Southern Accent

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I like traditions. I like old ways. I think there is value in them. I like the style and accents of good storytellers. Phrases that have long ago fallen out of fashion. While much in every tradition should be let go of, I don’t see any sense in throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Our country has become so homogenized that sometimes you can’t tell if someone is from Vermont or Georgia. There’s a damn Cracker Barrel, Lowes, TJ Maxx, and Toys R Us in every strip mall, in every town you go to. They have thrown a big sheet of blandness over the lower 48 ! Gone is most of the uniqueness that sets places apart. That makes them authentic. I don’t wanna get grits in New Hampshire anymore than I wanna get deep dish Chicago pizza in Gainesville Florida. Isn’t that what makes it interesting to travel, to see, while we are really deep down all the same, just how different our cultures are?

There’s a southern accent, where I come from
The young ‘uns call it country, the yankees call it dumb
I got my own way of talking, but everything gets done
With a southern accent, where I come from

While my ancestry is split, I am a Southerner, plain and simple. I understand the good and the bad of it. The depth and the breath of it. I also understand how outsiders see it and just what they think they know. Threaded through this post is a lyric to one of my favorite Tom Petty songs called “Southern Accent”.

There’s a dream I keep having, where my momma comes to me
And kneels down over by the window, and says a prayer for me
Got my own way of praying, but everything one’s begun
With a southern accent, where I come from

Perhaps I am a person that grew up in a regional world and now I’m living in a global world. I am happy to be here, and while my travels are not nearly as far n wide as some, I’ve been a few places. I’m not saying we should stick to our little patch of ground. I’m just saying hearing someone with a regional accent makes me smile ! To listen to the Billy Bob Thornton’s, Levon Helm’s, Lucas Black’s and Dolly Parton’s of the world is a good thing. And let me tell you all of those people are and or were as sharp as they come.

Got my own way of living, but everything is done
With a southern accent, where I come from

I’m not sure I’ve fleshed this out very well. I just like the feeling of being connected to those that came before me and some of that is in phrases and accents that for a time were all I knew. Before everyone sounded like the man on the six o’clock news !

In writing this post I was listening to Southern Accents by Tom Petty, Good Ole Boys Like Me by Don Williams, Going to Montgomery by Davis Raines, Just like Hank by Walt Wilkins and Down South by Kings of Leon.I was also watching “I ain’t in for my health” a documentary on the great, wonderful and deeply missed Levon Helm. Hope ya’ll enjoyed this and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Local Tourist

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With a few stops along the way, I have lived in three places in my life. All tourist towns. I grew up in and my home is Pensacola Florida. I lived for a few years during high school in Saratoga Springs, NY and for the past 16 years I’ve lived in Nashville TN. So I have always hoped to never be a tourist and still don’t. I’ve always been drawn to being a traveler but never a tourist.
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Recently my wife and I went out to eat and decided to ride downtown just to see first hand the explosion of Nashville. We see the growth in other ways and my job reminds me often how many folks are moving to Nashville, but to see downtown was amazing. A friend is a pedi cab driver and he toured us around to places we’d heard of but hadn’t seen. The new Hatch show building, the mega huge convention center, the cool vibe of the Pinewood Social Club, where you can drink, eat and yes bowl a few games in a very hip atmosphere.
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This town has so much energy and cool things going for it, no wonder it’s projected to double in size in twenty years. I really think it is the jewel of the South as far as major cities. I say all of this to simply say this; if you don’t get out wherever you live, you should. You have no idea what is going on out there while your home watching Game of Thrones! This generation of young minds is doing some pretty cool stuff and designing and shaping a life totally unique.
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So if you find yourself in a rut like we have been, then take it from me, sometimes the best entertainment is to just get out of the house. There’s more to this story but the main thing is,cruise around your town, stop in someplace new, see your world from a little different angle. It feels good !

Rollin’ Down The Back Roads -Tennessee

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The back roads of middle Tennessee are especially beautiful in late spring. Everything is lush fueled by big May rains. Plants, bushes and trees poised and ready for the dry, hot, take no prisoner, summer sun of the South.
Traveling on roads like Leipers Fork and Bear Creek road, twisting turning two lanes snaking through ancient lands. Riding with an old friend from Pensacola, and enjoying extensions of the same conversations we’ve had for 25 some odd years now. Sometimes riding in silence for miles, until I hear my friend say “turn here, I wanna see what’s up that road”. Off we go into someone else’s world, peeking into their lives a little but telling us more about our own unquenchable thirst for connection.
Fairview, Santa Fe with a long E, Carters Creek Pike, cattle, long gravel driveways, steelbelts hummin’ on the asphalt as Steve Earle would say ! This is my hometown, American back roads. I know these people, farmers, preachers and warehouse workers. The ones that don’t have it all, the ones that aren’t quite up to snuff on having everything the advertisers say you have to have to be happy!

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We drive on, stop at a few markets in between Country songs, put our feet on the ground hear the screen door slap and a slow friendly “howdy” comin’ from inside. Old friends on old roads, traveling, sharing life, sharing Creation. Sharing the things that hold us together.

Harpeth River, Caney Fork Road, leaning tobacco barns, cemeteries in the afternoon shade. Jo’s Kut n Kurl, Tommy’s Tune-em shop. John Deere mailboxes and one room church houses. A glimpse to a past that some don’t remember and most try to forget. It’s heartland, it’s the backbone. The ones to count on, the ones that remember who they are.

I wish were cruisin’ in a big ole Jim T kinda ragtop Cadillac, feeling it sail over these roads like it was meant for them and them alone. But still we are taking whatever turn looks interesting and wandering. We are free. Free of clocks, free of all that we seek to be free from.
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A few hours into our little journey, we head east, looking for the signs of home. It will be good to be there and share our stories. It is good to have another set of experiences to laugh about. It’s good to have friends and good to be a friend.

Happy 80th Birthday Willie !!!

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Do you ever wonder what makes Willie Nelson keep working the road? First of all, I don’t think there is any reason anyone should quit what they do just because of age. If you can still pull it off and people want you to do it, then keep on going! I like Willie’s quote “All I do is play music and play golf, which one do you want me to quit?”.
I’ve heard the media say “what does he have left to prove?” “why would he want to stay out there on the road?”. I’d say — you know nothing about Willie Nelson.

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After penning 60’s country classics like “Funny How Time Slips Away”, “Hello Walls”, “Nightlife”, and the most played jukebox song of all time “Crazy”, the world finally, in the mid 1970’s, began to hear what Nashville people had heard for years; the genius of Willie Nelson as an artist. 1975 brought us “Red Headed Stranger”, which in the early 1990’s, Paul Simon said he still listens to once a week, and the smash “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain”. Someone in Willie’s road crew once said “We went out for a 6 week run and never came back”. 38 years later Willie is still on the road. Small clubs in no name towns to the most exclusive concert halls of the world, it doesn’t matter to him. His 1978 release “Stardust” stayed on Billboards top 100 albums for over 10 years!! While the numbers are amazing its the spirit that rings true.

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So back to the earlier questions. After millions of records sold, every major award in the world on his mantle, money in the bank, even after his little tangle with the IRS, why does he keep doing it? I’d venture to say it has always been about the connection to people. He may use the word “Fan”, but I don’t think he sees his listeners that way. I think he needs us as much as we need him. It’s an exchange of energy, of life’s blood, if you will.

The Willie Nelson concert isn’t only about “Whiskey River” and “On The Road Again”, it is also about a spiritual exchange. An exchange of love and karma. It’s a ministry, you might say,one of truth, openness and love for everyone, no one is excluded, no one! It’s just what Willie does and we are the healthier for it.

Maybe in the end it’s closer to the line from the movie “Songwriter”, “I did it for the love but I wasn’t above the money !!! Happy Birthday to a world treasure !

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From Minnesota to Martin Luther King

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I hear it all the time. I have even been known to say it. For generations it has been echoed. It is mostly said by older folks. Maybe they feel left behind. The world moves faster and at some point we all can feel a little out of the loop. It seems that when our frustrations rise we default to those dang kids ! The youth have lost their mind ! All they do is XCVT#$%, spend all their time #DT%^*(!!!!
Is the world going to hell in a handbasket? Have morals declined, reverence declined, manners gone by the wayside? I have a friend that is frustrated my our hometown of Pensacola. This could be any town USA. He always says “Pensacola isn’t like it used to be”. Of course it isn’t and it never has been. When was its golden age? When was it ideal? We tend to hold that belief of when we were in our prime and we thought we had this ole world by its tail and we had nothing else to do but swing it around !! For us it was in the 80’s ! I’m sure my Father would say it was in the 60’s and my Grandfather would have found Pensacola to be the best in the 50’s ! I’m just saying every generation sees the world from its own perspective.
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I recently hosted a group of high school students and chaperones at my house for supper and a campfire. These 9 students from Minnesota Chose to spend their Spring Break, not at the beach or wherever folks from Minnestoa go, but of all things to embark on a Civil rights tour of the South ! I know, crazy right?! These kids sat around our fire sharing rich, life changing experiences from this once n a lifetime journey.
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They shared stories from Memphis, Jackson TN, Montgomery and Birmingham. They shared their refelcetions with such passion and richness. Teenagers in 2013 from Minnesota trying their best to wrap their minds around what will never be fully understood by any one person. Complexities so overwhelming and so countless. For any and everyone living through those days, there is a story. There is an angle and perspective.

Man has always done terrible things to man. We can look at all stages of history from Biblical times, to treatment of Native Americans to Civil Rights as well as human rights concerning the Gay community. It is sad that we can't find a connection in our differences. That some have chose to respond to the differences with hate and violence.

If we are all children of the same Creator, I fail to understand it totally. But that is coming from a 53 year old person. I don’t think I was always seeing it the way I do now. I am thankful to have remaied open to letting myself evolve and to listen to the voices of the gentle, bridge building world. I believe those are the voices of the Creator, the Master of Breath. It was especially in those voices of each and every one of those wonderful students who have chosen a different path. I was honored to have you.

Thanks not only to the students and chaperones, but to Paul Jeager the trip organizer for leading the charge and bringing these young lives on the journey from Minnesota to Martin Luther King. From interest to engagement. From heart to healing.

The Gumbo Child

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A few years ago I wrote a lyric that my friend Brad Ford helped me turn it into a song. I was thinking of home, the Florida Gulf Coast, city of five flags and of its diverse history.

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“The home of my heart is on these white sands , where the north shore laps against this southern land. Santa Rosa breezes are always freeing me from the chains I feel but cannot see….I’m just a Gumbo Child, rollin’ flowin’ with the tides, waves rollin’ in and they subside. With the pull of my soul and another ride…for the Gumbo Child”.

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The people make up this land. It is always that way. Here, Native Americans, English, Spanish and French were the ealry ones, and now it’s a big  pot of good tastin’ Gumbo ! I suppose most places in the good ole US of A could lay claim to that. Pensacola seems even more so with a longer history (Americas first settlement by the way), with it’s ethenic blends, Pentecostal roots mixed with tourism, Armed Service folks, rednecks, laid back beach lovers and just about anyone else that wanders down to our beaches and never leaves ! Who could blame them. I wasn’t the first one there and so I can’t say who gets to be the last.

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“Cowboy hats and old surfboards, Crawfish boils and half ton Fords. Marley music ain’t no surprise under a full moon Hank Williams sky….Just a Gumbo Child, goin’, flowin’ with the tides, waves rollin’ in and they subside. With the pull of my soul and another ride…for the Gumbo Child” !

 

Isn’t the diversity in us as a people and even within our own selves, that makes us interesting? I think so. I love culture, mine as well as anothers. Living and learning about that makes us stronger, not weaker. Makes us unite more and divide less. For how many of us can say we are full blood anything? It’s getting more and more rare these days. And if we are all the children of One Creator, then what difference does it make? Just because we want to learn of and live with other cultures doesn’t mean we have to let go of ours!

Just a Gumbo Child, goin’ , flowin’ with the tides, waves rollin’ in and they subside….with the pull of my soul and another ride… for the Gumbo Child” !!

I think we should all embrace our inner Gumbo, what do ya say? !!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Sense Of Order

I took a little road trip recently that many of my friends would have considered painful. The folks that like to go from point A to B in the most direct, fastest way possible. But that’s not me, at least not in this stage  of life. I like to wander ! It was an 8 hour route and I spent 6 of it on the backroads. Destination Columbia South Carolina.

I traveled through old Cherokee lands, from New Echota Georgia through Cherokee Corners stopping at most anything that struck my interest. At Cherokee Corners Methodist church I found an old cemetery. I was drawn deeper and deeper into the woods looking at headstones and I remember feeling frustrated in a way that all the stones weren’t in perfect little rows like I’m used to. My sense of culture and tradition took over and I expected things to be “right” ! Now, there were a few in a line but not most of them.

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When I got home and began looking through the pictures, that’s when the beauty of this cemetery hit me. I began to appreciate how it challenged my sense of order, and broke any thoughts of what was “right”. But the thought that really hit me was, if I chose to be buried, that’s the kind of cemetery I’d want to be in. They were all scattered amongst the trees, as if they had their own private place to rest on a specially designated piece of land. It felt more intimante and peaceful.

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It was a good trip to enjoy and appreciate the unexpected. I suppose we all live in some kind of bubble and I think it does me a world of good to get out of mine as often as I can. To see other ways of living and thinking, to see life from the backroads, from the woods and the places that don’t get much attention or appreciation. The picture below is of my friend and former Beaver Creek Indian Chief, Barry Chavis in front of what is going to become his new home. He already lives what most folks would consider way out in the country, but on his land he is recessing even further away !

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This was a trip to see my son Dylan and if provided a great time with him but it also opened my heart up even more for our country and its heart, the people. Good to challenge my sense of tradition and see that there are many different traditions, and how it feels to sense them and appreciate them.

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