Archive for March 2011

Busy Busy Busy Life

March 28, 2011

        One time years ago I had a med student come through who said he’d never met anyone who worked and played as hard as I did, and that he needed to go back to the Medical Center and get some rest. I’ve been like this for a long time.

       My agent says art should have the symmetry of threes, and I find that is right. My current projects include the novel”Acquisition Syndrome” subtitled “From Healing Art to Business,” and a children’s mandolin book that explores light and sound. The tentative title is “Grandpa’s Mandolin Book”and it is in honor of our grandchild due this fall. In a few weeks I plan to start a mandolin duet CD with Darin Aldridge.

       This weekend I caught up on medical journals, and I’m still a doc, so it a busy, busy, busy, life. My blog posts may be a bit shorter for a while until I catch up, but stick with me. I’m here to stay. 

        Someone asked why I write. The short answer is because in it I find the renewal of youth. At an age where a lot of folks think they have seen it all and no wonder is left as a writer each day is as exploration as new as when a kid sticks his toes in the ocean for the first time. When I was a child Mama said I couldn’t stand to be bored for a minute. As a long past middle-aged Doc (my young readers fuss if I say I’m old) writing has saved me from that fate.

        Mama always was right.

Dr. B


The ABCs of Talent

March 25, 2011

        My wife has a saying I like: “There’s no such thing as talent.”

        I always say that’s ’cause she’s been hanging out with me all these years, but I’m just kidding. What she means, and I think she is correct, is talent is not innate; it is learned. Every good musician you see has invested a lot of time along the way.

        I had a motto in med school; live by the ABCs. If I only reviewed the material once, I’d make a “C.” Twice was good for a”B,” and three times through would net an “A.”  I was an “A, B” kinda guy. If I’d been smarter or had a thirty-six hour day, I coulda made all “As.” At least I didn’t settle for “Cs.” I wasn’t brilliant, but who’d want a Doc who was content to be average? 

        My music has been the same. I tape all my lessons and I am in the process of my second review. In keeping with the theme here, I would rate myself as a grade “B” mando pro. The guys at the top of the heap like my pals Darin Aldridge, Wayne Benson and “Cuz” Alan Bibey need not fear for their jobs, they are really good; “A+.” Heck, the little Moore Brothers can already outplay old Doc, and I’m proud of ’em for it.

        I don’t know what all this says about writing though; there the ABC rule seems not to apply. I know in “The Mandolin Case” I musta gone through thirty revisions before I presented to an editor, and it morphed several more times before it made it to print. Maybe as a writer I am slower or less talented. Perhaps it is just a more difficult discipline; I don’t know.

        I am sure of this, though; the book world belongs to the persistent. I’m making slow but steady progress on “Acquisition Syndrome.” Look for it sometime in 2012.

Dr. B

Bluegrass Disneyland in the Tobacco Triangle (How I Spent My Spring Break)

March 20, 2011

        It’s back to work Monday AM, but I’m recharged afer Spring Break. And no, we didn’t spend it at Daytona; for us it was “Bluegrass Disneyland” in the Tobacco Triangle. I guess a Doc who has spent a lifetime with books and music can’t change now.

       This gig got started because I wanted to go to a medical conference in Chapel Hill. I took in every lecture. As we say in bluegrass, the CD didn’t have a weak cut on it. So many talks these days seem tainted by modern influences of money, ego, or arrogance, but this was like a timeless book; a pure search for the medical truth as best we imperfect humans can interpret it. It was knowledge and teaching combined with social consciousness. And for a boy who grew up on grits and gravy, the Friday Center daily country cosmopolitan cuisine rocked. Five stars.

        Some time back, I met a U.N.C professor named William R. Ferris, who wrote the book “Give My Poor Heart Ease,” a story of the blues in Mississippi and beyond. He recommended I get up with Tommy Edwards the next time I was in Chapel Hill.

        “Of The Bluegrass Experience?” I asked.

        “That’s the one.”

        Well folks, if you want to take in Bluegrass Disneyland of the Tobacco Triangle, I recommend you hitch a ride on Tommy’s wagon. Your tour will take in places like The Q Shack, The Blue Note Grill, and The Pittsboro General Store. You’ll meet all kinds of fine pickers and true bluegrass folks. Tommy, along with guys like Snuffy and Leroy Savage, have kept the music going for almost a half century. If your travels take you to Chapel Hill, please don’t sit in a motel room and watch T.V re-runs, get out and see these guys play. They are real.

        Well, back to work. My posts may tend to run a bit shorter for a while. I’m head over heels into my second novel, “Acquisition Syndrome,” and I’m also at work on a children’s mandolin intro book I’ve dreamed up. I’ll keep you posted on these as they develop.

        And, I’m glad to go back to my patients too. In my prayers the Good Lord tells me it is fine to dabble in the arts so I can stay in the doc gig, but also to never forget my only real skill was to fill in all those little bubbles on computerized tests. If I was gonna be granted that gift and a subsequent lifetime of not working for a living, I’d better use it to help some people. I hope I have done some of that along the way. I sure did try, and I’m headed back to go at it again.      

       There is much more to tell you, and I will try to get to it all over the next few weeks. Talk to you soon.

Dr. B      

The Music Loft, Carrboro, N.C. 2:00 today

March 19, 2011

        Today at 2:00 I’ll be at the Music Loft in Carrboro, N.C. for a book signing. You never know how these things are gonna go. In the early days I did a book store gig and only three people walked in the whole time. We had a fun visit, and I’m proud to say they all bought a copy of “The Mandolin Case.” It was the only gig where I sold a book to every single person in the crowd.

        My poor agent often gets exasperated with me, ’cause I never have a set agenda. I get there, see what folks want to hear about and try to deliver. It’s part music, part country doctoring, and part physician bluegrass fiction, and of course I try to stay focused and tell people about the book. He went with me to one gig, and I got all engrossed in a hot jam session. After a while he came up to the stage and began waving his arms.

        “What’s the matter. boss?” I asked.

        “The book. The book. You haven’t told ’em about the book.”

        “The book? Oh yeah, the book.” I reached down, picked up the copy I had leaned up against the mic stand, and held it up for the crowd to see. “Hey y’all, I forgot to tell ya, I’m the guy who wrote the book.”

       It’s hard to turn a country boy into some kinda lit guru. All I can be is what I am. I don’t know how to be anything else, and I’m too old to change now.

       Y’all come visit if you get a chance. If you ever wanted to sit on the front porch and talk to a doc who ain’t in a hurry, today’d be a good’un.

Dr. B

An Upcoming Physician Bluegrass Fiction Tour Stop

March 13, 2011

        This week I have a Chapel Hill medical conference followed by a book signing at the Music Loft in Carrboro on Saturday March 19, 2:00 PM. In addition, I may have a radio slot to tell you about; more to follow on that.  

        I guess no one can say my gig is not unique. My life roles of Doc and bluegrasser are so intertwined deep in my soul they are inseparable. In chemistry I would be called a compound, “a substance formed by the combination of elements in fixed proportions,” and one which can not be separated.

        You are welcome to sign up for the Medical Conference if there are any more spaces available. It is at the Friday Center at U.N.C. this Wed-Friday, and promises to be a dandy. Then again, while it all fascinates me, I have found my friend’s eyes glaze over if I go on too long about new advances in angiotension receptor blocker hypertensive therapy for patients with concomitant chronic renal disease. 

        In truth my doctor brain can sometimes grow weary, and needs a periodic re-charge. That’s why I play and write. So, after the Doc conference I’ll be over at The Music Loft with “The Mandolin Case” at 2:00.

        If you live near Chapel Hill, I hope you’ll come visit. While you’re there if you need some new strings support your local music store and buy ’em at The Music Loft. If you buy anything in the store over fifteen bucks while I’m there, I’ll give you a three dollar discount on my book if you ask for ‘The Carolina Coupon.’ 

       So see ya there. Catch me on break at the Friday Center (Wed-Friday) for a cup of coffee and an animated discussion of state of the art treatment of thrombosed hemorrhoids, or come to The Music Loft Saturday and jam with me on “Jerusalem Ridge.” I’m at home in either venue.

        By day it’ll be the Doc gig, but by night keep a look out for Tommy Edwards, who played with “The Bluegrass Experience,” the 1972 Union Grove World Champion Bluegrass Band. I might jam a couple of tunes with him, and I’ve meant to have him autograph his “Collection” LP from back then for several decades now.

        I know that might be hard for the non-bluegrass world to understand, but as Lester Flatt said, “in this music you are in it for life.”  

Dr. B

Pythagoras’ Bluegrass Band

March 10, 2011

        You remember Pythagorus from high school? You just never know when these classic cats are gonna show up in your life again.

        Lately I’ve been on this Greek classic kick. Pythagoras examined the notion of balance way back then. He probably invented the diatonic scale, and the Greeks came to believe the intervals of the scale were in balance with the colors of the light spectrum. I guess instead of doe, re, mi, it woulda been red, orange, yellow, green, blue, etc. for them.

        Roy Husky Jr. was a great Nashville country/bluegrass bass player who heard notes in colors. He did not read music, not that he needed to. I think for Roy it was intuitive, but maybe he studied the ancient Greeks; I don’t know.

        I plan to study this issue more, but it does reinforce what my Lit agent once said, “Son, you must write what was true before you got here, what is true while you are here, and what will be true long after you’re gone.” I think he’s right. The Greeks understood balance and harmony in a more sophisticated way than many modern people. I plan to look into how they did it more depth over the next few months.

        I bet Pythagoras would have liked bluegrass for its harmony and balance, and my guess is he’d a hired Roy Huskey, Jr. for his band if they’d been around at the same time.

Dr. B

So Much For So Many By So Few – Quote of the Day

March 8, 2011

        I believe this was from Winston Churchill in WWII when the R.A.F. (Royal AirForce) held back the onslaught of the Germans.

        (paraphrased) “Never has so much been done for so many by so few with so little.”

        Although not to same heroic level, the same concept applies to a small band of primary care providers; doctors, extenders, nurses, and allied professionals. I’m not in education, but I bet they have similar issues. All kinda high paid consultants pontificate but don’t teach worry ’em to death.

        They remind me of the critics of the world; some guy who fancies himself as a music or golf expert but doesn’t play.

        I’d go on, but I’ll save it for ‘Acquistion Syndrome.” Gotta go to work.

        See ya,

Dr. B



Think Free

March 5, 2011

        Uncle Ted Lehmann wrote a recent post on social media and bluegrass I enjoyed. Here’s the link to his blog:

        It set me to thinking about why I write and why I love bluegrass music and the community that surrounds it. It’s because it gives me hope we can still think free. Perhaps I should say this is a dream or a prayer, but I hold it close with what last few betz cells I have not yet whitewashed by mainstream media pablum.

        Don’t believe me? When gifted, honest vocalists have trouble making a living and multimillion dollars news is an awards show singer’s arrival to the gala in a giant egg; a kid whose pitch can’t be saved by ProTools, well, I won’t go on….

        You see, bluegrass people are independent-minded to the point it hurts.  Dedicated, talented singers and instrumentalists journey on in hopes the world will understand in spite of near five dollar diesel fuel and sleepless nights. They don’t do it for money, I assure you.

        I remember when “managed care” came in years ago. I begged people not to sign on. Many said, “But they are gonna take care of us for free.”

       Back then I told my nurses all that was gonna happen was instead of a county doc making 2.5 times a school teacher salary (which is obscene in and of itself I admit) there are gonna be business guys who make millions of dollars a year off these poor patient’s misfortunes and then buy expensive TV ads to tell them how lucky they are to be ripped off. I used to go home and cry over it. I was way too independent (OK, call me ornery or stubborn if you like) to buy the line. I am sad to say those concerns panned out. My nurses would tell you the accuracy of those long ago predictions borders on spooky.

        Going back to bluegrass, I am not enough of an expert on the business end of the industry to make many accurate guesses as to what direction it might take. I hope social media can inject more money into the system but also hope that, unlike managed care, the money gets into the right hands. I don’t give a d@^! if some big biz record executive ever sees a fat bonus again, but if all my journeyman friends got to six figure salaries for a lifetime of study of their art and the kindness to share it with all of us despite the odds against them, then I’m all for it.

         Maybe social media will help, but let’s all be careful and responsible with it. I’m gonna use it to empower true music in what small ways I can. I recall the old days of Indie at Medical Staff meetings. Regardless of the nature of the problem at hand he’d sit back, listen to the entire argument, then light a cigarette and say, “Gentleman (I regret there were no lady docs on the Staff back then) I don’t know exactly what’s wrong here, but it has something to do with money.” He was never wrong.

        Y’all take care and play hard.

Dr. B

Samuel’s Kisses

March 2, 2011

        Back when I was writing “The Mandolin Case” an Australian author and editor named Karen Collum became a blog pal, a friend, and then a test reader for my book. She was quite helpful, and we’ve kept up with each other through the years.

       So, you can imagine how pleased I was when this little book showed up on my desk. “Samuel’s Kisses,” named for Karen’s son, is a children’s book. With a grandchild on the way you can be sure who I’ll read it to soon.

        Like children’s books should be it is a simple book. It shows that nothing is more special than child-like love. You hope you can raise ’em where they stay that way and never learn to hate.

        When this book came in my office staff read it and deemed it “precious.” Most of them are Moms so you know this is a good children’s story. Very cool.

       Congratulations Karen, and may many more follow.

Dr. B