First your legs go

May 30th, 2018 by John Morris

Boomers learning to play baseball in the mid 1950s were taught throwing the ball starts with the legs.  The muscles in the legs act as springs sending energy through our trunks into our arms flinging the ball away.

This distant memory came to me today while I was throwing yard debris into the borough’s dumpster.  The container was filled to the top as it always is.  I dragged the load from the car and grabbed a small section only to have the entire mess become inter-twined making it more than I could handle.

I found a way to make smaller sections.  Now all that was left was to fling these bundles over the five foot high sides of the dumpster.  My first attempt was so bad the debris bounced off and landed on my head.  I gathered my dignity and summoned once mighty leg muscles to send the bundle onto the pile’s apex.  My better efforts landed just above the container.  I was able to push the bundles past the point of hanging on the edges.

I can thank a symptom called disequilibrium.  This unwelcomed visitor is the result of neuropathy in my legs caused by diabetes.  My description of this aliment is trying to walk with legs not quite strong enough.  The feet drag, and there is much stumbling. Most of the time, the legs just don’t respond as you’d expected.

I have started walking with a cane.  It does help.  I would have fallen at least twice today but not for this support.

Am I happy to need a cane to ambulate?  Not at all!  Canes are for old folks or so I thought.

But my cane is not just any ordinary cane.  No, no, it was made by our local handyman/good guy, Dominic Guerreri.  When Dom’s retirement came, he made canes for his male buddies.  Dozens of these handcrafted canes made their way to friends.  They could now continue their long walks with Dom.

My Dad was one of the men for whom Dom made a cane.  When Dad died twenty years ago, the cane found its way to my basement.  It looks like a wooden vine with a strong bow in the long section and a oddly angled handle jutting from it. Do I feel jaunty when I use it?   No, I feel more like I’m on display.  I wonder who is watching me and what their new opinion of me is.  Of course, I can’t allow these thoughts to control me.

I know it’s just a cane, but it’s symbolic of a decline I fear and despise.  I guess I’ll always believed I would be one of those rare old-timers with still some spring in the legs.

Yeah, like I can stop time.


My favorite music group?

May 22nd, 2018 by John Morris

For bits and pieces of my life, I’ll favor one music group over all the others.  This position was held by Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Joni Mitchell, The Doors, The Mommas & the Papas, Meatloaf, Beach Boys and most recently, The Band.  Coming on strong now are The Kinks.

During the course of my obsessions, I’d listen to the group’s music and all and everything on-line about them: live performances, Wiki-stuff, biographies, etc.

For sometime now, I’ve been focused on the Canadian-American group called simply, The Band.  If their work is unfamiliar to you, I am jealous.  I would love to switch places and hear them for the first time.

Some back story: a rockabilly group named Ronnie Hawkins & the Hawks toured Canada and found some seriously talented musicians: Robbie Robertson, Richard Manual, Rick Danko and Garth Hudson.  Traveling with him was American drummer, Levon Helm.  After putting down some serious road time, Robertson, Manual, Danko, Hudson and Helm decided to break free from Hawkins and let him tour in Canada alone where he was a big enough deal.

Calling themselves Levon & the Hawks and The Canadian Squires, they slowed buildt up respect and fame within the rock world.  They also caught lightening in a bottle when they became Bob Dylan’s backup band.  Dylan was planning to drop folk music and start a rock career.  He needed a talented backup group.  This career change came with stiff resistance from the “folk” world.  Bob Dylan and the Band were booed mercilessly at concerts in America and even worse overseas.  The trauma of performing under hostile conditions caused Dylan to stay off the stage for years even after recovering from a motorcycle accident.  Levon Helm quit and went to work on an oil rig.  He would later return to the fold.

The Band moved to Saggerites, New York bordering Dylan’s home in Woodstock, NY.  It was at this home/studio where The Band and Dylan created new and inventive music.  They’d jam for monster hours producing several classic hits guided by Bob Dylan’s genius.

The rest is rock history.  Watershed moments for The Band include playing at Woodstock ’69 and creating the quintessential rockumentary, The Last Waltz.

The Band broke up after Robbie Robertson announced he would no longer tour.

I would like to report that all went well for the five minstrels after their split, but I can’t.  They became factionalized with a lot of the usual back-biting about money and credits.

After awhile, The Band started touring again without Robertson.  They now played at smaller, yet still magical venues.  Robertson became a music directors for films.

Following a long history of drug abuse, Richard Manual committed suicide.  He had suffered enough for one lifetime.  The Band’s signature song, The Weight echoes bits of Manual’s struggles in its lyrics.

Although shaken by the loss of their talented mate, Danko, Hudson and Helm kept the music going until Rick Danko passed in his sleep.  Helm was running the show at the time and decreed there can be no “The Band” without Manual and Danko.

Levon Helm continued to have a full bodied career and elevated the Southern rock genre.  The music community and legions of fans lionized him.

Cancer struck Helm and took his singing voice. He performed until it returned.  This man with an indomitable spirit also died leaving Garth Brooks and Robbie Robertson behind.  If we are to learn more about The Band, it will come from these two.

In a display of brotherly love, Levon Helm and Rick Danko are buried side-by-side in Woodstock, NY.

The gifts given by The Band exceeds their music.  They led lives most men would choose, if they had more nerve.

Okay and a whole lot more musical talent.



The old boy writing this blog wears many hats: Vietnam Veteran, husband & father, salesman and techno-dude. After my service with the Army Security Agency, I operated a sign company for nineteen years, The sign industry changed after CAD/CAM machines made the task easy enough for the non-talented. I sold my company and never looked back.

Life has granted me a life partner better than I deserve. My wife, Lyn is a transplanted Kansas gal. Her bliss is teaching kindergarten and first grade.

I am the most proud of my children. My son, Adam lives an international life teaching English and living in Sozhou, China. He is married to one of life's truly lovely women, Yuri Kim. My daughter, Beth grew up in a small town and found her way in life means working and living in major cities like Chicago and New York. She and her life partner, Julie Sterling married in LaJolla, California in 2010.

I like getting the newest gadgets, but also I like to use things until they are useless, i.e., my last personal car was an 88 Honda Prelude Si.

I wrote a Vietnam Veteran newsletter for nine years. During this journey, I learned I like to write. It is a harmless exercise that rewards honest effort while tolerating failure gracefully. I been away from it for too long. My son gave me the blog, and it was a lifeline back to writing.

My best advice is to show the world what you can do but to accept only your opinion of who and what you are.

Update: In August 2008, my job became one of the half-million jobs that went away that month. I took the following year getting the home ready for my official retirement.

In October 2009, I took a part-time job as a saleman at the vaulted Maxwell's Hardware.

On November 29, 2011, I reached my 66th birthday, and I officially started Social Security. I intend to stay with Maxwell's as long as I can contribute.