Delta Dawn.

Tanya Tucker and Helen Reddy both released the song “Delta Dawn” around the same time in my youth. My dad, born on a farm in the middle of cow country, listened to WHEN hit radio, which played the Helen Reddy version of the hit song.

My mom, who was born and raised in the center of Syracuse, New York, where they had folks of different skin colors at her school, preferred the Tanya Tucker version from the country radio station WSCP. I found this odd, because my mother had a bit of a feminist Helen Reddy “I Am Woman” vibe going on. My dad was born in the country but he liked city music and my mom was born in the city and she liked country music. She had a Marlo Thomas hairdo. She watched Donahue and everything.

Losing My Religion.

It was the summer of 1976 that we first attended “Vacation Bible School” at the local church. My sister and I, to the best of my knowledge, were baptized as Methodists, just like my mom and dad. I believe I was baptized in the village, and not at the small church in town where my grandmother played the organ. I have no idea why this is the case, other than maybe the fact that my grandmother’s brother-in-law was the minister in the church where she didn’t play the organ.

My sister is two years younger than me, almost to the day. Her kindergarten teacher was also the wife of a minister, at the “Church of Christ’ in town. The church is flanked by the cemetery on two sides; there’s a decently sized house to the east of the church where the minister and his wife lived. They adopted two children. Even though the whole church and school thing was kind of a taboo mingling back in the 1970s, somehow my sister’s kindergarten teacher convinced my mother that we should give that church a try. They weren’t Methodist, the church where my grandmother played the organ had closed, and my grandmother’s brother-in-law had retired from ministering. So, why not.

The church was kinda big on youth stuff. There’d be Vacation Bible School and then there’d be youth group and we were all promised our very own Bible once we were able to recite all the books of the Old and New Testament in order without hesitation.

The youth group segregated the boys from the girls in activities a lot of the time. It’d usually end up that four of us boys would participate in activities that involved sports, field trips, and worksheets where Jesus was depicted being pious in ditto purple. It was the summer of 1976 that the church took the four of us boys to Marineland, a fun filled family place in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The four of us piled into the backseat of the minister’s Mercury with burgundy Landau roof. He had an FM radio that displayed a “STEREO” indicator in amber when tuned to the beautiful music station out of Syracuse. The night before the trip to “Marineland”, the four of us, me, Billy, Milt, and one other boy that I think was named Mike, spent the night at the minister’s house so we could get an early start on the three hour trip the next morning. After washing my face and hands while the minister shaved and make sure I cleaned up, I went downstairs. They had a big grand piano that he let me play around with while he got the other boys ready for the trip.

I vividly remember praying a lot during the trip. We prayed before getting in the car. We prayed at lunch. We prayed for snack .We prayed at Carrols Restaurant on the way home. The minister’s wife was originally from Alaska and she was what I would call a “husky nice”. I also remember Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario. One of the “killer whales” was named Shamu and I bought my Mom a souvenir which was a squirrel holding salt and pepper shakers. I also remember the drive and how the other boys were playing a game in the car where we closed our eyes and guessed the next kind of car passing us on the Thruway. Milt would always say it was “a rig”. I felt like a normal little boy at that moment, a feeling I never really felt all that much growing up.

We suddenly stopped going to that church and we didn’t go to any church for a long time. Turns out someone in the church told us we’d be burning with the Devil because we weren’t “dunked” when we were baptized. I never learned all the books of the Old and New Testament well enough to recite them. My Bible is from Kmart.

But I still remember the trip to Marineland with a smile. It would be when I was in eighth grade that my dad would declare I needed to be a member of the church choir. I obediently joined and enjoyed the experience where my grandmother’s brother-in-law was no longer a minister. I’ve always loved making music. Right before confirmation, the minister told me the Methodist church had no issues with the homosexual, just in case I wanted to know. I was a junior in high school at the time. Happy to hear this, I still lost my interest in organized religion.

While many have the best of intentions, the human spirit can not capture , comprehend, or relay the secrets of the Universe. It’s all a part of our experience.

It’s when we think of our time with “God”, and we subsequently smile, is when we know our true connection.

The Chase, Why.

It was either the summer of 1974 or the summer of 1975. I can’t remember if I had just completed Kindergarten or the first grade. However, I can vividly remember the day I became really interested in Mother Nature’s severe weather tendencies.

I grew up along Lake Ontario’s Eastern Shore. Famous for its record breaking snowfall, the area also features beautiful sand dunes, and ample opportunity for outdoor recreation. On this day in ’74 or ’75 it was a hot, summer day. At the time, my Dad’s cousin and his family lived down the street from us. During the summer vacation days my mom would pal around with the cousin’s wife, resulting in five kids being blended together for summer day activities. Our ages interspersed nicely and because we were so young at the time, four kids could fit in the backseat and the youngest would go up front between my mom and the wife.

My mom had not yes taught herself to drive my Dad’s muscle car, which doubled as the family car. It was a snazzy green 1971 Chevelle Heavy Chevy. Three speed on the floor. I loved riding in the back seat of that car, especially driving home from visiting my grandparents in Syracuse. The 45 minute drive home on a Sunday night was magical to me. The family together. The darkness of the car. Everyone sitting where they should be: dad driving, mom in the passenger seat, my sister sitting behind my dad. It’s where we sat. I loved it. I still love being in a car on a dark night, the lights of the dash down to their lowest setting. Today’s 21st century cars have too much interior lighting. I miss the days of incandescent.

Back to the summer day. The five kids and two adults were in the wife’s 1968 Chevy Impala. If anyone offered me a brand new car of my choice, no matter the year, it would be a 1968 Chevy Impala two door coupe with either the 350 or the bigger 427 under the hood. Lead in the gas, vent windows up front, and only three speeds on the floor. Pull down the license plate to fuel it up.

The wife didn’t know how awesome her car was, but the lot of us had been “downtown” at the Department Store in the small town I grew up in. No chain stores had arrived yet, the “Department STore” was literally called just that and it was locally owned. Fun fact, there is no Main Street in the village. The business district was bisected by a river and the businesses flanked two streets, “Jefferson Street” and “Salina Street”. There is no Main Street.

Lake Ontario is three miles to the west of the village, but we could see the skies getting very dark as all of us piled into the Impala. The sky had been flashing and rumbling. It was just lunch time. We’d be going home to the trailer for peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches.

The wife (it’s weird that I’m referring to her as that) needed to put gas in the car; we stopped at a Seaway Gas Station on Rome Street. The sky was menacing. As I looked around, it was as dark as night. The street lights were coming on. The Rexall Kinney’s Drugs neon sign had just lit up like it was after sunset, even though we still hadn’t had lunch. The sky was loud, the clouds were flashing on and off and I thought it was one of the most awesome things I had ever seen.

We had just pulled out of the Seaway Gas Station when the skies let loose. The wife couldn’t see to navigate Rome Road. She pulled over as the wind rocked the 1968 Chevy Impala back and forth in front of a florist shop opened by a man named Jay.

The others were scared. The wife and my mother were just watching it rain. I was wide eyed, looking at the buckets of water falling everywhere. Mother Nature was incredibly feisty that day and I was lving every minute of it. I knew I wanted to see all Mother Nature had to offer, whenever and wherever Mother Nature wanted to offer it.

Eventually the storm passed and we went home and had peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches. Had it been the 21st century instead of 1974 or 1975, I would have photos to share.

I hoped I painted you a picture instead.

Jingles.

As a former radio guy I have a focused interest on what I hear on media. I’m hyper critical of podcasts (more on that in a future blog post) and I enjoy detecting trends in obvious use of automation on today’s radio airwaves.

In the Midwest, Chicagoland in particular, advertisers really LOVE their jingles. Jingles were fading out of favor when I left radio in 2004 but they’re still very prevalent on the radio stations I listen to throughout the Midwest.

This video from TikTok made me laugh out loud (I really LOL’d) today because it is very, very true. You just can’t escape the “Midwest National Anthem”.

H/T to raineisqueer on the TikToks