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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Goodnight, Irene…

Here’s hoping minimal damage and decent night’s sleep to my Northern friends….

Godspeed.

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2011 in hurricane

 

Oh, and the music is great too…

On top of thoroughly enjoying The Help book and movie, the music was scrumptous as well. Of course, I’m a sucker for early ’60s tunes, but whoever chose the soundtrack really hit the nail on the head.

Mary J. Blige contributed a moving and lovely song about struggle and triumph, The Living Proof, but other than that, the soundtrack is vintage “Camelot”.

My Johnny Cash love is well documented, but knew I was going to enjoy the movie when the first song of the movie was Jackson

Then, there’s the rockabilly I Ain’t Never by Webb Pierce. You can just feel young couples dancing at the Friday night dance.

There’s a strong “faith” message within the story, so naturally, Dorothy Norwood’s Victory is Mine fits perfectly and brings some triumphant spirit to the film.

To bring the message home in a big way, we have Mavis Staple’s Don’t Knock:

Other ’60s staples that help to set the mood and timeframe:

Sherry, Frank Valli & The Four Seasons

The Wat-Watusi, The Orlons

Personality, Lloyd Price

Let’s Twist Again, Chubby Checker

The eclecticness of the soundtrack is demonstrated by some real R & B via Ray Charles and Bo Diddley:

Hallejuah, I Love Her So, Ray Charles

The Road Runner, Bo Didley

And finally, as if escorting us into the coming change, Mr. Bob Dylan:

Don’t Think Twice (It’s Alright)

A pretty good finish…

The only conspicious absence on this soundtrack is Elvis, who was literally a God in early 1960′s Mississippi — among both races. And, it was the height of Elvis movies…

Something like Follow That Dream…jus’ sayin’. ELVIS!! Unh!

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2011 in at the movies, Elvis, Movie Soundtracks

 

The Help

Last fall, my sister-in-law and BFF recommended a book that her book club was reading titled, The Help by Kathryn Stockett. She thought that I would enjoy it because of my relationship with Rose, the lady that basically raised me and was so important to our family.

It was the first book I downloaded to my Kindle app on my new iPad. As I began to read the story about early 1960′s Jackson, Mississippi and the struggles of black maids working for white families, pangs of familiarity began to churn in my gut. It wasn’t so much the dreadfulness of Civil Rights’ indignities of the day — I am all too familiar with the effects of those days — as it was the stories of the women who were charged with white parents’ most precious possession (their children), but were not allowed to use the restroom inside the lily white homes of these Southern hypocrites.

I was captivated by the historical context and of course, by the personal story of Skeeter Phelan, who sets out to write a book about stories of “the help” — both good and bad. Yes, there were some good stories about relationships between the races, even though very few see the light of day. I read it in two days and was touched in a way I hadn’t been since I read The Horse Whisperer many years ago.

Perhaps the story resonated so deeply with me because of Rose. Throughout my childhood and early adulthood, Rose was a constant except for the year or so that she and my mother had a falling out…but more on that later.

My parents were married in May, 1952 and my father moved into my grandparents’ home with my mother so they could save up to build a house of their own. They had my sister nine months after they were married and starting building their house “in the country” about six miles from “town”. My father owned a plant nursery with his father right around the corner from their new homestead. Once the house was finished, they prepared to move their small family into the home that they would occupy for the next 40 years.

My parents were not rich folks, but it had been decided that my mother would need “help” as she only had the use of her right arm, her left arm paralyzed from polio when she was two. Additionally, they had just found out that their daughter was deaf. My father employed alot of field hands at the nursery and was particularly close to his foreman, nicknamed Shawee (which, incidentally, means racoon in french). Shawee’s wife, Rose, also worked at the nursery. They had a growing family and some of the older kids helped out at the nursery in the summer. My father arranged a meeting between my mother and Rose to see if she would be a good fit to “help” my mother in the house. They immediately hit it off and Rose became a fixture in our house and synonymous with our family for the rest of her life.

A short while later, my brother was born and became Rose’s child. He called her “Mamma Rose” and followed her everywhere. He spent most of his days with Rose as my mother was taking my sister to speech therapy and classes each day, trying to prepare her for school. Rose’s kids often spent time with our family and were fantastic playmates.

Rose had nick names for everyone, particularly her kids. Pictured above is Gros Bay Bay (meaning Big Baby in French). There was also Tougi, Tee-an, Sis, and Teeny. The twins would come later…but, more of that later. She also was instrumental in assigning my brother’s moniker as she called him a “chip” off the old block. Since he was a Jr., the name stuck — Chip, or Chippo as she preferred.

Nine years after my brother….surprise, surprise, my mother was pregnant. My sister was off at school in Baton Rouge and came home most weekends, but the house had basically been my brother’s domain with Rose attending to his every need. Rose indicated that this new baby would be a girl and decided upon Suzy-Q as an appropriate name. Rose’s youngest son, Teeny, was a toddler, but she hadn’t had a little girl to spoil in a long time. So, when I was born in the fall of ’64, Rose was in her glory. Many nights, she and one of her daughters would spend the night and baby sit, dressing me up like a little doll and of course, spoiling me rotten.

We loved that lady. I mean truly loved her. Then, when I was about five, Rose was gone. I don’t remember anyone saying why or what happened, I only knew that she was gone and another lady was there to “help”. She was nice enough, but she was no Rose. I missed Rose so much, but I didn’t know where she was. Then, almost magically, she returned when I was starting 2nd grade. It was like she never left. I was soooo happy to have her back. It appears that I had acted out pretty severely at the new lady and looking back, I’m sure I saw her as an impostor and wanted the real deal.

I would find out, years later, that Rose and my mother had a falling out around Rose taking up with a new man after she and Shawee divorced. Not that it was her business, but my mother was concerned for Rose and her children so she applied some kind of tough love and basically told her not to come back if she was going to continue living with the man. So Rose quit or Mamma fired her. After a few months, Rose’s older daughter, Sis, let Mamma know that Rose was pregnant, with twins. My mother was NOT happy and I’m sure she let it be known. She was pissed at Rose because she knew how hard her life was already and now she was supporting a man and two babies and dragging young Teeny through it all. To my mother’s credit, she finally came to her senses and asked Rose to come back. I don’t know if she felt sorry for Rose and wanted to help or if she really just missed her best friend, but I was happy as pigs in shit that Rose was BACK!!

My mother and Rose had an unusual relationship for black and white women in the South in the ’60s. But, then again, southwest Louisiana was a little different in terms of tolerance. Not that there wasn’t racism, but there were more accounts of close relationships between black and white families. My parents demanded our respect for Rose. If we talked back, we were punished just as if we had disrespected one of them. My mother trusted Rose with her most intimate secrets and as a true confidant. Rose knew and understood all our family dynamics and she was often the sounding board for problems, cheerleader for accomplishments and overall, just an objective observer of our lives.

I learned so much from her. Friendship, loyalty, humbleness, integrity, compassion, faith and love, not to mention how to cook the perfect round steak. Probably the most touching part of the story of The Help was the maid, Aibileen, trying to instill confidence into Mae Mobley, the toddler in her care and whose mother was a bit “detached”. Each morning when Aibi arrived and took the little girl from her crib or when she read her story books, she had Mae Mobley repeat: “You is kind, you is smart, you is important.”

Rose did the same kinds of things, making us feel good about ourselves and setting her expectations high for us, even though she was always right there and helping to pick up the pieces when we stumbled. Rose died the week of Thanksgiving, 1993 on the same day and hour that my brother’s daughter was born. It was such a bittersweet day in our family, but we knew that this new baby was likely kissed and blessed with Rose’s spirit. A few days later, I delivered the eulogy at her funeral…it was such an honor. Her headstone reads: “In Loving Memory from ALL her children” and lists her name as “Mama Rose”, a tribute from all of her children.

I tell this story because there’s so much talk about racism, bigotry and inequality, but little about love and mutual respect between the races. When little children find a caring, loving and trusted friend who instills self-confidence, the color of their skin or the differences in their cultures fade away. There is only love…and loyalty…and remembrance. So, when I read the book and found out that the movie was being made, I made a promise to watch the movie, alone with Rose. Since I couldn’t have her next to me, live and in person, I brought along this picture of her from my grandmother’s 90th birthday party and of course, her spirit. I laughed and I cried at familiar and compelling parts, knowing that Rose was laughing and crying right along with me.

So, needless to say, I highly recommend going to see The Help. And, when you do, consider the relationships of those women with those children and what an integral part they were in forming these children and giving them such a strong foundation — some who grew up to be priests, teachers, businessmen, doctors, authors and others who are simply “good” people, in part, from the values and teachings of the “help”.

 

Absolutely in Control…

Yeah, right.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Day 1

Here we go…

Today, I started down the path to health by exercise and losing 40 lbs. My goal is to lose 2 lbs. per week, so by the end of the year I should be a whole new me, complete with more energy and hopefully, a new wardrobe.

About a month or so ago, my high school classmate, Barbara posted her recent weight loss journey and it really inspired me. She set the 2 lb. a week goal and committed to exercise. While she “is NOT a runner”, she began walking and running and counting calories and now she looks and feels phenomenal. She even completed a triathalon in Memphis last week, coming in 2nd in her age group — the first time she attempted one.

She was also very candid that it’s a commitment and it’s hard. I have no illusions that this is going to be easy, but I have to start somewhere. So, today I walked 2.5 miles and ran about 1/2 a mile of that. Tomorrow, I will do it again and my plan is to mix in some Yoga. My main goal is to get to a point where I’m actually excited to exercise, because Lord knows I’m not there yet. But, my eye is now on the prize. I want to feel better and look better.

I am also trying to discipline myself to blog each day…another exercise of sorts. And, I’m documenting my journey to try and hold myself accountable. So, each week or so, I will address progress. I couldn’t locate a recent picture of myself that includes the neck down as I prohibited most pictures, particularly those. As such, I had Al take this one:

Not going to list my starting weight. Suffice it to say it’s the heaviest I’ve ever been. But, I’m not looking backwards…all eyes in front.

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2011 in weight loss

 

The Holstee Manifesto — This is YOUR Life

A few days ago, this photo came up on one of my old childhood friend’s Facebook (Thanks, Eddie!). Soon, I saw it re-posted on several other friends’ walls, as well. So, I guess you could say that this is the first stage of this thing going “viral” and here’s my contribution.

The beauty of this is that it is spot on. No matter if you’re Democrat or Republican; Black, White, or Hispanic; Catholic, Jew, Protestant or Muslim; it applies to YOU. I’ve wrestled over the last year with fear, despair, separation, and other paralyzing emotions that have stifled my life progress. I’ve done some great work in that year, but haven’t done some great life.

So, I’m going to take this manifesto, created by guys who truly wanted to live it, and try to live by it. Maybe you can find a little of what you’ve been looking for in it too. If so, pay it forward and share with your circle of friends and contacts.

For more information on the Holstee Manifesto, click here.

P.S. Anyone notice two posts in two days?

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2011 in inspiration, navel gazing, that's life

 

Kenny Finds Grace…

I admit it. I’m a bit out of touch. I haven’t been keeping up with “the music” lately as I’ve just been trying to survive this cold, hard life. In my laziness, I’ve regressed to listening to the radio in the car on my long drives to Central Alabama.

Imagine my SHOCK when I flipped from the excruiating negativism of talk radio to the old comforts of country radio (I live in Alabama, after all…) to hear a new Kenny Chesney song featuring one, Grace Potter.

I listened. I absorbed. I liked. After all, “You and Tequila” surely got my attention…

So, I’m sure some Jam Band purists (and maybe my old pal, Killer Cortez) think Grace is a sell out for cutting a record with uber star, Kenny Chesney, but I can’t disagree more. First, it’s pretty cool that ole gabillionaire and super duper star, Kenny, happened to be exploring iTunes on his yacht in the islands and stumbled upon Grace Potter. And THEN, actually tracks her down and invites her to record a song with him…arguably the biggest Country star of the last decade.

Here’s a little background…

Kenny Chesney is a music guy. Thank goodness he listens to all kinds of music and that he reaches out to people he likes and makes good music with them. As for Grace, she stepped up to a fantastic opportunity and now a much broader audience is exposed to the goodness of Grace. I have to say that her performance on “You and Tequila” was very Alison Krause — and that is never bad.

While I know that Grace will never be “country”, but even country isn’t country. There’s room for all kind of music and it’s just so awesome to see two people from polar experiences come together a make sweet music…

For those who want more Grace, visit my buddy KC @ http://www.thisissomewhere.com

 
 
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