Tuesday. Bluesday.

© 2019  Bill Murphy

It’s said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions… and I’ll agree.  Many of those mis-guided intentions begin right close to home… some even in the home.

In the closing years of the 1940s, my mother decided that I should take piano lessons.  I’m not sure just why this conclusion was reached.  I don’t think I was prone to play with musical toys, and I certainly was no songbird.  

But piano lessons were readily available.  The pianist from our church, Miss Nellie Robinson, lived within walking distance of our home.  She gave piano lessons in her home.  And she agreed to take me on.

Come to think of it now… our family must have had to purchase a piano on which I could practice.  Neither Dad nor Mom played, and my sister was far too young at the time to do anything short of banging on the keys.  Anyway, a playable upright appeared at 802 Evergreen.

What a waste!

Soon I was either stopping off for lessons on my way home from George School… or walking back the short distance to Miss Nellie’s on Walnut Street.  My lessons were on Tuesdays.  Always on Tuesdays.

I didn’t take well to the piano, neither Miss Nellie’s nor ours at home.  A piano is a piano I suppose… just as a scorpion is a scorpion.  I never got the hang of tickling the ivories, anymore than I’d have learned to tickle a scorpion.  My young heart and fingers simple weren’t in it.  Perhaps if I’d been born a few years later, Bill Haley or Little Richard might have inspired me to try harder.  But at that time, my time, I had no desire to try harder.  According to Miss Nellie, I didn’t try at all!

Tuesdays became a huge blemish on calendars everywhere.  Where everyone else saw the second day of the week, I saw the green wicked witch of the east mocking me!  “TUESDAY…  I’ll get you my sweetieeeee….”  

I learned to loath Tuesdays, to dread them.  The path to Miss Nellie’s became my green mile.

I don’t remember how long this piano-purgatory lasted.  It felt as though it was until I was twenty seven. When you’re in distress, young or old, time slows.  And it was Miss Nellie herself who finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel and led me to safety.

“Mrs. Murphy,” she said to my mother, “You’re wasting your money and my time with Billy.  So far, he’s not learned a single note past middle C.  Everything he plays… he plays by ear!”

Hallelujah, my days of musical misery were over!  I was free!  I’d done my small part to save the elephants!

But Bluesday was not through with me.  So deep was my disdain, so strong was my dread of the second day of the week… that it took many, many years for me to overcome my ingrained discomfort of every Tuesday… all fifty two of them each year!  Yes, I’m truthful when I say ‘many years.’  I finally ‘think’ that I can say that Tuesday is now, just what it is, and what it was always intended to be… simply Tuesday. 

A footnote to Music with the Murphy’s:  My sister, Mary Lily, went on to reclaim our family’s musical honor.  She also took lessons from Miss Nellie… and very successfully I might add.  So, the purchase of ‘Billy’s piano’ wasn’t for naught.  Mary, always a go-getter, went on to play in the Enochs Junior High and Central High bands.  And while not being content to simply do well with her Oboe, she also mastered every single instrument in the band!

Yes, we have a piano today in our home today.  No, I still don’t play, neither by finger nor ear.  Carol does, as well as one of our daughters.  And, as I write these words while not in a twit, today actually is Tuesday!  

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The Blank Page

© 2018  Bill Murphy

The following is my comment to a poem entitled ‘Primal Urge’ by my dear friend and fellow writer, Sandra Conner, which contained lines in reference to the possibilities of the blank page. 

The tail gunner of a B-17

This poem struck a special cord in my heart.  It took me back to a my seventh grade English class.  I was fresh out of grade school, and feeling ‘all grown up.’  I had an urge even then to write, as ideas raced through my mind.  We were not long removed from WWII at the time, and I was still caught up in the romance of battles in the skies.  Little boys have no inkling of the misery and horror of war.  To me it was all glory and adventure, like the propaganda newsreels of that day.  We had no understanding of the freezing blasts of wind through a bomber at 30,000 feet, or the bulky burden of heated flight suits and heavy flak jackets.  We’d never heard the deafening noise of war.  And we’d never slipped in the blood of the poor guy who moments before stood beside us… and who had the night before, lay two cots to our right, reading love letters from his sweetheart back home.  We had no experience of seeing our own plane afire, not knowing if the next second would be our last.

I had an idea for a story.  The name would be ‘THE LAST ONE HOME.’  It was about the tail gunner of a B-17 bomber.  In my story, war had been an all-encompassing, well… thrill for him… just as I imagined then that it would have been for me.  It had been as if it were one big duck hunt, but the ducks my hero killed were German fighters… the enemy.  And now, they were on their last mission – this was it.  Soon all the glamorous glory would be over. Within days, they’d be returning home.  The duck hunt was over.  The ride back to base held heavy, mixed emotions.  And I wanted to show those raw emotion through the written word.

My story would be this man’s inner battle, his all new war that began afresh in his heart and in his mind.  The story of war morphed into peace.

I remember having those thoughts in my thirteen year old brain that day, as I stared at a blank sheet of paper before me.  And I had the warm and wonderful thought that here before me lay the next great ‘american novel’… or at least there lay before me the possibility of it!  It was all up to me.  Oh what an opportunity!  Oh what a challenge!

As writers, we have a responsibility to the blank page… to do our best!  We must never fear the blank page.  The blank page is always our friend… our lover.  The blank page welcomes us with open arms.  We can tell it our deepest thoughts, it understands, it never rejects our words.

DODGING THE BULLET

bullet-1027871_1280© 2018 Bill Murphy

A Facebook friend posted a funny this morning… about when seeing a recent photo of an old high school squeeze, do you think, “I dodged the bullet on that one!”

I didn’t.

I’ve often wondered about that… what if I actually had dodged the bullet?  What if I had listened to my parents?  What if I had known then what I know now?  I know my life would have been different.  But how different?  I’m very satisfied with how it is today… but would I – could I – have had this life today… if I had not had that life way back then?

Good question.

Back then, 1957, 58, 59… there was a young girl, Carol Ringer, who lived over eleven-hundred miles away, in a quaint bedroom community just outside Philadelphia, PA.  Hers was a happy, care-free, country club life style… vacationing on Cape Cod… shopping in NYC… far, far removed from the likes of Bill Murphy.  But she too was struck by a bullet… the unexpected death of her father.  She too would have preferred to have dodged that bullet.

It took a full decade… of both of us suffering from our individual ‘bullet wounds’ for us to somehow, some way, miraculously meet.  The fact that we fell in love was no miracle… for we believe that it was meant to be.  The miracle was in the meeting.

So you ask, “If you had it to do all over again, would you?”  The simple, truthful answer is yes!

Of course, we’d prefer that we’d not been subjected to those bullet wounds which eventually brought us together.  But we must admit, for that to have happened… that would have been a true miracle!

I don’t have to understand everything in life… I don’t need a detailed explanation for every detail.  All I need to know is that God is still on His throne, and that HE is in control, and that He knows what He’s doing.  I also know that He loves me, and that He knows what’s best for me… and that He’ll lead me to the still waters to drink my fill… if I’ll only allow Him to take the lead.

And if the enemy takes a shot at me… my God is the Master of healing bullet wounds!

 

 

 

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WHO IS YOUR TEACHER? What do they teach?

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© 2018 Bill Murphy

What is more important, heredity or environment?  That’s a question mental health experts have debated for decades.

Wilson, Manning, Harris, Ratliff, VanDevender, and Eggar.  These 6 ladies were my grammar school teachers.  They created a strong and positive impression upon me when I was of a most impressionable age.

I had other teachers: Mother, father, uncles and aunts, my grandparents, countless cousins, and caring neighbors.  And there were my spiritual teachers, instructors who were ‘professional,’ as well as friends, and extended family members.

This is not a ‘hats off’ to my teachers.  It’s a close examination of our ‘education process’ in general, and how vitally important are our teachers…. and what they teach.

What we are taught yesterday can be either beneficial or detrimental today.

Most little boys like things that go BAG!  I was no different.  As a child, one of my favorite toys was a small ‘bomb,’ a soft plastic dart-looking thing, with a rounded metallic nose.  Into the nose, you inserted a section from a roll of caps intended for cap pistols.  I usually crammed in as many caps as I could… for a bigger bang.  You threw it UP as far as possible, and when it came down and hit… BANG!

I attempted making a ‘bomb’ with a bigger bang, using fireworks… but the INSTANT BANG at the moment of impact eluded me.  Later, when I was a teenager, and should have known better… someone taught me how to make an INSTANT BANG bomb. I did, – and it would.  Great sport!

But one day, a LIVE ROUND of 50 cal. ammunition came into my possession. Ah ha… I reasoned, an even BIGGER bag! (I did have sense enough to first remove the slug).

My home-made 50 cal. bomb as a resounding success.  I got a VERY big boom for my buck… and I also got pelted with flying pieces of brass shrapnel.  Only by the grace of God do I still have eyesight today.

We can learn harmful things yesterday which can bite us in the fanny today.  Likewise, we can learn harmful today which can kill us tomorrow!

So, be careful of WHAT you learn!  If your conscience tells you to avoid a certain lesson, if it’s NOT for you today… why then should it be profitable for you later?

What you are taught determines what you learn.

What you learn determines your thought and reasoning processes.

Your thought and reasoning processes determine how you live.

How you live determines who you are.

Who you are determines your destiny.

Your destiny is all important.

It all begins with your teachers!

 

 

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THE PERFECT GIFT

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© 2018 Bill Murphy

What do you give the one who has everything?  Most of us have confronted this problem… but it no longer must be a problem.  Let me suggest – giving that person appreciation.

We all want attention and appreciation.  But if we’re honest, these 2 items are near the top of our want-list. True?  So – this coming Christmas, birthday, anniversary, or for any gift-giving occasion, your problem is now solved… with a gift guaranteed to please.  I know that I want to be appreciated!  Don’t you?

There is another who also relishes our attention and appreciation… the one who most deserves it!  But He often must settle for a once-a-week ‘I appreciate you’ session, where we express our attention and appreciation to Him.  Yes, I’m speaking of our Heavenly Father!

I’m afraid that we tend to get so wrapped up in our busy lives, that we fail to see our lives in their proper perspective… that is: how our lives are related to His!  We’re reminded that we should stop and ‘smell the roses.’  But that’s only a start.

The next clear night, go somewhere that the city lights don’t interfere… and look toward the heavens.  Can you count the stars?  No, there are far too many to count.  And this is only the ones you can see.  There are billions upon billions far beyond these.  He created each and every one.

How large is this universe?  The size is far beyond anything we can comprehend or imagine.  How big is limitless?  He created it all.

This creator is our God.  Not only is He our creator, He is our Heavenly Father.  Compared to Him, we are but speck of dust.  And yet, amazing as it it, He knows each of us by name.  Scripture tells us that He knows how many hairs are on your head!  But more important than that… He loves you.

Yes, He wants our attention and our appreciation!  But here is the most amazing thing about who WE are: When He created us, he could have created us to ‘automatically’ love Him, to automatically give Him our undivided attention and appreciation.  But… He chose not to do so.  Instead, He made us ‘like’ Himself… he gave our temporary, physical bodies an indwelling spirit… a spirit like He is!  And He also gave us a will of our own… just as He has a will.  And why did He do this?  He did this because He did not want our lives to be controlled by instinct… not pre-programmed to be what He desired for us to be.  That would have been too easy.  That is the way He made all other animal life.

Instead… for us… He wanted us to be His CHILDREN, like unto Him, to be eternal, spiritual… children that He can call His own.

As a parent myself, my desire is that my children have an appreciation for what I am and for what I do and have done for them.  I’m sure you can agree with this yourself.

It puts things into better perspective… when we see ourselves as HIS children!

If there was ever anyone who actually has everything… then it is God Himself!  But does He really have it all?  We have no problem with being constantly aware that we are dressed, fed, and breathing.  So why do we think that we cannot be constantly and continually aware of Him, and of His rich blessings perpetually pouring down upon us!

A once a week pause to say, ‘thank you,’ is not nearly enough!  Pause often – and Give Him the gift of appreciation.  He deserves it!  And… He desires it.

 

 

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DREAM CATCHER

dream-catcher-902508_640© 2018  Bill Murphy

The object at left is called a ‘dream catcher.’  I dream every single night, therefore I don’t want one, and don’t need one – and never have.  I’ve longed for a dream blocker to give me a restful, dreamless night of sleep.

My dreams are always vivid, action filled, in color, and with taste, touch and sound.  I usually awake tired, and expecting to see dust on my feet.

That said, here is a typical example of my night-life… as actually dreamed last night.

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The dream began as I got off a train in Boston.  I was with a group of 9 or so other people,  composed of an equal number of men and women.  I did not recognize any of them. Carol was not with me.  We were told to pair off, giving each person a ‘travel-buddy.’ After this, we would receive a few rental cars, and drive into town.  I immediately spoke up, explaining that I’d been to Boston on numerous occasions, that I knew it ‘like the back of my hand,’ and would have no problem finding my way around.  I felt rather confident about this.

Looking around, I saw that the pairing was complete… except for myself… and a young woman.  She walked over and replied, “It looks like it’s you and me Ole Buddy.”  Four of us got our rental car, a very old and worn red Nissan convertible.  The top was up, but the operating mechanism was broken – so it had to be raised and lowered manually… and then tied down with bright red wires wrapped around the rear view mirror at the top center of the windshield.  (Yes, my dreams are always this vivid with detail.)  The 4 of us got in, and I drove… because I could find the way.  I pointed out interesting things along the route.  The streets were filled with traffic, and the downtown area crowed with bustling people.  When we got to the restaurant, we parked on the street, a few doors down from our destination.  When the guy in the back seat got out, he pulled me aside and asked, “Did you tell your travel-buddy that you’re married?”  I replied, “No, it never came up!”

As my group began heading for the restaurant, I stayed behind to lock the car, because our luggage was inside.  It took a while to get ragged vehicle locked, and when I looked up, no one in our party was in sight.  All I knew was the restaurant’s name… but could not see it anywhere!  I looked for a point of reference, so I could find my way back to the car, and walked off… searching for the group and the restaurant.  Suddenly… nothing looked familiar… I felt lost!

If dreams can have chapters, it was at this point that chapter 2 on my night-story began.

The fellow who had asked if I had told my travel-buddy that I was married, came rushing up, all out of breath.  “You’ve gotten a call from home… I have to rush you back.  The New Jitney Jungle Company is re-organizing, and they want you on the board!”

I’ve said that my dreams are realistically vivid… but the realism is in the details… but not always within the correct parameters of time and of space.  The next thing I knew, I was walking across what looked like the stately campus of an ivy league university… and my traveling companion was leading us toward a large building with ivy covered walls. This was where the board of directors of the New Jitney Jungle was conducting their organizational meeting.

As we walked toward the building, I remarked that I was not wearing clothing befitting the occasion.  My companion handed me a dress shirt and dress pants, telling me that he’d picked them up for me.  I quickly dressed in the men’s room near the front of the stately building.  But I discovered that there were numerous, large bright green paint stains on the legs of the pants!  “I can’t wear these,” I remarked, and he replied that I should just keep eye-contact at eye-level and all would be OK.  (Where did the paint stains come from? I explain that later.)

As I entered the room, I immediately recognized many of the well dressed men in attendance.  Many were former executives of Jitney.  Several came to shake my hand, and welcome me.  But it all seemed somewhat forced, even a bit stand-offish.  I felt very uncomfortable.

The man in charge, who I did not recognize, came over and shook my hand.  “I’m sure you’re surprised by all this,” he began. “We’re all a bit surprised by it all.  Everything’s happened so fast!  You see, several of us were discussing Jitney, and what a shame it was what had happened to such a fine company.  So… we decided to do something about it! We’re resurrecting it!  And because of your many years and experience with the company, we want you aboard in this endeavor.”

I reminded him that my father had been on the board of the old Jitney, back in it’s hey-day of growth and prosperity.  “Yes I know,” the man said, “and I know that he’d be proud to have you, sitting with us, on the board of the New Jitney.”  I was taken aback, not really knowing what to say.  Then I spoke, telling him that I didn’t understand what I could bring to the table… that I was only involved in one area of the company, advertising.  Then he put his arm around my shoulder and explained that I had far more to give than I imagined… that I had a wealth of memories, and understanding, and passion for what Jitney was and could be again.  He said that he wanted that input around the boardroom table.

I remarked that this position would be a great honor, and yes, my Dad would be proud.  Then I remarked that the new income would given my wife and I the money to travel more, as we longed to do.

The man then stepped back.  “More money?”  Now he looked confused.  “Perhaps I need to explain something to you.  Yes, you will be paid for time on the board of the New Jitney, and you will be paid handsomely.  However, you must understand, that although you will be paid many times more per hour than you were paid when working for the old Jitney – with the New Jitney, the board meets, and therefore you will ‘work,’ only two hours per month.  Therefore… your monthly income will be far, far less than you were making years ago… far, far less.

I was confused, and flabbergasted!  I tried to explain to this gentleman who was in charge, and who would be my new boss, that this didn’t seem quite kosher.  “Let me get this straight,” I said, “You’re asking me to come into the boardroom, with a brain and heart filled with memories, experiences, and understanding of this company, and relay those years and years of memories, experiences, and understanding… and be paid only for the time sharing it with everyone?  Are you saying that you perceive my value to be in the time sharing the message… and not in the countless hours I spent in acquiring the message?”

He looked at me as if I were loco.  “That’s just the way it works. What’s just the way it is. And that’s just the way it will be.  2 hours pay, each month, every year, for the rest of your life.  Take it or leave it.”

“I’ll have to think about this,” I said, as I backed away.  It just didn’t seem right.  The fact that this ‘deal’ sounded so one-sided weighed heavily on my mind.

I began to awake.  Yes, it was weighing heavily on my mind.  Something really was weighing heavily on my mind, and on my brain… something warm… something furry.

We have two dogs.  Both sleep with us.  Tiny little Chloe was under the cover, near Carol’s feet – as always.  But during the night, 20+ pound Amy had taken up position at the extreme top of the bed… against the headboard.  She was now draped across my pillow, wedged between the headboard and my head!

As for the green paint.

I think that must have come from my early days of working full-time for Jitney.  It was 1967, and Jitney was much smaller at the time.  We had less than 30 stores.  I was hired to set-up and run the new Graphics Department, tasked with creating and printing not only store window signs, but point-of-purchase materials.  It was a messy, silk-screen printing shop.

But in my pea-brain, it was a big step up for me at the time.  Now I wasn’t just one of the worker-bees, I was the boss.  So, each day, as befitting ‘management’ I wore a TIE to work.  And yes, I also operated the large, messy, ink-filled printer.

I carefully tucked my tie into my shirt, to keeping it from dragging in the ink – but it never stayed tucked.  Never.  Soon, practically every tie on my tie-rack had multi-colored tips.  I’m sure that some of that stray ink was bright green!  I guess that’s what dreams are made of.

 

 

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THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES

jetshot1@ 2018  Bill Murphy

Bob Hope had it right!  We can be thankful for some memories.  But for a toy?

A few of my childhood toys bring back memories…. like the large 3-wheel bike, without brakes.  I was 5 or 6 at the time.  The thing was really an oversized, stretched tricycle.   Boy was it fast!  I discovered that the very first time I rode it.

Dad unloaded the new toy at our driveway, and I immediately took off, lickety-split down Evergreen.  I should have gone in the other direction.  I was rapidly approaching busy Terry Road when I discovered the thing had no brakes.  I managed to pull off the sidewalk as I neared Mrs. Busby’s house, hoping I could slow it down in her front yard, or perhaps, as I circled her house.  I did neither.  Instead, I crashed full-tilt into the large tree, with larger roots, at the end of her driveway.  I think I went 5 feet UP that tree!

Things like that, one can’t help but remember.

But the toy which brought me at least as much pleasure, but with none of the pain, was a unique water-gun.  My guess is that it came from H.L.Greens, downtown.  It probably costs no more than 50c.  But it gave me many, many happy hours of flying and fighting fun!  This water pistol was made in the shape of an airplane!

Jets were new at the time, and this toy was a close replica of the all new U.S. Air Force Republic F-84 Thunderjet.  I’d fill ‘er up, grab the handle, and take off… zooming into action… on search and destroy missions all around our yard.  I’d sweep down low… making my best jet-fighter sounds… and strafed anything and everything that moved: enemy tanks (roly-polies), ants (troops), crickets (vehicles), and worst of all, evil spiders, (artillery)!  The fun only stopped when I was forced to return to base to re-fuel and re-arm.

A few months ago I saw this one pictured above (with missing canopy) for sale on eBay. Someone obviously knew just how much unadulterated fun was contained in this small plastic toy – because I could have purchased several dozen cases of them way back when… for what they wanted for this single item today!

No, I didn’t purchase it… it was that expensive.  Anyway, I suppose I would look rather silly now, running across the yard make jet-noises, and squirting at ants.

 

 

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