Moving Music and More Coffee

A public post on Facebook by someone I do not know asked whether there’s music that brings tears to a person’s eyes. I could list dozens of such pieces, if only I remembered them all. But the music that moves me wasn’t on my mind as I read what others had to say.

As I was skimming some responses, I came across a guy named Alvin Ondriezek, who identified one such song in Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Oh, yes, that’s one of mine! I decided to see who this guy is, this guy who shares my sensitivity to that Gordon Lightfoot tune. Alvin lives in Nanty-Glo, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Sandra Bellock Ondriezek. I learned from his Facebook page that he first met Sandra in 1953. He appears to be a fan of Patsy Cline and Jim Croce. I learned through a little more research that the town name where he lives comes from the Welsh Nant Y Glo, meaning “The Ravine of Coal.”

I scanned a few other comments and found several that listed Amazing Grace. A number of others identified Fur Elise. Several others names various other classical pieces. Another popular one, I found, was Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings, from the film, Beaches. Some others were unusual in that I personally could not imagine why a person would be moved by them; until I read on to learn that “such and such piece of music was my mother’s favorite and we played it at her funeral” or “this music was on the radio when we got the call about my aunt’s death in a car accident” or “I associate this music with the birth of my first child.”

The reasons, when given, frequently were moving.  Another one that I found interesting was Desperado by the Eagles. The guy who identified that song said it was “an unconventional mother/son wedding song but the underlying message was her encouraging me to ‘let someone love you before it’s too late.'” He goes on to say his mother has since died and the music gets to him every time. A woman said she heard Let It Be by the Beatles on the radio on her way to counseling every week for several months; she said “big ole tears would fall” but she believed it was “a message for me to let go of what is not mine to carry.” I read many intensely moving comments, most of which were very short; but they were incredibly moving. All of this stuff could easily be incorporated into a novel or short story.

It’s interesting to me that I took time to read some of those comments. The post and the responses normally are not the kind of things I read; I just scroll past them. But in this case, something caught my eye. I’m glad it did.

Everything happening around us is a story waiting to be told.


Yesterday afternoon was partly cloudy, but the sun that shone through those clouds was sufficient to warm the air to a very comfortable temperature, especially on the waters of Lake Balboa. I forgot my sunglasses, protective headgear, and sunscreen. It wasn’t so much that I forgot them; it just never occurred to me that I should take them along. My neighbors offered me sunscreen. I declined, though, because I am a macho, outdoorsy, über-male kind of guy—the kind of guy who gets his kicks through hand-to-hand combat with grizzly bears and who tracks and hunts deer wearing only a loincloth and carrying only a club for a weapon. Yeah. I’m wearing a pretty decent sunburn this morning. But it was most definitely worth it.

Three or four truly glorious hours on the water (in spite of no sunglasses nor headgear) left us hungry. On the way home, we went by El Jimador, where we picked up three orders of seafood ranchero, one of my favorites. We took the food to their house, where we sat on their deck for dinner. We had a nice, crisp, sparkling Cuvée Amrita with dinner, then switched to Green Fin White Table Wine.

After dinner, the artist in the house (the most prolific oil painter I have ever know, a guy whose paintings are absolutely beautiful) showed me his latest works. His most recent pieces were inspired by the U.S. southwest; spectacular stuff. He surprised me by making an offer: he offered to allow me to pick any one of a large number of his paintings in return for one of the ceramic masks I made a few years ago. I did not hesitate. Though I told him I’d have to mull over which of his paintings I most wanted, I certainly want to do it. And he is free to pick any of the thirty or so masks I made.

Both of my neighbors were, as expected, unhappy to learn that I might sell my house and move. She, especially, was quite distressed. She argued with some fervor that I should think long and hard before making such a decision. She said that I should, of course, make the decision that is best for me, but I should be absolutely sure before doing something that would so utterly alter the course of my life. She made some compelling arguments, but I will do what I think is best for me. I love them for their friendship, their generosity, their compassion, and their constancy. It’s tough to think about leaving people who care so much, but it’s a decision only I can make. And I will plod ahead, intent on reaching a decision before long.


I read several posts I’ve written in recent years on the subject of friendship. My definitions of friendship seem to be more rigid and more demanding than most other people’s thoughts on the matter. Maybe my expectations are too high; I expect others to consider as I do that with  friendship comes an unspoken sacred commitment to “be there” for the friend, no matter the situation nor the circumstances. I’ve written before that I believe a friend would take a midnight phone call and then drive ten hours to bail a friend out of jail (or whatever other demanding scenario one might imagine). I’ve been challenged on that, insisting that friendship is no different from other engagements and attachments—that friendships exist along a spectrum that might have acquaintances at one end and pals somewhere in the middle and good friends near the other end and best friends at the termination point of the spectrum. Maybe. Maybe I am just unable to see through the fog that enshrouds that spectrum. Lately, I’m beginning to sense that I’ve been a romantic far too long. It’s time to shed notions of chivalry and gallantry. Time to abandon the ideas of unwavering commitment to others, who one considers friends, as a condition of admission to the human race. People are just people. They do not magically become knights in shining armor who would slay dragons to protect their friends. WTF. I have been deluding myself my entire life.


I am in love with a woman in Hot Springs, a woman I’ve met only a few times. But I read her hilarious posts on Facebook and know that I love a woman who shares my somewhat bizarre sense of humor. I am in love with another few women here in the Village, women who are unattainable for many reasons, not the least of which is their marriage to their husbands or commitment to their lovers. I am in love with a woman here in HSV, an adventurous woman whose kindness and unbridled honesty seem at odds with one another but, then, a perfect combination. I am in love with another woman, a woman I gently tease about being crazy and living in the wrong century for a person with her sensibilities and conflicting Victorian persona. I am in love with women who are too young for me, too intelligent for me, too married or attached for me, or are otherwise too unavailable for me. And then I go back to friendship and what it is. Maybe I am in love with them because I consider them friends. Or maybe I don’t know what love is. Does it belong on the same spectrum as friendship? Or are they really very different things? If they are on the same spectrum, at what point does friendship merge with love, or vice versa?

My mind not only permits me to confuse myself with thoughts that have no satisfactory end-points…it insists that I confuse myself with those thoughts. Normal people don’t let such things weigh on their minds; they may encounter those conundra but, when it becomes apparent there is no “answer,” they let it go and move on. It’s sometimes often difficult to be abnormal.


My Zen book is at it again. It suggests what might help me resolve some things that seem unsolvable.

Do not seek the truth.
Only cease to cherish opinions.

~ Zen saying ~

Hmm. Well, there you go.


Last night, my neighbors told me about some charges that appeared on a credit card bill. The charges were purchases made at a cannabis-related store (not marijuana…just extracted products that do not make a person high) in Haltom City, Texas. It was unclear where the charges were in-store on on-line. The credit card company responded to my neighbors’ inquiry by investigating and removing the charges. But the credit card company did not explain how the charges got on the account. Were they fraudulent charges? Was it simply a mistake? Did someone create a card with my neighbors’ information? Was it an online purchase in which the buyer had access to both the card number and the card-specific security code? I think credit card companies should be obligated to explain details of erroneous charges to one’s accounts. I advised my neighbors to write to the company, giving thanks for the removal of the charges, but saying the explanation was insufficient and asking for full details. I don’t think they will write the letter. Oh, well. I sure as hell would. Dammit!


My friends in Fort Smith are on my mind this morning. They have suffered a tragedy that I can only imagine. I am conflicted about whether I should give them their time and space to mourn or just drive up, unannounced, and hug them. I suppose the correct thing to do is to ask. But even in asking I might trigger pain from a wound that is in the very early stages of healing.  Friendship is more complex than even I believed it to be.


It’s just after 7 a.m. I’ve been up for hours…again. In an hour and a half, I have an appointment to learn what my house might sell for, should I decide to sell. Instead, I may just roll up in a ball and go back to and endless, dreamless sleep. That sounds extremely inviting at this moment. But, first, more coffee.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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