Monday, October 19, 2009

"Br-r-r!" & baked Alaskas are both back!

Yesterday morning presented the first frosty lawns here in Nashville, I noticed while taking the bus to church. Looks like the typically terrible Tennessee winter is having an atypically early start this time around!

This morning, another frosty one, "baked Alaskas" were back on the buses. Yeah, I know that the real baked Alaska is a dessert. But the (sub-Saharan) African-American majority here in Nashville, or at least the young to middle-age females among them, in cold weather generally like to wear parkas with hoods up, which makes them resemble Eskimos. And so I call the resulting image of an African face framed by faux-fur hood, a "baked Alaska".

And ouch! what happened to the NFL Titans yesterday! Right after church I returned home and entered the community room to watch some of the televised game between the Titans and the New England Patriots. The game was in Foxboro and was it snowing! The field was already covered with snow, with more falling, almost in blizzard fashion. And the home team was unleashing a blizzard of scoring against the Titans! Five TDs in the second quarter -- an NFL record. Final score Pats 59, Titans zip. Ouch!

Monday, October 12, 2009

A "Super" spiritual weekend

This past weekend consisted of several hours of my being in a church building or on property. And I enjoyed every minute of this! Or to put it better, I was blessed - so-o-o-o blessed!

It began early Saturday morning, when before dawn I was riding the bus to Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples) to help out with the annual yard sale. Tables were already set up with items for sale on them, so I strolled along the front driveway and browsed. I saw several items which I considered purchasing. But then I chose to practice self-discipline: I'd wait 'til just before the closing down of the sale and if an item I'd liked was still available, I'd consider that the Lord was allowing me to have it and I'd then buy it. Most of the items I wanted the most were gone, but I still went home with a few "treasures". These included "Bleachers", the only John Grisham book I've read and one of my favorites of the books I'd read back in San Antonio as member of a branch library's book (reading & discussion) club.

Saturday evening I attended my first Candlelight for a Walk to Emmaus since leaving San Antonio. Bill Burleigh, who's director for Operation Sand Down Nashville, picked me up; he already had a couple other passengers. He drove us to the IHOP in Hermitage, near the church that's the location for the Walk. It turned out that a couple of the others had lived in Texas (I think one might have been a native Texan). We got to comparing and arguing good-naturedly about Texas barbecue versus Tennessee barbecue. We also discussed fajitas over the IHOP fare that we were actually eating.

Then we went on over to HErmitage UMC for "Candlelight" for the Men's Walk to Emmaus #162. Some of the details of how Candlelight is done here are different from Candlelights in Texas, but the overall concept is identical. Therefore, it was good to be present for this event!

Sunday morning Eastwood Christian's worship included an arrangement of "Blessed Assurance" as choir anthem. Since I had missed two straight Wed. choir rehearsals I chose to "sit out" this anthem. As the choir sang it I had conflicted feelings. On the one hand I felt that I probably could have sung with them after all, and I was missing singing with them. On the other hand it was such an overwhelming blessing to be out there in the congregation listening to our gifted choir!

Associate Pastor Michael Lehman did the communion meditation/invitation. He remarked about the "Great Communion" joint worship last Sunday afternoon on World Communion Sunday. HE pointed out what I had missed: that there was precious LITTLE real fellowship and communication between persons of the various congregations and denominations represented. Then he called for us present this morning to pass the sign of peace to others, especially persons we didn't know or know well.

Wow! if this wasn't the Spirit at work, then I don't know what it was!

This being the second Sunday of the month, I went out in the evening to Vine Street Christian Church (Disciples) for their second Sunday dinner and worship. It was my second church dinner of the day, since Eastwood held a dinner right after morning worship. I sure was glad that my VA dietitian, Debbie, who's a Vine Street member and usually attends Second Sunday, was out of state. Had she been there and heard me confess to already having been at another church dinner the same day, I'm sure she would have glared at me!

For the worship, upstairs in the main sanctuary, KK Wiseman did something different -- which is par for the course at the quite alternative worship. She actually preached, about grace but that's the end of the story and we have to go thru the middle of the story which is sin. One hears very little about sin in today's sermons, at least among congregations of mainline denominations. And I think this cheapens the value of the divine grace which is so frequently the topic of sermons. So I appreciated KK's words about sin (she actually didn't use the three-letter word often, but clearly it was what she was talking about).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A week of anniversaries

This first full week of October in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Nine is a week of anniversaries, or birthdays if you will in some cases. The commemorations commenced on Sunday the Fourth, which being the first Sunday of October was World Communion Sunday. It was a year ago on WCS that yours truly chose to join Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Since the Lord's Supper is such a highly meaningful element of the Christian life and worship to me, it made sense to put my membership into Eastwood that Sunday.

But this is a very minor anniversary, even for the day. You see, dear reader, two hundred years ago a former Presbyterian preacher on the American frontier, Thomas Campbell, published the "Declaration and Address (of the Christian Association of Washington, PA)", a document that was a strong call to Christian unity and the end to denominationalism and divisions separating the earthly Body of Christ. The "Declaration and Address" stands as one of the initial and pivotal documents for the Restoration Movement that spread along the frontier during the 1800s. This movement, to return the body of Christian believers back to its original New Testament simplicity and unity, developed into the current Disciples of Christ, Churches of Christ (non-instrumental) and Christian Churches (independent). More about Campbell and the document can be found at

In 1909, the Centennial of the "Declaration and Address" coincided with a general assembly of Restorationists in Pittsburgh, and was remembered by means of "The Great Communion", a mass worship service around the Lord's Table. Last year, just as I was moving into Nashville from San Antonio, the World Convention (of Restoration denominations) was being held right here in Nashville, and I attended the closing worship on my first Sunday afternoon here. It was mentioned that A.D. 2009 would be the Bicentennial of the "Declaration and Address" and that rather than attempting to gather a significant number of members of the three denominations in one location in a second such "Great Communion", there would be various gatherings on World Communion Sunday.

And so this afternoon of WCS brothers and sisters from the Disciples, the Churches of Christ and the Independents were invited to gather at West End Church of Christ, a very large church about a mile out past Vanderbilt University on West End Avenue. I found out thru my Pastor that there would be a joint choir (or mass choir) as part of the worship, so I went early in the afternoon to lend my voice to this. I was delighted when I entered the building, to discover that T.J. McLaughlin, choir director at Vine Street Christian Church (Disciples) just a little further out the avenue, would be our director. It must have been a unique experience for him to be conducting rehearsal with no other instrument than a pitch pipe. But apparently that was a concession that had been made, that since we were in a Church of Christ building we'd be singing a cappella.

However, after a couple of addresses about this day and this significant worship gathering -- all the speakers made some mention of the document whose bicentennial we were also celebrating -- the special anthem by the joint choir and the partaking of the open Lord's Supper by all present, a local Disciples congregation of French-speaking members of African descent, did two concluding songs, in French. The first was strict a cappella, but the for the second they employed a pair of conga drums! I had to wonder if THIS were not the very first time any musical instrument of any type had been played in this sanctuary!

But praise be to God, for even with drums the song was heart-felt praise. And I certainly do hope the non-instrumental brethren present were accepting of it!

And praise be to God for our Supper of unity, remembering a milepost-timepost for a historical document calling for unity.

Celebrating THE legend and pioneer radio station

Monday evening I was involved in my final delivery run or two for Bradley Drugstore, and as usual on Monday evenings I was listening to WSM-AM 650 radio and deejay extraordinaire Eddie Stubbs. Ever since Eddie came to Nashville and the station back in the 1990s I've admired his love for real, traditional country music and his inexhaustible knowledge about every detail about every country hit song.

This evening he displayed a slightly different facet of his knowledge. For on this 5 October he took time to call attention over the airwaves to this date being the birthday of the very radio station for which he is deejay. He even remarked that it was about this very hour, "the 7 o'clock or 8 o'clock hour", of 5 October 1925 that sound began to be heard via the airwaves that a new station was broadcasting from Nashville. Thus was born a station which has become legendary in broadcasting. The station's call letters came from the slogan of National Life & Accident insurance company, which was "We Shield Millions". National Life got "sold" on the benefit of having a radio station (of its own) for advertising purposes, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Indeed, WSM became so prominent in broadcasting and so influential in not only broadcasting but also the development of "hillbilly music" that later was called "country and Western", that it was also called "The Air Castle of the South". And its broadcast tower, south of Nashville and close by IH 65 south, became a landmark. It's rather distinctive, since it looks like a very elongated pyramid atop an inverted, equally elongated pyramid.

So, here's a "Happy 84th birthday, 'Air Castle"!" from yours truly.

Friday Opry of "Birthday Bash Weekend"

The world's longest-running live radio show (oldest show of ANY sort, I do believe) is celebrating its birthday (or anniversary if you prefer) this weekend. The Grand Ole Opry began 84 years ago, in a studio of the National Life & Accident Company's headquarter building here. And actually it started later in the year 1925 -- "officially" according to Opry archives -- but since the station that carries the show, WSM-AM 650, began broadcasting early in October, the powers that be choose to celebrate in early October.

Thus, on the Friday Nite Opry there was mention of the "birthday", and even a birthday cake. And as the 1990s country song goes, "I watched it all on my radio". Or at least as much of the show as I could, out of the car radio when wasn't out of the car making a delivery for Bradley Drugstore. The show commenced with John Conley, whom I've always liked since he became a singing star and Opry cast member in the early 1980s. Soon I'd be hearing from Patty Loveless, who joined during the late '80s. Just about the time I moved to Nashville last year she released an album, "Sleepless Nights", and now this evening she sang a song off her newest album, "Mountain Soul II". (But alas! I heard little of her performance on stage over the airwaves, since I was involved in an "involved" delivery to a nursing home.)

I was rather impressed with the prominent display of the love affair between the Opry and our nation and especially our military. Jimmy Dickens commented, after emcee Eddie Stubbs verbally noted the presence of another WW II veterans group, how much he had enjoyed his many trips overseas to perform for active military in theaters of combat and how soldiers were the nicest audience. During the final half hour, Eddie introduced an active-duty Navy man who had done duty in Afghanistan, Iran (covert?) and Iraq, and had just returned to the States. He got a standing ovation from the in-house audience.

And then after Montgomery Gentry, the duo who are the cast's newest members, came out and sang their latest hit "There's One in Every Crowd", plus "Back When I Knew It All", not only was a birthday cake rolled out on-stage, but a "tame" bald eagle was carried forward for the audience to admire!

I love this show! May the Grand Ole Opry show have many, many more birthdays/anniversaries!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ray Price - live in concert, 2d time around!

If the reader will go to my other, earlier blog, "Glen Alan's San Antonio", to 24 September A.D. 2007, you will read about how "I died and went to Heaven" when I went to a Ray Price concert. He sang at Floore Country Store in Helotes, Texas, and I was present along with my "baby" brother Patrick.

Last evening I got to experience the great legendary country singer a second time live in concert. He performed at the Acuff Theater, which is close by the Grand Ole Opry House, out where Opryland used to be. I'd received a discount coupon while I stopped in briefly at "Coffee Country & Cody" -- AND Charlie -- Friday morning at the Ford Theater. I was glad to get the discount, and even more appreciative when thanks to Nashville MTA I had to take a taxi part of the way.

I bought a good seat, near the middle about 15 or so rows back in the Acuff Theater. (This actually put me closer to the stage and the performer than when I'd been at Floore.) Eddie Stubbs, Opry emcee and WSM deejay, came out to commence the show, and then Ray Price's band, the Cherokee Cowboys, did about three instrumental selections. Well, they weren't strictly instrumental, since Ray's son came out and sand the lyrics, but the emphasis was clearly on the instrumental aspect.

Then Ray himself came out, and opened with "San Antonio Rose", followed by greetings and then a medley that began with all of "Crazy Arms". This start of the concert impressed me, because it was exactly the same as the Floore concert. And I'd assumed that that night (back in '07) the legendary singer had commenced with "San Antonio Rose" as acknowledgement of the proximity of the city to the venue. But I suppose Ray starts all his concerts this way, wherever.

The song selection may have been similar. And Ray himself was as strong in his stage presence as ever -- despite being 84 years old and this being only his fifth concert since having been in the hospital. But I was quite aware of differences. This evening we were indoors; the Texas concert had been outdoors. This evening the band was attired in dark suits and ties (with white shirts). Very few men in this Nashville audience sported Stetsons (possibly only myself and the gentleman to my left). However, as I was leaving after the concert it came to me that there was another similarity between the two concerts: most of the audience were my age or older -- folks who would have been around when the songs Ray sang were current hits. Younger folks don't know what high quality singing they missed out on!

But Ray didn't just sing songs that are immediately associated with himself; he also sang a couple of songs from other artists. There was one by Hank Williams, with whom Ray had worked in the couple of years preceding his untimely death. And the song that charmed me most (other than "Crazy Arms") was one Ray dedicated to his audience and fans before he sang it. It was Gladys Knight's hit "You're the Best Thing (that Ever Happened to Me)". He also made various comments during the concert that expressed his love for and appreciation of his fans. I like singers who do this!

The concert finished up with not one but two encores, and thunderous standing ovations. And Eddie Stubbs told us that when he could get up to the lobby and the concession (product) table, Ray would be signing CDs and he would keep signing until all who wanted it had his autograph. Wow! what a trooper!

Since I'd had to spend my money on a taxi ride I couldn't purchase a CD and get an autograph. So I consoled myself by sauntering out the door and seeking out the Grand Ole Opry Museum. It was not in relationship to the Acuff Theater or the Opry House in exactly the manner I was remembering from my years of working at the former Opryland. But the Museum was still there! I walked over and was surprised that despite the late hour and the schedule painted on the doors, it was still open! I didn't have sufficient time to view teverything inside, but from just inside the doors what I saw was exactly like I remembered it. This brief moment inside the Museum evoked vivid memories of my employment time at Opryland. Plus it was great to know that not everything out here had been annihilated when the park died!

Likewise, it was great to know that a great voice like Ray Price could still bless us with a live performance. I felt like my cherished memories of the earlier concert in Texas got truly doubled in worth, by this eveing's concert!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Boat ride to a Cherokee feast

Yesterday evening I got to do something I get to do all too seldom: go out ON the water via a ride in a boat. And I'm not certain that I've even BEEN in a houseboat before, out on the water. But what a ride! Ahoy, matey!

You see, the Nashville area Lambda Chi Alpha alumni held our monthly get-together Wednesday; one of the Brothers graciously invited us onto his houseboat moored at Cedar Creek Marina on Old Hickory Lake (a reservoir formed by a dam on Hadley Bend of the Cumberland River), north of Mt. Juliet (which is east of Nashville just over the Wilson country line). This houseboat includes a "front room" (or living room/captains post), behind which and a little lower is a kitchen-dining room, and stairs lead down from that first room presumably to sleeping quarters. Narrow outdoor passages along either side of the boat connect small deck areas at prow and stern; from the hinder deck a ladder leads up to a larger deck area, and from there a second ladder heads up to another deck, partially sheltered by a forward canvas roof under which are built-in seats looking both forward and backward and the steering wheel and controls for the craft. Seven of us Lambda Chi brothers enjoyed this craft and its journey upriver (or "up-lake"). We included boat owner and captain Paul Lyle, Alex Davies who usually arranges the monthly meetings, Tom Hoy who is High Pi or alumni advisor for Gamma-Delta Zeta (our chapter at Vandy) and with whom I rode from Nashville, and our driver Fritz Haimberger.

An aside: The LCA brothers I've named all graduated from VU -- and I hold an MA from Vandy -- but Bro. Paul is a UT alumnus. There WAS some "trash-talk" and rivalry words this evening, but all in good-natured fun. Nobody was about to get TOO harsh about Bro. Paul's alma mater; after all, nobody wanted to swim to get back home!

This evening presented a nearly perfect environment for the boat trip! The sky was blue clear, the air a pleasant autumn warm -- I removed my suit coat (I was the only one garbed in suit & tie) -- and being past summer we encountered little boat traffic on Old Hickory Lake. Bro. Paul entertained us by playing hit songs of the Sixties and Seventies off an ipod thru the boat's p.a. system. He pointed out to us that the reservoir is really very shallow except at the former riverbed. In fact, we passed a rather broad segment of lake where several downed tree trunks and limbs lay mostly above water! Almost all the shoreline had trees, and occasionally we saw houses and other man-made objects.

Of special interest to myself and Bro. Tyler (alumnus of Western Kentucky Univ.) was Boxwell Scout Reservation on the south shore of the reservoir. Bro. Tyler spoke of earning his Scout sailing merit badge there, on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout. And my son David spent a week during at least one summer in the 1990s camping there with his troop from Clarksville (I was there, too). Since we were passing Boxwell, I pulled out my cell phone and gave David a call; when he answered I informed that I was floating past the scout camp even as we spoke.

David said, "Boxwell? No way!" To which I replied, "Way!" and proceeded to fill him in on the context of my statement. Then he made me doubly glad that I had called, because he told me that he and Allison had heard the baby's heartbeat during a recent visit to the doctor! So, when I hung up the phone I regaled my fraternity brothers with my impending grandfather status (most of the seven are in their early-to-mid twenties, so I excuse them that they didn't display much in the way of congratulations or interest).

The boat passed under the Highway 109 bridge, and looking back down-river ("down-lake") to the West we could see a brilliant sunset sky. Against this was silhouetted the superstructure over that part of the bridge which carries the road high up over the former riverbed. I took a photo of this, to add to earlier ones I'd taken of the shoreline and of my Lambda Chi brothers on the boat.

Just past the bridge Bro. Paul turned his houseboat to the right and into the south shore, where he docked us in a marina close by Cherokee Steak House. An eighth LCA alumnus who hadn't been on the ride joined us there, and we had supper. The food was delicious and the ambiance delightful. We had a great time eating, conversing and getting better acquainted and occasionally throwing glances at an MLB game on the TV up in the corner next to us. During the chatting I discovered that Bro. Paul worked for radio stations WKDA and WKDF, and thus knows my fellow church member Cindy Francis (Lovelace) very well. Small world, one might say!

If you, dear reader, get opportunity to travel around the Nashville-Old Hickory Lake area, and want a very good place to dine, I heartily recommend the Cherokee Steak House to you.

Then we walked the short distance back to the docked boat and began the return voyage. Even tho' the night air was quite cooler, we all had jackets (and me my suit coat), so we all were on that highest part of the upper deck, toward the front, where the steering wheel and controls are. We continued our chatting, generally in pairs, and listening to hits of the Sixties and Seventies, while luxuriating in the soothing sensation of the boat moving along thru the water. Too soon, almost it seemed, we were back at Cedar Creek Marina, said our farewells -- and our thanks to Bro. Paul -- and drove to our respective homes.

What an utterly delightful evening of brotherhood, in motion on the water and dining around the table! I can almost feel song lyrics coming on! Must be because this happened so near Music City!