16 Favorite Opening Lines

Most great books have great beginnings. The first sentence or paragraph nails you in your tracks and you have to keep reading. You have to buy the book.

I have my favs. I spent a few hours going over opening lines of books I own and treasure. Now I remember why I treasure them. From the first lines, they had me.

I’m sure you have your favorites.
These are mine.

“I was an ambitious girl child. I knew even then that I had to be, in that environment of thugs, thieves, killers, prostitutes, gamblers—you name it, you’d find it in Trench Town.”
No Woman, No Cry: My life with Bob Marley, Rita Marley

 

“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.”
I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith

 

“If this typewriter can’t do it, than fuck it, it can’t be done.”
Still Life With Woodpecker, Tom Robbins
Still life with woodpecker

“In case you hadn’t noticed, you have a mental dialogue going on inside your head that never stops. It just keeps going and going. Have you ever wondered why it talks in there? How does it decide what to say and when to say it?”
The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, Michael A. Singer

 

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”
The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger

 

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

 

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”
The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

 

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”
The Metamorphosis and Other Stories, Franz Kafka

 

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling

 

“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.”
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S Thompson
Fear and Loathing

 

“You better not never tell nobody but God.”
The Color Purple, Alice Walker

 

“This is a tale of a meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast.”
Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut
Breakfast of Champions

“It was the day my grandmother exploded.”
–The Crow Road, Iain Banks

 

“Amory Blaine inherited from his mother every trait, except the stray inexpressible few, that made him worth while.”
This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

“My suffering left me sad and gloomy.”
__Life of Pi, Yann Martel

 

“Marley was dead, to begin with.”
–A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

Feel free to comment or leave your favorite opening line.

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Sports Memories

The sports headlines from this day in history, August 24, 1951, was about “Fans Managers Night” in St. Louis. There were two teams in St. Louis, always a great baseball town. The Cardinals represented the National League. The St. Louis Browns were an American League team.

The principal owner of the Browns was Bill Veeck, and this was the second of many on-field promotions that became legendary in baseball history.

Veeck was in his first year of ownership and the Cardinals were playing their games in the Browns ball park, Sportmans Park. Veeck decided he would run the Cardinals out of town, even though the Cards were a more popular team. Veeck hired some great Cardinal names of the past, Rogers Hornsby and Marty Marion to manage the team and Dizzy Dean to be the radio announcer. It didn’t work. The Browns were having a horrible year in 1951 and as they went into August they had lost twice as many games as wins.

During the August 19 second game of a double-header, in the bottom of the FIRST inning, Veeck ordered his manager to send up Eddie Gaedel to pinch hit. Earlier in the day he had signed a contract with the little fellow.  Eddie was 3’8” tall and weighed 65 lbs. The number on his uniform was 1/8.  He walked on four straight pitches.
Eddie Gaedel Sportsmans Park St. Louis BrownsEddie Gaedel Uniform

The sports pages went crazy and Veeck announced that the August 24 game would be managed by the fans. And the fans filled the ballpark.

With manager Zack Taylor sitting in a rocking chair atop the dugout, St Louis Browns fans became the manager.
Zack Taylor on the dugout

The fans voted for the starting lineup and 1000 fans behind home plate were given Yes/No signs to vote on options given to them. Things like “Shall We Warm Up a Pitcher?  Infield Moved Back?  A local circuit judge tallied the votes, relayed the instructions to the third base coach. The Athletics manager, Connie Mack, went along with the arrangement.
Fans manage 1
The fans managed the Browns to a 5-3 home victory over the Philadelphia Athletics.

Bill Veeck’s personality came direct from his father, Veeck Sr. His father was a sports writer in Chicago and he constantly berated the Cubs, always stating that he could run the team better than the existing management. William Wrigley Jr, team owner, got tired of reading that stuff and took Veeck Sr. up on it. He hired him to run the Cubs. Wm. Veeck Sr. became President of the Chicago Cubs. He let Bill Jr. be a popcorn vendor when he was twelve. The next summer he told his dad they ought to plant ivy on the outfield walls. He had seen pictures of ivy at a field in Indianapolis. They argued about it for a few years and Bill Jr. when off to college. In 1933 his father died and the Cubs made Jr. an offer to be the Cub’s treasurer. He took the job and in 1937 he ordered the famous ivy to be planted on the outfield walls.

In Bill Veeck’s autobiography “Veeck—as in Wreck” he tells some outlandish tales of his dealings behind the scenes. Some of these tales didn’t pass some fact-checking, but his life was truly amazing. I could write a few more pages about his ownership of the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox and the changes he brought to the game. However, space limits me to my favorite Bill Veeck story.

He actually bought the Chicago White Sox twice. The first time was 1959 and the team won their first pennant in forty years. The next year he installed the first-ever exploding score board. With Every Sox home run, fireworks shot out of the scoreboard along with sound effects. New attendance records were set the first two years. His was the first team to put the names of the players on the back of the uniform. He also installed an electric blower to clean home plate and a mechanical box that rose from the ground with fresh baseballs. The umpire controlled both devices with foot switches.

Declining health forced Veeck to sell the team in 1961. His health improved and he re-purchased the Sox in 1975.

Full disclosure:  I was still a few years from moving to California and my home was a hundred twenty miles from Sox field. They were my team.

SO…when DISCO DEMOLTION NIGHT was announced by Bill Veeck in July of 1979, we gathered around the TV in anticipation. Honestly, none of my musician friends were into Disco music, so we were excited.

The White Sox were stinking up the American League and were lucky to get 15,000 people to a game. Veeck teamed up with a local rock-jock named Steve Dahl who announced on his DJ show that every fan who brought a Disco record to the game would get in for 98 cents. He said that between games, a double-header with Detroit, he would blow up all the records in centerfield.  YES!  I couldn’t wait.

Veeck figured this promotion would bring in another 5000 fans and maybe get the attendance up to 20,000.

What he didn’t figure was rock and roll fans were fired up and ready to destroy Disco forever. 50,000 fans filed into the ball park and after they shut the gates to the capacity crowd at least another 3000 forced their way in.

After the first game the players retired to the clubhouse (it was an early-start first game) and Steve Dahl and a large crew wheeled out a giant crate loaded with thousands of Disco vinyl records. Evidently they used to much juice and the detonation tore a big whole in the outfield PLUS the crazy fans rushed the field and started dancing and partying and refused to leave until riot police forced them out. The entire field was destroyed and the Sox forfeited the second game.
Disco Demo 1Disco Demo 2

Veeck’s big promotion was a disaster.

I think the idea was fantastic. Sorry Donna Summer.

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Best Debate Ever

I like to write, but not today. Your time is important so I don’t want you to miss the latest “Bad Lip Reading” video. It’s five minutes and it’s worth it. Stick around to the end when the candidates do their closing 13 second song. Brilliant stuff!

Enjoy.

https://youtu.be/ufGlBv8Z3NU

Republican Debate Cleveland

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FADE AWAY

Many elders get bent out of shape about the changing world. Always have. Always will.

Every generation has their own music, fashion and their own phrases of speech. A large percentage of music, fashion and phrases fade away. Only a few words and phrases stick around.

The few that stick around make me wary of saying them, even though they are a habit.

I mean is the word “cool” cool? It was very cool to say “cool” back in the ‘40s. Then again in the ‘70s. I hear young kids saying it now so I will continue to use “cool” even “cool, man.”
The other word from the ‘40s that still is used by musicians is “gig.”  In fact I have a gig coming up in a few weeks. I love playing gigs.

The other words from my parent’s generation that are not cool are:
Juke Joint, smooch, cat’s pajamas, bees knees, gams, 23 skiddoo,  the real McCoy, Girl Friday, skivvies, moll, speakeasy, hubba-hubba, in like Flynn, living the life of Riley, and all the tea in China.
I can imagine one of my parents’ friends (My parents would never say this) use this phrase:
“After we cut a rug in the speakeasy we went out to the passion pit in my jalopy and did some smooching and necking and petting and billing and cooing. My girl really thinks I’m swell.”
charleston dancers

Can you imagine telling somebody you think they’re really swell. They’d smack you and run to a mirror.

My generation of music, fashion, words and phrases has long faded away, too.

I can imagine one of my friends (I would never say this) use these expressions:

“Hey, don’t touch that dial, I want you to listen to this groovy mind-blowing platter. I’ll make you a carbon copy of the lyrics. I’m not kidding daddy-o, my hi-fi is rocking to the hippy beat.”
rock dancers

But now even my kid’s generation of music, fashion, words and phrases are almost gone.

I can imagine my kid’s friends (My kids would never say this) use these expressions:
“Dad, you are such a dweeb. That is so gnarly. You can gag me with a spoon. My music is totally bodacious and definitely not yuppie.  This is so rad.”
80s fashion

I laugh at them now as their kids bring home their friends that might say (My grandkids would never say this):

“Wassup homey, these are my peeps so don’t diss them because their streams are so sweet. Makes me want to get-jiggy. If you’re not feelin’ it, my bad.”
hip hop dancers

God, I can’t wait until their music, fashion, words and phrases fade away.

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LOVE MY MAYO!

As you may have read in the comments to my blog, a local Bako reader says he always learns something when he reads this blog. So today, this educational blog is just for Tim.

I love mustard. I keep a huge selection of mustard. I’ve found a few places that have hooked me on their mustard and I have a special mustard shelf.  Two from Stone Brewery in Escondido and six different mustards from V.Sattui Winery in Napa Valley are always on my mustard shelf.
mayo3mayo2

Mayo?  Only one mayo for me…Best Foods Mayonnaise!

Until 1997 Best Foods distributed their “Best Foods” brand west of the Rockies and in Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
You folks east of the Rockies get the same mayo in the same container with the same slogan (Bring Out the Best). Back east it’s called Hellman’s Mayonnaise.

Mayo 1

The new parent company since 1997 is Unilever.

They are advertised on their containers as the same thing, but they are slightly different. To this day they still use two separate recipes, almost the same, but the Best Foods brand has slightly more lemon which gives it a bit more tanginess to most taste buds. Yummy!

Many people didn’t know that the Titantic was carrying over 12,000 cases of Best Foods Mayo that was to be delivered from England to Mexico. It’s true, that after salsa, Mexicans also love their Mayo. After New York, the next port of call for the Titanic was Vera Cruz.

But alas, the ship never made it to New York. It hit and iceberg and sank.

The Mexican people were distraught.

In fact they declared a National Day of Mourning.
The day chosen to remember was May 5th.

It’s now called Sinko de Mayo.

I promise to continue to educate my readers.
Thank you very much.

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Visions of America

Since our country was founded many people around the world dreamed of visiting America or moving here to make a better life. Today American celebrates one man who dreamed of this nation…a nation he never visited.

Jacques-Louis Macie was an illegitimate child of an English Duke, secretly born in Paris in 1765. He eventually was schooled in England and became a mineralogist and a chemist. In 1787, age 22, he changes his surname to Smithson, his father’s pre-married surname. He used James, instead of Jacques-Louis. He turned out numerous papers in geology, chemistry and mineralogy. He discovered that calamine was an actual mineral in 1802, which at that time overturned popular scientific opinion. The scientific community honored him by naming this mineral Smithsonite. Cool!
Smithsonian3

But, that’s only where his story begins and why we should thank him for his tremendous gift. No…not the zinc carbonite finding, but his vision of America.

He loved America, read of its founding, its constitution and its promise. As he neared the end of his life he wrote a strange will. When James died in 1829, he left his estate to his only living relative, a nephew. The will of James Smithson stated if his nephew died with no children, then the entirety of the estate would go to the United States of America, a place he had never visited. The money was to be used for the “founding of an educational institution in Washington D.C.

In 1835, the nephew, Henry James Hungerford, died with no children as heirs.

Word was received in Washington that this estate was being donated and in 1836, Congress authorized acceptance of the gift. President Andrew Jackson sent a delegation to go to England and escort the donation back to America. They had eleven boxes to tote. There was eight shillings and seven pence and some gold sovereigns

Actually there was about 105,000 gold sovereigns. Total value was $500,000.  That half of a million dollars would be worth twelve million in today’s dollars.

Congress spent ten years deciding what to do with the money. Not bad. That’s about three times faster than our Congress works today. There were considerations of starting a university, a library or possibly an astronomical observatory. All worthwhile creations.

Finally Congress determined to build a museum, a library and a program of research publication, and collection in the sciences, art and history.

On this day in history, August 10, 1846, President James Polk signed into law the act establishing the Smithsonian Institution.

Here is the first of 19 Smithsonian Museums we now have in Washington D.C.
Smithsonian 1

Thanks to Jacques-Louis Macri’s (James Smithson) vision of America, a place he never visited.

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Jay’s Journey

Jay’s Journey

I bet most towns have five great guitar players. And another 25 damn good ones.

The bar is set high for guitar players. They usually get the prettiest girls.
Guitar Seranade

(Sorry banjo players, but it’s true.)
Banjo Romance

Guitar players know how hard they have to work at their instrument (practice makes perfect, Eddie.) So those five great guitar players in every town know their skills. They all love doing music. Circumstances and desire sometimes allows one or two of those five to seek fame and fortune. Or just to make a living picking and grinning.

Half of those two guys from every town in America end up in Los Angeles or Nashville.
Los Angeles has thousands of great guitar players. Nashville has many hundred. Picking and grinning can happen, but it can be just for tips…(putting food on the table sometimes involves learning other skills like saying those famous words…”Do you want fries with that?”)

Back in my birth town of Lafayette in Hoosierland, I saw some great guitarists. And yes, even some of our banjo players, like Larry McNeely, made Nashville take notice.

I left Lafayette and my old music store to work in the music biz in California. Shortly after I left, one of a new breed of fine guitar players, Jay McDowell, started teaching at my old shop. My friend and partner, who took over the store, Dave Grimes, used to tell me how he’d hired another great one in Jay.

Jay was one of those ‘top five’ guys and he had the desire to pick and grin for a living. Off to Nashville he went, hoping to get his guitar on a big stage…any stage would do to start. It was the  nineties and Garth, Wynona, Dixie Chicks, Alan, Billy Ray, Shania, and George were on top the charts. Rock clubs were starting to spring up and change the atmosphere of downtown Nashville and jazz players also had some nice venues to jam.

But the phone for guitar gigs stayed quieter than Jay wanted.

But, Jay also played a great bass and took a few bass gigs. The word got out. Nashville needed bass players and Jay started working constantly. In the mid-‘90s he joined a band that had a gig playing for tips at Robert’s Western World on Broadway in Nashville.
Roberts 1

Playing for tips– divided by FIVE.

The band named themselves after a phone number from a funny skit on Hee-Haw. Remember this guy?

"Hee Haw" Junior Samples circa 1980 © 1980 Marv Newton

“Hee Haw”
Junior Samples
circa 1980
© 1980 Marv Newton

 

BR-549 was discovered at Robert’s Western World by Arista Records in 1995 and the rest is history. Albums and singles on the country charts and three Grammy nominations, Smilin’ Jay and the boys were picking and grinning all over the world.
(Jay is the tall one)
BR549

Robert’s Western World got lucky.
BR549 2

After many years on the road, Jay found a love for the production side of music, especially video. He worked for Sony doing some wonderful music videos and doing a few video jobs at the newly built “Musicians Hall of Fame.” That led Jay to the “best job in the world.”
He is now the curator of that Hall of Fame and it is a wonderland of history for any lover of music of the past sixty or so years. From the birth of rock on…
Nashville6

Instruments that belonged to my heroes, plus letters, records, rare photos, entire studio equipment and even the sound proof walls from the most legendary music factories of all time are right in front of you.

Jay gave me a royal tour last week.Nashville1

I invite all of you to never leave Nashville without seeing the Musicians Hall of Fame. Not only nostalgia lives there, but I felt some ghostly spirits still hanging around.
Say Howdy to Jay.

What a fun place!  Thanks, Jay.

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