Why Me? Why Write? Why Now? Why Not?

The Me is Doug Curran…Douglas M Curran…Douglas Metcalf Curran. Douglas is Celtic for “dweller by the dark stream”. Curran in Gaelic means “little spear”. And Metcalf? Scottish for “I met a calf”? Hey I don’t know! I don't have all the answers. I'm still trying to get the questions right. At least I seem to be a spear fisher by some dirty water. Or maybe I'm a Druid. And that Curran thing may not even be as Irish as my Irish American wife, Colleen Fitzsimmons, hoped it was when she married me. Ok, I might be a Viking. It's like this. I was reading this book, The Lion Of Ireland, see, and the author, Morgan Llewellyn, recounts a last battle between Brian Boru and the Viking invader king, to regain Irish dominance again throughout the island and kick the fureners out. The Viking king's name? Olaf Cuaran? Cuaran? Curran? I'm a Viking now, so I am? And a descendent of one of those marauding and murderous pillagers and plunderers? I've never pillaged a thing in my life...well, maybe a book or two from somebody. I'm really just a gentle giant who loves books and music. Ok, I bought a sword recently, but only as a wall decoration to enhance my Irish family history coat of arms! Honest! Viking, Schmiking, so rest my Irish soul! Or my wife will have my old bald Irish head!

August 27, 2010

Surf's Up...But I Was Never Up for The Surf!

Yeah, while channel surfing the other night, I happened upon some extreme surfing movie. It's fun to watch but I could never actually get into it. I even had my chance when I lived in Hawaii for ten years. There I was, living on Oahu's famous North Shore, a few minutes drive from Sunset Beach and Waimea Bay - and the BANZAI PIPELINE!!! Can you believe it, we could go up the road a few miles and catch some of the biggest waves in the world.

As if!! Can you say "undertow"??? What do you think Banzai means in Spanish anyway? Suicide, that's what!! We would go there sometimes just to watch the waves crash over the road and see helicopters trying to rescue stranded surfer wannabes out there in those giant undulating walls and towers of treacherous salty brine. But actually try to surf out there myself?

Come on, really, not with this white-skinned, flabby, haole body! First, I wanted to live. And B, there was no time. I had a lot of responsibilities at BYU-Hawaii where I taught and administered programs, many of which were on the weekend. And three, I was also the father of a growing hoard of kids which sometimes needed me - we brought four kids to Hawaii and had four more at Kahuku hospital - but not all at once. Colleen was good at delivering babies, but not THAT good!

Sure, we'd take them to the beach for a little scratchy sand and sunburn fun, but it was not cool to get squashed and crumpled and mutilated by a monster wave right in front of my little kids while pretending to be a beach bum surfer dude with a big ego. And what's more, I didn't even own a surfboard. Ok, I bought a beat up one once just to see if I could stay on it - but it wound up being a play thing for the kids, me giving them rides on it in shallow water, while I watched for blue bubbles and manta rays and hoped I didn't die from the stinging sickness like that "krikes" Aussie guy from "down under" - not under the surf, under the equator - whatever.

Hawaii has a great surfing tradition of course, including that famous surfing legend, Duke Kahanamoku, who could put all those other guys to shame if he were still alive - even if he weren't alive too I think. I'm just glad I can pronounce his name...Ka-ha-na-mo-ku! But this dumb haole didn't need to get any dumber by attempting stupid heroic deeds on a surfboard for traditions' sake. Not that I couldn't have hung ten - my toes were as long as some people's fingers. I had plenty of toe length. But that's where my qualifications ended.

I also had this big yellow streak down my back that caused me to lean over too much and not maintain proper surfboard balance. Even body surfing and using boogie boards didn't work for me. I would have had to go out too far to catch any decent waves - like 10 feet at least. Luckily my wife didn't require me to be a showoff for her and attempt any macho nonsense. She also had that same local haole disease, bigwaveophobia.

Even snorkeling was a trial for me. One time we were with some friends at our local beach and the men wanted to snorkel out to the reef. I had my trusty mask and snorkel, but no fins. They didn't make them for my size feet though some would say my feet WERE fins! And without fins would make all the difference. But I thought I'd be one of the guys and follow them out there anyway, at least attempt a small feat of daring for my kids.

Pretty soon, I was sucking down salt water and choking and gasping half way to the reef - and decided to swallow my pride instead of any more water and turn back, barely making it to the beach without calling for my wife to give me mouth to mouth. As if!!! Naaah, jes' kidding, deah. Anyway, nothing for my kids to be proud of, but at least I'm still around to write about it.

Surfing? Obviously an addiction for some guys and gals around those waves. And I admire their feats of skill and ability in the water, those amazing and thrilling rides through those giant water tunnels. Yes, some get wiped out and crash, some hit their heads on boards, some don't make it up from under the water and go to surfer heaven. I haven't found a sport or adventure that I was willing to risk my life for, just for the thrill - especially surfing those famous, killer waves of Hawaii.

So it's been some 25 years since we've been gone from those magical beaches. I still prefer my Utah snow-capped mountain scapes and clear lakes though, that high, dry air and those cool nights. And I've yet to do that surfing thing even on a snowboard. Call me crazy, call me nuts, but now that I'm in my late sixties, I'll stick to no-risk channel surfing and a little action on the Net - that's about my speed, no broken bones, and I'm not too proud to admit it...right, kids? As if!!!

August 22, 2010

Advice To Shannon On Taking A Hike!

No really, my fatherly advice wasn't that strong - just answering her email regarding her excitement about hiking the "Y", and something for all you BYU fans out there too.

"Good luck! Last time I did that was in the early 60s when I was young and gaunt and game. It's quite a climb - be prepared to stop and gasp for air a lot and bring lots of water. The earlier or later in the day the better but not without some light. Take a flashlight in case night falls on top of you or you encounter an unexpected solar eclipse. And watch out for ankle sprains too. Wear good shoes of course, so no blisters and foot problems happen when you're not looking. Better bring a crutch in case. And a first aid kit with an ankle brace. I think there are tarantulas and rattlesnakes up there too, so bring a gun, a knife and a bow and arrow - in case of Cougars, you know, BYU and other kinds - and wild indians too, Utes mostly. Shoot them on sight, no questions asked. Our football team climbs it sometime soon this Summer as a big test of endurance in their current Camp, so don't get run over in the stampede..

Bring a can of whitewash to throw on the "Y" for good luck, or again on any unlucky Utes you might find up there - and might as well pack a four course brunch too with a table and chairs so you can picnic as long as you're up there. It's a nice view, so bring plenty of heavy cameras and tripods to take pictures with. Get a foto of our house while you're at it, ok? Hmmm, can't think of anything else. Maybe a beach towel for sunning - and wiping off all that sweat. Shane has hiked it most recently I think and could give you some tips. Maybe take a few flares in case you get lost and we have to come looking for you. They make good fireworks too. Make sure your cell phone is charged too. Yeah, that about covers it. And a compass. Dad"

No Money Singing...Or Drinking For That Matter!

Ok, finally figured out why I never made any real money signing...I mean singing. I was sitting in the bathroom see...no it was the doctor's office...ok it was the bathroom...no it was the dentist's office...ok, ok...and the newspaper on the floor was advertising the next big SCERA concert down the street, a big lovely outdoor theatre in the neighborhood. It was John Michael Richard or Richard Michael Bob or John Billy Bob Michael or some such country singer. And there he was smiling with his guitar and a whole list of his hit songs next to him to entice me to the concert, most of which...no, all of which I'd never heard of... ever. But we're going to have to hear him anyway just from living a few blocks away. The sound carries quite well on these cool Summer nights.

And I started thinking, no wonder I never made any money singing! If I had ever had a hit record, I'd have had to go around the country to as many places as I could to get people to spend their money to listen to me sing my songs over and over and over and over and over and over...and over...and...hey wait a minute, that's what I did when I had a hit record in 1969 with The Lettermen. And I was done by the third traveling show! Done, I tell you, D-U-N, done!!! I was a freaking robot after that, on remote control or auto pilot or whatever being a smiling singing zombie is! I don't know if making money that way is worth it. I really don't. Unless I just write them and someone else sings them over and over and over...

Colleen and I used to sing for our supper, yes, in dinner theatres, lounges, military bases, wherever we could make a buck in our younger struggling married years. She had come from doing a folk duo with Dave Webber out of Omaha, loved the crowd and singing those same songs over and over and over. I think the fact that she was a drinker in those days and could handle the monotony with a little light inebriation sure helped. Whereas I, a non-drinker, hated singing the same songs and stopping one after another so much that I started putting our soft rock repertoire into medleys we could sing without stopping for 15-30 minutes sometimes. She had also became a teetotaler like me too. But it was just another way for me to avoid the stop and go, the over and over, and sing ourselves into yawning la-la land until the night was mercifully over.

To me, singing a song is a possibly one-time experience, not something to be sung over and over and over and...unless it's like some scriptural truth you want to repeat over and over and over to really drill it in there. Now those songs might bear repeating a few times. Even Christmas carols, for example, which are like heavenly revelations to me. But some sloshy, gooey love song? Now I'm so glad I've only written Christmas songs so I only have to sing them once a year, questionable as they are, unless most of you forget and give me a reprieve and then maybe I skip a year or so and get by with only doing one of them. Unless it's at a 40th anniversary show and someone actually wants to sing one of them for old time's sake.

Do you know that the word "sake" and the Japanese alcoholic beverage "sake" look like the same word? So the Japanese say "For old time's sake" and have a big old toast I guess? And if you put an "h" in it, it's "shake" which I happen to be drinking one of right now. And no, there's no sake in it to cause these inane ramblings. Just writing things down - like I asked my kids to do sometime, ok? Even if if sucks, right it down. I mean "write" it down. See how spell check doesn't work on words that are homonymish to some degree? I'm on this new med to help take nerve pain out of my face and it makes me drowsy and stupid at the same time. Singing off - check that, signing off.

August 21, 2010

Bikes And Back Pulls...

We bought our oldest grandsons used bikes this summer from DI and a neighbor, thinking we would give them a little more mobility and more inclusiveness with their friends. Kalin's bike was almost stolen at his school. He managed to catch the perp in the act and retrieve it. But then he broke a pedal and hasn't used it since. Our neighbor Dave Rader who sold it to us, keeps telling me to bring it back so he can fix it. He has a bike fix-ation...get it? Fix-ation???

Moving on, Kai has used his more this Summer, with minor wear and tear. But Megan got a call from Joanie over at the bike shop, who she also happens to Visit Teach, reminding her that we paid for a new tire for Kai's bike and it was now in. So I put it in the car with some minor back strain and took it over for the replacement. As I watched the kid put it on and add some new rubber handles that had come off, I was taken with the sheer bikeness of it all - and how I have no talent or inclination to learn how to fix bikes or know much about them for that matter. And they are so much more complicated now, with all the wires regulating the brakes and gears. How can anyone keep up? Especially if you could never fix them in the first place?

The last time I rode a bike I think was back when my brother Dick and I had paper routes and would fly around the neighborhood throwing the papers as near to the front porches as we could without breaking a window or glass door. But once in a while, we had a lot of daring for two pre-teens and would ride these bikes all the way from Silver Spring down through Rock Creek Park to the Washington DC Zoo. What an adventure, taking our cameras for some cool animal shots, crossing fords that ran over some of the roads on the way back.

My bike daze have been long over, although my wife wants us to get bikes - but only secure and uncomplicated ones like we used to ride as kids. She forgets we've gained many more pounds since then than these bikes would hold. She actually wants an adult trike - yikes! - so she doesn't fall over and break some more brittle bones. Maybe she can pull me along behind her.

And oh yeah, I got a nice back pull I'm nursing right now, just putting Kai's bike in the car. Bikes can be real banes sometimes...

Movies For Schmucks...

I am often constrained to believe what the movie critics say...too much. Some of the ones they have panned lately, my wife and I have liked. But do you think I can think of one right now? Maybe later.

But I do get very peeved when one is given a fairly high rating, and is promoted high and low, on talk shows, on national radio, in the newspapers - and it turns out to be a bomb...for me at least. One such lately was "Dinner For Schmucks". I had enjoyed Steve Carrel in "Evan Almighty" and "Dan In Real Life". "Date Night" was going pretty well until he deteriorated into inane sexual humor at the end, as if looking desperately for an ending. What I saw of "The 40-Year Old Virgin" was also disgusting in its appeal to the lowest common denominator - raunchy sex references throughout, while trying to make us feel sorry for him that he had retained his virginity.

But when we out to see "Dinner For Schmucks" recently, we went with some high hopes of a repeat of Carell's better not his seamier side, having read a review that gave it a B. As we watched, and I waited for something funny I could at least muster up a chuckle for,  having told my wife that the review I read said it would be a little slow going until the funny dinner part.  I was sorely disappointed.

The dinner was a disaster, a total reduction into silliness and blatant sexual references that were just not funny. And as I thought about how the movie got there, it seemed to me to an utter self-indulgence on Steve's part, a poor attempt to try to make us laugh just because it was him. And he must think he's so funny now that any little sad story line or facial expression is going to get us to laugh and find him appealing.  Big mistake.

And I thought then about the promos I had seen him do on Lettermen and other shows, actually trying to make us believe that he was trying to make this a believable character, someone worthy of our compassion and pathos, as well as our laughter. What a joke! The joke is really on him in this one, sorry, but I found nothing redeemable about this mousey little guy who collects dead mice to stuff them into little characters we're also supposed to find adorable or tragic or something totally unemotional. And then he ruins the other guy's life as if he's not really trying to but is too cogent to be unaccountable.

I felt like a schmuck for going to it and sitting all the way through, waiting patiently for something real I could say was enjoyable and worth my time and money. Don't waste yours!

August 2, 2010

Hiatus Over...Let's Talk Opera!

Yeah, yeah, I know, I've been missed...not! No one reads this but me anyway, so what if I took a few months off? Who cares - nobody! But I did have a memory I'd like to write down.

I was channel surfing the other night and caught that part of "Moonstruck" when Cher and Nicolas Cage go to the opera - not just any opera, but "La Boheme", The Bohemian. That's me, a Bohemian of sorts too, I guess, with my dysfunctional mind that jumps on all kinds of ideas, that revels in new things, tries to create music and writing, and is always looking for some new truth or connection - and oh yeah, there's that beard thing.

But it also took me back to my college daze at BYU when after taking some voice lessons, I thought I'd try to do an opera. Crazy me! I had been gravitating toward more classical music lately, getting more power and confidence in my singing voice, which had only been focused on a pop orientation thus far. I was a crooner, ballad singer, loved jazz and bossa nova standards. But I was trying to stretch.

So in the Winter of 1965, I auditioned and got a minor lead, the baritone Shaunard in La Boheme, coincidently. My good friend and Brazilian Mormon Mission singing buddy, Jim Smith, was double cast in the same role, only he was on the first string of all voice majors, and I was on the second team of wannabees, doing alternate nights. I was lucky to even be there, because I wasn't that good, and my acting was atrocious, for an English major too.

But I did fall in love with the music, so majestic, sweeping and romantic, poignant and tragic too, with the death of Mimi overshadowing the whole drama. In fact, after it was over, I continued to sing all the music in my mind, even through that summer of traveling in the Far East with a BYU USO-type show for the DOD and the men in uniform. Yes, I was a versatile song and dance man, jumping at the chance to travel free ala the US Military - and jumping at every yelled command of our hyper but super talented leader, Janie Thompson.

We had lots of long bus rides and plane junkets to various outposts, during which I would often bring out my guitar and sing my Brazilian bossa nova and other jazz favorites to take up the time and do some quiet entertaining for our own 12-man troupe. But on some long trips too, my mind would go back to the music of Puccini and his glorious opera "La Boheme" and I would sing it again in my head!

Yes, I was 'moonstruck' by that music, as were Cher and Cage's characters - another memory from the past as I grow older and reflect, reminisce and record a few thoughts for a posterity that I'm afraid isn't too interested in my past right now. But I still am I guess, what I can remember of it...