Archive for February 2009

Seventy-Five Bucks and a Box of Chocolates

February 27, 2009

        I had a fine week.  I saw a bunch of patients and they were all happy with what I did for them.  As far as I know I did not mis-diagnose a one.

        As you have read I won fifty bucks Wednesday for Marfar gambling in golf.  Tonight I picked up another seventy-five to put at her place at the table from a music gig.  I give her all my proceeds from golf gambling and music gigs.  We call it her mad money, ’cause it is hers to spend irresponsibly.  (After all that is how I came by it.)  Also it is ‘mad’ money because she is never upset when I go out to play.  In fact she encourages it.  It has worked out great for both of us.

        The gig tonight was a church social.  Back in my youth at Harvey Methodist I spent much of my Sunday School time at the Gulf Station.  I guess they have either forgiven or forgotten.  I always went to preaching though.  My parents would a missed me if I hadn’t. 

        Tonight was the over seventy-five crowd, so we weren’t out late.  As usual most of them were my patients.  This show was with a local country singer.  When we got there we realized it was a Valentine’s Banquet so we ditched ‘Your Cheating Heart’ and subbed ‘Can’t Stop Loving You.’  They had a contest to guess the number of candy hearts in a jar and I won a box of chocolates, so I got to bring Marfar a present too.

         She was tickled.  You can’t go wrong if bring a woman home seventy-five bucks and a box of chocolates.  I think she is going to use some of her mad money to buy a new pair of sunglasses.   I tell you what’s the truth, this boy has a turn key life, and I never forget to be thankful for it.

Dr. B


Old Doc Writes Romance and YA Fiction (The Sunglasses Kid)

February 26, 2009

        I’m not gonna say I’m old, ’cause my kids and msslightly would chastise me if I did anyway.  But in dog years I’m getting up there.  In spite of the fact the chronological clock can not be denied they say I am young at heart, and I take that as a high compliment.  I have quoted this one before but it bears repeating:

         Social worker to elderly patient checking in the nursing home:  “How was your childhood?”

        Patient:  “So far, so good.”

         So with all that in mind, here is Doc B’s annual attempt at romance writing (it is spring after all) with a dash of YA fiction.  And in case any of you guys think I am poking fun, I am not.  No matter how much we protest, most folks my age would trade places with you in a heart beat for a second set in the gig.



                                         The Sunglasses Kid


        “Hey honey, have you seen my golf shoes?”

         “No dear.  Where did you leave them last fall?”  She looked up from her knitting and smiled.

          “Hm.  I don’t think I’ve played since the Mississippi trip except to hit balls and swing around the loop.”  (a five hole stretch at the house)

        “Check your travel bag.”

        “Where is it?”

        “Garage; back behind the bin for the baseball equipment.”

        “I need to clean that thing out.  Those days are over.”

         “You might make a comeback.”

        “Yeah, I guess so.”  Nothing like a spouse who has faith in you.  “I feel lucky, maybe I’m good for fifty today.”

        “I hope so, they’re having a sale at Rag Tag.  I need some new cloth.”   

        “Hey, have you seen my sunglasses?”

        “Tommy, Tommy.  You are such a little boy.  I found them all over the house last season.  They’re in the top drawer of your desk in the study.”

        “Left or right?”


         I retrieved a pair.  “O.K.  I’ll be back in time to throw something on the grill.  Spring is close, and you know about those sunglasses.”

        “I hear you.”

        I love sunglasses.  Part of it is clinical; they offer significant UV protection.  And too, I was a myopic kid and could not buy them off the rack.  After five eye procedures (two cataracts, two posterior caspule lasers and one retinal detachment and still blessed to have with 20/20 vision)  I consider the opportunity to buy a pair of cheap drug store sunglasses a thrill.

        My Marfar was the sunglasses kid.  Still is.  One of the major miracles of my college career was that I managed to make an ‘A’ in Organic Chemistry while I dated girl who could wear a pair of sunglasses the way she did.  She seldom wore them over her eyes.  More often they were perched on top her head nestled in that sun bleached hair.  When we’d go to the beach, I often wondered how in the world this skinny little boy got hooked up with the girl next door who could make a pair of sunglasses look that good.  It isn’t proper to brag on my own wife, but that was the prettiest woman I’d ever laid eyes on.  Until my little Marie came along (she looks just like her mama) no one else on the planet was close. 

        I fished a pair out of the desk drawer and took them for her to check out.  “How bout these?”

         “You look like you could kick Arnold Palmer’s a^^.”  (White lies never hurt in marriage)  “Go win me some money.”  

        I know you guys in the frozen tundra still have to suffer through the end of winter.  I hate to rub it in but golf season has opened here.  (If you pick your days you can play all winter)  The front nine was chilly, but it got up to sixty-one by noon.  I closed with a 40 on the back.  83 ain’t so great, but this time of year it was good enough for a win. 

         As per my custom, I went home and put my winnings at Marfar’s place at the table.  

        When  I walked through the kitchen to go fire up the grill, I noticed the money was gone.  She grabbed my waist from behind.  “How’d you do?”

        “83.  Not so good.  But I won fifty bucks for you.  I was the sunglasses kid’s guy today.”  (Every boy hopes he can win a bear for his girl at the fair; I don’t care how old he is or how open minded for women’s rights, and I am very much all about that.)

         “Keep your mind on golf out there, sir.”

        “Yes ma’am.”

        I can always tell when spring is here.  When you turn into River Run, there is one slope where the sun hits it just right.  It is the first place where the grass turns green every year.  But more than that, I always start to try to find my sunglasses, and my Marfar’s also.  The psychologists call it classical conditioning, or maybe imprinting too.

         But to me it is is simple as this.  If my Marfar perches a pair of sunglasses on top of her head, flashes a grin and tells me this young man can kick Arnold Plamer’s a^^ in golf, I believe her ’cause she ain’t lied to me yet.

        And man, can that girl still wear a pair of sunglasses.

Dr. B

Rejection: It’s Just a Thing

February 24, 2009

        My agent has several publishers looking over my book.  He has warned me it is inevitable some of them will say no.  I already have my strategy figured out.  I have to admit I am not too worked up about rejection though.  I only asked one girl to marry me and she said yes, and I got to attend Sandhills U. to study medicine.  Both were perfect for me so any rejections that might come along in life now are not the end of the world.

        They used to ask the great golfer Dr. Cary Middlecoff if he worried over short putts, and he said, “No, if I miss my wife loves me and we’re still gonna eat steak tonight.”  I always did like Dr. Middlecoff.  By the way, he was also a dentist.  He started out in the service, and once said he pulled ten thousand teeth before he realized the army had another dentist.

        I knew a boy back in high school who was a short stubby little guy, and he was very matter of fact about rejection.  He was Harvey High’s version of Charlie Brown.  He said rejection was just part of life.  As we’d say in bluegrass it was just a thing. 

        Every year when it came time for the prom, this fellow made him a list of who he was gonna call for a date, and it included every girl in the Year Book.  He would start with the Homecoming Queen and work his way down the list until someone said yes.  If it bothered him he never let on.  The first year he went with his cousin.

        But every year he fared a little better.  He grew taller, and his acne went away.  He shucked his glasses for contacts.  He studied hard, did well in school and became a very successful professional.  He married a beautiful girl he met in college and they had two beautiful children.  He was as one of my bluegrass friends would say, “a guy who punted way past his coverage.”

        I was good friends with this guy, and he had not an ounce of bitterness from his ugly duckling start.  But as opposed to some of the football stars from those days, he remembered enough about rejection to never take his people for granted.  Once the boy committed to his girl he never wavered.  When the old cheerleader who had shunned came to call once he was on top of the world, he turned her away.  He didn’t brag about it or belittle her one bit.  In fact he didn’t tell anybody.  The cheerleader told the Beauty Operator who told his cousin who told me.  He didn’t have any meanness in him, but he also learned early on to stick with folks when they were good to you.

        I have read that Alison Krauss has been like that with her record label.  They picked her up when she was unknown, and others turned her down.  (I don’t see how anyone could have overlooked her ability, though)  Later after she got famous everyone wanted to sign her, but she stuck with the record label she started out with.  Like my buddy she knew to “dance with who brung ya.” 

         I am the same way about my agent, except I ain’t gonna dance with him.  He brought me along when I didn’t have any idea how to write.  (I hear you; “Call me when he’s finished, Doc.”)  They told Bill Monroe when he hit the Opry if he was gonna leave he’d have to fire himself.  My gig is not that big a deal, but I told my agent the same thing.  

        So we’ll see how the publisher world works out.  But I’ll never forget our high school Charlie Brown’s wedding.  He said after you get to marry the red haired girl, there aren’t many rejections that make much difference, and all these years later he hasn’t changed.  I was lucky in that way too; me and Marfar have seen it all twice, and are still tight after decades down the bluegrass road together.

        So when the pink slips start coming in, I’ll just work my way down the publisher list till I find someone to say yes.  If that means I take my cousin to the prom and self-publish, so be it.  If Grisham can sell books out of the trunk his car I sure ain’t too proud to do so. 

        All I ever wanted out of my book was an artistic success, to show the truth about modern medicine, and to get the privilege to introduce bluegrass to some folks who were not familiar with our music.  All indications are I’ll get to do that.

        So in closing…… hey wait a minute….  the phone is ringing.  I better get it.  It might be my cousin the publisher.  Gotta split.  See ya.

Dr. B

Classical Bluegrass and III Tyme Out

February 22, 2009

        As a bluegrass investigative reporter my charge is to bring you the inside story.

        Here it is folks.  You heard it here first.  I have it on good authority that as III Tyme rides the bluegrass road in their tour bus, they have been secretly immersed in classical music. 

       I hear you now.  “Classical, Dr. B?  Are you sure?  Yes, Russell Moore is a classic voice.  I know the band defines the classic sound of the second generation of bluegrass, but classical?”

       I am positive because I heard the strains at their show last night.  As banjo player Steve Dilling told of his truancy days in high school, (the guidance counselor stayed for the second set at Bass Mountain before she reeled him in)  I heard Wayne Benson noodle some Bach on the mandolin.  

        Dilling cut his eyes to his left.  (Your right as you look at the stereo speakers)  “What was that?”


         “Like in Carry me Bach to old Virginia?”

        “No.  Bach as in Johann Sebastian.”

        “Wasn’t he with the Loving Spoonful?”

        “No man.  Classical music.  Monroe had some Bach influence.”

        It was one of the few times I ever saw Mr. Dilling at a loss for words.

        I know where this all comes from.  Justin, the fiddle man is an old soul at twenty-five.  He came up in classical violin, and Wayne has been studying it on the mandolin under the tutelage of Mike Marshall.  The next thing you know he and Justin are gonna jam on Beethoven, and not ‘Roll Over Beethoven,’ although they can do it too.  These guys are artists.

        But they haven’t got anything on Dilling.  I expect that boy knows every good breakfast joint between here and Missouri.  I hear he is working on an endorsement deal with a well known restaurant chain, and it is a classic too.

        One of these days I’m gonna have to ride out with these guys.  Any group that argues over how much influence Bach had on Bill Monroe over a plate of chops and eggs is my kind of band. 

        Pour me up another cup of coffee boys, and keep on picking.  You guys are today’s classical music.

Dr. B

Bluegrass CD Pick of the Week- Balsam Range

February 21, 2009

        Balsam Range is the pride of the North Carolina mountains.  It is hard to believe they could duplicate the magic of their first CD, but they did so.  Their second release, ‘Last Train to Kitty Hawk’ re-confirms their position as a nationally acclaimed band.

        Whether it is an original like ‘Jack Diamond’ or a Stanley Brothers reissue such as ‘I’m so Lonesome Without You,’ every cut rings true.  Buddy Melton can sing any kind of tune, but he delivers the sad ones so lonesome it give me goose bumps on the arms and the hair stands up on the back of my neck.  There are breakdowns and gospel numbers, love songs and ballads that tell stories, straight bluegrass and touches of country.  While it does not stray too far from traditional, the collection is an acoustic music variety show.

        All great bands have diversity, and Balsam Range is no exception.  Buddy brings a bluegrass pedigree with a country flair from his days with Jubal Foster.  Tim Surrett has played bass with artists as diverse as Tony Rice and the Kingsmen.  He is also a bluegrass guy, but I like the hint of Southern Gospel in his lead and harmony vocals.

        Mandolinist Darren Nicholson was on the road several years with bluegrass diva Alecia Nuggent, and can play Bill Monroe style or modern bluegrass with equal facility.  He also is steeped in classic county, an influence that shows in his work.  Marc Pruett has toured with everyone from Lester Flatt to Ricky Skaggs and keeps the bluegrass sound prominent in the mix with his classic banjo work.

        An Caleb Smith?  I’ve seen this young man stand shoulder to shoulder with Tony Rice.  He can trade licks with the best and is also a very effective lead singer.  With three who can sing lead the band never falls in a rut.  You get something fresh on every track.

        With these guys there is something old, something new and forever something blue.  Give ’em a listen.

        The link to their website is:

Literary Influences/Lawyers and Golf

February 19, 2009

        Yesterday I visited a lawyer man.  If my book gets a contract, I figure I’ll need someone to read it over.  This fellow came highly recommended from several contacts in the N.C. intellectual property rights world. 

         He asked me what my literary influences were.  He was a very worldly man.  He knew many smart and artistic people.  He’d played golf all over the world.  I hated to admit all I ever played was River Run, and Harvey Country Club every so often on an invite.

        I thought about his question a long time.  I hated to appear to be too country, but then again I guess you have to be what you are, and can’t change it.

        “Well, my agent always says the King James is the bedrock of Southern Literature and I am a Southern writer, or at least want to be.  I agree with him on that.  My mama taught me to love and respect the King James, so I gotta go with that first.”

         “Anything else?”

        “Hmn.  How can you not like Conroy or Grisham?  If 1% of those readers thought I was any good I’d be satisfied.  Heck, I like Jimmy Buffett, too.”

        “Yes, I also find Warren’s financial advice to be excellent.”

         “Warren?  Oh no, not Warren.  I’m talking about Jimmy Buffett.  You know; like ‘Cheeseburger in Paradise’ Buffett.”

         “Pardon?”  He looked over my resume again.  “What kind of doctor did you say you were?”

        “Country Doctor.  I swear man, I am for real.”

        “I see.   And your literary influences again?”  

        “O.K.  How ’bout Twain, too?  I like him a bunch.  My agent says you have to write about conflict.  How could there be any more conflict than  that?  The King James is all about God, and Mark Twain is well…. uh…..let’s just say he was a bit mischievous.  Ain’t that the human conflict?  After all, Jesus was the only human I know who could live like God.  The rest of us are more inclined to live like Twain.”

          He smiled.  “I suppose so.  I like a story with symbolism.”  He opened up my box and pulled out the manuscript.  “O.K. if I read it?”

         “Sure.  I figure if you’re gonna sign up to be my lawyer on this thing you’ll have to whether you want to or not.”

        “Tell you what Doc.  I’ll say yes on faith.  If your agent lands a contract, I’ll be your lawyer.”


        “Say you play golf?”

        “Yes sir.”

        “What’s your handicap?”

       “Seven.  Ask your colleague Martin Taylor for a reference.  He’s a six.  I can play to it, at least with a month’s practice.  Got a bit of rust on the game from all the work on the book.”

        “Seven.  Good.  Can you play in a tournament next month?  I want you on my team.  It’s worth 10% off your first bill.


       “Now I have to warn you.  We’ll bet some. “

        “That’s O.K.  Just don’t tell my mama.  She’ll think I’ve been reading that Twain guy again.  I promised her I’d put the King James first.”

        “O.K. Doc.  I promise.  We’re on. “

        I better go hit some practice balls.  I don’t think it’d be too good to lose a bunch of money for this cat right off the bat.  One thing about lawyers; they all seems to understand money.

Dr. B

The Coffee Song Contest

February 16, 2009

        This is the coolest thing I have ever run into.  A couple blogs ago I posted the ‘Coffee Song.’  I came up with some words and a melody, then posted the lyrics.

        The next thing I know a fellow blogger, a Paramedic who goes by MM, sent me his version of it.  I was shocked how close his interpretation was to what I had in my head.

       I thought it would be fun to see what other versions people might come up with.  I have this intellectual property rights lawyer cat who deals with all this so I can just have fun, and the song is BMI registered, though under my songwriter pen name.  MM recognized all that in his e-mail; like me he’s just having a bunch of fun with life, and asked if he could send in his version.  I dug it.  

        Along the way I have had a few tunes recorded by professional bluegrass bands.  So with all that is mind I think I’ll open my first contest, and do so in honor of MM.  Send in your version and if anyone records it, I’ll make sure the person who inspires them to record the tune gets mentioned in the liner notes on the CD.

         You might think all this is far fetched, but I know a bunch of these bands on a first name basis.  And, the fact is there are already two food outfits who sponsor touring bluegrass bands.  The oldest tradition is with Martha White Flour, which first sponsored Flatt and Scruggs, and now Rhonda Vincent.  The newest one is Mayberry Foods, which sponsors the Grascals.  (Lead singer Terry Eldridge endorses Viagra, but that is another story.  My wife says Seldom Scene needs to go for Cialis; Ben Eldridge does a fine version of ‘Lay Down Sally.’) 

        I’ve got some age on me, and I’m more of the Folger’s vintage these days, so who knows?  Maybe someone will record the ‘Coffee Song’ and tour around the country in the Folger’s or Maxwell House bus.

        By the way, what is it with paramedics and music?  I played with one this weekend who could saw the fire out of a fiddle.  I think they are like old Docs and music helps them deal with the tragedy they see on a regular basis. 

        Anyway, you can hear his version by clicking on his comment.  His is the first one up, so this post is in honor of MM.  Very cool.

        Send in your version.  Maybe it will be good for a few minutes of fame on some bluegrass CD liner notes or a ride to a concert on the corporate bus one day.

Dr. B

Saturday Bluegrass First Class

February 15, 2009

       Saturday I realized I had blended into the crowd well.  One fellow came up and said he loved my mandolin playing, but called me Bill.  I guess Bill looks like Dr. B and was a heck of a player.  The event promoter Milton Harkey said from the stage my article in the Laurel of Asheville was a big success.  He did not realize I had bought a ticket and was in the audience.  When somebody talks nice about you and you aren’t even there, that is extra special.

        The talent level was equal to Friday.  Asheville’s own Balsam Range packed the house with the weekend’s biggest crowd, and played the hometown folks into a frenzy.  Junior Sisk sang old time authentic bluegrass and Wyatt Rice played modern flat-pick as only the Rice boys can do.  

        Sierra Hull, the precocious young lady of the mandolin, is only a teenager, but is a marvelous performer for any age.  She doesn’t need much help, but Ron Block (of Alison Krauss fame) produced Ms. Hull’s record, and played guitar and banjo and sang with her in Asheville.  Mr. Block has long been one of my favorites.  His work is both of style and substance. The man has a passion for what he does, and is not just going through the motions.  He could have just as easily retired for the evening, but I noticed he stayed late to share some thoughts with a few of the young pickers who hung around after the show.  They will do well to pay attention to his advice.  Ron Block still works at his craft every day to be the best he can, and believe me he is already very good!

        As I type it is 12 bells, (eight bells military) but there is a jam session next door, so I’m gonna split and check for typos in the morning.  As keepbreathing would say, someone get the coffee pot ready; morning is not far away.

Dr. B

Coffee Song

February 14, 2009

       Last night’s jam session brought these words to mind.  (Bluegrass people love coffee)


Coffee Song


Cook up the morning coffee, and not the decaf kind

I don’t care what brand’s on hand as long as it satisfies

For to percolate right after playing all night

And keep the cobwebs from my mind

It seems to be it’ll have to be that high test blend of mine


Two more cups of coffee,  and I’ll be good to go

Put on another pot of that mud, in hopes that I might know

How to find a way to start my day and go where I need to go

Two more cups of coffee and I’ll be good to go


Some folks always ruin the taste by doctoring with sugar and cream

Or add some new-fangled flavor they’ve found

Like nothing I’ve ever seen

Special moments for me can simply be poured up from an old tin can

So make mine straight, stout and black and as strong as you can stand



Some folks say if you drink too much

It might be bad for you

But Doc won’t leave the house for work without he has a cup or two

It keeps you alert, helps the brain, and circulation too

So pour me up more java mama and I’ll be good as new

Dr. B    (BMI)

Bluegrass First Class 2009

February 13, 2009

        I’ve been around bluegrass a while.  At BGFC everyone gets a name tag. When I checked in to the show mine read, ‘Dr. B,’ and that was it.  No full name needed for old Doc.

        The first band we saw was the Snyder family.  They are mere children, but these kids could play.  There is a reason Jethro Burns said never follow small children or dancing animals.  It is a bit embarrassing for them to be so young and that good, but I was proud for them.  I found out we are on on a show with them in the fall.  It will be good to see them again, but I hope we don’t have to follow them.

        The Grascals might be the most entertaining band in bluegrass.  They got their start as Dolly Parton’s band for a couple years, so they learned from the best.  Terry Eldridge is part bluegrass and part old-time country singer, and Jamie Johnson sees to it the audience has a better day than before they got there.  Big stars like Earl Scruggs, George Jones, and the Osborne Brothers are singing their praises.   

        Kristin Scott Benson is the new banjo player for the group.  She is IBMA bluegrass banjo player of the year.  About the only drawback for the Grascals is the boys are just not quite as good looking as they were before Kristin showed up.  She is not just a pretty face; the kid can play the breakdowns or the slow tunes as well as any man alive.  I especially like the way she bends the strings on bluesy numbers like ‘Keep Me from Blowing Away’ or ‘Hard Times.’  That kind of soul can’t be taught, at least not overnight.

        The Grascals new project came out in LP vinyl.  I like that; all warm and analogue with pops and hisses when the record gets worn a bit. 

        III Tyme Out has been a favorite for years.  If I was on death row, and could only sing harmony with one last cat, it would be Russell Moore.  And Wayne Benson is one of my two favorite mandolin players in the world.  Their song ‘Erase the Miles’ is a work of art you should not miss. 

        Seldom Scene out of Washington, D.C. closed out the first night.  The quintessential bluegrass party band, they sprinkle in off-beat political commentary with perfect harmony singing.  (Example:  Roe vs. Wade:  two ways to cross the Potomac.) 

        The Scene always put in the mood to play, and there is a jam session in every hall, so me and my mandolin are gonna go.  I’ll report back to you after some morning coffee.

Dr. B