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Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Right Choice

Freedom is the right to choose, the right to create for oneself the alternatives of choice.
Archibald MacLeish
Hello Jen
Choices.  Choices.  Should I have the baked clams or the crab cake?  Should I wear the red dress with the black sash or the blue one with the green scarf?   Should I shop at Walmart or Home Depot?  Those are simple choices. 
Then there are the more complicated ones.  Who should I vote for?  I know of a woman who only votes the way her husband tells her to.  Should I go to the college my brother went to because he went there?  Wrong choice.  Should I get married?  Another wrong choice.
Some choices are hard and take time, patience and, perhaps, advice.  But seeking advice is also a matter of choice.  Are you going to get the best advice, do you know and respect the person you are asking, is the advice you want worthy of the mind and experience of the person you are asking?  Remembering that the choice is yours so long as you exercise your right to make a choice you are only seeking advice and not asking that a choice be made for you.  If the person you ask is wild about baked clams you may be pushed in that direction and not because you choose to be.
I vividly recall two incidents when it was necessary to focus on the creation of the alternative of choice.  The first involves a college Philosophy professor.  He was a man whose knowledge and opinions I respected, but he made some statements in one of his lectures that did not seem to correspond to my own reading on the same issues.  I got an appointment with him to discuss the matter.  After a few minutes of conversation I ventured my own thoughts to hear his reaction and, maybe, to be corrected.  But his response was simply "Well, fortunately it doesn't matter what you think."  I was stunned by that answer and still am.  If it doesn't matter what I think, why think?  I rejected his opinion and got on with life.
The second evens happened years later and involved a junior high school student.  I was working for a theatre company that toured schools and other institutions with short plays followed by discussions.  For one of the plays I had composed some complex music.  Someone always asked what the music meant and we always turned the question back to get students' opinions.  As we were packing up to leave one particular school the young fellow came up to me and told me what he thought the music meant.  Then he said he was probably wrong because he had been graded by the state as being unable to understand certain ideas.  I jumped off the stage and went up to him.  I told him he had just given me the best explanation I had heard yet about the music.  Then I told him to never let anyone ever tell him that he was incapable of understanding something, anything.  In his case the right to choose the alternative of choice had been taken away from him.  Choices had already been made for him.  But it did matter what he thought.  And I hope my advice had a lasting effect on him.
Someone else's opinion may be the best but don't choose it just on that basis.  Don't be told it doesn't matter what yu choose and don't be fooled into thinking you're not smart enough to make the right choice.  We think for ourselves, that's what we do.  I choose the crab cakes.
Dana Bate
Vagabond Journeys
Never Give Up

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Brian On The Road 10

November 11, 1960

At Topeka Zack turned the truck onto another highway, this one going southwest. As the sun was coming up Brian was astonished to see how flat the land was. The landscape was broken only by occasional farm houses with barns and silos. Now and then there was a store or business along the road, mainly catering to farmers. There were a few truck stops, but very few. Mainly it was just open fields and crops growing. And flat. Relentlessly flat. Brian thought of Dorothy and Toto being swept up by a tornado and whisked off to Oz.

Daylight was happening as they came into Wichita. Zack drove into a truck stop on the edge of the city and said "Well, Brian, this is where I turn off. Let's have one more breakfast and then you're on your own."

Over breakfast Zack wrote out his address. "Here, write me when you get settled. I might even answer."

"Thanks, and thanks for the ride. It was a good long one, I appreciate it."

"No problem. You still got a long way to go to get to California. You're in the plains now. You'll probably do okay. These folks are friendly."

After breakfast Zack got into his truck and, without another word, drove off. Brian stood looking down the main road into Wichita. Once again on his own.

Brian looked down the long straight road into Wichita. He thought he would probably have to walk through the city but almost immediately a car stopped. When he opened the door he saw an older woman. He calculated she was about 60 yeas old or so. He noticed immediately that she was wearing a long colorful skirt with brown leather boots. She had several scarves and chains of beads around her neck and a large hoop earring. "Hello" she said. Brian got in her car and sat, He could see there were strange looking objects hanging from the rear view mirror.

"Your name begins with a 'B' doesn't it?"

Brian was startled. "Yes. Brian."

"Ah." She smiled and started driving. "And you come from a place starting with 'B.'

"Boston. How do you know?"

"I'm a psychic."

"Oh" said Brian, slightly suspicious, but curious.

"You're going a long way. I see an ocean."


"You're going to make movies."

"I hope so."

"You are. You will have sorrow and danger, great danger, but you will be successful."

"I hope so."

"You will. The girl you are in love with is not for you."

"I'm not in love with anybody."

"No, but you will be. Sadly."

They drove in silence for a long while as she carefully made it through the city. Then she said "You will know many interesting people. You will be loved by some. Beware of false friends."

She pulled the car over to the side of the road and said "This is the edge of the city. The road west is right in front of you. May the Spirit go with you. You will be a big success, Brian. Remember, Mother Linda told you." She smiled.

Brian said "Thank you" got out of the car and closed the door. Mother Linda turned onto a side road. Brian stood watching her car disappear in the distance. He said "Thank you Mother Linda, whoever you are." Then he thought: Linda, Glinda. She sort of looked like Billie Burke. Maybe she's the Good Witch of the North. Maybe I am in the land of Oz, after all.

He smiled and turned west.

It was a bright, warm day and Brian felt good, so he started walking. There wasn't much traffic on the road but when he heard a vehicle approaching he turned and stuck out his hand. No one stopped. Perhaps these Munchkins aren't as friendly as Zack thought they would be.

As he moved along the highway Brian was struck again by how flat and level everything was. He was used to the hills and valleys of the Northeast. Brian had heard about the Great Plains but seeing it was a new experience for him. This wasn't just an easily described geologic formation. It was a different place in the world, with a character all its own: vast, empty, lonely, revealing a breath taking expanse of sky. Brian walked.

On both sides of the road there were fields, Now and then unpaved roads would abruptly turn off the highway and in the distance he could make out the silos and other buildings of a distant farm. And he walked.

Even though no one was stopping for him the area wasn't devoid of life. Some of the fields were grazing ground for cattle. Cows lined up at the fences and watched him. He must be the most interesting thing they've seen in a month, Brian thought. For miles there were cows, silent watchers, guardians of the field, chroniclers of his journey through their kingdom, approving of every step. And so he walked.

For hours Brian walked, through a relentlessly unchanging landscape. No one was stopping for him. As the afternoon wore on and evening approached, the sun fell gracefully into its decline right in front of him. As it set it grew huge and orange. It hovered at the edge of the highway as if it was a benign golden doorway waiting for him to enter. Then it set. The light went out. The darkness of night came in an instant. And he walked.

Although thee was no moon the broad sky was filled with stars. He had never seen so many stars. Each one, large and small, shone with importance, They were bright and brazen. Brian held back his head until all he could see were stars, until he was with them, until he was one of them, shining with them, a part of the universe.

Brian walked on for many hours. The traffic had dwindled down to almost nothing. It was getting cold. The chill November night was setting in and Brian's feet hurt. He reasoned that he had not fully recovered from his rain soaked trek through Ohio. His boots and socks were dry now but the pain in his feet told him they needed to rest. There was no curb or fence between the highway and the grass next to it. So he stepped off the highway and began walking on the smooth ground, which was nicer, until something vibrated very fierce and fast under his foot. He stepped immediately back onto the hard highway and decided not to try doing that again.

After many hours he came upon a small shopping center. The only thing open was a diner. So he went in and had a burger and coffee and, of course, a piece of banana cream pie. After affirming that there were no sleeping arrangements available he went back out to the exit area.

One car was parked near the exit and when a man came out to get into it Brian asked him if he was going west by any chance. The man said "No, I'm sorry. I live here. But good luck."

"Thank you" said Brian. He waited hoping to find another driver to take him along.

After a few moments the man came back, drove into the parking lot, turned and pulled up next to Brian. "Say Fellow, I have some new mattresses in my basement. If you would like you can sleep on one of them."

"I sure would. Thank you." He got into the car. It was the first of two times a driver would turn around and came back for him. The second time was an  amazing story.
To be continued.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I Love Music

Music is the most profound, magical form of communication there is.
Lesley Garrett
Hello George
I love music.
On an evening I went to a concert in Lincoln Center by the New York Philharmonic.  The conductor was Kurt Masur.  It is customary after a performance for the conductor to ask the orchestra to stand and acknowledge the applause, but Maestro Masur asked the orchestra to stand before the concert began and they received an ovation from the audience.  I turned to the person  was with me, who perhaps was surprised at that and said "We love our orchestra."
I remember going to two different clubs in NY to hear the wonderful Mable Mercer sing.  She brought tears to my eyes when she sang "Both Sides Now."
I sat with two friends in Greenwich Village to hear two sets from Junior Manse and his trio.
I saw Doc Watson play in the band shell at Lincoln Center.  In the same place I saw a concert by Percy Sledge.
I spent another evening with a friend at some out of the way place in a corner of Manhattan to hear an Irish band playing.
I went to a big theatre on the upper West Side to hear Patti LaBell and her singers perform.
I liked going to hear my friend Charlie, the jazz pianist, play in New Hampshire.
I stopped to hear two tuba players at a sidewalk cafe in NY playing some Bach duets.
I stopped on the side walk in upper Manhattan to listen to a salsa band.
I used to play drums for a jazz pianist in Boston.
I played cello and tenor recorder for a Renaissance music group in New Hampshire.
I played bass drum for the Mount Washington Valley Town Band.
I played small roles in 2 operas.
I sang and danced in 3 musicals.
When i got back from the supermarket today I had to get the Bach Brandenburg Concertos going on the CD player before I unpacked the groceries.
I love music.
Dana Bate - The Vagabond Journweys
No. 1,897
Never Give Up