The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog...

Monday, August 29, 2016

My Main Reason for Travel

Why Do I Travel?

       Traveling to see the world is a lot of fun, but this is not my main reason for doing so.  My wife and I truly enjoy experiencing different parts of the country and if that were our only reason to travel then I'm sure we'd do that.   However our biggest reason for gallivanting about North America is to see people--friends, family, and most of all, grandchildren.

Arlee, Thomas, Lillee, Grace, Betty (my wife),  and Celeste
(Marley was at her music class)
         In the photo above you see my wife and I on the boardwalk along the beach at Asbury Park, NJ with four of our grandkids.  I had donned my A to Z 2016 tee shirt to parade up and down the Asbury Park boardwalk with my family.  Unfortunately our plans were sidetracked by a massive thunderstorm that came along and caused us to make an early retreat to the sushi restaurant where one  of our daughter's husband works.  Since that had been part of the plan then that was okay even though we had to spend more time at the restaurant than we had anticipated.

         The oldest of the grandchildren was around the corner from the restaurant at "rock and roll school" which is the prestigious Lakehouse Music Academy.  Marley, who will soon be eight, has been taking a regimen of various music classes geared toward learning the skills of singing and playing instruments as well as practical experience in performing.  Their recitals take place at the famous concert venue The Stone Pony which is where many famed artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi got their starts and which showcases many well known and lesser known acts throughout the year.  Not a bad place for a kid (or anyone for that matter) to hone their chops for a potential future career in music.

My daughters and their spouses along with all five grandchildren.
      A number of years ago I would never have expected that I'd be eventually making so many trips to New Jersey, but then one daughter moved there and then the next until three were living there.  The other moved to Houston, Texas which makes for a bigger circle of travel when we set out to see everyone.  With our girls and their families so far away from us out here in Los Angeles we feel the obligation to make massive road trips just for those few precious days each year when we can spend time with all of them.  Maybe after my wife retires the situation can be changed, but for now what have what we have.

Then There's Tennessee

        After I moved to Los Angeles from East Tennessee, I made it a point to try to come back at least once a year to visit my mother and my siblings who still lived there.   My mother passed away in 2014, but going back to Tennessee still seems like a necessary ritual for me.  My brothers and sisters still live in that beautiful part of the country and we have such a darn good time when we all get together.  If I'm going back east anyway, then it just seems like the natural thing to pay a visit to East Tennessee.   After all, millions of vacationers go to that part of the country every year because there's so much to see and do in that area.    When we go, we try to get out and around, but mostly we just hang around and talk and enjoy the wonderful summer evenings in Tennessee.  

        This year we did take a couple of day trips around nearby counties and into neighboring Georgia and North Carolina.  As usual I forgot to take photos most of the time, however I did manage some shots at a Bible based attraction called Fields of the Wood outside of Murphy, North Carolina.  We'd already had a full day by the time we'd gotten there and since it was getting late we didn't stay long.  Just long enough to take a few photos and then move on down the road. 

      In the above photo you see my sister-in-law Hallie, my brother Jay, me and my wife, and my sisters Joni and Joy.   We are posing in front of what is likely the world's largest depiction of the Ten Commandments which are written on the side of a mountain.   There was so much to see at this park that we didn't have time to take it all in.   This is one of those places that I want to go back to visit one day.

        After driving to the top of the Ten Commandments mountain, my wife and I posed for one more photo.   Take note that I once again wore my A to Z shirt to be a walking billboard for the event.  Be watching the Blogging from A to Z Challenge Blog for news.  We've slacked off on that site during the summer, but activity will be stirring soon.    You won't want to miss some important announcements that are to come.

          Also, I have what I think is an interesting Battle of the Bands post scheduled for this coming Thursday September 1st.  Might be musically educational to you and I hope some fun.  It's a song about hair, but it has nothing to do with the musical Hair.   In fact on first hearing the song you might never even guess it was about "hair".

         Do you travel to visit family?    What is your ideal vacation?   Any idea about the song I'll be using for my next Battle of the Bands entry?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Contemplating Sense of Place (Flashback Friday)

       Where exactly is your "home"?   Do you have a place where your roots are?   Or as the adage goes, "where your heart is"?   In this post I'll be reflecting on this concept of having a home, a place of connections, and being from somewhere...



Where're you'all from?

            Robert Young Drake was a professor of English at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville from 1965 until 1999.  A noted English scholar and author, Robert Drake was most associated with his homespun stories about the fictional West Tennessee town of Woodville.  Drake was well known for his story-telling skills in the rich dulcet tones of an aristocratic southern gentleman.  After suffering a stroke in 1999, he was forced to leave his beloved teaching position, returning to his hometown of Milan, Tennessee where he died on June 30, 2001.

               I was fortunate to have had Dr. Drake as my professor of creative writing for two classes when I attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in the early 1970s.  One of the corrections he made to my thinking had to do with roots and what we think of as home.

              In the first class we were given the assignment to write about ourselves so that Dr. Drake could get to know his students a little better. This was to be a brief autobiography that included where we were from.  My story was the example that he always looked for to teach one of the first lessons about being a writer.

             Since I had moved around a lot in my life I wrote that I wasn't really from anywhere.  My hippie philosophy at that time tended more toward existentialism.   I tried to portray myself as the rootless wanderer in life who was searching for self and purpose.  That was the cue for Dr. Drake's lecture on roots.

             "Everybody's from somewhere," he enunciated in his rich southern accent.  He went on to give examples of writers like his favorite, Flannery O'Connor, who was from Georgia.  Writing, he explained, is an extension of who we are and an expression of our experiences and our heritage, all of which has roots in particular place and time.

               It was in that class that I began to appreciate my Tennessee home.  Even though I hadn't been born there and hadn't grown up there, it was the place that felt most like home and the place with which I could most identify myself.

               When we think about writers, we frequently associate them with place.  With Hemingway it might be Key West or Steinbeck the central California coast.    Many of us think about Hannibal, Missouri when we think of Mark Twain even though he did most of his writing elsewhere--but it was that place that shaped and influenced much of who he was and what he wrote.

                 As Dorothy Gale from the Wizard of Oz was to find out in her fantastical visit, there's no place like home.  A writer can take us anywhere imagination can contrive, but the story has to come from somewhere and that somewhere is inside of each of us.

                 Where are you from?  What do you consider to be home?  How does it influence your writing?  

Monday, August 22, 2016

Home Is Where You Make It (#BOTB results)

Home Is Where You Make It

My Chrysler Town and Country Van at a scenic pull off on the Trans-Canada
Hwy in Glacier National Park British Columbia
        When away from what we think of as home, we try our best to make wherever we are our home.  For about a month my wife and I traversed Canada, traveled down to Tennessee, and finally made our way back across Interstate 40 to return home to Los Angeles.   We essentially lived out of our 2014 Chrysler Town and Country Van, hauling stuff in and out of motel rooms and relatives houses to stay for the night or several days whichever the case may have been.  For road life it was pretty luxurious.   No roughing it in the wilds or sleeping in the vehicle.  We traveled in comfort with air conditioning and a good sound system connected to satellite radio.  When we were hungry we stopped at restaurants to eat.  Some folks might still find this to be somewhat tedious, but we had a great time even considering some of the long driving days we experienced.

         I'll be inserting some vacation photos in upcoming blog posts, but in all honesty I'm bad at taking pictures.   When I'm having a good time I tend to get wrapped up in living and forget about capturing those moments for posterity.  In other words there won't be many photos and they probably won't be all that good.   My wife took the photo below of me standing in front of the Parliament Building in Ottawa, Ontario where we stopped in to see the changing of the guard.   I shot some video of that, but I won't bore you with that here.  Instead I'll bore you with this picture of me wearing my Panama hat as we awaited the ceremony on our last day in Canada.

Arlee Bird in Ottawa, Ontario awaiting the Changing of the Guard Ceremony

     In all we spent seven days (and six nights) in Canada.  It was a great adventure that passed far too quickly.   We've decided that we want to do something similar again and see more sights and hopefully at a more leisurely pace.  So much to see and so little time!

      That's not to mention the great United States which we still have so much more to visit.  This trip incorporated over 9000 miles of driving in 33 days.   We spent a lot of that time visiting in New Jersey and Tennessee so it's not like we were always in our van driving.

       I'd better be careful writing these posts.  I'm already missing the road life.  Home in my house is nice, but I can make myself feel at home just about anywhere I go as long as the company is good and the comfort level is passable.  Home might be where my heart is as the old saying goes, but home can also be wherever I make it.

Battle of the Bands Results

      My Battle of the Bands round this time was with versions of "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" by Anita O'Day and Julie London.  In all, this was a pretty evenly matched pairing that could have probably gone either way with most of the voters.  That's how it was for me at least.

       I went back and forth with these two renditions and changed my inclination in voting a few times.   In the end though I decided on Julie London's faster paced version.  If I could have used it I would have voted for the melancholy Frank Sinatra/June Hutton version, but apparently it may not have been available for viewing in all countries.  

       Maybe it seems incongruent that I would end up voting for a faster paced version, but to me the London version seemed cleaner, musically sharper.   The arrangements of both versions were very similar other than tempo.   O'Day's version is fantastic, but London's version had the greater appeal for me.  The majority of voters saw it otherwise.

Final Vote Tally:

Anita O'Day          16  

Julie London         11

Next Battle on September 1st!

       The Battle on Thursday of next week will be quite different than the one I just did, but in a type of music that I've used before and one that I enjoy a great deal.  Some might find the song a bit strange, but I hope you'll still play along and maybe expand you musical horizons in doing so.  It's a rather sensual song that won music awards, hit the charts, and received extensive radio play in 2000 though it's likely a song most of my readers have never heard of.   Be sure to check it out on September 1st.

        Are you able to make yourself at home just about anywhere you go?   Have you traveled the Trans-Canada Highway?   How would you feel about selling your home and living on the road?


Monday, August 15, 2016

You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To (#BOTB)

English: Pensioners Cottage, Ballygowan. This ...
Pensioners Cottage, Ballygowan. This quaint old cottage in original condition is located near Lammy crossroads.
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Home Sweet Home

       Settled in for a few days, it's almost like we never left.   The miles behind us, the places we've been and people we spent time with almost seem like a dream now that I'm nestled back into the familiarity of the house we've lived in for the past nineteen years.  A vacation is nice, but in some ways being home in familiar surroundings is equally so.  In many ways it's better.

        From the vantage point of this modest place we call home, we've seen our girls finish school, leave home, and start families and careers as I've settled into retirement and my wife will soon follow.  Will we stay in this dwelling in the years to come?  We have been pondering that decision in recent years and the decision is one that will likely be made within the next few years.  I have some dreams in mind, but the act of moving is not something I particularly relish.

        For now I'll keep this decision of relocation in the back of my mind.   The thought will creep frequently into the forefront of my thinking as the quandary looms ever larger over my shoulder.  I love this place I call home, but it is a mere physical abode.  This is the place my wife and I think of as home, but this place can be replaced in my worldview.   I don't have to be here forever and come to think of it I won't.

        The structure where I keep my stuff is merely a storage room and a shelter for my physical being.   Eventually this situation will pass and my spirit will move on.  But until that time comes, I hope I can find that near perfect structure in that near perfect geographical location where life can be lived in peace, comfort, and as much happiness as circumstances will allow.

Battle of the Bands

         Battle of the Bands is the blogging event started by Far Away Series and now hosted by StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands.   This event happens twice each month on the 1st and 15th.   The premise is simple:  Listen to the songs presented below and then in the comments vote for your favorite and tell us why you liked it.  Then visit the links listed near the bottom of this post for more Battle action.

"You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To"

         This 1943 song by Cole Porter has been in my BOTB song queue for a couple of years and coming home from vacation seemed like the ideal time to unleash it.  Though I've heard this song many times since childhood, I was first drawn to it several years ago when I bought the CD Sinatra Sings Cole Porter.   The haunting version on this album came from The Frank Sinatra Show which was broadcast on television on February 3, 1951--four days after I was born.  I had planned on using his duet with June Hutton for my battle, but I could not find a video that was unrestricted in all countries.   However I offer it here for anyone who is interested in hearing it (but please don't vote on this version).

         The song has been recorded by numerous artists since first appearing in the film Something to Shout About where it was introduced by Don Ameche and Janet Blair.  For my battle I have chosen two very short recordings which came from live performances in the 1960's, both done in Japan.

Anita O'Day "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" (1963)

       Internationally proclaimed for her jazz singing style, Anita O'Day was nicknamed "The Jezebel of Jazz."   Throughout her life she struggled with drug addiction though she lived until age 87 still recording until near the time of her death.  Her smooth song styling is showcased in this following performance with some fine Japanese jazz musicians.

Julie London "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" (1964)

       The prolific Julie London had a popular career as a singer, actress, and television personality through four decades starting with her first film role in 1944 and up to her recurring role on the television show Emergency! which ended in 1978 after six seasons. Her sultry singing style led to the recording of 29 studio albums with 29 singles hitting the charts.  Her version of this battle's song by Cole Porter is from the laser disc "Julie London Show", with the Bobby Troup Quintet, recorded on May 28, 1964 in Japan.

Time to Vote!

         Hope you've enjoyed this trip back in time with a Cole Porter classic.  Maybe it's not your style of music, but hopefully you'll keep a musically open mind in assessing the two versions.   Let us know what you think about these two recordings. Is there one that you prefer over the other?    If you're visiting a Battle of the Bands post for the first time then let me briefly explain.  Please give each song version a fair listen to decide which one you enjoy the most.  If you don't like either then at least tell us which recording was least innocuous to you. This comes down to your preference and it's as easy as that.

     Please vote on your favorite by letting us know your choice in the comment section and tell us why you prefer the version you chose. Then after you've finished here, please visit the other blogs listed below who may or may not be participating this time around. And if you've put up your own BOTB contest let us know that as well so we can vote on yours.

Here are some other places where you might find BOTB posts:

 StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands



'Curious as a Cathy'

Sound of One Hand Typing

DC Relief Battle of the Bands

The Doglady's Den 

Angel's Bark  

Cherdo on the Flipside  

Jingle, Jangle, Jungle 

Janie Junebug Righting & Editing.
J. A. Scott  

Quiet Laughter

Holli's Hoots and Hollers

Be ReInVintaged

Winner Announced on Monday August 22nd

      I don't plan to post on this blog until next Monday, but who knows what wild things might come to my mind that will lead to another post this week.  I'm just saying that another post this week is not in my plans for the time being.  That's the way it is.  And actually I need to do some recouping after our long trip away from home.  See you when I see you.

       Are you happy with where you currently live?   Do you think you will ever move to another home?    What is your dream location for a home and what would you like to see in another home if you were to move?