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Stepped in what?

This hearing aid thing has it’s downside. Maybe it isn’t that i don’t care what people have to say, but more about them not caring what I have to say. Perhaps I should save my money since hearing aids aren’t covered by the insurance.

I am certain that people will give me directives in a tone loud enough for me to hear. So, maybe I don’t need any assistance in the hearing. I can wait for them to yell at me. I am sure they will!

“Stepped in What?” worked for Sam Wood so maybe it will work for me.

But then again, it might be nice to stand beside that trout stream in Michigan in June and not hear any buzzing from the tinnitus.

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“Do right and live long. Listen to sad songs. Cause your hearing’s the first thing to go.” -Adam Carroll

I went for a hearing test today, my second time since I turned 38. The first time I was sick of the family telling me to turn the TV down. Turned out I had some hearing loss in the right and the left ear was better. This time the right had not changed much, but the left took a nose dive!

Hearing loss runs in the family –both sides! We shouted at JW most of our childhood and he shouted at me, “play damn it!” and I learned my addition facts playing dominoes. My mom always said to keep track of the hearing because the Millers and Fish family members from Star City and the plantation all had bad hearing. And then of course our family reunions are like a heated teachers’ negotiations session –everybody’s talking loud and it’s all about school.

The morning began filling out one those medical questionnaires. I have completed so many of those privacy notice things that the whole planet probably has a right to know what my health issues are! I usually have a little fun with them by editorializing rather than just circling the answer. If it’s my first visit I usually arrive early so I have time to write a dissertation of bullshit and shinola. You know they ask stuff like how much alcohol do you drink, answer-not enough to prohibit driving to your office. This time the question was, “Have you been exposed to loud music? “I circled yes and wrote on the side, “I am 54 and went to college in the 70’s!”

After filling out the forms and handing over the insurance card the doctor came and took me to the sound room. It had a little window and I could see her making notes. These hearing test things have progressed since the 80’s. I did not have to raise my hand. I could say yes when I heard the “beep, beep”. I actually said yes a bunch of times. Then I had to listen to the doctor say words, real words, none of that Diebels nonsense! She stopped me and told me to look the other way. I knew what was up. She caught me reading lips and guessing. It was hard to hear some of the “beep, beeps” because my stomach kept growling. I think it wanted to answer for me. It was so quiet in the room my ear even buzzed.

The buzzing is tinnitus, so the doc said. She asked me if it bothered me. I told it was not too bad, I mean I ain’t hearing little voices or anything! She moved her chair back a little bit and continued telling me about the graph and how I did. The left ear on the higher tones was worse the right. The right was just below normal and the left was going “down, down, down!” So we tried a hearing aid on the left. There was an improvement.

The doctor started to talk about the technology and asked if I was interested in that sort of thing. I said, “I have a Facebook page.” So she gave me the details. These hearing aids have made lots of progress. They are digital, they block wind and other noise, they shift high tones to lower tones, and they screen out external noise. This interested me. Maybe this would help me hear in a crowded restaurant or gym. So I told the doc to start the quotes with the high end and middle end.

She gave me the prices –not cheap! I said, “You know, maybe I don’t care what people are saying to me.” Really, all I  needed to know was which ear to hold my cupped hand over.

I asked if the hearing aid had switches so you could turn them off or down. I figured that would come in handy when the bullshit got deep and the complaints were too much to bare.

Then she explained some of the more advanced features telling me that the digital ones have Wi-Fi and can hook up to Bluetooth. I said my teeth are yellow from coffee and cigars and besides I use the speaker phone. Then I asked if by Wi-Fi that meant I could get the internet on a hearing aid. She yes and you can even download fly fishing images in holographic forms – what a quack!

Next, was picking out the color. I was drawn to the lime green one and the red one, but figured I should tone it down some. We tried a brown that looked good with my brow line 1950’s eyeglass frames, and a gray one. I picked a gray one because it blended in with my hair. I should have gotten the green one and gone with my secretary’s idea. She said that if they recommended a hearing aid I could grow my hair long again. Guess I will stick with the gray, but I might use that excuse and grow the hair out, you know well over the ears and collar or maybe even a mullet or just a full blown pony tail! This hearing aid thing is sounding pretty good.

“I worked a deal out with the stars

They’re going to leave their lights on all night

Everything’s gonna be alright”

Songwriters have a way of expressing feelings that are memorable. We smile when we hear them and we love to sing along. Some songwriters live their songs and some give us much more than a song. This post has been the better part of a year in making. It is about a songwriter, guitarist, but most of all a friend.

On March 18, 2010 I was driving to Indianapolis for work. It was the first day of the NCAA tournament and my car was headed south on I-65, as it had on many trips to Louisville and Nashville. I found myself recalling standing in Zena’s, a blues bar in downtown Louisville, watching the Cardinals play in the tournament and waiting for the Tim Krekel  to play. I watched the game with Tim and the band as if we were old buddies watching the home team play. That is the way is was for Gene and I when it came to Tim and Louisville. Tim always made it feel that way.

The month before Gene and I married we went on our honeymoon (no laughing, it’s the modern way!). We went to Nashville, Tennessee. We had reservations for the Bluebird Café to hear songwriters in the round.  We sat behind this songwriter that couldn’t help but play a few links on the other songs. He sang a song about the falling in love in a holding tank on the first Friday in May, getting out in time to whoop it up on Derby Day. He had CD’s for sale and we bought one. Much to our surprise it was a rockin’ piece of music. Later that summer we went to Louisville to hear Tim plan in St. John’s Parish.

We made several trips each year to Louisville to see Tim play. He would always dedicate a song to his friends from Chicago.  Tim always remembered us and always seemed appreciative that we would drive to Louisville to hear him play.  Nothing compares to hearing Tim Krekel  playing  at Air Devils Inn!

One summer we went down and heard him play at Air Devils and stayed on to hear him on Sunday at a different establishment. We arrived early and sat out front chatting with him and Debra. They were headed to Maine to play and visit Jason and the Mad Tea Party. Tim said we should have emailed that we were coming down and then we could have gone for dinner.  Made me think of the first time we drove down to hear him and he asked where we were staying, almost as if he was going to invite us to crash at his place. I have met musicians and songwriters before, sometimes back stage and sometimes after the show or even at a guitar workshop. I have never met  musician or songwriter who wanted to be your friend like Tim Krekel was for Gene and I.

Tim passed away last year from cancer. Gene and I went to a New Orleans style funeral procession held in his memory. It was quite the celebration of a musician. Everyone gathered to hear music and celebrate Tim with different musicians passing his guitars around and playing his songs. Since that time Gene and I have found ourselves thinking of Tim almost monthly. For both us it has involved a moistened eye. How we can feel so close to someone who for all practical purposes was only a songwriter and performer to us is a testimony to the person that Tim Krekel was. He entertained and wrote songs from the heart. He believed in people. He made people feel welcomed. He was always appreciative that you listened to his music. Most of all Tim Krekel loved everybody. He truly modeled this spirit. I believe that Gene and I were his friends because he treated us that way. That he could be the musician he was and know us as fans, but make us feel like friends is proof of his love for life and people. I will probably continue to recall Tim Krekel and the joy he brought to Gene and I, but I will also continue listening to his music and dancing in living room while it plays. Tim enriched our lives and taught us to love one another.

This post does not seem timely since it has been almost a year since Tim past. It took me a year to be able to write about Tim Krekel and his passing. I know that this would be expected from a family member rather than an acquaintance, but that is type of impression that Tim made on our lives.

It has been my custom to make a whiskey toast to my Dad on Kentucky Derby Day because he loved the horse races at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs. This year I will add a toast to Tim Krekel, a great songwriter and guitar player who I consider to be my friend – Love Everybody.

Birthday Thoughts

I would like to thank all my Facebook friends for the birthday wishes. That being said here is a 21st birthday memory.

When I turned 21 I was a senior at the University of Arkansas. I walked down to Dickson street. Went to Roger’s pool hall. I ordered my first legal beer, a Pabst Blue Ribbon.

I sat down at the domino table and preceded to join a game. As it turned out I won that domino game and one dollar.

Dominos have always been a part of our family. I always tell my kids that I learned my addition facts from playing dominos with Granddaddy, JW. You learn to add quickly when an old man pounds his domino on the table and says, “Play damn it!”

I remember Papa, EK teaching me to play solitaire with dominos. I went down to stay with him at Star City. He lived in an apartment above a drug store. On the street the teenagers were listening to Herman’s Hermit singing “I’m Henery the Eighth, I Am”. He was a painter. We painted a church that summer and I fed a horse in a field nearby. We also painted at the older high school that had been the “colored” school as they called them back then. I got to paint the stage. But when we went to Drew Central to paint the hallway I didn’t get to paint at all. Guess there is old southern story there that we would not be too proud of.

When the kids come to visit they often want to play a game of dominos. Heck Gene and I even play when it is just the two of us.

Today I am 54 and some day I will retire. When that day comes I hope there is a bar within walking distance where they play dominos. If not maybe I will just go down to the courthouse and join a game. Geez, I really am turning into my grandfathers!

When I grew up my house faced the north. It was the direction of the Arkansas River. The dominant constellation and the first I learned to identify was the Big and Little Dipper.

I moved to the midwest during the mid eighties and worked at an Outdoor Education Center. I learned to identify many more constellations and even learned to point them out to nervous middle school students standing in a field in the dark.

Since that time I lived off and on for twenty years in houses that faced the south. That would be the direction of my homeland. The Arkansas River is no longer to the north. Lake Michigan is to the north and most middle school kids up here know the direction of north as a result. After all Lake Michigan is the largest body of fresh water in the northwestern hemisphere (If that ain’t a fact, it ought be!).

The dominant constellation is Orion. Each morning when I wake up to get the paper or take the dawg out I look up in the sky and see Orion’s belt. Even now, in March, I can see the belt at 10:00 p.m.

Orion is the hunter. His bow can be traced with the stars that are not as bright as the belt. When I taught fifth grade we had a portable planetarium that would come to school. I was the guide for most of the classes. I would point out Orion and tell the story of how I would see Orion’s belt in the early morning in the autumn when I went to fetch the paper. Seems like I can see the Great Hunter’s belt more often now.

It is a comfort to look to the south -my homeland- and see Orion’s belt. It is almost like the Great Hunter watches over me and my loved ones.

In my younger days I would spend my summers in the Rockies. We would travel to locations like the Wind River and Saw Tooth Mountain Ranges. Tim Ernst, my hiking buddy, had a great strategy, hike two days into the mountains, and make base camp within a days hiking distance of several lakes. We would pack fly rods and lunch and spend the week fishing the nearby lakes. Three  stories make up the highlights of these trips.

Matching the Hatch

In the Wind River Range we had fished a lake with little luck. I decided to follow the inlet up. Most of the lakes had a creek going in and a creek going out. These entry and exit points brought food to the fish in the lake. I walked along the creek a ways and then stopped and started turning over rocks. I found Caddis fly larva growing on most every rock I picked up. The Caddis fly larva is easy to identify since it looks a bit like a “stick” of segmented rock with antennae sticking out the fat end.  I hiked back down to where the creek entered the lake. I could see several trout lying near the far bank. I tied on a Caddis fly imitation and made my cast and landed a nice trout. I landed the fish and used my bandana, a substitute for a net to hold the brookie while removed the fly and then released the trout. What a thrill!

The Rain Storm

We hiked up a very steep grade nicknamed, kick ass hill, to reach a base camp in the Saw Tooth Wilderness in Idaho. At the foot of the hill was a swift creek flowing into a nice size lake. We did not fish that lake because we had that damn hill to climb before setting up camp. The lake camp had yielded no trout, the day hikes around camp had yielded a few. One day it rained too hard to fish so we sat in our tents playing cribbage and drinking mountain whiskey sours –cup of snow, sprinkle of nutra-sweet lemonade mix, and bit whiskey from the plastic flask. The rain stopped and Tim and I were antsy, the others in the party were not budging. Full of piss and vinegar Tim and I decided we would hike down kick ass hill-that would be easy- and fish that lake we passed over. Fishing the inlet with dry fly we both landed some nice size cutthroat trout. We kept this as our reward for having to hike back up kick ass hill. That night the campers ate freeze dried pack food and while we wrapped our cutthroat in foil and cooked them in the coals.

Searching the Golden

In the Wind River Range on a different trip we hiked up to a lake one morning and had a bit of luck. Most of the party was weary and was heading to base camp. Tim and I looked at the guide book and discovered that somewhere to the west was a lake with golden trout –we were off. We followed  the compass and map until we found a river. We followed the river up to a lake only to find the damn thing half covered with snow and ice except near the inlet. I tied on a Royal Coachman dry fly and casted. Instantly I hooked a small trout which was quickly chased by a much larger trout. In my excitement I landed the smaller trout rather than attempting to use it as bait for the big boy. The sun was going down so we decided we better head back quickly. We checked the map and decided to follow the river to where it intersected the trail. On the way we stopped to watch some mule deer and by the time we found the trail it was almost dark. Then we had to wade across a very swift creek that was waist deep and continue on the trail. By then it was dark and we had no flashlight. We ended up hiking at least two mile in the dark until we reached the base camp and a party of worried campers.

The Life Decision

I fly fished a little after leaving Arkansas in the mid eighties. My last memory of trout fishing was on a “put and take” stream flowing into the Kankakee River in Illinois. I landed a trout stamp, but no fish. Life went on and fly fishing ceased. I continued to camp with my kids the most exciting being when Gene and I took them to Silamore Creek near Mountain View, Arkansas.

Recently we have been visiting Traverse City, Michigan. I should have known that the area was known for trout fishing. I should have known that Hemmingway grew up in Michigan trout fishing in the area. But it did not click until we went there and I did some reading. In fact the Adams dry fly, my personal favorite, was developed in the Traverse City, Boardman River and Manistee River area. Last Saturday I did my research and found the right time to dry fly fish in the upper peninsula. I declared that in July, August, or September Gene and I would fly fish in the Traverse City area. We won’t use a guide, but we will go there for spring break and do the research and spend the rest of the spring prepping for the trip.

I remember telephoning  my dad’s old hunting buddy Bill Lemon back before Gene and I married. He asked if I still hunted and fished. Sadly I replied no. He said you have to keep that up. So I think I will dedicate this trip to him and my dad – oh to wet a fly again.

Remembering Chile

When I graduated college I went to teach in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. If you have followed my blog you have seen some posts from those times. As things go I fell (hard) in with a Chilean and her family. They were living in Bolivia after leaving Chile because their father could not find work. This was largely a result of having supported Salvador Allende in the seventies. Allende was elected, but overthrown by Pinochet. Chile went through some very hard times and allegedly had some assistance from the north (CIA).

I visited Chile in 1979, arriving from Bolivia by air in Santiago. Besides the good food -empanadas del pino- I found Santiago to be a very big European style city. The other impression was the soldiers. Have you ever asked directions from a uniformed person who politely provided them, but while gesturing all you could focus on was the sub machine that kept going from side to side at your chest level?

After reading the Santiago paper we found a restaurant not far from the hotel that featured a folk singer. We took a taxi there and had  a great dinner while listening to some guitar accompanied folk music. As the evening and wine progressed we discovered the singer was related to Violeta Parra, a folk singer who was lost during the revolution – went to the soccer stadium and did not return.

Late into the evening he began to sing her songs, albeit quietly and just for our table. It was a magical evening, even if it involved lots of difficult translation.

When we left, the streets were empty and free of taxis. This meant a pretty long walk on empty streets. Apparently there was a curfew and this gringo had no idea he should not have been on the streets. All is well that ends well.

Chile is a very proud country and one of the things Chile is proud of is that they have been a democratic society for most of their history. The exception being Pinochet.

I traveled as far south as Temuco, not far from where the recent earthquake occurred. Chile responded without asking for much help. Some of the decisions may now be in question, but they responded. Now there are more requests for help.

Interesting how when Haiti experienced the same type of situation American celebrities rose to the occasion. They hosted a concert and ask us to donate to the Red Cross. Gene and I watched and visited UMCOR to donate (we trust the United Methodist Committee on Relief). Where are those celebrities now? Is the attention different because of the success of the Chile? Many of our vegetables and salmon come from Chile and of course Conch y Toro Carmenere Wine! Chile could use some assistance now even if they are reluctant to ask for it, or the movie stars don’t think so.

Please consider going to the UMCOR site, and donating to the relief for Chile.

Viva Chile!

When I graduated college I went to teach in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. If you have followed my blog you have seen some posts from those times. As things go I fell (hard) in with a Chilean and her family. They were living in Bolivia after leaving Chile because their father could not find work. This was largely a result of having supported Salvador Allende in the seventies. Allende was elected, but overthrown by Pinochet. Chile went through some very hard times and allegedly had some assistance from the north (CIA).

I visited Chile in 1979, arriving from Bolivia by air in Santiago. Besides the good food -empanadas del pino- I found Santiago to be very big European city. The other impression was the soldiers. Have you ever asked directions from a uniform person who politely provided them, but while gesturing all you could focus on was the sub machine that kept going from side to side at your chest level?

After reading the Santiago paper we found a restaurant not far from our hotel that featured a folk singer. We took a taxi there and a great dinner while listening to some guitar accompanied folk music. As the evening and wine progressed we discovered the singer was related to Violeta Parra, a folk singer who was lost during the revolution – went to the soccer stadium and did not return.

Late into the evening he began to sing her songs, albeit quietly and just for table. It was a magical evening, even if involved lots of difficult translation.

When we left the streets were empty and free of taxis. This meant a pretty long walk on empty streets. Apparently there was a curfew and this gringo had no idea he on the streets when he should not have been. All is well that ends well.

Chile is a very proud country and one of the things Chile is proud of is that they have been a democratic society for most of their history. The exception being Pinochet.

I traveled as far south as Temuco, not far from where the recent earthquake occurred. Chile responded without asking for much help. Some of the decisions may now be in question, but they responded. Now there is more requests for help.

Interesting how when Haiti experienced the same type of situation American celebrities rose to the occasion. They hosted a concert and ask us to donate to the Red Cross. Gawilli and I watched and visited UMCOR to donate (we trust the United Methodist Committee on Relief). Where are those celebrities now? Is the attention different because of the success