Just to know

manhattan flags.jpgFor many years now, I’ve had a loop of the song “City of New Orleans” finding it’s way into the front of my memory. The fact that it’s resurfaced for so many years now tells me that it has found a home in my subconscious and just raises its hand from time to time as some type of release or reflection for my soul. I hear Willie Nelsons version for which I am thankful for. I like Emmylou Harris’ comment one time that if America had a voice it would be Willie’s. “Good Morning America, how are ya?, don’t ya know me, I’m your native son!”

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In these days where it’s easier than ever to find heartaches, sadness, division and every other adjective that makes us feel like the good fibers of our world are frayed and thinning, the opening line to City of New Orleans feels like an internal barometer for me. I hear that line as the eternal optimist reaching out with his open heart saying ” hey everyone, what’s going on, you doing ok?” . I also hear him saying, “me too, I know it’s tough. But we really are in this crazy thing together”. There is a common road and everyone is traveling by his own light, culture and accumulated experiences. I think we need to remember our commonalities, those threads that hold us together. Love is an eternal language and it slides in and out of music, art, 4 legged creatures. Yes 3 legged too. The winged ones, the trees, the landscapes all speak in their own ways to us. Bringing us a sense of belonging, balance and peace.

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The natural world will bring us more truth than CNN or Fox, believe me ! There are the eternal truths, the one the Creator passes along through everything that he made. And there is the nonsense that the news brings us. Headlines of fact, but that’s where it all ends and where the big spin begins. The spin of misdirection, confusion and doubt reigns supreme.

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I wish you peace my friends. I wish for you a balance based in the deeper truths of the universe. Not to sounds crazy full of double talk and new age yak yak. This is simple stuff. Look to what the Creator made. Find the good stuff in your loved ones. Watch their smiles and how they love each other. Listen to the trees and the birds. Know you are loved. Know you matter.

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Know we all hold the same doubts. Know you are not alone.

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I hope the reminder to you and me that we all share the same stuff is comforting to your spirit. If you are hurting, know the continuum of life keeps going. The new reality will present it’s own gifts. Know our hearts beat and grieve with you. For we are all a thin veil from each other. Aloha, Peace, Blessing, Aho, and any other kind cultural gesture you wanna pass along, I’ll take it !

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Joshua Tree, California

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Glenn Simmons and Josey, Nashville TN

Paden Simmons and Dylan Simmons, Amtrak Train NY state

Tamra Simmons Nashville TN

Cross, Pensacola Beach

 

Story

Have you ever told your story? Did you realize that you even have one? Everyone does. They are all fascinating, full of uniqueness to the teller and enough strains for us all  to identify with each other. We are the family of man. I met a guy probably 11 years ago for coffee one day and one of the first questions he asked me was “what’s my story”? That threw me off a little. I had never talked about or of myself in that way. I never consciously thought about me even having a story. I managed to piece together some sort of guarded outline, careful not to be too transparent ! Even after I realized I had a story, I couldn’t think of any reason that it needed to be shared. After all I was just an average Gulf Coast guy. Not rich or particularly talented or gifted in any apparent way. “Just a fella” as Clint Eastwood famously said in “Unforgiven”.

I confess, I still have a shyness in thinking my story could touch, move or be of any value to anyone else. But I think, not from an egotistical point, that is where we are all mistaken. Just someone else coming to the understanding that they are not the only ones that think a certain way. It can be a lonely world if turn our attention away from the things that really matter. If we get caught up in the shininess of the world and forget about the beauty that surrounds us. The feel of the wind on our faces, the sunshine on our shoulders and the touch of a strangers hand. Our children, parents, family and friends all bring beauty into our lives if we let them. The four and three legged animals in my world bring so much centeredness that it amazes me. Other friends words in songs and blogs sharing the moments that stir their lives. IT’s rich stuff ya’ll, I’m telling ya, it’s rich stuff.

A few years ago I was asked to participate in an interview setting to share my story as it related to my faith. My church was trying to let folks know that the person sitting right next to you has a story and it just might not be what you were thinking ! I cringe still as I see myself on a video, but maybe there will be one word or phrase that you will connect to. Use the password ” story ”

I encourage you to think about your story. Share it. Own it, it’s yours. Encourage others to share theirs with you. It brings us all closer to understand. It helps break down the walls and we all know we are way too divided today.

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 !

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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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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My Own Margaritaville

Today in Nashville it’s 76 degrees. We’ve not really had any cold weather yet, save for a few nights right around freezing. For years now as I’ve lived away from the ever present home of my heart on Florida’s Gulf Coast, I’ve played beach playlists on the stereo and pulled books off the shelf that would magically transport me back home.

Home to lazy, sunny, salty air days, with the clanking of the mainsails in the distance. Home to longboards, shrimp boats and street names that are as much a part of my memories as my family. Names like Cervantes, DeSoto, Innerarity Point. Places like Wolf Bay, Perdido Key and the Sugar Bowl. Places to grab a grouper sandwich by the Gulf, drink a cold beer and watch life pass by from the eagle eye view of paradise.

A place where some can’t wait to leave and can’t explain why they long to return. A place where some never leave and very few feel trapped. A little strip of earth, of sugar white sands, tanned laughing children, and the presence of God drifting and dipping with the effortless sea gull. To America’s first settlement. To the land of the Muscogee Creeks and Panzacola Indians. To my forefathers and a place my children are spiritually tied to with the loose moorings of love.

Here I am in Nashville. a wonderful city, but it just ain’t home. It will be a long winter, if those Buffett playlists are already gracing the sounds of my house. Hopefully I can hold off the lure of home, until my usual winter migration to touch the sand and take deep breaths of heaven.

Ah, The Road !

What calls us to the road? Is it the going or the coming or just the riding, the movement, the freedom? Is it the fascination with what’s around the bend? If you are called to the road, what does it look like for you? Is it distance or depth ? or both?

My Grandfather, in his last years lived in a small 5th wheel Holiday Rambler trailer behind our house. I spent many a night in that trailer with him. I had dreams of traveling the country in that trailer. My family traveled from one end of the east coast to the other. My Mother is from upstate New York and my Father from Pensacola, where I spent the first 14 years of my life. So our travels were up and down the highways between those areas, as well as many trips to south Florida.

Years later I was privileged enough to go on the road with some friends that are professional musicians. I spent many a night on that 40ft Sliver Eagle bus, rolling through the country, waking up hundreds of miles from the previous night. It’s not a life for everyone, but I sure loved it.

There’s something about realizing how we all live differently yet much the same. I love the back roads, or blue highways as they are called due to the blue lines on the maps representing the secondary roads. If you are not in a hurry, there is so much more to see on those roads. There is life, real America, the ones that don’t make the news or the fashion magazines. But folks living and going through the same things we all do, working, raising children, church, etc.

I hunger for whats around the bend. The unseen. I wonder what is down every lane. I’m drawn to the history and the culture. The traditions and the ways of live that I don’t see everyday.

So do you travel? Bus, car, buggy? Do you crank up your Harley and roll through this land? If so, try those blue roads that work and wind their way through the heartland.

Grab a map and find an interesting name, for a day trip. I promise, you will come away with a refreshed look at America. With names like Burnt Corn, Alabama, Ooltewah, TN, Truth or Consequences, NM, Swan Lake, NY or Broken Bow, Ok, doesn’t it make you just wanna go ?

Some of the best books I’ve read on taking to the road are:

On The Road by Jack Kerouac

Walking The Trail by Jerry Ellis

On The Road by Charles Kerault

Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins

Of course you have to have road tunes. That list could go on just like the road, forever. Here’s a few I like

Running On Empty: Jackson Browne

American Vagabond: William Lee Golden

On The Road Again: Willie Nelson

A Little Farther West: Walt Wilkins

King Of The Road: Roger Miller

Hotel California: The Eagles

LaGrange: ZZ Top

Into The Great Wide Open: Tom Petty

Going To Montgomery: Davis Raines

Six Days On The Road: Dave Dudley

Red Dirt Road: Brooks and Dunn

Thunder Road: Bruce Springsteen

Car Wheels on A Gravel Road: Lucinda Williams

Start Me Up: Rolling Stones

The Road Goes On Forever: Highwaymen

Ozark Mountain Jubilee: Oak Ridge Boys

So what would what you read and listen to when your on the road? I’d love to hear !

The pictures on this post are from recent wanderings through Kentucky, North and South Carolina, and the North Georgia mountains.