Blowin’ In The Wind has been one of the best known protest songs which asks the questions of a society struggling to understand and better itself. It was released in 1962. 58 years later and we are still struggling to find our way and answer those questions, when the answers are still, blowin’ in the wind.
In 1962, “the space race was heating up and the Cold War was freezing over. Soviet missile bases discovered in Cuba triggered a crisis that brought the U.S. to the brink of war with the U.S.S.R. Civil rights activists won hard-earned victories against segregationists in the American South, and John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. Meanwhile, the U.S. slowly escalated its involvement in Vietnam.”
The time was filled with change, innovation, growing fears and a society that seemed incredibly polarized.
The answers to our continual questions may be blowing in the wind, but they all start and end with love and kindness.
What question are you struggling with tonight? How can you diffuse the tension? How can we create hope instead of hate?
We are all connected. Life is better with a soundtrack.
#TBT The Rose I want tell you that I love you. I want to tell you, you matter. You have value and purpose. I know you are sad. I know you are lonely. I see you. I know where you are. I have been there many times myself. I even carved my initials on the cold dark walls that surround you. There are others. They too left their mark. And like bread crumbs we hope you will see our scratched cries for help. If you look closely, you will see cracks in that wall. Through the cracks you will see a very dim light. You can get out of there. I am going to keep shining that light.
Driving Away Depression I know you hurt. I know your heart breaks. And in the dark cold winter of your soul, there is a seemingly unbearable weight holding you down. “Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows Lies the seed, that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose.” That seed is love and joy. You WILL feel the spring. You will feel the warmth of the sun on your face. You are not alone. Your journey isn’t over. If that seems improbable or hopeless, reach out to me. Reach to God. Reach to the light. I know how that feels. Turn to the light. Getting up is the hardest step. If I can, so can you. We are all in this together. You will feel love and happiness again. You will feel hope. “Some say love, it is a river, that drowns the tender reed Some say love, it is a razor, that leaves your soul to bleed Some say love, it is a hunger, an endless aching need I say love, it is a flower, and you, its only seed It’s the heart afraid of breaking, that never learns to dance It’s the dream afraid of waking, that never takes the chance It’s the one who won’t be taken, who cannot seem to give And the soul afraid of dying, that never learns to live When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows Lies the seed, that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose” Bette Midler recorded The Rose in 1979. It still stirs every emotion in me when I listen to it. This may be the toughest year many have ever faced. Keep kind on your mind. The world needs more, many more kindness warriors like each of you. One small (or big) act of kindness could be life-changing for someone. Kindness can be the nutrient that seed needs to grow and bloom.
Be love. Be kind #kindness#purposefulkindness#drivingawaydepression#WhatAWonderfulWorld#hope#peace#joy#love#streetlights#grace#TheKindnessClub#weareallconnected
Despite all my rage… I was discharged from the hospital today. Including today, 9 days is a long time stuck in a 10 by 12 room where your only connection to, well, anyone is the call button. It changes your perspective on life. All of the sudden a cheap plastic remote becomes this mighty conduit.
I had 6 separate hospital stays last year. None were as challenging as this one. But, nevertheless, where there is darkness, fear, pain, and anger, there is also hope. I found a few meaningful elements to my journey in those little lonely moments, in the dark cold isolation of my hospital room; in the still.
I am still processing and look forward to sharing more about that. But for now, I am letting the anger and frustration out. And, there is plenty of frustration with facing what seems to be neverending health challenges that force me back into a 10 by 12 cage.
Makes me want to smash something. More to come, more peaceful thoughts. But for now…
My rage isn’t any less real. My fighting resolve is intact, still.
Next Saturday, August 22 will be one year to the day since I met a woman who changed my outlook on life. Her name was Holly, from Colorado. Her name came up earlier today in a conversation with my mother-in-law about some of the most interesting stories from my experiences driving Uber/Lyft.
Driving over the last 3 and a half years has given me so much inspiration and purpose. For those new to StreetLights, my name is Christopher Carlson. I have clinical/chronic depression. This is something I have dealt with all or most of my life but didn’t realize or understand it until a very dark rock bottom moment in December of 2017 that almost took my life. God intervened.
Since that moment of clarity I have chosen to share my experiences and my story because I know it helps others who suffer this lonely internal battle. My decision to be open and share my struggle has been validated more times than I can remember in the last few years. As a part of my own therapy but also as a sort of safe space for others, I have interacted with many incredible people through my 6,000 plus Uber/Lyft rides given. The other objective behind this blog and the stories I share is to promote kindness.
I haven’t driven Uber/Lyft since March 17th, due to Covid19. I am in the high risk pool and just can’t risk that much exposure. I have begun working full time in a position at Lowe’s which limits my exposure to the public and I really enjoy my work. But I truly miss driving and hope to someday feel safe enough to resume that inspiring activity, part-time.
As for now, like many of you, I have been anxious and angry. There are dark forces working in this world and the voices of fear and hate are very loud. Driving would often help me when I felt like I often do because it always helped restore my faith in humanity. Just a few riders is all it would take; sometimes just 1.
I don’t have that connection right now, so I thought I would look back to get some comfort and perspective. Holly’s story is a reminder that we can’t let the anger and fear of today overwhelm us and dictate our lives. I needed to regain that perspective. Holly has a simple life mantra. “Life is love. Anything else is a waste of time.” Here is her story…
StreetLights On a Saturday Night
People Profiles, Driving Away Depression
Holly From Green Mountain
I got the request in Grand Prairie. Uber XL. Thinking it would be a group of people and at 245am, most likely drunk and rowdy, I prepared myself for the worst. Shortly after I started working my way to the pickup address, I received a text from”H,” my rider. “Please come to the front office. I am in a wheelchair.” I was relieved it wasn’t a group of late night drinkers.
When I arrived at the semi-circle drive in front of the retirement home, two women were waving at me, smiling. Holly was my rider. She was in the wheelchair. Her 92 year old mother was standing with a walker. Holly had several bags and a small dog. I began to load the car as she said goodbye to her mother. There was some laughter mixed in with some emotion as I helped Holly into the front seat and loaded her wheel chair. As they made their final goodbyes I began to realize this was more than just, until the next time. Once the door was shut, Holly began fumbling for the window button. I hit mine as we slowly started to move. She waved to her mother again calling out to her. I stopped. But Holly said no, let’s go, and she burst into tears.
Holly regained her composure and apologized saying “It’s just tough. I am saying goodbye to my mother for the last time. She has congestive heart failure. In the morning she will be moved into a full care facility.”
Holly comes from a big family. She has 13 brothers. Not one of them have visited their mother in these final days. Here was Holly, with serious health issues herself, bound to a wheelchair, traveled from Colorado to see her mom.
Holly returned to what seemed to be her normal disposition, cheerful and positive. She was warm and friendly, even when she spoke of tough, even tragic experiences in her life. When you look into her eyes you can see this almost childlike joy.
Holly’s mother was given something called DES when she was pregnant with Holly.
Diethylstilbestrol (DES) is a synthetic form of the female hormone estrogen. It was prescribed to pregnant women between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage, premature labor, and related complications of pregnancy, incuding nausea. It was determined to cause cancer in the mother, the child and could even reach as far as a grandchild genetically. Holly is known as a DES daughter because she, like many women born from exposure, developed cancer or other significant health issues.
Holly fought cancer twice. The first time she was only 9. And then again, in her late 20s. She beat it both times. But the genetic abnormality remained.
Holly and Bill married young. Bill is a disabled Vietnam War Veteran. They had a baby boy. He had a rocky start and passed away at 15 months old.
Eventually they tried again and she gave birth to a little girl. Her daughter was healthy. She grew up, got married and began having kids of her own. That’s when the cancer finally showed up. Holly’s daughter had inoperable, terminal brain cancer. Holly said after the news, her daughter freaked out, dropped everything and left. She left her 3 children and her husband. Holly never heard from her again.
Now another predicament. By this time, Holly and Bill had significant health issues and couldn’t take on the kids. Her daughter’s husband was in a car accident and suffered traumatic brain damage. So he couldn’t be a father anymore. They were forced to turn to the state. All 3 children were put into different foster homes.
In 1985 Holly and Bill, along with their daughter were living in Houston. There was a severe storm one day that had Holly concerned about the lightning. She called Bill on the phone and while expressing her concerns to him lightning struck the tree just outside the kitchen window. The strike went into the ground, splitting the tree, and found its way up the ground cable for the phone. And then, as Holly described it, the lights went out. She was cooked!
It took her over a year to learn to speak and walk again. That strike left her with a damaged nervous system, constant headaches, epileptic seizures, and a bone disorder that prevents calcium from being absorbed, making her bones weak and brittle. Calcium builds up on the outside of the bone. Apparently she has numerous surgeries to go in and essentially scrape it off. Holly jokes about a few other side effects, including a slightly tighter right side of her face that makes her look a bit like a pirate smiling. She said she can scratch her left shouldet and feel it in her right leg.
She underwent leg surgery not long ago where they used a cadaver bone for her right leg. It didn’t work, which is why she is curently in the wheelchair. Upon returning to Colorado, they will remove her leg below the knee. She joked about being mad at the doctors because she wanted to keep the leg, only to bury it. But they said no. I told her she should then at least ask for a core charge refund.
Holly’s little Terrier is named Christine. She is actually a service dog and lets Holly know when she is about to have a seizure.
Holly continued with her story. ” I am so grateful for little Christine, here. But I haven’t had a seizure in almost 2 years since we moved to Lakewood, Colorado and my doctor started me on CBD. My overall pain is lower. Apparently they fixed my voice too well, according to Bill because I won’t stop talking now.”
She had this childlike, innocent joy about her. All that pain. And her eyes are lit with joy and appreciation for life. She paused in her story long enough for me to ask how she copes. She smiled and said there are good days and bad days but everyday I am alive is a blessing.”
She commented on my music choice. Louis Armstrong and Elle Fitzgerald were singing a duet on my Spotify. What are some of your favorite music artists? I asked. She said she really liked John Denver.
Ohhhhh, like Rocky Mountain High?
She laughed a little and said ‘Well I like that song but it isn’t my favorite.”
“Annie’s song.” She said peacefully.
Her three grandchildren were found separate permanent homes. All three were adopted by wonderful families. Holly gets to communicate with all of them and occasionally gets to see them. They are all in Utah.
We got to Love field at 330 am. Nobody was there. But she insisted she would be fine to be dropped off. So, I unloaded her stuff onto a cart, got her situated in the wheel chair and we made our way into the terminal.
Holly you seem like such a happy person, I said. You have had a tough life.
Holly replied, “I have had a blessed life. I have been happily married for 39 years, traveled. I Live in a beautiful place by Green Mountain. Life has been good to me.”
I told her how much I appreciated her telling me her life journey. I told her I really admired her strength and resilience.
“You should visit Green Mountain. You should visit Colorado. You seem tired. It will rejuvenate you.” Holly said.
I told her now everytime I think of Colorado I will think of her….
With that pirate smile, hoppin’ around Green Mountain on one leg…
We both burst out laughing.
We hugged and said goodbye. I felt like I was saying goodbye to a dear friend. It was a strange moment as I walked away, while she sat with Christine and her luggage next to the check-in kiosk, smiling and waving me bye. She was happy. She was returning home to her steadfast companion of 39 years.
Oh Holly. You smile for me. I cry for you.
I played that song on the way home. I cried the whole way. I cried for Holly’s loss. I cried for the desperation I have felt. And, I cried for joy, because Holly reminded me that I am alive, still. She told me something else I am sure to never forget.
Life is love.
That’s it. Everything else is a waste of time.
Once again, God has given it. He sent a most interesting woman to deliver it. And, I have received it.
I wrote this post below on March 4, 2019, not long after I had a heart attack and received 2 stents. I got a third a few months later. Now, as I write this update to the story, my father is in the hospital in Carson City. He and his wife live in Reno, but they chose the Carson hospital because they thought they would receive greater care for his heart issue. My dad is currently in his procedure now; Angiogram to see what is happening. I found it remarkable when Debby (my father’s wife) told me the Doc who is performing the procedure used to actually play backup guitar for Bob Seger. Well, there you have it. God’s grace through healing hands and, well, Rock-n-Roll!
I am praying for good news. In the mean time, I am sharing this post again for Pop. He too, is tired and worn, but still running against the wind...
The Longest Trip.
Lord, I’m tired. I wonder, Lord, if you might give me shelter from the storm. The wind is blowing and I’m getting older. The wind is blowing and I am still running against it, as I have always done. But I’m tired and worn. I need some help. I need some hope. I just can’t shake this and I have lost a step or two…
Lately, I have been struggling. I have been questioning. I have been confused. There are days, more lately, where I find myself trying to reconcile God’s will with my own. I feel like I can’t find that balance. There is this nagging fear that I am failing, going nowhere, no matter how hard I try. There have been too many days where I forgot what it feels like, to feel good. Sometimes it feels like pushing on the ocean. Buts its just running against the wind, and I am not failing. And, I am not forsaken.
I haven’t written much lately. I haven’t found my voice again. At least until now. But this has taken me weeks to write. I have been in a bit of a fog, feeling weak, feeling like I have been knocked down and I am still coming to my senses. I feel incredibly mortal, fragile. And, that will pass. But nothing comes easy. There is a cost to everything.
We all struggle. If you look around and think about it, every person you know has struggles. That’s life. We all get knocked down. We all deal with difficult times. We are all still running against the wind. At least now that we’re older, we know we are stronger together. And, we are stronger through God’s grace.
Still, I am struggling.
Sunday, March 4th, 2019
Last night I picked up Steve and Susan from DFW airport. We hit it off before we got out of the terminal area. I am very glad too, because it was a 2 hour trip down just southwest of Waco. They live in McGregor, TX. I actually took them to the municipal airport where they have a hangar that keeps their 1961 Beechcraft Bonanza. Their car happened to be there as well.
Steve and I swapped flying stories. I have a little flight time in the same make and model as his Bonzana. Stock photo below.
They haven’t lived in Texas very long; less than a year. I asked Steve what brought him to Texas and he answered, Chip and Joanna Gaines. Seriously? I asked. Apparently, they watched the show Fixer Upper and decided Waco seemed like a nice place to live. It definitely has a lower cost of living than their previous home of 30 years, in Seattle.
Originally, they planned a retirement in the Caribbean, spending all their time on a catamaran. But their son was diagnosed with cancer. He is good now. But they say the next 5 years are the greatest risk of it returning. Steve and Susan decided to stay landside in case their son needed help. He lives in Houston.
So they came down and met the Gaineses. Joanna helped them find a house in McGregor. Their house in a Seattle suburb sold for $450 per square foot. Their new home in Texas cost $97 per sq. foot. They doubled the size for less money. Susan said they love being here and wish they had come to Texas 20 years ago.
As we continued to talk about aviation we started getting into the history of both our families. It turns out, Steve’s dad flew F4U-4 Corsairs in WWII. He was based in Guadalcanal, Henderson Field for a bit as well as the carriers, Lexington and Enterprise. While it was a completely different ship and in the 1970’s my father was an air traffic controller on the nuclear version of the Enterprise, CVN65. Besides the F4U-4 Corsair, Steve’s father also flew Wildcats and Bearcats off the deck of a carrier. My favorite aircraft of all time is the F4U corsair and it just happens to be Steve’s dad’s favorite as well. Especially since he flew them in combat, dogfighting Japanese Zeroes.
Dropping Steve and Susan off at McGregor airport was a real treat. It has been a while since I have been on an airfield. I enjoyed following the taxi lane to his hanger. It definitely brought back some memories.
Dropping them off completed the longest trip thus far in my 2 and a 1/2 years of driving Uber and Lyft. I think it was 123 miles. We had such a great time talking along the way, they offered to take me to dinner in Waco at their favorite burger place called Freddy’s. I had to gracefully decline and get back up to DFW. But it sure was a nice gesture. Steve and Susan, you guys are true kindness Warriors. Correction, Kindness Aviators!
Talking about our experience flying brought back so many memories. Thinking back on those days, I was so confident, so ambitious. I didn’t play by anyone elses rules. I thought I could do anything. But I was always running. I was running to or from something. Heartache, depression, loneliness, who knows exactly. But when I flew, I was at peace. Up there with the deep blue sky and the lofty clouds, I had no fears. My demons were left on the ground below. Up there it was just me and God.
Now, here I am, ragged and worn, still trying to re-engage. Still trying to find that place of grace that seems lost. I am running on fumes with no end in sight. But, I am still running.
Bob Seger was in town Saturday at the Ford Center in Frisco. I think his song, Against the Wind represents it best.
I know I am not alone. We are all struggling. We all keep running against the wind. It’s what we do. Sometimes, it’s all we can do.
Perfect weather as the sun sets here in Arlington, TX. Enjoying a relaxing evening. I do miss the road and the interesting stories from my riders. In the meantime, I have a few people to write about soon and there is this:
As I continue to sort through meaningful songs I always have a habit of going back to certain artists like Neil Young and Bob Dylan.
Neil Young wrote Helpless in 1969. This is one of those songs that really makes me delve deep into its meaning, or at least my interpretation of the song. I began to think of the helpless feeling one might have in isolation due to Covid19. In the song, Young refers to a town in North Ontario. It is pretty isolated up there. As one writer put it, when expressing his interpretation, “when you live in a town like that, you often feel helpless because you are. But there is beauty there like nowhere else. So when you are back to “civilization” you miss it.”
Perhaps it can be used as a feeling of despair that you cannot help, but there is still this image,
“Blue, blue windows behind the stars, Yellow moon on the rise, Big birds flying across the sky,”
Isolation is tough. I got to see some familiar faces tonight that I have seen in months. It was brief but meaningful nonetheless. This song has always been a favorite of mine. I would play it when I felt alone, sitting in my little apartment.
But here is the thing, the silver lining if you will.
Even in times of sadness, despair, helplessness, there is beauty and grace.
Check in on someone this weekend. Reach out. There are many forms of isolation and many who feel helpless don’t know how to reach out.
Anyway, it is Friday. Have a great weekend everyone!
Be love. Be kind. We are all connected.
Life is better with a soundtrack.
This version of Neil Young’s Helpless by Buffy Sainte-Marie is pow wow werful!
We have been sheltering in place, with a few store runs here and there, since March 18th. Like many of you, I was anxious. How would we pay the bills? What will happen with the kids and school? Just how bad will it get? And, for me, I wondered how will this affect my mental health? I am someone who has battled clinical depression all my life. Most of that time, I was not fully aware of my disease. In December of 2017, that changed. Since then, I have been on a journey to reclaim my life and to share my struggle so that it might be a light for others who are lost in the dark fog.
It hasn’t been an easy path. I have learned to control (mostly) my depression and anxiety. I have also learned that even knowing isn’t always a solution, but it certainly is better than being forever lost at sea. I often refer to my toolbox when talking about depression. By that, I mean the number of ways I control and counter it. Medicine, therapy, walking, meditating, writing, nature, routines, etc. are all tools in the toolbox. Checklists are also very useful.
So, there we were, on the first day of our shelter-in-place journey. To my surprise, I transitioned quite well. I became less anxious and my mood was generally positive all day long. Time spent with family has been wonderful. We played games, watched some movies together. We have worked in the yard together. The kids lost interest in that activity after day 1, but it was great while it lasted. I think if I push, I can get them back out there. I have also been organizing my garage. Clutter is always bad. Finding a place for everything and creating a few clear surfaces is therapy in and of itself. It is great to get rid of things you don’t need. So long, extra set of washing machine hoses. Good riddance, box of old cables and wires. I found one bag that was filled with more bags. I am pretty sure it has been tucked away in a drawer since 1997.
The first few weeks of shelter-in-place was like stepping from a surreal environment that went by so fast, most of it was blurry, to a much more real, vivid life of color and beauty, I was off the hamster wheel and free to look around; free to enjoy the simpler things in life.
I was looking at all the life
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
I was all of the sudden on a whole new path. I was on a respite from the grind and I was noticing all the wonder around me. The grass became greener. The sun and sky felt like battery chargers for my soul. I was now traveling along a path devoid of stress and anxiety; a path with far less distractions. I got away from all the chaos and the noise. But I had no idea where this path would lead me. As the song says,
I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
New routines began to form. Some good, some bad. But I wasn’t really paying attention. I was living in the moment and happy. So, I was complacent and unaware. Last week, I began to slide. Unknowingly, my demons were catching up to me. Life started getting foggy. I have been so tired and achy these last few days. I have started losing interest in all of the wonderful elements of life. This morning I woke up feeling like I needed to go right back to bed. I scrolled Facebook for a few moments with no real interest. I looked outside and didn’t see my new little realm, but instead, I saw heat and discomfort and unbearable brightness. I didn’t have much to say to anyone and after forcing myself to take care of a couple of “to do’s,” I found my way back to bed. It seems depression had found me again.
After two days in the desert sun
My skin began to turn red
After three days in the desert fun
I was looking at a river bed
And the story it told of a river that flowed
Made me sad to think it was dead
You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
The difference between now and two years ago is, I caught it. Something actually triggered in me yesterday when I was in the car with Mindy and the girls. This song came on and got me reflecting a bit. It took me until late today to really catch it, but catch it I did! There are many times when I am “melancholy” but aware. This is now one of those times. I can’t really change the way I feel, but now I can utilize those tools I was talking about to keep this low from turning into something more powerful and destructive. Until my brain stops forcing me to sorrow, I will ride it out. I will stay the course and slowly my path will become clear again. The fog will lift and I will sense the wonder of life again.
We still don’t know what is next with this Covid 19 business. I still don’t know where this new path is taking me, still no name for this horse. But I do know everything will be alright.
After nine days I let the horse run free
‘Cause the desert had turned to sea
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
there was sand and hills and rings
The ocean is a desert with it’s life underground
And a perfect disguise above
Under the cities lies a heart made of ground
But the humans will give no love
You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
Where are you on your journey? Are you in the desert or in the rain? Mental health is tricky. Depression and anxiety are insidious. Covid19 has shaken the rhythm of all our lives. Here are a few tools to give yourself a mental checkup and boost.
Take a moment and rate your emotional state. Think about how you feel and how you have felt recently. Make yourself aware. If you are feeling low or foggy, change your routine, use a daily checklist, and find a way to talk about it. The buddy system works! Anyone who might struggle with depression should have someone, friend, family member, therapist, doctor to communicate with every week. Taking inventory and talking about how you feel on a regular basis helps empower you to become aware of and control the destructive forces of depression.
We have all become familiar with some new terms like shelter-in-place and social distancing. More than that, we are all adjusting to a very different world. There have been moments that feel as if each of us are on our own little space station floating around the earth. My station has artificial gravity, a fridge full of food, comfy bed, and a ton of movies, so it isn’t too bad. I also get to share this space station with my wife and three out of my four kids. I wish the 4th was here too but he is on his own space station. Every once in a while, we venture out in our trusty spacecraft to a large star base to resupply. My mother’s little space station where she is on her own is close by and since she is practicing the same isolation protocols as we are, we can still travel to and from her place.
Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, there is much suffering and much danger. But there is also something good. There is much love. Love is strong. Love is powerful. And, love is everywhere in this time of Covid-19. As we first began to hear news of this virus and when the first cases were reported here in the United States, my initial reaction was anger. That anger consumed me. I am a news junkie anyway, but with this virus, I opened up the information valve all the way. This just intensified my outrage. And, for good reason. However, as I observe others, as I see posts online, and as I feel it here in my home, my little space station, I have become overwhelmed with love. I see the love we share with others in a time such as this. I see selfless acts of love from every doctor, nurse, EMT, grocery store worker, restaurant employee, and so many other people who continue to work hard making sure we still function as a society and we still take care of people in need. It is times like this when heroes shall rise. And they have!
I haven’t driven in almost three weeks. It just became too dangerous. I miss the personal connections I make with passengers. Driving Uber and Lyft has always been a method of restoring my withered faith in humanity. I am finding new ways to appreciate and renew that faith. In a world of darkness, I see a million points of light. I see people helping people. I see the incredible love and kindness that IS humanity at its finest. And, that give me hope.
We recently lost a bright light, Bill Withers. But really, his light will keep shining for all of us in his music.
Excerpt from New York Times:
“At 17, eager to avoid a coal-mine career himself, Mr. Withers joined the Navy. “My first goal was, I didn’t want to be a cook or a steward,” he told Rolling Stone. “So, I went to aircraft-mechanic school.” He spent nine years in the service, some of it stationed in Guam. He quit the Navy in 1965, while stationed in California, and eventually got a job at an airplane parts factory. A visit to a nightclub to see Lou Rawls perform was a catalyst for changing his life. “I was making $3 an hour, looking for friendly women, but nobody found me interesting,” he said. “Then Rawls walked in, and all these women are talking to him.”
He bought a cheap guitar at a pawnshop, started learning to play it and writing songs, and eventually recorded a demo. Clarence Avant, a music executive who had just founded an independent label, Sussex, took note and set him up with the keyboardist Booker T. Jones, of Booker T. & the MG’s, to produce an album.
“Bill came right from the factory and showed up in his old brogans and his old clunk of a car with a notebook full of songs,” Mr. Jones told Rolling Stone. “When he saw everyone in the studio, he asked to speak to me privately and said, ‘Booker, who is going to sing these songs?’ I said, ‘You are, Bill.’ He was expecting some other vocalist to show up.”
Mr. Withers was laid off from his factory job a few months before “Just as I Am” came out. After the album’s release, he recalled, he received two letters on the same day. One was from his workplace asking him to return to work. The other was from “The Tonight Show,” where he appeared in November 1971.” NYT April 3, 2020.
What an amazing story! Bill Withers, with no music background, bought a guitar and started writing and playing music in his 30s. “It was just something I decided to do,” he said. He was inducted into the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame by Stevie Wonder in 2015.
For the record, “Ain’t No Sunshine” which garnered Withers his first Grammy was the B-side to “Harlem.”
We are going to get through this time of Covid-19. We are going to keep the fire bright. We are all connected!
So, for this edition of StreetLights On A Saturday Night, I leave you with a little love from Bill Withers. I truly hope it has been a lovely day, friends.
It was late Saturday night, after midnight. Okay, early Sunday morning!
I am exhausted. My whole week went sideways. It seems to do that often. I haven’t slept well in days. My restless legs have kept me up. It’s a nice bonus every time I get one of those steroid injections in my neck for a collapsed disc. My goals for the week were on the horizon but now have completely vanished. A few more rides like the last one and I am just done.
It is day 110 of recovery from depression rock bottom back in early December. I have managed to keep clear of the fog, for the most part. That nasty shadow has been chasing me, but hasn’t been able to catch me. I have been keeping it under control.
I am so tired. No way to hit that bonus. I think it may be time to head home. I will start again in the morning. Means, I miss church again but, need to work.
I was on highway 114 coming back from the west and looking to make the highway 121 exchange to head home.
The Lyft app began chirping with a request. Wow, its 17 minutes away. I accepted it. It turns out it was coming from the airport. I guess there is a real shortage of drivers in the queue at the airport. It isn’t common to get an airport pickup 17 minutes away. So, I headed in. I didn’t get far before the rider cancelled. I guess he didn’t like the wait time.
Well, I am headed toward the airport anyway. I will take just one more rider. I will make this one count and then head home to try again tomorrow. Just one more trip. Just then, the app started chirping again, 11 minutes away this time. I accepted it. Wow, another airport request. Bet they cancel. But I am going that way.
This request wasn’t canceled. It was a pickup at DFW Airport Terminal A. Really late for activity there. I was exhausted and feeling beat down. I could feel that shadow starting to move around me. I was feeling sorry for myself and I was feeling like a failure, my mind was getting dark. But I am going to get this one last rider home. As I approached the Terminal I saw my passenger, looking at me. Man, this guy looked worse than I feel. You could tell he was running on empty just by watching him move as I pulled up.
Just this last ride. Just one more ride and I will head home. I feel like I haven’t seen or spent time with my family in weeks. I have missed church and my friends there. Now I am going to miss everyone again. I will GET UP and keep fighting again tomorrow, I guess. Starting to wonder what the point is. I am so tired. Just one more ride tonight. Just one more Saturday night drive. Ok, time to put on a smile and get this guy home. Clearly he needs to get there. Got to keep movin’. Got to keep fighting. Else, who am I?
Hello James. Welcome back to DFW. Let’s see where we are headed…
StreetLights on a Saturday night Part 3 of 3 Silver Linings
Occurred March 25, 2018
In the struggle of life, especially those long stretches of time when we try to change, to improve, there is a strong counteracting force. It will knock you down, kick you, and steal your lunch money! You get the idea. Change is hard. When we attempt it, we often fail, and then fail again.
There are often times of sorrow or sadness. We are emotional, loving beings. When we are away from our loved ones it takes an emotional toll. When we lose someone, it takes a toll. When we become sick, it takes a toll.
When we must isolate ourselves at home, it takes a toll.
Something I know to be true, God is active in our lives. God puts people in our lives when we need them. God won’t give us more than we can handle. And, God has a purpose for each of us.
Last Saturday I was run down. Last Saturday I was feeling depressed. I was driving late, and I was exhausted. I picked up James from the airport and took him home to his house in Frisco. James seemed to fall into the car feeling exhausted himself. We got through the introductions and started the trip. I asked him if he had been traveling all day and he smiled and said he had a horrible trip. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. He said he desperately just wanted to make it home with no more issues, problems, or delays.
“I’ve got you covered!” I said. “Now tell me what happened on this horrible trip.” So James began telling this remarkable story of bad hotel rooms, broken rental cars, setbacks at work, and crazy flight delays. When he was done, I told him we needed to get him home as fast as we can so he can get out of my car and take that bad mojo with him! He laughed, but said the odds were against us. He was tired of travel and sad because he missed his family. I could certainly relate to that.
“James, your story alone is hilarious. Yes, it was all troubling and difficult to endure, but that was one of the worst travel experiences I have listened to, which makes it funny! And here you are on the final leg of your journey home. I will get us there!”
James asked me how my week went. I told him, not so well and explained all the things that went wrong with my week. After each of us had a chance to tell our stories to each other we both began to look for the silver lining, and we found it!
James ended up closer to his headquarters as a result of an issue with his first hotel room in Denver. He got upgraded when his rental car broke down. He could have been on the flight when the raft was triggered. It could have happened in the air. As far as his phone goes, well, stuff happens. But how cool was it that the trunk was triggered, sending his coffee mug right to him. That must have been quite a site. I told James I thought he now has a great story to tell his family in the morning to make them all laugh.
My week wasn’t the worst. Sure, I was tired. But I had so many wonderful interactions with people. I picked up some job leads and received help from numerous friends. James asked me what was most important in my life. I told him, my family. He said forget driving in the morning and get to church. He was right! I needed to be with my family. And I needed to recharge spiritually.
Sometimes, we need help gaining the right perspective on things. God is active in our lives. Meeting James was God’s doing. James was his messenger. And I was God’s messenger and delivery service for James. I delivered him to his doorstep at 1:58 AM. No issues or problems occurred.
Two weary travelers offering each other kind words and an ear. Just what each of us needed at the time. And our journey continues…
April 1st, 2020
Easter is almost upon us. I can’t think of a better time to use kind words and to listen. In doing so, we can alter the trajectory of someone’s life, in a very good way!