Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Gershwin and the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra

I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra’s Blues to Beethoven: Beethoven & Gershwin concert Saturday night. Pat Angeley and I began our evening of cultural consciousness-raising with a lovely dinner at the Double Nickel Restaurant. We missed our first shot at sophistication when we passed up the wine list. I have never acquired a taste for wine, and Pat’s favorite was not on the list, but the glasses did look elegant and formal on the table, well, until our server removed them and used that space for food, which is what we came for in the first place.

The concert was at the Civic Center Theatre, where the level of refinement dropped a notch in favor of fun as patrons were presented with a glow-stick that turned into a blue bracelet to carry out the blue theme.

So, decked out in our cool blue glow-stick bracelets, we stood for the national anthem, which was emotional enough, but the program started with what are probably the best-known pieces penned by American composer George Gershwin, (1898-1937), An American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue, which were the reasons I wanted to come to the concert in the first place.

And I was not disappointed. My mother introduced me to these two masterpieces, and I never tire of listening to them. In fact, I traveled to Lubbock in 2008 to hear one of them the last time An American in Paris was performed by the symphony. I have two CDs of Gershwin, one by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops; the other by Leonard Bernstein and the Columbia Symphony Orchestra. I play them when I am home alone so I can turn up the volume as loud as I want to in order to anticipate and appreciate all the instruments and movements. And I love both these interpretations, but I assure you, listening to a CD is not the same as being there, having the music envelop and wash over you, fill you with its harmony and melody, and as it catches in your throat, you feel like your heart is going to burst as the music hits its final triumphant  notes, and the beauty of it touches your soul. At least it did mine. Tears were shed.

When Rhapsody in Blue was finished, guest pianist Jason Hardink played another short Gershwin piece for an encore, but I think I was only half listening; I was still reliving the last notes of Rhapsody.

After a brief intermission came the Beethoven part of the night. To tell you the truth, I already had my money’s worth, but I figured we should stay so we could be educated enough to be able to appreciate Beethoven and upon hearing his pieces some time in the future, be able to smugly say, “Ah, yes, Beethoven’s 5th…” Never mind that the whole world responds to da da da DA! but might not have a clue that it is in fact Beethoven they are hearing. It dawned on me as we were leaving that there is even a version of it on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack called “A Fifth of Beethoven.” See. You knew more about Beethoven than you realized! The symphony also played Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72b, which I did not recognize, but did enjoy hearing.

The Beethoven selections were beautiful music beautifully played, but it is Gershwin that I can’t get out of my mind as I try to recreate the experience.

My two CDs are going to enjoy a renewed sense of purpose now that I have been reminded of just how much I like these two semi-classical treasures. In fact, one of them has already found its way into the car CD player…

But I will be impatiently waiting to hear this beautiful music again, live, in all its musical splendor. Maestro Cho, are you listening?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I Don’t Like Litterbugs, Either

Litterbugs trash Mother Earth just like those spammers litter the Internet. So they’re next on my bad list.

The thing is, however, litterbugs have been around way too long and have just gotten worse. I don’t have any statistics to prove it,  but I suspect litter multiplied  with the growth of fast food joints. Sorry, I just can’t bring myself to call them restaurants. I mean, really. Real restaurants should be up in arms that fast food drive-ins denigrate the term.

But I digress. Or do I? If fast food places aren’t part of the problem, then why is the majority of litter I have to pick up  in my yard bags of leftovers and those lovely Styrofoam supersized  cups from places like McDonalds, Sonic, you name it. So is there a correlation between the mentality, sense of responsibility, initiative, and degree of laziness of people who buy their products? Can we profile these people and follow them as they pull out with their food and when they throw their trash out the window, gather it up, chase them down, and give it back to the them? Won’t happen, but it should.

Cigarette butts are also disgusting, and they never seem to decompose. They may be small, but they are nasty and make more of a mess than you might think. I really don’t appreciate finding them in my cactus bed by the road.

And beer cans and bottles abound. Drunks littering makes sense; they are under the influence, after all, but that doesn’t cut them any slack. If they are afraid of getting caught with the goods, then they shouldn’t be drinking and driving in the first place. It’s called making responsible choices, stupid.

In fact, that reminds me of one time where I actually was at the right place at the right time to put a stop to one incident. I was walking on my walk path one day and saw a car stop on the road that borders one side of the path. I watch this kid frantically pop the truck, and proceed to unload several boxes of something in the ditch. No matter what the boxes held, it was a clear case of dumping., I raced up to the car before he could finish only to discover it was an underage former student unloading boxes of empty beer cans and bottles, no doubt trying to ditch the evidence of a party that should haven't have happened.

“What do you think you’re doing?” I yelled at him before he was able to make a get-away. “ You might as well dump that stuff in my front yard! I’ll walk by this every day and have to pick it up for you! There are dumpsters all over town, three right over there at the country club. Put it there. Shame on you! You know better than this. Don’t you do this again! I can’t believe you did this!”

So while I am standing there, hands on hips, blathering on in righteous indignation, with lightning speed and a red face, he throws all the boxes back in the trunk, apologizes profusely, and speeds away. I would like to think he never pulled a stunt like that again, and I don’t think he did. At least not in my yard. Like what happens when most kids do something questionable, it just seemed like a good idea at the time, and he wasn’t thinking. 

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. And when litter is involved, it isn’t a pretty picture. I realize that the wind, especially our wind, can blow trash amazing distances and sometimes it really isn’t someone’s fault. But you and I both know that most of the time litter comes from lazy people. And heavy dirty diapers don’t find their way into the yard and street by accident, either.

So stop it! We are supposed to be stewards of the land. Litter is not responsible stewardship. Come on, people. Pick up after yourself. How hard can it be to wait till you get home to throw away your trash? And if you are tossing something to get rid of incriminating evidence, then perhaps you need to re-evaluate your behavior in general.

Now. I’ll put away the soapbox. For a while…

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Spammers Should Be Shot

No kidding. Spammers and litterbugs are two categories of irresponsible, reprehensible jerks that are just taking up valuable space and not contributing anything worthwhile to society. I’ll get to litterbugs another day. Today I choose to vent about the bane of my blogging existence: spammers.

When I first started the blog, I was delighted and encouraged when the stats would show the number of hits or visits to each week’s installment. I couldn’t wait each day to open the blog and see how many people were reading each article. I even signed on for a widget that showed the number of hits for the day and what country the reader was from.

Then every so often I would get a comment that was vague, banal, poorly written, or just made absolutely no sense. I mentioned it to my tech support person, and he gently informed me that just because the dashboard showed a hit, it didn’t mean the person actually read the blog. All the nonsense comments were simply a way of getting their own website’s name out there in cyberspace in what I see as a feeble and really lame attempt to increase their readership or get money for each view or whatever.

By then I had wised up and figured out how to delete the spam before it sullied my blog space and I hope before the spammer got much payback from intruding on my blog. And it is not as much fun to check the number of hits any more, although I have also figured out how to check and see which stories might have actually been read and how many were just a vehicle for the spam crap.

I know there is much about the Internet world and computers that I don’t understand, but how could anyone gain any respect or success from writing drivel like this: “I was suggested this website through my cousin. I’m not sure whether this put up is written through him as nobody else know such particular approximately my difficulty. You’re Wonderful! thank you ! Here is my web-site….”

Or “Hi there, yeah this paragraph is truly pleasant and I have learned lot of things from it concerning blogging. thanks also visit my web-site…”

And then there are the sex-related ones, like “Sexy looking –glass shots adultmovie erotica litature….”

And I could go on. But you get the picture. And these are actual spam comments taken right off the blog. Great spelling and lovely sentence structure, right? Now why would anyone with any sense be impressed or influenced enough to go and visit these websites?

I write my blog in good faith and work hard to produce something that someone would truly enjoy reading. I surely wouldn’t try to force my blog on them the way these spammers try to force their websites on me or whomever it is they are trying to reach with their insipid stupid little throw-away lines.

But then I will get a real comment, a nice, thoughtful reply from someone who actually read the blog and had something meaningful to say. And those are the ones that keep me writing the blog.

But I really resent being taken advantage of by these faceless, nameless, seemingly uneducated morons who clutter my comment box. I guess I should be prepared for even more spam now as payback for my lack of respect for these people. But then, why should I think any of them will read all the blog to see what I had to say anyway?

Doesn’t matter. Whatever I say won’t stop them from continuing their little devious little routine.

But at least I tried.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Lucille Liles, 1920-2013


If you read last week’s installment, you know we traveled to Ft. Smith, Arkansas, to pay our last respects to Lucille, Bill’s dad’s second wife. She and Bill’s dad, also named Bill, married on the day of our daughter Caroline’s birth. She was always just his dad’s second wife, never my Bill’s step-mom; they only met after the marriage and never lived under the same roof as a family. But she fell right into the role of mother-in-law to me, Mamaw to our kids, and loved my Bill like he was her son. So it was important to us to say good-bye.

Lucille’s family: Bill, Alice, grandson Kenny, daughter Shirley, granddaughter Vicky and her husband Charles, great-granddaughters Morgan and Madison.

Stories and memories were shared by the family and her preacher of her loving nature, strong opinions, firm convictions, and her faith. One thing I appreciated about her was her commitment to her job at Winton’s IGA Grocery Store, where she had been a cashier.

I suppose to most people a grocery store cashier, or maybe they were called clerks in Lucille’s day, is considered unskilled labor, blue collar work. Well, Lucille elevated it to professional status, a noble career she perfected for 25 years. She knew her customers by name, always had a smile for them, inquired about their families, their lives, and tried to make their visit to the grocery store something to look forward to. I don’t know what Lucille’s formal education consisted of, but she was smart enough to know the value of hard work, the importance of making people feel welcome and accepted, and strived to be the best cashier she could be. Customers would wait in her line even when other lines were shorter; they may not have realized why they were drawn to her station, but that just stands as proof that she took her job seriously and worked hard to be the best cashier she could be.

She never knew it, but she was my example and inspiration when talking to my students about pride in one’s work. I tried to impress upon the kids that all jobs are important and necessary in a society. All jobs have their place, all workers contribute, regardless of the education needed to perform the tasks, regardless of the income generated by that job, regardless of whether the work is labeled blue color, white collar, manual labor, or professional. I told them that it didn’t matter if they were a ditch-digger or a doctor, to be the best ditch-digger or doctor they could be, to do the task at hand with pride and dedication. The world would run more smoothly, and they would enjoy a sense of satisfaction from a job well done. Just like Lucille.


Lucille was laid to rest in the National Cemetery in Ft. Smith along with Bill’s dad, who served in WWII.

I will leave you with two typical Lucille stories. When Rev. Edward Ellis first came to Calvary Baptist, she approached him with a flurry of questions about his life and his faith and more or less told him she would be checking up on him. He said it was only recently that she allayed his fears and told him with a smile that she had decided that he was a keeper. And then there was the Sunday that someone parked in her parking space. Rev. Ellis typically helped her with her walker and getting into church. This morning when he met her, he was informed in no uncertain terms that was her spot, everybody knew it, and that he was to find the person responsible and have them move that car out of her spot.

The guilty party was rounded up and the offending car was moved to a more appropriate space with lightning speed.

Enjoy your new heavenly space, Lucille.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Things Fall Apart. But It’s All Relative.

If you are a regular reader, you know there was no new blog post last week. And this one is a bit late. Computers are wonderful. When they work.

And mine was not wonderful and would not work So on Monday, September 16th, I gave up and took it to the techies at Five Area/Plateau telephone company in hopes they could work miracles and get it up and running again.

Then we received a call from Ft. Smith, Arkansas, that Bill’s dad’s wife, Lucille, had passed away. We drove to Ft. Smith on Tuesday, the 17th, attended the funeral on Wednesday, the 18th, and drove home on Thursday, the 18th. Took Mari, the still in rehab dog, with us, which just complicated the trip, but we felt like she needed the supervision. Keep in mind this is a 9-10 hour drive. Coming and going. But we wanted to be there.

All of this, mind you, right in the middle of the last room of the house update project, which was feeling like a lifetime project.  We left things as they were, unfinished, and took up where we left off upon our return.

The trouble, though, was that we were now working against the clock to finish in time for the already scheduled date for the carpet to be laid, and we were definitely ready for that almost final step in the plan. Divorce was not imminent, but nerves were getting frayed and individuals were getting testy.

Well, by September 24th we finished the painting, Pedro helped get  the tile down in the bathroom, I took care of touch-ups, and we were thrilled to see Jesus when he drove up to do the carpet. And the day before I even picked up the computer, all fixed and ready to go, but no time to actually use it. Because then we got to move everything back in, do paint touch-ups again after getting the carpet down, and then hang those  infernal Levelor blinds, which we had also put in the other redone bedrooms. I like the way they look and chose them over drapes or curtains, but they are a royal pain in the butt to hang. At least they drive me crazy. They are tedious and nerve-wracking, and I was not looking forward to doing yet another set of three units. But up they finally went, and now we are down to hanging pictures and completing other last minute details.

But it is not over yet. The rest of the story is that I get to refinish the bedroom furniture. But not before cleaning the barn and greenhouse in order to move all the cactus in for the winter, as the first good cold front is scheduled for this week-end.

Then Sunday Minnie the cat comes up with a honker of a huge abscess under her chin, so it is off to the vet again on Monday. The abscess was lanced, and she is fine.

I had to go to the dentist yesterday, always a fun activity, but no new cavities or root canals called for, so not a bad trip.

And then of course it is the first of the month and bills have to be paid. Which they were.

So now it is Wednesday, and I am finally sitting in front of the computer.

But you know what? All those things I have just bitched and moaned about-I should be ashamed. On Saturday September 21, I paid my respects and said good-bye to Ana Arzola Guerra, a 39 year-old former student, co-worker, and friend who died in her sleep. That same day a tragic wreck claimed the life of 27 year-old Yuri Aguirre Pacheco, her unborn son,  left  her two year-old daughter in critical condition, and injured her two other children. And remember, we had just been to the funeral of Lucille, who left a grieving family. My petty problems don’t even count.

Our dog will recover; we will enjoy the house renovation for years; we made the Ft. Smith trips safely; the cat is fine. the computer was given a new lease on life; my kids and grandkids are alive and well; I am blessed. Life goes on for us; for these families, life will be a challenge.

So the next time you are tempted to have a major pity party, perhaps you need to stop, like I finally did, count your blessing and thank God for the life you have. Put things in perspective.

Problems really are relative.