Granddad’s “Yardstick”

G.M.C. "Cade" Massey

G.M.C. “Cade” Massey

My grandfather, G.M.C. Massey wrote memoir manuscripts about his life. Here’s a segment describing a young woman he greatly admired.

Another outstanding character in my high school days was a classmate, A girl that was in school at the same place and time that I was there at Ivanhoe high school, a young Lady that made an Indelible impression upon me. She was older than I. But we were in the same classes. She was my Ideal of a lady. She had everything that I thought that a woman should have to make a man a wife that he would be Proud of. She was tall, beautiful with brown hair and eyes and as to behavior she was a model.

I thought that she was the finest young Lady that I had ever met; But she was so much older than I was that I had put aside the thought that she might be the one for me. I just used her for a YARDSTICK to measure other Girls by. If I met a young Lady; and felt that she might do; I always measured her By my YARDSTICK. If the Young Lady didn’t come up to the measurements of this young lady, I just wouldn’t let myself become involved with her; and that was just THAT.

I had her in mind when I was meeting other young ladies, and I would ask myself the question: whether she came up to Miss Ethel Jackson, And if she did not I just passed the matter up. So it was not easy for me to get interested with a young Lady; Although I was constantly looking for a mate; for I was family minded. And if I was about to become serious about a Young woman I would go and see this Young Lady that made up my Yardstick; Not letting her know of my infatuation; and when I left her I was sure, one or the other of the ways: But my yard stick never talked of marriage till I had already made arrangement to get married.

And she was such a model and such a nice girl and I admired her so much that when My oldest girl came along I named her for the girl (Olga Ethel) was the name that I gave to my oldest girl. Well I don’t think that the girl ever married. But it seemed that every one always looked to her as the most outstanding girl in the community.

And after I married and was teaching for years I met her at Bermuda Dam in Dimmit Co. in April of 1914, and she was still unmarried, and as far as I know she has never married, and she was so much older than I was that that idea only as I told her one time before I ever married, That if we were about the same age that we would make the sportiest couple to ever get married, And she said that ought not make too much difference.

When I was at Asherton, Texas she as at Crystal City with her Family and she was not married at that time (1914). This was 15 years after we had Graduated at the Ivanhoe high school. But like all of the outstanding characters that I have come in contact with, I like to think of them when I am reminiscing like this.

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Still Here — Still Aging

Old man with flaming birthday cakeGranny sent me this birthday card once:

It’s your birthday — so, you’re a little older…
So’s everybody else!

Still one of my favorites…

Tomorrow, September 24, is my birthday — I will celebrate turning 63.

You, too, will get older tomorrow. Everyone alive will. And as we age together, all of us, I tend to wonder more about this aging we’re going through. We’re all amateurs at it. I’ve never been 63 before. None of us have ever been as old as we are right now. So expert advice about aging — even advice from other amateurs — should be considered.

Consider these links, then:

Top 37 Things You’ll Regret When You’re Old

Still time to turn these into “non-regrets.”

Aging and the Arts

“…those who work in the arts, fund the arts, teach the arts and work in health care are seeking to harness the power of arts to help our society handle the so-called ‘silver tsunami’.”

Ever wonder what is the best type of exercise for aging muscles? So did these researchers:

“…certain sorts of workouts may undo some of what the years can do to our mitochondria.”

Think exercise is no fun? Maybe you’d rather be dancing?

“I think dancing is a powerful tool to set new challenges for body and mind, especially in older age.”

Some surprises may be in store as we learn more about aging — like research suggesting an unlikely effect of marijuana on the aging brain.

“Instead of impairing learning and memory, as it does in young people, the drug appears to reverse age-related declines in the cognitive performance of elderly mice.”

Finally, some thoughts on “Life’s Third Act” from a favorite feisty female, Jane Fonda:

“And I have come to find that a more appropriate metaphor for aging is a staircase — the upward ascension of the human spirit, bringing us into wisdom, wholeness, and authenticity.”

I like that. That’s me — that’s us: climbing ever upward, ever higher…ever older every day.




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Home to the Armadillo…Once Again

I feel like I’ve just returned from an extended journey through the past: I just finished reading Armadillo World Headquarters: A Memoir, by Eddie Wilson with Jesse Sublett. Replete with scads of the incredible artwork by the Armadillo Art Squad and fantastic photos by Burton Wilson from backstage and beyond, this is treasure trove of memories, some of them old, some renewed — some brand new!

Armadillo World Headquarters logoFor those of us who lived in Austin during the days of the Armadillo (1970-1980), the whole flavor of the volume rings true. If you went to any shows there, you might find Eddie’s reminiscences of the particulars of that show or that performer included here. For me, it was fun to confirm specific dates for specific shows I saw. Even more fun, though, were some of the behind-the-scenes stories.

Like the time Dandy Don Meredith, veteran Dallas Cowboy and at-the-time, announcer on the new Monday Night Football show, saved the ‘Dillo from the Texas Alcoholic Beverages Commission (TABC) and imminent shut-down for liquor violations early on by glad-handing the agents, talking ’em up, signing autographs and slow-walking them back outside.

Or how the legendary Thanksgiving Jam of 1972 with Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead joining old buddy Doug Sahm and Leon Russell came together for an unannounced gig the day after the Dead’s show across the street at the Municipal Auditorium.

One fun detail for me was the tale of Frank Zappa’s first show there on March 10, 1973. Hearing some of the backstage tales filled in some color details on a night with several memorable moments. The opening act was Blind George McClain, a nearly blind-nearly-deaf keyboard player who rocked from side to side and banged his forearm on the keys for rhythm. At first, I figured him for one of Frank’s traveling band of freaks, but no, George, was a local favorite known for his rowdy rock-a-billy. Eddie tells of getting Frank to meet George, and George’s critique of the Mothers’ (shortened) sound check: “You were way too fucking loud!”

But the highlight that evening, for me at least, involved an inspired pairing for a most unlikely song to be performed by the Mothers of Invention. Touring with the Mothers at the time was jazz violinist extraordinaire, Jean-Luc Ponty, supercharging Zappa’s tunes with the rest of the top-notch band. Late in the show, Zappa stepped up to the microphone and said, “We don’t usually play with local folks, but this girl’s name is Mary and she plays the fiddle.”

Sweet Mary Egan of Greezy Wheels joined the band on stage and they tore into the bluegrass standard, “The Orange Blossom Special.,” and Mary and Jean-Luc truly tore into into it, ripping that thing wide open as they fiddled with each other, at each other, and around each other’s necks at one point. Never before nor since have I ever seen such ferocious fiddling!

AWHQ interiorAnother Armadillo moment I recall that did not make it into the book but seared itself into the memory of nearly anyone there was when my friend Nancy blew up Keith Godchaux’s piano during a Jerry Garcia Band set.

Okay, she didn’t “nearly blow it up” but here’s what happened. This configuration of Garcia’s side band included Keith and his wife Donna, both also in the Grateful Dead. Now, Nancy & Larry, friends who helped run Nothing Strikes Back, the world’s only black-light ice cream parlor, loved the Dead and especially adored Donna singing in the band. So Nancy had brought a small bouquet of roses to toss onstage for Donna.

Larry describes it best. “She’s got, like, 25 yards of stage she can toss them onto and she hits the open bay of the piano.” Where there was a web of microphone cables strung to capture the grand piano sound — which immediately started shooting giant sparks and making loud crackling and popping noises as the water at the bottom of the packaged bouquet hit the wiring.

The band wrapped up the tune quickly and lights dimmed as someone ran over to assess and fix the damage. In the dimmed light, I could see Keith nervously trying to light a cigarette — but his hands were shaking so bad it took him several tries before it lit.

Truthfully, though, I did not get to that many shows at the Dillo. Between schooling, being broke, and working evenings, sometimes up to 7 nights a week, I caught a few shows but nowhere as many as a lot of lucky folks. Flipping through the limited set of great show posters at the end of the book, though, I found 5 from shows I know I saw: Jerry Garcia-Merl Saunders, Jimmy Cliff, David Bromberg, Zappa, and Bob Weir.

I did spend a lot of time through the years at the Armadillo Beer Garden. I recall a carpenter friend saying we could find him down there anytime in the summer in the evening — and that turned out to be true. Later, when I first worked at the Brown Schools, our Lariat dorm staff would hold one weekly team meeting a month off-campus at the Dillo beer garden. It always loosened us up and let us speak more candidly to solve tough team problems.

But my favorite visit to the beer garden had to be with my old friend, Billy the Kid, who had worked awhile in the Dillo kitchen, We were sitting outside, lamenting not being able to get in to see the Kinks that night due to our being broke. Then Billy looked over at the back door where staff walked in and out taking and delivering orders. “That door goes into the kitchen,” he said, “And it’s a straight shot to behind the beer counter on the floor at the back.” He swigged his beer. “I betcha we could just walk straight through and no one would say anything.” He thought a moment. “If they do notice you, just smile and keep going.” Finishing his beer, he announced, “I’m gonna try it — if I’m not back in a minute, give it a shot. Good luck.”

Well, he walked straight through the door there and disappeared. And did not reappear. Gulping the dregs of my beer and mustering up some courage, I headed over there. As I walked through, only one person looked up from a counter surface and we exchanged smiles. The folks at the beer counter seemed a bit surprised, but I slipped around them while they were busy selling beer.

I headed up around the crowd to the front where you could still boogie your way in closer to the stage. Ray Davies and the boys launched into “Demon Rum,” as he strutted the front of the stage, sloshing beer out of his cup onto the crowd. I jumped forward to get some soaking, drinking it all in.

Good times, good memories — and a great book to help bring them back alive!


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Found Fragments

notebook, pens, writingAs a writer, scribbling random words, brief passages, and tangential thoughts just kinda comes naturally to me, and then I end up with all these scraps of paper I’m afraid to throw out for fear of losing something I once thought precious enough to write down. Sometimes, I transcribe these notes and fragments so as to preserve them digitally. Only then do I feel like I can toss the original scrap of paper out.

So, that’s pretty much what you’ve got here: ain’t nothing but a few left-over scraps I recently ran across and thought I’d share before tossing the originals. Enjoy!

extrapolating the internet…

The internet collapses time & space, allowing instantaneous access to anywhere & everywhere…this process eventually accelerates to the point of implosion/explosion of time & space…
witnessing this as a traveler into,
then out from the Center of Time & Space,
so see future and then past merge

A writer falls in love with reading, again:

I am enamored anew
with the words of another
seizing a passing thought
I thought I thought
spilling secrets
spelling it out
in words
weird and wondrous
once again anew

If I were to start a religion, the central sacrament would be miniature golf, and this would be our credo:

We secede spiritually as the Church-State of Eternal Confusion: not just Life, but the Cosmos & Eternity are a combination of skill & luck facing absurd difficulties. We believe in Miniature Golf as the central Truth of our Existence — in miniature only, as golf writ large across the landscape is an obscenity upon the land, a good walk ruined, Mother Nature with a manicure.
9-11-15 (mostly)

and summing it up:

all right there in the middle of the great in-between

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Unk’s Idea about Good Ideas

Unk sez: That's a good idea--who needs it? The world is full of good ideas and most of them aren't even being used. Who needs another?"

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Get Happy!

Happiness is an inside job.
—William Arthur Ward

happy-smile doodleIn our Declaration of Independence, we celebrate and venerate “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” — not happiness itself, mind you, but instead, the pursuit of happiness. Through the ages, humans have pursued happiness any number of ways.

So, of course, today that includes apps to give you tools and guidance in your modern pursuit of happiness, that elusive moving target we so desire. Here’s 3 for your consideration:

Touting themselves as “the single destination for effective, evidence-based solutions for better emotional health and wellbeing in the 21st century,” this free app puts activities and games based on “evidence-based interventions in the fields of positive psychology, mindfulness, and cognitive behavioral therapy” at your disposal to help hunt you down some happiness.

This app, also free for download, puts tools for meditation in the palm of your hand — via your phone, of course — to help you access the benefits of meditation more easily.

Tying meditation, breathing, relaxation and sleep together with this app, the folks at Calm offer several exercises as well as a subscription service with additional exercises and structured programs for using them daily.

Finally, a song I often find myself singing from the great Hoyt Axton, offering several simple observations, concluding this guiding truth:

“Everybody got to have ’em some happy.”

Happy Happy-hunting!

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The Dirtiest Word I Know

Shh! not so loud — someone might hear! this must be whispered, secretly, furtively, the dirtiest word I know:


Oh sure, we can be dead tired or dead broke or dead on our feet or dead to the world, but once our life has actually ended, that is the one thing no one wants say about us.

Instead, we’ve passed away.
We’ve passed on.
We’ve departed.
We’ve moved on.
We’ve left his world (or plane of existence).
We’ve gone to a better place.
We’ve kicked the bucket.
We’ve shuffled off this mortal coil.

To avoid this most dreaded subject, we’ve invented dozens of ways to talk about what happened while avoiding that dirtiest of words — dead — or any of its variations: die, dying, death.

It’s as if we fear that saying any of these words might open up a “Black Hole” over in the corner of the room that will inexorably suck us down into a terminal spiral of sickness, dying, and, yes, even death. The very thought of death causes us to shut down saying its name.

Sucked down into a swirling spiral into the Black Hole of DeathYet, death is the most predictable part of our lives. It remains inevitable and is one thing we all have in common despite our differences. We will all die. We know this. We’re not dumb. We just don’t want to think about it.

I think that’s wrong. I think that’s part of the problem. Death is a natural part of life.

Rather than pretend it’s not there, we should embrace the end of our lives as the natural end to life’s journey. We’ve all known all along it is coming someday, but we try to ignore it in hopes this will somehow keep us more alive. Yet, remembering this “unwanted” knowledge can free us up to look at death and dying differently.

In the film, The Departed, Jack Nicholson’s character greets an older man at a bar, triggering this quick bit of dialogue:

“How’s your mom doing?”
“She’s dying.”
“We all are — plan accordingly.”

That is my hope: to “plan accordingly.”

Rather than seeing the end of my life as some inescapable Black Hole I will be sucked into as part of a dread-filled Death Spiral, I choose to change the game in the only way I can: changing how I approach my inevitable death. I want to re-design the death spiral, spinning it upward, so that my death comes not as some dreaded hooligan robbing me of life, but as an old friend I’ve been expecting, ushering me out the door. You may think this sounds a bit morbid, but nothing makes me feel more alive than to remember that this life will come to an end.

There is a growing understanding of how people might achieve what can be called a Good Death — if we “plan accordingly.” To that purpose, I recently took some preliminary training about becoming an End-of-Life Doula, also known as a death doula. I will share some of what I learned about this emerging practice in future blog posts.

If you knew you were dying, would you be kinder? more loving?
Well, you are — we all are.
—seen on the internet

I intend to live fully even as I move closer to dying. And while I still live, I will use those dirtiest of words — dying, death, dead — to talk about my upcoming ending, taking away the power of those particular words to paralyze us in fear, working to restore a greater respect — and acceptance — for the final act of life, death.


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