Another Write-wing Conspirator

Commentary, observations, musing, and ranting from the middle of the road (or just to the right of center. Usually.) featuring The Curmudgeon

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  • Welcome to The Curmudgeon’s lair

    Welcome to my curmudgeondom. As you’ll soon learn, your reactions to my missives here are likely to range from fear to loathing to tears to outright rage—and I just might even evoke from you an occasional sober nod or two.

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    The purpose of this blog is simple: to provide me a vehicle for sounding-off on whatever topic suits me at the moment. While there’s sure to be no shortage of politically-oriented palaver here, it is by no means all (nor necessarily even most) of what will be proffered to your discerning mind. You’ll also find that my personal politics, ethics, morals, and standards are pretty much “all over the map” (according to my mother-in-law)—so, don’t be surprised to see rants regarding, say, the interference of churches in politics, politically-correct anything, “nanny” laws, taxes, the United Nations, Congress, the Commissioner of Baseball, the State of Ohio’s speed limits, steroids, Jesse Jackson, the “mainstream” media, ultra-liberals, ultra-conservatives, the price of cigarettes, Obamarxism, regulating sales of alcohol, gasoline price manipulation, Muslim foot baths, illegal immigration, laws banning the sale of adult sex toys, cell phones, heavy-handed cops, meddlesome politicians, Hillary, Billary, our all-but-self-proclaimed uncrowned Queen Nancy, “W”, eminent domain, freedom of speech, and the designated hitter all in succession. It is, as I said, my curmudgeondom — and I have the credentials and bona fides to lay claim to the title of The Curmudgeon. So, there.

    Some of the postings you'll encounter may seem familiar—especially to those who know me personally. By way of explanation… I once had an ongoing relationship with a local newspaper, and had a number of published opinion pieces—some of which may be posted here. My arrangement was for a feature entitled An Opposing View; given that the editorial staff had a generally liberal, left-of-center view, it stands to reason that my "opposing" view would generally be perceived as coming from the right (in more ways than one, in my own humble opinion). These posts will be annotated as having been previously published.

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  • About this “curmudgeon” guy…

    Armchair philosopher, politically-incorrect political commentator, raconteur, retired air traffic controller, dilettante truck driver, US Army veteran, recluse, sometime-writer, redneck convert neè Buckeye, ne'er-do-well, bon vivant, unrepentant libertine, unapologetic libertarian, and (of course) curmudgeon…

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Archive for September, 2011

A Deal Is a Deal

Posted by The Curmudgeon on September 20, 2011

A poignant afternoon in the land of steel magnolias

I recently spent several hours in Natchitoches, LA (that’s pronounced nak-ə-təsh , by the way — but don’t ask me to explain why) trying to make a badly-planned loading operation end happily. About the only thing that made the whole experience tolerable was the extraordinarily accommodating shipping and receiving staff (a rare happenstance for truck drivers), and I struck-up a conversation with the dispatcher.

Now, I’ll tell you that while my limited experience has suggested that Natchitoches is a pleasant, friendly place, to the best of my knowledge it’s noted for little beyond being the site of the filming of the movie Steel Magnolias.

And one other sad event.

I pointed out to the dispatcher that the small airport nearby was the place where my all-time favorite singer/songwriter had been tragically killed in a plane crash.

“Ah. Jim Croce,” he said. “You know, he’s still very popular around here. Well thought of.” He cocked his head to one side. “Did you ever hear the story about his last performance?”

I’d known, of course, that Croce had performed at a small local college just before his death — but I was unaware of any other significant details. “I’m all ears.”

He smiled and laid it out for me.

It seems that Croce had been scheduled to perform there long before that fateful day, but had taken ill and had to postpone several performances — including the Natchitoches show. At the time, he was still “on his way up,” playing mostly in coffeehouses and clubs where (as Croce put it) he had to be adept at quickly getting his guitar strap off when fights broke out, doing relatively small shows — for relatively small money. In this case, he was to be paid the whopping sum of five hundred dollars for his planned appearance in Natchitoches.

Fast-forwarding a year and a half or so…

Croce has become an established star, with two successful albums and a recent #1 hit (Bad, Bad Leroy Brown). He’s achieved the commercial success that often eludes recording artists — and he now commands big money for his concerts.

As the story goes, his agent reminded him that he’d had to postpone several appearances. Croce informed him that he had every intention of keeping all those commitments, working them into his current tour.

When the agent contacted Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, the school reportedly thanked Croce for the gesture, but pointed out that there was no way they’d be able to afford him now that he’d gone from being an up-and-comer to his current status as a big-ticket performer.

To Croce, a deal was a deal. The original agreement had called for him to do the show for five hundred dollars; true to his word, he’d therefore do the show for five hundred dollars.

And he did.

The rest of the story…well, you probably already know that. Shortly after the show, Croce’s chartered plane crashed on takeoff; all aboard perished.

Now, I can’t vouch for the accuracy of all this; but ya gotta admit that it’s a pretty damn’ good story — and it dovetails nicely with all that I’ve ever heard about the man. It would seem very much like him to keep to his word and do a low-paying show that most artists would’ve conveniently forgotten about.

And today marks the anniversary of that sad day: September 20, 1973.

Fate robbed Jim Croce of much of the success that he’d earned. He’d come through the lean years and taken his hard knocks, and was just hitting his stride.

And we were robbed of all that he still had left to give.

Many of us found within Croce’s lyrics pieces of ourselves…something that each of us could relate to. A former teacher, soldier, truck driver, and blue-collar kinda guy whose strong hands were as at home with a jackhammer as they were with a guitar, he lived quite a life — a life he infused with his music. He wrote of his own experiences and feelings — and they often mirrored our own. He was a working-man’s artist, proof positive that if you kept hammering at something long enough, eventually it’d pay off for you…that if you could weather the storms and the bad times, there was a payoff — and you don’t get the payoff until you do come through those tough times (or — as Croce said in Tomorrow’s Gonna Be A Brighter Day: “Nobody ever had a rainbow, baby, until he had the rain”).

We got a good laugh out of his regaling us with a story about a guy who was “meaner than a junkyard dog” — but he also introduced us to “lovers in the lemon-scented rain.” He’d sing the workin’-at-the-car-wash blues, but then touch us with a poignant tune about lazy days in mid-July and walking in the Alabama rain. Down times and good times, he’d known them all — and he could touch that part of us. And as is often the case, his best work was known only to the true aficionado; it wasn’t in the popular tunes that got all the radio play, but in the “filler” songs in which he could pour out his heart.

To this day, Jim appears throughout my playlist ; over the years, I’ve listened to those old favorites hundreds (thousands?) of times — and they never get old.

My own personal favorite Croce-ism? Most probably never heard it. It’s the last verse of The Hard Way Every Time — and I think it pretty well nails the man who wrote it:

Well, I’ve had my share of broken dreams,
and more than a couple of falls.
And in chasing what I thought were moonbeams
I have run into a couple of walls.
But, in looking back at the faces I’ve been,
I’d sure be the first one to say — when I look at myself today —
“Wouldn’ta done it any other way.”

Here’s to you, Jim; gone — but never forgotten.

 

__________

 

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