Is There Hope For County Music?

margoI hate most country music right now. That’s a bad thing because I work at a big county radio station that I love. I make my living on county music. But most of it just sucks right now and doesn’t work for anyone over thirty five cause we aren’t hot girls any more, most of us don’t wear Daisy Dukes and dance in the back of pickup trucks in corn fields. Most country music right now is horribly over produced, predictable, commercial oatmeal. I’m not sure how it got so far away from it’s original sincere story telling roots.

I’ve had a long life with country music. When I was five and  my mom was listening to Fiddler On The Roof in the living room I stayed locked in my room listening to How Highs the Water Mama? by Johnny Cash. In the eighties, when my friends finally got out of my car I’d take out the Talking Heads or Cheap Trick tape and listen to Waylon, Merle and John Prine.

But there’s hope!  For months my oldest son, Jack, has been telling me about this girl in Nashville. Margo Price. At first he just talked about how good she was. Then, when she got signed by a real record label he was really encouraged and I started paying attention.  When her first album, Midwest Farmers Daughter came out and I saw her on a news program I started telling the country DJs in the building about her. I stood behind them and forced them to watch videos and I said stuff like, “Look, she’s a real musician, and check out her band. It’s freaking awesome.”

Then Margo was interviewed on NPR and appeared on Saturday Night Live. For the first time I started to think there was a little hope for country music.  If you haven’t heard her she’s a lovely mashup of old school, traditional, twangy country with a brilliant modern twist. She’s honest and smart with a killer steel guitar player. And this womanl has actually lived, she’s suffered and sinned, loved and lost…. so she  has something to write about. This is so much better than the vacuous frat boy stuff we’re listening to now.

And today it happened. Tom Duke a legendary country music DJ, walked past and said, “Well, I noticed that girl charted today.”

Maybe the crappy country tide is turning. Maybe Margo was the necessary stone on the country music scale that will start the tipping.

Yaaaahhhh. Thank you Margo Price. You’ve given something to me that I loved and lost. And for the first time in five years I might start listening to our station again, and I’ll even listen to the music, not just the commercial breaks to make sure my clients are taken care of.

Here’s one of my favorites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9b7QwdCWhw

 

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Being 19 is The Worst!

lexoBeing a nineteen year old has to be one of the hardest things on the planet. Your technically and adult, so you are supposed to know what you’re doing. But nineteen years olds don’t even have fully develop brains so they might be crazy smart and still do the dumbest stuff. And it’s not really their fault!

Most 19 year old are on their own for the first time. So they have to deal with things they have never ever even considered. Landlords for example. He has power, he’s a grown man, he owns the place you live. You have to pay him money but you have to hold his feet to the fire and insist he fix things when they are broken.  Demanding a grown up do something for you for the first time is awkard. But that’s what happens at 19.

At 19 you don’t have your mom or dad making  judgmental observations about your friends. At first you think it’s great. But then, bad things start to happen because you accidently pick terrible friends.

When you were 16 you folks would say things like “Honey, I think your friends are kind of snarky bitches, kind of back biting don’t you think?” And you would realize it was true.

Or “Honey, I think your friend is a drug dealer and maybe using you for your car.”

I remember once, years ago, one of my kids was 19. They moved into a terrible terrible Little Rock neighborhood. They thought they were friends with the low life neighbors. I tried to warn my kid. “No Mom, they are my friends. You don’t understand.”

A week latter the trashy friends stole everything in the house including the laptop with lots of irreplaceable creative stuff on it.

Nineteen year olds have to move away and grow away from their parents. that’s natural. But it’s so hard.

For a nineteen year old there are just so many new and really important issues and situations they want to handle and need to take care of but they end up calling home for advice. Even though that’s the last thing on the planet they want to do because they are trying to be independent. There are insurance deductibles, and deposits,  and groceries, bills, over draft charges, flat tires, dead batteries, lost keys, tax returns, utilities and direct deposit pay checks that arrive two days after all your bills are due. Parents handle most of this stuff until you move out on your own.

Even health is an issue. Without your parents hovering and annoying supervision 19 year olds don’t get enough sleep and eat really crappy food. Then they get sick and feel terrible. After months of feeling puny, though you are in the prime of your life, you relize what your parents preached was true. In order to be strong and feel great you have to eat well, sleep well, help other people and exercise. You have to take care of your body if you want to feel good.

But little by little they figure things out, they learn what to do. They don’t call home every day for help, or even every week. They figure out how to be an adult. And for a parent that’s a really proud and heartbreaking day.

 

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Woman vs Man

danceI was in the soup isle at Kroger when a couple rolled up behind me.

The forty year old wife said “I didn’t really like that thing I fixed last night. It wasn’t very good.  What did you think.”

The man wisely said, “It was ok.”

“You’re lying,” she snapped. “What are you doing?”

I accidently laughed out loud. “He’s trying not to fall of the ice burg into the cold black water, that’s what he’s doing.”

The husband laughed out loud and I’m sure the wife glared at me as I rolled away. I probably got the guy in trouble.  Once in the car I’m sure she hounded him about who I was and why I would say such a thing.

The truth is women are always setting traps for men.  And I don’t know why we do it.  We turn their words around, upside down and back wards then accuse them of being heartless, uncaring, cold or distant. When in reality men are just trying to figure out how to answer a question without getting in trouble.

But women can’t let it go.  We insist on making a fight out of absolutely nothing. I’m guilty too.  When I’m feeling insecure or unloved and I ask Alex how I look he sometimes makes the unforgivable mistake of saying “Fine.”

Well, that just blows me up. “Fine is average, fine is ok or mediocre. You’re saying I’m a five out of ten? Cause that’s what fine is. You didn’t say fine like Barry White your fine is a five.” and our night out is ruined.

Splash, my unwitting husband has fallen off the ice burg into the bottomless , frigid pit of my heart.  And he didn’t even know he did anything wrong.

I will agree that most men, including my husband, don’t realize how callous they can seem, even accidently. And they don’t realize how hard it is to be a woman over 30.  We are sensitive and needy creatures.

But maybe it’s time to cut them a little slack. We shouldn’t use their own words to crucify them when they were actually trying to be nice. I’ve started trying to warn Alex before he says the thing that will set me off. I say “The water is very very cold,” and most of the time he backs up from the edge and trys to say the right thing.

You see, if we let them fall off the ice burg, or we push them off all the time, pretty soon we’ll find ourselves standing there all alone. And nobody wants to be alone.

 

 

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greenDear Granger, I’ve been thinking about you a lot.

Today Alex and I repainted an old doghouse that the dog absolutely refuses to enter. But it’s too big to move. At least it looks  better.

I was winding up an electrical extension chord in the yard and discovered a big animal had pooped on it. Pretty gross but I guess that’s why they make soap.

Mary in in Indianapolis working at a super inner city Boys and Girls Club. Good Lord the stories she calls with all the time. You’d be so in love and proud of her . She’s unspeakably gorgeous and silly.

Sandor is thirteen now and off riding his dirt bike. Last night he stayed with a friend.  His brother got a fish hook caught in his face so that was the big story for the night. He’s selling some kind of meat sticks this week so he can go to band camp.  I’m sorry your not here to help with the cause.

Jack called this morning. He went to see John Prine last night. Fifth row at the Ryman in Nashville. We are working on a screenplay together about Dad.  I know you’re glad to hear that.

Last night Alex made me chicken picata and Lexo stopped by the house for a little while. She’s so beautiful now, you’d be astonished.  She brought her guitar too and played.  I wish she wasn’t such a good song writer so I could discourage her.  She and Alex put on Leprechaun garb and I laughed till I had to pee.  You would have loved the chicken and the two of them. Every time you called on the phone you always asked what Alex was fixing for dinner.

It’s been a pretty good weekend here on planet earth.  I had a dream last night that I died and when I got to heaven you were all there. But I missed the kids so much that it wasn’t heaven at all, so I asked you all to send me back.

Tomorrow will be a good day too because I have my family.  Tomorrow is also March 15th, The Ides of March. Remember? that was the day Mom killed herself. She left me that note on the door that said, “Beware of the ides of March.” She was nuts! Who does that?  It’ll be a good day.

I love you and miss you. You’d be proud.

Love Pooh

 

 

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A Boy In Love

classMy parents fell in love in third grade, during the Great Depression.

On bright fall afternoon, my father, Granger McDaniel, squatted next to Whittington Creek. Patiently, he jiggled a piece of string. There was a tiny piece of bacon attached. He knew most of the crawdads were gone this time of year but he had a feeling. Finally, Granger watched as a crawdad approached the bacon and snapped his claw onto the meat.

“Gotcha!” he said as he raised the string up and removed the crawdad.  He looked closely at the crawdads face and bulging eyeballs. “I’m keeping you for the baby! He’ll think you’re really funny, I bet.”

He shoved the string, bacon and crawdad into his deep front pocket then without hesitation or thought, started running, into the woods and up West Mountain.

There wasn’t a visible trail but Granger knew exactly where he was going. He expected every rock and log. He knew each fork and tree. He’d run this game trail up and over West Mountain so many times he didn’t really have to think as he ran.

West Mountain was steep, but not terribly tall. Granger reached the summit in less than fifteen minutes.  Grinning,  stopped to take in the view for a moment and get his bearings. Then as quickly as he stopped he bolted down the mountain, sliding and skidding, sometimes sling shotting around thin trees to slow himself down.

Exploding out of the tree line, Granger stopped completely to catch his breath. He whipped off his hat, licked his dirty hand and smoothed his dark shaggy hair.

He was standing on the edge of a manicured lawn. A beautiful white colonial house with dark green shutters and trim loomed in front of him. After dusting off his pants with his hat, he suddenly sprinted to the back door and knocked twice.

He saw Louella, in her white uniform peek out the window at him before she opened the door.

“Hi Miss Louella, can Ann play today?”

“No, Dr. Stell said she needs to practice her piano.” She handed him a small plate with two cookies and a glass of milk. “Eat up and leave the plate on the table.”

“Can I take one of the cookies to my baby brother?”

“It’s your cookie, do what you want.” She watched him for a moment then said. “Tie your shoe before you leave so you don’t trip running down the mountain.”

“Yes ma’am,” he said as he shoved an entire cookie in his mouth then slugged down the little glass of milk.

Louella closed the door as Granger dropped the extra cookie into his deep front pocket with the crawdad. He squatted down and tied the lace on his ragged shoe, pulled his cap down tight on his head and started running.

Before my dad died, when he was fifty one, he told us to pour his ashes on West Mountain, because he’d always be running to his girl.

It’s always been said, my mom and dad fell in love in third grade. It wasn’t always easy.

 

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Crushing the 7th Grade Gentleman

fightingLast night, after getting the coolest hair cut ever, Sandor got a phone call.

I could only hear his side on the conversation.

“He said what?”

“Oh man, yeah, I’ll handle that in the morning.”

“Thanks, Buddy”  he said as though he were in a business meeting. Then he hung up.

As casually as I could, I asked what was going on.

Sandor said, “This new kid at school he called my friend Katie a name.” Then he leaned over and said, “He called her a slut.”

“That’s horrible! ” I responded. These kids are only in seventh grade.

I thought about the girls in his class. Seventh grade is tough and wonderful.  All the girls are going through a really beautiful and hopelessly awkward phase. Soon they will all look like through breeds but for now….

Alex jumped in “If you get in a fight, you’ll get suspended. Do not let that happen.”

“Yes sir. I know. I’d never throw the first punch. But I can’t let him go around saying that kind of stuff.”

I looked at him. “So what are you gonna do?”

And then with a calm, almost dismissive air he assured me, “I’ll handle it Mom.”

At that point I wanted to demand details but I have to let him be a man, a good man and a gentleman.

If I stop him from defending this girl because I’m worried about the outcome and his future, what message am I sending? If I squash his attempt to be honorable and a gentleman what kind of man will I be left with. One that looks away when somebody is being bullied or robbed. Who avoids conflict because they don’t want to get in trouble.

It’s a fine line parents walk now. Zero tolerance has left little room for heroics .

But the truth is, when I listen to his 7th grade stories it’s the hot headed boys who throw off their back packs and start swinging, who are in most of the fights and get in trouble. Something offends them and they all start throwing the haymakers.

Sandor knows how to punch but he’s also very reflective. He thinks things over, sometimes too much.  I guess I need to relax. If he says he’s gonna handle it…..it will be handled.

 

 

 

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Training Our Boys To Be Losers

absEvery magazine,  poster and ad campaign seems focused on helping our girls with their self esteem. There are  lots and lots of commercials about making sure our girls feel good about themselves. And I’m glad. Girls are brilliant, beautiful creatures. As my oldest daughter Mary says, “I’m awesome, have you met me?”

But our boys are being left in the ditch. These days a lot more girls go to college than boys and that difference is increasing every year. We spend a lot of time and money telling girls they are smart and can do anything but when was the last time you saw an ad on tv encouraging boys?

We tell girls their bodies are beautiful, no matter what size. But not the boys. Trust me, boys worry, a lot. I can name half a dozen 12 and 13 year old guys who have been in my kitchen recently and made fun of their own soft bellies, skinny arms, lack of defined abs or puny legs.

Unlike lots of girls with the same issues, guys tend to make fun of themselves before others do. The danger of boys lacking self esteem is they act out in a different way than girls.  Girls cry or get catty, boys start fights and turn into bullies when they think they aren’t good enough. Or they simply disappear into the back ground.

In school, boys with muscles are absolutely more popular than the smart guys. But that’s nothing new.

But the truth is a many athletic guys peak in high school. They are super stars that fizzle as adults. And because no one encouraged them to develop their brains as well as their bodies, they go on to live average lives . For some that’s great, but many of these guys are way too smart to be stuck in minimum wage jobs.

All the time,perfectly good boys, intelligent boys, tell me they aren’t smart. They tell me they are good at sports or gaming so they don’t plan on going to college or a trade school. They are already planning on small lives and smaller careers. And nobody really seems to be correcting them. Girls on the other hand we push and encourage constantly.

Several years ago when Sandor was in 3rd or 4th grade Alex and I went to a “Parents Math Night.” Teachers explained the math they were working on so we could better help our kids at home.  All the parents there had daughters. We were the only ones there for a male student.

When it comes to boys, Bs and Cs are ok, as long as they are passing. That’s about the best we can ask from our boys, right? Why don’t we insist our boys strive for excellence, for brilliance, for their best?

Parents, if you want your boys to be successful you have to build them that way. Teach them to shake hands,and insist they have good manners and be respectful. Boys who are respectful and know how to shake hands are able to get jobs and then be successful. Because bosses like those boys.

Society wants us to encourage our girls to succeed. So, parents you must push your boys to be more than strong. They need to be smart and hard working. And then you will have a successful man.

 

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Ugly White People

mary goatYesterday, my oldest daughter, Mary called after work.  I was driving Sandor to Taekwondo.  She works at an inner-city boys and girls Club in Indianapolis. There are days she’s the only white person in the building.

I answered and put her on speaker so Sandor could hear too.

“Momma, listen to this. Today at work, this little girl, Jasmine, who is seven, was playing with my hair. Then she leaned over and said, “I think white people are all ugly.”

Sandor and I started laughing, loudly, then I croaked, “What did you say?”

“I just said, That’s your opinion. I kind of wanted to ask her if she knew I was white but I’m pretty sure she did.”

Mary is 27, beautiful and has always been volatile and passionate. She reacts strongly, to injustice in the world. It simply drives her crazy when people don’t act right. She gets offended, early and often.

The comment didn’t bother me in any way and apparently it didn’t really faze Mary! She wasn’t mad. My child who has been offended by so many things in life, upset and pissed off by politicians, rednecks, school teachers, grocery store clerks and old men, just let the comment roll off her back. And I was so proud.  It was my win for the day because life is much tougher when everything pisses you off and leaves you feeling offended.

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who is attending Yale. She  explained the term “micro-aggression” to me. that’s when everything is taken as an offense. Comments are all taken as a sign of racism, sexism, ageism when in fact they are just comments. But everybody wants to be offended all the time, by everything. Apparently “micro-aggression” is very prevalent among young, well educated folk. That makes sense.

Being offended by everything is exhausting and often times stupid. So relax.  Just because a little girl things white people are ugly you don’t need to be offended. You’re actually not ugly, so it doesn’t matter what she says. Her words are harmless, sad, but harmless.

On a nice note Mary sent me a sign some of her kids made this morning.

ms mary

 

 

 

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Our First Date….A Hot Springs History Lesson

alex and me (2)Alex and I met in 1991 or 92.  I’d just started The Springs Magazine and he was a hot shot young chef in Hot Springs. I turned him down a couple of times cause he was a player then finally relented.

Back then Alex was a stud, lean (he’d been a swimmer at Michigan State) long curly black hair and lots of black chest hair. He was swarthy and smooth.

I relented and said yes to date.  I remember I was wearing a short black gauzy dress, it was mid-summer and so hot.  We went to Brewskies on Ouachita Avenue first. Mike Stanley was playing with Danny Smith and I realized Hot Springs had amazing blues.

Then we drove in separate cars to the restaurant cause I was being cautious.We met at The Majestic, an old restaurant, not really cool, but he was a chef and seemed to know what he was doing. We sat in the first booth, closest to the door, under the thick floral curtains.

majesticI thought it was incredibly cool when Alex left me and walked right into the kitchen to talk to his friend Butch, who was running things that night.

He ordered some kind of smoked trout dip as an appetizer. I don’t remember the rest of the meal. but our waitress knew Alex and was obviously flirting. He was really handsome.

After dinner we walked out and he stood in front of me looking so hot. I thought he was going to kiss me. Instead he reached into his jacket pocket and handed me something wrapped in a napkin.

It was a quartz crystal, three points and incredibly clear.

He said, “I collect them. I found that one in Mt. Ida.”

Oooookay.

Then I waited, smiling, thinking he would lean in and kiss me.

But he didn’t. Instead he walked around and opened the door of my Toyota. I climbed in, waited, then drove away thinking. ‘Either he doesn’t dig me or he’s a total weirdo.”

Twenty something years latter we’re sitting here watching The Big Bang Theory waiting to pick up child number four from Taekwondo. We’re good.

So next time you drive past the burned out remains of the Majestic Hotel remember some great romances were born there with reasonable women and handsome weirdos.

 

 

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Boys Being Boys…Let Them

black eyeI recently read a blog entitled “Why Our Sons Wear Pink”.  A mom explained why she encourages her sons to be sensitive and gentle. She thinks people like boys who are rough and jock like.  But I think things are going in the opposite direction.

A lot of folks get mad because little boys act like little boys. They are too rough, too tough and too violent. And it’s not politically correct.

But boys are boys and girls are girls. (That’s coming from a woman who’s a terrible example of a girl. I box, love MMA, can’t wear heels and never really liked dolls) We don’t get mad at little girls for being too “girly” . We don’t get mad at girls for wearing pink and taking care of their baby dolls. We don’t fuss at them for being  too nurturing.

But boys take a beating for being too aggressive and too violent, for pretending to shoot things and beat up dudes. I love it when my youngest son plays in his room, when he draws and listens to music. But I try to be patient when he’s a screaming, hollering crazy guy running around in the yard with his bb gun and jumping off the playhouse onto the trampoline with a  sword. When he and his friends literally pick each other up and smash each other on the ground…most of the time it’s ok. That’s what boys do.

Sandor and his friends come home laughing about the terrible things they do to each other. That doesn’t happen much in girl world.

I’m the first parent to jump into a hot messy situation about a kid that’s a bully or too aggressive. When that happens I start calling parents and principals. I call kids out that I don’t even know cause I hate punks.

Boys and men were  made to be hunters and protectors. Girls were designed to take care of their young. Sometimes the boys have to take care of the babies and the girls have to go hunt down dinner, so a person who can do both is invaluable. But for the most part that’s how humans were designed. Seahorses and birds are different but we are humans.

I agree we have to encourage our boys to be sensitive and compassionate. We must teach them to respect everybody, not just the alpha males.  Parents  need to encourage boys to appreciate the arts, music and literature. But as a society we need to stop blasting our boys for being boys.

When my oldest child, Jack, was born I was a very tan hippie chick who hated guns.  I wouldn’t let Jack play with guns…ever.  So ,the boy turned everything, from Legos to bannanas, into a gun. My daughter, Mary, who is 16 months younger had absolutely no use or interest in guns.

The truth is boys work out problems differently than girls and sometimes that involves pushing and shoving. Being aggressive isn’t mandatory for boys but for most, it’s part of their DNA

Parents, this is on you, insist and encourage your boys to be respectful and kind but don’t beat them up if they want to sword fight, wrestle, and hunt down bad guys. Let those boys be boys.

Side note: If you’re child is mean or a bully, make him stop and don’t make excuses. Don’t use the line “he’s just being a boy” if he’s actually an obnoxious punk.

 

 

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