on the other and that we were at the opposite end of Lexington, which totally flummoxed me because I thought we had merely driven too far east, not west. Having no clear mental picture of the area, my only recourse was returning whence we came, and after a long drive we found Todds. From there it was easy, and we soon arrived. Continue reading

Posted in Geography | Tagged ,

Give Chester his due

Published in The Alliance Review November 6, 2015
After buying my mahogany D15 Martin guitar in the spring of 2013, I made plans to visit Chester Bryant at his home because he wanted to hear me play it. I drove to his house on the appointed day and rang the bell, guitar case in hand, but no one answered. Later I learned that Chester had had a medical problem and was in Alliance Community Hospital.
I met Chester many years ago, perhaps in 2002 or 2003, when I found a classified ad in The Review listing a fiddle and an Autoharp for sale. I stopped by one evening after work, had a nice visit, and went home with both instruments plus an unusual instrument called a Melodica, which you play by blowing into a whistle-like mouthpiece and fingering a piano-style keyboard, made by Hohner, the well-known German harmonica maker. It has the sound of a small accordion.
It was a decade before I saw Chester again, but in that period I knew he was an active musician through notices in the Review for the Sounds of Home Singers, the gospel group he fronted. I wrote about Chester and SOHS for The Review’s 50 Plus section in February 2013, describing his interest in spreading the gospel through music. “… he liberally sprinkles jokes throughout his playing,” I wrote. “For example: “I wanted to play guitar in the worst kind of way, and they tell me, ‘You’ve succeeded.’” Chester was born in Olive Hill, Kentucky, which he said is so small the entering town limits and exiting town limits signs are on the same post. Continue reading

Posted in Commentary

Don’t call me “honey”

I was annoyed Monday when a bank teller called me “honey” several times while I made my deposit at the drive-through. I’ve long disliked strangers using terms of endearment with me, and the appellation seemed especially inappropriate coming from a bank employee. I was tempted to send an email to the bank manager stating that the proper terms of address for bank customers are “sir,” ma’am,” “Mr.,” Mrs.” or “Ms.,” but I never bothered. It didn’t seem worth it.
Then yesterday, at a small, homey family restaurant, the “honeys” and “dears” were tossed about like last fall’s leaves being chased by a late-winter cold front, and in that situation I sensed true affection among the co-workers. Once again, I felt it wasn’t worth getting riled up over or trying to change. I’ve been too busy feeling grateful. Continue reading

Posted in Commentary, Language