Sunday, December 28, 2014


This scenery is not too far from my home.
I took this photo in early November.

To say that my new place is located in a remote area far from town would be no exaggeration. In fact, I can safely assert that it's in an extremely remote area, very far from town.

When I first saw it in a real estate listing, my cousin Nancy and I decided to drive out and see it before I contacted the realtor.

I was a Tennessee mountain virgin, fresh from the flatlands of West Texas. The narrow mountain roads that we piloted seemed more taxing and dangerous with every curve. I usually don't get easily intimidated, but by the time we were halfway there I was tightly grasping my seatbelt with both hands as if it was a rosary - - and fervently praying to the Powers Above to save my ass if we go over a cliff..

With each unexpected turn, with every harrowing curve, I had unwholesome expectations of plunging off the road and tumbling down to hades - never to be heard from again. And that was with my cousin driving. I absolutely could not imagine driving there myself, utterly alone.

The scenery was gorgeous, and the place was in the kind of location that I had always secretly dreamed of living in - - but the drive to get there was a wicked carnival ride from hell.

Even after I finally purchased the house, I was more than apprehensive about driving there. In fact, the first few times that I went, I had my cousin drive. Along the way, I kept trying to mentally ingest landmarks that I could remember - - in the event that I'd get hopelessly lost or plunge down an unexpected embankment when I was alone.

"Are you sure it's only ten miles from town?" I asked.

"Well, maybe fifteen."

"Holy crap, Nancy, we started out an hour ago. We must have gone fifty miles. The sun is setting already."

"It only looks like it's setting because we're in the mountains."

"My God, I'll need a compass and several days worth of supplies. Are you sure we're still in Tennessee?"

We were indeed in Tennessee but - in truth - I am only a few miles from the Kentucky border.

To condense an extremely long story (and not a moment too soon) I've finally almost gotten used to the long mountain drive - - although I'm still genuinely terrified every inch of the way.

The first time I went there alone, I drove about 10 MPH, riding the breaks, and grasping the steering wheel with the grip of a boa constrictor.

Lately I'm able to execute the journey (what a frightening verb) at 25 MPH - - and my heart rate is only about 350 beats a minute. I'd call it progress.

In absolute truth, I live about 15 miles from town, but the perilous road makes it seem much, much longer. I can get there in twenty minutes - - if I really apply myself and have enough beer.

I only threw in the beer part to scare you. Maybe.

One day last week I was in town much later than I had expected to be. It was starting to get dark and horrific thunderstorm unleased its fury.

I made it only as far as my cousin Nancy's house and decided to stop. At least for enough time to summon some courage. She invited me to stay overnight, but I eventually decided to embark on the harrowing journey home.

Hell, I'm a man, not a mouse. But I more than occasionally have a craving for cheese.....

The ride home was beyond terrifying. The rain was torrential all the way. The road was pitch black - - not a light anywhere. I literally crawled along the dangerous curves, without being able to see a thing except for the feeble white line on the road. I was too scared to even pray.

When I finally arrived home in one piece, I breathed a sigh of relief so loud that it was undoubtedly heard in Kentucky.

Thursday, December 25, 2014


Random pine trees in my back yard
on Christmas morning. Some of them are nearly
100 feet tall. 

I'm not exactly sure if it is Christmas. It's too quiet, too isolated, too removed from the frenzy of society. And it's too mild. Where's the snow? Where's the ice? There are pine trees and deer in my back yard. Yet, the weather is so agreeable that tiny birds are fluttering gracefully through the foliage as if they've escaped from a scene in an old Disney animated movie.

I love being in this newly-found wilderness. I'm enthralled with my mountaintop environment - - but I was expecting snow on Christmas. Am I asking for too much?

You're talking too much, Jon, as usual. But we're used to it.

My cat Scruffy at the window
wondering where Santa Claus is.
Yesterday morning (Christmas Eve) the temp was in the 50's and I was in my shirt sleeves (with pants on, of course). I got an emergency call from the moving company and was compelled to go to the bank (I'll spare you the details). The bank closed at noon and I left the house at 11:20. I drove at breakneck speed through dangerous mountain roads and made it to town just in time.

After the bank ordeal, I went grocery shopping (another ordeal). Then I stopped to see my cousin Nancy. A pleasant visit. We had coffee and talked about old times. All the wild adventures we used to have.

By the time I left for home, the temperature dropped and freezing rain began to fall. The narrow mountain road was slick and more harrowing than usual. Why the hell did I sell my pickup truck in Texas? Actually, I need a couple of pack mules and an Indian guide.

And if anyone tells me that it's now properly called a "Native American Guide" I'm gonna bitch-slap you with my muddy boots.

The woods in my back yard.
Frosty and misty on Christmas Eve.
So, how was my Christmas Eve?
I'm living in an empty house with three cats and a creepy recliner chair left by the previous owners. It's not exactly Rodeo Drive.

I bought a small TV table to house my laptop and I have one metal folding chair.....which hurts my ass so much that I had to put a pillow on it.

All in all it's not too bad. I'm a masochist. I'm used to roughing it. I stocked up on groceries. I don't plan to venture out to town again until next week.

One minor problem - - I bought a lot of canned goods. It wasn't until I got home that I realized I don't have a can opener. Last night I opened a can of evaporated milk with a screw driver.

Kitchen utensils? I have one small pan, two cups, one plate. My enormous stock of kitchen things are still in storage. Laughing at me.
Prelude to my Christmas dinner:
A plate, a tea mug, two candles
and a tiny Xmas tree. I have the tree on the
countertop so the cats don't devour it.
I admittedly miss my huge Texas kitchen - with thirty cabinets, two refrigerators, and a big pantry. My kitchen here is tiny - similar to one designed for a Barbie Dream House.
But I'll get used to it. I'm easily adaptable and extremely congenial. Just ask the boys in the band.

Jon, that was crass and completely uncalled for.

Yea, but, as we used to say in journalism - it makes good copy.

So how did I completely stray away from the subject of Christmas Day? My mind trends to wander and I have no control over it. Unless I get a leash.

Hope your Christmas Day was pleasant - - and if it wasn't, I hope you recover from it soon.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014




The older I get, the more I'm haunted by ghosts of Christmases past. They are no longer laments, but merely faded memories that always resurface on lonely, windswept December nights in the company of colored Christmas lights, warm flickering candles, and  hot cups of whiskey-spiked tea.

Sometimes our memories seem so distant that we have to retrace them occasionally just to assure ourselves that they really happened. The holidays have always inflicted me with a nostalgic sadness and the pangs of tainted sentimentality.

My father's explosive temper and outrageous unpredictability very often ripped the holiday season to shreds. I remember many cold December nights when my mother and I would hide shivering in the dark yard, praying that he wouldn't come out and find us.....or the times he locked us out of the house all night. I vividly remember the night we tried to take the car and leave......when he doused the garage with gasoline and threatened to burn it down.

I was fifteen during the worst Christmas Eve etched in my memory. Violently sick with a hacking cough and raging fever. My parent's personal problems had crescendoed into an unbearable degree of chaos. Mom was threatening divorce. My father cleaned out the bank account, packed the car, left us penniless. He went to Las Vegas to celebrate the holidays alone. Called my Mom long after midnight, drunk and laughing - - telling her what a wonderful time he was having.

On Christmas Day I was taken to the hospital where it was discovered I had pneumonia. A shot of penicillin was administered. I was unknowingly allergic, immediately went into anaphylactic shock. Was unconscious for half an hour. The ugly repercussions of that day still haunt me.

By the time I was twenty I didn't need my father to destroy my life. I was a master at self-destruction. Even when I finally became a professional musician and writer, I couldn't accept the fact that I was worthy of success. I hated myself and took evil delight in trying to expunge my own existence.

I was performing with a chamber group at the L.A. Music Center - - the annual Christmas Eve afternoon concert at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Afterwards I mingled with bigwigs of L.A. society. I actually met Dorothy Chandler.
And much later that night, on a chilly, lonely
 Southern California Christmas Eve, I plied myself with the usual booze and quaaludes - - then haunted the all-too-familiar alleys near Hollywood Boulevard in search of any hardcore nightfreaks who were willing to share their loneliness. And they were always there to be found......

Another later Christmas Eve. I was the harpsichordist at a lavish performance of Handel's Messiah in a well-known Los Angeles church.
Afterwards.....after the festivities and music and applause......I drank myself into sweet oblivion....and woke up in an unfamiliar room in the arms of a stranger.

 I'm not telling these things with any sense of pride. I'm merely remembering the pangs of a turbulent past....

.....those Christmas Eves when I played the piano in tawdry, smoke-filled bars, inhabited by soused, lonely patrons.....where haphazard strands of colored lights failed to induce any semblance of Christmas cheer.....

......but I still can't bear to remember that icy West Texas December five years ago. A December of endless blizzards and endless agony.......when my Mother suffered for three long weeks before she died.....when I was entirely alone, with no friends or relatives...when I saw her close her eyes and breathe her last......

......and I went home to the cold, empty house and sat all night by the fireplace, too numb to think but fully aware that I had suffered not only a loss but also a living death.....a death from which I could never be resurrected.

Let there be peace this Christmas Eve. Peace within ourselves, and peace within this night of haunted long ago memories.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


Here is my new back yard on a sunny November day
The forest begins on my property

This new blog is a continuation of my previous blog, Lone Star Concerto. I thought it best to separate Texas from Tennessee.

I did it. I finally made it from there to here. From the barren wastelands of west Texas to the lush wilds of the Tennessee mountains. I never thought it would happen. Truly. I was prepared to die in Texas. The enormous amount of troubles that I had there rendered my existence into a living death. My soul was extracted, my heart ripped out. And my will to live waned.

In all fairness, I can't blame Texas exclusively. Bad things happen everywhere. I can only speak from my own personal Texas experience. Trouble began happening to me the moment I got there and never stopped. The entire concept of the Lone Star State was in direct contrast to my nature, and - although I adapted to it - my faux cowboy existence was a sham.

Many details of my Texas years have been documented in Lone Star Concerto. I have no desire to rehash them now.

Every effort to leave Texas was thwarted and I had long given up hope.

And then.......

a small miracle suddenly occurred. After being on the market for four agonizing years, my Texas house finally sold. I only got a small fraction of what the place was worth. The three greedy, incompetent realtors received much more than their fair share. The buyers got one helluva deal. I lost money Big Time.

But I was finally free.......and the high price was worth it.

I chose to move to Tennessee because I wanted a complete change in my life. I have no illusions about paradise, perfection, or eternal happiness. But I have relatives here and some friends. I craved for new adventures in a lush, rural environment.

The process of moving always takes longer than expected, with unexpected detours along the way. When I initially made an offer on my new home, the owner was out of town. The realtor didn't get back to me with an answer for over two weeks. Life is slower in rural areas. Offer accepted!

The buying process went smoothly. I paid cash. Now I'm broke but relieved. And happy. I and my three cats had been staying with my cousin Nancy for over a month. She was an absolute saint and extremely helpful.
Anybody who could endure me and three cats for an entire month must be of the heavenly realm.

I moved into my new place on Thanksgiving Day. Due to an address mix up and the hectic holidays, my furniture won't be delivered until January. Since I can survive more easily without furniture than without the Internet, I bought a laptop to ease my withdrawal pangs. It's much more annoying to use than my desktop computer, but I'm getting used to it.

Spare us the verbosity, Jon, and cut to the chase. Where the hell are you exactly, and how do you like it?

Well, Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Texas anymore.

I was desperately craving peace and solitude in a deliciously rural environment, and.....well.....

Old Chinese Proverb:
Be careful what you wish for.......

I'm in the mountains, in the wilderness, in a remote area fifteen miles from town. Completely isolated, in the company of silence and at the mercy of Mother Nature.

Here's a view from the window, in the
room where I'm writing this. It's a bedroom
but I'm planning to make it my office.
I'm situated on two acres of a steep slope of a mountain. From my front windows I have a view of another nearby mist-covered mountain peak. My back yard is on the edge of a forest. There are hilly meadows nestled on either side of my property, inhabited by cows and horses. Birds and wildlife are abundant.
 At night I hear the screech of owls, the howl of coyotes and wild dogs, the sound of unknown creatures rustling through branches and dead leaves. Occasionally, I hear the crisp crack of hunter's rifles - reverberating sharply through the canyons.
There is wind here - but it's not like the brutal, foul, endlessly torturous winds of west Texas.
These are mountain winds - fresh, pure,
invigorating, blowing high through the treetops like a magical carillon. All the sounds of nature echo here, through canyons and branches of trees - resonating with the intricacy of a fugue improvised by Mother Nature.

My impressions are effusive but apt. I am more than impressed by these surroundings. I am astonished.

Icicles hanging from nearby cliffs

The photos are all from my cell phone
and are of poor resolution.

I finally figured out how to add the "Followers" gadget to my sidebar. Please follow, if you dare.