Category Archives: Family

11-11-11

Sgt. Charles T. Faust, Jr., United States Army Air Force, circa 1942. Sgt. Faust taught ordinance and demolitions to soldiers bound to fight overseas. Following VE day, he was trained to be a tail gunner in a B-24 bomber to take part in Operation Downfall. He never left the United States – while he was on the train to his deployment point, Japan surrendered after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One other important thing happened to Sgt. Faust on a train. While traveling, he spotted a beautiful young woman travelling with her mother. He went over and asked for her help with a crossword puzzle, over which he had written his name in large block letters. They exchanged addresses and corresponded for a year, meeting only three times in person before being married in May of 1943. He passed away in August of 1988, two months before his second granddaughter – my daughter – was born.

Sgt. C.T. Faust, Jr., 1921 - 1988

Advertisements

A Nice Father and Son Thing to Do (Wife Included)

Tuesday evening I did something unusual – I was the opening act for my son.

Sort of.

Since my son has been in town to attend a series of weddings, my wife got the idea that we should all go to Muggswigz for Open Mike night. Natrually, this would entail his playing some songs off of his album and me playing some of my songs. Neither of us felt we were ready, but we had a few days to do some fever pitched rehearsing. Then I packed up my guitar and the keyboard I bought to do use in home recording (cheaper than a bass guitar and drum machine, and more versatile with all those voices inside it) and the three of us set off.

On the way we joked about who was going to open for whom. I also kept encouraging my son to plug his album, threatening to do it for him if he didn’t.

So we arrived at Muggs and dragged all the stuff in (guitar in case, keyboard and it’s attendant plugs and pedals, plus the stand) and settled in. I called Henry J to see if he wanted to come and play, too – in a conversation we’d had earlier, he’d complained that he hadn’t played out lately). He showed up without a guitar, just there to lend moral support for my son and I.

We got signed up. By the time we got to the sheet, the first four slots were open and five through nine had been taken. My son signed up for slot four, I took three, and an opening act was born. Then we waited.

My wife, bless her heart, showed great restraint. She loves to see us do this sort of thing and wants us both to do well at these things, and her tendency is to want to coach and offer advice beforehand. But son and I were so nervous that she didn’t. The only thing she did was, during the first open mike performer of the evening, she reminded me to take slow, deep breaths to relax. I did. It helped.

Since the last time I played out and wasn’t sure if I liked doing it, I’ve been playing in front of people more. I’ve done a couple of sound checks during shoots of Random Acts of Music tapings, and Henry J and I have jammed some – and during those times I realized that I was becoming less and less self-conscious and paralyzingly nervous before playing. All that and my fevered rehearsals paid off. When my time came and I got up to play, I didn’t have that paralyzing “hands of Jell-O” feeling that I’d been prone to earlier.

I also was playing more with my stage persona. I made a point to talk more between songs and tried to make the kind of witty comments that I throw in during conversations with friends. I should also add that I had earlier taken Henry J’s advice and rehearsed with a microphone so I could get used to singing into it.

All of this stuff paid off. This was a corner-turning performance for me. Going in I was convinced that playing out was not something I wanted to do. Now I think it’s something I can do. So new piece of advice from me: the rule is, if you’re going to play out, do it at least three times before you decide whether you’re going to keep it up or not.

I won’t bore you with the details (I’ve decided it’s not my place to review myself), but this was my set-list:

Wish I Were
One More Cigarette
Going to Texas #4

Finishing that, it was my son’s turn to play. We got the keyboard set up, and he was off. He was nervous at the idea of doing patter between songs, so he limited his comments to making a joke about being from the Twin Cities and the accent we all associate with that area. And yes, he plugged his album, too. He played three songs from Start:

Jazz & Vicodin
Wanda
This College Life

I don’t know if I’m qualified to review my son’s performance, either, but he did really well. This was a corner-turning performance for him, too. He said he didn’t like playing live, but I was passing on wisdom from Henry J about the importance of playing songs before an audience, and I think that helped convince him to try (plus the extra nudging from his mother!). After he played, he said he enjoyed it, and I think that like me, the terror in the idea of performing was gone (there’s still stagefright, but that’s another thing). And bless his heart, Henry J was only too happy to offer critique and answer my son’s questions about all aspects of the music biz – I think that helped.

A couple of notes about his performance. When he started, he really got people’s attention. I don’t know if it was because he was the only keyboard player that night, or if it was because of his unique style of songwriting. People who were out of line of sight stopped what they were doing and walked around a corner to see what he was up to. And during the rollicking Wanda the audience started to clap along – and it wasn’t started by me or my wife. That wasn’t something we would have thought of doing, and if we had, I’m sure he could have disapproved. But one guy waiting for his latte at the bar started in and poof! – everyone joined it. It was a really cool moment for him, I’m sure.

During the postmortem on the drive home, we realized we should have played something together. A while back ago, before his move to the Twin Cities, I gave him a primitive recording of Going to Texas #4 with the idea of him doing backup vocals on it. For that matter, I could have sung the extra parts on Jazz & Vicodin or Wanda. We also talked about dragging my wife into things – she sang on his recording of Ti Dot Matre, and she and I have been working on a cover of Carpet of the Sun by Renaissance.

Or for that matter, we could collaborate on some kind of song. But that’s a project best left to the next time he comes home.

Meantime, I’m thinking about a new set of songs to play at Muggs in the near future…

Canine Inflation, or, How Much Is That Labracockabegaschauzabernadinedoodle in the Window?

Once upon a time, a German Shepherd was passing through town with his briefcase full of wares, when, on his way through a residential neighborhood, a familiar pheomonal call filled his rather elaborate sinuses. He did what any red-blooded American dog would do and jumped the fence, and found on the other side a very desirable and willing female Laborador. Two months later, her paramour nowhere to be found, she delivered a dozen healthy pups, most of which looked just like her.

Heeding an ad in the paper, a man came along, picked a female pup, and bought it for his son. He paid $5 for it in 1985 dollars, the equivalent of about $10 today. Just enough to keep the local medical research lab from coming in and claiming the whole litter.

My son dubbed the dog Sandy, and we had her for many years. She was a great dog – one of the best we’d had as a family. She had the look of a golden lab, the protective instincts of a Shepherd, and was gentle and patient with kids. Quite a bargain for those five 1985 dollars.

Were I to get a Sandy nowadays, I probably couldn’t afford her. Some nitwit would probably advertise her in the paper as a “Sheprador” and want five bills for her.

Back when I was a kid, there were three kinds of dogs. There were purebreds, usually pretty  expensive, but if you just wanted one as a pet you could find one that wasn’t quite up to breed standard for a reasonable price. Then there were mutts. This was applied to any non-purebred dog. Mutts were usually free, although when medical research facilities began harvesting them for nefarious purposes, token fees were placed on them to prevent the practice. Then there were crossbreeds, and back then there was only one – the cockapoo, a cross between a poodle and a cocker spaniel. Cute dogs, but not purebreds. They cost less than a purebred, but more than a mutt.

And that was it.

Now check out the classified page of your local paper. The business of breeding and selling has gone to the dogs. They’re no longer Mutts. They’re called “designer dogs,” and with them come designer price tags. To give you some idea of how far this has gone, check out this slide show describing the top ten mutts designer dogs, coming soon to a puppy mill near you.

Update, or, When I Have Nothing To Say, My Lips Are Sealed… Mostly

In the last two weeks, two people have told me that I really should post to the blog more often. So I guess it must be time for an update, even though I don’t have much to report, and what there is is probably insubstantial if you’re sitting on the other side of the screen reading.

For example, my mother has been in and out of the hospital again, draining time and energy. She’s okay for now, thanks, with specialist appointments coming up to see if they can figure out what is causing these spells of hers.

The Darkest Month is over, but I don’t know if my mood has changed any. My wife had me taking B Vitamin Complex, saying it might boost my mood. I didn’t notice any difference, so I quit taking them. She says she noticed a difference. I started taking them again. Then we ran out. I still feel about the same as I did when this whole enterprise started.

Maybe I should save this for the other blog I never update, but a family of raccoons has again moved nearby, making attempts to pillage the goat and chicken feed, the chicken eggs, and the chickens themselves (relax, the chooks are okay, just so frightened they want to live on our front porch). The racs don’t like the layer mash, which has brewer’s waste in it (kind of beery smelling), but they go for the sweet feet and chicken scratch. Picked up a new set of traps at Tractor Supply over the weekend. Have capped two young racs since, and will have to dispose of a third when I get home from work tonight. If it goes like it did last year, I’ll run out of the kids and pretty soon momma will blunder into the trap.

If it hasn’t been finished already – I don’t keep count, and just check every now and then – I’m about to complete my 50th song. Still no progress on recording it or the 49 that came before, and no progress playing out. Between mom and the raccoons, where’s the time?

My son and daughter are having adventures. Son is being laid off with two months’ notice by the giant corporation he works for. They’re giving a generous severance and retraining package, so he’s changing career course while he’s still young enough for his bones to bend. Daughter is still in Russia and faced getting run out a couple of times due to changes in their Visa policy. So recently she had to step out of the country long enough to get her Visa stamped, and now everything should be spinning in its bureaucratic groove. I’d tell you more, but she has been adroitly chronicling her adventures here.

I have a work colleague who thinks I should turn one of my novels into a graphic novel. I’m poking at that idea with a sharp pencil.

Meantime, the big project on the plate is this year’s Vacation Bible School adventure, which will feature a wild west theme. I haven’t told any of the principals at church this, because they won’t understand it, but I don’t have anything on paper yet. That’s because I’ve been working on it in my head. I’ll start typing hopefully soon, with an eye toward having a finished script at the end of April/beginning of May, Mom and Raccoons permitting.

Finally there is that novel that needs a final draft and that play that needs another draft. Sheesh, you look at all of the above and tell me when that is going to happen.

So there’s the update. Told you it wasn’t much. Y’all sure you want more frequent updates?

What’s News at Home is News on the Other Side of the World, and That’s Not Necessarily a Good Thing

So my wife and I called our daughter on The Other Side of the World this morning. We timed it so our early morning call would arrive there in mid-evening, and I was armed with a cheat sheet I made of Tour Guide Russian, just enough to introduce myself to Host Mother and ask for Daughter.

Well, Host Mother was a sharp sort, and my Tour Guide Russian was just good enough that she figured out who I was, and Daughter was on the line before I could finish asking for her.

We chatted about many things – what was supposed to be a 10 minute call came close to 40. Almost one of the first things that she said was, “I heard about the school shooting in Cleveland this morning.”

Not literally as we were talking to her – news of the shooting was splashed all over the Cleveland news when I got home for last night’s 6 pm broadcast. That would have been 8 am this morning Far East Russia time. She was just settling down with her bowl of Snow Flakes – The Russian answer to Frosted Flakes – and the Russian morning news started talking about Cleveland, Ohio.

So Vladimir Putin’s state controlled media once again paints the United States in a flattering light. Of course, this was his directive to them just a few months ago, so they’re just doing what they’re told their job.

My daughter wanted to be in Russia for their election. She will, but I’m glad that she’s out in the boonies as opposed to a more metropolitan place like Moscow or St. Petersburg. Things run a little slow out there – they still have a statue of Lenin in the town square, although I hear that he’s hailing a taxi now instead of pointing the way to the future. If there’s any excitement, it’ll likely happen in the west – and she can observe.

(Reasons I’m glad I believe in God #6,437 – I can’t take care of my daughter where she is now, but there’s no doubt in my mind that God will. So the Faust genetic tendency to worry about The Russians is effectively suppressed.)

In the meantime, Daughter is being treated very well. As a rare Native Speaker in that part of the world, she’s the hit of the English class. And the Rotary club there is being extraordinarily generous in arranging for her to soak up as much of the culture as she wants (which, knowing her, is an enormous amount.)

I was thinking after talking to her this morning that it was a good thing I was never an exchange student. If I’d gone to any foreign country and been treated like she has been thus far, I wouldn’t have wanted to return. Not that I didn’t love my parents. What I hated was high school. And going back to mine would have been a huge come-down from wherever I would have been.

On the other hand, maybe the peers in my country of choice would have seen me for the pathetic, geeky proto-nerd I was back then. Ah, well, I never had the interest or the opportunity, so I shan’t lament.

Meantime, at the end of our phone call with Daughter, I had her thank her Host Mother for taking such good care of her. Daughter did it while we were still on the line, and it was neat to hear the Host Mother’s reaction.

Afterward, I started thinking that we should do something nice for the Host Mother. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to send her something she couldn’t find there, something that was quintessentially American, something that represented this country on a number of levels, something that shouted out U.S.A. the instant you saw it.

It didn’t take long for me to come up with a something that worked on all those levels. This is it. Think she’ll like it?

My Baby’s On the Other Side of the World and Other Stories

1. My Baby’s On the Other Side of the World. It’s not my wife or girlfriend baby. It’s my youngest child. And she really is on the other side of the world, 14 time zones away1 in Siberia. Actually, she’s in what is called “Far East Russia,” but we all say “Siberia” because people give you a blank look if you say “Far East Russia.”

How did she get there? The Rotary Youth Exchange program.

Why did she go? She took some Post Secondary classes in Russian and fell in love with the language. She wants to major in Russian Translation. Why Russian? She has a gift for languages. And she saw a Russian copy of one of my books and thought it would be neat to be able to read it. So on a whim, she took a class that turned into several classes and is now the direction she wants her life to go in. So now my baby is on the other side of the world, and I’m responsible.

And if I hadn’t raised her to want to go, and If I hadn’t been willing to let her go, I’d have been a rotten father.

It’s been an ordeal getting her prepped and away. And now, in the space of six short months, my wife and I have become empty nesters (my adult son took a job promotion and moved from Ohio to Saint Paul in February of this year). We’re still adjusting.

So if you’ve sent me an e-mail in the last six-to-eight weeks and haven’t gotten an answer yet, that’s the reason. Our lives were uprooted trying to get everything in order. But now things are calming down, and I’m making my way slowly through the list of unanswered emails. Hang in there.

2. He Had a Voice Like an Angel and He Could Have Been a Star. No, his name wasn’t Johnny. It was Clifford. That’s where my middle name came from. He was my uncle and he passed away over the weekend. Now both of my namesake relatives (I was also named after his oldest sister, Jo) are gone.

Clifford had a boxer’s nose, the result of early and primitive surgery during childhood to correct a deviated septum; it turns out to be a genetic trait that I also have. I’ve opted to keep mine as a souvenir.

In spite of the compromised sinuses, Clifford had a beautiful singing voice. But he had more than that. He had an exquisite sense of phrasing and timing. He didn’t sing songs, he acted them out, played them, became the narrator. Most singers have to learn it. He did it naturally.

Once upon a time, some men heard Clifford sing and approached him with a deal. “We know people,” they said. “We have record company connections and concert hall owners and promoters. We can make you rich and famous. All you have to do is tell people that you’re one of us.”

They were from the Communist Party.

Clifford told them to take a hike.

So you’ve never heard of Clifford Faust, the pop singer who was famous throughout the 50’s and 60’s, and had a variety show like everyone else in the early ’70’s. That’s because he went to war instead, as a radio operator in a plane that dropped bombs over Italy. His plane was shot down so many times they called him and his colleagues The Hard Luck Crew. On one trip back his oxygen was shot out and he had to be revived on returning to base.

Instead of being a star, he carried the invisible scars of his service to his country throughout the rest of his life.

And I should have written this while he was still able to appreciate it.

3. Everything Must Go. I’ve about got Version 8.0 of this web site finished. When it is, I’m going to do something that I should have done long ago. I’m going to have my host company wipe out everything currently on my server space before posting it. After 9 1/2 years of this site, there’s an awful lot of clutter out there. So I’m cleaning out the cellar and starting all over again, fresh.

A lot of stuff isn’t going to come back, including the archives of the writing blog. I’ve seen the stats, and all it is doing is wasting server space – it’s not even wasting bandwidth.

I have it all backed up, and I have a couple of ideas of what to do with the material, including nothing. A few highlights will be recycled into v 8.0, but for the most part everything must go. If you want to make a stab at reading my literary mind, do so now while the stuff is still up.

4. HappyBlogiverary to Me – This and $3.10 Will Get Me a Grande Skim Latte at Starbucks. Still recovering from sending my baby to the other side of the world, I missed the actual anniversary date. I started on September 6, 2002. This is my fifth year of blogging. A lot has changed. There’s been a bust in the blog audience all over the net. I’m not the same me I was five years ago. Funny how much can change. Wonder if I’ll even be around in another five years. Maybe nobody will.

Ah, such morose thoughts. You’d think I was Russian or something.

There’s lots I have to be cheerful about. I’m just out of writing time right now.

Heh.

  1. Okay, technically I suppose she’s only 10 time zones away if you go west. But there are only two portal cities into Russia, and she had to travel east through Moscow, which means instead of going the short way, she had to go 2/3 of the way around the world to get to her destination – through 14 time zones.

“At the Start…”

For those of you who still come to these pages because of some drivel I cranked out in the 80’s and 90’s, here’s a great way for you to support me in my retirement, which is only a couple of decades away: hie thee to this page at CDBaby and buy a copy of my son’s first album, Start. That’s right… I’ve always said that my children were my retirement plan, and if you early adopters help make this album a sensation, he’ll do more, make tons of money, and in my old age he will be able to support me in the manner to which I have become accustomed.

Seriously, I hope you’ll at least go to CDBaby and give the album a spin. I think it’s great stuff, being “Inventive, witty, and organic piano-and-vocal prerecorded sound product,” as my son calls it. I really do like this album, and in the weeks since I’ve had a copy of the finished album, my son has moved into my Top Ten artists over on my Last.fm account. And it’s not just because it is my son. If he had done an album that was like, say, Master of Pupperts, I would have listened to it, smiled, told him it was very nice, and then washed the experience out of my ears with some Stan Ridgway.

So check it out. Admittedly, it won’t be for everyone, but then music is a subjective experience like that isn’t it? Only you won’t know until too late if you don’t care for it because you’ll have already bought the album. Oh, dear. What a shame.