Archive for the ‘Advice- Five Cents’ category

Almost ‘Bout Perfect Life

October 5, 2011

        Except for the fact I have a brain tumor to beat I would say my life is about perfect. I still get to see my patients, at least on a limited advisory role basis, I write, and as one of the few mandolin guys in town who isn’t on the road I get called to do enough gigs to keep me happy. 

        Take today for example. I practiced with my wife’s band, “Guitar-ed and Feathered.” They have a Sunday School supper coming up and a fund-raiser for a patient (some of my specialities) and I’m gonna play on what Wayne Benson once called “the husband rate.” I think every band needs at least one female, and they have  a whole group. They sing and play well, they make great snacks, don’t chew tobacco, and remember everyone’s birthday. Tis much different from when you play with the boys. 

        I have great life; ’bout near perfect. My wife lets me play all the music I want with pretty ladies as long as I am loyal and faithful to one woman, an easy bargain to keep. (Forever is forever to us, and will be in Eternity too)

        Y’all take it from old Doc and cherish every day the Lord gives ya.  Play hard!

Dr. B


And You Are The Lucky Winner!

February 9, 2011

        Years ago my son and I were at a mall, and he spotted a contest. To enter all you had to do was write a short essay on why you should win, and complete a brief demographic data sheet. The winner got a free weekend at a fancy resort.

        I helped him fill his out. We said he was a thirty-seven year old married executive who made 500 thousand dollars a years. He drove a Porsche car, loved to travel, visited Europe once a year, and enjoyed fine wine. He owned some beach property in S.C.

       I filled mine out and said I really hoped I could win this vacation. I had a bad back and was on disability. I was on the verge of bankruptcy and in poor heath. I’d always wanted to go to the beach but never could afford to go.

          My boy was only about thirteen at the time. “Why’d you lie to ’em Dad? Ain’t nothing wrong with you. And I’m not rich like the way you filled that out.”

        “I wanted to see who’d win.”

        I know you’re not surprised he won the contest. I never heard a word from them. He declined to accept. “They’re just trying to sell me something aren’t they, Dad ?”

        “Son, when a perfect stranger offers to give you something for free, beware.”

        He’s a fine young man who learned his lessons very well before he left the nest. I’m proud of the boy. A lot of young’uns think their parents are dumb. Ours never did.

Dr. B

Why Me and My Agent Get Along

May 30, 2010

        Since I signed me and my agent have gotten along just fine. I told him as long as he didn’t threaten to sue me or shoot me we’d be okay. I wasn’t afraid of constructive criticism. If a patient is scared to tell me they aren’t happy how am I gonna know it ain’t going well?

        He was not one bit shy to tell me a passage didn’t work and the MS began to tighten up.  He led the search for an editor. Together we got it down to three national level players but he refused to choose for me. “You’ve got to pick the one you think will be the best fit. I can’t do it for you.” 

       There were all good, but my heart said Dorrie. It was a good pick. She made my voice stronger, but never strangled it. For all the rewrites, I was always the author. I didn’t want a ghost writer and neither did she. “Besides,” she said. “If I wrote a single phrase it’d stick out like a sore thumb. No one writes like you.” (I guess it was a compliment)

       Together my agent and I began to place  a few articles. He landed some and I got a couple paying gigs too. I have one in “Bluegrass Unlimited” this month 2010 I am extra proud of ’cause it is on some of my N.C. people, Darin and Brooke Aldridge. (it’s in the June 2010 edition page 32 if y’all are dying to read it)

        But here’s why my agent and I get along. As true southerners always do I’ll have to tell you a story to make my point.

        Years ago the pro golf tour was a lot harder than what it is now. Most of the pros had to have a few side gigs to stay afloat. (Sort of like writers.) Bill and his buddy Doug struggled. They missed more than one meal and traveled the back roads on half-bald tires. 

        One New Year’s they made a resolution. They agreed on a percentage ahead of time and vowed to send the other man his cut of the winnings regardless of where they made the money. At the end of the year they’d decide if they were better off together or alone.

        It was easy enough to keep up with official winnings, but that was not how they survived. Sometimes late at night an envelope would slide under Bill’s door in some seedy roadside motel. When he got up the next morning he’d find it and smile. Inside there were always several crumpled up bills, but never a receipt.”Dougie must have played poker last night.”

       Bill did the same. At the end of the year they renewed on a handshake.

       When I signed with my agent, I remembered Bill and Doug. If I found an assignment on my own, I sent my agent his cut whether he knew of the article or not. When I made “official” money and it went through him, he put my share in the mail the next morning. It’s tough for a writer to survive and the agent’s life is no walk in the park either.  At the end of the first year we renewed on a handshake too. We were better off together than alone.

        Bill and Doug never got rich or famous, but they stayed loyal. They’re still friends too. I figure if me and my agent can stay that way in as tough a biz as this writer gig is we’ve done something right.

        Besides, the way I see it, what’s he gonna do? Who’d fire someone in the art world who sends money?

Dr. B

Aim Towards the Trouble And Fade Away

March 20, 2010

       They say golf has lessons for life.  If nothing else, it is a game where an old guy can hang with a young one if he has enough sense to keep his head on straight.

        We have one hole at River Run that looks straight forward. It isn’t.  You almost can’t hit it far enough right to get out-of-bounds. If you are in by even a foot, the slope will send the ball back towards the fairway.

        There’s only one problem.  If you hit a draw (right to left shot) and over-cook it even a little it will keep going left.  Eight times out of ten the ball will wind up in a deep gully on the left side of the fairway.

        Instead hit a power fade. (left to right)  It is a shot I learned from Martin Taylor. You take dead aim at the hazard and hit towards it. Just as the gully thinks it has lured you in, your ball will take a gentle turn to the right, hit in the fairway, and stop after a couple bounces.  It won’t run away with you ’cause it will be buffered by the same slope that would have led your hook to trouble. (As Lee Trevino once said, you can talk to a fade but a hook won’t listen.)

       I tell you this not to write about golf, but for two reasons. One is to say that golf is indeed much like life. You have to use your brain to negotiate your way around trouble. The other is so when the non-golfer reads “The Mandolin Case” they will understand some passages that might go right by the reader who has never read my blog.  If you’ve been loyal enough to read all my stuff before the book comes out, you deserve a leg up on the others. 

        Yep, golf does reflect life. When trouble comes your way, you have to look it right in the eye and stare it down. Then, like a matador with a cape take a step to the right just at the last moment. The bad guys will crash almost every time.

        At the same time, only let them get a glimpse. Don’t hit close enough for ’em to read the “Titelist” as it goes by. I hit a Martin Taylor fade the other day and wound up center cut. I walked by the gully; tipped my hat, smiled and bid it a good day.

       I’ll have to dodge that gully again and I wasn’t gonna piss it off too bad. No use cussing it if you can dodge it. 

        Oh, I almost forgot to tell you how to hit the shot.  Take your grip and down look at it on the club.  If more than 2 1/2 knuckles show on your left hand, turn it to the left every so slightly.  (Remember golf is like life; backwards. Turn your left hand to the left to hit the ball right, right?) Then set up with your feet pointed left of the sprinkler line.

        Golf’s much like dancing. Think rhythm, as is Lawrence Welk. (A one and a two and a…)  Then all you gotta do is swing along the line of your toes and imagine tossing a bucket of water out to the right and not back over your shoulder. 

        Trust me, the ball will curve from left to right.  Just don’t double cross it. That’s a no-no. That’ll put you deep in the gully and they’ll get you for that every time.

Dr. B

The Creative Mid-Life Crisis

March 5, 2010

        Indie used to say what was wrong was docs was they saw and heard too much.  “We see all this crap and we can’t tell,” he’d say.  “Doctors stuff it all deep down inside, and it has to come out.  That’s why me and you play music.”

        Indie said we played to keep from going crazy, and he always encouraged me to keep at it.  “Bibey, you’re such a d@^# Boy Scout.”  He’d flick a cigarette ash off to the side.  “You don’t need to wind up like me; too much Jimmy Beam, boy.”

        Indie was the most honest doc I ever knew, and I wanted to be just like him.  But when someone came up and offered me a Mason jar of white liquor, he’d shoo them away.  “That’s my doctor, I want him to keep his brain cells.”

        Indie was right about what we see.  It has to come out somehow.  For him it was the fiddle, Camels, and Jimmy Beam, although he remained not only functional but wise to the end. 

        I’ve seen guys who got to my age and went plum crazy.  Some decided they were an overnight expert in the restaurant business and got hosed good.  I knew a few who got hooked on pills (we call it eating the mail, ie samples) and others ran off with some girl half their age.  Now they have toddlers and an angry wife who can’t understand why they are so sluggish.  (It’s ’cause they are old.)

        I knew I had to be more innovative than just do the same old thing that had been done so many times before. My book is my creative mid-life crisis.  I never forget Indie’s lessons. It did have to come out, but it had to be the right way.  That’s why it had to be fiction.  No names, no facts, all truth. If I wrote what I know in a factual way, I would have a swarm of lawyers at my door Monday morning.  Indie taught me better, and that isn’t gonna happen.  I’ve been a doc too long to have to go to work for a living now.

        There’s a reason you don’t see too many doctor books.  Indie is correct. We are taught to stuff it all deep inside, never let it out, and take it to the grave.  I’ve always been one to go against the grain, so this is one time that ain’t gonna happen either.  I didn’t think that was healthy, and besides I thought my non-doctor friends needed to know what really goes on. So, I’m gonna tell.

        I know my story is gonna make a lot of rich people very unhappy, but I don’t care.  I think it’s not a bad mid-life crisis and I’m gonna stick with it till the end.  If I took up drinking now, Indie’ll be mad at me when I get to Heaven, and I don’t want to disappoint him or God either one. 

Dr. B

Flipping Burgers, Doctoring, The Writer Gig and Stephen King

December 28, 2009

        My daughter got me Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ For Christmas.  I started right after the evening news, and finished before ten o’clock.   (Mama put me in a speed reading course years ago which is how I wound up in medical school.)  Now I plan to go back and digest it.  It is worthy of more than one cruise through.  As I read back through again I’ll tell you much more about his book.

        In medicine, we say things come in threes.  Before I read this I had two writer books I considered essential.  One was ‘The Elements of Style.’  The other was ‘Self Editing for Fiction Writers,’ which my agent made me do a book report on before he would agree to take me on. Now I have three.

        ‘On Writing’ is not a ‘how to become a rich and famous writer’ self-help book.  It could not be that because Mr. King writes the truth, and insists we do the same.  Instead it is a detailed story of the process he went through to learn his craft.  It was so similar to my own saga it was eerie.  I bet the same holds true for every writer ever published.

        Not long ago I watched a documentary on Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s.  Mr. Thomas didn’t learn his profession to become rich.  He just wanted to be his best.  He started out as a teenager and got his first job because he impressed a restaurant owner he would start with the basics and learn it from the bus boy position on up.  He never forgot the fundamentals.  If you cook a lousy hamburger no one will buy it.  If you write a lousy story no one will read it. 

        When I started med school, I was determined to learn every possible nuance of the profession and be my best at that too.  Getting rich never was part of the equation.  (I also made that goal and didn’t get rich.)  Like Mr. Thomas and Mr. King, I stuck with the basics.  To this day I try to hear out every patient’s story.  If I don’t understand it 100% then I try to find them some more help. 

        Who’d want a doc that looked at it any other way?  I’m proud to say I don’t consider my patient as a financial opportunity.  If I ever do, I’ll quit and pray for forgiveness right away.  I’d be scared I might die before I settled up on the score and wind up in hell for such a sin.

        I want you to know I don’t consider my reader a financial opportunity either, although I hope enough of you buy my book to where they’ll let me write another one.  I view my reader as someone to bounce ideas off of; someone to laugh and cry with and try to make some sense out of this crazy a^^ world.  Mr. King talks in ‘On Writing’ about the IR, or ‘Ideal Reader.’  As he writes he tries to envision how some passages might bring tears to the IR while other words bring hope.  He wonders if his work will resonate with the IR and if they cry at the same places in the story he does as he writes it.  I wonder the same thing.   Like the doc gig, it ain’t about money, it’s about communication.  I hope I did my job.  If I didn’t, I’ll work some more.

        Mr. King has made a bunch of money but in his book he says not a single word was written with that as his motive.  I believe him.  His story rings too true for it to be otherwise.

        In music we have a phenomenon called cross-over appeal.  It is a great thing to have a fine bluegrass record, but if the project has the potential to attract other genres, then there is always an extra buzz at the record label.  “Hey dude, this one is special.  I can hear it on public radio and Sirius, but also commercial country, Americana, and gospel.  Who are these guys?”

        Of course, Mr. King is no unknown, but his book has a similar cross-over appeal for other disciplines.  Not only is it a good book for writers, but the same lessons are applicable for flipping hamburgers or the doctor life.  I suspect they hold true in most artistic endeavors, and many business ones.  I know it applies to the music biz.

        I came away from my first read encouraged.  Other than some fifty best sellers and millions of dollars, I’m not one bit different from Mr. King.  I can see myself in every milestone of his journey even though I’m still only a step past the stack of rejection letters he used to keep on a spike by his bed.

       Even though I finished his book, in real life I’d say I’m only about half way through the process, but I’ll get there.  I ain’t Stephen King.  I’m only Tommy Bibey, but like Mr. King I have a story I have to tell, and there is no way I could ever stop.

        Mr. King’s book does show the process takes a lot of time.  I consider myself lucky.  I’ve got a day job as a doc I love, so I don’t figure I’ll be flipping burgers any time soon, though Mr. Thomas showed there is nothing wrong with that.  In fact, I suspect Mr. Thomas did better than me and Mr. King put together.  I’m certain he dispensed a whole heap more burgers than I did medical advice.   That’s okay, and I’m not jealous or envious.  We all gotta be what we are and I got to be me the whole way.  I wasn’t perfect but I liked me okay.

        I’ve reached  the stage in life where all I do is walk around and be Dr. B, and at the end of the month someone sends a check.  I’m that way with my music too.  I’ll do the same with my writing and see what happens.  It’s like my Dad told me.  “Son, don’t get into anything for the money, but because you love it.”  I better stick with the doctor gig, picking my mandolin, and physician bluegrass fiction.  Old Dad was right, I love that life. 

        Besides, it is all I know.  Mr. King said what you know was the best thing to write about, at least if you are a novice like me.  My agent told me the same thing.  As Jerry Clower said, “if you hear it twice it’s scripture.”

        So there you go.  Mr. King says it is true, and so does Jerry Clower.  My agent agrees with them.  If it’s scripture it can be traced back to the King James and the King James is the bedrock of Southern Literature; my agent told me that too.  

        A good Southern boy will never go against the Bible, so I better keep on writing.  But for now on this Monday morning it’s back to doctoring.  Gotta write about what I know, and the doc gig is a big part of it.

Dr. B

Sound HealthCare For Musicians

October 12, 2009


        First of all, the disclaimer.  One reason I like my blog is it is mine.  It has zero commercial influence other than I want to tell people about bands and artists I like, and I hope someday I will be able to advertise my book.  I accept no advertisement money.  That way I can write whatever I think and don’t have to answer to anyone but my readers, myself, and the Good Lord.  

        So with that intro, I want to tell you about a project I got interested in at an IBMA conference.  It is called Sound HeathCare.  They are not an insurance company, but they are in the heath insurance business.  

        For some time now I have worried about the lack of affordable health insurance for my musician friends.  I recall years ago when the Nashville Bluegrass Band was involved in an accident.  My first reaction was fear for their well being, but it was followed up with concern for their medical bills.  That was a while back and things are even more expensive now.

        I believe it was one of the Renos who said you don’t know about overhead until your diesel fuel bill runs in the tens of thousands of dollars.  Many working bands can’t add on the expense of independent health insurance and stay out on the road.

        An additional problem is the lack of portability.  One musician at the conference told us about the day he had a heart attack.  He was first seen in the state where he had insurance, but they flew him out to a Medical Center across the state line.  His inital bills were paid by his insurance, but the expensive work at the second facility was not covered on his policy.  His out of pocket expense was thousands of dollars.

        I realized the plight of the uninsured musician years ago, and began to write the IBMA of my concerns.  I suspect they heard from a lot of folks, because they listened.  They found a group called Sound HeathCare who now brokers insurance for their members.  Sound HeathCare made a presentation at the IBMA business convention. In my humble opinion as a country doc who loves bluegrass music and the folks who play it, they are a group we need to listen to.

        They are not an insurance company.  They are a broker for health insurance and specialize in musicians.  In fact, the CEO and founding partner, Mr. R.J. Stillwell, is a former touring musician himself.

        The fact they are a broker is very important.  In this role we are given some leverage.  There is very little we as individuals can do to negotiate with a big insurance company.  Private health insurance without a broker is a take it or leave it proposition, and on their terms only.

        The equation changes with a broker.  Sound HeathCare has the power to bring large groups of people to the table.  (They were selected by the CMA first and then the IBMA followed suit)  They broker health insurance for these and other music organizations.  The very important point is this:  Because they represent a large number of people, they can hold the insurance company’s feet to the fire.  If one company gets too high-handed they can ditch them.  They can’t bring these giant companies to their knees, but they can at least make them listen to our collective voice or lose the business of a very large number of customers.        

        Believe me, the insurance companies will listen if the people are empowered.  Malpractice insurance is very expensive, but because of a co-op we formed as docs, we have been able to command significant discounts.  We deal with a good company, but they can not afford to become too expensive or unresponsive.  If they did so, our broker might shop around.  Sound Health Care can take advantage of this same dynamic when they deal with the insurance companies who provide your health insurance.

        They also have tackled the other major significant obstacle for a touring musician.  Their coverage is portable.  In other words, they only broker with companies who offer insurance that is accepted on a national basis.  I have often worried my friends who have good insurance that serves them well at home in the Carolinas could have a stroke way out west and be out of luck.  The gentleman in the audience who had a heart attack is a great example, and he only crossed one state line.  Heck, many of the musicians I know travel that far before lunch!  Because the executives of SoundHeath Care are musicians themselves they not only understand this problem, but have dealt with it for their own families.

       As I said, this is not a paid advertisement.  I only know what I learned in a one hour seminar at the IBMA, but I like what I heard.  The company is relatively new (three of four years I think) but I believe they are here to stay because they address fundamental concepts that speak to the specific needs of working musicians. 

        My advice is this.  If you have good health insurance that is portable and affordable, hold onto it.  If you don’t have that kind of coverage, check out Sound HealthCare.  One thing is certain.  I know you remember the old saying, “Don’t leave home without it.”  I hope you guys will do what you can to not go out on the road without health insurance.  One catastrophe could sink you for life. 

        If you are in my neck of the woods, I’d give you the bluegrass discount, but there aren’t enough bluegrass docs out there, and I want to see my favorite people be taken care of fairly.  No one is going to conquer the heath insurance quagmire overnight, but I believe Sound HeathCare is at least headed in the right direction.

Their website is:

Dr. B

Never Laugh….Dreams Come True

August 22, 2009

        I cleaned up my office study the other day.  I do this every few years whether it needs it or not.  I ran across a small slip of paper that looked like a fortune cookie.  Someone gave it to me me years ago as a  note of encouragement.  It was from back when I first started on my book.

        The message read, “Never laugh at anyone’s dreams.”

        I smiled and recalled that day.  It was from a pal of mine who has a saying I love.  “A true friend is never jealous or envious.”  This buddy of mine is a very successful man.  All through all the ups and downs of life he has always encouraged me, and hoped I’d see the best life has to offer.  I’ve done the same with him.  If my book is well received he’ll be just as happy as it it’d been him, and if his business were to grow in this tough economy nothing would thrill me more.

        My wife and children have always supported my every dream and I have theirs too.  Over the years when I straighten up my study, I’ll find messages from my wife cheering me on, or scribbled notes from my children from the hard days when I started my medical practice.  “You can do it, Dad,’  from my boy.  Or “I love you, Daddy”  from my daughter, complete with a stick drawing of a little girl with glitter sparkles in her hair.  My dream was to live a life of grace and dignity and they made it possible.  They never laughed at my dreams, but did their best to help make them come true.  I hope I did as well by them.

        As I close in on publication of my book, I want to thank all you guys.  You never laughed at my dreams, and I love my readers for it.  I hope someday my wife and I will meet you at one of my book store gigs, and play you a song and share some stories.  You listened to my dreams, and as a writer it kept me going.  

        I want to hear your dreams too, and I hope you will share them with me.  After all, as my buddy says, “true friends are never jealous or envious,” and I pray you’ll see all your dreams come true too.  

Dr. B

Who Needs a Name Tag!?

May 15, 2009

        We got a notice the other day that the State Board is spot checking to be sure all the Docs wear their name tags.

        I understand where that comes from (I guess) because there are impostors out there, but it does seem they should have better things to do.  Here in Harvey County if I was to go rob a bank, the teller would say, “Well for Heaven’s sake Dr. B, you know Mr. Henry will give you a loan.  There ain’t no need for that.  Hey, can you see mama today?  Her neuralgia is flaring up.”

          And so it goes.  One time the Board issued a position statement that ‘providers’ should not treat friends and family.  Well, after twenty-five years here in the County just who the hell do they think I’m gonna treat?

          I went to medical school with a guy whose dream was to be on that Board.  I don’t know if he ever got there or not, but he had the clear perception he was a superior human being who needed to micromanage the lives of others.

          I know the Board does some important things, and I am confident I do not understand all their responsibilities.  But, I’d like to make a them a deal.  As soon as they stamp out Docs who trade drugs for sex, or sleep with little intern girls then hide behind some technicality, for that matter as soon as they insist all Docs treat their people with respect and dignity without fail, then by God I’ll make sure I wear my name tag every single day.

         I don’t know what to do about the family and friends thing, though.  That’s all the patients I have and I have no idea where they would go to get medical care.

Dr. B

A Sad Story

February 3, 2009

        Years ago I was the only Doc at the office one Thursday when a man came in.  He had a sad story.  His wife was dying of cancer.  She was at one of the big University Hospitals, and there was no more they could do.  They were going to send her home, and Hospice would see her through her last days. 

        The man had been at her bedside around the clock.  In all the turmoil, he overlooked his utility bill at the house, and they had turned off the power.   He had left his checkbook at the Medical Center.  The receptionist pulled his chart and confirmed he was a patient at the practice, though he had not been in for a visit in a year or so.  He asked if we would loan him fifty dollars to get his power turned back on.  One of my staff members came to me in tears and told me the whole story in between patients.  

        I was a young Doc at the time.  I could see the staff looked to me to do the right thing.  They felt sorry for this guy, and I did too, but some of it didn’t ring true.  I heard him out for a minute, and made a decision. 

        “Cut him a check to the Power Company for fifty bucks.  I hate for him to be put out.”

        “Yes sir.”

        You know what happened next.  It wasn’t but fifteen minutes when the Power Company called.  “Hey Doc, do you want us to cash this check for this guy?”

        “No, it’s O.K.  Void it.”

         Turned out he was going from one business to another and had gathered up money at several stops.  Not only did his wife not have cancer, but he was not married.  I called his last employer to see if he remembered the man.

           Boy did he.  “Doc, you hold on to that S.O.B.  I’m gonna come over there and tie a cinder block around his leg and throw him in the Neuse.”  The man had stolen all kinds of equipment from Roy’s construction company.  I was glad the man was already gone.  Roy was law abiding, and didn’t need to buy trouble.   

           I have seen several scams play out, and over time I’ll tell you of some of them.  These guys have already cased the situation before they make a move.  They often target the helping professions such as Docs or Vets, because they know folks that work there are often kind hearted idealists, so watch out for them.

Dr. B