Marguerite Piazza, R.I.P.

Before Marguerite first called me for plumbing service in November of 2002, I had never heard of her. She identified herself as Marguerite Bergtholdt, which was her married name, and told me that she’d gotten my name from her daughter-in-law Veronica.

When I entered her home at 2813 Central Avenue, I just assumed that she was one more well-to-do lady like so many other customers I’ve served. She left me alone near the stairs while she finished tending to her bedridden husband, Harry. I began studying the trophies, plaques, posters, newspaper clippings, and photographs that covered the walls where I stood and slowly got an idea of who she was. When I acknowledged what I’d been looking at upon her return, she simply observed, “Well, I’ve lived a long life.”

The Marguerite I Knew

I became a regular visitor to Marguerite’s home, mostly for plumbing purposes. I was always amazed by the force of her personality and the liveliness of her mind. I spent many hours, all told, sitting at her table and talking, but mostly listening.

Harry died in ’03. The day of the funeral (March 18th), the kitchen sink stopped up. I was over there that morning to straighten it out. They all left for the funeral and I left a bill and locked up on the way out. I managed to get loose from my jobs long enough to attend the services at St. Louis Catholic Church.

Marguerite was gracious enough to come to my church a couple of times, and it was my privilege to chauffeur her and her daughter Shirley.

Many obituaries and testimonials will pour forth in the next few days to retell some part of the story of this amazing woman. My contribution is meager: she was kind to me and it was an honor to serve her for these ten years.


My Proposal for Election Reform

(1) All electioneering ads shall be banned from the airwaves. All of them. From president to dog catcher.

(2) All such ads shall be banned from cable or Internet locations where they interrupt other viewing, such as pop-ups or ads you have to watch before another video begins.

(3) All visual ads shall be limited to 8-1/2″ x 11″ in size. No billboards or yard signs or newspaper ads may be larger than that.

If a voter wants to learn about the candidates, he can pick up literature (8-1/2″ x 11″) anywhere the campaign makes it available: checkout counters, libraries, etc. There will be plenty of web sites he can visit. His friends can give him a list of phone numbers he can call to have info mailed to him. The permissible avenues of communication are abundant.

This reform accomplishes three things. First, it makes election time less repulsive. Second, it lowers the stupidity level of the process, since the voters have to read and inquire in order to form opinions. Third, it guts the power of money, since all candidates are limited to simple sheets of paper and web sites. Maybe there’s a way to ban direct mail; I haven’t got that one figured out yet.


Sick and Happy

Last week I was sick with a cold. Not just any cold, but one of those demonic things that creeps around your body and perpetrates random acts of mayhem. I stayed home from work Wednesday and Thursday, putting wood on the fire, sleeping in the recliner in front of the fire, and coughing through the day and night.

This may sound like I was miserable, but I actually had a lot of fun. I was able to make progress in my studies (I’m always studying a few things) and I got this blog remodeled so that it looks more like I want it to. I would go out to the driveway and split wood, then bring it in and collapse back into the recliner to recover from the exertion. Splitting firewood is always fun; it’s like playing golf, I suppose, except that you accomplish something.

I was sorry to get well. Oh, I wanted to get well eventually and I needed to get back to work and earn money, but I was having such a good time, I was mostly concentrating on the next fun thing that I could do. I sneaked out on Thursday and did one job, then returned to the chair until morning.

Reluctantly on Friday morning, I got dressed and began running calls I had scheduled while sick. I gained strength as the hours passed and left my last job at 7 PM, still energetic.

So now I’m working a regular schedule, but I’m still happy. I think that I was born with the ability to have a good attitude, yet anyone who knew me before I was about 23 years old could tell you that I displayed a bad attitude, mixed with melancholia, most of the time. I guess I grew up.

Coffee helps.


How the West is Committing Suicide

This news story from England illustrates the depth of the suicidal impulse that has gripped the West.

Fleeing from a felony (grand larceny to the tune of $11,000 dollars) and the police will not pursue because the thief might hurt himself: “The officers were asked not to pursue the suspects, as they were not wearing the correct safety equipment and were not wearing helmets.”


Folksinger Joe Crookston’s “Freddy the Falcon”

Crookston is certainly one of the finest singer/songwriters ever.  His songs are very good and he sings with a deftness that you really can’t gauge unless you’ve tried to be a singer yourself.

You can  listen to “Freddy the Falcon”  here.  You won’t be disappointed.  If you want to, you can also download that song and four others  by Crookston, all for free.

Crookston was in Memphis at the annual meeting of the Folk Alliance in 2009 and he performed “Freddy the Falcon” before a small audience.  You can view an amateur video of that event here.

I transcribed these lyrics myself from the studio version with minor variations based on the Memphis version.



I’m Freddy the Falcon, daredevil’s feet
Skateboard champ on Jackson Street
Ramp up and lift off two flights high
When the wheels leave the pavement, the falcon can fly

And I hardly know nothin’ and mostly don’t care
But flying like this gets me outta here
And I wish I had somethin’, but nothin’ ain’t fair
Flyin’ like this gets me outta here

They all call me Ratboy; my grades are bad
With a crazy temper than I got from my dad
My momma gets scared when my dad comes home drunk
And everybody says Ratboy is destined to flunk

And I hardly know nothin’ and mostly don’t care
But flying like this gets me outta here
And I wish I had somethin’, but nothin’ ain’t fair
Flyin’ like this gets me outta here

Skippin’ school, hangin’ out on the street
And out behind the factory where the dropouts meet
It happened real quick; I got in on the scene
In the back of a Mustang, cookin’ methamphetamine

And I hardly know nothin’ and mostly don’t care
But flying like this gets me outta here
And I wish I had somethin, but nothin’ ain’t fair
Flyin’ like this gets me outta here

Now I got these navy blues in jail cell “D”
I guess I done what everyone expected of me
So I sneak me a pencil — you gotta swear not to tell —
And at night I draw the falcon on the walls of my cell

And I hardly know nothin’ and mostly don’t care
But flying like this gets me outta here
And I wish I had somethin’, but nothin’ ain’t fair
Flyin’ like this gets me outta here


Why I Like Hot Weather

People love to gripe, especially about the weather. Talking about it is one thing, since it’s something we all share in common. But griping is quite another, and counterproductive. It doesn’t change the weather, but it does affect attitudes, and not for the better.

Of course it’s hot. It’s summertime in Memphis, duh! Did you think you were in Norway, perhaps? Griping about the heat is like, “Man, that voltage bites! I stuck my finger in the light socket and it shocked the fire outta me!”

I like hot weather because it isn’t cold. Dead things are cold. Living things have heat. In the summertime, I feel more alive.

I like hot weather because I’m not sick. In the winter, everybody gets sick and the choir at church is always short a few people. Coughing, sneezing, puking, wheezing; typical winter.

I like hot weather because things don’t break as much. It’s easier to keep a car running. In the winter, you wake up in the morning and can’t get to work because the cold weather done you in. Not so in summertime. Pipes freeze and burst in winter. Plants are destroyed, animals freeze to death, the streets become impassible with ice & snow.

I like hot weather because it’s prettier. This harks back to my first point. In the summertime things are green and alive. In winter, any snow becomes filthy sludge after a day and you have to look at it until it melts, which is a long time. Cars become filthy. The whole environment becomes filthy. Nothing grows, so the earth becomes mud.

People say, “I can put on more clothes to stay warm, but in summer you just suffer.” Drink more water and slow down. Relax and let your body cool itself. Most distress comes from that frantic, griping attitude. Chill, bro.


The Flying Autoharp Pick

In church this past Sunday I performed my first autoharp instrumental solo as an intro to a quartet number. The quartet was to break into a rousing a capella singing of “To Canaan’s land I’m on my way” just as soon as I’d finished playing one verse and chorus of “I’ll Fly Away.”

I started with just the melody, began to add the thumb, and eventually had a torrent of sounds rushing out of the instrument, just as if I knew what I was doing. But when I got to the chorus and was playing at high speed with with all my might “I’ll fly away, fly away, oh glory!” my thumb pick did exactly that–seven feet high and over the pulpit and onto the steps below.

The tenor retrieved it for me and, as I put it on, I just said “I hate it when that happens.” Everyone laughed, I played the remainder of my into, and the quartet and other string band members did a great job on the rest of the song.


What Will the Tea Parties Accomplish?

It’s April 15th, the holiest day on the federal calendar, and angry citizens are attending protest rallies across the country. They’re calling them “tea parties,” for obvious reasons, and they think that their legislators will become scared and begin to roll back the tide of socialism that has been overtaking Washington recently.

This optimism is ill-founded. Legislators are in office because they campaigned on the idea “I will give you more than I take from you.” They expect to be reelected using the same strategy. Nobody is elected by promising to reduce expenditures while maintaining taxation, which is the only way a government can pay off a debt.

Politicians are professional liars; the most adept rise the highest. They will get out and support the tea parties for a day, but then they’ll resume doing what it took to get elected in the first place. It wouldn’t matter if fifty five million Americans showed up at tea parties today. That many showed up on election day last November and voted against Obama. Have the politicians been afraid because all those people disagreed with their socialist schemes? Nah.

The nation is going where it’s going because the majority wants to go there.


The Disappearing Christmas Children

I remember Christmas morning when I was a boy. We were all outside, playing with our new toys and those of our neighbors’. Yesterday was Christmas. It was sunny in Memphis and not cold at all. I couldn’t find a kid anywhere in sight.

Where were they? Well, obviously they were inside; but, why? Since I wasn’t in there with them, I cannot say for sure; but I assume that they were enjoying their new presents, and those presents were indoor presents: audio and video electronics.

Approximately five million writers have already bemoaned the virtual world we make for ourselves, so I don’t pretend to some cosmic insight into the problem. What I’m wondering is, when will folks catch on? I recently saw an ad somewhere on the ‘net that invited people to some new social networking site for grownups (implying that Facebook, etc. is for kids). I have to ask, why not go out and join some outfit in person? There are charities and volunteer organizations by the dozens that need manpower.

The Internet is no longer a novelty. We should have gotten used to it by now. Just as happiness is not found in beverage alcohol, it isn’t found in make-believe relationships. Parents need to shut off the kids’ electronics and teach them how to run and throw things outside with real humans. And the parents themselves need to grow up.


Obama won; are they happy now?

Every news source I turn to this morning is intoning the same worshipful liturgy: Obama’s election shows that we have overcome our nation’s past. This is all emotive rhetoric, however, because such language cannot be used to manipulate blacks and shake down whites.

The tune has to change, and I give it 24-48 hours to change. The new tune will bemoan Obama’s mulatto identity and allege that racist America only let him sit in the front of the bus because his mother was white. America is still guilty until a real black becomes president.

And when that day comes, they’ll move the target again. (“Hey, it works.”)

Prove me wrong.