Hat’s Off

I am me, and I wear many hats. So writes my elegant friend on a day when I really needed to read those eight words.

She is one who ended a personal message to all her friends with the words, “All I wanted to say was, if you’re struggling with ANY aspect of yourself, your life, the hats you wear, please don’t give up”. I love this sentence. Honestly, I wish words at my disposal could imprint a deeper impression on my “now”. They can’t.

I have too many hats that don’t fit … and overcoming THIS challenge is her victory. She is the gold medal winner of the race I am just now starting to run.

She writes: “I wear many hats: mother, teacher, partner, coach, friend, sister, daughter, woman, creator, artist, student …” By her passionate admission, each hat is worn well some days, other times? Not so.

Like a Dr. Seuss book, as I would characterize, one hat, two hats, this hat, that … Hats may have looked good, but inside? Not ‘dat. Her hats felt, well, uncomfortable. The roles – the toppers personified – were cute to the adoring public, however, quite tight and constraining … possibly itchy to the soul. Perhaps, an itch that couldn’t be scratched until time and motivation were aligned with her tipping point of self-discovery.

This finally happened. She tossed her old, worn, uncomfortable hats over onto a rack and prepared new labels and beautiful bows for them.

In her words, as only she could write (after all, it is her victory life lap to pace herself after stepping off the podium): “So here I am, roughly 15 months into the deepest, rawest, most painful and most rewarding self-discovery telling anyone who cares to stop & read this amidst their scrolling time… I’ve ditched the hat”.

To clarify, she refuses (now) to place hats on her head labeled, “You were so selfish”, “You should be ashamed of yourself”, or, “Look what you’ve done to everyone else”. Instead – if I may take some liberties here – those hats are being replaced with, “I am ____” labeled toppers followed by “myself”, “original”, and “damn happy”. These aren’t selfish ambitions. They are, as she says, bringing you joy, igniting your fire, and driving you forward.

I’ve known her – and three first name variations – for some time. Your knowing her name isn’t necessary, but knowing this little slice of her life’s pie, I believe, is.

Why? Because any friend of mine, who can render me speechless simply by posting seven short paragraphs on Facebook, deserves to be recognized.

I’ve had challenging times lately. This isn’t the space for details. Life is complicated. Hats are placed on our heads – by us or others – to demand our attention. They want us to fill roles we may not want to act out, but we do anyway out of a sense of obligation. These ill-fitted hats restrict our true self, and yet we keep them on week after week – month over month … Possibly years at a time.

When the noggin’ gets too burdened with numerous family fedoras, and heads sag because beanies piles upon the brain, it’s time for these hats to, in her words, (massive literary license here), “fly off into some Wizard of Oz adventure” of their own.

No more flying monkey hats for me. I’m thinking new brain toppers.

With her permission, I am honored to say the hats I wear at this moment are being re-evaluated.

It’s just as simple as that.

And as she ended, so shall I. As well, I extend the same to all of you, my friends and readers:

“I’m here if you need an ear. You are loved💗”

My hat’s off to you, L.T.

George

I didn’t know George well enough to post a picture. Knowing his wife through her heartful writings lately and our pianistic connections in the past, I can feel her pain. George is gone.

Pamela writes, publicly, of their love. Leading up that difficult decision to end his life, her words tearfully expressed an inevitable finish to a beautiful story. Today, I read – and watched – why that story had to be told. George was a master lyricist and romantic. He had charm.

Usually, my entries are longer, fuller – a bountiful basket loaded with more paragraphs. Today, however, I am satisfied to let George’s words rest with him and on our hearts. More reading time is not necessary. I was moved by his poem, “A Rainbow In My Rain”.

… and his eternal energy is enough for me today.

All of us can be thankful to meet these unexpected talents. Sometimes, they come disguised as sadness in the lives of others. I am in mourning with Pamela.

As you read his poem, may you extend positive, healing thoughts in Pamela’s direction as she begins a new life without her George.

http://www.georgewertman.weebly.com

It’s Crystal Clear

Crystal Clear Wellness, 517 Allegheny Street, Hollidaysburg Pa.

Someone very special in my life walked a few steps ahead of me the first time I stepped into this store. On that day, leaves didn’t sweep across a cold concrete sidewalk and a fall nip wasn’t in the air. It was a truly beautiful day. It was a day when excitement swirling about her matched the sun shining through a few mid-afternoon trees outside – welcoming our visit.

She was so glad to be there. A store so close to her heart.

“Oh, look at that … I need to have it!”, proclaimed the one to whom the crystals, wiccan wares, books, and various fascinations spoke. I saw a light shine from her soul that filled every little nook; without exception, all darkness hidden became available for all to see. She filled the small, quaint store with her sincerity and love for all things energetic and mysterious.

This was crystal clear. This was Greta.

I couldn’t help but think of her when walking by on a seasonally cold day. Honestly, I can’t recall a day since her passing when I don’t think of her. This Sunday past was no exception. Maybe it was the crunching of the leaves? Possibly a small puff of breeze at my feet that snagged my interest? I don’t know. Whatever the reason, stopping to take a picture and remember that wonderful day – while standing in the energy that was Greta – held another grateful memory moment in my heart.

This is Crystal Clear Wellness, too. Energetic and mysteriously wonderful. It is a place where I’ve been since … to check in – to see my friend Tony and all the other wonderful personnel so graciously willing to help out where – and when – they can. I have my special items from the store that mean so much now … more than ever. Understanding, in a very limited scope, the different edges of life previously undiscovered, I can start to appreciate the crystal that is my life. I am starting to appreciate the connection Greta had with vibrancy and vitality in the universe.

Was it perfect? Certainly not. Her body failed her at the end. We lost a beautiful person to a disease that ravaged and taunted her. All the healing vibes and energy didn’t save her. That same vibrancy and vitality wasn’t enough. The universe had other plans.

Those other plans are unfolding and I have a suspicion she set them in motion.

She was a friend of Tony’s and, by extension, the Crystal Clear Wellness family. Because of this, it’s a challenge for me to be in there and not think of her attachment to all of our collective lives. After thinking it over a bit, this is how it should be after all.

Places exist as memorials to those we loved. Everywhere we go – where they were – is a reminder, in some small or large way, of their passions and energies. We need to hug those places and embrace the folks who connect with us while we’re there. A small emporium universe or marketplace in which they visited is still part of ours. Experiencing them, without being able to hold a warm hand or touch a soft face, is still o.k.. We can be there alone. We can stand outside on a seasonally cold Sunday and still feel them beside us.

This is a special place. I will always know Greta is there. The last time in, I bought a small, decorative purple cloth with a pentagram design. It sits on my dresser underneath a few items. Representing the elements of Spirit, Air, Earth, Water and Fire, it is there as a reminder for me to ground myself in what will last beyond my years.

My life does goes on, of course. All of us have this path forward and we do what we can to heal after losing someone special.

It may seems like the energy goes away, but it doesn’t. A few moments outside a special store – remembering a time when I was inside with someone I saw “Oh, looking…” at everything – helped me realize this place is special. It was crystal clear to me when we were there together … and it’s very apparent, now, special wonderful widget stores can hold our broken hearts together as well.

If you’ve lost someone, find a place. They will be glad you came by. Even if it’s a bit cooler than the last time you were there with them, remembering your time together will warm up the rest of your journey forward.

Perfect Beginning

Sunrises are appearing before me lately. New days are happening. One star out of 100 thousand million in our Milky Way galaxy didn’t have me in mind when it exploded into existence 4.6 billion years ago. To be fair, I wasn’t thinking about the sun too much until early Thursday morning inside the Black Dog café. It’s been brightening my thoughts since that wonderful morning 48 hours ago.

Today, the heavenly, horizontal line of morning glow in this picture caught my attention. No wonder. It’s through the camera eye of a friend who captures the most amazing pictures of her children. If there’s one among many reasons for sunrises, this is it. As per her description: “This moment was perfection.”

I agree with her as far as I am able. Little ones of my own have not blessed my life. Apple juice and coffee moments with children who would call me “dad” aren’t part of my life’s story. Blanketed ripples – covering small yet-to-be exploring legs – reflect a unique morning warmth between a parent and child. I can imagine that warmth, but have not nestled in its presence.

Off in the distance, our sun understands this moment. Huggable light surrounds a mug of apple juice and a little one who appreciates the joy in a simple sip of morning pleasure. She gets it. Her mom sees it as well, … the delight in a child’s simplicity and innocence – a sit-in-a-chair life that will, someday, experience difficult shadows through which she will need to step.

For now, however, a perfect moment.

An effortless, tree-protected frame when all of time stops just long enough for a mom to appreciate what surrounds her. A daughter. A sun’s 92 million miles morning hug and her own warm mug of coffee. Connections to what matters between a daughter and mom. A now moment. A portrait of perfection for two forever friends who will continue to capture more early morning sunrises in golden hair.

We can look forward to our own sit down times – a sunrise in the distance and a mug of tea between our palms. Moments when our challenging adult life shuts down and we can simply be “us” again … connecting with someone we loved who is no longer with us, but standing there taking a picture. A gentle heart who knew us, cared about our realness, and nurtured our goodness stands by our side to appreciate the perfection of the moment. We may not see it, but it’s there. We, ourselves, aren’t perfect. The moment is. The connection is.

In as much as loss has been hard lately for me and some of my close friends, all of us know connections are not lost. We may find ourselves at ease with a warm cup of coffee and, maybe, seek comfort in sweet apple juice inside a mug. We take comfort knowing that other person is by our side as we close our eyes and remember their time with us. They are never gone. That is perfection.

A mother and daughter have a long life together, now. It is to be cherished and hugged for as many sunrises allow. The sun gave it to them as the day unfolded. Tree branches protected her the whole way across the sky and the fog stayed off in the distance to show reverence of the moment. Morning was unfolding for two. The day had a beginning. Perfect.

Reasons for Unanswered Prayers

With the opportunity to read a friend’s blog post on Facebook last night, I affirmed what was already known: all of us have life stories unique to us.

She’s one who’s been emotionally in and out of both a tragic, untimely loss and a questioning faith life. Personal struggles, by her own public admission, were difficult to push through at times, but being here – today – is evidence of her ability to overcome. Her story. Unique to her.

Is it, though?

After reading the post last night, I sent her the following in support (and I don’t think she’d mind me sharing):

“Your journey is interesting. Read it last night. Keep pen to paper. People need to know what must be said – from all of us who live life surviving in the lanes they do … and need to understand “being alone” there doesn’t exist. Well done!”

Awkwardly written, of course, because my mind and hands were semi-preoccupied with a half-peeled banana, 3 chips-ahoys, ham and tomato sandwich, and diet pepsi surrounding this phone as I typed with two less-then agile fingers. She needed the support, regardless of the uneasiness of the prose. When someone bares their past like she did publicly with class, the pupils in the room eyeballing the effort must applaud in return…

… Not insincerely by many means. Her words were effective.

Questioning a God is no small task. In the midst of silence, it’s fair to ask, “Where are you?”. Asking for connections to a specific relative – when none was possible – was a daunting query in the midst of that elusive emotion called, “love”. Unexpected life situations being dumped into her lap causing plans to change immediately when a path forward, “just yesterday”, was the right thing to do.

All of these written in a shared blog to highlight a life, now, on the right path. A story being told with the following beginning:

SUPER LONG POST WARNING
“On October 26, 2020, I sat down to write my next post for my new Blog. I intended to write about my unique and incredible relationship with my dad, but at the last minute I decided to write about my journey to, from and back …”

Ending with:

“…And I do believe there are reasons for unanswered prayers.”

It is her story. She survived in a lane others are driving in now. This is why her story, and others, need to be shared.

Stories are important. Non-fiction, and fiction for sure. Both help us think our way through what we are living through at the moment and, perhaps, solve life’s little buggers … and, maybe, some of the bigger problems.

I don’t know a lot of things. However, it was nice for me to read her “Super Long Post” even after the fair warning 😉😊. Struggles, sadness, and loss are all parts of this spinny planet and we have to find our way across the rough water in front of us at times.

Having word bridges to walk over together – built by friends – makes the journey a bit easier.

Thanks, ASW. Keep on writing!

70 Degrees and Flourescent

Really cool conversations can happen when we least expect them, right? Unforced words between strangers standing across from one another in an elevator hallway, for example, are times of unexplained awe-ness. I find these moments refreshing – which is why I take every opportunity to turn those awkward silences on their head. Any opening, any nugget or trait visible on which to latch, is a chance to learn about someone else’s day … life … struggle … happy dance they are living.

Can I do this all the time? No, of course. I do have situational awareness. Bad hair days and other leave-me-alone times are easily recognizable. Additionally, cell phone usage is close to 100% which makes the art of, say, elevator elocution nearly impossible. Nearly is not completely, however, and there are times when someone’s down can be reversed – albeit momentarily – inside a sterile, vertical, metal clangy people transport box.

I met a man. A pharmacist. Not so easily recognized as such because of all the files tucked under his arm covering a medical ID badge. The paperwork was thick. Responsibility as stocky as the inches of paper coming out of manila folders. He and I, both weary from a different set of burdens upon our shoulders inside a very busy hospital, stood waiting for the elevator to arrive.

This stand by, as I necessarily had to understand during the previous week, just is … There are three elevators in use for that particular wing, but only two are available for visitors, doctors, etc … The third is reserved for construction and maintenance folk.

At present, as was then, possessed elevator #2 sometimes feels going down takes higher priority, thus bypasses all going up button orders. Additionally, to the hospital’s credit, there is a standing rule everyone must exit the elevator if a patient – in whatever condition or transport – needs use of the elevator. All of this was going on as a slightly taller, same-aged man with a lot in his mind and I began a pleasant conversation while standing in a sterile, busy hospital hallway … waiting.

I began, “It looks like you may need to step outside for a few minutes. It’s a beautiful day. I think you have time … These elevators aren’t our friends again today.”

“I’d love to, but this is what I do …” as he used his head to direct my attention to the large stack of folders under his arms. “…All the time. Up and down. Trying to keep up with the demands of everyone.”

“I assume you are a doctor?… I have to apologize, but I am a piano-playing hot dawg salesman, so every white lab coat wearer I kinda start off with the doctor-thing…”

With a bit of a chuckle, he replied, “Well, I’m a pharmacist. These are all the orders I need to verify and check, … Always running floor to floor.”

“Wow. That’s a lot of work … especially with these wonky elevators.”

“Yeah”

“Gotta say, though, I’ve been over here four days now and am so impressed with all the work everyone has done with the reason I am here. Everyone doing the work most of us aren’t either willing, or capable, of doing. Thanks for what you do…”

“It takes a team working together … Not just one.”

“So, don’t you ever get a chance to step outside … enjoy even a few seconds of a nice August day like today?”

“Not really. So many floors are understaffed lately and I need to stay alert and inside. Besides, in here it’s always 70-degrees and flourescent.”

As he finished up that phrase, elevator #1 arrived. He and I tried to continue our conversation during a very brief ride to the third floor where he made a quick exit. I remember few words spoken while we rode rapidly from one to three. A few seconds inside a temperamental elevator didn’t allow for an overflow of information. We ended a very brief acquaintance as it began – surrounded by busyness and shuffles of dozens of white coats and scrubs.

This is the work life of one person … one pharmacist who can’t carve two minutes out of his day to enjoy a beautiful, sunny, warm August day. He’s a wonderful guy. I believe this. A few minutes and a few words … I know this to be the case. Health care, especially now, demands extra special people doing extra special things. He is one of them. He is, admittedly, one in a team.

Steady, consistent, … 70-degrees and flourescent, right? This is his environment. This is how he weathers through.

As I finished up yesterday – leaving the hospital after nearly a week of stress, exhaustion, driving, …. and all the tag-alongs that go along with caring for someone in the hospital, his settled phrase calmed my nerves. The empty wheelchair back in its place, my final steps back to the parking garage for a 2 hour trip home were slow and metronomic. I breathed in the 70-degree air one last time as I left the East Wing. Flourescent lights of UPMC Shadyside, Pittsburgh, in my body’s rearview one last time and a welcoming, very familiar, Honda only two floors up awaited my key.

I understand. Not everything is easy. This past week was extremely difficult. Decisions had to be made that were hard on everyone.

This is why I smoosh in friendly conversations everywhere I can. Invigorating talk-abouts with strangers – when appropriate – enliven my spirit. We have to talk to each other in order to keep ourselves alive. Words must flow back and forth – not solely over texts and voicemails.

I understood what helps my pharmacist friend get through his days. I know what helps me. 70-degree and flourescent isn’t my thing. Music, your interesting life in digestible pieces, sunny days in August, … and loving, caring people in my life all make my 24-7’s worth the wait.

… and holding back time in front of moody elevators a few days ago deserved my attention. He never knew my name. “Doug” was never mentioned and a distant memory that never was in his busy, overworked medicinal mind. As we spoke, he never moved the files from in front of his badge. I will never know his name, either. What a wonderful conversation, nonetheless.

Find a stranger today and say, “Hi!”, if you are comfortable doing so. I have some practice and very little shame 🤔 … Seriously, though, … If you can ask about their day, you’ll be surprised what most folks will tell you. Think about what you’d say if asked(?).. Look in the mirror and practice.

I have fun engaging with folks. It’s not always the way to enlightenment, but sure beats the downs in life, I say. Ride as many elevators you can with as many folks as possible for an uplifting experience. If you are adverse to that idea, but need a positive boost in life, look for the usual elevator alternative …

It’s not a moody elevator, but a step in the right direction, anyway.

The Eighth Note That Was

There aren’t many impromptu, rhythmic happenings in my life that aren’t unrehearsed these days. With a special vocal/piano concert less than two weeks away, every push of a key in “I’ll Be Seeing You’, vocalese in “How High The Moon”, and every solitary note in twenty-one other songs – for a program to benefit the Appendix Cancer Research Foundation – has been rehearsed. Yes, Ms. Greta and I have planned and charted a course … headed toward that “x” destination of August 22nd, 2021.

On a rough ocean of unpredictable high-c’s, on a rehearsal piano that won’t be used in the performance, we’ve managed to steer a wondrously magical musical ship through busy schedules, personal conflicts, and medical challenges. I can’t write, “all of that aside, however”, because as of this moment, we are still facing waves of complications. Business schedules don’t subside. Personalities continue as they have for decades … and cancer sucks.

I sat facing forward for a few minutes outside Sam’s Club yesterday. Sitting. A break from behind the grill as one young man, Tristan, welcomed the opportunity to work my business by himself. A short video call to Ms. Greta was in order as she was unable to be with me. This was our 6th fund-raiser outside Sam’s where Doug’s Dawgs has the opportunity to split profits 50/50 with ACPMP. I welcomed the break.

Indeed a short call as Tristan quickly drew a crowd – not of his own doing, of course. It was Sunday, and Sam’s Club. To date, we’ve raised over $1,600 dollars for ACPMP (with generous tips included) and my business is honored to be a part of such a rare, strange cancer … in a rare, strange way.

I’d rather not be raising money behind a hot dawg cart at all, to be frank … and, yes, pun intended. I’d much prefer to be planning and rehearsing a concert with a healthy, vibrant Ms. Greta. My choice would be to have appendix cancer not exist in the first place. As an extension of that thought, I’d like to have my mom in attendance on the 22nd instead of buried in a local hill under a heavy stone due to cancer.

Writing about this at 2:20 a.m., of course, is my choice … but, rehearsing a verse of “Silver Lining” right now would make these typing fingers a lot happier.

Not to be at the moment. I need to be satisfied with silence.

A few moments of quiet didn’t happen yesterday. Those don’t exist while working – even when a reliable, motivated young man takes the helm. I had two, maybe three, minutes of restful look ahead time to eat a slice of rubbery pizza and slosh down a swig of diet Pepsi. I did glance down for a second as a frequent customer sat his dawgs gently on the table to my right. That look down, actionable second – combined with the reflection from the sun’s angle – gave me an astonishing inhale … a note.

An eighth note. A simple quaver.

Prior to my being there, did a minor, invisible, café table spirit being decide it was my turn to receive a message from the great beyond? During my earlier bathroom break, did Nicholas Sparks secretly walk over to goo-up a blue metal table top for another “The Notebook” sequel? The note smudge was kinda cool. Under the circumstance of a concert that’s very close and becoming unpredictably familiar, I needed a reminder that life without musical notes helping to steer a ship in turbulent waters isn’t much of a life at all.

… At least for Ms. Greta and me, this is so true. We’ve rehearsed the notes. Many eighth notes were here for us, and will be again on the 22nd. Hopefully. They’ve been our delight (and struggle at times), but when all the engines are firing together, there’s no ship on the sea that compares. None.

The eighth note that was, truly. A simple, effortless reminder by innocent customers who had no idea a quaver was left behind in their wake. A note head, stem, and flag. Not sure this could have been planned – or rehearsed – any better.

Sometimes the most magical, short lyrical stories in your life can be the impromptu moments while sitting at a café table for two minutes. Keep your eyes open for the effortless note that may appear when you least expect it.

Don’t worry about the ocean, btw. As unpredictable as it is, we’re all riding in the ship together doing the best we can, right?

And cancer still sucks.

Somehow, I Made It

Nothing to write about with everything to say.

Finding time to sit down and type in a few words has been difficult since my last post. What I am not is an internationally well-established author with impeccable writing skills and multiple book tours in my past. With that in mind, missing six days wasn’t going to set off a major crisis in the literary, online, blogging world.

Taking time aside to care for loved ones, run a business, nap, and munch on a few snacks in between time crunch duties was important enough to step back from the interweb typing thing. Glad I, necessarily, did. Loving life, while extremely busy, is rewarding apart from online duties when serious concerns feel heavy on my heart.

There’s no picture. A tag-along above to assist is not here. Any photo or image to accompany today’s thought wouldn’t work.

Today is Friday. Finally, a day off from meats in buns smothered with gooey sauces and chosen veggies. No “famous” chili-mac-n-cheese servings or shouts of “everything” burgers with Doug’s Dawgs stickers being delicately handed out. No customers today … I’m ok with this.

Seven events. Four in 48 then three in 36 these past six days. Just enough hours to do all the normal prep and clean up required taking into consideration all the business shopping and bill paying necessary to keep that part of life up-to-date.

The other part? Personal concerns. There didn’t seem to be hours, let alone minutes, to use … However, I made it. Somehow, I’m here. It’s Friday.

Didn’t plan on the pieces of the other part separating at 5 a.m. Tuesday morning – a reverse puzzler, as it turned out. A nice picture minutes before fell apart before my eyes lasting into the late evening Thursday. Days and nights with little sleep – while maintaining a busy schedule – weren’t helpful.

I wasn’t in crisis, but someone else was. Nurses, an occasional doctor, emergency and hospital rooms, medicine, pain, tears, texts, calls, needles, beeps, beds, consults, fears, and anxieties … a not-so inclusive list of every hour mindful minefields of groping gadgets I wanted to share with the soul in crisis. With those came an exhaustive search for extra time and energy that never came. Somehow, I’m here. It’s Friday.

Yea, looking back I feel something was accomplished. In the middle of it all? Not so much. Getting the necessary things done didn’t allow for the successes I wasn’t sure to look for, anyway. It was, and is, a complicated thing … this cancer issue. “Helping” is not just a physical do-this I’ve come to understand … it’s a much bigger crisis to manage.

I feel rewarded by a simple, “thank-you”, graced upon me, but not by those two words. It was an eight-word phrase she may, or may not, remember saying. The words don’t matter to anyone else except me. I’m glad to have them in my memory as a reminder of why it was so important to act upon a 5 a.m. reverse puzzler expecting nothing in return.

The reason I didn’t include a picture is because there’s no image of pain close to what I saw. That’s just me, of course.

Until life decides to spread out the crisis/business/personal jam ups in a more tolerable manner, I suspect there will be indigestible, short, three day stretches again. Every time will be epic battles of wit vs. will and willingness vs. availability. Somehow, I’ll be there, too.

… And I’m glad I had some time to type today. With nothing epic to write about and everything to say, this much-less-than famous author is glad to simply have a day off to enjoy himself.

Somehow, I made it. TGIF.

Uptown and All That Jazz

Kander & Ebb. Roxie & Velma. CHICAGO, June 3rd, 1975.

“Come on babe, why don’t we paint the town?
And all that jazz
I’m gonna rouge my knees and roll my stockings down
And all that jazz
Start the car, I know a whoopee spot
Where the gin is cold but the piano’s hot
It’s just a noisy hall, where there’s a nightly brawl
And all that jazz”

I remember the stage. No, it wasn’t Broadway or 1975. In 2011, a piano and I wonderfully joined a talented cast and pit orchestra on June 22nd in front of a packed house for the first of four shows. The Mishler Theater stage in Altoona, Pa, was underfoot at precisely 7:30 … and magic began when the ages old red and gold curtain rose. We were together. An entire cast – with a supporting pit on stage right and an excited pianist behind a concert grand stage left – ready to paint the town.

All that jazz – witnessing the rehearsal stresses, music changes, conflicts between people who do show-things differently in their brains – didn’t matter to me once I looked over to my pit director. Downbeats of an Overture on opening night melted away misfit memories from two previous months of stops and starts.

Left-right-left-right/Bass-treble-tonic-dominant alternating action between two very experienced hands ushered in “All that Jazz” as the Overture danced marvelously into an opening act. I loved every note of every song and the hotness of the piano under sensational spots. Four nights. Hours of absolute treasureness behind the keys.

There’s never been a final curtain from that show for me. After the Sunday matinee, my mom approached the stage as I stepped off the front riser. She, surprisingly, bought a ticket to attend the show a second time after seeing it on opening night. Exhausively and four-show drained, I gave her a big hug to accept a congratulations realizing this was to be the last time a son’s show performance would be in front of a mom’s tired eyes. A final curtain came the following March. Cancer, at that point, had been her noisy hall and brawl. Her first and second acts were produced & directed the best they could. It was time to enjoy what time could offer … and enjoy she did – watching the Cell Block tango girls, Roxie, Velma, and the entire cast of “Chicago” jazz up the stage. I won’t forget. No final curtain on the memories a decade ago.

All that Jazz then, and “Uptown Jazz” last night. A connection, of sorts, to the past. Kinda.

Below is a musically talented friend and all-around good guy, Dave, at the keyboard, on a smaller stage in a cast of four. He’s sitting on a stage where there were no big production dances, stockings down, sexy outfits, murder, or plot twists. Just a pianist, vocalist, set player, and bassist/guitar player. Oh, a dinner buffet, alcohol, and a relaxed piano player in the audience not concerned about vocal cues or four-show happy stresses.

He’s 25% of “Uptown Jazz” and a very versitile keyboard player. To type his contribution as “one-quarter” is understating his talent. Singer, songwriter, “jazzer”, educater, recording engineer, sound technician, … our community is blessed to have a musician of his skill perform within many combinations of pluckers, strummers, paradiddlers, and vocaleers.

I sat in a dimly lit room, back from some semi-alcohol saturated beings, as one of three sitting close together at a round table normally set for ten. The people situation was more crowded up front. To be expected, since acoustically, “microphone speak” was less like Charlie Brown’s teacher closer to the stage than where we where. “Mmpf … Err , ddrph la ruch” is pretty close to all we could understand between set songs – which makes the notes Dave was stroking on the keys extra special.

Notes from his piano floated uninterrupted as he played a few instrumental pieces in a trio/combo. Jazz. Granted, “Uptown Jazz” performed most numbers as an impressive four, but I enjoyed the deep jazz trio work the best. New York, small, smokey, underground jazz club tug-and-pull, complex chord structure … All that Jazz work impressed my classical piano soul a lot.

It was a nice evening. Even though driving, from my direction, was kinda downtown to the UVA Club … heading “uptown” to hear Dave play again was worth the small cover charge and four-times that for the land-and-sea buffet. Now, to be honest, there was no Roxie to crawl across the table in sexy lingerie last night like she did on my piano ten years ago. Dave’s best playing wouldn’t erase that moment in my memory, but his musical dexterity and kindness certainly made the evening more enjoyable than most.

Hours earlier, I started the car to head into a spot – not a whoopee spot, though. I drove into an Altoona location where jazz would, once again – at least in part – be heard … a few blocks away from where my mom last sat listening to hear a son perform, “Nowadays”, the closing number from “Chicago”.

Nowadays, we can relive some memories. Some magical remembrances while sitting in large, dimly lit halls listening to good friends do what we do … in part, of course. I’m a classical guy, Dave’s a jazz player. A piano is a piano, I guess, and music in all its forms is a transporter back to mom and son special moments.

Thanks to Dave, “Uptown Jazz”, and all the local musicians who build the bridges back to kind, wholesome times. Mom can’t thank you enough.

She’s waiting at the edge of the stage to give all of you a great big hug.

Beneath an Orange Sky

Photo Courtesy of Kim C.

It wasn’t mine, although I’d like to stand on a wooden fence and dream that dream beneath an orange sky. Opportunities to do this are not in my life as they are for Abby, the reflective little bit of dressed evening sunshine standing on the bottom rail. Her mom, a piano student of mine, started gracing the keys at an age not much older than Abby. I do remember those early lessons … years ago. Dreams were probably different back then – for both teacher and student.

I suspect 88 black and white keys, Mozart, or major scales were not in Abby’s mind as she looked past the nearest post to her right. Appropriately, everything was impeccably right in her childlike world at that moment. I do believe children see good in all things down the road, undoubtedly similar to this inquisitive fence rail-stander who saw imagination driving by.

Adult hopes don’t rest on curvey, worn wooden thick planks stretching between posts solidly pounded into the ground. Our dreams wiz quickly past the opportunities to stop and admire the sunsets and sunrises. We swiftly move from task to completion, from goal to success. The Abbys beside the road on which we travel see us, but fade away as blurs in our accelerating rear view mirrors. It is the way we adult under an unrecognized, unseen orange sky.

Adult hopes always appear to be around the next corner. The next chapter. The next person. The next job. The now is never enough. The sunset right before our eyes – the fence upon which to stand – we never see as a child sees: an opportunity to dream. As Kim so aptly bookended her words, a chance to live the music in our lives as well.

Granted, kiddos don’t have the stress of bills, home repairs, and pet problems (to list three out of a possible thousand or more). Arm resting off the top rail during an amazing sunset is easier if all you need to think about is your next play date with other happy-go-lucky-ers. In Abby’s miniature state of affairs, she has, now, two younger siblings to love and care for, many dear friends, … and this family follower who, virtually, still has fantastic memories of her mom, uncle, aunt, grandma, and “Pop-pop”. Wonderful people all. Those nows in my life at that time will never be lost.

As for Abby above, that was a now moment. Everything must have been right for her. We will never know her thoughts or dreams as she barely balanced her little feet on the splintered rail. Snapshots in time like that are for her dreams, but we are able to find small, colorful hopes inside a child who took a few minutes to watch imagination drive by.

Maybe all we need to do is stop and exit our busy lives for a short while, join the Abbys of the innocent world who stand on fences, and look for amazing, orange sunsets. If enough of us do this, fences may not be adequate as dreams become too big to hold back. Those we will recognize. Unrestrained, creative ideas – free to expand without “never enough”, around the corner, expectations – are real adult dreams born from child-like imaginations.

As these words fall, Abby is on her way elsewhere. I believe mom and daughter are making costumes if FB is up-to-date. I’m so glad these still moments are available to me. If I am allowed to be my slightly sarcastic self for a second? Too bad Abby isn’t very photogenic, right? Oh, and mom is pretty shy about posting “a few” pics here and there …😉 Wonderful. So delightful it is for me to write about this young lady.

With that, find an Abby moment in your life somewhere … a fence, a now moment. Slow down. We’re all so freakin’ busy anymore. Down the road, around the corner, may not be so far away and time gets shorter with every second that’s wasted. Lean on a rail and watch for splinters.

I’m sure Abby would love the company.