Listening To Ourselves

by SteveHulse on April 12, 2019 · 1 comment

Ok, so I admit it. In the past, I’ve made fun of Jerry Vale. “Who the hell is
Jerry Vale?” you might ask. He was a pop vocalist, Wikipedia says.
Jerry Vale was an American singer and actor. During the 1950s and 1960s,
he reached the top of the pop charts with his interpretations of romantic ballads, including a cover of the Eddy Arnold hit “You Don’t Know Me” and “Have You Looked into Your Heart”. He had a successful career, and I read somewhere that Frank Sinatra loved Jerry, thought he had one of the best voices anywhere.

Well, maybe he did, but I’m old enough to have heard Jerry many times,
and to my ear, he was totally one dimensional… always medium to full
voice. Yes, his vocal texture was unique and one could recognize it a
mile away. But did it move me? No. Not even a little bit. I never heard a
hint of emotion in his singing. He moved enough people, though, that he lived well, had an apartment in NewYork, a home in Palm Desert, and owned a minor league baseball team in Florida for a time.

Now that you know the object of my somewhat mis-placed mirth, I’ll
explain it to you. Years ago I read an interview with Jerry’s wife. They
were in New York at the time, and some magazine was asking her
about her, and Jerry’s, life, now that he was retired. And that right there,
my friends, is the reason for my Jerry Vale rant. The interviewer asked his
wife what Jerry did these days. She replied, “He sits in his music room
and listens to all his records all day.”

For some reason, that cracked me up! What a self-indulgent dufus… sitting
there listening to yourself! I shared what I thought was my humorous
Jerry Vale story with several friends, who smiled. Little did I know that
they knew me, and knew that before long, I’d be doing the exact same thing! And they were right.

I have since looked more closely at Jerry Vale’s life, and am embarrassed that I ever poked fun at him. For in comparison, which is fair to do here, he was an international singing star, and I was a jingle writer in Atlanta. Jerry sang on some of the music in the films of Martin Scorsese. ’Nuff said.

This is being written right after I’ve spent two hours listening to my own
recorded music on headphones, with a fat glass of wine, late in the evening.
What a self-indulgent dufus! I’m now Jerry Vale, and I’m doing the same
damn thing I thought was so funny several years ago! Actually, I’m not
even Jerry Vale… Frank Sinatra never even knew who I was. I never
touched the heights Jerry reached, never traveled the world and performed
in front of the crowds he drew… what the hell was I thinking, to poke fun
at a man who reached the hearts of millions??

So yes, I’m embarrassed, and somewhat ashamed. But I also understand
now. When we get old, there’s a natural tendency to take a look back at
what we did with our lives, what we accomplished… what tiny difference
we might have made in this swirl of life insanity. Were we any good?
Did we do anything that might still stand out as quality, worthwhile? Is
there anything out there right now that we can still lay claim to, still be
proud of?

These questions become important when one is over seventy. I wonder
almost every day if I could have done more if I’d tried a little harder…
then I remember how hard I went, how late I worked, how driven I was.
I was a small town boy, and the big city inspired me to almost kill myself
trying to prove myself. If I have nothing else, I have the knowledge that
I gave it my all, was the best that I could be, and left some quality music
out there on the table. None of my musical contributions were earth-
shattering, nor necessarily memorable, but they were “what was needed”
at the time. That has to count for something. It doesn’t take much, after
all, to justify our existence here. If even one or two people that are still
alive can say to us, “Yes, I remember that recording session. That was a
good piece you wrote, and you wrote it under a hard deadline… sure,
I remember that!”

And right there, that means the world to me now. Sure, I know I busted
my butt back then to do well, but it’s so strange… just one person
acknowledging it makes a world of difference! Somehow, it completes me.
And so, Jerry, I tip my hat to you. You were one hell of a singer, you
touched the hearts of millions. You rose from humble beginnings and
made it all the way. And I laughed at you, because I was jealous of what
you accomplished in your life. I didn’t understand that when we’re done
with our careers, there’s not much left to do except look back on it at
some point, examine it and try to see if we made any difference…
any difference at all.

Steve Hulse

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Hanging On To The Old Ways

by SteveHulse on February 4, 2019 · 1 comment

Sentimentality has somehow become a part of my DNA, I think. It’s a curious
symbiotic process that can be easily disproved by medical science, yet has
a definite power, mostly emotional, though sometimes, I think, even physical.
Physical in the sense of hearing the engine of a muscle car roar and the hairs
on my arm go straight up… physical in the sense that every so often the
hearing of a sweet old song from way back in the dark ages will bring tears…
physical in the sense of smelling the heady fragrance of sagebrush and pine
after a summer rain in Montana, and in that moment knowing exactly who
and where I am.

Then there are the times I curse the monotone monotony of the new music,
curse the tone-deaf teenagers who are whining it out, curse the silent electric
cars that back out of the parking lot and almost hit me because I didn’t hear
them coming. And I curse the changes that brought our country to this sorry
state of current events.

Boo hoo, Steve, but everything changes… things we expect to change, things
we are shocked and surprised at when they change. The optimist will tell us
that change is basically what keeps life interesting, while the pessimist insists
that much change is brutal, even evil… that change is a built-in difficulty
we have to deal with all our lives, that it’s a curse we can’t disconnect from.

I tend to believe that most change is uncomfortable for us, yet we often come
to be grateful for it after the fact. Strange, huh? And that would suggest that
perhaps we don’t know everything, or at least don’t know what’s good for us
in the long haul.

One of the beautiful benefits of becoming older is the realization that most
events and happenings in our lives that seemed negative and unwanted
turned out to have good, sometimes wonderful results we couldn’t have
possibly foreseen. For me, that knowledge makes it easier to forge ahead,
mostly blindly, into uncharted waters, knowing that there is probably a
silver lining lurking behind that cloud somewhere.

That knowledge, that positive spin on the unknown of future events, still
doesn’t keep me from wanting to hold on to many of my old ways, and
old loves. And lest you misunderstand my meaning of “old loves,” let me
assure you that it refers to my old truck, my love of old dirt roads, my
enduring preference for live music, ’60’s jazz and airports before TSA.
I still care more for planes with propellers, cars & trucks with big V-8’s
in them, Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. Wally and The Beaver, you
get the idea. Much of all that is simply sentimental, but some of it is
cultural, what I was brought up with, what was of value to me when I
was younger. Don’t we all still have those preferences for times gone by
when our lives were good, were simpler, and everything seemed to be
working for us?

The very idea of a driverless car is, to me, a horrendous idea. There are
so many wrong elements in the whole concept that it boggles my mind.
Driving, for much of the free world, is the cheapest therapy one can have…
a chance to see something new, think things over, get a handle on one’s
latest difficulty… all for the price of a tank of gas. Mario Andretti once said,
“When they finally come out with driverless cars, I don’t even want to be
If it’s good enough for Mario, it’s good enough for me.

When we get older, the view of the history of our lives changes. I now see
my first 40 years as “the comfort zone,” the times when I was completely
at ease with life and my surroundings, mostly because they were familiar,
and I was growing with them. From then on, however, changes seemed
to become less subtle and quicker, slowly separating much of the world
from itself and me. “New and different” stopped becoming exciting and
began being a challenge, or a nuisance, at the very least. And only now
do I understand that the changes that today brings are uncomfortable
to me, mostly because 40 years is a long time to live in the comfort zone.
It was easy to get used to, and sometimes difficult to now let go of.

So naturally I don’t like much of the newness, the differentness and the
strangeness that change has brought us over the years. Do I love my cell
phone, with its myriad bells and whistles that we suddenly can’t do without?
Hell yes I do! Especially the GPS! As we all say at one point or another,
“Don’t know how we lived without it…” But do I love Lady Ga Ga? No.
Sure she’s talented, sure she’s a star, but she’s not, nor will she ever be,
even close to Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson or Nat King Cole.Not to me,
anyway. The old masters are my comfort zone, the big bands I grew up with,
the beautiful tunes that came out of Tin Pan Alley, the timeless music of the
great Broadway plays of the ’30’s and ’40’s… George Gershwin, Rogers
and Hart, Rogers and Hammerstein… their music absolutely enchants
me to this day, as nothing newer than the Beatles or Earth, Wind and Fire
can. My enduring loves are emotional, cultural, time-based figments of
life that came to define my tastes in music, in people, in perception of
quality. And in that, I yam what I yam, as Popeye used to exclaim.
“Wait, what? Tin Pan Alley? And who the hell is Popeye??”
You had to be there, kid.

Steve Hulse

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A Christmas Memory

by SteveHulse December 20, 2018

Jean Shepherd was a writer, a radio host and a fantastic storyteller. In the ’60’s and ’70’s he hosted a radio show on WOR New York at 11 pm… I was in Boston at the time and I heard it often. He had a most engaging style, always telling tales about some of the crazy […]

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A Day At Winter’s Edge

by SteveHulse November 16, 2018

A Late Autumn Cruise On the RSV Aimless Out on the North Sound on a cloudy, chilly, rainy day… a day that will most likely become the standard day for the next 5-6 months. This will be my last trip out here until next May… I no longer do well in the wet chill of […]

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Roxanne Part II

by SteveHulse October 1, 2018

            I should probably explain why it is I talk to cars and trucks. Actually, a lot of guys talk to their vehicles. It probably comes from the idea that working on them brings a familiarity after a time, and (at least in my mind) they become more than simply […]

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The Saga Of Roxanne

by SteveHulse September 21, 2018

With apologies, I must warn you that this post and the following one are for truck lovers only. I have always had a weakness for people who show patience, strength, endurance, loyalty, consistency and reliability. I have instant respect (and perhaps a touch of jealousy) when I see those qualities in someone. I have tried […]

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The End Of An Era

by SteveHulse July 11, 2018

B and I are in Montana this week, moving my lifelong possessions from my cabin in Virginia City to Whidbey Island, Washington. I contracted Ray Taylor to build this cabin for me back in 1979. He did a fantastic job on it and it was my home base, and my heart, for 38 years. Much […]

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Big Memories Of Small Times

by SteveHulse July 8, 2018

Being back in Montana for the 4th of July week has brought back some delicious memories of my childhood here. I’m sure you all have these, and I hope mine can stir a few of yours. It’s the 2nd of July, 2018, and we just got to my cabin this afternoon. Betty Ann unpacked us […]

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An Empty Bucket

by SteveHulse June 28, 2018

We’ve all got a bucket list, right? Maybe not written down, maybe not in order of importance… but if someone asked you, at a cocktail party, what’s on your bucket list, you’d quickly be able to think of a few things. Don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say, “Oh, I don’t have a bucket list, […]

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A Forced Perspective

by SteveHulse June 19, 2018

Last year my B and I built a small model railroad together. it was a great winter’s project that turned out well, and we had a ball doing it. In the process I discovered that B built and painted small ( HO scale) buildings very well. Her crowning achievement was a sliver mine with an […]

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