Finding Floyd

THINGS CHANGE

Every town and city has its own landmarks and unique culture. Phoenix is no different. Back in the mid 70’s one of the cool things to do was to “Cruise Central”. Central is a street that separates the east numbered streets and the west numbered avenues. By the late 70’s it was “Cruise Metro”. Metro Center was one those mega malls that are going the way of the dinosaurs.

Back in those days and well into the 80’s Phoenix had a favorite son, even though he wasn’t from here, that was our best kept secret from the world. He was kinda what Bob Seger was to Michigan before the rest of the country discovered him.

“In The Round” is the Phoenician nickname for The Celebrity Theatre due to its 360 degree slowly rotating stage. It’s where we just saw Franki Valli about a month ago. It was the locally famous Jerry Riopelle that put The Celebrity on the map for us youngsters back in the day.

In those days the best concert in town, regardless of which famous rock band was in town, was Jerry Riopelle. His annual New Year’s Eve show at The Celebrity was a must see and was always sold out.

Like a lot of folks, I keep a mental record of my top ten favorite books and authors. I do the same with albums and artists. On my top ten list, or what some of us musical fanatics call “Your Desert Island List”, which is the ten albums you’d like to have with you if you were deserted on an island for the rest of your life list, is a Jerry Riopelle album.

It’s kinda cheating because the album is a live recording so it has songs from a lot of his albums. The album, named for where it was recorded, is titled Jerry Riopelle In The Round. Yes, here locally at The Celebrity Theatre…

things change
image courtesy of discogs.com

I can’t recall how many eight tracks I wore out of that album. I couldn’t begin to try to calculate the times the record needle ran through the grooves of that vinyl album either.

Jerry Riopelle came whisker close to making it big. He wrote songs for Brewer and Shipley, We Five, and Shango. Some of the people that covered his songs have been Leon Russell, Herb Alpert, Kenny Loggins, Rita Coolidge, and Meat Loaf… How or why Riopelle’s “Walkin’ On Water” never became a national hit only God knows… literally…

Of course music is timeless because it can magically transport us back in time in our minds. When I hear a Jerry Riopelle song I can’t help but think of my first car and all the blood sweat and tears I spent to buy it. I can’t help but remember my high school buddy Shawn. I remember all the time we spent together in the gym as adults… and I recall that he almost never missed a Riopelle concert. I think of him riding his bicycle in the bike lane up on Thompson Peak Parkway… and being hit and killed by a motorist in March of 2012.

They say all good things come to and end… I suppose that’s got some merit from a secular perspective, but not a Christian one.

Another one of those things that did come to an end was Jerry Riopelle’s New Year’s Eve show.

I was sad to hear that Jerry Riopelle passed the day before Christmas last December. I was even more grieved that he had been so forgotten that I didn’t find out until almost the end of January.

But things change. Small cities become massive metropolises. Kids don’t cruise in muscle cars anymore. Folks get older and don’t cherish the things they did in their youth. And people die…

With time and loss we tend to ponder our past, our actions, our changing thought process, and our own mortality. As Ecclesiastes says, and copied by The Byrds, there is a season for all things, “A time to be born, a time to die”.

That puts becoming famous in a far different light. Only God knew the heart of Jerry Riopelle. What I do know is this; not one single person in the after life wouldn’t go back and trade fame and fortune for another chance to choose The Truth…

Jerry Riopelle… rest in peace…

A CHANCE MEETING?

I try to avoid the mega home improvement store that I consider to be for amateurs as much as possible, but sometimes it’s just too convenient… This is especially true on the weekends when the professional supply yards and houses are closed, but us workaholics aren’t.

I heard someone faintly calling my name from behind me. I never rush to see who it is. The truth is I never know if the voice is going to be one that I have long since buried in the lost memories of my mind.

I heard the calling of my name more clearly the second or third time. It was a man… I turned slowly to see a familiar face.

“Hey, how are you doing?” The man asked as we shook hands, both of us with a vice like grip.

“I’m good! How are you?” I asked as I studied him and tried to place a name with his face.

“Good, good!” He smiled and nodded his head with animation.

We made small talk for a several minutes. During that time the man’s name eluded me. Still does. But as we talked it dawned on me which part of my life this well groomed and slightly greying man came from.

The man’s familiar eyes and smile had aged some since I’d seen him last. No doubt he saw the same in me.

“You look good, still in great shape. Good for you,” I said recalling the days in the gym that we both worked out at about twenty years ago.

If you spend enough time with a person you find out a lot about them, their quirks, idiosyncrasies, likes and dislikes.

The man returned the compliment, which may have been sincere or not, I wear long sleeved and baggy shirts so it’s difficult to say. But then he said something else that clued me in and reminded me how much time I did spend with the man a long time ago.

“Still got the cool tennis shoes going,” he checked mine out and chuckled.

“Of course. Some things never change!” I laughed too.

Yes they are cool… except for that smudge!!!

While no one would ever compare my dressing habits to the likes of Frank Sinatra, especially during the day, when it comes to shoes, including tennis shoes, I don’t compromise.

As soon as the man said that I could immediately see him in my mind as the kid he was in the gym. He was always a very respectful young man… one that I’d forgotten all about.

I’m not sure if I heard the Golden Rule first or Matthew 7:12 and or Luke 6:31. I’ve tried to treat folks in a decent way during my life, but know that I’ve come up short more than my fair share of the times.

The man I’d helped train and gave spots to in the gym decades earlier and I chatted for a few more minutes. We shook the vise like hand shake once more and he was off.

He stopped about twenty feet out and turned back.

“I just want to thank you for all you did for me… for helping me,” he nodded with a serious expression.

I smiled and nodded too, “You did good. Good job,” I told him.

“Thanks,” he nodded yet again and disappeared down flooring aisle.

I wish I could say that everybody that has crossed my path in life would have nothing but good things to say about me. Not for me or my pride, but as a tribute to the One I belong to.

It’s a fine thing to strive to be a bright spot in the lives of others, but we all fail. We let others down, it’s inevitable. They let us down too. It’s life. We all know it’s a fallen world after all.

“Father forgive us of our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us”.

It’s peculiar how the little things we do along the way can mean so much to others. That’s the gift that gives both ways, friends.

“… whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.” (NIV)


SILENCE IS GOLDEN

I heard the adage Silence is Golden a lot as a kid, but not so much anymore. To be honest the old slogan hasn’t even come to mind in years, and more than just a few.

It’s my guess that I’m not the only one who hasn’t thought of those words lately either. And I’ll bet it’s for a similar reason; we don’t cherish silence like we used to in our society today…

I was reminded that Silence is Golden in a very unexpected way last weekend. Odd that it was in a less than silent setting. Words, however you hear them, can be a mighty powerful tool for change… and open the heart and mind to the dire need of it.

Music has been a huge part of my life – all of my life, as a kid was no exception. It’s fair to say that music may have been even more impactful then.

Some songs you hear a couple times and they become a part of who we are and you carry them with you forever.

Even though heavy Rock and Roll was all the rage in the late sixties, there were some pop songs that were just too catchy to be denied. One of those catchy songs my cousin Quay and I sang at the top of our lungs long before we could add or subtract. Some things are easier to memorize than others when a person is still having birthdays that can be counted on two hands.

That particular song started like a mellow crooner, but come chorus time it stalled momentarily then a massive orchestra burst into a riff in overdrive. Just as that ended is when Frankie Valli belted out the famous line that my cousin and I loved to imitate. “I Love You Baby”.

By that time Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ songs were part of American culture. Even though a lot of the songs were born about the same time as me, they were still getting radio play. They were too catchy to fade away… still are.

Some of the instant classics were “Sherry”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Walk Like a Man”, “Rag Doll”, “Dawn”, and “Working My Way Back to You” to name a few. It would be some years later when songs like “My Eyes Adored You”, “December, 1963”, “Who Loves You”, and “Grease” would blare from FM radios and Junior High and High School dances.

But of all those songs that most of us can at least sing the chorus to by heart, it’s the one that never makes the top lists for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons that is still ringing in my head from last weekend.

I could hear that familiar voice that had been with me in my childhood and adolescent days as we walked through the doors. I figured there would have been an opening act. I guess when you’re 84 you wanna get the show done and get to bed.

As soon as Frankie started singing “Silence is Golden” not only did the memory of the song come to me, but also the adage that has seem to have gone missing from my life and so many others as well.

I know the author of that song didn’t intend it to have the effect that it did on me. That’s what a lot of people call “a God thing”. And I believe that’s exactly what it was. When we belong to God we have the grace from Him to find His wisdom… especially when we need it.

I don’t know about you, but I need it. I need to “Be still and know that He is God”. Which when we can pull it off… it brings peace to the soul and reminds us that Silence is Golden.


GREEN EYES

green eyes
These eyes don’t have the depth of my dad’s…

Repost from September of 2011.

They were green eyes… I realized with time his eyes really did most of the talking for him during his lifetime. It wasn’t as much the look or expression on his face as it was the focus or emotion in his eyes. They could portray any sense of emotion he had.

They were his mom’s eyes. His dad was half Native American, or at least that’s what he told everyone. His dad looked Indian. In fact, to say he looked full blood would be an exaggeration.

His eyes were strong first. They showed intent in everything he did, but they also carried in them peace and joy. Long after I first began to understand the strength in those eyes, I would slowly, with time, realize in those green eyes were comfort.

As I peered out over my guard, which was identical to his due to his teaching, I saw joy. Those green eyes told me he was having fun. I also saw intent, but alas my age, speed, skill, strength, and quickness would be a bit too much for the man behind those haunting green eyes…

As we moved, sidestepped quickly, carefully positioned the members of our bodies to best the other, I saw something else in those green eyes; I saw extreme joy mixed with intensity… I didn’t see a shred of doubt…

The confidence in his green eyes caught me a bit off-guard. The man behind them was underestimating the skill behind mine. The time had come; I knew I was physically superior. I had longer, quicker and stronger arms.

It was all in fun, we weren’t going to throw full punches, just a stinging pulled slap in order to prove who would be the best for that day.

The confidence in his eyes was backed up by, not the grin on his face, but the full blown smile. I was smiling too. His boxing career in the Air Force and Elks Lodges for extra money when his kids were babies was twenty-five years in his rear view mirror. Those were days before I existed.

What those green eyes couldn’t see was my skill that had been developed. “You have any idea how fast I am?” I asked as we moved around each other having already started sparring.

“I bet you’re really fast,” he said almost laughing.

Then he said something like, “Why don’t you show me some of that speed,” while he smiled. Right before he could get the last syllable out I launched a lightning left jab to “slap” his right cheek… It never got there…

He parried my jab with his right hand and landed two straight jabs to the side of my face that I thought was well protected. It went on for another 20 or 30 seconds as the kind green eyes pummeled me gently.

By that time his eyes were pouring emotion. He laughed his perfect laugh. I laughed too… He grabbed and hugged me. “Son – your faster than I thought you were!” He laughed, but sincere in his assessment.

His green eyes were proud, not of himself, he didn’t matter to himself. He was proud of me for really nothing, just for belonging to him.

I was proud for who he was as a man. His eyes hid no intention other than the truth of God he lived his life by. And that could be clearly seen in his green eyes.

As time goes on and God reveals to and in me who I am in this world, it changes me from not only the inside but the outside as well.

On a rare occasion, and the light and angle are just right, as I glance in the mirror – I can see them, faintly. Deep inside I spot them; my father’s eyes. I remember his green eyes looking back at me, reminding me of the man I can still be.

When God took my dad home He took a piece of my heart with them. Through the sorrow I’ve learned it was His way of preparing me for when it’s my turn to be taken home.

I’m left with the memory and the love I will always carry with me… captured in those green eyes…

FOR GRANTED

I guess everyone is at least a little guilty of taking their fair share of things for granted in our society. A decent example would be each time the engine starts in our cars or trucks and we don’t give it a second thought. We put it in drive and our minds in neutral and off we go.

I’m not saying that I miss the by-gone days of driving hunk-uh-junks. I think part of these wrinkles are from my brow being creased in the old days while I tried to will those old cars and trucks to start. As if that was gonna help…

I had a flashback as I stood in front of the TV monitor like an almost drooling zombie. I pushed the gas nozzle into the gas tank and locked down the auto hold on the pump. Then I turned to watch the TV advertisements and useless information on the screen that captivated me like a fish gazing at a shiny lure. The gallons and dollars rolled by on the digital read out below it.

It was usually hot, at least that’s the way the playback went in my mind. I pried my eyes loose of the screen. I briefly eyed the gallons and amount of money being spent. I turned and studied the billowing rain clouds building in the east. I recall being deep in thought some thirty plus years ago now.

I always looked around while I was filling my gas tanks. As I looked around I was always pondering something, sometimes personal, sometimes work related. It wasn’t a religious moment or anything like that, but it was quiet time to contemplate. Of course there was no way to know at the time… I took it for granted.

Nowadays if my eyes aren’t locked on a TV monitor while I’m getting gas I’m on the phone or catching up on text messages.

Back in those days I would have never been suspected or accused of being a Joni Mitchell fan. But that didn’t keep any of us from being exposed to her biggest hit; Big Yellow Taxi. Even as a kid I knew that those simple lyrics were profound and very wise.

“Don’t it always seem to go, that YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’VE GOT TILL IT’S GONE… they paved paradise and put up a parking lot”

image courtesy of discog.com

I also remember some wise person warning me that “For all you get in this life, you have to give up something.”

The cars have TV’s in the back of the headrests… Air conditioning, that used to be a luxury, is now piped into the seats, as well as heat for the chilly winter days. The radio has graduated from AM then FM to satellite now. Even a heater on the steering wheel for crying out loud…

If those aren’t enough to keep us occupied we have our cell phones. And if by the long shot chance we’re not on them when we’re getting gas, we have the TV monitor at the gas pump…

All of these technological advances are awesome in their own right. But that person was right; for all we’ve gained… we’ve lost much.

All the luxury items we now count as necessity pale in comparison to the miracle of life and this earth that it distracts us from.

“The earth declares His majesty”. But we can’t see it… we’re too busy looking at screens… and taking God’s greatest gifts for granted…