Archive for December 2010

An Old Story to Close Out the Old Year

December 31, 2010

        I’m gonna paraphrase this one, ’cause I like to give folks (even the bad guys) some wiggle room should they choose to accept it.

        One time a young fellow told me (in so many words) “I don’t like it that you have seen some success. I don’t think it’s fair. I want you know I’m better looking than you, more talented, and younger and stronger. If I wanted to I could knock your teeth out of you and there wouldn’t be a thing you could do about it.”  

        I replied, again paraphrased, “Well friend, all that is true. I have no doubt you could kick my a^^. But I’ve got an awful lot of friends. If you knock my teeth outta me, all that’s gonna happen is you’re gonna be down in the jail with the rapists, and I’m gonna get some new teeth, ’cause I’m old and I’ve got good insurance. And if I was to be mad at everyone who’d been more successful than me, why I’d never get through counting the number of new enemies I’d have, ’cause it’d be a big bunch of people.”

        I don’t understand testosterone poising, and never have, even when I was young.

        One time a very powerful man, one I have all respect for, told me he was scared of me.

        I replied, “Scared of me? Man, that’s crazy, I’m scared of you. Why in the world are you scared of me?”

       He said, “I’m always scared of the honest nice guys, ’cause their river runs deep.”

       I still consider it one of the greatest compliments I ever got.

       I’m still scared of him, though, or at least respect him deeply, ’cause his river runs deep too.

       Here’s to a fine upcoming New Year for all of you. If you’ve ever read one word of my thoughts, I do appreciate it, because through art and our friends of like mind, my wife and I found a life of grace and dignity. That was worth every long hour of struggle, ’cause in this modern world grace and dignity can be hard to come by, and we cherish every minute of it we can steal away.

        Oh by the way, I still have the teeth God gave me, and I lost track of that young man. I don’t know where he got off to.

       God bless every one of you.

Dr. B 

My Christmas Present and Other Ramblings

December 28, 2010

        I can’t say I came up hard, but my Dad sure did, and he made certain we understood how fortunate we were. I remember one time he bought a set of barber clippers to save the family money on haircuts, but abandoned the idea ’cause we were three wild boys who ran and hid in the basement to dodge his “hair-cutting/cost-cutting” measures. The dang thing didn’t cut hair, it pulled it out. (ouch!)

       My uncle got an early Buick dealership, and gave Dad a good deal on a new car. When Dad pulled that car up in driveway, I thought we sure enough must be rich, ’cause we the first family on the block with two cars, and one of ‘em was fancy and had fins. Dad said it was a luxury, but we needed it ’cause he didn’t want to strand my Mom alone when he was at the hospital, which was much of the time.

        For a long time we didn’t have a television, and only got the color version after the neighbors bought one. Their den had a new window air-conditioner, so we began to spend a lot of time over there on summer evenings. After a while Dad gave in and got a color T.V. and one of the AC units too. He never liked color T.V. though; said it made everyone look jaundiced. I went and looked it up, and decided my Dad was very smart to be able to diagnose folks from a distance like that. 

        My middle brother caught on to the Santa Claus thing when dad had the bike I’d outgrown repainted and put it under the tree for him for Christmas. I told my brother not to tell; the least one of the family still had a few good years left. 

        Maybe it’s cause I never missed a meal, but I wasn’t a material sort of guy, and didn’t ask for much of anything, even as a kid.  I never did get the bumper sticker that said, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” For me it was more, “Good Lord have mercy, enough is plenty, take care of what ya got.”

       But then again my people always gave me anything I needed anyway, so I guess I just never did understand what it as like to be abandoned and alone in the world.

       Here’s one Christmas present I’ve gotten a number of times. My wife gave me my mandolin for my 45th birthday years ago. (legend has it Darin Aldridge had a hand in that too) 

        This year I had a little work done on it; refret etc, and it’s good as new. Many a Christmas I’ll put it under the tree and let my wife give the mandolin to me all over again. If you’ve found what works why change?

        As I’ve said many times, my wife gave me two beautiful children and a Gibson mandolin and she puts together a fine holiday for the family every year. She never needs to give me anything else. I already have far more than enough for the rest of my time on Earth.

        Oh, I got to ramblin’ and forgot to tell you what I got for Christmas this year. You gotta watch out for gray-haired docs with a good memory; they can get like that. My wife got me one of these new Kindles. The kids loaded it up with the new Mark Twain autobiography, “The Complete Works of Mark Twain,” and, you guessed it, “The Mandolin Case.”

       I laughed and said, “Did y’all get Mark to sign it?”

       The rolled their eyes like kids do. Do my people know me? Two out of the three writers on my Kindle are famous, (Twain and Twain) and the other one is lucky to still be kicking. (me) This Kindle is the ticket.

        The Kindle is very cool, but somehow just not that photogenic, so I took a picture of my mandolin instead. In our house, it’s as timeless as Twain. After all, I named a book after it. 

        Hope y’all had a blessed Christmas, and all the best in 2011,

Dr. B

Oops, had to take the pic down. It displayed the serial number bigger than Dallas, and it didn’t seem like a good idea.

Play “Rocky Top”

December 28, 2010

        My “Song of the Day” on FaceBook was “Rocky Top.” I’ve always heard one time someone asked Bobby Osbourne what his favorite bluegrass song was and he smiled and said, “Is there another one besides Rocky Top?”

        Given the royalties they’ve seen, you can’t blame him for the answer. Rocky Top is the number one song a non-bluegrass crowd will request. It is the bluegrass “Free Bird.”

        One time we played “Rocky Top” at a hoop-te-do rich person’s hootenanny. When we finished some red-faced patron yelled out, “play ‘Rocky Top.'”

        I replied, “Sir, we just played it.”

        He threw down a hundred-dollar bill, and said, “By God, I said play ‘Rocky Top.'”

        We played it again, and over and over till he ran out of money, then slipped away in the dark. I thought he wanted to fight, and didn’t think that’d look good in the morning paper for Doc or bluegrass either one.

        Sometimes I still chuckle and think of think of him. I wonder if he woke up the next day and said, “Where the h#%% did I put my money?”

Dr. B

A Charlie Brown Christmas

December 26, 2010

        We didn’t get into our stockings until the day after Christmas. Here’s the rule for the stockings at our house; nothing over ten bucks. My wife found “A Charlie Brown Christmas” for nine dollars.

        You might ask what an old man needs with a kid’s interactive book. Well, my wife sure knew. I sat there and read that thing, pushed the buttons to make the songs play, and laughed like a small child. Call me a sap if you like, I don’t care.

        You see, I was a Charlie Brown kinda guy, except I got lucky and married the little red-haired girl. As a kid I was a skinny boy; about as average as you can get. With the exception of a fair golf game I had no special athletic ability. I once was the leading scorer in a church league basketball game, (twelve points) and one time in Little League I hit a double off a future AAA pitcher. But truth was I had my eyes closed; he was so fast I couldn’t have seen the ball anyway. I just swung and got lucky.

        But bless her heart, my wife saw something in me. I just wasn’t a “pass gas, watch football, drink beer, make fun of people” kind of guy, but I was good with books, and she believed in me before anyone else other than my Mom and Dad and maybe my high school chemistry teacher. I owe her a lot.

        Today my daughter sat there, watched me read that book, and grinned.  “Daddy is just a large child.”

        Ain’t no changing a Charlie Brown kinda guy; just have to accept ‘em for what they are. My son accepts me too, and he’s as tough as a pine knot as there ever was. 

        Maybe I am a sap, but the kids don’t make fun of me. If they did, they know what I’d say. “You better be glad for one time in history Charlie Brown managed to go out with the little red-haired girl, otherwise there wouldn’t be any you.”

        If anyone asks you what makes this old doc so serene, you tell ‘em, “Well, he’s got Jesus and the little red-haired girl too. If you’d ever been a Charlie Brown you’d understand.”

        As Indie would say, “It ain’t no more complicated than that.”

Dr. B

A Christmas Coat of Many Colors

December 24, 2010

        My daughter came in for Christmas and told me she read on the Internet about “Dear Santa” letters. It seems the U.S Post office has some central location where they keep up with letters kids write to Santa, and then try to respond in some way.

       Often in the past they’d see where kids wanted some kind of gadget; the latest X-box or whatever, but this year was different. They were overwhelmed with “Dear Santa” letters from kids who only wanted a warm coat for Christmas.

       Dang. Here we live in the most wealthy country in the world and these kids don’t have a coat. We waste more here than some countries have. That got to me.

       Dolly Parton’s song, “A Coat of Many Colors” came to mind. One year as a kid her winter coat was a patch-work item her mama pieced together, and Dolly wrote the song about it years later. I don’t know Ms. Parton, but one reason I believe her artistry rings true is I bet she hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to come up tough. She grew up in Sevierville, Tennessee, and used to sing on the early morning “Cas Walker Farm and Fun” show. I understand they had to set her up on Co-Cola crates so she could reach the mic.

      Anyway, when my daughter told me that it got me to thinking. I wish there was a way we could all donate a coat to those kids. Just think about it; it’d be coats of many colors from all over the country.

       Like all good ideas, it seems simple, but probably isn’t. You’d think everyone could just get up with their postmaster and see how to make it happen from their locale on a grass-roots (bluegrass roots) level. After all, like the Pony Express, those guys know how to deliver the mail, huh?

       I think it’d be so cool for it to be a Christmas bluegrass coat of many colors. After all, bluegrass artists forever donate their time to all sorts of causes. It’s the bluegrass way. We’re music people, not money people, but a coat we no longer use sounds like something we could all do.

       But even if the more global idea isn’t workable, at the very least I hope folks will take a coat down to GoodWill, the local women’s shelter, or whatever local outfit that does such things in your area and see that it goes to a child this winter. Tell ‘em it’s a bluegrass coat of many colors, and in a roundabout way it came from Dolly Parton. That’ll make it special. If I were a kid, I’d dig a coat like that. 

Dr. B

Harvey County Christmas and New Year

December 20, 2010

        Things don’t change much in Harvey County. As my daughter always says, “Daddy, some things never change and you’re one of ‘em.”

        The official kick-off for the season is lawyer Roy Davidson’s Christmas party. Some of y’all read about it in “The Mandolin Case.” It’s a saints and sinners kinda gig; open to everyone from the judge to the law to the criminals, both the blue and white collar variety. There usually aren’t more than a couple of prisoners. They they have to wear those orange suits with HCJ on the back, but they’re welcome. Most of ‘em aren’t too bad; just got into too much shine.

        Lou Bedford brings the best gumbo from the Billiard and Bowl, and there are cheese balls and roast beef, and pudding or red velvet cake for dessert. There’s sweet tea and Co-Cola in the living room and Southern Comfort out on the back porch. 

        Darin always drives over from Cherryville in Gaston County and we play twin mandolin Christmas carols in the parlor for Fred who was a huge Country Gentlemen fan. We always play “What Child is This” (we do it in Am) ’cause Roy likes it so much. My Mom and Dad sit at our table every year. They’re still thankful I didn’t run off and become one of those Beatles, and are tickled Darin is my main musical influence, ’cause he’s a good boy. I was too, just ask Mama.

        The second Friday is always the Sandy River Cats gig at the old banker’s house. I always sit in with them. Sandy River is the only swing band in these parts. We play music mostly from the 40s and 50s; Duke Ellington, Bing Crosby, Glen Miller etc. My favorite on the mandolin for our annual Christmas gig is “Let it Snow.”

        Farmer Cline hitches up his horses for carriage rides downtown, and Harvey Methodist still puts on the traditional Christmas pageant. One year my kids graduated all the way to Mary and Joseph, but they started out as donkeys like everyone else.

        Patients bring everything from banana bread to Whitman’s Sampler boxes to the office. Yesterday an eighteen wheeler pulled up out in the parking lot. The driver walked to the front desk, and said he had a package from his friend Billy the truck driver. When I opened it I had to chuckle. It was Gotham Writers’ Workshop “Writing Fiction.” I reckon Billy sent it as a message; ‘You’re doing good, Doc, but you must continue to study; there is still much to learn.’

        Billy is an enigma. A truck driver who loves Faulkner and writes poetry, yet only got interested in bluegrass via a physician bluegrass fiction blog. One of his favorite writers is Silas House, because Mr. House got a lot of his ideas driving his mail route. Billy said Silas was a smart man, ’cause he never wasted his driving time, but instead thought up books in his head while he was on the job. Then all he had to do was go home and write ‘em down. One of these days Billy is gonna write a truck driver book; you wait and see.

        Billy listens to books on his Kindle as he travels the highways. He predicts the day after Christmas will be the biggest day for e-book sales in history, and sent me a card that he hopes everyone would download “The Mandolin Case.” 

        You can never judge people. Until you get to know ‘em you don’t know ‘em. Billy might not have a college degree, but he knows a lot because he reads. I’ve never met Billy, yet because he is a reader I have learned a lot from him.       

         Anyway, when this fellow dropped off the package, he also asked if he could buy a copy of “The Mandolin Case.” He said he wanted to give it to his wife for Christmas, then turned red and mumbled something about page four. The man said he wasn’t much of a reader, but Billy had told him not to let that stop him. “There’s something in that book for everyone,” Billy had told the man.

        I want to wish all of you the best of holidays. I have a lot on tap for the New Year. I’m gonna get headlong into my second book, “Acquisition Syndrome” and will update you as I go. Also I have a couple new blog pages planned and I’ll let you know about. My blog posts may not be quite as long as I hope to concentrate more on the new book, but I’ll be here regular, at least once or twice a week.

        The kids are due in, the wife and I are well, and there is much music to play, so I’ll see y’all right after the New Year. My loyalty list is still the same. The top of the page starts with faith and family, close friends, staff, patients, and music and golf pals, but dang if my readers haven’t become high on my list too. I’ve learned a lot from all of you and always appreciate your thoughtful comments. I better put my agent and editor in there too; those guys are hard to come by, and I don’t ever want to have to look for new ones. It’s sorta like if you got lucky and found the right spouse, no use to make any changes when you’re that fortunate.

       May you have a blessed holiday. All the best for 2011,

Dr. B

Quote for the Day

December 17, 2010

         My daughter sent this one to me. Does the kid know me or what? 

        “A doctor has opportunities for studying human nature which are given to no one else, wherefore a philosopher ought to begin his life as a doctor, and a doctor should end his life by becoming a philosopher.”   –Ancient Greek saying.

        After a life-time in this biz, it’s no wonder to me docs are a strange breed of cat. Your daily routine sees a constant wave of human pain and suffering, much of which you are powerless to resolve. I owe what sanity I have to my faith, family, and art. In the end I had to write in hopes I might pass it on, and ease someone else’s burden somewhere down the road.

        Dr. B


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