Soundtrack Of A Photograph-Keep On Sailing

“There’s an omen in the sky today”

Keep on sailing. I have a dear friend who utilizes this phrase quite often. Without getting into her personal reasons for using the phrase it is a useful mantra to proclaim at times. You may never have experienced sailing before in real life, but the phrase lets you drift away on some imaginary calm sea in your mind. Which is a great place to visit  in this hectic life of ours. It also is the title of one of my favorite songs by Iain Matthews, about whom more in a minute.

I say it is useful because it seems in this often chaotic world we live in there is a desire to shut down at times, which is something I have written about before on these pages. But quite often we can’t. Work deadlines, news headlines, higher prices, longer commutes, technology saturation and all the other aggravations that seem to bombard us on a daily level seem to be increasingly hard to get away from now. Sure there are people that seem to thrive on that sort of life, but  I do not count myself as one of them.  But for me, the other side of that is that by the same token, I do not wish to live on some speck of an island in the ocean, or way out in the sticks surrounded by nothing but pure silence to ‘get away from it all’. Both are a nice place to visit for a short time but I could not do it for the long haul personally.

Which is why I seek so much solace in music. It hits every range on the emotional scale. Want to crack open a beer, kick back in the chair on a sunny day and chill? Listen to some reggae and feel the relaxation seep in. Want to work out some aggression at the gym? Throw on some metal or hard rock and thrash about. Having a lazy rainy day sort of moment? Throw on some jazz or something equally soothing and gaze out the window as the rain falls. I have done them all. But sometimes I need to find quick fixes. Fleeting moments where I need to know things are okay. Days when you feel the world closing in on you for one reason or another like those worst day of your life sort of days. You know the ones. Days when it is pouring down rain and you are running a few minutes late leaving for work, and the trash bag you are carrying out to the curb breaks and spills its contents everywhere as your umbrella gets sacrificed to a sudden gust of wind and the train car you are riding in is packed in so tight you can barely breath, and then when you get to work you find out everything you worked on the day before has to be redone. That sort of day.

“And I saw the thunder, it fell down on my way home”

So that is why quite often, when I am having those kind of days where the world is closing in on me, I reach for the Ipod and put some music on. There are several songs that can do the trick for me, but most recently when I have those sorts of days (don’t worry, they do not happen too often) Keep On Sailing has been my primary “go-to” song. The opening chords set a soothing sort of mood before those gentle country music licks kick in as Iain sings the opening lines. As a side note this song is interesting in that Iain recorded it on the Valley Hi album in 1973 and then re-recorded it a year later for the Some Days You Eat The Bear album, which is where this version comes from. No matter which version you prefer, it has that 70’s laid back country vibe that was so popular at that time with bands like the Eagles, Pure Prairie League, Poco and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. However fleeting the thoughts may have been, it was rumored that Matthews had been under consideration to join the Eagles and Steely Dan at various points. If you want a nice little history of Iain Matthews’ varied career, do check this link out-http://www.iainmatthews.nl/fullbio.html

Getting back to the song though, I think that gentle country vibe, the leisurely saxophone weaving in and out of the song together with the pureness of Iain Matthews’s voice are a perfect recipe for calm. Indeed by the first refrain of ‘Keep On Sailing’ I am usually feeling better, and by the end of the song all those things that may have set me off are long forgotten. I don’t know if it is just me, but I can replay lots of songs (not quite note for note, but pretty close to it) in my head. So usually when I hear that phrase, Keep On Sailing from someone else I can recapture the song and feel like I am sharing a little bit of what they are feeling. In those rare instances when I do not have access to music and am feeling a little closed in it is a useful tool to have. Keep On Sailing….

What are your own go-to songs in times of crisis/frustration/anger/sadness?

 

Keep On Sailing-Written By Iain Matthews

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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle

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My Four Seasons-Winter

GROWING OLDER

“You probably won’t take no advice from me. I never took none myself, you see. It’s just when you get older, you like to pass some on….but nobody’s listening.”

Like a lot of people these days, my Facebook page is filled not just with friends, but is also loaded with band pages, science pages, TV show pages and other interests. One of those interests that I follow is a page called Native Americans. It is a page filled with Native American wisdom and sayings, not just from one nation or tribe, but from across the United States. A few weeks ago there was one saying I felt compelled to share with my friends. It said-“When an elder speaks, be silent and listen.” I am not sure what tribe it comes from, but the simplicity of it really struck a nerve, and the other day I thought it might be helpful to start this section off with it.

I was glad I saw it because in preparing this series I really had some trepidation about writing about the “winter” years of our lives. The years we grow older and eventually pass on. Part of the reason is because unlike the other three seasons, I have not experienced it yet. Mild jabs at me for being 46 with my formerly red hair changing first to a brownish hue,  and then speckled with ever increasing dabs of gray aside, I do not feel old. Regular gym workouts and trying to eat as healthily as I can help. But the other reason for the trepidation about writing this section is I did not want to sound smug or condescending about the aging process. Which is why that Native American saying really made me stop and think.

After I posted it, Jennie helpfully reminded me that it is a great quote….but it means you need to practice implementing it a little more. And she was right. Too quickly as a society we tend to ignore the learned words of our elders. It isn’t just about our families, our moms and dads or grandparents that we do this to. We also get very impatient with seniors in line at the grocery store, or walking in front of us on the sidewalk. We get annoyed with the elderly when they seem oblivious to the technology we have long since conquered. “What is this Facebook thing I hear so much about”, or ” how do I send a text message”? I realize as I myself get older that there will come a day when the world will be moving too fast for me to keep up, or even care about it, so fast and changing is the technology era we live in.

But take a moment and replace the faster internet speeds and smart phone technology, wireless connectivity, automation, and other cool advances and gadgetry that we live and thrive with in this era, with the advances from another era. Mass produced automobiles, commercial radio, television and polio vaccines among countless other things were inventions created and developed in the years when today’s elderly were younger. They understood all these things thoroughly at the time, but sometimes our cynicism in these days must make someone who lived through earlier advancements feel exasperated and defeated. What is worse is the advice passed on from our elderly often gets brushed aside.

I think it is this final point that is behind blues man Seasick Steve’s song, “It’s A Long, Long Way.” Steve is a man who payed his dues and then some, and had been plying his trade across the world for years and years when suddenly, he gained success and a devoted fan base a few years ago. Steve definitely tells it like it is. In the song he sings from the perspective of an even older man, desperately trying to get people to pay attention to his words. It is so brutally honest that you can’t help but feel moved by  it. So whether it is from a Native American phrase, or from the mouth of Seasick Steve I hope for a time when we treat our elderly with that sort of respect. Not judging or assuming but learning. And above it all….listening.

 

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My Four Seasons-Summer

MATURITY

“I’ve been everywhere”

Continuing on from yesterday’s blog, if spring time represents our birth and growth in life, then summer is a continuation of that growth, as we mature and become stronger as people and learn more about the world.  It is also when real life issues inevitably start to intrude. Things become real. But it is also the time we probably have the most fun in our lives. As I mentioned in the introduction, this series has become more autobiographical than I had imagined originally. In previous blogs I have touched on some of the years I would consider to be part of “my summer.” For that reason I will touch on some of the times I have not already mentioned. It covers a pretty large span of years as a result, from pre-teen all the way up to my early thirties before it all came crashing to a halt as you will soon discover. Summer in my mind is full of exuberance, dumb mistakes (that somehow remain good memories for some reason), figuring stuff out, and lots of laughs and good times.

When I was thinking of the markers to set for my own timelines in these Four Seasons blogs, I spent a good week or so reconstructing the key periods in my life. Though the actual teen and college era years might seem like the logical place to start for summer, I have pushed it back slightly further. More specifically to the summer of 1979 when I turned 11. That was the summer that Clan Doyle undertook their greatest adventure-a 5 week long summer drive across country and back. Though there was no Wally World as a prize at the end (for fans of the Vacation films), there were numerous prizes in exploration of this vast and varied country. We set out once school let out for the summer which interrupted the best Little League season I ever had. Yes, I estimate I was batting an average of .195, which for my readers around the world who may not know much about baseball translates to being abysmal! I do remember filling in at third base for one game where I promptly mimicked the great defensive playing of New York Yankees great Graig Nettles, guarding the line against the line drive and making spectacular Nettles patented instant replay worthy (in my mind) plays diving for the ball and protecting against an extra base hit. Again, apologies to my non-baseball watching readers but it was the pinnacle of my achievements in the sport I love best and I am damn proud of it. Sadly I was not drafted by the Yankees and my baseball career was soon over.

Forgive me, I digress. So in that sultry summer of 1979, Mom and Dad, together with my two sisters piled into the  Ford LTD station wagon for five weeks travelling across America. Much planning had gone into the trip before we left and there were lengthy discussions and disappointment when people’s choices would have to be bypassed. So sad as we were that there would be no Colorado or Pacific Northwest, no Montana or Yosemite, we still saw a lot of great places. Chicago and up to South Dakota through the wonders of the Badlands, before moving on to the Black Hills where we stayed in a cabin by a lake near Mount Rushmore. Then on to Yellowstone and the Tetons in Wyoming and the unforgettable town of Emblum, Wyoming, population 10. From there it was on to Salt Lake City and across the desert to Reno, Nevada before spending about 2 weeks in California. Starting in Sausalito and San Francisco and winding our way down to Los Angeles and San Diego, with stops along the way to see the Redwood forest, and Disneyland.

Eventually we moved on to Arizona, passing through Yuma (the hottest place I have been in my life, I believe it was something like 115 in the shade…in the late afternoon) and on to the wonders of the Grand Canyon. Then on through the unique colors and landscape of New Mexico and the gradual race to home passing through parts of Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee and on home. Through all those travels there were only two mishaps with the car that I can recall. When all was said and done the five of us made it through inevitable family strife, long miles of driving and cheap motels, unique and beautiful landscape, encounters with buffalo, tourist kitsch (“Stop at Wall Drugs in 40 miles. Wall Drugs coming up in 10 miles…and so on), amusement parks and California ocean, Native American creativity and more long miles we finally arrived home to New Jersey.

All those long miles made for a long list of cities and towns to circle on a map. When we were back home I think we tried to trace the journey made with a continuous line colored with marker. From New Jersey across to the west and back, passing through towns like Gary Indiana, St. Paul Minnesota, Albuquerque New Mexico, Amarillo Texas, Little Rock Arkansas, and hundreds more. I doubt I heard Hank Snow’s classic song “I’ve Been Everywhere” (which is itself adapted from Australian songwriter Geoff Mack’s original version) on that trip, but for my money it is the benchmark of an American travelling song as it rattles songs off from east to west and north to south. Which is surprising since Hank Snow was originally from Nova Scotia, Canada. I am pretty sure I did eventually hear Snow’s version of it in my 20’s, but it wasn’t until I heard Johnny Cash sing it on the album Unchained, part of the American Recordings series that it really resonated with me.

If you go back to Part 11 of this blog you can read about my own history with Johnny Cash, but to sum it up quickly here if you have not read that particular blog, Johnny’s music never really did anything for me until those American Recordings came out. I’ve Been Everywhere closes out the Unchained album, and even though Johnny had performed it many times before, this version is by far the best. When I had my a ha! moment with the importance of Johnny Cash’s music, this song quickly became one of my favorites. It was then that I began equating it with that summer of 1979 and that car journey, so I feel it is a fitting choice for the start of my ‘summer.’ Of recognizing the world surrounding me and trying to come to grips with the differences that were not quite so different when you really got down to it. I have not been everywhere yet, but I sure as hell will give it try someday.

 

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