Thursday, August 28, 2008

Join the Queen, the Corgis and me...

Elton John and Davey Johnstone

I've been enjoying the songs of Elton John for the past few days, which I do quite often. In my opinion, no entertainer on the planet today can compare to him and his music.

I'll never forget the first time I was mesmerized by one of the British singer/songwriter's songs. It was in 1973, and Suzanne and I were meandering around a book store at Eastland Mall in Bloomington, Illinois. I had just stopped to thumb through Kurt Vonnegut's new book, Breakfast of Champions, when I became aware of a song playing somewhere faraway in the mall:

Oh I've finally decided my future lies
Beyond the yellow brick road...

I stopped and looked around: Oh, my goodness! Who is that? The lyrics and music were outstanding; the singer's voice spoke to me.

I bought the album that very day, and I played Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road over and over for months, not knowing, of course, that it would go on to become Elton John's best-selling studio album, or number 91 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. I also had no way of knowing that Elton would become the biggest pop superstar of the early '70s.

In the years since, Elton John has recorded many wonderful songs (charting a Top 40 single every single year from 1970 to 1996!). A few of my favorites are Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me, Can You Feel the Love Tonight, Your Song, Sacrifice, Daniel, Something About the Way You Look Tonight. But my all-time favorite is The One, which he recorded in 1992. So romantic!

As you know, Elton is not tall, muscular and handsome, as are many celebrities of today. But I'll take that little fellow in his earrings, odd spectacles and elaborate costumes any day over just about any other singer. Well...Bob Seger does have his place in my heart, as does Elvis. And a few others. But Elton John touches my soul with just about every song he records. They are classics.

Apparently, Queen Elizabeth II feels the same; she knighted him in 1998. (I can see her now, watching the video of Can You Feel the Love Tonight, head back, eyes closed, Corgis draped here and there: Their ears perk up and they begin yelping as the lions cavort across the screen. "Emma! Holly!" HM says, "Quiet, you bloody pooches, quiet!")

I would be remiss if I left out Bernie Taupin, Elton's lyricist. How did Elton find him? Believe it or not, Bernie responded to an ad Elton placed in a newspaper for a songwriter. So he has written many of those great lyrics (bless you, Bernie!), and Elton put them to music. What a collaboration!

I have long wished I could meet Elton and thank him for all the hours of pleasure his songs have given me. It's unlikely I will ever be near him, of course, but I was once near someone who is. And has been for years.

I was in London, along with Mother, Pitty, and my brother, Tony. We stopped at a restaurant in Kensington, that June day in 1996, for lunch. And as I sat in the cozy little restaurant, digging into my delicious meal and enjoying the lovely British accents floating through the air, I noticed a group of several men at a table a few feet away.

They were a lively group, not loud or obnoxious; just a bunch of British chaps chowing down on their fish and chips. They looked a bit different, though; kind of like hippies. Older hippies. One was tall and very thin, with long blond hair. He looked vaguely familiar.

It wasn't long before I realized a big commotion was going on around the hippies' table. Waitresses, faces flushed, were hovering over them, others standing in the doorway of the kitchen whispering and tittering among themselves. The cook peered over their shoulders.

Pitty and I looked at each other, then at the group. "They're really excited," she said, "They must be someone important."

We had finished our meal, and Mother and Tony were headed toward the register, when one of the waitresses rushed out of the kitchen.

I stopped her as she started past our table, "Who are they?"

"Elton John's band!" she said.

"Where's Elton John?"

"He's not with them today."


I gave Pitty my camera. "Act like you're taking a picture of me," I said, "so we can get one of the band!"

I know, I know...I look like a ghost, but I had to lighten the picture so you could see the band in the corner. (The little guy on the right was oblivious to all the activity; he just kept right on eating!)

As the band members were heading out the door, deep in conversation, the blond man hesitated in the doorway. So I grabbed my camera and snapped this picture. (I later learned he was Davey Johnstone, Elton's long-time guitarist.)

I considered asking him to tell Elton how much I appreciate the hours of enjoyment he has given me through the years with his timeless songs. Davey appeared to be a nice, friendly bloke; he would probably have smiled and said he would be happy to do so.

But I didn't. Now, I wish I had.
Be that as it may, if you are reading this post, Sir Elton John (and you probably are), all I can say is keep singing, my friend, and I'll keep listening.

And now, if you have time, relax with the Queen, the Corgis and me, and enjoy Can You Feel the Love Tonight.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Godspeed, Senator Kennedy

Until late last night, I was disappointed with the Democratic National Convention. When we turned the television on early in the evening, most were behaving like crazed teenagers at a rock concert...screaming, grinning and gesturing at the TV cameras, gyrating and swaying to loud rock music. I expected them to start waving their lighted Bics at any moment.
Don't get me wrong; conventioneers should be enthusiastic, but I think it has been a little "over the top" this year.
Nevertheless, I tuned in again sometime after midnight. And I'm glad I did; I was just in time to watch a tribute to Senator Ted Kennedy. Although ill with a malignant brain tumor, he gave a patriotic and moving speech.
Senator Kennedy is currently the second-longest-serving senator. My admiration for him stems from his more than four decades of devotion to the everyday working men and women, the less-fortunate, children, and the elderly.
Among other things, he helped pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Kennedy-Hatch Bill of 1997 (providing health insurance to children), allocation of 1.2 billion for AIDS testing, treatment and research, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities and the Family and Medical Leave Acts. He helped pass the Medicare and Medicaid bills, and pushed for cancer research funding. He has worked for decent health care, the environment, education for all Americans ("It should be a right, not a privilege," he says), increases in the minimum wage, the Meals-on-Wheels program for shut-ins and the elderly. All while serving as a father figure to his two slain brothers' children.
Despite all of the above, some still talk of only one thing when his name comes up: Chappaquiddick. And I understand their bitterness; a young woman's life was lost. But I would be willing to bet seldom a day goes by that he doesn't think about that terrible July night in 1969; what he could have done, what he should have done, why he put himself in that situation in the first place.
When a man spends his life as an advocate for you and me and all Americans, I think he deserves some redemption.
Thank you, Senator Kennedy, and Godspeed.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Must See Award

A heartfelt thank-you to Sandra, at Bubble Babbles, for presenting me with the Must See Award. I am honored!

I suggest you check out Sandra's blog; it's chock-full of her beautiful photography, excellent writing, exquisite needlepoint, and much, much more.

I'm passing this award to Suzanne, at Bizzyville. Her writing is snappy, informative, varied. And hilarious!

And Jeanna, at Semi-Charmed, whose honest and witty blog keeps me going back for more!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Swift Passage of Time

It seems like yesterday that I snapped this picture of Pitty Pat and her daughter, Cindy. But it was the summer of 1961.

And now Pitty cuddles Cindy's grandson (and her great-grandson), little Heath. Reminding me, yet again, of the swift passage of time. And how much we should treasure each day with our loved ones.

Today is a smooth white sea shell. Hold it close

and listen to the beauty of the hours.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Dash

A couple of weeks ago, a friend sent me The Dash, written by Linda Ellis. I was deeply touched by her lovely poem, the haunting music and breathtaking scenery. It makes you really think about your life.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tidbits from the National Enquirer

Mother gave me another stack of National Enquirers, so I have all the latest news. Here are just a few tidbits:
That's rocker Martyn Lenoble on the left. He's Christina Applegate's latest beau, and they have been spotted holding hands and kissing deeply as they shop in Beverly Hills. (Wish she would talk the poor boy into getting some dental work done. I'd be happy to call my dentist, Dr. Kinney Slaughter. He does great work.)
Angelina Jolie has given birth to twins, a boy and a girl. But it seems things are not going so well at the Jolie/Pitt chateau in France. As soon as Angelina got home from the hospital, totally give-out, weak, and sore from her C-section, the four kids ran out, jumped into her lap and stomped on her incision. Ouch!
Angelina told Brad they're all jealous of the new babies and need her attention, so she decided to have them take turns sleeping with her. That didn't set too well with Brad, of course, so she freaked out.
"You are all driving me nuts!" she yelled, throwing her hands in the air.
It will only get worse; Angelina told a friend she plans to adopt two more orphans, which will bring the total number of kids in the household to eight. Yes, eight.
Poor Brad is probably wondering where it will all end. Perhaps he should schedule an appointment with Dr. Phil. He makes house calls now; I hear he went to Britney Spears' home and had a little talk with her.
But, now that I think of it, Phil would probably have only one question for Angelina: "What is the trade-off?"
Speaking of Dr. Phil, his wife has kicked him out again. She's telling pals he's verbally abusing his staff, humiliating her with his ratings stunts, and trying to control her.
But what put Robin in a seething snit was when she tried to talk to him about something that was really bothering her. She is planning a few more procedures on her face and breasts--a nip here, a tuck there--and she's a little nervous about it. But Phil didn't even try to comfort her. All he wanted to know was what it would cost.
"I've had it!" Robin yelled, "I'm divorcing you, so pack your stuff and get out!"
"Call off this divorce, Robin," Dr. Phil begged, "For the love of God!"
Maybe Robin and Larry King should get together and commiserate. Larry is telling friends he can't take it anymore. His wife, Shawn, is in rehab for pill dependency, and as soon as she gets out, he plans to divorce her.
"The pill dependency is just the tip of the iceberg," Larry tells friends, "We fight and argue all the time."
But that is not the worst of it. Early this year, the couple got into a slap-fest outside the Beverly Hills deli, Nate'n Al's. Larry wanted to sit with pals, but Shawn wanted to sit in a booth, away from his friends. Larry exploded in anger when Shawn stormed out. He followed her and grabbed her by the arm, so she turned around and slapped him across the face.
Larry, who is 75, didn't back off. "You dirty whore!" he squalled, pushing her to the car.
On a happier note, looks like 62-year-old Cher is planning to tie the knot again. To a former Hell's Angel, no less. Tim Medvetz is a 6-foot-5 adventurer who climbs mountains. Last year, the 38-year-old scaled Mount Everest. And he had a broken arm at the time.
Although Medvetz has two metal plates in his skull, 10 screws in his left knee, six screws in his foot and a shattered lower back, which is fused together with bolts and a titanium mesh cage, that doesn't faze Cher.
"We have so much in common," she told a friend, "We both love to dress in black leather and wear gothic jewelry."

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Happy Birthday, Little Sister!

Gina and Lucky ~ Summer, 1960

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

No Stomach for Romance

Bill, Dudley and I were taking a walk around Noble Park early one morning not long ago. And as we strolled here and there, watching the ducks, enjoying the dew-covered grass and the smooth, serene waters of the pond, I thought of Noble Park as it used to be.
"There was once a little fun park here," I said.
"Where?" said Bill.
I suddenly realized I had forgotten exactly where it was.
But I have not forgotten the mouthwatering scent of sizzling corn dogs, the taste of sticky-sweet cotton candy that disappeared like pink mist each time I took a bite. And the crackle of excitement that swept through us all when it was time for our class to make its annual trip to Noble Park.
We looked forward to it each year and had great fun. But our sixth-grade trip is the one I remember most vividly:
It seems to take forever, that thirty-mile ride from Bardwell to Paducah. Several kids have opened their lunch bags and are nibbling on sandwiches or cookies along the way. But I am saving my potted ham and pimento cheese sandwiches, Twinkie and banana. I'm looking forward to sitting at a picnic table under the trees with my friends, savoring each bite of the delicious lunch Mother has prepared for me.
When we finally arrive at the park, we tumble out, like a bunch of inmates released from jail, and take off in all directions.
There are only a few rides, but it is like Disneyland to me. First, Karen and I head to the concession stand and buy cotton candy. And then we ride the Ferris wheel.
As we are getting off, classmate Bert is waiting in line with a couple of friends. He holds a Cherry Hump candy bar in one hand and a big bag of popcorn in the other.
I have a crush on Bert, and I think he likes me, too. But I am surprised when he motions to me.
He throws a kernel of popcorn in the air and catches it in his mouth. "Wanna ride with me?" he says, taking a big bite of his Cherry Hump.
I look down, moving my sandals around in the gravel. "I guess so."
Since I have never ridden the Ferris wheel with a boy, I'm a little apprehensive. And I am even more apprehensive when the man locks us in with a clink of the bar. What will we talk about? What if he puts his arm around me?
As we move upward, Bert turns to me, a mischievous look on his face. And then he suddenly begins throwing his body forward and backward, causing our seat to tip.
"Stop it, Bert," I say, clinging tightly to the bar, "Don't do that!"
He laughs, shaking it faster.
Suddenly, I hear laughing and cheering. It is coming from Bert's friends on the ground. "Way to go, Bert!" they yell, "Way to go!"
I am furious. But it's too late to get off now.
He begins swinging it from side to side and backward and forward, his friends clapping and cheering him on. I'm terrified, suddenly seeing myself pitched out of my seat and crashing head-first on the rocks below. Dying in a pool of blood as my classmates look on.
My heart is thumping as we arrive at the top and stop with a jerk. I close my eyes and hang on for dear life, waiting for Bert to start shaking it again.
But all is quiet.
When I open my eyes, Bert's face looks strange; it has turned gray. He's neither laughing nor looking down at his friends. He sits quietly for a moment, sliding further and further down in his seat, and then his whole body jerks and he slings his head to the side, vomit spewing from his mouth.
Screaming erupts from the seat below us, and two girls begin shaking their hands in the air, bouncing up and down in their seats. One girl pulls at her hair, strings of vomit dribbling down her forehead. "Let us off, let us off!" they scream, "Let us off right now!"
Bert, whose color is beginning to return to his face, looks at me. And I look at him. Not another word is spoken. When the Ferris wheel stops, he leaps out of his seat and takes off running. I don't see him again until we are in the bus, on our way home. He is still very pale, quiet. And he won't look at me.
It was just as well. By then, I had no stomach for romance.
* * *
*Didn't want to embarrass "Bert" by using his real name!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Truly Blessed

It's not even noon, and I've already received numerous calls and e-mails from family and friends wishing me a happy birthday. And these lovely flowers were just delivered. Thanks so much, Tammy!

The celebration goes on. I will be dining with Suzanne and Chase and other dear friends tomorrow night, and I will celebrate with my mother, aunt and sisters on Friday. (My little sister, Gina, and I will celebrate our birthdays together. Her's is on August 9.) And Bill and I will celebrate on Saturday night.

Thanks, everyone, for your good wishes. I am truly blessed.
All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley