May 31, 2006


This just in...


Obviously, I haven't been in much of a blogging mood of late. But fear not! The O'fficial O'Tim News Caption Contest is now online! Give this one yer best shot. There will be prizes awarded (I hear Paula's got some prune juice).

May 22, 2006


Taking care of mom

Today I interviewed a woman who takes care of her husband who is in the moderate stages of Alzheimer’s. She wants people to know about the great collaboration between the Georgia Alzheimer’s Association and a local daycare center that her husband goes to twice a week. She says it has been an enormous benefit to him but moreso her in that it allows her some time out from the burden of taking care of what amounts to a nine-year-old with severe ADD in a 62-year-old’s body.

I really enjoyed talking with her. She was so full of enthusiasm and joy, but several times she was on the edge of tears talking about her husband. She was very forthright and candid and I felt comfortable asking her uncomfortable questions like, “what discourages you more – the loss of your husband's memory of the past or the uncertainty of the future?” She said by far the latter.

I shared with her the fact that that my 80-year-old mother was diagnosed with the disease less than two years ago and is heading downhill fast. I received word from my sister who sees her the most that mom now has days where she does not recognize my dad. The last time I saw her was up in Chicago at Christmas time, and she seemed okay but very reserved, so it was hard to tell if she was having any difficulty. I went up there with the express knowledge that it was likely the last time I would see her as anything resembling my mom, and likewise myself resembling her son. It was a good time with a twinge of melancholy - most everybody in our big family (I have three brothers and three sisters) was in for the holiday.

I called just the other night because it was their anniversary. I knew I wouldn’t be able to speak to mom, or more accurately vice-versa. The main thing I noticed in my conversation with dad was that he seemed very sad. He said that he is by mom’s side constantly, and about the only activity they do at the assisted living center where they now live is go to a senior workout twice week. He doesn’t really say anything negative, but I know from my sister that it is very hard on him. Mom gets impatient and doesn’t like the noise of crowds, so he’s limited in what he gets to do.

So during today’s interview I was at this daycare for adults with dementia, and the nurse director was saying that research has shown how caretakers of Alzheimer’s patients often begin a process of dying along with their charges. I considered the talk with my dad and it really hit home how important it is for him to maintain some semblance of his own life. Before my mom got sick he was still going bowling once a week, and he loves to go for walks and also head to Wrigley Field for the occasional Cubs game. I got some information from the nurse about how the Alzheimer’s Association can help pay for respite services and even medications. The place where they live is very expensive, so every little bit helps. I’m waiting on a call back from my sister to discuss what the next step is for both my mom and my dad.

All this has got me thinking about what the end of my own life might be like, and perhaps I’ll share my feelings on that in another post.

May 15, 2006


We bid you edu

All by her little old self, the soulmate teacher posts what appears will be a series of points about being an educator. I did not initially reveal to her the source of a recent discussion (on a blog that shall remain unnamed) that resulted in me, and by association her, being accused of considering ourselves the only qualified people to comment on teacher salary/work load/the unbearable tax burden of the self-employed blue-collar cabinet makers to the stars.

Screw the draft - your kid's next!

So read the list, and know that I believe with utmost confidence that there are millions out there who would agree/speak to/laugh/cry over the points my sweetie makes (I think #9 is particularly salient). The outlook isn't exclusive to a couple of liberals from Georgia and it's not a load of crap. And remember kids, all good opinions are biased - they really wouldn't be opinions otherwise, n'est-ce pas?

O' T

P.S. -

Happy 13th Anniversary, Bunches!
Happy 58th Anniversary, Mom & Dad!

May 12, 2006


The music he had in him so very few possessed


I've been a huge Gram Parsons fan since my friend Mike turned me on to him about 1994. At the time all I knew was that he had briefly been a member of The Byrds and with some Flying Burrito group or something. I didn't even know he was dead. He is now one of my musical heroes.

I've considered that Gram fandom may be somewhat of an acquired taste, as he wasn't a top-notch guitarist and his vocals were what I'd deem passable. But the young man had some music in him, and like too many before and since, his bottle rocket of a life is one of those that explodes "what if?" all over your musical soul.

Part of his legacy lives on among hardcore fans in the relatively small catalog he produced with the International Submarine Band, The Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, and the Fallen Angels. But the more potent aspect of what endures from Gram is his influence on dozens of the world's most famous musicians.

First hand and most famous is certainly his relationship with the Rolling Stones, particularly Keith Richards. They hooked up in Europe in 1968 just as Gram split from The Byrds because he didn't want to tour in apartheid South Africa.

A Cobainish-looking Parsons at one of the famous Sky Rock festivals of the late 60s

The following year Gram and the Burritos would open up the fateful Stones show at Altamont (you can catch their truncated performance of "Six Days on the Road" in the film Gimme Shelter). Gram would visit Richards and the Stones in France while they were recording the epic Exile On Main St.. His contribution to Torn and Frayed and Sweet Virginia (two of my fave tunes on Exile) is speculation, but the influence is unmistakable. Other influential aspects widely attributed to Gram are the open D & E tunings of several songs on Beggars Banquet, the "Nashville tuning" of Wild Horses, and songs like Dear Doctor, Country Honk, and Dead Flowers.

Richards says that he never copied Parsons, but qualified that by saying, "Things rub off - it's not really a matter of nick that lick or take that thing, it's like osmosis. We osmosed a lot."

The pair also shot up heroin a lot. One apocryphal story is that they once set up comfy barber chairs out under a starry sky in Joshua Tree National Monument for an all-night session. Sadly, Richards was the only one who was able to escape the final result of most unabated addictions.

The Stones-Parsons connection is probably the most famous, but the most intense relationship in Gram's short 26-year life (musically and purportedly otherwise) was with country chanteuse Emmylou Harris. Introduced by fellow Byrd and Burrito Chris Hillman, Gram and Emmylou cast a spell on one another. The result was some of the finest duet work, country or otherwise, ever recorded or performed, from the traditionalist We’ll Sweep Out the Ashes in the Morning to their haunting rendition of Love Hurts. For several years after Gram’s death Emmylou had at least one song on each of her albums that seemed to have an indirect reference to her relationship with him. She continues to carry the torch of his “Cosmic American Music” to this day.

Other artists influenced by Gram can be heard on the Return of the Grievous Angel tribute album released in 1999, a fantastic effort that is easily in my Top Ten Most Listened To Albums. So good, in fact, that I prefer a couple of the tracks to the Gram originals, such as the Crissy Hynde – Emmylou duet on She and Wilco’s raucous One Hundred Years From Now.

Another one would be Evan Dando’s uptempo version of Thousand Dollar Wedding. The former Lemonheads lead man is an obvious Gram freak, having covered Brass Buttons, Gram’s tribute to his alcoholic mother, on their first major label album Lovey, as well as recording Streets of Baltimore and playing a host of Parson’s songs on his recent solo acoustic tours.

And although I am a huge Gillian Welch fan, I have to give the nod over her version of Hickory Wind to alt-country rockabilliers BR5-49, with Gary Bennett and Chuck Mead turning in a harmonization for the ages. The song is on their self-titled 1996 debut on Arista, which I highly recommend as an example of bearing the twangier side of the Parson’s spirit.

I look back on my daze through college and smile to think that I HATED country music. You may already know that the Grateful Dead began the change in disposition on that, but Gram was the one who brought me to a love of the old school stuff, the Hanks (Williams and Snow), the Louvin Brothers (whose Satan is Real album cover is a kitsch classic) and Merle Haggard. As far as the pop crap what comes out of Nashville these days (the Alan Jacksons and the Montgomery-Gentrys) I still HATE country music. But any guy who could get Mick Jagger to practice a Texas twang has got to be checked out.


May 08, 2006


Hoos yer daddy pootenanny

Yes, the Hootenanny was a hoot indeed. But the sad fact is that we are getting older. The weekend’s host, however, was in fine form. He’s a 65-years-young hippie, co-inventor of modern climbing/safety rope, who wants nothing more than to have more hippies come share his couple hunnert acres with celebrations of music, dance, fire, rugby, basketweaving, varmint trapping, skinny dipping, golf-cart racing and sundry libations. I can’t say as I’ve met a more genuine soul, and there are many dozens if not hundreds more whom I’m sure agree.

I ended up sacking out before midnight, though the others in our party made good till 2 a.m. or later (read Beelers' version of events). My imbibement v. time alloted ratio was skewed. Add 40 years, dancing/shaking of lard, and a depressing drizzle (that thankfully didn't begin until after dark) and you may see the recipe for early retirement. So there you have it – I am of the age where pacing is paramount, even if the throwdownhoedown only comes a few times a year.

It looks like I’ll get lots of practice, though, what with about one ‘nanny a month scheduled till fall, not to mention the open invite to come camp on the farm anytime. Looking forward to the workout...

May 02, 2006


Tooor !

I finally get to post about all the fun I had a couple of weeks ago. For those of you who don't know, I am a reporter for a small county newspaper that's published twice-weekly (thanks for that clarifying term goes to Bill Bryson and my fellow staff writer Beelers). The Tour de Georgia cycling stage race came right smack through Walker County and into Chattanooga, and as a cyclist and cycling fan even before Lance became a household name I was, to say the least, expectant. Why the delay in posting this? Well my own procrastination applies in most such cases, but I am proud to announce that the abeyance was not of my doing here. Let's ask this guy on the back of the Triumph:

©2006 Bill Parsons

That's our photographer Matt, who, despite the facial expression he is conveying here was probably looking forward to this event almost as much as me. Before we come to his part in the delay of this post let’s describe the fantastic event.

We were covering the start of the Stage 3 Individual Time Trial in the little hamlet of Chickamauga, famous for its place in The War of Northern Aggression. I use the diehard southern term, which toward the use of I've been known to ask (and usually get really dirty looks), "But I thought the southerners were the rebels? Didn't they fire first at Ft. Sumter?" But I digress with something fit for what may someday be a long series of posts on this here blog, where I will narrate the part of Mary Chesnut.

So back to the race. It consists of five long, 100-plus mile stages and one individual time trial. This was a new route for the ITT and the first time since the Tour began in 2003 that it would cross outside Georgia. The course was a brutal 25 mile race against the clock, with 118 riders starting one per minute. A brutal climb and hairy descent of Lookout Mountain added to the reputation that the route had already earned from local cyclists. I got a little preview of the excitement a few weeks before when a couple of Aussie riders from the Jittery Joe’s Coffee team (based in Athens, Ga.) came for a pre-ride. Unfortunately I am not in any shape to ride with them, so I drove out on the course with them and had a photographer from our sister paper take some shots. Matt was on vacation that week and he was bummed, but hey, what’s riding in the back of my truck for a joy ride compared with being scooter trash during the big shindig?

On the big day Matt and I pick up our credentials and mill about in the early morning chaos that is the prelude to any stage of the TdeGA. The local Sons of Confederate Veterans (I'm tellin' ya, ya can't get away from this thing down here!) are setting up a cannon to fire for the official start, and I guess they just couldn't resist a trial shot. The thing is LOUD and percusses in your chest like ten marching band bass drums, never mind your ears. Well I had my back turned when it went off and so spun around in surprise only to cast my gaze upon Tour de France cycling commentator Phil Liggett standing across the way. Now if that wasn’t cool for this cycling journalist for a day...

©2006 Matt Ledger

I spend a few moments working up the nerve to approach him. Thankfully, my professionalism kicks in and I quickly review some questions/topics in my head, jot them down on my pad and make sure my digital recorder is not on “lock” (a horrible mistake that I’ve made at least twice). I walk over and introduce myself and ask if he has a few minutes. “Of course!” he says in that inimitable sing-songy British way of his. Phil is a true gentleman, and as our sportswriter wrote in his column (Scott, I hope your ribs have healed from where I shoved you out of the way to get to Phil, haha.), it didn’t matter if you wrote for Sports Illustrated or the Walker County Messenger, he made you feel like a friend he’s known for years.

So after the interview I see Matt doing nothing special (read nothing at all) and I recruit him to return with me to Phil’s side and take our photo. Phil is as gracious as can be with my apologetic imposition. It’s a good thing I fought back the urge to ask him if he’d say a famous Liggettism like “He’s wearing the mask of pain on this brutal climb!” or even “Armstrong is barreling down the Champs Elysees like a grand-prix motorcar!”

So the crux of why its all Matt’s fault is that it took him this long to get me the photo of me and Phil. Mind you, the day after the whole race finished down in Alpharetta he presents me with a beautiful glossy print of Stage 3 and overall winner Floyd Landis crossing the finish line in Chattanooga. Not even signed - what a bastard!

But seriously, another highlight for me was getting to interview Frankie Andreu. He is a nine-time Tour de France competitor, a top 10 finisher in both the 1988 and 1996 Olympic Games, and was captain of the 1999 and 2000 United States Postal Service team that brought Lance Armstrong his first two Tour de France victories. Andreu is now director sportif of Toyota-United Pro Cycling, a California-based team in its inaugural year.

My interview with Frankie.

And if you can suspend all disbelief, know that it didn't stop there ! !
I got to ride in the Lotto team car up the mountain, and when I saw a group of friends up ahead, I had the driver drop me off curbside right in front of them. That was fun, but I really had to plead with my friends to take me back to town after the race.

I also took a few cool photos myself.

Click HERE and then open up "Stage 3 Gallery 2" - mine are the last three (25, 26 & 27)

Should your curiosity about cycling and Milktoastian feature stories be as yet unquenched, I have made even more URLs tiny to facilitate your further researching and checking:

http://Jittery Joes dudes

http://Successful Tour in Walker County

And then just the other night this bonehead stands up at the Chickamauga City Council meeting and blurts out his sour grapes:

http://Trey Dick er, Deck.

That's all for now, but you know me...


P.S. - Thanks for the photo, Matt. You made my day, at least.

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