How do we ever know that we've accomplished anything? Have I loved enough? Did I do my part? What about the people that I've hurt? What should I do to make up for the things that I've done the wrong way?
I wanted to save the world. I still do. The struggle between choosing and fighting your battles and merely stroking your own ego is eternal. Have I been too lazy to learn to do anything or is it a positive thing to follow a muse who never fully reveals herself?
Let's make sure that we don't miss this beautiful dawning of a new and peaceful age. Don't be playing with your I phone when peace breaks out and joy runs rampant. I think I smell it in the air. Smells like rain.
Well, I suppose we all worry about our property values. I happen to live across the street from the mayor. I knocked on the front door and suggested that he and I go to breakfast together as soon as Occupy Tampa got rolling. He said that he was going to Tallahassee but that he would call me in a day or two and we would go. I'm still waiting.
All I hope for is a peaceful RNC in our little town. One where no property is destroyed and no kids with cracked skulls. I can't describe myself as much of a political type. I don't think that Jesus or Buddha or Woody or Will Rogers would want much to do with any of this.
During his campaign I asked a friend what he thought about Bob Buckhorn. "Well, he doesn't have a mean bone in his body," was my friend's response. I voted for him and, to tell the truth, that was one of the major factors. It's true. He doesn't seem to have a mean bone in his body. I can't say that I like statements about "brute force" describing our city's official response to protesters, however. That seems mean and it doesn't seem wise. Let's welcome everyone to Tampa with open arms and let's have a party.
Spent some time this morning watching babies, yeah, literally babies, getting dunked under water and spun around to disorient them. It is part of a program to teach infants to turn over so that they float on their backs. Infants drown because they float on the surface or even lie in the puddle or tub with their faces in the water. Once a kid has learned to flip himself over onto his back, he will float and can maintain the position for a long time. Lots of children's lives are being saved here.
They cry. Of course they cry. It's all terrifying. Funny thing is that every time one of them began wailing I found tears running down my face, too. I suppose that it's just an introduction to the world outside of mom's arms. Don't we all long for the complete security of caring and unconditional love?
The concept of pure love dominates my thoughts lately. It's as though the idea, obvious as it is, has never spent time in the front of my mind. It transcends all religion, philosophy, politics and all dogma. We need to use it for good.
There are hungry folks to be fed, wars to end, animals to save. We all know someone who needs love and lots of it. There are no more important tasks out there. Sometimes it's hard to see how writing hillbilly songs can help. We all do what we have to do, however.
Don't hoard your riches and don't spare the love. Forgive someone. Nobody has to teach you any of it. You can go to heaven, whatever you think that is, right now and you don't have to kick the bucket to get there. Love.
Some of us are built for the broken heart. Nothing to be proud of and nothing to covet. For the afflicted, however, we feel more I suppose. It's kinda' like being a world traveler without leaving home. Do we have more regrets? Probably. To quote Don Gibson, "If they gave gold statuettes for love and regrets, I'd be a legend in my time."
Once I worried that success eluded me, that my batting average was zero in a very long and very undistinguished career. Then a new layer overlapped that one and I feared that I was one of those lunatics with a built in anti-success mechanism. You know the maladjusted, guilty ones who manage to sabotage everything that they undertake. The next, obvious worry was that my incompetence prevented me from achieving anything at all.
The only thing that pulled me through decades of this was settling upon the idea that I'm an artist. I had always avoided such consideration. The term seems to drip self-importance and reeks of conceit. Now, those with the grand gifts, clearly they're artists. If you have the gift for self promotion and the gift, you have it made. Jim Rosenquist painted all of those magnificent, mammoth images but, if he hadn't worn those paper trousers to those first Manhattan cocktail parties, we might never have seen them.
Elvis had Colonel Parker.
Now, at this late stage, I realize that I don't write them for you. I don't write them for me, either. I write them for the stars and the seas and the birds and for the mountains. I write them because they're there.
Worrying that every move that you make and every breath that you take affects the cosmos is pointless. On the other hand, once the thought has settled into a crease in one of the lobes, how do you forget about it? If I leave the house five seconds earlier or five seconds later than I planned every molecule, each electron, all elements will have everything changed.
That's a lot of responsibility. I think I'll just take my clothes off and lie here really still. Maybe I should have a glass of wine.
Doing a live radio interview with my pal, Larry Winters, at KPFT in Houston, the phone rang while I was playing a song about growing up with rock'n'roll. When I finished up Larry said, "It was for you."
Who would be calling me while I was on the radio a long way from home. Larry said that I would probably want to return the call when we got off the air.
It had been Huey P. Meaux, the "Crazy Cajun," and one of my heroes. Larry and Huey had once done a show together on KPFT. That was before the authorities picked Huey up for molesting his step children and supplying them with drugs. He had only recently been released and told me that he was still wearing the electronic tracking anklet.
He knew my music and told me that he cried when I sang about "Sir" Doug. Huey had produced the Sir Douglas Quintet and had remained a father figure and mentor to Doug Sahm for all of his life.
He wrote me a letter when I got home. It was sweet and kind and interesting. He loved the music. I don't put much stock in the record producer mystique but I make an exception for Huey.
It's very difficult to separate the kind man who befriended me from the monster who took the innocence from several kids who trusted him. My friend, Joe Nick Patoski, who has written so brilliantly of the sordid affairs, struggles with the same issues.
It's a crazy, sad world out there. Help fix it all with love.
Most of my heroes have gone. Have I just gotten old and jaded or is there a real shortage today? Who is going to stand up for the disenfranchised, the soldiers home from unpopular wars, the poor, the prisoners?
Never really that big a Sinatra fan. I suppose that I prefer Dean Martin and it annoys me that he never seems to be taken seriously as a singer. Although I would be thrilled to have huge royalty checks in the mailbox on a regular basis, I don't think that I would have appreciated ol' blue eyes adding a lot of yeah, baby and I'm talkin' s to lyrics to "make the song his."
He should have written more of his own songs. He was, in fact, a fine writer.
Now when I do someone else's song I always hope that either they never hear my version or that I haven't ruined anything for them. They certainly ain't gonna have the aforementioned royalty checks in their mailbox!
A lot of my songs dance around the personal and the autobiographical but that's just because I don't have much of an imagination. This song of Walt's is what I have always wanted to say. It's real and it breaks my heart.
One of the first 45's that I can remember my mom bringing me home was Wynonie Harris' "Letter From Home" on King. I wore the grooves off of that little record. Had no idea what was going on, I just loved the song.
I may finally be mature enough to figure some of these things out. I know my mom didn't mean to bring me a record with a man singing about his girlfriend having another man's baby. If someone had explained some of this to me it's possible, not likely but possible, that I might have fared better in my romantic endeavors. Oh well.
I never saw Wynonie and I will always regret it. He made some of my favorite records and the joy in his singing is magnificent. I guess the women loved him. That's why you play music.
Sometimes the important lessons are right under your nose. I was raised by decent folks, sweet people. Not having a father in my life, I was blessed with four uncles who made sure that I missed nothing. Little Ronny got to go on all vacations. My four aunts all spoiled me with love and affection, more than any kid deserves. My mom, of course, is the best. She took me to see Bo Diddley. What more can I say? Cousins? Well, mine were, and are, the best. More like the brothers and sisters that I never had. The crown jewel in the family, we would all agree, was Grandma. Lottie was the kindest and wisest woman who ever lived.
Yeah, I learned to be nice. I was taught to be kind and polite and I learned all about good manners. My values remain pretty much the same as Grandma's and that's shameless bragging. She taught me all about standing up for what you believe, taking care of the ones who need it and the utter foolishness of war and conflict.
For whatever reason, though, it is just now becoming obvious to me that there is no scoreboard. From the new vantage point of geezerhood it suddenly occurs to me that life is no game. You don't look around to make certain that the other guy is playing fair with you. Don't misunderstand, there's really no reason to play the role of victim. Loving is all there is, though. You don't compete. There is never a reason to withhold love.
I always heard that if you were crazy enough to crawl into the ring with one of those old timey, wrestling bears that you had to play fair. If you squeezed, they squeezed back. If the bear detected, however, that you were trying to hurt him, look out. Old Dakota would crack your ribs.
Now I look back and fret that I've spent far too much time and energy measuring the love and kindness and fairness of the other guys. None of my business, really. If a person isn't playing fair, well, that's his grandmother's problem and it's probably not something that you're gonna change. Get away if you need to, but don't play unfair yourself. Love harder. Be kinder. The pure joy of loving is the reward. I love you all.
When I answered the phone and the high pitched voice said, "I'm looking for Ronny Elliott," I calmly replied, "This is he." Don Garlits introduced himself politely and asked if we might go to lunch during the coming week.
Shoulda' been a dream, right? Here was my idol, "Big Daddy" Don Garlits asking me if I'm available to go to lunch. I was writing an automotive column for the Tampa Tribune at the time and he was in the process of promoting his first autobiography.
It gets better. As we pulled out from his house in Seffner, he asked, "Would you mind if we went by and picked up Connie Swingle?"
Would I mind? Would I mind! Geezus! Connie Swingle. Another hero. The lunatic, beatnik drag racing genius. When Mr. Garlits came back to the car from rousing Connie, he told me that Swingle was sharing the house with a dancer, you know, a dancer, and that there were mirrors on the ceiling in the bedroom. I'm gonna have to level here with you: that's probably about as wild as my life has gotten. I'm a simple man. I do, however, have an active imagination.
Now, Connie had been in Tampa, serving in the air force, when he began to hang around Don's Speed Shop on Nebraska Avenue. He was making a pretty decent living with his illegal street racing adventures. It soon became obvious to Garlits that Swingle had special gifts. When he got burned badly for the second time, he decided to turn the driving chores over to Connie.
Several years prior, after his first serious injuries, he had reluctantly given up the driver's seat to a young, amateur stock car driver, Art Malone. Malone had gone on to establish himself as a professional race driver in many categories. His heart remained with the fire breathing fuel dragsters, though, and he was soon competing with his former boss.