Sunday, June 23, 2019

Sunday At The Memories

I was going through a box of old photos and listening to records on this lazy Sunday when a light dose of deja vu hit me. The album I was playing was by Stories, and I suddenly realized I could very well have been listening to the exact same record on the exact same day in June 46 years ago. I know it was the same one because I bought it right after it came out and the original release did not have the song "Brother Louie" on it. That song was added to the album on later versions after it became a hit single. So the record I have now I'm sure is the same one I had then. But that is the only thing that remains the same. My life is different now. A lot different.
After graduating high school that spring my summer job was as a bag handler at Baroid bentonite plant. It was a great job. The guys on my crew were pretty damned good at loading 100 lb. bags of bentonite into train cars for 8 hours a day. Except...we didn't actually work the full 8 hours. Crews on each shift were given a quota and if the quota was hit we could slack off for the rest of the shift. Except if the foreman was Virgil. He made us sweep the floor or do some other minor tasks to keep busy. But he wasn't always around, and we always hit our quota early. Like I said - we were pretty good at throwing those hundred pounders. I don't remember their names but I remember a few details about my crew mates. One guy looked a lot like Toad in the movie American Graffiti, which came out later that summer. Man, that guy could run the packer. That's the machine that blew the clay into the bags, sealed them, and dropped them onto the conveyor belt which fed them down the line to us for loading into the boxcars. We had a four man crew but only three of us worked at a time while the other one rested. We were that good. One guy on the packer, the other three of us taking turns rotating in and out throwing the bags so only two of us were throwing at a time. That was our operation. The other man might jump in if there was a bag jam or if one fell off the conveyor, but that didn't happen very often.
The other co-worker I remember best was a square jawed jock on summer break from college at Black Hills State. He was one tough sonofabitch. One time I actually saw him throw a 100 lb. bag from the door opening all the way to the back wall of the car and land it perfectly in position to start the row. And, every now and then, he would one-hand a bag from the conveyor into the car just to show off. I wonder what happened to those guys.

It just got quiet. Another record I was playing ended. Rocky Mountain High by John Denver. That one came out some time in the Fall or Winter of my Senior year in high school. A lot of memories associated with John Denver music, too. Some a little melancholy, but mostly good. He had a song for every event in my life...major or minor. There's a lot more I could say about that. And maybe I will some time. 

Roger O'Dea     6/23/2019

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Kids These Days

The other night I had the opportunity to hang out with a great bunch of kids. I didn't know any of them, but that doesn't matter. I had a great time watching them have a great time. It was an album release party for Someday Best - a pretty dammed good punk rock band. The venue was Black Hills Vinyl, my favorite record store. Occasionally they host live music featuring Indie bands and solo artists...many from right around here. It's very cool for them to do that. It gives the bands some exposure and gives local kids a safe place to hang out with friends and enjoy the music. I've been wanting to go to one of the shows to check out the area music scene and do something new. I am happy I picked this one. The music was good and the crowd was diverse. Mostly teenagers, but also some older people, including a few parents. I was probably the oldest person there. But I didn't feel out of place.
Everyone was nice, and polite. Almost too polite at times. Not sure if that was out of respect or sympathy...especially when the mosh pit revved up and spilled over into me standing on the sidelines. I was bumped into a few times. Well, not really bumped. Slammed is more like it. A couple of the kids had a look of "...oh no! This guy is going to get mad." Or "...hope I didn't hurt him!" I wasn't and you didn't, so no worries.
In spite of the music style it was mostly pretty chill. Kids just hanging out doing what kids do these days.
Also, I liked the music, which should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me. Remember - I'm the guy with several Ramones albums in my collection and even a Sex Pistols record. 
A lot of talent on stage that night. Skull Kid went first.
Then it was Mud the Cosmonaut, with Someday Best closing the show. A lot of energy in that room and the vibe was positive. I sensed that everyone was welcome and I enjoyed the diversity and acceptance regardless of dress, sexual orientation or age. I was also impressed with parents of the younger kids who didn't get involved or hover. They waited patiently in the back or outside in the car. That's how to do it. 

There's a line in the movie Almost Famous where Penny Lane says to William "... and if you ever get lonely, you just go to the record store and visit your friends." 
It's true. I hadn't been there ten minutes before running into this crew! Two great friends and pretty much the cutest couple I know with their family and friends, who are now also my friends. Things work like that when you go to the record store. Although, to be completely honest, I didn't take this photo at the record store. We took a break and went next door to another favorite place of mine...a downtown hangout where adult beverages are served. Good times...good memories.
So what have we learned?  
1. Support Indie music.
2. Go to the record store if you're feeling lonely. Or if you're not.
3. Embrace diversity.
4. Be the oldest...or youngest...or weirdest person there. Anywhere. It will be okay.
5. As long as nobody gets hurt ... let kids be kids.

Roger O'Dea     5/26/2019


Sunday, May 19, 2019

Don't Unfriend Me

I’ve noticed a new trend on Facebook lately of people telling me to unfriend them if I don’t believe in their causes or if I don’t agree with their position on a particular subject. It goes something like this –

That seems pretty narrow minded to me. I would like to offer up a different perspective. Here it is:
If you believe a woman has a right to an abortion under any circumstances, I won’t unfriend you.
If you believe abortion is wrong under any circumstances, I won’t unfriend you.
If you’re against gay marriage, I won’t unfriend you.
If you’re totally supportive of the LGBTQ community, I won’t unfriend you.
If you think Donald Trump is the greatest president ever, I won’t unfriend you.
If you think Donald Trump is the worst president ever, I won’t unfriend you.
Coke or Pepsi, more taste or less filling, Ginger or Mary Ann, boxers or briefs… I respect your opinion.

That is not say that I’m okay with whatever you might believe. If I think you are wrong I may tell you. And I will be glad to explain my position, if asked. I will not try to change your mind, but will try to understand where you’re coming from and what may have lead to you feeling the way you do.

It basically comes down to respect. And tolerance. If we all would work a little harder at those two things, I think we would all be better off. Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I have unfriended someone on Facebook. Only one that I can recall, and it wasn’t because of her political position or views on social issues. She’s just mean. If I lack tolerance for anything – it’s mean people. Don’t have time for that. Otherwise, I truly enjoy diversity of opinions.

So maybe stop putting up those “unfriend me” posts. They won’t work on me. Of course you have the right to unfriend me any time. It could be for a lot of reasons. I may seem insensitive at times (I’m working on that), or boring, or too caught up in my own interests. But I promise it won’t be because I’m mean. And I hope you don't. I take my friends seriously.

Roger O'Dea     5/18/2019

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Spring Break (or - The Case of the Dusty Buffalo)

It's not quite Spring but we couldn't wait for a break, so when an opportunity arose to travel to a warmer place we jumped at it. It was 2 degrees above zero headed to a high of 10 when I woke up on the morning our trip started. The following morning I woke up in Phoenix, Arizona to 55 degrees headed to a high of 75. That's the difference between South Dakota and Arizona in March. Actually, it had been unseasonably cold there the week before and the forecast was for a cool down again the week after. We were fortunate to hit the sweet spot.
And, speaking of sweet spots, several people had been saying, "you need to go to San Tan Flat." So we did. 

Lively atmosphere, great staff, cold drinks and good food. There was one thing that needed improvement, however, according to my wife and faithful companion of the road. After surveying the decor she said quite matter of factly, "they need to dust their buffalo." 
It was true. The ash from the fireplace below had certainly resulted in one dusty buffalo. 

I had also been told by my big brother (who is always looking  out for me) of a record store he had visited previously that was not too far away. So I had to check that out of course. Nice little shop, but most of the inventory consisted of bargain records that were not in good condition. 

I have enough of those so I made my way over to the bins labeled "rare." Didn't really see many that were actually rare, but there were some hard to find releases including one I have been searching to find for several years. Barbara Lewis "Baby I'm Yours" from 1965. A lot of singers have recorded that song, but her version is far and away the best. Listen to it some time and I think you'll agree. I also found Mary Hopkin "Post Card" on the Apple label. It's her debut album and was produced by Paul McCartney. Wasn't on my radar but I was pretty excited to find it.
The next day we left the city and headed south into some real old west territory...Tombstone and do some exploring and to research some family history ties to the area. In between courthouses and libraries I did have a chance to do some hiking in the desert. The diversity of life and beauty of such desolate country was truly amazing. Nature always finds a way as new life springs from dead and decaying surroundings.

It was fun to see the rich history in Tombstone but I really enjoyed visiting Bisbee. That part of our travel adventures took us nearly all the way to the border. We didn't go into Mexico but we were close enough to see it. Bisbee also has an old west and mining history, but is much more colorful than most other remote towns in that area. Very artsy and a lot of old hippies. My kind of place. It reminded me of Lead, South Dakota (except it was more colorful and busy) complete with its own open pit mine that is even larger than the Homestake Open Cut site in Lead. 

The many local area roadside stands selling various trinkets, fruit, nuts and honey were also quite colorful. We couldn't resist stopping to take advantage of a great deal on some freshly picked pecans. Thanks, Leo!

We had to leave too soon to come home. There was so much we didn't get to see or do this trip. But there will be another. Maybe next time we'll try the pistachios or some local honey. And we can check to see if they dusted that buffalo.

Roger O'Dea     3/10/2019

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

10 Degrees and Getting Colder

As I've said before, winter is not my thing. It's hard for me to breathe in cold air. And it is pretty cold here right now. Polar Vortex apparently. I had the day off and decided to just hang around the house until it was time for my massage, which was scheduled for later in the afternoon. I figured there was plenty I could do. For example, with no one else home I could crank up the stereo system as loud as I wanted and rock out. I decided on some deep tracks not in my regular rotation and pulled these -

Now that's rock and roll! I also put on some Creedence, REO, and Robin Trower, followed by a Bobbie Gentry record to kind of mellow things back down a bit. 
While all that was going on I was working on organizing some of my photos randomly scattered around in boxes, envelopes and in computer files. That's a project I need to get serious about, but every time I start I come across some old memories and get distracted from the task at hand. Found these pictures from a few years ago in Art Alley. A good reminder that I need to get out of my comfort zone more often and be more adventurous in getting the shot. Like my friend Carrie here. She doesn't hesitate to go to the dirt or wherever she needs to go for a unique and original perspective. I just took the picture straight on without thinking too much about it. She got creative with it. She's good at that, and it shows in her work. 


After doing that for awhile I settled down for a bit of reading. I like the classics, philosophy, self-improvement books, world history. But that's not what I chose. I went with a paperback western. Sometimes you just have to go with a rip roarin' good story.

Burned through a few chapters before the time came to go to my massage, which I was very much looking forward to. I went outside to get in the car, then immediately went back inside to put on more clothes and let the car warm up. Man, it was cold!
How cold? Well, this picture of me on the massage table might be a good illustration.

Okay, I didn't actually keep the socks on. It was a pleasant temperature in the room. But it did take me a while to warm up. 
On the way home I stopped to take a photo of a scene that looked like ... winter. I desaturated it slightly in an attempt to show how cold it actually felt. I probably wouldn't have needed to do that. One look at the snow covered windswept foreground should do it.

Now it's getting late. And colder. Time for bed. I think I'll keep my socks on tonight. Fashion is not a consideration when it's this cold.

Roger O'Dea     1/29/2019

Friday, January 11, 2019

Busted By The Library Police

I got kicked out of the library in Spearfish today. Figuratively speaking, of course. But it was no less disappointing than if I was forcibly removed. Here's how it went down.

About a week ago I received a text from the Grace Balloch Memorial Library in Spearfish telling me that my library card would be expiring this month and I should stop in to renew it. I don’t live in Spearfish, but have been a bonafide card carrying member for many years by virtue of their policy to allow membership at no charge to persons who work in Spearfish and Lawrence County but don’t live in the city or county. That's my situation. It's not that I think it's better than the library in my home town of Belle Fourche, it's just way more convenient. I work until 6, but the Belle library closes at 6. I'm off at 5 on Saturdays but Saturday hours are only from 10 to 2. And they are closed Sundays. Spearfish is open until 7 pm and on Sunday. Works for me.
So…I went in today to renew my card. The librarian on duty punched my name into the computer, paused, then looked over the counter at me. She then looked down in a concerned, almost sad, sort of way, then back at me.
She said, "You live in Belle Fourche."
"Yes," I answered. "But I work in Spearfish."
She then proceeded to explain, in a rather apologetic manner, that the library board recently changed the policy to charge an annual fee to anyone wishing to obtain a library card but didn't live in the city or county, regardless of where they work. I asked the amount of the fee and was told $30. Not a lot of money, but more than what I had been paying. $30 more. I considered paying the fee, but couldn't bring myself to do it. Just doesn’t seem right…at any price. One of those "it's the principal" things.
I checked the minutes of the library board meeting where they made the decision on the fee and found out that they also at the same time revised the policy on meeting rooms. Apparently the meeting room was open to the public upon request and approval. Now it is only open for official city or library business. Seems a little heavy handed to me. Shouldn't they be encouraging people to use the library rather than finding ways to turn people away? And what terrible thing happened to cause the restrictions to be put into place? Or did the board members all of a sudden develop control issues and let their authority go to their head? Whatever the reason, I'm very disappointed. I'll probably end up paying the thirty bucks. Or….I have a friend with a library card who has already volunteered to bootleg any book I want from good old Grace Balloch. That might make us Library Pirates. Kind of has a nice ring to it. And I've always wanted to be a pirate.

Roger O'Dea      1/11/2019

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The Men's Hut

I'm starting a new group. Not sure yet what to call it. Maybe Chinchillas. There's a motorcycle group called Hamsters, so why not a social group for men named Chinchillas? This could be our logo -

Not too menacing. But not too cute either. Or maybe it will just be "The Men's Hut," because it will be similar to, but a modern version of those ancient tribal gathering places. To borrow from The Men's Group Manual by Clyde Henry, the purpose is to "provide a place of kinship, where a man is not his occupation, his income, his athletic prowess, or his achievements. A place where he can remove his armor, lift the mask, and simply be a man." 
It goes on to say, "A man needs a network of 6 - 10 close friends that he meets with frequently for support, advice, and to share his life. While central to society for thousands of years, our current culture fails to back or even recognize this vital bond." 
I strongly believe there is a need for this type of group. I sure would like to be a part of one. Most of those whom I would consider to be my best friends, the ones that live nearest to me anyway, are women. And that's fine. I appreciate them and our friendships. But sometimes it would be nice to talk to another man about issues pertaining specifically to men. It may be more important now in these contemporary times because of the elevated level of political correctness and heightened sensitivity to interpersonal relationships.

I've already written a mission statement:
Provide a forum for men of all ages, interests and backgrounds to have honest and open discussion in a social setting with no fear of judgement.

The group will initially limited to a maximum of 8 men. That number may be expanded later upon agreement of all current members. Rules and guidelines will be simple.
1. Confidentiality must be respected. 
2. No topics should be excluded. However, discussion and comments regarding politics are highly discouraged. Discussion and comments regarding spiritual life, what it's like to be a man in today's cultural environment, and how we deal with our emotions and challenges of every day life are highly encouraged.
3. No soliciting. This is not a networking group or a means to further business activities.
4. Meetings will be held monthly at a regularly scheduled time and convenient location.
5. Meetings will be 60 - 90 minutes in length.
Additional guidelines or formal rules may be enacted as the group evolves.

As of this writing I have one other who has committed to becoming a member. We are looking for a minimum of 4 more to get started. If you see some value and potential benefit to joining please reach out to me. Or if you know someone who might be interested in becoming a charter member, please pass this on to them. My contact information is in the "About" section of my Facebook profile and in my blog profile. 

This is not anti-women. I want to be perfectly clear about that. I love wife first and most of all, as well as my women friends. I value those friendships deeply. I just think that sometimes it would be great to get together with a few other guys...not to watch the game, but to talk. I mean really talk. About things that don't usually come up around the card table or at the bar. I envision a place where we can share our lives and be witness to our brothers. Where our stories are told and where we find rest, support and kinship. Maybe this group can in some way return us to the hut. 

Roger O'Dea     1/1/2019