Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dreaming of Sitting Bull Along the Missouri River

Writing about the road, especially the one heading west into the Badlands and then the Black Hills, reminded me of the many trips I've taken into that part of the country. In 1975, the summer I graduated from college, my older son, Trevor, his dad and I, headed out west for the very first time. I wanted to see more of this country and share it with Trevor. It was a chance to enlarge our views through new experiences. I had longed to go there for so many years, with the Black Hills something I held in my imagination as magical. The energy there is said to be very good, although a bit wonky in spots. I don't know what it can truly be attributed to, but the Native Americans have long held the belief that it is, indeed, a special place. I felt it to be so. I also believe that the original inhabitants of a place can create a certain energy from the lives they lead.

Two trips out there were actually just going through, only a couple of days and then onward. They were in mid-August, motorcycle rally time in Sturgis. And a lively crew they were. I was young and fantasies of being a biker chick still had that bad-girl appeal being young allows for. Bikes lined the street with The Bodega as the preferred watering hole.

It was great fun checking into the Franklin Hotel on Deadwood's main street. It's been around a good long while, but then it still had an old west appeal to it. Big lobby, big staircase, and rooms that begged for an old metal bathtub to wash the dust off after a day out on the trail.

It's always exciting, discovering new places. The many small roads winding through the hills reveal crystalline lakes, mule deer and mountain goats, just down from Mount Rushmore. The drive on Needles Highway is worth the price of admission to that beautiful country. And, for whatever reason, those faces carved in granite speak to me, always have. It was a magnificent undertaking Gutzon Borglum began. His story enchants me still.

The second time through we set up camp on the edge of Deadwood. Our fellow campers were an interesting mix of families and bikers. It rained one night, cats and dogs, but that was okay. We were having an adventure and that's all that mattered. The following morning, though, our neighbor, a lone biker from Colorado with whom we had chatted the evening before, was not in camp although his stuff remained. We heard a biker had been killed on the road during the night. I have always hoped it wasn't him, but that he'd gotten lucky the night before and was having breakfast with a lady he met at the Bodega. His stuff could wait.

Deadwood itself is nestled among the hills which once held a large population due to the gold discovered in them thar hills. Old miners houses remain on the sides of these hills, hanging on for dear life. The Chinese opium dens are still there, not in full operation, but you can tour them if you're of a mind to do so. It's an interesting part of the history of the place. There's a pretty good museum containing information and artifacts that's fun to wander around in.  The streets aren't really designed for car traffic, walking is the only way to soak up the ambience.

Black Hills gold jewelry is everywhere, of course. Many years ago I went on the road and sold it to stores in the upper mid-west along with the turquoise and coral jewelry that had a strong resurgence back in the '70's. It was a less than happy time in my life, so will write more about that, perhaps, when I feel more ready than I do now. Some times are meant to stay back there where they belong.

Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok, among others, are buried in Mount Moriah, the Deadwood cemetery. In the years we first arrived it was an old unkempt cemetery and you could wonder around, find these gravestones for yourself and marvel at the beautiful setting on a hillside. Several years later, when there again, it had been destroyed by gentrification. New tombstones, and so clean and spiffy you might as well be on the sidewalks of some model city. They were charging admission to the cemetery! Another tourist trap as dead as its inhabitants seem to be. More weird white folk stuff. I shall resist a rant. A long one, anyway.

Deadwood, unfortunately, has now become another gambling destination with many of the old hotels, including the Franklin, reborn as casinos. Everyone has to make a living, but I believe it's greed that is the draw and not usually set in motion by the locals, shall we say. Kevin Costner, after filming "Dances With Wolves," opened up one with his brother in one of those old hotels. The walls were lined with plexi-glass cases containing his costumes from that film, as well as "Robin Hood." It was nice, seeing the costumes, the fabrics, the intricate needlework. I'm a bit of a costume and by-gone era clothing freak, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. Deadwood was ... dead. Its soul gone missing.

Back then, in the '70's, we were on our way further west, heading for Cripple Creek, Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, and other places I'd only then read about and wanted to experience. They are subsequent stories. The story of Cripple Creek is, unfortunately, a similar case of greed creating a town through gold mining. It, too, eventually evolved into a magical place in the in-between time, and then, once again, greed returned on yet another search and destroy mission.

Rather than get into that too deeply, I will return to what called up this memory and brought me to the keyboard this morning. My younger son, Coleman, was just about to go into fifth grade and the two of us were camping up at the top of one of those roads leading to Mount Rushmore. It was along a small creek, a very green and sunny place. There were donkeys hanging out along the road that would sucker cars into stopping long enough to beg for food. Herds of buffalo often crossed the road right in front of us. They are truly awesome creatures and have long held a great and mysterious appeal to me. The love I have for them deserves its own blog. And I will, soon.

We spent a few days exploring the back roads just to see where they'd take us, what new vistas awaited. We took a ride on an old locomotive through the back country as well as a tour down into Wind Cave. Wonderful fun. We imagined ourselves spelunkers, peeking into every nook and cranny we could get away with. Later that night we sat among some boulders and watched the light show on the faces of Rushmore with tourists from all over the world. We did all the usual things you do there, including a visit to the Crazy Horse monument, still progressing but very slowly. You could pick a rock from a pile inside the museum that supposedly came from the creation of it. We took a walk through the museum and then each selected one for our journey home.

We were returning via the northern route through South Dakota; a long day on the road and endless golden wheat fields. It was beautiful in its own infinite way. Two old trucks with flat beds were sitting alongside a hill, one red, the other turquoise. They looked as though they had not moved from that spot since sometime back in '53. Against that golden wheat they were a sight to behold. It's one of the special memories of that time, of that trip.

The other was arriving at the Missouri River just before dark and realizing that Sitting Bull's grave site, the one where his body was brought to and reburied in 1953, was sitting up on a bluff overlooking the river a couple of miles off the road. We could make it just before dark. We wanted to pay tribute to this courageous historical figure who had played a pivotal role in the lives of so many Native Americans, particularly his fellow Sioux. He had lived most of his life just a few miles east of there.

When we arrived, right at dusk, a few people were leaving and then we had it all to ourselves. The monument is a bust created by the sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski, of the Crazy Horse monument. Several visitors had left articles in homage at its base; images, writings, including poetry, pouches with bead work, tobacco. We were discussing what we could possibly leave when Coleman took off on a gallop back to the car several yards away.  He returned with his rock from the Crazy Horse monument. I was so pleased he had thought of it on his own. A very fitting tribute it was. He placed it at the base and then we stood in silence as darkness fell.

On the way back to the car we quietly talked of both Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. We hoped both were at peace. Then, we drove across the bluff and into town after dark where we stayed for the night, sleeping and dreaming somewhere along the river.

I did not include a photo of Crazy Horse, as there are many bogus photos in circulation. He did not ever want his photo taken. Some say there are no true photos of him, and so I chose to honor that.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

And the Road Goes On Forever

When traveling out west, I-90 has become the preferred artery for me. It has fewer semi-trucks and better scenery. And, I get to cross the Missouri River at Chamberlain, South Dakota, one of the prettiest spots along any interstate.  Many years ago, I discovered US-83, running between I-90 and I-80. You exit just before you get into the Badlands - a place beautiful in its austerity - and head south, down into Nebraska. It feels as though you've stepped through a portal into another time, the edge of the New Frontier, the yet-to-be-discovered West.

There is a sparseness to the landscape that I find beautiful in its simplicity. Living there would mean a certain loneliness, but there's something in the momentary melancholy I find appealing as I drive through a landscape composed of undulating hills as far as the eye can see, dotted by lone trees and old windmills, some of which still provide water to the cattle roaming these hills. It makes me think of hard-working people loving the land from which they struggle to create their lives, a land of pickup trucks and Black Angus, working cowboys and mercantile. I find it very satisfying to know they still exist.

My first trip through that part of the country was made in early spring, some time in the mid-'90's. It included a stop at a roadside kiosk describing the Sand Hills, which cover about one quarter of the state. I stopped long enough to read the information, take a short walk around and let my imagination wander down those side roads that seem to lead to nowhere. Nowhere is home and refuge to mule deer, coyotes, red fox, wild turkeys, and many other critters. That evening, in a room in Ogallala, I spent a lot of time picking sand burrs out of my moccasins.

As I came back through a few days ago, en route home to Minnesota after a visit to Santa Fe, I stopped again at the kiosk. There was a light blanket of snow on the landscape adding to the quiet, the sense of the undiscovered. The vastness, when covered in white, casts a blue tint reflected back from a clear and endless sky. No sand burrs this time, just a sense of being drawn into a deep stillness.

Valentine sits mid-way through this country. It's a small town of just over 2,000 people, people who still shop at the mercantile and bank where there is surely the finest "carving" found on the front of any building across the land. It consists of a cattle drive, complete with cowboy, wildlife, an Indian village, and a steam locomotive heading through the center of it all. It's a story depicting the settling of the west.  I'll skip the politics of it all and just say, it's a fine "carving."

I had driven out of town and down through the valley on the outskirts, when a small voice told me I wasn't done with Valentine. I spent a minute or so questioning it, then found myself pulling over, turning around and heading back, knowing there were more pictures to be taken, buildings to notice, a town to fall in love with.

The sidewalks of Valentine are lined with red hearts on both sides of the main street, including hearts on the street lamps. There's also an interesting mixture of architecture, from Prairie to what can only be described as Late 1950's Storefront, with a nod to Art Deco thrown in. The light wasn't perfect for photographs at mid-day, but I couldn't resist. There was a grain elevator silhouetted against the sunlight and stores that begged for attention I was only too glad to give.

A bit later, as daylight was waning, I had trouble getting in my car and heading on down the road. Valentine seems like the last holdout, a vanguard against change, the kind of change that has occurred across our country creating a deep divide that appears untraversable. I don't long for the way things were. I do long for a strong sense of community where people look out for one another and find solace in their shared lives.

I plan to revisit Valentine next time through and will stay the night. Jim Harrison, one of my favorite writers, who centers some of his writing on the country around Valentine, says they serve a mean steak at the Peppermill. I'm not much of a steak eater any more, but it would be fun to sit there and imagine Jim eating one. He once told me at a book signing at the Lensic in Santa Fe that he spent the night sleeping in a park in Brainerd, Minnesota, just down the road from my then former and now current home. I can see him there now, before Farmer (which includes one of the finest endings in literature), before Legends of the Fall and fame found him where he was.

Yes, I did sort of fall in love with Valentine. And, I sort of fell in love with myself. It left me in a state of unmitigated joy, the kind of joy that wraps you in a soft blanket of blue sky as you drive on down the road, holding you quiet and hopeful as you head further into Life.

The photographs are mine.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Turning the Day Around

Here I am, in Santa Fe, once again. This was my home for over seven years. Some of the most wonderful years of my life. I had arrived here, in the late fall of 2001, in a fog of emotions and with an empty gas tank. I had run out of gas, in every way, just before the first exit. How very fitting it was, looking back. My gas gauge had quit working shortly before embarking on my journey to a new life. I could usually go about three hundred miles on a tank. However, I failed to consider the wind outside Pecos and going through the canyon in the home stretch. I won't go into the details of finding a way out of my predicament. It involves a police cruiser, a gas station, and a taxi driver who also served as an angel. I was here and that's all that mattered; the Land of Enchantment, affectionately referred to by many as the Land of Entrapment.

This trip is about closing that chapter of my life. I made a decision, when I went home to Minnesota for a visit this past summer, to return to the place where I grew up and had lived most of my life. There was something about the lush greenery, lake after lake, and so many trees, that called me back. There was also this thing I call Inner Knowing, that Guidance that speaks to us from time to time, when we are willing to listen, giving us vital  information. I Knew I was supposed to return home. I have had no second guessing about that decision. That's the nature of Inner Knowing.

I woke up this morning in Santa Fe with a less than enthusiastic approach to the day. I was having trouble with the notion of giving even more of my stuff away and really getting down to bare bones, just keeping good old fashioned memorabilia. The things we can't do without. I felt discombobulated by the task before me. I could not seem to unwind my thoughts and get to a place of stillness. Then, just before going to the storage shed, my son called. We talked about things that brought perspective to my situation. He reminded me to just "glide through." Good timing, good visit.

Through the years I have owned a few homes and each time managed to go in with a rather light load, only to leave a few years later with rooms of stuff that I can't even recall when or how it arrived. It just seemed to accumulate without my consent or even being aware of it. And, yet, there it would be, waiting to see what I would do with it as I prepared to move again. Each time I gave much away, hoping some person or family would find some small bit of joy in my things and my things would enjoy their new homes. That's worked pretty well. I find I like giving stuff away. It's good to recycle and it's liberating, to boot. It brings with it a renewed sense of freedom. I can light out for the territory at a moment's notice. Have.

This time, it was the Salvation Army that got area rugs, vacuum cleaner, bedding, clothes, bric-a-brac and stuff like that. Everything fell into place at the storage shed. Like clockwork. Decisions made effortlessly. And it felt really good.

Now, I'm checking out the show times. I have some movie-going to catch up on before heading back to Minnesota. Pedro Almodovar's "Broken Embraces," with Penelope Cruz, of course, and "Crazy Heart," with the soon to be Oscar winner, Jeff Bridges. Jeff is one cool guy. Can't wait to see his tale of an almost broken man. I think, I hope, it involves redemption. I like stories where somehow, in some unexpected fashion, goodness finds a way.

Anne, my friend from Carson, called awhile ago and we chatted about our day, storage sheds, insights, and naps. It was nice.

Now, evening has fallen and there's a man outside my window quietly calling to his dog, Otis. My son's cat is named Otis. That feels nice, too. It feels peaceful. It feels right. It's been a really fine day.

There's never a shortage of angels in the city of Holy Faith.

Addendum: As it turns out, the main character in "Crazy Heart" is a man named Otis....

Friday, February 12, 2010

For the Love of Books

The love of books, the love of the written word in any form, has been a mainstay of my life. It started while sitting on the arm of a very large, pink velvety chair in the living room of the farm house I grew up in. My mother would sit in this chair in the evening with my sister on her right and I on her left, and we would listen as she read. I often followed along and would, from time to time, stop her to see where she was, see what the word looked like and how it matched the sound of the word. There was a story involving monkeys and coconuts that was a regular of ours. It was this story, more than any other, that taught me how to read.

Reading was integral to our family life and material was always at hand. My early favorites were found in a book of fables and fairy tales. Hansel and Gretel held great appeal, although the idea of a step parent was unfathomable to me, not part of the world I knew, and wickedness in any form was strictly the stuff of fairy tales. It was going deep in the woods with a trail of bread crumbs as guidance that grabbed my attention.

I went on to Golden Books and then comic books. Remember Classics Illustrated? They would tell a very condensed version of  literary classics. I still have a copy of Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle that I framed. And, lest you think it was all classics, there was Archie and the gang, Turok, Son of Stone, as well as Millie the Model.  All things in balance, of some sort.

My tastes, if I dare to call it that, developed as I went, until one day in my tenth grade English class we had to give a book report and read a small portion to the class. It was an exercise meant to give a glimpse into the book we had read, as well as the writer's style. I read from John Updike's Rabbit, Run. Ah, sweet, troubled youth. I cannot provide an adequate explanation as to why Rabbit and the world he felt trapped by would appeal to me at that stage of my life. I like to believe it had a great deal to do with Updike's writing. I knew what appealed to me as far as a writer's style even then, and his definitely did. Unfortunately, for my classmates and my rather stunned teacher, I read the drowning in the bathtub scene. I would not choose that now for the life of me, but in my then small, self-centered, not very emotionally mature world view, I found it to be the natural, if not dramatic, choice. Teenagers love drama. And I was no exception.

Years later, after getting my degree, I returned to my high school as a substitute teacher and there was Mrs. Leyendecker, my tenth grade English teacher. I was sitting in the teacher's lounge at lunch visiting with other former teachers of mine when she realized who I was and said something like, "You read the drowning in the bathtub scene from Rabbit, Run." I offered a belated apology for my youthful indiscretion. She was very nice, and I must say, it was a real treat to be sitting among my former teachers as a teacher myself. I felt a small bit of redemption. When Updike passed on last year the New Yorker did several nice pieces on him and included some of his wonderful poetry.

I trust books will remain an invaluable part of our world. I recently went to see the movie "The Book of Eli," not once, but twice. I loved the post-apocalyptic story, the amazing cinematography, and Denzel Washington is always worth watching. But, what I carried with me after the movie was over was the importance of books as a way to recover a world that has been lost. It wasn't The Book itself or the ways in which books can be misused or misrepresented, but the value of books, the idea that books, a library or a repository of knowledge, would be a way to begin again.

I always have at least one that I am lost in, fiction now and then, but often it's non-fiction that I reach for; someone's story that sounds vaguely like my own, or the person who has lived a life I will never experience except through their words, but find a camaraderie or empathy therein. I fear I sound like a dinosaur waxing nostalgic for the good old days, but I do hope we never lose the desire and need for libraries and bookstores. I like nothing better than to wander around a bookstore, seeing what jumps out at me. Borders in Santa Fe was my home away from home for many years. I still go back there whenever I visit. I will be there in a couple of days. Can't wait.

I remember several bookstores, independently owned, that provide rich memories. One in New Orleans, just off Jackson Square, small, cramped, and spectacularly well-stocked. Another on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, the Hungry Mind, that had a selection nonpareil, and one of the first to include a cafe within its walls. During my earlier forays west, Back of Beyond in Moab, Utah, was a regular stop. I once scored a book of Ansel Adams letters for half the price on one of those trips. I was beyond happy.

Used book stores are always fun to go wading through, turning up some unexpected jewel. I find even the smell enticing. Perhaps I will share a few of my favorites in a future post. There is a small one, in the equally small town in which I live, with an odd and lively mixture, operated by a thoughtful bibliophile, working hard at keeping the faith, holding the future in his good hands.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Word to Morning Coffee Drinkers. You Know Who You Are.

The subject is coffee, morning coffee to be exact. I haven't tried quitting and don't plan to. It's not that I'm addicted or anything. Really, I'm not. I can quit any time I want to, I just don't want to. It's a simple pleasure that gives me another reason to get up in the morning. I like getting out of bed with the sun and almost without fail look forward to another day, even without the coffee. I think. I love the ritual of grinding the beans, transferring them to the filter, pouring the water in, and hitting that button, knowing that heaven is just around the corner. I don't know where or how I fell into this ... habit. It may have started with something like, "The first hit is free." Here's a picture of the really good stuff:

I was talking on the phone to my sister, Chris, the other evening and we both felt that the day had not been one of our better ones. We each were planning on turning in early. She said, "I don't mind getting to the end of some days, I just want to go to sleep knowing I'll have a good cup of coffee to look forward to first thing in the morning." I completely understood, and agreed. We are both particularly fond of the organic Black Lightning made by Aroma Coffee of Santa Fe. I served it when she came to visit, she found it blissful, and now orders it directly, has it delivered right to her door. I'm not that hard core, but next time I get down Santa Fe way I'll be bringing back some beans.

They say if we fall on hard times coffee beans would be a good thing to be stocked up on, which has a down side to it. I have this vision of the town folk at the end of the lane with lanterns and pitchforks. The once kindly preacher, now leader of what remains of the villagers, will gently say, the first time, "We know you're in there. We're not here to hurt you. We just want the beans." When he asks the third time, with a tad more hostility in his voice, I'll high-tail it out the back door and head for the hills with my stash.

I keep it pretty simple, using ye old Mr.Coffee Maker, nothing too hoity-toity. One day I might step it up. I did the whole French press routine, but found I missed my usual ritual, could never quite get in the swing of the new steps required. Plus, you have to transfer it to a carafe to keep it warm. Then there's the clean-up. Yada, yada, yada. I was glad when it broke. Now, if someone else were to present coffee to me in the morning from a French press I would not complain. I would probably be very happy at that moment for all sorts of reasons. That I shall not go into.

So, that's my coffee story. I have this photo I found online that I just have to share with you. It sort of illustrates how very nice a good cup of coffee (or tea) is, under any circumstance.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Beatles Bifocals Club

So many of my memories revolve around music. And, revolve they did. I first listened to records on a burgundy felt turntable belonging to my sister, Judy. She was several years older, and while everyone else was in school Mom let me sit there and spin records to my little heart's content.  Judy didn't cotton to me handling her 45's, but Mom shared a love of my choices and so it was our little secret. Pretty much anything by Patsy Cline, Johnny Horton, and Johnny Cash made it onto the turntable, (the photo is of the two Johnny's in 1959). I don't know why a girl of no more than five years old could relate so well to the weepy excess of country and western, but for some reason I did. Doris Day, though, sang  my favorite song, "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)." Loved the idea. Sometimes had trouble practicing it. As evidenced in the next part of my story.

One day, while everyone was away and Mom was busy in another part of the house, I was messing around with nail polish remover right next to Judy's record collection. yeah. I rushed to clean it up, rubbing the paper centers free of the polish remover, along with any semblance of what was printed on the record to identify it. The paper labels disintegrated before my eyes, along with a brief review of my very brief life. I went into cover-up mode, as in: some lies are white lies, and sometimes they're okay, maybe even necessary, if one values their life.

My sister, upon learning the fate of her 45's, pitched a conniption fit, while I remained mum, despite repeated accusations hurled my way. I was Sergeant Schultz. I Knew Nothing! Noooothing! Eventually, things calmed down and our household returned to what we knew as normalcy. It took a couple of years before I confessed my sin to my mother. It was late at night, just before going to sleep, when my latent conscience reared it's ugly head and spilled the beans. I went on and on in a stream of confession, fessing up to several other transgressions I had committed over the course of the years. No bodies stuffed in the well, but my heart was heavy, as they say. Mom listened with love, touched my head, and I felt anointed with oil, kinda like David must have felt when he wrote the Twenty Third Psalm. I felt lighter. My world felt cleaned up. For the time being.

I sometimes would listen to Tex Ritter sing "Hillbilly Heaven," and dream that someday my name, too, would be written in Hillbilly Heaven. Fat chance after that escapade. I had the notion that I would do some songwriting and wrote my first song around that same time, in my head. It's lost to the ages. Which is probably a good thing. I remember walking down the dirt road between our house and my grandparents, a quarter of a mile away, and stopping near Myer's Lane long enough to get the melody firmly planted in my head, to go along with the words I chose. I would love to know what they were now, but it was wanting to create music, that desire to have something come from a place deep inside of me that I've carried with me.

While growing up, my sisters and I would often be the "special music" in the Lakeside Baptist Church we grew up in. And no, I do not mean special music as in Special Olympics. We sang three part harmony, Chris, Jane, and I. And we were pretty good. They kept asking us back anyway. Sometimes Mom would join us. She had a deep, rich voice. I can still hear it. "Life's Railway to Heaven," and "In The Garden," were perennial favorites, pun intended.

At the graveside service for my mother in the winter of 2000 there was a blizzard going on all around us as we stood under that green canopy. For some reason I recalled that I had read that when Eugene V. Debs passed on it was terrible weather. A friend of his said, "It seemed like all of nature was mourning his passing." That's how I felt on that day, standing at my mother's grave site. Jane had just finished handing out copies of sheet music for "In the Garden," when a strong wind came up and what remained of the sheet music still in her hands blew away, scattering itself throughout the cemetery. I think Mom just wanted to pass out the sheet music so Everyone in the cemetery could sing.

My father also had a great voice, but saved it mostly for singing in the kitchen and at bedtime, when he tucked us in. We often requested "How Much is That Doggie in the Window?" Here's Patti Page singing the hit version. My dad, in his fatherly wisdom, sang the kids version, skipping the part about robbers and flashlights.

Singing in the car was another family tradition. As Dad drove down the highway, he would start a song and we would all join in. A friend told me, on the day of my father's funeral, that she recalls being in the car with us as we all sang. It made me happy, that she would remember our family in that way.

One spring, we were sifting through the remnants of the abandoned house on the corner - the woman we referred to as Grandma Korich had moved to International Falls so family could care for her - when we found old eye glasses, still in their cases. Several pairs, lucky us. We formed The Beatles Bifocals Club with our neighbors and friends, sisters Trisha and Kathy. We wore them to school, trying out our new look on the school bus, having all kinds of fun and thinking we were all kinds of cool with our John Lennon glasses and our fake British accents. We discussed, en route, who was our favorite Beatle and I decided George was more my type. Surprise, surprise.

I listened to the latest hits on WDGY, coming out of the Twin Cities, on a cream colored plastic radio, reaching through the white filigreed iron headboard into the space where it sat, making several adjustments to get it tuned in juuuust right. See why that photo of Jack Kerouac appeals to me so much? Kindred spirits, obviously. The weekly top ten was a must-have piece of information. It was the time of life when being well-armed with cultural trivia gained you admittance into the Cool Club; the one no one admitted existed, yet everyone wanted to belong to. I've included a photo of a Beatles news conference with WDGY, also known as WeeGee, on August 21, 1965, (All hail the Great Google!). They were appearing at the old Metropolitan Stadium in Minneapolis.

One summer, in the late 60's, Jane and I sat down on the sofa and with heads bent together learned the words to the entire Sergeant Pepper's album by the Beatles. We sang along to every song, dancing around the living room, acting melodramatic around such favorites as "She's Leaving Home," and then falling on the sofa in a fit of laughter. Mom was in the kitchen, Dad sat at the table, smiling. They didn't mind. They knew we were happy.

Through the course of my life music and memory are inextricably linked. I remember where I was and what was playing during many moments, both sweet and bittersweet. I was hanging out with our summer gang, on the back porch of our house, when Dion's "Ruby, Ruby," came on the radio and one of the guys, sitting on top of the chest freezer, said to me, "When I hear this song, I think of you."  I asked why, but he didn't seem to have an answer for it. Not one he wanted to share, anyway. He was young and I was foolish.

I was running away from home during my first marriage, en route to a friends house in Des Moines, when I pulled off the highway to cry and Jerry Jeff Walker's "Mr. Bojangles" came on the radio. For many years after I had trouble listening to it. It called up that moment and it wasn't a moment I wanted to remember. That was a hard time.

I went to a dance at my high school in Walker in pink and plum checkered wool pants with a plum poor boy sweater, (you girls will understand), and danced in the gym to The Monkees, "I'm a Believer," and "Live for Today," by the Grass Roots. A few years later, in college, I was sitting with my friend, Stan, in a coffee house at Bemidji State, listening to a local duo play in the late afternoon. It was the mid-1970's. A woman played the autoharp and a guy sang Bob Dylan's "Lay, Lady, Lay." To this day, whenever I hear "Wildflower," by Skylark (#7 on my sidebar Play List) I think of Stan and feel his presence. We danced to it one New Year's Eve a long, long time ago. Stan crossed the river a few years back.

I'm glad I grew up in a home filled with music. It holds my life together. It plays a central role in each of my sons lives, too. For me, a home without music is just not a home. I've added a sidebar gadget called a Play List with several of my favorites there. I had fun putting it together. I'm sure I'll think of others to add. I hope you find some of your favorites there, too. And, have fun remembering. It's okay. It's all part of our path, all a part of the present moment we call Life. Que Sera, Sera.

Here's Doris singing it in a film clip with Jimmy Stewart: