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First of all, in my life time, I haven’t spent much time in strip clubs – you can call them gentlemen’s clubs if you want to, but I didn’t see a lot of gentlemen when I was inside the clubs. My visits were in a couple of time periods.The first time period was when I was in high school. I would sneak my parent’s car out after they went to bed, meet my friends, and go downtown to the Cavern – before and after I had a driver’s license. There was a Cavern in Ft. Worth as well, but I don’t know if they were connected.

The Cavern in downtown Dallas was like a cave, particularly when you went inside, past the “ticket booth” and the bouncer. They didn’t check IDs. If you acted like you were supposed to be there, they didn’t argue. There were also rumors that the Cellar was “protected.” It was dark, obviously, and there were sayings written on the walls around the club. “Evil spelled backwards is live.” “You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose.” And so on.

The customers laid on mats in front of the stage. Waitresses (the dancers with clothes) took your drink orders and brought the drinks. I’m not sure the drinks had a lot of liquor in them. Liquor was not all we consumed, and being an inexperienced drinker, the issue was confused.

The stage was not really a stage. It was more like a riser for the choir from the elementary school. If there were two or more girls on the stage, when the red light went on, they had to follow each other off. The red light supposedly meant the cops were there. But I found it strange when there was an officer talking to the bouncer long before the light went on. Besides, it wasn’t like they took a lot off.

Crammed behind the stage was the band. I heard the dirtiest version of Rocky Racoon I have ever heard at the Cellar. Just a side fact in case you were interested. The band got to play their good stuff when the girls were off the stage. And there were often guest performers.

There weren’t comedy clubs back then like there are now. And popular strip joints often had comedians do shows. I saw a comedian at the Cellar one night that I thought was funny as hell. Turns out it was George Carlin with short hair. He had hired a new management company, and they had him play smaller venues around the country. I believe he played the Cellar in Ft. Worth as well. It was just before he grew his hair long. I didn’t know all that then. I just knew I laughed my ass off. There were others that night, but he stood out – as you can understand.

Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.

Peace be with you.

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Cyndy and I took granddaughter Kelley to Holiday in the Park on the final Sunday, thanks to comp tickets and parking pass courtesy of Suzanne Mason. When our son, Cameron, and I took Kelley and a friend last year, the only roller coaster we got to ride was the Runaway Mine Train (she was shorter then). And that was not “intense enough” for her. My objective this year was to ride a more intense ride.

We had planned to get there before the park opened at 2 p.m. We got there just as they were opening so we came close. We made our way to the parking lot and settled in line. We started to pass an aisle when I stopped to let the truck waiting come on out. He came out and motioned behind.

“There’s a parking spot down there is what he’s saying,” Cyndy said.

So I turned and, sure enough, there was an empty space. Things were starting on a good note. We knew we had limited time because we planned to be gone before dark, so we headed for the Texas Giant. As we waited in line we listened to televisions with the sound system turned up louder than necessary, playing things no one was paying attention to. You just couldn’t get away from the sound.                                                                                                          

While we talked and joked, I was thinking about the ride we were about to go on. I have never ridden a roller coaster bigger than the Runaway Mine Train, and there is a reason for that. I don’t have a fear of heights, but I do have a healthy respect for the distance to the ground. I have also never found it comfortable to feel as if I might be thrown through the air at any given moment.

Kelley, being young and fearless, had none of my misgivings. She was ready to ride an “intense ride.” I could have just sat it out and waited for them at the end of the ride. I had that choice all the way up to the time we got in the seats. Kelley probably wouldn’t have cared. But I was not about to take anything away from her “intense” experience on the largest roller coaster she had ridden.

I believe Cyndy and Kelley got in the last seat of the last car in the chain. I got into the seat in front of them. No one got in beside me. Which was just as well. We headed out, going up the first upward incline. I looked out over the park and the surrounding area.

As we crept higher, I looked at the tracks and the people in front of me. At the top of the incline, and just before we began our descent, I heard Cyndy say “okay Kelley,” letting her know it was time to throw her arms up and scream – which they did a lot. After the ride, when we got out of the seats and headed for the exit, Cyndy said she thought it was fun, and Kelley said it was “awesome.” I was glad to be back on solid ground.

We had to exit through the gift shop – what else is new? There were employees behind a counter to sell pictures. We told one of them we were in the back car and she pulled it up on the screen. Kelley didn’t want a picture, but the employee gave Cyndy a card so we could buy it online.

Part of me wanted to get the picture. Another part of me didn’t. In it, Cyndy and Kelley are throwing up their hands and screaming. I have my eyes closed as tight as I could get them.

I did it. I went on an “intense” ride with my granddaughter and came out unscathed (albeit with my eyes closed). Which is a good thing. Because I will never do it again.

Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.

Peace be with you.

He walked through the streets in darkness,

Homeless but not alone,

A man on a mission of reverence

beyond the mundane chore of survival,

in a spirit of grace and mercy.

___

He stopped at Johnson’s Laundry

With it’s Closed for Christmas sign,

He knelt on the sidewalk outside the door,

Quietly saying the Lord’s Prayer,

the only prayer he knew.

___

Thanking “Papa” Johnson

For the clothes left unclaimed,

He left a small package – a crude, homemade cross

With a card on which was scrawled,

“Merry Christmas, from Jesus.”

___

Next was Garcia’s Grocery

For the leftovers not yet spoiled

He knelt and prayed –

Another crude cross,

And the card, “Merry Christmas, from Jesus.”

___

Ten blocks later, Miller’s Hardware,

For his sturdy, cardboard box dwelling,

and timber for his bed,

A kneel, a prayer, a larger crude cross,

And the card, “Merry Christmas, from Jesus.”

___

Too far from home, the mission closed,

He found a bench in the park,

after a passerby bought coffee

and he walked – recalling forgotten memories –

without knowing what they meant.

___

Early the next morning on Christmas Day,

he fought the wind and rain,

through the cold streets to the mission,

where Christmas dinner was served, the soul sustained,

and life again had purpose.

___

The rain stopped, the wind died down,

as he trekked on home,

home – an alley behind the church

white and made of stone,

with a view of the cross on the wall.

___

He turned into the alley

and stopped in his tracks.

Where his cardboard box had stood,

was a sturdy lumber shack,

with a roof, a window, and a door.

___

He opened the door to a sturdy wooden cot,

An orange crate table, his few possessions inside,

with something new on top.

A suit of clothes hung on a hook,

with the laundry marker still on it.

___

He closed the door because he could,

he’d forgotten what it felt like.

Walking to the table he turned on the lamp,

it had been years since he had his own light,

but then his breath went away.

___

Also on the table sat a Bible, brand new,

inscribed with a name he hadn’t used in years,

next to a picture of a family he’d forgotten he had.

He stood staring at them, his mind racing,

memories bombarding his thoughts.

___

He sat on the cot and picked up the Bible,

after staring at the picture a while.

He ran his fingers over the only thing he owned

that wasn’t worn by wear or weather,

with emotions he couldn’t control.

___

Through tears, with shaking hands,

he opened the Bible and read

“Merry Christmas, from Jesus.”

___________________________

© 2009  Daniel L. Roark

Merry Christmas!

Peace be with you.

Coming home from playing a show last week – back before the flu kicked my ass and I had to cancel a really good gig I was looking forward to – I turned left onto the access road for the entrance to Central Expressway. As I came around the turn, I noticed the cars in line at McDonalds. Behind the car at the window was a cop with all lights blazing. There were two cars waiting in line behind him.

I could not take a picture. I guess if I had acted quickly, I could have pulled over and taken a picture. But I did not want to chance drawing his attention away from the scenario that was unfolding at the McDonalds. And cops with lights blaring are bound to attract other cops. And I didn’t want to draw their attention either.

So I drove down Central, trying to avoid the people on their phone, and contemplated the mystery of the cop at McDonalds. The obvious scenario is that the cop was pulling over the guy in front of him and the guy pulled into line – briefly oblivious to his surrounding environment. Either that or they didn’t want to go to jail hungry.

The one final scenario would be that the cop was late getting where he/she was going and simply wanted the car at the window to hurry up and get out of their way so they could get their food.

Any other scenarios?

Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.

Peace be with you.

My son, J.D., playing college ball.

I’ve been watching the playoff games. For one thing it’s easy to have on in the background while I work on booking shows for next year. For another thing, at this point I have a love-hate relationship with the Astros. I go back and forth between wanting them to go all the way again, and wanting them to get their asses kicked. They are a Texas team, true, but they are still – the Astros.

Then again, watching the playoffs reminds me that it’s not freaking raining EVERYWHERE! More importantly, I overload on baseball to get me through the drought until spring training. The only other sport we watch is some golf on the weekends – the tournaments of which have also been having some good weather, by the way.

The playoffs are getting interesting now. The games from the wild card games to the current two series were decidedly one-sided. It’s a competition in both series now. I’m interested to see how it turns out. The announcers are freaking annoying, but that’s why the mute button was invented.

Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.

Peace be with you.

I headed for Chattanooga two weeks ago Monday. I stopped over in Memphis and drove on in to Chattanooga on Tuesday. I played at Tremont Tavern Tuesday night. Then Wednesday night at Abbott’s Bar and Grill in Atlanta. I had a show on Thursday at Akademia Brewing Company with my friend, Joe Cat. So I was playing open mics on my way down. Hopefully setting up future shows.

Open mics are pretty much the same any where you go. The host is usually a popular member of the local music community. In the case of the Tremont Tavern, the host is Mike McDade. He’s pretty much a staple of the local scene.

I intended to get there when the list went out at 7 p.m., but I screwed up on the time change. Yeah, I know, but I did. When I got there, some of the local performers had already signed up. I added my name to the list, not all that concerned about the time. Check out was at 11 a.m. and I only had a two hour drive to Atlanta.

I got a beer at the bar and found a place to stand to watch the show and be out of the way. I missed Mike playing to open the show. But I only missed one or two on the list. I don’t know if it started on time or not.

There was the usual assortment of people playing the open mic. From those who don’t really have a lot of talent, but have friends who will show up and make noise to those who actually have a little talent and are working to get better. Needless to say, the latter had the most talent. Then there are those who think they are significantly better than they actually are. Yet they still need support, so I clapped too – but not too hard.

With the exception of those who showed up late because they only wanted to play for their own little group anyway, most of the performers stayed to hear other performers. Of course, two or three people played their set and left. Which is pretty standard for open mics.

I opened the out door for a guy coming in with a bag and a guitar case. His wife, I assume, followed him. He said hello to Mike, who told him he was next. Either the guy had showed up early to sign up and leave – which I doubt, or he had Mike put him on the list. Either way, he almost overshot his starting time.

He pulled his guitar out of its case. Then he opened the big black case he had. He pulled out three dulcimers. Then he pulled a stand out of the bag.  The third case – a bit smaller – held his pedal board, with looper. In the time it took him to get everything on stage and get it set up, someone else could have played. On the final of his three songs, he played all four instruments, two of them more than once, setting the loops up, and playing the one song – which took somewhere around six minutes. I understand that he had a show there that Friday and wanted to advertise. But all of that for three songs?

The girl pictured above was a regular who had a new song to try out. She was one of the performers who stood out from the rest. She was one of those people who make open mics interesting. As was another young man who played his songs in a practiced manner. He was playing a couple of places around town.

I played after the two people who followed the dulcimer player. I woke the place up to a degree with three songs from my Hello Out There cd in rapid fire delivery. After waiting to play – and having driven a good part of the day – I was fairly pumped. The crowd certainly seemed to enjoy my songs.

After a few more acts, I headed for the hotel. Next morning, I headed for Atlanta…

Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.

Peace be with you.

Cameron and I got to the Ryman Auditorium about noon on Friday. After we got up and drove to Kentucky so Cameron could get a few 6-packs of Ale 8, a drink he likes that can only be found in certain places. When we got back to Nashville, we drove to Music City Center, parked the van, and checked my guitar into the bag check for Summer NAMM. Then we walked the two blocks to the Ryman Auditorium.

We took the self-guided tour and it wasn’t as easy as you would think. But we wandered around and worked it out. Cameron enjoyed it, and it’s always a special thing, but I was a little disappointed. Only because I had the chance to see it before the restoration. I was fortunate to tour the Ryman when you could see the back stage dressing rooms. We would call them closets. Just enough room for them to change clothes and sit waiting.

With the exception of the theater, the restaurant, and the stage lighting, it still looks pretty much the same. When we left I had to have a beer at Tootsies across the alley – as did the performers when the Grand Old Opry was still at the Ryman.

Then we headed back to Music City Center….

Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.

Peace be with you.

Doobie Jones, Dan Roark

Cameron and I arrived at Skully’s Saloon about 6:30 on Thursday June 28. It’s called a dive bar, but it’s one of the biggest dive bars I’ve seen and has a stage. But it’s between railroad tracks at a railway station, so there’s that. It’s in Old Hickory, just northeast of Nashville on the Cumberland River.

Doobie Jones and I opened the Music City’s Unsigned Best Songwriters Night hosted by Billy Lee of Truckstop Honey. Doobie is a card and writes some interesting songs. I played three songs from my new EP, Hello Out There. The crowd was very receptive.

The following is the line-up with links. It was a stellar group of songwriters, all playing their heart out. I didn’t get a chance to hear the last two sets of songwriters because we had to get back to the hotel. But I have no doubt they sang their hearts out as well.

Take the time to follow the links and listen to their music – you won’t be disappointed. Billy was a good host and he and Amanda Jo Kielpinski (Truckstop Honey) had colorful songs. Arvie and Bunny Bennett were a gracious couple and sang some really nice songs.

I felt a little out of place not being in the local group. But songwriters are a pretty accepting lot as a general rule. Arvie and Bunny made me feel like I was part of the group. Arvie apologized for not being there early enough to hear me play. They had gotten ready, got in the truck, and it wouldn’t start. I have no doubt we’ll keep in touch. Billy has invited me back so they’ll get a chance to hear me play.

Dan Roark/Doobie Jones

Luke Hatfield/Jerr Grunn,

Marc Oriet/Arvie & Bunny,

Truckstop Honey,

Jeffrey Allen/Christina Valentino,

Jeff Dezern/Eli Locke,

Andrew Ullman/Colt Stroud

Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.

Peace be with you.

Cameron and I arrived in Nashville on Wednesday, June 27th. Thursday morning we checked in at Summer NAMM (National Association of Music Merchant) and got our badges. We went to the D’Angelico booth so I could sign up for the open mic to be held at 3 p.m. on the Reverb stage.

After cruising through all of the booths, we stopped at the Kyser booth. We also say hi to them because their down the road in Tyler.

Then to the John Pearse Strings booth. I have been using JP strings on my Alvarez for all of its 42 years. We chatted with Todd Newman and picked up a few things.

The Alvarez booth was next. We played a few of the new line of guitars and chatted with the staff. The guitars sounded really nice, with a full sound.

At 3 p.m. we were at the Reverb stage. I was concerned because a storm had just blown through, canceling the previous band’s performance. At 2:45, they were still taking the tarps off the stage. They finished in time and the D’Angelico staff situated guitars across the stage. The idea was to use one of their guitars for the one song. My name was called first, and I chose the guitar you see in the picture. I played I Got My Ass Kicked in Nashville – which incidentally is on the EP that will be released Wednesday at Malarkey’s Tavern in Dallas. I received good applause.

After watching most of the other performers, we left to go back to the hotel until time to head to Scully’s Saloon for the showcase…

Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.

Peace be with you.

If you were ever at a Stuckey’s when they were around, you know they were a far cry from anything associated with adult products. They were rectangular buildings at countless exit/entrances on highways with a green roof. They had a lunch counter and you could get chocolates, candies, and souvenirs. When the company closed, the buildings were left empty.

When my son, Cameron, and I were driving to Nashville for Summer NAMM – a yearly trip – I noticed that the Stuckey’s buildings in Tennessee have been re-purposed. They are now part of the Miranda’s chain of Adult Stores – toys, videos, and lingerie. Your pornographic one stop shop.

I couldn’t get a picture because of the trees, and I’m not about to get any closer to one than I was driving by at 75 miles an hour. But I do think the re-purposing is ironic or disgusting – I’m not sure which. Maybe both.

Then we were miles down the road and it didn’t matter anymore.

Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.

Peace be with you.

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