Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Travels Down Memory Lane vs. Diving Down the Rabbit Hole

My trip down memory lane began innocently enough. It was an afternoon of intense work at the computer, where you don’t want to stop what you’re doing for a full break, but instead “lunch” can be a snack from whatever is in the fridge. Peering into the fridge, I scored a yogurt, a pre-saved iced tea and a banana from the counter, so back to work at the computer I went.

If you know me well, you are laughing at me for two reasons, first because I don’t cook, and second because I call my ice box a “fridge,” that is when I’m not calling it an ice box. I rarely use the word refrigerator; mine is in good standing with AARP. Buddy’s Brazos Appliances really does sell quality products. Twenty-one years and holding—thank you Hotpoint. And from there…off I went, diving down a rabbit hole...or two.

Hotpoint…that brand has been around almost as long as my old Sears Kenmore “Commander” tank vacuum. More on that later. Remember the old Hotpoint TV commercials during the very earliest days of tv spots? Remember who was Happy Hotpoint?

Here’s Happy Hotpoint herself, the dancing elf of all appliances, Mary Tyler Moore, in her earliest role of national prominence. From there, her dancing skills would find uses throughout the rest of her acting career as Laura Petrie and Mary Richards.

Safely sliding down the rabbit hole, I remember a great snack I used to enjoy as a child, when I went to see my Great Aunt Emma.

Known for her ability to save, save, and save some more, she lived a superbly careful life without debt as an early widow who had no college education or prior work experience before marrying my Uncle Mitchell, a painter by trade. She used her skills as a seamstress to find a job at the St. Anthony Hotel (back then, they hand-repaired linens and uniforms, etc.) After we picked her up from work on Saturday, we’d go for brunch at Sea Island in San Antonio, a favorite place that was as good as it was affordable.

Then, we’d go to Kresge, over in North Star Mall, to stock up on a few items for the week that she’d select. As though it was 55 years ago all over again, there would be a Dak canned ham, at the time running for about $1.88. At home she already had the magic combo awaiting me for my evening snack as I watched TV and all the grownups talked and chatted in the kitchen.

Where was I going with this? Oh, the Dak canned ham. Ah yes. So, this fine product came to us from Denmark, and the vacuum sealed container could be breached using the small aluminum key that was affixed to the outside of the container. I felt very grown up at age eight, when Great Aunt Emma allowed me to be the key-bearer and open the ham. Adults have a wonderful habit of encouraging children and saying, “Good job!” to affirm the contribution of the youngsters as they make progress in household chores.

The menu was Uneeda Biscuits, Falfurrias Sweet Cream Butter, Homemade bread and butter pickles, and ice water. If you’ve never dined this high on the hog before, allow me to explain what you missed. Uneeda biscuits were an early offering of the National Biscuit Company, eventually Nabisco.

Uneeda biscuits had substance, thickness, proper taste, and just a tad of salt (although they sold the unsalted version as well). Their thickness is perfect because if you put a small amount of butter on a knife and apply it to a standard premium saltine cracker, the pressure will break it. Maybe that’s too much fuss over a cracker, but if you never had one…To this day I have not been able to find anything that comes close.

Falfurrias butter came from Falfurrias, Texas, and they're a Texas product since 1909, and it used to come in more spreadable tubs, but at least the butter sticks are still available today. They focused their marketing all over Texas, Louisiana, and into Oklahoma, and they have a tremendous market for their irresistable, tasty product.

The pickles were from a kitchen of a lady down the hall from my great aunt, as she lived in the apartment complex of rooms over the old Pep Boys garage downtown, with close proximity to take the bus to and from work. If her pickles ran out, Vlasic's bread-and-butter pickles would be great, or Del Monte sweet gherkins. Mmm. For those of you who enjoyed buying a dill pickle at the theatres to last you the entire movie, God bless you, but I am not in that group. At home, our popcorn was Jiffy Pop or made in our own 5-quart pan the hard way (not-so-jiffy). Premicrowaves, we all did just fine, I think.

The Dak ham purchase at Kresge’s in the Mall also started another rabbit trail…Kresge’s was the same as the Kress stores in various malls across San Antonio, if memory serves, and then ultimately S. S. Kresge founded K-Mart and after inventing the blue light special, off and running they went for many years. Then, a little business called Fed Mart opened in San Antonio and one even found its way to College Station.

By 1974, College Station’s property was being seen as valuable so a California investor managed a good deal price on the property and built a bowling alley there and a strip center for various other businesses. Once it was confirmed that President George H. W. Bush (41) would be bringing a Presidential Library to town, the bowling alley had gone kaput, and was sitting there essentially vacant. Someone had the bright idea of using that property as a storage facility for the materials that could be transported from DC up here until the library was actually constructed, again if memory serves. Nice donation of vacant property, too.

Once the Library was up and running eventually the property was sold and now Republic Steakhouse and Primrose Path now occupy the space, featuring tapas, wine and cocktails. I felt like I was from Hooterville when I asked restaurant expert Mike Green what a tapas was…or were…and he kindly said, “tapas, you know, tapas, little items you get to eat along with drinking your wine and cocktails.” I said, “Oh, snacks. I get it, snacks.” Of course the word in Spanish means small plates…it’s sophisticated cuisine. I’ll have to confess that I’m new to tapas and I have yet to patronize the place, although I’m delighted to have many friends who rave about the ambiance. Another rabbit hole, oops.

Now, I got tremendous affirmation from my mother for my vacuuming skills, and frankly, I was worth every amount praise she could muster, because my dad was responsible for the purchase and delivery of the Kenmore “Commander” horizontal canister vacuum. There were two different hose attachments (for the couch and other chairs), a brush attachment (for the curtains), and then the major vacuum piece itself with the rollers for the floors.

The Kenmore Commander weighed about 40 lbs all told, and at the time, I weighed right at 60 lbs, give or take a few. I lugged that thing all through the house, wanting to contribute to housework because I knew Mom worked hard from 8 to 5 and I wanted to make her to-do list shrink as much as I could. I also got a little stepstool and did the dishes each night, and foreshadowing a future interest in chemistry, I started exploring mixing different sink cleansers in the effort to have the most sparkling sink in the city. No, I didn't have any gaseous or toxic accidents. Guess I really was born to be a chemist. Sort of.

I blush at my early aspirations for greatness, but you have to dream big when you’re a kid if you want to make something out of yourself in this lifetime. Morning breakfast was a good place to start. Butter Krust bread was a hit in my home, and the billboard on Broadway Ave. gave me a reason to smile.

A schoolmate of mine about five years ahead of me was the model young lady for the famous character they used for years. The adorable blonde in the gingham dress was my friend, and her inside was as beautiful as her outside is. She and all four of her siblings had the most exquisite mother who could easily make Princess Grace look dowdy. Fortunately, all the children resembled their mom.

Butter Krust also gave out plentiful amounts of new #2 specially coated, smooth pencils and brown paper bookcovers to all of us, and a bakery tour each year kept all of us happy.

San Antonio was also home to Lone Star Brewery and Pearl Brewery, and schoolchildren loved being able to take the tour of the brewery, not with the hops and the process in mind, but for the complimentary root beer at the end of the tour. Just like Brenham's little Blue Bell Creamery not 30 miles away from here.

Things we remember. In the 1960s, a fellow graduate of my school became CEO of the brewery. Today, Pearl Brewery has been refashioned into a destination center with fabulous restaurants and a fun venue, Jazz, TX, where you can hear the best in live jazz. Word to the wise: Look for the Steve Soares Trio at least once a month at Jazz, TX, as the leader is Doris, my high school classmate's, husband.

Back to breakfast. There was Carnation Instant Breakfast for those on the run, Eggo ("Let go my Eggo!") Waffles, and much later down the road, Kellogg's Pop Tarts. Tang also made a snappy breakfast drink. Malt-O-Meal was a solid breakfast on a cold morning, too.

Afternoon snacks could be milk with Nesquick powder stirred in. Strawberry was a go-to flavor for me.

Speaking of dairy delights, Knowlton Milk was still delivered to the house in the 60s and a dear relative of mine used to drive one of the trucks. The Knowlton Creamery was also down the street from our school.

Our unique school that ran from grades 1-12 (later, K-12) was a series of old Victorian homes in San Antonio's historic district, where they had been remade into classrooms. Many of us had no idea what other school rooms looked like for years until it was time for driver's ed. We were in the middle of downtown San Antonio and so almost all of us were driven to school, and many took one of several school parents' station wagons to arrive for the day. Others would ride the city buses each day. One rarely thought at the time about the sacrifices our parents made back then to afford for us to obtain a special educational experience. I did, but I had plenty of time to think and reflect on "old days." Even back then, I enjoyed the concept of reminiscing.

One other special evening treat might be a scoop of ice cream from the Carnation Ice Cream Shop on San Pedro. They had more than 50 flavors, advertising that fact if only to irritate Baskin Robbins. There was a "Tower of the Americas" sundae, named in time for the Hemisfair '68 year-long San Antonio celebration. The sundae had 48 scoops of ice cream, syrups, whipped cream, and cherries. It was pricey back then even, probably about $20 or more, but if you could eat the whole thing, it was free to you. I only had one classmate who won their sundae that way and his metabolism caused him to gain zero pounds after that one episode, or ever, in his lifetime. Doubt he ate it a second time.

As I grew older, I recall the joy of discovering General Foods Instant Flavored Coffees—what a joy. Just fill your tea kettle with water and heat until it sings and then pour your cup and add two teaspoons of the powdered mix and presto, a delightful, tasty beverage to enjoy.

Now, what’s the perfect treat to go with?

Mom’s and my favorite tapas was 2 Stella D’oro cookies. Remember those? With the colors of the flag of Italy atop the packaging, each pack had 10 or 12 cookies and for $2.19 at Handy-Andy, you couldn’t beat them! I was Skyping with a dear friend the other day, lamenting that I couldn't find any of these "old-timey" cookies I used to love. She remembered them, when I said their name aloud! I brightened up. Someone remembered the same cookie I did! Then she countered with, "I never liked them." All I could do was laugh for three minutes. It wasn't a buzz-kill but her comedic time was perfect. Meanwhile...

I was delighted to see that Amazon could get them for me, especially since I have not seen them in any local grocery stores in at least 10 years. This time, they’re about $6.00 per package, but you can’t beat a walk down memory lane, so what the hey?

Speaking of grocery stores, I certainly do miss the trading stamps that a store would bonus for having grocery brand loyalty and frequency of shopping. Remember double stamp day? I don’t know where you grew up but we had TV stamps, the abbreviation for Top Value at Handy-Andy, then Texas Gold for HEB, and S&H Green Stamps for Piggly-Wiggly and selected Sinclair Shamrock gas stations (and you’d get a lovely Libbey glass and stamps with your gas that they pumped for you).

The duty of collecting stamps and pasting them in the various books and saving/organizing those books to keep an eye on the catalog to see what might be a future worthy prize to redeem was always fun. I won’t say that they exclusive items, but they certainly were not junk either.

Back to the road trip and the little Styrofoam ice chest for $1.99 or $.99 if there was a sale at the store, the reason you filled up your coolers with your own snacks was to avoid some of the temptations from the road. Take for example, Stuckey’s. Road trips with my grandmother and Aunt Sharon going from San Antonio to Houston or Galveston were not complete without Grandma reading each sign Stuckey’s had posted along the old highway every. darned. mile.

Not until I saw Billy Crystal and the actor who played his father in “Forget Paris” could I appreciate that sometimes people, when they are looking for something to say as a space filler, choose to read billboard or recite familiar jingles (“You asked for it, you got it, Toyota.”) and it’s quite charming, particularly when they’re no longer with you and you want to find something to recall to make you smile again.

Which reminds me…we took Grandma to Shakey’s Pizza Parlor when she and Aunt Sharon came to town, and they had two entertainers: Bob on the player piano and Curly on the banjo. Saturday nights would assure you a good affordable pizza, free refills on sodas and music courtesy and Bob and Curly.

Sometimes the patrons enjoyed singing and Bob and Curly would back them (not just anyone, you had to have some chops before they’d let you have the stage). And the music and singing along could get a little loud at times. One evening when we were on the way home, Grandma said, “Gosh I really enjoyed going to Shookey’s with you girls!” Aw, how sweet.

Today is another day, the 1st of September, and with a new month comes a clean slate. Maybe I’ll work a little harder at keeping a few tapas in the fridge. Or then again, Sonic has happy hour from 2-4 pm every day. Rabbit, rabbit!

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Ed Asner Leaves Legacy of Acting, Love, and the Importance of Autism Research

“Ohhhh, Mr. Grant.” I can just hear the tremble in actress Mary Tyler Moore’s voice right now as I recall the way that she implored the stoic, curmudgeonly journalist turned newsroom manager, perfectly portrayed by Ed Asner, for his approval at fictional WJM-TV. And today, the beloved actor has left the stage at the age of 91, as reported by the New York Times this afternoon.

Not in recent memory has one actor so singlehandedly carried a cast of Emmy-winning actors than Ed in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Writers Allan Burns and James L. Brooks gave us more than seven seasons of entertainment. You know you’re thinking this right this very minute. “Mary, you’ve got spunk…I hate spunk!” One unforgettable scene or quote after the other.

If you only know Lou Grant from a comedy show, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” or a drama, “Lou Grant,” you still don’t know Ed Asner, although he does seem like perfect casting for the role he filled in a way no other actor could. And yet, the actor is acting.

In real life, Ed Asner is hardly a disagreeable loner who tolerates nothing inconvenient. He genuinely has more patience and kindness in his being than you’d ever anticipate.

On two episodes of “The Good Wife,” he played Guy Redmayne, an obnoxious, wealthy (Texan) who was willing to back Alicia as a political candidate but during his office visit, he was going to try for as many unwarranted intimate gropes and grabs as he could get away with.

Ed’s IMDB biography notes three episodes of “Studio One,” to his credit. This 1957 production featured him as an uncredited juror and “third actor” in another episode. From such humble beginnings, from which all great actors had to launch, he paid his dues, made the rounds, and was cast in the peremptory “starting out parts” as all icons had to do at one point.

He caught a break in 1960 as he made five appearances in “Route 66” portraying both named police officers as well as “second man.” Again, the path to stardom is never paved with an escalator. In the early 60s he was popular on all the “Doctor” shows, including “The Doctors and the Nurses,” “Dr. Kildare,” and “Ben Casey.” Then there were the cursory western shows, e.g., “Gunsmoke” and “The Virginian,” on and on. Then came the detective shows and his gruff voice made him perfect in “The Wild, Wild West,” “The FBI,” “Mission: Impossible,” “The Fugitive,” and “Ironside.” Over 10 years he had seven appearances in “Insight,” and in one particular episode, he played God.

Then in 1970, the magic happened, and James L. Brooks thought up “Lou Grant.” For the next 12 years you’d find Ed on CBS every week. By the early 90s, he was still a strong TV favorite on multiple series where he made 6, 12, and 17 appearances as a regular character—or their voice.

Ed’s voice was so powerful and in demand that no one had to see him in front of a camera for years and he was able to become part of animation history. He was Hoggish Greedly in “Captain Planet and the Planeteers” for six years, the voice of Hudson in “Gargoyles” in 39 episodes over three years. And who could you ever want to cast in the role of the voice of J. Jonah Jameson in “Spider-Man: The Animated Series”? He was so versatile he was Granny Goodness in “Superman: The Animated Series.”

In 2009, children fell in love with his voice all over again in the animated movie, “Up,” in the role of Carl Fredricksen. Pixar instagrammed a lovely tribute to Ed this afternoon:

Ed was our real life Carl Fredricksen: a veneer of grouch over an incredibly loving and kind human being. Russell, Dug, and all of us at Pixar will miss him terribly. Ed loved voicing Carl, and our time working with him will remain some our most beloved memories. His adventure was ours for a moment in time.

A magnificent Getty Image (Frazer Harrison) of Ed and the character he voiced was shared in the online source

A poignant on-screen role came on “Hot in Cleveland” in 2012 in the role of Jameson. That was the show that gave Betty White’s post-prime acting career a shot in the arm, in between about 20 movie roles. Audiences cannot forget that White’s character, Sue Ann Nivens, in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” always had her sights set on Lou Grant.

Of all his roles, my favorite is an obscure one, in the character of Luke Spellman in the Hallmark Movie, “The Christmas Card.” Its debut in 2006 made it the top-rated holiday movie for Hallmark that year and it was said to have been broadcast 15+ times in 2017, as testament to its poignancy. Ever as relevant today as it was then, the movie stems from a young woman from Nevada City sending Christmas cards to soldiers at their duty stations, thanking them for their service, an annual tradition for her.

As you could predict, Sgt. Cody Cullen experiences a trauma during battle and when he’s discharged at the end of his term, he travels to Nevada City to explore life and thank in person the yet unknown young woman who’d sent him the card at just the right time.

Despite your likely assumptions, the movie is strong, important and not one bit sappy, even by the most deniably hard-hearted standards. It’s just well done; in fact, Ed Asner won a Primetime Emmy for his role as Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie in this film. That Emmy was one of the seven that Asner has won over the years.

His role is that of Luke Spelman, a wise father who knows his daughter’s current fiancĂ©, Paul, is a milquetoast loser, and when Cody saves Luke from being hit by a car, he takes the opportunity to invite him to stay with them for the holidays and fill his shoes at the family lumber mill. And then….Hallmark happens. Watch the film and try not to smile or get caught up in it. Dare you. Not long ago, I had the opportunity to see how Ed Asner’s world was truly focused far away from the sound stages and the bright lights.

Autism spectrum disorder was a personal issue for Ed as his youngest son, Charlie, was diagnosed. Ed dove headfirst into reading and learning everything he could about autism. And he became assuredly one of the most prolific advocates raising funds and awareness for research over the years.

As of 2017, “more than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder,” according to a news story describing Ed’s advocacy for research and funding in national events, including one in Tennessee. The journalist explained that not only was son Charlie on the spectrum, so was a grandson, Will. Then, Ed’s oldest son, Matt, has two stepchildren who are also on the spectrum.

Matt is presently the Vice President of Development of the Autism Society of America, after having spent six years with the Southern California group Autism Speaks. Matt founded the annual "Light Up The Blues" concert series, which has included Dave Grohl, John Mayer, Stephen Stills, and Neil Young in the past. Ed has been an ongoing supporter of both Matt and his nonprofit.

The familiar face is a relentless advocate for telling personal stories about how easy it is to miss the signs of autism and then you learn all the efforts ongoing in communities to train some of the most severely impacted young adults to seek and gain employment and assimilate well into communities and offices that are made to welcome them and make those with autism feel comfortable. With education comes understanding and with financial contributions comes additional and substantive knowledge.[Photo: Part of The Ed Asner family]

One of the best uses of five minutes of your time would be to visit the web site of The Ed Asner Family Center. There you will find the rest of this beautiful letter from Ed, a description of their programs and classes designed to increase employment and skills for those diagnosed. Here's just the opening:

I am writing to you today to help me realize a dream that I have. This dream is to establish an oasis of creativity in every neurodivergent community. A place where our most beautiful dreamers of all can have their place to thrive and in doing so learn valuable lessons about themselves and the world. This place will be The Ed Asner Family Center.

Ed is neither all-grouch, nor all-preacher. Rather he was a dynamic, indefatigable advocate of political freedoms, and advocates for individuals with disabilities and other challenges people face on a daily basis.

Over the past several years, thanks to attending events where Kiki Ebsen was performing, my first opportunity to see Ed was at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, where Kiki was staging “To Dad with Love: A Tribute to Buddy Ebsen.” Longtime Ebsen family friend, Larry Borovay, had been integral to bringing the show to the venue. Larry also personally brought his dear friend, Ed Asner, with him to see the show that evening.

At a reception following a powerful production, Ed embraced Kiki and complimented her on what she’d created in her production as on point and memorable. He also praised her voice, saying “I could listen to her sound forever.” The ultimate compliment coming from one of entertainment’s most respected authorities, and a former president of the Screen Actors Guild. [Photo by Joaquin Montalvan]

Another reunion took place that evening between Ed and Kiki’s brother, Dustin Ebsen, who’d designed the multimedia presentation for the evening’s production. When Dustin was just 19 years old, he took his one year’s experience behind the scenes on Buddy Ebsen’s detective show, “Barnaby Jones,” and was hired as a sound editor for the “Lou Grant” show. That experience gave him tremendous real-life education, and together with studies at USC, led to a fulltime career as producer/editor/video editor and colorist.

Watching the passing of the proverbial torch of approval between generations via support for the Ebsen's from Asner found me with more than a little dust collecting in my eyes.

Six months later, as a longtime fan of Los Angeles personality Vicki Abelson’s “Women Who Write” series, came another chance to see another side of Ed. If you’re new to Vicki Abelson, she’s a brilliant, rather irreverent, hysterically witty “hostess with the mostest,” who assembles panels of interesting individuals from all walks of entertainment and throws them together in front of a select group of women (and some men) who fill her grand room to hear the latest about what they’re doing.

Ed was there to promote (mention a little and answer questions on any topic) his latest book, “The Grouchy Historian,” coauthored by longtime TV producer and screenwriter, Ed. Weinberger (sic).

The room went wild when he was introduced and in typical fashion, he referred to the other guests that day, one of whom was coincidentally, Kiki Ebsen, whose husband, Steve Wallace, had joined her for the show. Ed had a very sweet and special series of comments for them, and then he went back to trying to pretend he was a grouchy historian. He’s a historian all right, but grouchy? Not really. Take a look for yourself.

Aging was a natural progression for Ed, and on Sept. 13, 2019, he retweeted Tom Bergeron’s announcement of a 90th Birthday Celebration and Roast for Ed, including Bergeron, Lily Tomlin, the late Cloris Leachman, Mark Hammill, Jon Favreau and others. And he loved it.

Ed took age 90 as seriously as he took 70 and 80—with work. He just filled the past two years with more work! At the time of his death, his latest IMDB filmography shows that several projects were already in post-production for 2021, 2022, and several roles announced for 2023 as well! You’ll be seeing Ed Asner’s face or hearing his voice in new projects for several years to come. And that’s really the way it should be.

In conclusion, I’d like to think of Ed, not as Lou Grant, or an animated voice on a cartoon, not in real life, but taking his place in one of the final scenes on an outdoor shoot in winter. It’s a scene from “The Christmas Card,” and the showpiece of the shot is a beautiful wooden bench, built by hand by the young Army soldier, Cody Cullen, in appreciation for the hospitality of Luke (Ed) and Rosie Spelman (Lois Nettleton).

Earlier in the movie, Luke had taken Cody to this beautiful scenic vista on their property to show him the place where he and Rosie loved spending their quiet time together. On the bench is the phrase that Luke (Ed) used to describe the spot where he and Rosie fell in love: “Where The Magic Begins.”

For Eddie Asner, born November 15, 1929, in Kansas City, Missouri, and growing up in Kansas City, Kansas, he had the perfect midwestern voice to bring to his craft. He served in the U.S. Army in the Signal Corps and when he played a veteran, he had real-life experience for the part.

After at least eight decades of entertaining audiences around the world who had a chance to see him, it’s just the right thing to do to give this man an appropriate sendoff into the next stage beyond this life. Godspeed Ed, and may you always find your way back to “your bench”…Where The Magic Begins. Thanks for all the memories. You are one unforgettable character.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Carl Giammarese and Jim Peterik Delight Audience at City Winery Chicago

The pairing of 60s pop stars Jim Peterik and Carl Giammarese always means a grand evening of entertainment. Audiences might first think it’s a booking of The Ides of March and The Buckinghams and tickets sell out immediately. Or, it could be part of an amazing “Cornerstones of Rock” show at a beloved venue, and again the tickets would sell out immediately.

However, there’s a brand new pairing in town—the “Evening of Stories and Songs” by Jimbo and Carl—singer/songwriters. It’s lesser realized until you have the chance to attend one of the intimate gathering performances, that Jim and Carl have spent all their lives as songwriters. For Jim’s contributions, many of his songs have been jingles for advertising agencies and while you can likely still sing along to “Look out for the bull, look out for the Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull,” on Antenna TV, you might not know Jim wrote that.

In the 1980s for many years, Carl Giammarese was the voice of many individual jingles as well as being part of some of Chicagoland’s most identifiable, favorites spots, including Lava Soap, banks, and many more. The group sessions include national commercials for United Airlines (“Fly the friendly skies of United), Pizza Hut, McDonald’s (“You Deserve a Break Today”). And so, the tickets started going fast until they reached capacity.

Whether they were in front of the microphone as lead singers, or leaders of their respective bands, Jim and Carl are fortunate enough to say that they have been able to make music their entire career lifetimes. That’s a rarity in today’s world, being able to pursue your heart’s dream as your day job without interruption.

Jim and his best friends from high school in Berwyn, Illinois, have performed as The Ides of March for over 50 years. Their first breakout hit was “Vehicle,” written by Jim Peterick, and it was a chart-topper in 1970.

Oppositely, The Buckinghams were essentially four guys from the north side of Chicago, and one from the south side. There was much that Carl and John Polous shared as music industry interests, so they might take forever to finish a copy each week. And yet, the two groups have stayed vital and active for the longest period of time in Chicago music history.

On an early 1970s interview show, Jim once joked, after “Vehicle” hit the Top 10 as a breakthrough hit that they’d worked 10 years to become an overnight sensation. But, that’s what it takes to succeed as a musician—perseverance, persistence, a lot of woodshedding, and a faith and belief in yourself that you were born to perform, write, create, and most of all—share your talents with others.

That really seems to be the excitement and motivation behind the success of the “Stories and Songs” series enjoyed by Peterik and Giammarese. In the past three months, both shows have maxxed out their socially safe and carefully staffed venues that serve food and drinks, most recently the City Winery in Chicago on August 16th.

Also making the evening extra special were the musical contributions of Singer/Songwriter Colin Peterik (backing Jim)

and Bruce Soboroff of The Buckinghams (backing Carl) as they did their individual performances.

Then all four of the guys jammed together for a few duo numbers that delighted the audience.

Keep your eyes open for more chances to hear the Dynamic Duo in person. You’ll be able to relax and travel back in time and by the end of the evening, you’ll all have made two really good friends that you will want to continue to keep up with. Enjoy. Follow Carl at and follow Jim at

Special thanks to Philamonjaro Photography for capturing the spirit of the fun evening in all the photos of that night, except where noted.

Friday, July 9, 2021

When Life Gives You a Second Family of “Cousins,” It’s a Gift

When I saw her picture posted on Facebook early this morning, I smiled, because her birthday is today, and I recalled great memories of fun times together. But as I read the caption her brother posted my mood changed instantly. It was remembering Nita Sue as today “would be” her birthday. Turns out she had passed away eight weeks ago, and I was just learning of it.

As a young girl, Nita Sue was a popular, fun, darling, and outgoing high school student, as her family and friends had described to me long ago when I first met her. She loved music and she loved dancing, and she was good at it! One of the most popular dancers in her class, in fact. Life was too serious to be taken seriously.

She always had a job and worked hard at whatever she was doing, typically clerical and bookkeeping positions, as she was good with numbers. A natural people person, she was great at customer service. By the time I’d met her, she had been married and divorced and her three children were grown and had family of their own.

And she was free to travel often when one of her cousins had a girls’ trip in mind, which was usually several times a year. Most frequently it was to be with another favorite cousin and friends of hers, of which I was fortunate to be included at the time. Trips might be to hang out at a second home down south or a vacation home up north, or to get in the car to run over and see more family in Arkansas or Louisiana.

Burning up the roads and whiling away the hours, I think I earned a PhD in “how to relax” being together with many women, slightly senior to me, who had had their jobs or careers, raised their families, and had time to just enjoy a bit of life. There was always music on the car trips and most of the time I was driving because I loved it.

Singing old songs from the hits of the ‘50s–‘70s, up and down the highways was filled with laughter and “remember when’s” time and time again. Just hearing the girls reminiscing was a joy for me. Their stories were so vivid that I felt like I’d been there myself. And then I got to meet some of their childhood friends and eventually the entire family, so the stories really came to life.

Occasionally, another cousin and his wife joined in the fun to visit more family in the “party wagon,” if you can call infinite stops for Dr. Pepper and convenience store snacks a party. We certainly did.

There may have been some happy times spent in a “few” casinos during those days. Well, to be fair, when we went to casinos, it was typically to see the musical acts performing there, because these days that is where all our classic rock faves would be in concert. And if you happened to have to stop at the slot machines along the way, well so be it! That’s our story and we’re sticking to it!

Occasionally, she’d join me for concerts at The Woodlands. I’ll never forget when we heard Il Divo, together with another friend, from the third row of the front section, and she and her cousin were with me for my concert of a lifetime in the late 1990s, with Christopher Cross and Dan Fogelberg sharing the bill at The Woodlands. Seats in the seventh row provided perfect purview for this iconic show.

She was a good friend to me and treated me like family all the time I knew her. When she came to town for a routine health procedure, she stayed with me, and the next day, she made sure she stopped by to see my Mom, who was in a senior skilled nursing section briefly for three months prior to her passing. She brought a thoughtful gift to Mom, who so enjoyed the visit.

During my first trip to Chicago, I stayed overnight at the airport to be able to catch a 6am flight in, and she told me to be sure and eat at the particular restaurant where her son, Darron, was working, and though he had not met me yet, when he did, he made me feel as welcome as the day is long, southern gentleman, and just seeing a familiar face, one you’d even not met, smiling at you and wishing you a great time on my business venture, I fumble as I try to explain how comforting it was…like I wasn’t alone in a vast sea of travelers while I was on my way to establish new venture.

The “you’re not alone” part is the key. When Mom died Nita Sue, many of her cousins, several of aunts and uncles burned up the highway to all be here with me in my most important time of need. I never felt alone. Surrounded by love, whether their names were on my family tree, I was able to go through those days with confidence, faith, strength, and more, because of their love. It’s just how this unique family (on both sides) that began in Arkansas and relocated mostly to Texas is about.

As a grandmother, Nita Sue loved her grandchildren and they loved her. One of her granddaughters loved reading and so every night before she went to sleep, she would call “Nana” and read to her for 30-45 minutes. What that simple act says is that a grandparent is the one person who delights in the time the child has to give and the child appreciates that gift. She always had the latest news of the grandchildren. Her son Darron brought her special love and care all of her life, and he was both best friend in addition to her son.

Her brother Troy and his sister were virtually best friends all of their lives. For me, it was so special to see a brother and sister so respectful and caring of one another, not pushing each other to words, ever, but so often coming together to care for their parents, which was a full-time project for both siblings for the majority of the past two decades actually.

Their parents’ final wish was to live in their home until they died—no matter what—and few people realize what a burden that can be to the children to have to maintain and finance and facilitate. Given their father’s unwilling adamant nature to yield to reason or logic, there was no Plan B available to either of them.

Dear old dad lived to be 100, and their parents’ marriage lasted 75 years; their Mom and Dad’s passing happened within four short months of each other. It was more than a labor of love that she and her brother honored their parents throughout their lifetimes. It was superhuman, as they battled their own losses in life, and it surely cost them falling a few steps behind in their own health doing so. Nita battled COPD for over a decade, but still she made them her priority, spelled by her brother’s stepping in for the other shift, all of which lasted until just recently (2019).

Other adult children would have just given up and said, “I can’t do this anymore. It’s costing me my health.” And no one would have blamed them. Sometimes you don’t just get what you want. Sometimes you get a gift you don’t deserve, because someone has strength of character that others can’t even hold a candle to. Sometimes, love supersedes personal needs each and every time.

During COVID we exchanged a few text messages and Facebook messages, but we all know that it was a time for friendships to be put to the test. Her big brother and her son were taking good care of her, she said. I knew she’d be all right and it was her birthday that brought me back to Earth. When I realized that her lovely photo on Facebook was “in memoriam,” my first thought was, “At last she can take a deep breath again.” She can dance, unencumbered, as long as she wants. As she is reunited with her family in Heaven, including her youngest brother who died 15 years ago, she is made whole, because family meant the world to her.

Time has flown so quickly since her passing that word had not reached me from any of the cousins. I see this all the time in my profession; someone thinks someone else has already told someone and yada yada. My feelings are not relevant or important here. The last thing I noticed brought another smile…the day of her passing? It was the exact same day that my mother passed away 16 years ago. Another cardinal flying across the sky to watch for…I’m grateful for her friendship and caring, and most of all for the gift of her time.

Magic Every Moment by Dan Fogelberg

"...On a high and windy island, I was gazing out to sea,

When a long-forgotten feeling came and took control of me.p> It was then the clouds burst open, and the sun came pouring through.

When it hit those dancing waters, in an instant all eternity I knew.

There's so much we take for granted, there's so much we never say.

We get caught up in the motiosn of just living day to day.

We are fettered to the future, we are prisoners of the past

...And we never seem to notice

'till our lives have finally slipped right through our grasp.

There's magic every moment.

There's miracles each day.

There's magic every moment.

Oh, won't you let the music play?

Won't you let the music play?

You can see forever in a single drop of dew.

You can see that same forever if you look down deep inside of you.

There's a spark of the Creator in every living thing.

He respects me when I work, but He so loves me when I sing."

Thursday, July 1, 2021

The Rise and Fall of Bill Cosby, Once America’s Most Trusted Spokesperson and Dad

Shame on you, Bill Cosby, for destroying the memories of any good thing you ever once did in the name of entertaining your audiences over the years. Just when we’d all been able to put you in our virtual rearview mirrors, here you come again, this time yapping about how you were a victim. Oh, give us all a break.

Out of the blue on June 30th, American television audiences were shocked to see the actor back on their TV screens, getting out of a car and portraying a victim no less. Wasn’t he the same fellow who fell from pillars in extreme disgrace after being proved in a court of law that he was guilty of (at least) three counts of aggravated indecent assault in 2018?

Same fella whose more than 50 female accusers have stated he did the same thing to them? And you’re a victim now? When exactly did you lose your mind, Bill? Drugging women, then raping them, one by one by one by one. That’s what a jury of your peers convicted you of doing.

And yet, on June 30, 2021, “the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania overturned Cosby’s conviction, finding that the comedian should not have been charged or sentenced due to his agreement with a prosecutor. He was released from jail yesterday afternoon. And he jumped right back into character, portraying the victim.

The predicate for the case before the state Supreme Court is, at best, convoluted, and the reporting all combines to try and understand how Cosby theoretically didn’t have a fair trial. That would be where there were not even the full number of victims testifying against him.

Legal strategy is best left to lawyers, but the bottom line is that after almost three years of incarceration, Cosby is a free man, and his PR flacks are busy showing how he was rushing home to see his loving wife, Camille. If he had just kept his mouth shut and thanked everyone for seeing to his release, offered an apology to all victims, promised restitution to them one by one out of his major assets, and then gone quietly into oblivion, perhaps I might have been persuaded to look the other way and just ignore him permanently.

And yet, you couldn’t bring yourself to do the right thing. Here’s your tweet yesterday;

I have never changed my stance nor my story. I have always maintained my innocence. Thank you to all my fans, supporters and friends who stood by me through this ordeal. Special thanks to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for upholding the rule of law. #BillCosby

Cosby’s Twitter profile cleverly notes he’s “Far From Finished”: My first TV concert special in 30 years, Far From Finished debuted on @ComedyCentral on Nov. 23rd. Buy the DVD today:”(and then he gives the link).

Hallmark Channel: Are you paying attention?

By the way, one of his Twitter followers is the Hallmark Channel. Hopefully someone will nudge Wonya Lucas, named last year as the President and CEO of Crown Media Family Networks to pull the corporation’s following from this freed convict.

After all, they were quick as a flash to jettison their former movie staple Lori Laughlin over the college admissions scandal, and not one person in the media group noticed you were following Cosby on Twitter? Then again, maybe they sympathize with Coz, same as Phylicia Rashad, who is now scrambling and running like thunder to apologize for praising his release yesterday. I hope not.

Backlash was so quick against Rashad, the “newly minted” Dean of Fine Arts at Howard University (without a full semester under her belt) that she spent most of the day trying to apologize to victims of sexual abuse and it would have been just disgusting.

Except it’s about as much as you can expect from someone who can parlay a BFA degree into a career position as a Dean of Fine Arts, without as much as a real master’s or doctoral degree. She does have a bunch of honorary degrees though.

Howard U officials today, though, noted that her statement: “lacked sensitivity towards survivors of sexual assault.” A credentialed, experienced member academia would have known that.

Back to Bill, the incorrigible. You were once a “clean comedian” when you first appeared on my TV screen, a welcome figure as some at the time weren’t more child friendly. You were hysterical as you did routines about how you feared the wrath of your father (“I brought you into this world and I can take you out!”) and just growing up.

People bought tickets to see you and they bought your comedy albums to memorize all the lines that were part of the hysterical aspects of car repairs (mechanic named Bob) on the album “200 MPH.” I look at that album today and want to smash and stomp on it.

I was very young, but still a fan, when I watched him with Robert Culp on “I Spy” in 1965, as he portrayed an undercover intelligence agent for our government on that show. That was an important teaching lesson for children, too, to show friendship, regard, and respect to those who worked for our government and to respect persons of color.

That same year, you’d find Ivan Dixon on “Hogan’s Heroes,” and in 1966, Greg Morris was a secret agent on “Mission Impossible,” so strong roles for intelligent Black men were emerging. It was starting to become a good time in our country at last. You, Cosby, were one of three in the 60s who had a weekly permanently continuing presence on our TV screens. Dixon and Morris continued in the business, even beyond acting, into directing before passing away far too young.

Then, you started selling Jell-O in the 1960s. Not only were you the individual who had the distinction of being “longest-serving celebrity spokesperson for a product” for Jell-O, but you did commercial endorsements for 40 years, amassing a fortune independent from your other income streams. You made more money selling products on your name and reputation than all of your acting endeavors combined, your comedy tours, your radio program, your record albums. America trusted you. I trusted you.

Your reputation was so sterling that accolades flowed your way just because of how your word was received across this country. Specifically, of you, Texas Instruments said you came “across as a father figure, a teacher, and a friend” in your ads. You even propelled around the country, playing college campuses wearing the sweatshirt emblazoned with “Hello Friend” on it. America’s friend.

You were considered “America’s Dad” as you portrayed Dr. Cliff Huxtable on your “Cosby” show. You were a pediatrician and your wife’s character was an attorney. Both of you were successful role models for all to see. When Rudy’s (your youngest daughter’s character) fish, Lamont, died, you gave an unforgettable funeral for the fish. That one episode has stayed with me for years as one of the things a head of household does when there is faith and a teaching opportunity for children.

You even were seen as a familial figure to Oprah Winfrey, advising her on one of the best assets to place her money—in art. She told people frequently that you called her up out of the blue one day and told her she should be investing her major wealth in assets that only grew in value. She told “The Grio” that your call was a career-defining moment for her.

“Bill Cosby called me up one day, actually he sent me, two pieces of sculpture by Elizabeth Catlett, and he said, ‘Sis’ this is where you should be putting some of your money because you’re going to grow tired of buying shoes, and that is the truth. After a while you get tired of buying shoes.”

He called her “Sis”—how sweet, caring, kind, and thoughtful. Aww.

And yet, Bill Cosby, you were far from any of those things, weren’t you? Your long-suffering wife of over 50 years has stood by you despite your multiple episodes of cheating on her. She almost divorced you, but she didn’t. For the most part she has remained silent. Who knows what she thinks of you? You do.

Do you think your children might not be aware of the double standard you were setting outside your home? You have four daughters and you had one son. How did you justify to them how America’s dad and trusted advertising pitchman just had to humiliate their mom every now and then because you are…well…you?

As you created and worked the “Fat Albert” character cartoon series, you took a detour to spend some time “around” education. Your mileage may vary, but you never finished your undergraduate degree at Temple. Yet, you were “gifted” with a final degree with consideration assigned you for “life experience.”

And, if you read between the lines, you got an M.A. and Ed.D. degree for “life experience” and a dissertation at the benevolence of a dean at UMass Amherst who generously granted you much leeway for “attending” classes. And you were fast to apply your newly minted Ed.D. title to your TV show as “The Cosby Show” was beginning to take off. Each and every week, we saw your Ed.D. title and you just loved being called “Dr. Cosby,” didn’t you? Never mind one of your doctoral committee members spilled the beans:

“A professor who served on Cosby’s dissertation committee, Reginald Damerell, said that Cosby hardly took a class — and that he got course credit for appearing on Sesame Street and The Electric Company, “and wrote a dissertation that analyzed the impact of his show.”

As an individual who had to work hard for my M.S. in Educational Administration and as someone who was in classes with those who did “real” work to earn their Ed.D. degrees, I must say that I didn’t shed a tear when you lost many of your honorary degrees from over 20 universities. And oh, that school you gave $20,000,000? Spelman College? The historically Black women’s college? They had a named professorship for you and Camille, until 2015 when Spelman undid the professorship and gave the money back to a foundation that your wife established. Yet, two of your daughters graduated from there. Weren’t thinking, were you? One of America’s most trusted spokesmen anywhere. All about you, wasn’t it?

And then your final legal waterloo. It was a retrial that you’d successfully dragged out since you were arrested and charged in 2004. All that takes is some money and using it to file so many appeals that you wear out the people following the charges. Oh, we saw the pictures of the reportedly almost blind actor on crutches and sad looking after the conviction and sentencing.

Fifty+ women can’t be wrong, Cos.

Ironically, what do such heinous acts of cruelty say about the cowardice of the man? If a guy is, say, a serial cheater, he just dates around on his spouse; same can be said of women who would theoretically behave similarly, to be fair. And yet, in this case, he has to purchase and obtain drugs in advance, the kind you can’t find over the counter, quaaludes, it was stated in some cases.

Then there’s the pattern of making the drink for his victims. This is serial drugging of women and making them his victims. Intent.

One is given to understand that there are enough women who are so caught up in the celebrity of bright lights and Hollywood that all you’d have to say is “How you doin’?” and they’re all yours, ala Warren Beatty. Further, if one isn’t a dreamboat, to use an old word from the 1960s, you could simply contract out the plan for company with 1-800-I’mFamousSoComeOverandParty.

None of those things did Cosby choose. He didn’t seem to have a wingman to party with either. That way he didn’t appear footloose and fancy free and no one else to talk of his deeds.

No, he took the coward’s way out, the guy who couldn’t get a girl unless he drugged them and the didn’t know what was happening to them until their memories returned to them, they were traumatized, horrified, left with a permanent sense of violation, and then at the end of all that, they were called liars and lumped into a cast-out group of women who might dare even speak ill of “America’s Dad.”

Even the least bright of the women (what did you think was going up there to talk and have coffee with the big star in his hotel room would actually lead to)—pity to them, too. No one deserves to be cruelly and unconscionably a victim of another person.

And now, he’s out walking free and you have women around the country, including the victims, horrified to see how frankly easy it was for him to weasel his way out of jail. Those in charge of those decisions will have to answer to another judge one day.

Even though we know that the karma bus can pull up when you least expect it, there’s no joy in any of this, only disgust. The most finishing punishment of all is that the world very quickly forget this man exists. No press time, photo time, reporting time, or any other coverage of the man without a conscience.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The Unique Life and Times of Craig Davis —Old-School Rocker and Southern Gentleman (1950-2021)

To look at a recent photograph, Craig Davis might seem to be a traditional rocker, complete with tattoos, angst, and a dream to finally be appreciated in his own time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fact is, the real Craig Davis might be slightly camouflaged beneath the ink of his choice covering up his skin, but inside was the beating heart of an old soul, a true Southern Gentleman in the grandest sense of the word. He followed his own path to provide maximum soothing of his soul that could only heal when writing and playing his music.

I’ve had the privilege of knowing many musicians away from their usual home base onstage. I was happily into my new career as a writer and editor when I first met Craig’s Mom, Mary Louise Davis, through dear friends. She was a brilliant senior, fun, witty, and she knew everything about old Bryan and Texas politics. Her stories were fascinating, and I loved each visit.

One day she treated me to lunch at the Headliners Club in Austin, founded by the former Executive Editor of the Austin American-Statesman “for those who make the Headlines and those who write the Headlines.” She wanted to inspire me to keep writing and asking questions about Texas politics. It worked.

A month or so later, she told me her son was a musician, and she spoke of his work as “tremendous” and “amazing,” even if she didn’t quite understand the relevance of his original compositions. She felt the groove and lauded it proudly as something truly grand he had achieved. God bless mothers, who believe in us even when we might falter a bit along the way. Typically, fathers are more about “Get a job, pay the bills, support yourself, and then play when there’s time left over.”

Craig (third from the left, front row above) was a few years older than I, she said, but instantly I could name eight local musicians, each of whom are legends, whom I was certain he had played with in garage bands growing up. She knew everyone I named. I always said Bryan, Texas was the start of music careers for so many professionals whose first stages were here. It would be a year or more before I met Craig, in 2002. He had just released a new CD called “Revolution Road.”

The 6’2” lanky man who came by his Mom’s home seemed a little shy and yet, with his mere appearance, her eyes lit up to see him, renewed by his presence. He’d finished up at the gym, his daily routine for about a year at that point. Mary Louise also frequented the gym. Often, she was on the golf course, beating anyone younger than her by a clear margin.

She kept her mind sharp by continuing to teach a weekly Bible study at Lakeway Church in Austin, and she was one of three women who I consider true Bible scholars that were easier for me to ask for a verse than Google.

Craig handed me a copy of “Revolution Road” his 2002 release and said, “Just got these back; I signed and numbered them all and then had them sealed. Hope you like it.” I promised to give it a listen. Mine was number 631 of 1000 and the cover featured him with trademark sunglasses on, hiding his blue eyes that were as piercing as his mother’s.

When I stood up to exit the room for a moment, he stood as well; there are some hallmarks of being brought up properly to know to stand when a woman stands…it’s old-school cool and I appreciated it.

“Revolution Road” featured 17 of Craig’s originals and Austin’s Spencer Starnes coproduced the disc with him. It was the first album I’d enjoy of his; when Christmas came around, I got his holiday single, “Christmas Time is Here Again; What Was Santa Thinkin’?"

It was clever and recorded in Austin in Spencer Starnes’ studio, with Spencer on bass and Dexter Walker on drums. The collective opinion was that his lyrics were brilliant, and he was a superb guitarist, and with all his songs, it seemed to me that he was holding back slightly his larger-than-life creativity that propelled him to want to make music.

Craig was, to me, a latter-day Michael Des Barres, if you will, with music on his own terms and his life lived loud in Panavision. I wasn’t too far off. In recent years, they have both followed each other on Instagram and complimented various songs being performed. He also greatly respected the music of Van Wilks.

In 2003, Mary Louise and I dropped by his house so I could get my copy of his newest release, “Amplifier.” As expected of a multimedia artist, the walls facing his second-floor stairway were covered with thousands of images, lacquered on.

I was dumbfounded with the litany of decoupaged photographs of musicians of so many great generations. Hundreds of vinyl 45s were thumbtacked to a corkboard surface for display and easy removal to play on a whim. His majestic collection wasn’t hermetically sealed somewhere in a safe vault. No sir, not Craig. It was just a fingertip away and in pristine, if not unconventional, condition. Not long after listening to “Amplifier,” having been impressed with “Bungalow 9,” “…and a little dog shall lead us…” and “Her Universe,” I e-mailed Craig and suggested that Kay Conlee and Old Bryan Marketplace had funded, at my request, funds sufficient for four shows for the Palace Theatre in Downtown Bryan. My goal was to draw crowds there for free, fun live music. I asked whether he’d consider playing music from his new albums in one of those slots.

This new hat I was wearing—do-good music booker—I was doing for free because I wanted to share the fun of live music and showcase our local powerhouses simply for the joy of music. He called me and we debated for 10 minutes how important it was to get his music out there, and how cool it would be to bring him back home. “He didn’t have a band,” he said. Undaunted, I said, “I know just the guys” and a quick call to The Rockafellas turned a “maybe” into a “yes.” Objections overcome, he agreed.

The night came and Craig was a bit shy as it had been at least 20 years, he said, since he was on stage. The number could have been 10 or 20 years, but still I was surprised to hear his shyness about the excitement coming his way. He'd entered some of his songs in songwriter competitions before and seemed truly shocked when they won acclaim there. Didn't phase him.

That night Craig experienced a level of happiness that alternate substances could never match—coming home one last time and showing your latest in art to the people who knew you when, many of whom were many cousins he had in his family tree who’d made Bryan their homes.

In terms of art, not only was Craig’s home wall a “work of art,” but he was a prolific artist with oils on canvas. Mostly abstract work occupied the majority of his interests, but he seemed to have at least two or three focal points per painting. You could study them for hours and see something unique in each one.

Naturally, he designed his own album covers for his CD releases, and he numbered each of the pressings along with his autographs. I cherish those albums today, even more with the knowledge of his passing.

Craig’s life as a kid growing up in Bryan was like any other whose father was a local legend and his mother a revered civic leader. You can either follow in their footsteps or take a new path of your own. Most of my musician friends among his contemporaries, I’d met as the sons of my professors in science and engineering. Equations and slide rules were not for them. Music theory and music facts were their PhDs and they were good at them.

The Beatles invaded the U.S. when Craig was 14, so his early local bands would find him playing the same high school sock hops, Battle of the Band contests and other competitions with the privilege of “ruling the town” until the next competition. He eventually kept choosing music over adulthood as time went by. Ultimately, he had tried marriage a couple of times and had two beautiful sons and a daughter as three of the best decisions he’d ever made. They are all brilliant and beautiful people of whom he can be most proud.

At a career crossroads and a new father, during mid-adulthood, he of the free will his parents had afforded him decided to join in on those being looked after by Mary Louise and Bill, for as long as he lived. Their home was home base for Craig, Jeff, and Amanda, after he divorced his first wife, Jennifer. His second wife, Pam, raised his youngest son, Dean.

Craig painted, pursued music, and worked on his art, and was in his children’s lives, more like a big brother but he was there. He didn’t have a Peter Pan complex. Far from it, Craig had a need to stay focused and true to his artistic muse, just as a sports athlete spends 24/7 focused on their careers. No one pointed fingers or grumbled. Mary Louise facilitated family with love. Craig’s children understood and loved him unconditionally.

When the final few years of Mary Louise’s life were underway, it was harder on Craig than usual. He basically gave up, midway in, knowing her life would soon end. Amanda and Jeff were her rocks of support. Craig stopped really taking good care of himself and a few old ways seemed easier to adapt than the alternative.

When his cancer was discovered in the last 10 days, his girlfriend found a comforting Hospice site for him, and he was surrounded by beautiful gardens, peaceful Austin breezes, and family who loved him. It wasn’t as long as he’d liked to have been here, but he would have pronounced his 70 years, “A good ride, all things considered.”

Epilogue…5 years ago…David Ernstmeyer, one of Craig’s friends posed a question on his Facebook page: “How did the best generation get old? I thought we were going to live forever." Craig’s poignant response: “it ain’t over til it’s over, lad.”

Well, Craig, life as it once was, is now over. Where you are now, the air is clear, as are your lungs, and beauty surrounds you wherever you go. You left us with a grand compendium of your music. You left your children with many memories of times growing up together. Wherever you were, love surrounded you. You did things on your own terms to be sure, but you remain forever an eternal creative, skilled in sharing messages nested in other messages. To discover them, one must go far beneath the surface to see the gifts and talents you freely shared. They’re there for those who seek them. And the band played on…