This Is Me--2024 A to Z Theme

My A to Z Themes in the past have covered a range of topics and for 2024 the theme is a personal retrospective that I call "I Coulda Been" which is in reference to my job and career arc over my lifetime. I'll be looking at all sorts of occupations that I have done or could have done. Maybe you've done some of these too!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Thank You Tina Downey...I'll Miss You


         For those of you who might have missed the sad news, our dear Blogging from A to Z Challenge Team member, Tina Downey, left this earthly life this past Saturday August 23rd.   Many of you have already posted tributes to Tina on your own blogs.   They have been moving heartfelt tributes that show how many lives this wonderful lady touched.   And now I am faced with a page to fill with words for Tina.

        What can I say in a time like this?   Since hearing the news about Tina on Sunday morning, my mind has been a muddle of whys and what next.   Tuesday morning in the wee early hours I awoke from my dreams as words formed in my head.  This is what I would say: beautiful words that would change the world.   With my mind roiling, the words dissipated into empty inadequacy.   How can my words truly express what I feel--what Tina meant to me?   To all of us?

           Tina was a driving force behind the A to Z Team.   To many she was a behind the scenes figure of the Challenge, but to those who were most aware of the goings on in the A to Z community, Tina was a dynamo who made things go.

            She called herself "Schedule Woman" because she made sure posts were going up as they should on the A to Z Blog.   All of us on the A to Z Team are well familiar with the fun and funny missives she would regularly send out to us.   She'd scold, praise, and commiserate as the occasion called for.  It was all done in the name of friendship and love.   And she was loved back by everyone she touched with her communications.

          I'm going to miss Tina in so many ways.   Many of you will surely miss her as well.  And if we who never actually encountered Tina in person miss her as much as we all do, then our loss must be mighty small in contrast to Tina's family and friends--those who were with her in the world beyond our virtual world of blogging and with her in her everyday world.  In a way I envy those who were in that real world of family meals, gatherings of friends, and camping trip adventures.   Then again, could I stand the pain of losing someone that close?

          Tina, someday I hope we can actually meet face to face.  Meet in a place beyond this small world where there are no more tears or loss or emptiness.   You are gone for now, yet you fill my life and my memories.   Despite your struggles with health you showed us all that Life Is Good.   I believe that with all my heart.   Life is good.   I'll try to keep that as my motto too.

            Thank you, Tina, for everything.    I will miss you greatly.

         If you have not yet done so, please visit Tina's blog Life Is Good to leave a message in her remembrance.    You can also add your blog link to the list following this post if you have done or will be doing a tribute post in honor of Tina.  Read below for more information.

In memory of Tina Downey, the A to Z Team is hosting a  sunflower tribute on September 8, 2014 – Remembering Tina Downey.
Prior to that date, purchase or plant a sunflower in her honor. (If you have to resort to plastic, that’s cool.) Take a photo of your sunflower and post in in her memory on Monday, September 8. Tina loved her sunflowers, and we want to splash the blogging world with sunflowers that day and honor a truly amazing woman who was friend and family to so many.
You can sign up now or add your link when you post your sunflower.
Please help us spread the word! Let’s brighten the Internet with sunflowers the way Tina brightened the lives of so many.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Just A-Swingin': BOTB Results

A Close One!

        Benny Goodman was known as "The King of Swing" and Lena Horne was a "queen" of female vocalists during the Swing Era.   Putting up the two of them against each other in my most recent Battle of the Bands contest was like swinging at the playground.   The vote went back and forth--and understandably so.

        Like me, many of you were torn about which way to go with your vote.   This was a tough decision.  If any contest so far deserved to be a tie then this was the one.   I like both Horne's and Goodman's versions of "The Man I Love" so much that I am tempted to call it a tie for my own vote, but I prefer to state a clear winner instead of establishing a precedent of wishy-washy decision making.   So I made a choice.

       Before I tell you who I voted for, let me tell you the predicament that I have here.   At my final count, according to your voting Goodman takes a narrow win with 13 votes against Horne's 12 votes.    As you can see, the outcome of my vote will either result in a tie or it will mean a win for Benny.  So what to do?

A Dilemma

      In the comment section of his own Battle post, BOTB co-host Stephen T. McCarthy made the following bold prediction about who my choice would be in my own contest:

         On your own August 15th 'BOTB' installment, without the slightest hesitation, undoubtedly, unquestionably, and with 100% certainty I can predict that you will cast your own vote for Lena Horne.

       Well, now what?  With that statement I feel almost an obligation to vote for Lena.   Her recording is indeed top notch.  It's not just the vocal either.   The orchestration is sublime to my ears.  Mr. McCarthy knows that I have a particular fondness for strings in music and the string section in this arrangement is sublime.  Then when that beautiful brief violin solo comes in my musical heart melts.   This recording by Lena is a real winner.

        If I vote for Benny Goodman's version I might be accused of just trying to prove Mr. McCarthy wrong.  The Goodman version is a winner as well, but do I dare vote in that direction appearing in the end as just attempting to be a contrarian?   I may have a bit of a reputation at times for going against the grain just for the sake of controversy so voting the opposite way that my good blog buddy predicted could appear to be suspect.

        Perhaps some further explanation is warranted in this case.

The Story Behind My Vote

       Throughout my childhood I'd been very familiar with Benny Goodman's music.   I'd seen the movie biopic of his life which starred Steve Allen, one of my childhood heroes--I loved Allen's television show.  Goodman himself had also appeared in several movies which were sometimes played on television.  The clarinetist was an iconic representative from the Swing Era who maintained a presence on the entertainment scene when I was a kid.

         After I started college in 1970, I continued to expand my musical knowledge and sought out recordings of music beyond the rock that I had been mostly been listening to.  Most of the classical, jazz, and world music albums that I began to purchase I obtained through some clearance house that would send out a catalog through the mail.  That's where I got my copy of "The Benny Goodman Quartet Live at Carnegie Hall".

          The music thrilled me.  I gained a new perspective of what jazz was all about and this album fueled my interest in the genre.  The Goodman Quartet album was on my turntable frequently.  The standout song on the album was "The Man I Love".   This was not frantic wild music like I had associated with the term "jazz", but it was mellow relaxing music where Goodman let his fellow musicians shine in their quiet elegant solos.  This album has been a big favorite of mine for over 40 years.

          Lena Horne was a frequent presence on television during my younger years, but her music never much caught my attention until around the mid 1990's when I ordered a compilation CD of her earlier music.  It was older sounding music from a music era that I love.  This disc had great classics that I'd known all my life--some of my favorite songs.   This is an album I continue to listen to with regularity.   Her voice, the orchestration, the songs, the style--this is music that I truly enjoy.

         In the end though, if I have to pick my favorite version of "The Man I Love" between Goodman and Horne, then I'll go with the Quartet.  This is not to say that I like Lena's less because there is a parity between the two.  However going with personal favorite in terms of the version that has been with me the longest and provides me with the best memories then I vote for the version by the Benny Goodman Quartet.

         My vote is not a "swing vote", but just an affirmation of the outcome as voted by the voters in this contest.   Benny wins this one, but Lena is right there close to the top.   Great contest!

Final Tally:

Benny Goodman Quartet    14 votes
Lena Horne                        12 votes 

          Thanks for voting in this BOTB!   Join me again on Monday September 1 for another classic song contest pitting the girls against the boys.   My next Battle is one that I think you will find interesting.  It's one that will be tough for me to predict as my choices may be considered rather odd.

          What do you think of my explanation for my vote?    Have you seen The Benny Goodman Story?    If Lena Horne's style turns you off, why is that?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Economic Update: Fast Food in My Future

         Last week I talked about the recent business closures in my neighborhood of Staples and an AT&T phone store.  The space previously occupied by Staples shows no indication of any new business moving in, however I noticed that there was a great deal of activity occurring in the much smaller phone store space.  On my morning walk last Thursday morning, I decided to check in to see if I could figure what exactly was going on there.

         As neared the store I could see one of the front doors propped wide open.  I moved in closer to read a notice posted in the window.  There were no clues given as to what was happening since the paper was merely an obligatory posting of a city license allowing the contractors to renovate the store space.  Looking inside I could see that progress was well underway as the entire place was gutted and the new business was being set up.

         Suddenly a friendly looking fellow appeared before me. "It's going to be a Habit Burger."  Seeing my puzzlement he continued, "They're kind of like In-and-Out Burger but less expensive".

         "Habit Burger?" I said.   "I've never heard of them."

          "There are quite a few of them.  We've already installed several locations around L.A."   I don't know if the guy was a construction company foreman or a spokesperson for the hamburger chain.   It was almost like he was doing a sales pitch for the restaurant.  He continued, "The hamburgers are really good.  They also have sides like onion rings."

           He would have to mention onion rings.   I love onion rings.  I also like In-and-Out Burger.   Anyone in California and a few other fortunate localities know this chain which has rabid fans and has been named in many polls as one of America's best hamburgers.   This guys pitch was starting to make my mouth water and my stomach rumble for lunch and it was only 9 AM.  Visions of burgers and onion rings danced in my head.

ETR 102 The Habit Burger Grill 05 2012-12-02 12-47-53
Check out the review at "Eating Through Roseville"
          "You'll have to try them when they open," the unofficial spokesman persisted with a grin.  He could have been one of Santa's helpers with his impish demeanor.

         "Well, I live just across the street so I'm sure I'll be here."  I thanked the fellow for the information and continued on my walk.

          Habit Burger?  Talk about a business name that gets right to the point.  The goal of any fast food restaurant is to get patrons hooked on a habit.   Many of us have become fast food junkies with a habit as bad as any drug addict.   I've never even tasted the food at Habit Burger, yet I'm salivating as I think of it.  My visit to the Habit Burger website didn't help matters.

          After they've opened I'll give you my thoughts on it as well as my observations on my local fast food scene.  The way those contractors are going at it, this Habit location will probably be ready to go in a couple of weeks.  Fast construction for fast food.  Makes total sense to me.

         Here's a promo about the place--you'd think I've got some kind of investment in this establishment the way I'm going on about it:

          Have you eaten at Habit Burger?    What is your favorite fast food habit?   Do you have any fast food restaurants within easy walking distance from where you live?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Battle of the Bands: "The Man I Love"

      Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, for the one, the only Battle of the Bands brought to you by those fantabulous bloggers at Far Away Series and StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands.  This is the event where you listen to two versions of one song and then vote on the one you like best.  Don't forget to visit our hosts to vote on their contests as well as the other sites that you will find listed at the end of this post.   

       Now let the show begin...

The Man I Love

         George Gershwin is indisputably (for those in the know) one of the finest composers of melody of all time.   Teamed up with his brother, the genius lyricist Ira, the pair wrote some of the finest songs ever written.  "The Man I Love" is a perfect example to offer as proof of the argument (and there is no argument as far as I am concerned).  

          The song was initially written in 1924 as "The Girl I Love", but became more known in its present form becoming a standard for many a female singer.   The melody is haunting.  The lyrics are impeccable.  In my opinion this is one of the most perfect pop songs ever written and the two versions I present here provide strong evidence for my case.

"The Man I Love" by Lena Horne (1941)

         Lena Horne is one of my favorite female singers.  Smart, beautiful, and incredibly talented, Lena Horne left an amazing legacy not only as an entertainer, but as an outspoken activist for the Civil Rights movement from the 1940's until her death in 2010 at age 92.

         The sultry forlorn sound of Horne's interpretation of "The Man I Love" is achingly beautiful.  Seductive winds back up the vocals with weeping strings and guitar.  A steady percussive effect behind it all suggests the beating of the longing heart or perhaps the tick tock of the passage of time.  At the 2:08 mark a plaintive violin plays a brief solo.   Hearing this song takes me back through time and almost makes me want to stay.

"The Man I Love" by Benny Goodman (1938)

          Take away words of this song and you have the elegant simplicity of perfect melody.   It doesn't get much better than this jazz rendition by Benny Goodman and his Quartet in a live performance at Carnegie Hall.    No flash or flamboyance, instead we are dazzled with pure rhythm and melody with only the slightest variations in the tasty solo work of Teddy Wilson on piano and Lionel Hampton on vibes.  The often showy Gene Krupa isn't pounding the skins here, but softly keeping the steady beat with brushes.

          "Wow!" is all I have to say every time I listen to this version of the song by Goodman and the Quartet.

Now You Tell Us

       What do you think?  Hopefully we won't be getting a lot of  "I don't like this kind of music" because it's hard to imagine anyone having this opinion of near perfect music.  So give us the positives.  What did you like about the song and these versions of the song?   Which did you like the best?   Listen and give us your vote and reasoning in the comment section.

Don't Forget the Other Battles

          Click the following links to find other possible participants and if you're doing a Battle and aren't included in this list then please tell us in the comment section:


 StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands






         The results of my Battle will be posted next Friday.   Vote!!!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


A typical Staples office supply store, in Onta...
A typical Staples office supply store, in Ontario, California. Photographed on March 22, 2005 and uploaded the same day by user Coolcaesar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

        Kind of a running gag that I have upon returning from a vacation is that as I exit the freeway and head toward home, I'll say to my wife, "I wonder if much has changed while we were gone?"

         Whether it be a few days or seven weeks like our most recent vacation, I'll make my little joke.  Most of the time there is no change or, if any, only something minor.   So it seemed when we rolled into our hometown last Tuesday--everything looked the same.   It took me two days to realize there was a very big change--one that was very disappointing to my wife and me.   The Staples store across the street from us was closed down.

          This change won't affect us too adversely, but it was convenient to have an office supply store so close that I could easily walk to it.  I had grown so used to looking out our back windows to see that friendly Staples sign across Rosemead Boulevard.  Now there's just a sad red rectangle where words used to be.

          The demise of our neighborhood Staples came without any real warning unlike the closing of the Borders store that was in the same shopping center.   Borders advertised their closing for a few months ahead of time and each week cut prices until that last week when the little remaining stock went for ultra-bargain prices.  You can bet that I stocked up on books during that closing sale.  I reaped benefits but I was disappointed to see the store close.   A major bookstore in easy walking distance was like a dream come true.

         And now Staples.   Not only Staples but also an AT&T phone store where my wife and I had bought all of our cell phones over the past several years.   Losing the phone store is no biggie since phone stores seem to be on every corner around here.   The closest office supply store will now be at least five miles away.   Still convenient, but not as much as one I could see from our house.

         So what will show up next in those empty store spaces?   It took a while to reoccupy the Borders space.  Eventually a Petsmart--a mega pet store--moved in.   I was not particularly thrilled about that since I don't own any pets and don't intend to.    Only once have I entered that store and that was to buy some of those colorful rocks like you put in aquariums.   My granddaughter kept emptying decorative vases that we have around our house to add to her rock collection.   I bought her a bag of colored stones so she might let our vases be.   Haven't been in that store since.

         The phone store space will probably find a new occupant relatively quickly since it's a smaller space.  The former Staples site might be a tougher proposition.  It's a big space.  I'm not sure what I'd like to see there next.  I wouldn't be too surprised to see a pop-up Halloween store open in that space for a couple months or maybe a temporary Christmas store.  

        The shopping center already has  Lowes, Walmart, Ross, Marshalls, and a plethora of smaller shops dealing in clothing and other sundry items.  With stores closing all around us I'm not sure who else would venture to open up business in the current economy.   Goodwill maybe?   I suppose I could see that though I hope I don't actually see it.   Then again, I wouldn't have to go so far to take my cast-off items for tax write-off donations.

        Whatever does end up opening in those spaces--and I do hope the spaces become occupied quickly--I hope it's the ideal store for me.   A place that I'd love to go to look around and even maybe buy something now and then.   At the moment I can't imagine what that  store might be.  There's not much I want these days.    After all, I'm trying to get rid of stuff.   Hmm--that Goodwill store is starting to sound like a good idea.

Battle of the Bands

       Another Battle of the Bands is coming this Friday August 15th.   Participation grew to greater numbers last round so I would imagine we might see similar numbers this time around.   And even if you aren't staging your own Battle we hope you will vote on the ones who are.   My next Battle will be the start of a themed series where I will be pitting "Boys against the Girls".   The classic tune I've chosen is an oldie but excellentie.  It's one of my favorite tunes--one that I hope you too will enjoy.  Please stop by on Friday.

          What were some stores in your area that you were sad to see close down?    What new stores would you like to see open near you?   Do you ever shop at Goodwill?

Friday, August 8, 2014

The End Is Just Another Beginning (BotB Result)

"When the Children have Gone to Bed."...
"When the Children have Gone to Bed." From A Home (26 watercolours) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
     My vacation is over.   That fun is done, but now it's time for a new round of fun stuff.  Mail is piled up--both from the post office and my email box.  There's so much to do that I guess I'll keep my vacation posting schedule on my blogs for a while.   Gotta catch up.

       Catching up is nothing new for me.   It seems like I've been trying to catch up for years--maybe decades.   When one thing seems to be about wrapped up, ten new things seem to take its place.  I guess that's life.  Don't want to grow stagnant do we?

         For now stagnancy doesn't seem to be an option for me.  My plates are full and there's plenty left on the buffet.  I'm home--home sweet home--with my own bed, my pillows, my bathroom, and my internet service.  Maybe that last one isn't so hot.

         One of the first things on my agenda is to get my computer situation in more optimal shape.  While in Tennessee my mother gave me the computer that belonged to my late step-father.  It's a newer machine than what I've got and since she doesn't use a computer it was just sitting there so she let me trade one of my older machines for that one.  Haven't hooked it up here yet, but when I do I think I'll have a much better system.

        Also I was talking to the husband of one of my nieces and discovered he's an IT guy who works in computer security.  I'll be sending him info about my system for him to analyze and he said I could contact him with any problems I ever ran into so he could help me resolve them.  We'll see how all this goes.  Maybe I'll be operating at 2014 standards soon instead of being still stuck in the 90's.

          My vacation journey may be over for now, but my life journey is far from over I hope.  I'll be posting more about my summer travels later.   And if you're really interested you can always visit my memoir blog Wrote By Rote where I've been reflecting on my travels and how they related to my past.

           And now....drum's time for:

Battle of the Bands results!

     First of all if you missed the two song versions I pitted in my recent Battle you can find them here.  Voting is over but you might be curious to know what we're talking about and you can still voice your opinion about it.

       To recap, I offered up versions of a beautiful jazz tune called "Cristo Redentor".  I was almost swayed to change my vote--the more I listened to the Donald Byrd version, the more I liked it.  Still my original pick by Harvey Mandel remains my favorite.  

        My vote didn't change the winner voters picked.  It was a close contest, but there is a clear winner.

Donald Byrd     9 votes

Harvey Mandel  13 votes

      I hope you'll join me again on Friday August 15th for the next Battle.  I'm going with a theme for the next few Battles:   Boys versus Girls.   It's a Battle of the Sexes done with songs.   First up a classic tune with a jazzy flair.   Be here to see what the song is.

           Do vacations wear you out?   Who do you turn to for computer help?  How often do you upgrade your computer?    Are you operating on a stone age system?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

#IWSG: Ask Arlee: Getting Off a Plane in Flight

      Sometimes I get a bit insecure about how quickly time seems to pass.  Can you believe another summer is almost over and it's already August?   In addition to that, today is the first Wednesday in August and that means it's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post.   Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for hosting #IWSG every month.  Be sure to visit his site for more information.

Ask Arlee: 
 How do I get off when I've already started?

        Periodically I present my Ask Arlee feature in which I answer questions submitted by readers.   If you have a question you'd like me to explore, please include it in the comments and I'll try to take a stab at it in some future Ask Arlee post.  

         Today's question comes from Gregg Metcalf who asks:

The problem I would like solved is how do I get off a non-stop flight?

        Now, of course, I realize that Gregg was just jesting a bit, but he does raise an interesting question with #IWSG implications.  Maybe I'm finding metaphorical meaning wherever I can, but that's part of what writing is all about isn't it?

         Once you're on the plane there's no getting off.  The airlines are not in the habit of handing out parachutes to disgruntled passengers.   However if you're in the middle of a novel and decide you want to bail out then that's doable.  Would you want to though?   If you've conjured the dream and started putting the effort to put that dream into written form, it can be difficult to leave the work behind.  Then again, if you no longer believe in what you're doing, maybe jumping ship is the right thing to do before you keep investing in a sinking vessel.

          I have several works that I've put on hold for one reason or another.  I'm not quite ready to bail on any of them, but I can't bring myself to finish either.  Yeah, I know a lot of solutions, the main one being "just do it!", but--well, I don't know.  Excuses, excuses--and none of them really very good.

          When I set out on my current vacation I had travel options open to me, one being travel by air.  I didn't like that option because it's too darn confining and rigid.  A road trip gives me flexibility and lets me travel at my own pace.  I don't have to worry about getting off of the non-stop flight because I can stop all that I like.  And I can combine multiple trips with different endpoints.   Roadtripping is fun because it provides more freedom.

           The bottom line is that writing is like taking a road trip.   You follow the journey for as long as you like and map the route out as whim takes you.  Sure there are always some confining factors to consider, but if you're the driver (or the trip planner) you are limited by your means and dreams.

          My writing dream is infinite, but eventually I'm going to have to take one of my projects home.  Wandering in the desert for forty years like the Israelites looking for the Promised Land seems to be part of my nature.  But I know it's time to go home.

           Now to figure out which home to go to and how I'm going to get there.  


         Battle of the Bands

        My previous Battle of the Bands results will be posted this Friday August 8th.   If you haven't voted yet you can do so until Thursday (August 7th) afternoon.   Please visit my Battle between two versions of an ethereal jazz tune.  To vote on this click here.

          Do you have a problem finishing projects?  Do you tend to have more than one project going at the same time?   When traveling do you prefer flying or driving?    Why?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Battle of the Bands: Cristo Redentor

       If you're here for your first visit to Battle of the Bands then let me quickly explain the concept.  It's quite simple.   Two versions of one song are presented in this post.  You vote on your favorite version and tell us why you prefer that version.  Battle of the Bands originates from the bloggers at Far Away Series and Stephen T McCarthy (note that he has a brand new blog dedicated to the Battle of the Bands posts).  After you've voted on my contest, be sure to visit those blogs as well as the others listed at the end of this post.  

      Who isn't familiar with the iconic statue of Christ overlooking Rio de Janeiro?  If you watched any of the World Cup this summer you undoubtedly saw repeated images of the statue.  Today's Battle song for Tossing It Out was inspired by the statue and is appropriately called "Cristo Redentor". 

Donald Byrd "Cristo Redentor"  (1963)

         Written and arranged by jazz pianist Duke Pearson, "Cristo Redentor" first appeared on trumpeter Donald Byrd's A New Perspective in 1963.  He had a bit of hit with his rendition though I don't recall ever having heard it before compiling this BOTB post.   This version has Duke tickling the ivories and Donald blowing a horn like a cool cool breeze.  And there's a choir of angels in the background.  This is about as good as it can get.

Harvey Mandel "Cristo Redentor"  (1968)

           Then again maybe Harvey Mandel's mellow guitar sound will win you over. This version still has the angels, but with a harp and strings that are as sweet as ethereal syrups drizzled over a platter of pancakes from heaven.   This is the first version that I heard of this song back around 1971 or so.   A friend played me Mandel's album and I immediately went out and procured a copy of my own.

 Want More?

          If you're diggin' this song as much as I do you might want to check out the samba version by Vince Guaraldi, a very nice jazzy version by saxophonist David Sanborn, and the amazing tour-de-force by blues harpist Charlie Musselwhite.   Don't vote on any of these as much as you might be tempted to so we can keep the contest simple, but I just wanted to offer a few other versions cause I absolutely dig this song.

Now Vote Please

         In the comments tell us which version you prefer and why.  And then after you've voted here, visit the following blogs to vote on their Battles:

FAR AWAY SERIES’ by clicking HERE.
'Stephen T. McCarthy' by clicking HERE.
 ‘YOUR DAILY DOSE’ by clicking HERE.
 ‘DISCCONNECTED’ by clicking HERE.
 CHRIS FRIES by clicking HERE.

Thanks for participating!