Monthly Archives: November 2018

In Remembrance : June Tabor – The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

The Immortal Jukebox

In 1914 they came from the hamlets and the villages and the towns and the cities.

They came from the hills and the mountains and the valleys.

Farmers and miners.

Teachers and doctors.

White, Brown and Black.

They  marched away from Home with smiles on their faces.

They knew they would be Home again soon.

Today it is exactly 100 years since the guns fell silent ending World War One.

The emotional, spiritual, pyschic and cultural cost of such a war is beyond all human calculation.

A cataclysm shattering hearts and minds.

Shattering philosophies and faiths.

Shattering nations and societies.

Shattering hopes and dreams.

Shattering comfortable certainties..

The toll in terms of deaths and casualties we can, in awe, to some extent number.

From Australia : Lieutenant Joseph Balfe from Brunswick aged 25 and more than 62, 000 of his comrades.

From Canada : Private Percy Bark aged 18 and…

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that’s not appropriate

A friend and colleague of mine died several years ago . He had a brain tumor when he was in his early twenties and doctors told him he had only a few months left to live , so he quit his job , put his race car on blocks , gave his guitar to his sister , and he journeyed around the world .guitar player 1934

I met him several years later . He and I were both teaching . He taught English, played guitar , looked in on his old race car in the garage once in awhile , probably with some deep wistfulness , and liked to have a beer after work once in awhile .

And then , I guess , the tumor finally caught up with him all those many years later , and he passed away quietly one day after work .

His sister held a wake for him at the house that he and she had shared . It was a sun-shiny day and people told tales of the guy at the gathering in his backyard. The garage door was open so that the race car he once had driven could share in the festivities . It was a celebration of a life , as they say .POLAND JUNE 2017 Willie,etc. 347

I wore a music-related T-shirt that had a band pictured on the front. My friend loved music and , although I don’t now remember what band it was pictured on my shirt , it was probably one of his favorites . He would have appreciated that .

The principal of my school showed up at the wake . She hadn’t really known my friend , but she took it upon herself to take me aside for a moment  to admonish me about the propriety of wearing a T-shirt like that on  such an occasion . ” That shirt is not appropriate , ” she said .

So I told her that my dead friend had loved music and that I’d known him well enough to know that he would have loved my shirt and that she hadn’t known him and so , therefore , she should keep her uninformed opinions to herself. To dish out such advice ” is inappropriate , ” I told her ” on such an occasion as this . “She huffed a little bit and puffed a little bit and walked away .

I was telling this story to a former school administrator friend of mine a few days ago . ” So that’s why you have a sour attitude toward administrators , ” he said . He’s heard several of my administrator stories . ” You’ve run into some bad ones , ” he said . Yeah.

I wonder what ever happened to that race car . I bet his sister kept it in the garage . It’s probably still there . People in the back yard that afternoon were amazed that he used to race cars . He didn’t seem like the type . Some people knew that he loved music ; some didn’t . I remember his stories about south sea islands that he had visited during a time when when he was sure that  he was soon on his way out of this world .

Most people , I think , knew him as the reserved and slightly odd English teacher in room 301. We all have our stories .


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my grave

I went out yesterday to look at my grave . It was a clear , beautiful day . I’m in the Liberty section at Forest Lawn in Glendale. What a peaceful place , really .

My grave is on a hill that overlooks what I guess is Eagle Rock , Glassell Park , and toward downtown L.A. The top of the downtown skyline is visible. It’s an impressive panorama . I suppose I could say that I’d be able to spend eternity gazing at such a spectacular view from my hilltop perch , but of course I’d be buried several feet underground .

If you came to visit me , though , you could enjoy the view .

I got the plot ( actually two plots ) for a fifteen dollar transfer fee . My ex-wife  gifted them to me when she was on the brink of moving to England . I guess she realized that they wouldn’t do her much good so far away. I don’t think she was thinking how valuable these little hilltop properties were . If she did she wouldn’t have let them go so easily . Not to me .

She was gifted them from a cranky old woman who’d purchased them in 1933 and who , later , decided that she’d rather be buried back in her hometown in Kansas . Her name was Dorothy . Dorothy called the mailman ” weasel balls ” . She seemed always to be stepping across the border of feisty into nasty . I think she was irritated that she had lived so long . She was no doubt quite a gal in her time , but the world had moved on . She lived near Melrose and she’d lived there when Melrose was a dirt road and there were open hot springs nearby . ” They’re under a doctor’s office now “, she said.” But they’re still there ” .

I had to have the cemetery workers point out my plots to me . These guys  were happy to do it . I suppose they spent a lot of time doing that for people . I had a map given to me by the professionally serious suited man in the information booth at the entrance , but the map was worthless to me . Cemeteries seem to have an enigmatic number code that marks graves . To me the numbering system is subtle and dignified and indecipherable .

I haven’t decided to use my grave . Maybe , instead , I’ll be cremated and have my ashes spread out over the ocean , or over the Grand Canyon .  Maybe I’ll have someone sprinkle them over my Forest Lawn gravesite . The workers might see them and wonder.

If I have any consciousness at that moment I’ll laugh . My little gray ash pile will wobble and laugh .  The neighbor skeletons will have something to gossip about : when is the new guy going to move in ?

Maybe I’ll just sit on top of my grave and enjoy the spectacular view . There below is the old Van DeCamp Bakery building . There in the distance is the top of the Arco building. There’s the 2 freeway .

You go about your business . I’d invite you up , but you’d never find my grave .


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