Sunday, September 02, 2018

The 3-Fingered Bassist

    No way I’m going to remember where the gig was – a lot of strands in the ol’ duder’s head, you know – but I’m sure it was at some high school dance, maybe in Pine Bluff … or Russellville.  It was the first song of the night, and we wanted to come out swinging: Pinball Wizard. You know, 
that guitar intro, the best part of the song. Andy Buschmann and Tommy Lewis were killing it, note-for-note on the 335 and Les Paul, respectively. Clint Allen’s drums and Robert Doom’s keyboards erected a wall of sound behind them that had the teachers and various volunteer chaperones quaking in their shoes, wondering if the roof might be about to come off that gymnasium. I was dreading the vocals – very high, and somewhat painful – but before my part came, I had to wait for those bass lines – VROOOOM! … VROOOOM! Terry Horn brought the first one, right on time; and then the second one. And, just as I raised the mic up and opened my mouth, the bottom dropped out of the song. The bass was gone, and I turned to see Clint taking hold of his cymbal to silence it. The guitars and keys quit. And there in the silence stood Terry, in the middle of the stage behind me, waving his arms over his head like a man trying to flag down a firetruck in front of a burning building.

My first thought was that an amp had blown up. Something was always blowing up. So I, like all those kids on the dance floor, stood silently while Terry took the strap over his neck and walked back toward his amp. He stood the bass guitar up leaning into the cabinet and, without saying a word, took off his shirt.  His bare back to the crowd he picked up the bass and put the strap back over his neck, lit a cigarette, then stuck the filter end down on one of the string ends at the tuning key –in lieu of an ash tray.

Then he walked back to his spot on the stage, smiled that smile, and said “OK, man. I’m ready!” And we started again, as if nothing had happened.

This past Thursday, I made a post on Facebook about a strange dream I had Wednesday night. In it were a bunch of guys from the old rock ‘n roll daze – Andy, Tommy, Robert, Jerry Lewis, Ransom Weaver, Nick Fudge, and even Mike Foster, who we chased for years, unsuccessfully trying to talk him into joining our bands. The scene was an amplifier graveyard – a field somewhere around Batesville, full of old non-working amps. I was with Brent & Logan Gleghorn, a couple of firemen, looking through that graveyard for parts for a Hammond B3 organ. My old band was playing on a stage across the field. Everybody was where they were supposed to be, except I didn’t see Terry, because, obviously, this was after Jerry (Bird) had taken his place as bassist; and, oddly, Cindy Barber had assumed my place as lead singer.

So, I thought that was funny, and I made that post Thursday, not reading any mystical significance into the dream because, well, you know, dreams are weird.

Then, Saturday, as I was sitting at my desk, looking out the window at a Cardinal on my pecan tree, I got a message from Steve Caraway letting me know that Terry had passed.

Stay with me here while I try to connect some of this stuff.

I didn’t know Brent Gleghorn in those old days; and Logan hadn’t even been born. But, as I said, they’re firemen. And my favorite story about Terry has always been the one about the time Sheila accidentally set his hair on fire in the back seat of my Mustang, right there on Main Street in front of Ray’s Corner.

The amplifier cemetery is self-evident.

Then, there’s the Cardinal – a visitor from Heaven, it is said. A bird. “Bird,” aka Jerry Lewis, eventually took over as bassist for our band, Orion, when Terry left.  And that Cardinal was literally sitting on a branch, looking into my window as I read the message from Steve.

I’m not a “spiritual person.” But if I can figure out Cindy Barber’s connection to all of this, I may become one.

I don’t know why you came to see me after all these years, you three-fingered wild man, but thank you for doing that.

I get it, man. You were ready.

Now, rest in peace, old friend.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018


Hello. It’s been a while since I’ve submitted anything to your friendly neighborhood paper for publication. Social Media just seemed to be so much easier … and immediate. But I’ve seen it turn ugly over the past few years, and it is beginning to frighten me. To be clear, I’m not a man who
    frightens easily.

Politically, it seems that people who lean to the left are more concerned about the First Amendment; and those who lean to the right are more concerned about the Second Amendment. That’s OK. They’re both important, or they wouldn’t be in there, would they? In full disclosure, for those who don’t know me, I’m one of those snowflake lefties, and a gun owner – but this column is not political, so please don’t let my political leanings dissuade you from reading further.

With its roots in Social Media – Twitter, Facebook – there is a dangerously growing sentiment that the “free press” is “an enemy of the people.” Does this make sense? Is it true? No matter your political persuasion, I am asking you to examine this belief carefully, thoughtfully, with an open mind.  If you’ll do that, within those simple guidelines, given that you possess the intelligence to have read the preceding 200 or so words, I’m confident that you will arrive at the correct conclusion.

Ask yourself whether it is the press or the government that stands to benefit most from what information, or lack of information the public has.  What does the press have to gain by giving you negative information, dirt, on those you have elected to serve in public office? What do those elected officials have to gain by convincing you that stories reported by the media are false?

An argument could be made that “bad news” sells papers and advertising on TV and radio; and, therefore, it is in the financial interest of the media to push as much of that as possible.  In relatively normal times, that would be an effective point; but these are not normal times.  Many people are turning away from all forms of what has come to be known as Mainstream Media, to the point of violence, and putting all their trust in what they see on Social Media.  This causes only financial pain for the conventional media. But they keep reporting the news, whether it’s good or bad.  Why?  Why would they continue to do that, and not pander to the demands of subscribers in order to get those all-important ad dollars back?

If you’ll permit, let’s go back to me for a moment.  I’ve had hundreds of my columns printed in newspapers over the past couple of decades. I can assure you, without the slightest hesitation, that I haven’t gotten rich by doing so. And, even though my offerings are generally frivolous opinion pieces, by virtue of the fact that they are in the newspaper some folks consider me “one of them” – a member of the dreaded MSM – paid handsomely by moguls like George Soros to spread lies and misinform the people about the world they live in; selling my soul to the Devil to the peril of my own friends and family. To the peril of my granddaughters. I’m not! I’m a regular guy who lives in a small suburban neighborhood in Arkansas. I drive a 2002 Ford pickup. It’s red. I’m an insurance adjuster and a private investigator and a photographer, and a digital artist – and anything else I can do to earn a buck – because I don’t get those MSM checks, and I still have bills to pay. And (surprise!) neither do the many real news people I have gotten to know through association with my column. You know them. They’re your neighbors and relatives and members of your church. You see them at the grocery store where you’re both standing in the security line fumbling for your photo IDs so you can buy some coffee.  Sometimes they’re at the next table from you at your local restaurant; in the next seat at the movie theater. You recognize each other and speak of how your day is going.  What do those people have to gain by lying to you about the goings on in your government?

Conversely, there are those in (literally) ivory towers, issuing decrees in 140 character increments, telling you who and what you should believe, and insisting that you trust them with things as important as sending your sons and daughters to war. You don’t know them. You’ve never met. Likely, you’ve never even seen these people in real life. And it is your real life you are trusting them with.  On what basis, what evidence, do you give them that trust?

As stated, I’m a liberal columnist. Don’t take it from me! Maybe you know a conservative one. Ask that person how many of the people he or she works with gets those George Soros checks. He/She should know.  Ask that columnist who sets the agenda for what he/she writes. Get back to me on that?

Historically, unofficially, the US government has consisted of four branches: The Executive branch, the Legislative branch, the Judicial branch, and the Press (media). The first three of those are there to run the country as they see fit; and in doing so there is endless potential for them to misuse that power for personal benefit. The fourth is there to let you know whether or not the other three are playing by the rules – and they get paid either way.

The media is you. Are you an enemy of the people? 

© 2018, Rick Baber

Monday, February 26, 2018

The F.B.I.

You people who have such disrespect for the FBI as to believe they are involved in some kind of conspiracy against the President have obviously no concept of their long and storied history.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation was formed in 1967 by a retired astronaut named Jacob Edgar Hoover, for the sole purpose of capturing or killing the famous outlaws, Bonnie & Clyde. This was done, as you know, later that year, in a shootout as the outlaws attempted to rob the First National Bank in Coffeyville, Kansas. From this legendary gunfight the phrase “The only one who can stop a woman sitting in a car smoking a cigar, is a good guy with a machine gun.” This phrase has since been slightly modified.
After accomplishing his goal, Hoover was unfortunately embroiled in a scandal involving Russian prostitutes and bodily fluids. He resigned, in shame, in early 1969 after being held accountable for the mass shooting that occurred at the Woodstock Music Festival. In 1970, however, he made a successful run for President of the United States, defeating Richard M. Nixon in his bid for re-election. He was the first president to have been born in Washington DC since Benjamin Franklin. He served only one term before being defeated by Ronald Reagan, with his “Shining City on a Hill” campaign – which was Reagan’s subtle reference to Hoover’s Russian Hooker Scandal.
Hoover was replaced at the FBI by Effrem Zimbalist, Jr., who served with distinction as Director from 1970 until his mysterious death on May 2, 2014 in Solvang, California.
During his tenure, Zimbalist is credited with the assassinations of John Dillinger, Warren G. Harding, and Fidel Castro; as well as having great influence in the passing of the 26th Amendment (1971) which made it possible for women to vote in federal elections.
Zimbalist’s death came as a great surprise to President Barack Obama, who immediately appointed Hillary Clinton as his successor. *Addendum: During Mrs. Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State, she was temporarily replaced by Assistant Director, Walter Skinner. Clinton returned to the office after her unsuccessful bid for President, and holds the office to this day.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

120 minutes in Hell. (reposted for Mark Baber)

120 Minutes in Hell

    My back’s to the wall. I can hear the faint crackle of simmering human flesh, and smell the putrid odor. There’s a little boy – maybe four years old – climbing on the folding chairs in front of me. Crunching. Forever crunching on some pieces of hard candy he picked up off the dirty floor. Every once in a while his face gets red and he looks at me and coughs. And every time he does that, I think he’s about to choke to death and my eyes scan the crowd in a panic for anybody that looks like he might belong to them. At last count there were 52 people in here, but, since then, they’ve come in three at a time while only a few have made it out. A tiny sign atop the filing cabinet says “Number now being served – 80”. My number is 91. My mother was right. I should have lead a better life. She said I’d have to pay for my sins someday. That day is here. Dante was a whining pansy. I’m in hell. I’m in the Revenue Office.

    All the people coming in here have exactly the same look on their faces. Horror. They look at me (I’m the first one inside the door) and say, “Busy place, ain’t it?” Every one of them. Like it’s script and these people are all trying out for the same part. “Busy place, ain’t it?” I nod, and continue writing on the back of my Personal Property Assessment envelope, because I don’t want to miss a minute of this. This is among the greatest of life’s lessons. Like death itself.

    This is how Big Brother controls us here. You people in other states probably don’t know about this. We HAVE to drive here. That’s the only way to get around. No public transportation to speak of. No city busses. No trains. To us, Subway is a sandwich shop. Dig? In order to drive, we have to have licenses – in our pockets and on our cars (or pickups). In order to get those, we have to come here. To Hell. They give us a list of things to bring: Inspection sticker; proof of insurance; proof of Personal Property Assessment; proof that we paid last year’s Personal Property Tax; shoe size; Blood and urine samples; a list of our last 10 sexual partners; our first born children. Then, during the long hours waiting in the lines here, they subliminally plant messages into our brains to check that little box on our tax returns to donate to the Presidential Election Fund. And God knows what else.

    The old guy in the white cap just walked away from the “Express Lane” (that is a hysterical term) that he’d been standing in for 15 minutes or so. “Next time I get stopped” he says loudly, “We’re gonna to court. Me and you both gonna be down there, I’m afraid!”

    The lady behind the counter – obviously hardened from years of being forced to inflict this most hideous of human torture – just ignores him and looks up and gives that sinister grin to the next poor soul in line. The old man is sitting down now, up there in the front row, throwing a hissy fit to some absolute stranger next to him.

    The ladies over at the County Assessor’s desks have only a few people waiting in their lines. They don’t even have to take a number. One of them has been on the phone for the past ten minutes, using hand motions to describe her new drapes, while the waiting customer’s foot taps spastically on the floor. I notice that my foot is doing the same thing.

    What has become of my life? How did I come to be in such a horrible place? Why is this kid wiping his sticky hands all over my pants leg? All I ever wanted was to get my tags transferred over to my new van. But no! First you gotta go to the insurance office and get some stupid little card. And then you gotta take it to the Assessor. And then she asks you if you assessed your stuff for this year, and you don’t know because your wife takes care of all that stuff. And then she asks you if you paid your last year’s taxes, and you don’t know because your wife takes care of all that stuff, too. So she gets on the phone to the Courthouse and asks somebody that has access to a computer and ends up talking to them for the next ten minutes telling them about her stupid new drapes! Then she fills you out a new assessment sheet and you sign it and think you’re done. But no. She tells you to go take a number and sit in Hell and wait. And wait. And wait.

    The little boy with the candy and sticky hands just walked past me on his way out (Thank God) and took the opportunity to take a swipe at my pen – causing a long scribble across the envelope. The lady behind the counter calls out number 84. The guy in the white hat just lit up a cigarette, and he’s sitting there, daring somebody to tell him that he’s not allowed to smoke in here.

    “Well, just tell me WHAT I gotta have!” demands another voice from the Express Lane. In a few seconds the guy storms past me and out the door. Right behind him runs another man, carrying the papers the guy left laying on the counter. “Sir!”

    I’m remembering the guy in the tower at the University of Texas back in the 60’s. I’m wondering if the state of Texas used this same system of vehicle license renewal.

    The old man in the white cap is leaning over the counter now, butting in line. The clerk is raising her voice to him. She’s explaining that they don’t have enough people to do whatever it is he wants to do. He sits back down and wakes the guy behind him up so he can bitch about it to somebody new.

    Oh, boy! A lady just walked in here with another little kid. My neck’s getting sore from nodding. “Yes. It IS a busy place. What the hell did you expect you moron? This is the Revenue Office, you blithering idiot! Have you never been here before? Why would you be so socially irresponsible as to bring a child into an environment such as this? Nobody should have to face this until they’re at least 18!”

    I came in here at 11am. It’s 12:45. They just called number 87. I really do need to go next door to the laundry and use that nasty restroom, but it’s a cinch that, if I did, somebody would steal my chair and I’d have to sit up there with the rest of the zombies. One thing about this place – there are no politics here. Everybody is treated the same…like cattle. Lined up on the chairs in front of me are young people, old people, businessmen, chicken farmers, church ladies, truck drivers, and one dude that I think is a TV weatherman.

Everybody has to wait. And wait. And wait. People are developing lasting relationships with folks they just met in here. Agreeing to stay in touch. Loaning each other money. Giving birth. Raising their children. Dying.

    The thought just occurred to me that I’ll have to hand that woman these envelopes I’m writing this on, if I do live long enough to complete my quest here. I hope she doesn’t take the time to read this story. With her obvious lightning clerical speed, I might have to go build a house or something while 
I’m waiting.

    Wow! There’s a woman that’s been sitting over at the far end of the room since before I got here. She just realized that she was supposed to take a number, and didn’t. She’s turning a little green. I think she’s going to blow breakfast.

    What a terrible thing to happen! She’s looking around the room now to see if anybody has noticed. You know, like when you’re a kid and you have some really dumb wreck on your bicycle? Or when you’re walking into a store or something, checking out some babes, and turn and slam your face into a post? Or the time I was laughing at a couple of my friends who had been involved in a wreck, while driving by it, and rear-ended a third car I hadn’t seen? Only this had to be much worse. This lady has wasted all this time here. By the way she’s dressed, I’m guessing she was a much younger person when she came in.


    91? Are you sure?

    But, this poor woman. Should I give her my number? She’s old. I don’t think she could possibly live long enough to start at the end of the line now. The little take-a-number thing is all the way back around to number 27.

    She’s calling it again. 91. 91. 91.

    She’s looking frustrated! Going for 92!!

    Tuff break, grandma. I’m outta here!