It’s All In My Genes

Grandpa's Father's Band (1C)November 13, 2015

As I turn a rather significant milestone number on this date, oddly enough a Friday the 13th, I have begun thinking more and more about life. I have always been one to self-analyze, and events from forty years ago still haunt me to this day, however, lately I’ve been wondering how much my life could have been different, if not for just one or two events. Everything in life has a bearing on each individual’s outcome, and we all could say if only such-and-such hadn’t happened, or if I hadn’t met so-and-so, however the two events that could have greatly shaped my life only caused a much longer period of time for the events to come somewhat into fruition. Or maybe I’m just a late bloomer.

I never knew my father. My mother moved back home with her parents when she divorced him and lived with her father until he passed away sixteen years ago. My grandmother died in 1971, and Mom died maybe two years after Grandpa. All I knew about Grandpa’s musical background was that every once in a while when I was very young, he would get out his Old Kraftsman acoustic guitar that he bought from a Montgomery Ward catalog in 1942 and played and sang all those old-time songs like You Are My Sunshine. Grandpa always complained about his health, and once after listening to him talk one more time about not feeling well, I ask him if I could have his guitar when he died. I did not realize it at the time but this request would cause much trouble between me and all my siblings.

When I bought my first Stratocaster on my fortieth birthday, in the midst of a rather serve mid-life crisis that cost me everything, my next younger brother and an ex-brother-in-law would come out to my old farmhouse every other Saturday (with all three divorced, this worked out well for visitation with the children) and we would play all day, cook a big feast and have a great time. They both had been playing since they were teenagers. I would set the pace on rhythm and they would take turns on lead and vocals. This went on for five years until I finally lost the farmhouse and moved into an apartment fourteen years ago. At first, they would come out maybe once a year, then gradually less often.

That all ended some years back, mostly I believe because of Grandpa’s guitar. Willie, my ex-brother-in-law was killed about five ago when he was electrocuted at work and suffered a massive heart attack and died a week later. When I would tell friends about my playing it was always my two brothers, not an ex-brother-in-law. It was my guitars that gave me the will to live during my mid-crisis. And still do to this very day.

Getting back to the above photo, this is a photograph of my great-grandfather’s band. Looking at the photo, my great-grandfather is sitting in the front row, on the right side playing what looks like a G chord. I grew up living with Grandpa but never knew that photo existed until right before he died. After I asked for his guitar, my brother soon spoke up to request the photo.  When I first saw this photo, I ask Grandpa if they played bluegrass, since there were four mandolin players plus that crazy looking instrument in the front row, not to mention that Grandpa’s father side of the family comes from southern Ohio hill country. Grandpa let me know that they played country music, not bluegrass. It was like he was offended that I asked if they played bluegrass. If anything, they probably played a little of both. When my mother died, riding with my brother on the way to the cemetery, he told me that it was he that should have got Grandpa’s guitar. I told him that he should have ask for it. Fifteen years later, I believe the guitar lies at the heart of why I have nothing to do with any of my siblings.

However, it is on my father’s side of the family where the story get’s interesting. All I knew of the man was that he was a photographer in the Navy. I was born in the Portsmouth, Virginia Naval Hospital. I have an 8×10 photo he took of me when I was very young that I tried to recreate with my son. It is eerie to look at both photos side by side in a photo album. Somebody told me a few years back that he might have been a police photographer in Los Angeles. When Grandpa died, at one of his viewings, my father’s sister showed up, having seen the obituary in the paper. I spoke with her for five minutes and was amazed by what she told me. Not only was my father a photographer but their father had a darkroom in his basement. I do not remember if she told me he was a professional or just a very serious amateur. However, to have a darkroom in his basement, he was definitely serious about photography.

So, on one side of my family I have a grandfather and great-grandfather who were guitar players and on the other side I have a father and grandfather who were photographers. One look at my apartment and it’s easy to see why I have wall-to-wall guitars, amps, stereo speakers, PA system and 20×30 enlargements hanging on every conceivable wall space. In an even weirder occurrence, I bought my first 55 gallon fish tank back in 1982. But it was not until almost twenty years later that my mother thought to tell me that my father’s father also had fish tanks. I now have two 55 gallon tanks plus a 125 gallon tank. A few years back, I had a third 55 gallon tank in my kitchen and a 30 gallon tank in the bedroom.

Taking long walks down to my local library several times a week gives me plenty of time to think and reflect on many things. Reaching an age that I have yet to disclose and will not do so, I think about what could have been. If only I had Grandpa teach me to play the guitar when I was young. I loved rock & roll and thought those songs Grandpa played were as far apart as the aisle separating the two Houses of Congress. If only my mother and father hadn’t divorced and I grew up with a photographer for a dad and a grandfather who had a darkroom in his basement. I could have shot some great photos at all those concerts I’ve attended since the early ‘70s. It wasn’t until I got out of the Navy before I started shooting concerts, having bought my first 35mm SLR camera and lens while overseas right before I was discharged after serving four years. They outlawed cameras at concerts several years later. I wonder what might have been. It seems to me that I was born to play the guitar and take pictures. If only I had known.

I do regret that when young, I was too foolish to think that Grandpa played hillbilly music when I only wanted to rock. I only wish I was smart enough to have asked Grandpa to teach me how to play the guitar and teach me all those old-time songs. I can, however play You Are My Sunshine. Oh yeah, I turned 60. But, don’t tell anyone!!!

Steven H. Spring
Earth

 

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Breaking News

February 7, 2015

Last Saturday night, while plugged in with my new MXR Phase 90 phaser pedal with the #2 Virginia – #4 Duke basketball game playing on the television behind me, out of the corner of my eye big bold letters screamed Breaking News on the scrawl at the bottom of the screen. Since the game was on ESPN, this breaking news must be really important. It seemed Jerome Bettis had been elected into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame, located in Canton, Ohio. Stay tuned after the game for SportsCenter for the complete list we were told most likely every five minutes, as is the irritating routine of every television station that runs scrawl. Are you freakin’ kidding me? Breaking News? This should not be breaking news even to Pittsburgh Steelers fans.

I find it preposterous how often every television station abuses the breaking news headline. Local networks very often start their newscasts with breaking news. Isn’t this an oxymoron? MSNBC will continue reporting something as breaking news seven or eight hours after it was first reported. When exactly does a news event no longer constitute breaking news? I’m no newsman, but I would guess within an hour, maybe less.

I am a news and political junkie; however, I stopped watching local news many years ago because of their “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality. I will occasionally watch it for a weather report or if the Buckeyes have a big game coming up. The following is my mocking not only of Columbus, Ohio’s WBNS-TV station, but also that of every other television network, especially those twenty-four news channels, as they are all guilty of over-hyping any and all things in their lust to attract and kept their viewers glued to the screen. This commentary was first written as a letter to the program director of WBNS-TV maybe ten years ago. The names have not been changed to protect the innocent, but were the actual names of the WBNS news department staff at that time. However, most of those listed have since retired, or have moved on to another network.

With Aaron Copeland’s “Fanfare For The Common Man” blaring in the background, Dave Kaylor opens the evening newscast:

Dave Kaylor: This is WBNS 10TV’s 6:00 Eyewitness News. Hi! I’m Dave Kaylor in the 10TV Studio. The 10TV News starts now (loud music again blares)….

Angela Pace: But first Dave, our top story (loud music again)….

Andrea Cambern: Angela, we have this breaking news, Channel 10TV has just learned….

Dave Kaylor: Andrea, only on 10TV, tracking the storm is Channel 10TV Meteorologist Mike Davis, Mike.

Mike Davis: This is Mike Davis, Live Dual Doppler 10 Chief Meteorologist, in the Dual Doppler 10 Weather Center, Channel 10TV’s exclusive Live Dual Doppler 10 Radar has just….

Dave Kaylor: Mike, Channel 10TV Eyewitness News has this 10TV exclusive….

Angela Pace: Dave, we have new information on our lead story….

Andrea Cambern: This is Andrea Cambern with Health News (loud music again)….

Kim Adams: Andrea, this is Kim Adams with the Dual Doppler 10 Weather Team, Channel 10TV’s Live Dual Doppler 10 Travel Cast has just….

Angela Pace: But first Kim, we have this breaking news, Channel 10TV has just learned….

Dave Kaylor: Angela, new at 6 (incredibly, loud music once more)….

Andrea Cambern: Dave, as we first told you at noon, 5, and 5:30….

Chris Shumway: Andrea, the 10TV Live Dual Doppler Future Track has just….

Dave Kaylor: Chris, this just in….

Mike Davis: Dave, this is Mike Davis, here in Channel 10TV’s Weather Center, using exclusive Live Dual Doppler Radar, we have a Live Dual Doppler Forecast….

Angela Pace: Mike, breaking news at this hour….

Dave Kaylor: With a look at our Wake-up Forecast, here’s Channel 10TV’s Chief Meteorologist Mike Davis….

Angela Pace: Dave, WBNS Channel 10TV’s I Team has….

Andrea Cambern: Angela, making headlines tonight, only on 10TV….

Kim Adams: Andrea, Storm Tracker 10….

Dave Kaylor: Kim, with a look at what’s coming up at 11….

Angela Pace: Dave, that’s all the time we have. Goodnight from all of us here at WBNS Channel 10TV (loud music blaring one last time).

With headphones on, and the practice amp turned up, I worked up quite a sweat picking for almost 45 minutes. It was actually only 42 minutes, but who’s counting except OCD sufferers. I never did learn who all was inducted into the pro-football Hall of Fame. However, I did learn what a phaser was!!!

Steven H. Spring

A Red Rose For Miss. Rose

Flowers #4933B

April 2, 2014

This photograph is dedicated to a very special woman who is celebrating a milestone birthday today, the exact age of which I will not disclose for fear that she might kick my a**, but let’s just say it’s a big, big number.  Without her coming into my life, my passion/obsession of photographing flowers might never have blossomed into what it is today.  She welcomed me into not only her life but her entire family as well, at a time when I needed it most.  A few years earlier, I had hit a brick wall doing ninety miles an hour.  Not only did I hit rock bottom, but I broke on through into the depths of a living hell.  I must admit however, the entire family are the craziest freakin’ mothers I have ever met!  Somehow, I fit in.  I have done things with Miss. Rose that I have never done with any other woman, of which may or may not have been in violation of state, federal and/or international law.

I have been growing and shooting flowers for many years, although nothing compared to that of today.  Some of my earliest childhood memories are of helping Grandma dig up her Canna bulbs every fall.  Twelve years ago, after losing my old farmhouse, and suffering from a then fifth year of a very serious, nearly fatal midlife crisis in which I lost everything that mattered most in life, I decided to give up gardening when I moved into an apartment, giving away all my shovels, rakes and gardening tools, while throwing away all the bulbs that I was planning on taking with me.  My thought was gardening takes away too much valuable time from practicing my guitar playing, which is my true love.

Moving in my apartment, I met Rose, my next-door neighbor.  To make a long story short, she sweet-talked me into helping her start a garden.  After helping her that first year, I decided to plant a few flowers in my little front yard and patio.  One thing led to another and now there is very little grass left in the front yard, replaced over the years by a larger and larger garden.  After running out of space, I decided a few years ago to start a few potted plants, which now number more than twenty on the small patio.  My garden has even spilled over onto the other side of the sidewalk, with a pretty good size flowerbed running nearly the length of my apartment.

Without having met Rose those many years ago, my love of growing and shooting flowers might never have grown into what it is today.  Not only is this photograph dedicated to her, but the thousands of incredible photos that I have shot over the past twelve years are dedicated to her as well.

Happy birthday, Rose!!!  May you have many, many more!!!

Steven H. Spring

Those Poor Little Rich Folk

February 3, 2014

Sitting down tonight to read the op-ed pages while eating supper, two headlines in the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch caught my eye; “Feds shouldn’t ding companies for making a profit” by Linda Chavez and “Punishing the rich does nothing to help the poor” by Robert J. Samuelson.

Living lavishly on my $721 a month in SSI disability benefits, I often forget just how bad off the uber rich and Big Business have it.  With individual income tax rates hovering around fifty to seventy-five year lows and corporations relocating to off shore PO boxes to avoid paying any, let alone their fair share of taxes, I feel so bad for America’s ruling elite.

Maybe we could get a few rock, rap and pop stars together, many of whom know first hand the true horrors of being wealthy, to put together some sort of charity benefit concert, something along the line of The Concert For Bangladesh, to raise money for America’s truly destitute.

It must be pure Hell when the electric bill comes due for one’s mansion!

Steven H. Spring

Half Breeds

December 18, 2013

No, this isn’t a racist rant against human beings of different races propagating, but about tropical fish doing so.  I decided to use this particular title just to catch reader’s attention, purely for shock value.  In nature, I know very well that a male dog will attempt to breed with any female.  A miniature male Chihuahua would try to breed with a Great Dane bitch, even if he needed a stepladder to do so, however, it seems that for the most part, the animal kingdom usually stick with their own kind, much to my amazement.  How, for instance, do birds recognize their own?  How do they know what they themselves look like, in order to breed with a similar looking mate?

Earlier this summer, I restocked one of my fifty-five gallon fish tanks with several different varieties of American Cichlids, such as Red Devils, Texas Cichlids, Black Convicts, Jack Dempseys and Green Severums.  About a month ago, maybe two, I noticed that a pair of Cichlids had bred, as there were maybe 30-40 very small fry swimming madly among the rocks at the bottom of the tank.  However, much to my amazement, the two Cichlids that had produced the fry were a Texas Cichlid (probably the male, as it is the larger of the two) and a Black Convict.

As a serious tropical fish hobbyist, I bought my first fifty-five gallon tank in 1982, after first buying a ten-gallon tank maybe a year earlier.  I know people think I’m nuts when I tell them I communicate with my fish, especially the Red Devils, however I am serious about doing so.  Red Devils have such a personality!  I had one who lived to be almost fifteen years old.  They are such a large, aggressive fish, that once they get so big, I end up keeping just one by itself in a fifty-five gallon tank.  I tell people who get up close to the tank that he isn’t mad at them for looking at him, he is mad at me for letting them do so.

Over the years, I have had several breeding pairs of fish, although only once did the fry survive long enough to grow large enough to avoid becoming dinner to the other fish in the tanks.  I currently have two fifty-five gallon tanks and a one hundred and twenty-five gallon tank.  Living in a very small apartment, my neighbors and friends were always amazed that at one time I had another fifty-five gallon tank and a thirty-gallon tank, three of which were given to me over the years.

As the fish in my largest tank are getting somewhat old, hopefully all of the young fry survive, as they would save me a lot of money when the time comes to restock that tank.  With a little bit of luck, the breeding pair of Cichlids will do their thing several more times in the coming years.

Steven H. Spring

Rapidly Entering The 21st Century

September 10, 2013

It all started innocently enough two years ago when my nearly twenty-year-old television set finally kicked the bucket.  I replaced that TV with a modest thirty-inch high-definition flat screen.  That was it for my big move into the twenty-first century, that is until about three months ago, when all hell began to break loose.  Regular readers and viewers of my blog will know that I purchased my first new camera in thirty-three years this past June, finally going digital.  I took full advantage of my new toy and shot more than twelve thousand photographs, nearly every single one of a flower, in just three months.

After seeing what my photographs looked like in HD on the small LCD monitor on the back of the camera, compared to what they looked like on my ten-year old computer’s CRT monitor, it did not take long for me to decide that I must get a new HD monitor as well.  My real concern was what my photographs looked like online to other people compared to what they looked like on my old monitor, after I had made some adjustments such as to color, tone and brightness and then matting and framing them.  This past Saturday, just before halftime of the Ohio State-San Diego State football game, the FedEx man delivered my new twenty-three inch HD monitor.  After setting it up at halftime, my first thought was why I ever waited so long to update my computer.

It’s not as if I am anti-technology.  The reason why I waited as long as I did to buy a digital camera, replacing my Canon A-1 that I bought in 1980, was I did not want to, nor could I afford to replace all my lens.  Earlier this year, I found out there was an adapter that would enable me to use all the old lens on a new camera.  The main reason for not updating both camera and computer monitor over the years was lack of money.  I have too many hobbies and passions and every one is expensive.  Barely surviving on SSI (Supplemental Security Income) disability income, I consider both of these recent purchases to be “major.”  I am very grateful for this government assistance, however, living on what I receive; I consider the current poverty level of $11,500 for a single American to be living high on the hog.

Now, all I need is a cell phone to complete my trifecta.  Nah, that ain’t gonna happen!  Besides, what I really need is a brand new Fender Stratocaster.

Steven H. Spring

The Twelve Days Of A Capitalist’s Christmas

The following song was posted last Christmas.  However, there has been quite a few views of the post the past several days, and since I now have several more friends on Facebook, I thought I would re-post the soon to be Christmas classic again this year.  The great thing about these lyrics is that every year they can be updated and modified utilizing that year’s hottest toys and biggest deals.  Since Christmas is nearly here, and I wanted to post it tonight, I did not have time for any updates.  I’ll save that for next year!  Besides, I have no idea what are this year’s hottest toys.

Is there a war on Christmas?  Yes!  However it’s not being waged by atheists, agnostics or democrats.  Our all-consuming capitalistic form of government, led by their never-ending stream of nearly non-stop commercials everywhere one look, holidays or not, has turned what was once a purely religious holiday, as Christians celebrated the birth of God’s son, Jesus Christ into an orgy of mass consumerism all the while forcing everyone evermore deeper into debt as they finance this two-month-long gluttonous shopping addiction with monthly payments, thus actually spreading holiday cheer  throughout the year.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!!!

Steven H. Spring

 

On the twelfth day before Christmas,
Waiting all night just to shop before the break of dawn.
Lord there must be a better way,
Thank goodness, Black Friday doesn’t come every day.

On the eleventh day before Christmas,
There is no time to stop, its shop, shop, shop all day.
Look out, I think that woman over there,
Is about to attack us with her deadly pepper spray.

On the tenth day before Christmas,
The malls are all packed, but there is no time to moan or groan.
Fortunately for me, money no longer is a problem,
Thank goodness for all those four hundred percent interest charging payday loans.

On the ninth day before Christmas,
I really do love that 80-inch HD flat screen TV.
I just hope and pray to God,
That Best Buy will finance it for me.

On the eighth day before Christmas,
They’re all gonna be sold out I fear.
But Junior really does needs,
A new Xbox 360 this year.

On the seventh day before Christmas,
Lights are all hung and ornaments are scattered about the yard.
The credit cards are all at their max,
Oh my Lord, did I forget to mail the Christmas cards?

On the sixth day before Christmas,
Was it an iPhone, iMac, iPod or an iPad?
If I get it wrong, I pray that my precious little Mary,
Won’t be too, too mad.

On the fifth day before Christmas,
There is one toy that I have yet to find.
It’s a cute little blonde haired Barbie doll baby,
I think I just might have enough cash to pay, maybe.

On the fourth day before Christmas,
Thank God the shopping is almost done I shout out with glee.
I no longer can eat or sleep because,
I am stressed out far more than any human being should be.

On the third day before Christmas,
I really would like a brand new washer and dryer from Home Depot.
I just hope and pray that the family car,
Doesn’t get repo’d.

On the second day before Christmas,
All the shopping is finally done.
I am as broke as anyone can or should be,
But why isn’t there a government bailout for working class people like me?

On the day before Christmas,
I am all out of cash.
We were supposed to go to Grandma’s for dinner,
However, we couldn’t afford the gas!

Copyright 2011 SHSmusicGroup