Tuesday’s Tune: Reelin’ in the Years

I’d like to introduce my first ever – guest blogger – Chris White. I’ve known Chris for a over forty years, he was my backdoor neighbor growing up and the leader of all things fun in the neighborhood. There were a lot of boys our age in the neighborhood growing up and only a couple of girls in our age bracket. Chris was a few years older than me, but I never felt that way – we played tackle football in the side yard,  baseball in the vacant lot, and when I got older, he became my boss at Tempo Records and Tapes.  I moved away from Texas in ’87 and he moved, too. We lost touch, but I never forgot growing up in the neighborhood. We got back in touch a few years ago on Facebook and we’ve messaged back and forth a several times catching up. His whimsical sense of humor was inspiration and I vividly remember many of the laughs we shared, many of which are not fit to print. Despite our moves, both of us still root for Houston sports teams. Which, if you know the history of most of Houston’s sports teams, is funny. Very funny.

I let Chris tell you the rest of the story…… 

I first discovered musical idols the day my older sister brought home “Meet the Beatles.” Not yet ready myself to idolize anyone not wearing a cape and tights, I watched fascinated as my sister melted into a puddle while the moptops went about changing popular music forever.

Flash forward a few years, leaping over a Herman’s Hermits infatuation that’s better left unexamined, to my freshman year in high school, when I first discovered that athletic skill wasn’t necessarily a prerequisite for attracting the opposite sex. I began to gravitate toward those girls who’d never heard of Johnny Bench but who could have described Led Zep’s Robert Plant in sufficient detail to satisfy a police sketch artist. It was around that time I discovered the first musical idol I could latch onto and call my own: Keith Emerson, the genius behind Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Keith was a giant of progressive rock, a colossus among multi-keyboardists — it was decades later that I learned he was (and still is, presumably) all of 5’4”. Regardless, Keith seemed larger than life at the time.

Since my family owned a Hammond organ, I began to teach myself how to play, taking baby steps at first. Wrangling a couple of friends who shared a remarkably similar complete lack of musical talent, I formed a band. Or more accurately, a “band.” Clay, the proprietor of this blog (thanks for the guest spot, Clay!), whose boyhood home was right behind my own house at the time, can attest to the fact that no amount of volume can make up for a dearth of musical skill. The amazing thing about lack of ability, though, is that it’s often accompanied by a simultaneous lack of awareness. Not realizing how bad we were, my bandmates and I continued hacking away on our respective instruments until a miracle occurred. Lo and behold, we gradually became mediocre. Eventually we progressed through “adequate” and “not terrible” and by the time we were seniors in high school, ended up somewhere around “pretty damned good,” complete with a record (recorded in an actual honest-to-God music studio) that got a few spins on KLOL, the dominant FM rock station in Houston at the time.

band1976
Chris White on flaming guitar with Rex meredith on vocals and Curtis Peet on guitar

It was on a road trip in 1976 to play a spring break gig in Corpus Christi that I was introduced to the musical idols who would keep all others at bay for the next forty years. One of my bandmates brought along a supposedly high-fidelity 8-track tape of Steely Dan’s “The Royal Scam” album, which we listened to over and over and over in my dad’s Olds Delta 88. By the time I was back in Houston a few days later, the trajectory of my life had been irreversibly altered. No longer would I be quite as satisfied with the bombast glam of Queen or the overwrought noodlings of Kansas. I had discovered complex chord changes, jazz harmonies, guitar solos wicked enough to send the swiftest-fingered rockers back to the practice room, all set to rock songs with lyrics that were literate without being pretentious. A shimmering, gorgeous surface hid the musical complexity underneath, and the lyrics only gave the faintest of brush strokes to the sordid tales they painted, forcing the listener to fill in the details using his own imagination. That some people didn’t “get” Steely Dan, taking them as a light-rock band with glossy songs, only made it that much better. I was in that select group who understood how deep their music actually was. Genesis? Yes? Rush? Don’t get me started with those prog-rock posers, Steely Dan were real musicians playing music that was challenging in a way nothing else I’d ever heard on rock radio was. Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: Reelin’ in the Years

Tuesday’s Tune: Anticipation

After two days of meetings this week on Monday and Tuesday, full of reminders, staff get-togethers, and new curriculum; I get a full day to work in my classroom today. O and I were there last Thursday and I was back Friday afternoon. I am excited.

The seventh graders read a book in ELA, The Giver by Lois Lowry. It’s a new classic dystopian novel for kids it was published in 1993 and it was made into a movie and released in August 2013; read the book, it’s better. Trust me. In the first chapter, Jonas a twelve year-old boy and the main character, describes his feelings about the upcoming Ceremony of Twelve in December as he rides his bike home. At first, he describes his feelings as being frightened, but realizes the word doesn’t describe how he feels about the changes which lie ahead for him. When he reaches home, he realizes he isn’t frightened, but apprehensive.

I’ve been back and forth to school several times in the past week. My rides to and from school have had similar thoughts – making lists, thinking, worry, apprehension, fright (sort of), and I decided I am full of anticipation and even perhaps, like Jonas a little apprehension.

I remember a song from my youth about anticipation, Heinz used it in its ketchup commercials to highlight how thick its ketchup was – it was so think, it took a while to begin flowing out of the bottle. As a scientist, I know it’s because t’s a non-Newtonian fluid that exhibits characteristics of both a sold and a liquid.  But’s that’s another story.

Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: Anticipation

Back to school…

School starts Monday. I’m ready, or at least I think I’m ready.

back-to-school
It’s in the wrong order – should be ROY G BIV, but beggars can’t be choosers. image courtesy of Atlanta: InTown online – they’ve been back to school for two weeks!

I was at school working in my classroom Thursday and again, Friday afternoon – I have a list of to dos before Monday morning and my first official day of school – faculty meetings and administrative details before the kids arrive next Thursday.

Thursday, I was busy masking a line from the back of the room to the front of the room so I could paint a 3” wide blue line – I’ll be using it for a timeline 1750 to present. Jose, the head custodian, will paint it this week and I’ll start posting events as they come up in class. I had O with me on Thursday and she organized my project boxes – boxes of supplies groups can use in class. We went school supply shopping Monday and visited her school Tuesday and she got her schedule and organized her locker. She was a big help Thursday and I owe her big time.

Friday I met with my science colleagues and we planned. Afterwards, I made lists and organized a few bins and drawers. I’ll stay late Monday and Tuesday and work on a few more details before having Wednesday all t myself to get the room ready for students on Thursday.

As for today and tomorrow – the days before school starts, the final weekend before school: Today there is o’s softball practice and W’s varsity football picnic. And, of course yard work and my desk.

While I was driving to school yesterday morning, I realized there were several things about school that I missed this summer Continue reading Back to school…

Tuesday’s Tune: “All Summer Long”

americangraffitiWe are back home; and I am back at home in the basement. We left late Sunday night and arrived early Monday morning. O decided to join W and me, after we had pulled all of the boats and stored the outdoor furniture before leaving for the cottage for the summer. I don’t know when we’ll get back. I only know when I get back it will feel wonderful, like summer.

I am only a few days away from ‘being back’ but I’ve been back at school a couple of times in the past week and peeked into my classroom. I spent a few hours this afternoon working on planning and thinking.

At the beginning of the summer, I began tutoring a student in reading and social studies. We met several times this summer and today was our final tutoring session. She will be in my first period U.S. History class and we’ll continue working on some of the social studies skills we focused on this summer – sequencing and looking at cause and effect relationships.

It hit me this morning that summer is almost over when I read that 42 years ago today American Graffiti was released. It is the quintessential summer movie and though I did not see it in the theater, but I’ve seen it several times on television and replayed it on DVD. Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: “All Summer Long”

Beneath the waves

Yesterday morning O bounded down the stairs and asked,

“Daddy, do you want to go fishing?”

How could I refuse? “Yes, you get the boat ready.” I replied.

the boats, waiting
the boats, waiting

I finished my work and met her on the dock. I remembered the things she had forgotten – life jackets and a camera. We catch and release, but photo first – when we can.

 

still waters beneath my feet.....
still waters beneath my feet…..

 

We pushed off the dock and were on our adventure. Continue reading Beneath the waves

Today in History

Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.” ― George Santayana, The Life of Reason: Five Volumes in One

This fall, I’ll be teaching history full time for the first time in my teaching career. I am excited and I am worried. History gets a bad rap, especially with 13-14 years olds. Many folks believe history is remembering all sorts of dates and facts, and while that’s part of it, it’s not the reason we study history. We study history to learn from our mistakes and move forward as a people, as a society.

This past year, I taught one section of history and it opened my eyes, again. American society seems to repeat itself every other generation – the issues my great grandparents faced, my generation  faces today.  In the 1840s immigrants – the Irish – were blamed for the country’s ills. Three generations later in 1900 – 1920s a different group of immigrants – eastern and southern Europeans were blamed, today it’s yet another group of immigrants longing for freedom.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
From the “New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus

In the last quarter of the school year, I suggested a daily dose of history and volunteered to manage it. Administration ALWAYS appreciates initiative and follow through. Each school day I’d select an event and create a slide for the morning announcements. My colleagues knew I was behind it and let me know they appreciated the reminder of the importance of each day. Sometimes, I’d tweet it with my school twitter account – @ScullenWatkins.

Continue reading Today in History

Tuesday’s Tune: “Blue Skies”

I am number that third guy who walks into a music store searching for a tune he’s heard, sometimes I’ll have the tune, or maybe a bit of the chorus. Sometimes I have it correct, most times though, I am all messed up. Eventually I get it right and find the song.

Monday morning - nothing but blue skies do I see
Monday morning – nothing but blue skies do I see

Blues skies made an appearance yesterday. It was great to see them after Sunday’s storms. Storms rolled across the lake in waves Sunday afternoon. The first wave came around noon and brought wind, thunder, lightning, and rain. The second wave came a couple of hours later. The third wave came around 5 PM.

B and I had decided that gardening would have to wait for another day and she took off with O and friends to let the kids see a movie and to shop – she needed paint for the downstairs powder room among a few other items. I finished my chores and decided to watch a baseball game upstairs when the last wave rolled through.

5:09 PM Sunday August 2nd

I had my back to the lake Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: “Blue Skies”

Inspiration

Sunday morning at the cottage, Ivy is sleeping, and O is awake upstairs. It’s quiet and peaceful, it’s an inspiration.

We’ve been Up North over a week and each day we’ve been chipping away at our chore list: getting a chore here and a chore there knocked off the list. We have a summer’s worth of ‘to dos’ to accomplish while we are here, there’s always something to do, even when I’d rather read a book or gaze out over the lake. But, we’ve also had time for a boat ride to watch the sunset. Inspiring.

sunset Lake Margrethe - Monday, July 26
sunset Lake Margrethe – Monday, July 26

We were having dinner with friends the other night – they came here for ribs and beans and we were at their place for ham and potatoes last night – we were talking and they shared they had been looking at other cottages around the lake and decided that where we are, they are four houses down the shore, can’t be equaled. I agree. I get up in the morning and look out over the lake, enjoy a cup of coffee and think, dream, or I can sit on the deck and read a book, and the lake lies before me. Continue reading Inspiration

Six degrees: Friday’s Flashback

We live in a small world. 70 percent of Earth is water, the rest is land.

It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.
— Neil Armstrong Apollo 11 astronaut and first man to walk on the moon.

'Earthrise' first photo of Earth from space - December 1968 courtesy of NASA
‘Earthrise’ first photo of Earth from space – December 1968 courtesy of NASA

I grew up in Houston in the late 60s and early 70s. I remember the night Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon, but I was more interested in football, and other sports, than I was in space.

My parents moved to Sugar Land, a small growing suburb of Houston, in 1967. We moved in in early August and my mom still lives there. The same year, the Regners moved in next door. Tom Regner and his wife, Shirley, moved in next door. He was 21 and less than a year out of college with a baby on the way. I was six years old and my world was small, very small, little did I know how truly small the world was.

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Mr. Regner played football for the Houston Oilers. He was drafted in the first round, the 23rd overall pick in the 1967 NFL draft. His NFL career lasted until 1972 when he was traded to the Baltimore Colts and he retired. He came out of retirement in 1974 to play for the Houston Texans of the World Football League. After the season, he retired for good and opened Venetian Village, an Italian restaurant.

Mr. Regner always seemed larger than life; Continue reading Six degrees: Friday’s Flashback

Today is the day

It’s Thursday morning and I am the only soul awake. Even Ivy sleeps. She woke when I did, went outside, and came back to the screen door and I let her inside. She is curled up in a ball on the footstool, grandma’s footstool. It’s Ivy’s perch, so to speak. The footstool comes with grandma’s chair, it’s grandma’s morning perch when she is here, too. There’s a marked depression where she lays and it’s now part of the cottage. Last summer, when grandma was up north, Ivy came over to the footstool, put her head on grandma’s leg and looked up, pleading. Grandma held her ground and Ivy retreated to her pad by the door. This morning Ivy jumped up on the stool without asking, though sometimes she does ask but this morning she didn’t.  I did not protest, as I often do, or almost always, she warmed my legs while I sipped my coffee and gazed out across the lake as early morning slipped into day and the lake slowly returned to light.

Ivy and the footstool
Ivy and the footstool

Yesterday was windy and it wasn’t a good day for boating, Tuesday was windy, as well, and taking the kayak out was a struggle, but I did it anyway. Today looks like it will windy and the lake will be choppy for another day. Nevertheless, I have other tasks to do; there is always something to do, to keep busy, some important task that needs to be accomplished. Continue reading Today is the day