Early morning thoughts

Mason & Anna

Here is a picture of a very happy day a few weeks ago. My grandson, Mason, and his delightful bride, Anna. Despite the small number of socially distanced people, it made me feel like we may be moving beyond the worst of the pandemic.

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What do you do when you wake up at 2:30 a.m. and can’t get back to sleep? Well, this morning I started thinking about another mixtape I might do for Anju’s blog, This Labyrinth I Roam, and title the mixtape Songs of ’65. After I mentally jotted down a few songs that I could use and what I would say about them, I started thinking about the ones that I’ve already done. It isn’t surprising that in many cases those songs have brought back memories, some of which I hadn’t thought about in a long time. Also not surprising is the fact that often those memories involved women I dated long before I met Cindy. Hey! I was past 40 when we got married. I had plenty of time to date. There were, in fact, some women who were quite memorable. Without naming names, and in no particular order, I thought of the woman who almost broke my heart, the judge’s daughter, the woman with great legs, the college student, the other college student, the married woman (no, I’m not proud), the older woman, and the woman who did break my heart. Oh, and there was my landlady, though we never dated.

I was thinking of those women and trying to tag them with a particular song so that I could do a mixtape about them. I could only pin a song on three of them. They must not have been as memorable as I thought. But I could think of a story or two for each of them. And those are memorable stories. Cindy has heard most of the stories, so I might write about them one day. Now that I think of it, I did write about one of them a few years ago. That was the woman who almost broke my heart. I wrote about her the first year I participated in NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. As I told a friend, the one who read it, that story was about 85% true. I should probably go back and do some heavy editing. I might be able to turn it into a short story.

Another thing that the mixtapes I’ve done for Anju did for me was bring back some emotions. One emotion in particular that swept over me was elation. My mind conjured up the feeling of elation I felt walking hand-in-hand with a girl with whom I was infatuated. I can think of nothing like that feeling. It is not the same as love, and certainly not the same as lust. It is more a feeling of happiness mixed with personal connection and even a bit of pride. I think it is a feeling felt only by the lucky young. And then I remembered the nervousness that comes with trying to decide if a first kiss is appropriate on a first date. It is different with each first date, just as every first kiss is different with every woman.

Back to sleeplessness: When 4:30 rolled around and I was sill awake, I got out of bed and started writing this post. It is about 9:45 now, I am finishing this post, and I still haven’t been able to get back to sleep. Maybe this afternoon.

Norm Houseman: Bargain Bin Bonanza

Here we go again…

This Labyrinth I Roam

Some of my happiest times were spent in record stores going through the bargain bins that were filled with records that were on sale. Some were by artists that most people had never heard of like Geoff Muldaur, and also The Tailgators. Some were by famous artists like The Serendipity Singers, who were no longer making hits. And a few were on sale because the store was going out of business; it’s where I found my first Ahmad Jamal and Dr. John albums. All were worth a look if not a listen. Oh, and I should mention that not all of my purchases were vinyl; some were on cd.

My first Geoff Muldaur album was found in a bargain bin. It was a wonderful find. I picked up the album because I knew Muldaur from Jim Kweskin’s Jug Band. Reading the back of the album cover I found out that…

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Norm Houseman: Post-Army, Pre-Auburn Music

Once more I dip into my barrel of nostalgia and share some musical memories. Thanks again, my friend.

This Labyrinth I Roam

As I mentioned in the write up for a previous mixtape I was Released from Active Duty (REFRAD) from the army in August of 1971. From the time I returned home from Germany until the time I moved to Auburn for my first job with the State of Indiana, I listened to the radio, watched television variety shows, and listened to what my friends were following. I was especially intrigued with the music I heard coming out of Chicago. There was Steve Goodman, John Prine, Bonnie Koloc, Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah, and others who are hard to find on Spotify. Top Forty radio was also a source for good pop and rock music. And, of course there was a great variety of FM stations and formats to listen to. Did I mention searching bins in record stores? I should probably do a mixtape made up of songs that I found flipping…

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Reflections on Books

I haven’t written a post about a 2021 Reading Challenge or a non-Challenge yet this year. The reason is that I haven’t been reading much this year. I have yet to finish ten books and it is already May. This doesn’t bode well. It isn’t that I don’t want to read, it is just because I can’t seem to focus my attention, there are too many distractions. I have actually been worrying about this. And then this morning I saw this cartoon on Instagram.

I follow Harry Bliss on Instagram because his sense of humor matches mine. I forwarded the cartoon to a few people whom I knew would appreciate it. My friend, Anju, sent a response asking me which twenty-five I would choose. That’s a tough question. How could anyone limit themselves that way? I suppose it is an exercise in focusing your mind and deciding on what is truly important.

Of course, my first thought was to list the books I had already decided to read, or finish reading this year. But if I could only choose twenty-five, would those be on my list? I might keep Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls, William Styron’s My Generation: Collected Nonfiction, and perhaps Lawrence Durrell’s Clea because I want to complete rereading his Alexandrian quartet. That would leave only twenty-two books to read. Should I fill those slots with feel good fiction, some of the “Great Books,” political polemics, or spiritual writings? It is a quandary.

I’ll tell you right now that I shan’t be reading anything spiritual if it has been written by any of today’s mega-church pastor’s or television preachers. They seem so shallow to me. And, I doubt if they have anything new to say.

The chances are that I wouldn’t add any graphic novels to my list even if I like reading them. There are too many longer forms that I would hate to miss out on. I have a copy of John Updike’s first three Rabbit Angstrom novels collected in one volume; would that count as one book or three? If I reread that book I would feel compelled to read the fourth novel. I have to think about that.

I’m going to put together a list of 25 books to read before I die, but since I don’t plan on dying anytime soon, I’ll go ahead and read other things as well. After all, I have a bookcase full of books that I plan to read. Some of the books I mentioned might end up on my list of twenty-five.

I only know for sure one book that will be on my list of twenty-five, so here goes: 1. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. I shall post more titles in the future as I add them to my list.

Do you have a list of books that you feel you should read before you die? If so, I would love to see it. You might give me ideas for my list. Send me comment, or if you’re shy, send me an email. I can be reached at houseman@comcast.net.

Thanks for reading. Please stay safe.

Norm Houseman: Songs of Auburn

This Labyrinth I Roam

My first full-time, permanent job after getting my MS in Education was for the State in Auburn, Indiana. Nobody was hiring English teachers. I had been through college and in the army, but my musical tastes were still pretty much stuck in the 1960’s. After moving to Auburn, I developed a new group of friends and they introduced me to a variety of new, to me, artists. My friend, John, loaned me albums by The Alan Parsons Project, Pink Floyd, Randy Newman, and Jerry Jeff Walker. I worked with Sandy and Bill. One evening after work we went for pizza and beer with another fellow employee, Jane. Bill started playing music on the jukebox. I knew most of the songs but then Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and the Eagle’s Tequila Sunrise  played. I had not heard them before. I listened as Sandy and Bill sang along to Queen and Jane decided…

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Norm Houseman: Early Jazz Favorites

Here is another of my mixtapes that was used on This Labyrinth I Roam. Thanks Anju.

This Labyrinth I Roam

Between my senior year in high school, and my first year of college, I decided that I needed to expand my musical palette. So, I went to a record store and started browsing through the bins. I came to the jazz section and started looking. There I found The Dave Brubeck Quartet. I had heard of them when they had a hit with Take Five. As an added attraction most of their album covers had modern art paintings. I chose Countdown: Time in Outer Space. I took it home, played it, and couldn’t stop playing it. I became a lifelong fan. My freshman year at Indiana University they came for a concert. I had to go! My sister and brother-in-law also attended as I recall. In my dorm there was a fellow who lived a few doors down the hall from me and he had a small collection…

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Norm Houseman: Songs of 1971

Once again my dear friend allowed me to put together another mixtape. Thanks!

This Labyrinth I Roam

I could have picked any year at random and put together a mixtape, but I chose 1971 because it was the year that I got out of the army. It was August 25, 1971 to be exact. It isn’t a date I am never likely to forget. I heard many of these songs for the first time on the Armed Forces Network when I was stationed in Heidelberg, Germany. The rest I heard on various AM and FM stations back in my hometown, Rolling Prairie, Indiana. I’ve long since moved on from Rolling Prairie, but these songs always sound fresh to me.

As part of mynew mixtapes project, I have asked select friends to curate playlists for me. This mixtape is specially curated for us by Norm. He quickly became a true friend and confidant 7 years ago when…

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Norm Houseman: Early Folk

Putting together these mixtapes allows me to wallow in nostalgia for brief periods. Thanks to Cupitonians for giving me this additional outlet.

This Labyrinth I Roam

My first two musical loves were rock & roll and folk music. I started listening to folk music in the late 1950s, but for me, the 1960s was the golden age of the genre. Plus, that was when I started earning enough money that I could afford to buy folk albums. I remember my sister giving me a Brother’s Four album as a gift. And I remember buying her an album by The Chad Mitchell Trio but deciding to keep it for myself. I don’t think she was a big folk music fan anyway. The first concert I went to, where I paid my own way, was The Chad Mitchell Trio in late 1964 or early ’65 in the Morris Civic Auditorium in South Bend, Indiana. These songs are some of my earliest favorites. I could have added other artists such as Bud & Travis, The Journeymen, Joe & Eddie…

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Stuff I think about

I took this picture three weeks ago. Since then, Spring has arrived. Soon the trees will be budding and leafing out. Life is better.

A lot of my time this past year to eighteen months has been spent thinking. What with politics, BLM, all of the sexual predators, our paternalistic society, and the pandemic there was a lot to think about. I even spent time reflecting on myself and the things I’ve done in my own life. There are plenty of things to be happy about, and a number of things that I regret doing and saying. Self-reflection can be a worrisome thing.

I spent a lot of time last night thinking about friends that I’ve lost over the years. I realized a couple of things. The first was that the great majority of those lost friendships was due to neglect. Neglect in that I didn’t take greater responsibility to stay in touch with people who didn’t live close to me. I could have called them on the telephone, but I didn’t for the simple reason that I don’t like using the telephone. I often feel tongue-tied when on the phone.

Written words are easier for me. I can take my time and edit the words that I chose. Changes can be made to better express what I want to say. I have always enjoyed sending and receiving letters and cards. Unfortunately, most of my friends didn’t enjoy letters as much as I. So gradually they stopped responding. As a result of that I stopped writing. And as a result of that, we fell out of touch.

Email came into vogue after I moved from Auburn. Once again I could correspond with people. Unfortunately for those with whom I no longer kept in touch, I had no email address. Still, with newer friends I could trade longer, considered missives. It wasn’t quite as satisfying for me, but it would do. But then, email is for me a more immediate mode of communication. I probably picked that up from work where people expected a near immediate response. At any rate, I found myself dashing off responses rather than thinking through what I wanted to say and crafting that response.

One by one, these friends stopped using email and switched to test messages. With texts you are limited in how much you can say without interruption. It really isn’t as satisfying.

I now know people who have moved on from texts and exclusively communicate through short Twitter statements and with pictures and videos on Instagram. Those media allow you to broadcast to groups rather than individuals. I have mixed feelings about.

Rather than go on about changing communication patterns, let me move on to the second thing about lost friends. It is that they never age. When I think about my lost friends from my years in Rolling Prairie or Auburn they look exactly as they did the last time I saw them. They still have the same thoughts they had back then. None have had another birthday, gotten married or divorced, or had any children. None of them voted for Barack Obama or Donald Trump. None have had a heart attack, gone deaf or blind, come down with Alzheimer’s, or died from Covid-19. There lives have been suspended in time.

If any of my lost friends come across this post, think of it as a letter from me. I’ll do my best to write again soon.

Norm Houseman: Places

Thanks once more to Cupitonians for posting one of my mixtapes. One day she will tire of using them. But until then…

This Labyrinth I Roam

I love to travel. But we haven’t been able to take any extended trips in the past year, so my travel ha been confined to daydreams and musical excursions. Lucky for me that there is a plethora of songs that have connections to geographical locations. I would like to go to most of the places in this mixtape. I don’t want to go to New York, New York; too many people. The same is true for Chicago. I don’t want to go to Kokomo; been there too often under less than desirable conditions. Kalamazoo if OK; used to date a college girl there. The rest are a blank slate.

As part of my new mixtapes project, I have asked select friends to curate playlists for me. This mixtape is specially curated for us by Norm. He quickly became a true friend and…

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