Monday, May 2, 2016

Music Monday - One Hit Wonders

In honor of the month of May, I will continue my Music Monday feature cut short by the Blogging from A to Z Challenge (except for May 9, which is a "reflections" day on that challenge).  I am hoping it doesn't turn into a musical obituary, which had seriously had me thinking of discontinuing the feature. 

Yesterday, listening to a solid gold music station on a satellite music service called Sirius XM, I heard an announcement of a new, temporary, radio channel called Onederland.  It's purpose - to play only One Hit Wonders - artists who only had one hit (I am assuming, defined as only one hit that broke the Billboard Top 40).

This definition is, by definition, somewhat fluid.  Some artists have one hit in one country, and many, in another. (I suspect that Onederland is using United States one-hit wonders). Or, you can have artists crossing over from another genre where they were more popular, or even from another field altogether, such as Richard Harris.

Note, I am not a "music blogger": if you are, and you disagree with any of these, I welcome your comments (or additions of your favorites).

Do you have any favorite one hit wonders?  I have a number.  And, if you need help remembering, here is one of the many lists available on the Internet.

My all-time favorite One Hit Wonder - MacArthur Park, as sung by actor Richard Harris. (I also loved the version by Donna Summer. I just love this song. Period.).  I played the 45 I had of this song almost to death (and it was probably amazing my father didn't commit homicide, either - he must have heard each rendition in our small apartment).

King Tut, sung by comedian Steve Martin.

The instrumental "Telstar" by The Tornados.  It's one of my favorite instrumentals, along with this one:

Chariots of Fire Theme - Vangelis.
All Right Now - Free.

Reflecting a one hit wonder crossover by a group that had a number of hits on the R&B charts, this was their only top 40 on the pop charts: O-o-h Child by the Five Stairsteps.

Finally - bringing back memories of my childhood in the Bronx, a borough of New York City, two come to mind:

Gun Hill Road - Back When My Hair Was Short.  This was released in 1972, when I still lived in the Bronx, off of -yes, Gun Hill Road.

White Plains - My Baby Loves Loving (because I also lived just off of White Plains Road).

Do you have any favorite One Hit Wonders?  Please feel free to share.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Small Spring Miracles

Perhaps, here in upstate New York on a dreary May Day, we should be depressed.

I'm not, though.

Granted, spring did not start out the way it usually does. 

Trees started blooming weeks before they should have.    Then, an arctic blast of air came through, dumping up to four inches of snow in rural areas around Binghamton.  At my son's house, it got to -6F.

The early spring became the Dawn of the Dead (blossoms). 

We despaired at seeing the dead magnolia blossoms, the forsythias that never bloomed, the dead cherry blossoms so majestic a day or so before, and, most of all the apple trees (we are in a major apple growing area). Those trees just stood there.  Nothing happened.

But below the surface of those seemingly dead trees, something was happening.

Second spring.

So now, I bring you....Second Spring. A small spring miracle.  Perhaps "miracle" is too strong a word, but, to me, it isn't.

A new day has dawned.

Not too many apple blossoms (perhaps we'll get a sparse crop, if anything), but the trees are blooming.

County courthouse, downtown Binghamton NY, April 27
Spring has returned.  You know those dead magnolia blossoms?  Live blooms are opening, almost a month later, next to the dead ones.

...and they are blooming.

A handful of forsythia blossoms, as the plants leaf out.

Spring has returned.  And you'll forgive me, dear reader if, full of spring, I blog about it for the next few days.

There is nothing like a small spring miracle.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Zaidman #AtoZChallenge

So, what is a Zaidman, and why am I writing about it?

It's not a thing - it's a person.  It's Z time - time for the letter Z, and the end of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Today's post is a tribute to eyesight.  We take it for granted, but not everyone is granted eyesight.

Some of you may have seen the video of a baby in Seattle with a rare eye condition.  A video camera catches the minute little Leo, being treated by an eye specialist in Los Angeles, has special glasses put on his head and his first experience with seeing clearly.

It's not the first time I've seen glasses like that, though.

Earlier this month, my spouse and I sat with my mother in law in the office of Dr. Gerald Zaidman, an eye specialist in Westchester County, a suburb of New York City.

As we waited (and waited) for my mother in law to be seen by Dr. Zaidman, we saw a number of patients called in ahead of us.

One of them, a toddler, had been playing a game on a tablet before she was called. She was holding it right up to her nose. Her mother (I assume it was her mother) sat with her patiently.

Another little girl, perhaps a preschooler, announced to the entire waiting room "I love all of you!" as the staff smiled.  One offered her a lollypop.

One of the patients was a baby, and he was wearing glasses that looked like the glasses little baby Leo was wearing.  I could only imagine what that baby, and his parents (both accompanied him), had already been through.  I overheard the mother tell the person sitting next to them that their baby would have his next cataract surgery in three weeks.

As for that long wait - Dr. Zaidman had handled one emergency already, and was being called away to another one.  He is obviously in great demand.

Too many of us take our sight for granted.  I have poor uncorrected vision (I have been legally blind without corrective lenses since around age seven or eight) and used to go annually to an eye specialist at Flower Fifth Avenue Hospital in Manhattan until I was a teenager.  But I am fortunate - my vision has always been correctable.  And perhaps it always will be.  For me, my poor vision only lasts until I can reach my glasses.  But, as I sat there in Dr. Zaidman's waiting room, I thought about my childhood vision for the first time in years- what if I had been one of those children in that waiting room, back 60 plus years ago?

Other bloggers I have read have much greater challenges with vision than I have, and face their challenges with great courage (and, for many, faith in a higher power that helps them to find that courage).  These bloggers, such as blogger Amy Bovaird, are well worth reading.

I hope that the efforts and vision of doctors like Dr. Zaidman and others will eventually make vision challenges a thing of the past.

Thank you for reading my blog during the A to Z Blogging Challenge.   Tomorrow, I return to my normal blogging schedule.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Youth #AtoZChallenge

Youth.  We miss it when we are older, sometimes.  But without our youth, we would not be the people we are today.

Let us return to the late 1970's.  Economically, it was not the best of times.

My husband and I were afraid, along with many others, that the economy was tanking.  Although we were in our late 20's, we found ourselves trying to prepare for a future that was uncertain.  Part of our urge to homestead came from reading a magazine called "Mother Earth News" and deciding we were going to "live off the land". Oh, and by the way, unlike my fellow blogger in Nebraska, neither of us had any relatives that had ever pursued the rural life.  We were fully urban. I was born and raised in New York City.  My spouse grew up partially in Yonkers and partially in another New York City suburb.

Yet, we had dreams of self-sufficiency, of living the "organic way", and Arkansas turned out to be the place where we were going to make them come true.  My spouse was in the Air Force, he was stationed in Wichita, Kansas,  and his enlistment was going to be up in 1980.  We went on an Arkansas vacation in 1979 (about five hours away from Wichita), looked at several pieces of land and bought 34 acres in Washington County, in Northwest Arkansas. It was gently rolling country, which reminded my spouse of where he grew up in New York State.

We moved to Arkansas the day after the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan.
My spouse on our land circa 1982
Full of youthful energy and ready to try our hand at country living, we lived in Arkansas for five years (four on our land).  It was five years we are both proud of.

We learned skills (especially my spouse) that we may never use again-but one never knows.  We learned what works.  We learned what doesn't work.

Don't ask -it was an Epic Fail
We learned there was courage and stubbornness in us we didn't think we had, along with a rebellious streak.  We learned that failure means only that you tried, and you need to do something different.  (For example, trying to build a house out of hay bales on a stone foundation was NOT the best idea we ever had.)

The experiences we had on the land helped us gain maturity.

My spouse and I would both have been different people without this experience.  We are who we are, in part, because we did what we did.

So, almost three years ago, we embarked on the ultimate nostalgia trip- returning to Arkansas nearly 30 years after we left it, to see how it had changed.

Somehow we and Arkansas moved towards each other in the nearly 30 years since we left, and we've met in a strange and unexpected middle.

Northwest Arkansas has grown tremendously over the past 27 years.  Just from 2000 to 2010, the population grew 71%.  Where there was once rural land, huge shopping centers stood.  It made me dizzy.  Literally.

During the visit, we decided to go back to our land and see what had happened in the nearly 30 years since we left.  After about 15 miles of the nearly 25 mile drive, it was almost like time had stood still.

The roads were back down to two lanes.  Farmers drove slowly.  The traffic lights disappeared. Round hay bales stood in the fields.  Cattle grazed.

We went through Canehill, an incorporated place that could have been great except for the United States Civil War.   Several historic buildings (in ruins)- the remnants of its former history as a college town, and a ruined mill, can be seen if you know where to look.  We did know, even though we had never bothered to investigate its history when we had lived near there.  It somehow all came back to us.
From Arkansas State highway 45, we made the turn into the tiny unincorporated hamlet of Morrow.

We passed what used to be the Morrow Cash Store, a true general store. (We didn't go in).
Then, we turned onto the road where we lived.  A little of it is paved now, but most of it is still unpaved.  Just like when we left.

So let me tell you what we found on our former land. 

We had two sets of married couples as neighbors.  One of the men (we had found this out right before we left) died in late 2012 and the other man died several months before we made our visit (August of 2013.)  We had not kept in touch with one at all; for the other, it had been many years.  As far as I can tell, both women are still alive here in 2016.

The house of one of the neighbors was gone  - absolutely no trace of it, or his barn.  No foundation, no nothing.  As of 2012, the other neighbor was still living where they were living when we were their neighbors. I don't know if she, as a widow, was still there in 2013, but her trailer was there.

The cabin my spouse built with the help of one neighbor's eldest son - gone.

Faded picture of our chickens circa 1983
Our chicken house - gone.
Our geese, possibly in 1985
The peach tree we had planted - gone.  My roses.  My flower beds. My herb plants.  Gone.

Our garden areas - gone.  Our raspberries - gone.
The people living there had two dogs who ran after our car, and no trespassing signs at the driveway entrance made it clear they would not welcome a visit (which we weren't planning to do anyway, but I did want to get out and walk on the road.  I abandoned that idea quickly.)  

Spouse drove up the road a bit, turned around, drove down the hill and left, as I took pictures.  When we had cell phone service again, I sent pictures to my son back in New York on a device that didn't exist when we left - a smartphone.

At the time, I said we would never come back to Morrow.  There was no need.  Only ghosts of our past remained, and we let them go.  They flew away in the hot, late August, breeze, dust in the wind.

For many of the homesteaders of the 1970's, I suspect what happened to us also happened to them. Some succeeded.  Many didn't.  But they took what they learned back to the city, and changed our country.

Although I will never say never, I still don't think I will ever return.  But it does make me sad that I will never be able to walk what was once my land, ever again.  My youth must stay in the past where it belongs, along with all the other sand that has flowed through my personal hourglass.
 So are the days of our lives.

"Y" day on the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X-Ray #AtoZChallenge

When I was ten years old, I would play outside after school in good weather if I didn't have too much homework.  (That's what we did before the Internet and video games.) In the fall of 1963, I was doing a lot of roller skating.

In 1963, roller skates were a heavy, clunky affair.  They were metal skates (four wheels each) that you locked onto your shoes (using a skate key) and away you rolled.

On a Friday afternoon in late October, I was skating with friends when suddenly I was on the ground.  I had tripped on a sidewalk crack.  Coming down, my right skate slammed down on my left leg, just above my ankle.

I couldn't get up. It hurt.  It hurt a lot.

I was on the grounds of the housing project in the Bronx where I grew up.  A friend ran to get help from the housing police.  Two policemen came, and, holding a nightstick between them, one policeman on each end, I was boosted up and carried to the elevator of my building.  They delivered me to our apartment, where my Mom was cooking dinner.

Medicine isn't what it was like 50 years ago.  In some ways, that's bad.  In other ways, it isn't.

My Mom called our family doctor and he came right over. (Doctors still made house calls in those days).  He examined the leg, declared I had a bad sprain in my ankle, taped it up, and instructed me to walk on it.

I walked on it all night, even after the leg became swollen.  The pain got even worse - so bad I can still remember it today.  But I was a dutiful little girl and did what I was told.  I didn't even try to wake my parents. 

In the morning, my parents took one look at my leg and took me to the doctor's office.  I ended up being sent to the hospital for x-rays.  They revealed I had fractured my leg in three places.   I was put in a heavy plaster of Paris cast, from just past the tips of my toes to the middle of my thigh.  Two months of being taught at home by a teacher sent by the district, missing a field trip to the UN and the game show Concentration, and no Halloween trick-or-treating that year followed.

And yes, my cast became covered with autographs and various words of wisdom scrawled in magic marker by the other neighborhood kids.

Thank heavens for those x-rays, which allowed the doctors to know what had happened.

I think of my childhood as being a museum piece.  Playing outside, the black rotary phone my Mom used to call the doctor, the doctor who made a house call, the lack of immediately ordering x-rays for seems like something that happened long ago and far away. 

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the Days of our Lives.

"X" day for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  Only two more days to go!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wichita Lineman/When Musicians Cry #AtoZChallenge

This has been the annus horribilis of musicians.

So many have passed away since the beginning of this year.

My father in law was a musician.  He never became famous, but he loved music and played several instruments.  Besides playing in a band, he gave guitar lessons as a second job while supporting a wife and their four children.  The brother of one of his then-young students was the realtor when my mother in law sold her house in order to downsize last year.

I, on the other hand, never have taken a music lesson.  I play no instruments.  I sang in my elementary school choir for two years, but I never pursued singing.  I do, however, enjoy listening to music.  

This week, a music legend in the United States Prince, passed away.  Musicians all over the world mourn loss of one of the most talented musicians of the 20th and 21st century.   But unlike other artists I've paid tribute to during the run of my Music Mondays (which may or may not return after the Blogging from A to Z Challenge concludes Saturday), Prince kept tight control over his music.  There are only a limited number of videos available on You Tube.

Not so for singer Glen Campbell, who turned 80 last week.

With tremendous courage, 80 year old country singer Glen Campbell  shared his five year battle with Alzheimer's with his public.

Here, he gives an interview.

No more interviews will be given by Glen Campbell - we are told he can no longer speak. He no longer knows what a guitar is used for.   He is in the seventh and final stage of Alzheimer's - where the person forgets how to eat, and can no longer tell that he or she is thirsty.

Alzheimer's is one of the most feared illnesses - there are other dread diseases but they don't take away the essence of us - what makes us us - our memories, our delights, our ability to enjoy family and friends - the way Alzheimer's and other dementias do.

None of us know how much longer Glen Campbell will be with us.  So, as an early tribute, I wanted to post my favorite song of his:  Wichita Lineman.   

As you listen to this song, imagine a lonely lineman, up on a pole on a deserted stretch of highway (I lived, years ago, in Wichita, Kansas and Wichita Fall, Texas, so this part is easy for me), wanting so much to be home.

Sometimes, the simplest song conveys so much.  Glen Campbell knew how to sing it.

When he passes, and it is only a matter of time, millions will miss him, just as millions miss Prince Rogers Nelson.

How many more talents will we lose this year?

"W" day on the Blogging from A to Z Challenge

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Valentine #AtoZChallenge

Valentines Day - each February 14, we are supposed to think of the ones we love. Nowadays, too many times, it is a commercial, "Hallmark" moment. (For those outside the United States, Hallmark is a famous maker of greeting cards, among other things.)  But during wartime, relationships of love become fragile.  Times are uncertain.  Bad things happen.

Several months ago, after relocating my mother in law, who is now in her late 80's, up here to be closer to her and other family in our area, we were hanging pictures back on the wall of her apartment after the move.  There was a picture that my mother decided not to hang.

It was a picture of a soldier, most probably taken during World War II.  But something made her want the frame.  We disassembled it, and found a letter, a note and another photo.

The note reads "A Valentine.  To the most wonderful girl in all this world.  May never another Valentines Day pass that we are not together. A kiss for you and a kiss for me maybe two or three million."
"Love, Stanley", the note concluded.  This, the photo we found, was a photo of Stanley.  The girl who was his valentine was my spouse's aunt.

And yes, they both survived the war, and married.  They moved to Tuscon, Arizona, had children, and farmed garlic among other things.  I met them once, in the late 1970's, when my spouse and I visited Tuscon.

Both Stanley and his wife are now deceased, like so many of "The Greatest Generation."

Like sands through the hourglass so are the days of our lives.

V Day in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.