Elvis In Concert, Live From Madison, At Dane County Coliseum On New 2-CD Set, RCA Recording Perfection

Finally, I have in my collection a live version of Blue Christmas sung by Elvis Presley. To make the smile a bit richer the recording comes from a concert in Madison at the Dane County Coliseum in 1976. Even better, that concert and the accompanying one from Pine Bluff, Arkansas were recorded by RCA, so the sound quality is nothing short of stunning.

Earlier this year Elvis Presley Enterprises made it known the 2-CD set was to be released this spring. My pre-ordered copy arrived via the mail and the stereo has been rocking as of late.

There are other concerts and recorded material that RCA has in their vaults. While I understand the commercial interests and focused releases of such music to coincide with larger events, such as the new movie in theatres about Elvis, starring Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker, fans worldwide deserve more of these concerts and musical moments to hear and treasure.

You can own your copy of the above by clicking here.

Thank ya very much.

What Is Happening To Our Work Culture?

Friday, June 3rd, I stopped at my usual Madison grocery where I shop weekly, arriving at 7:45 P.M at the deli so to pick up some various lunchmeats. A young woman behind the counter had already spread out a plastic-type of sheet and was further expanding it over meats not yet covered.  I knew from experience the deli closes at 8P.M. There is even a sign noting that time on the top of the deli counter.  

When I asked for some meat, the worker told me she had met her 40 hours for the week and with tone and body language strongly inferred I should not ask for service. I asked that she be professional and honor the sign on the deli.  I then bought three types of meats at about a $20 cost.

Upon finishing the transaction, she told me she had now worked 8 minutes overtime.  I did not know how to respond to what was a rude comment for doing nothing more than shopping in a grocery store during open hours.  I am not sure if she was totally aware it is due to customers who shop at the store that then allows her to earn a salary.

I follow business news closely and know of angst among workers, issues of salary, and the great transitions underway in the workplace. I am sympathetic to some of the larger issues at hand. But I have never encountered a face-to-face service industry employee who exhibited such behavior that made me write a letter to the manager.

I know about working longer hours than expected, as I was a radio broadcaster where over-time Brewer baseball games from the West Coast would force the FM station to be on the air past our normal midnight sign-off. But I stayed and did the job even though I had passed my 40-hour work week, too. I would have been rightly fired had I just decided to cut the power to the station. Or place a plastic sheet over the studio microphone and cared not what the listening audience thought about the ongoing sporting event.

In 1984, I worked the board for a game that at the time was the longest OT to be played, with the league rules forcing a resumption of play the following afternoon due to the late hour. That was May 9th, when the Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers played in a 25-inning game. The game was the longest in MLB History. On top of the very long night, I also note I am not a sports fan.

The episode Friday night leaves me pondering what is happening to the work culture in our nation when there is no longer regard for doing a job completely and with a determination at doing it properly.

22 Years Of Walking Our Shared Road

Gregory and James, 2000, first family Thanksgiving in the Hancock home

Today James and I celebrate 22 years of walking a shared road together.

We met at Borders Books (University Avenue) as I sat at a table with a newspaper, a book about Wyoming, and a mug of coffee. A guy came up and asked, “Anything happening in the news today?” I was having my first conversation with James.

We had nodded and smiled at each other over the weeks as I stopped at Borders where he worked after first coming to Madison following a teaching stint on the East Coast. But that day as he took a break, ate a cinnamon roll, and chatted with me something remarkable started.

That evening we had our first date which included dinner on State Street and some humorous conversation. I dropped James off at his apartment door with a kiss on the cheek. Corny perhaps, but true.

Two weeks after we met he attended six weeks of summer classes at Middlebury College in Vermont. Each evening we had long phone conversations where we really got to know each other. By the time he came back to Madison I knew he was the person I wanted to spend time with, and he wanted to call this city home.

Two years to the day after we met, we picked up the keys to our first apartment. I had never lived with anyone before and was pleased to know he had a touch of OCD, too. Over the years we moved into our Victorian home, did some traveling, and planted some gardens but every day there is one constant. That is laughter. It abounds here during the day and every night before we fall asleep it bounces off the walls as we just chat.

I really think there is one special person for everyone, and Lord knows I waited and wondered if I would ever find mine. James has been my best friend, partner, and soulmate all these years, and I love him very much.

Our shared road continues.

From Iwo Jima Memorial To Madison Isthmus

There were several very special things we brought back from our spring trip to Washington, D.C several years ago. One of them bloomed this morning.

At the Iwo Jima Memorial, two workers were taking apart a flower bed that had hundreds of tulip blooms just weeks before. The pile of bulbs was quite large and after we passed them I turned and went back with a question for one of the workers.

“What are you going to do with those bulbs?”

“Not really sure,” was his reply.

“Might I have one?” I inquired.

“Take as many as you want,” he added with a gesture of his hand over the pile in front of him.

My Midwestern sensibilities did not allow me to place handfuls into my shoulder bag as I had space–but I did take two and they are planted in a special place on our lawn.

The red one is growing slowly, but the yellow one is blooming brightly.

This is the place on our lawn where we give tribute to my dad, Royce, a WWII veteran.

And so it goes.

Laws And Decency Matter, Even When Headlines Make For Anger

I was quite taken aback when the promotion for a local television newscast this weekend stated an attack had occurred at an anti-choice office in Madison.

I was also troubled when it was reported recently that a person was arrested outside a county courtroom after making threats to the district attorney.

Early on Sunday someone vandalized and threw two Molotov cocktails into the office of Wisconsin Family Action, located on Madison’s Northeast side. The office suffered fire damage, though it was reported the lobbed ‘cocktails’ did not explode.

Meanwhile, Kenyairra Gadson was sentenced to 13 years in prison after a judge stood firm to the law and measured the shooting and killing of Donivan Lemons with the need for society to have such behavior penalized. It was after that decision Jessica Williams, a victim’s advocate and organizer to not have Gadson serve a prison term, made the threat to Dane County District Attorney Ismael.

Like millions of others nationwide, I am roiled and deeply concerned over the draft opinion from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito as it strives to undo precedent, and alter the relationship privacy has under the decisions of the Court. We know that marriage equality in this nation is the next shot to be fired by conservatives. Such dangerous moves by the conservative element on the Court about Roe v. Wade will have long-lasting and detrimental outcomes on our society.

But knowing that I would never learn how to construct a Molotov cocktail or set my alarm clock to get me to an office that lobbies against abortion at an early hour to so to blow it up. If my arguments were so weak that it took violence for me to demonstrate them I would take up a new cause that centered on using crayons.

Whoever was responsible for the damage of property Sunday will be apprehended, that I have no doubt, and justice will be attained through the legal process. But the larger damage to how we interact with others, even when tensions are extremely high, is not something that will soon be healed.

We do lose something intangible in a democracy when violence replaces spirited dialogue and reasoned debate.

Freedom, Inc. and other advocates were seeking their version of justice regarding Gadson and had every allowance to assemble and speak freely in the weeks leading up to sentencing. They had demanded Dane County Circuit Court Judge Chris Taylor only sentence Gadson to the time she already served over the course of the case.

But when that vocal dissent against the norms of the justice system turned into a person threatening harassment and intimidation an arrest was correctly made.

Part of the larger problem in society is not that we exist in a highly politically polarized nation, but that the skills of too large a section of the nation are severely limited in debating and being able to effectively communicate. It seems to some that tossing a ‘cocktail’ is easier than reaching countless readers via a Letter to The Editor in the local newspaper. It seems that protesting at the private homes of people serving in government is smarter than pouring their energy into the upcoming mid-term elections.

Politics is often filled with raw emotion but it is the reasoned and logical presentation of issues that moves discussions and makes for the movement in the arc of history. The anger that turns to violence is recalled by history as shameful occurrences, not worthy of anything but scorn.

As we move forward in this frothy time of national angst do we wish to be recalled as a mover of historical events akin to the civil rights advocates of the 1960s, or to Bull Conner and his angry pack of dogs?

We all have a choice.

And so it goes.

Letter From Home “Guitar Smiles” 4/29/22

It is often said that certain foods can transport a person back to memories of childhood or the first date with the love of a lifetime. Certain scents can bring back memories of mountain flowers, an ocean breeze, or corndogs at the county fair. Music is also perfect at conveying people to a softer place where smiles and laughs replace current woes.

And even the promise of music yet to unfold can bring a smile. Even tears of joy. Such as the case today at our home.

With truly spring-like temperatures finally occurring I put on shorts and started on my list of outdoor projects. First up, mulching a large flower bed. I was well into the effort when my husband, James, came onto the porch and said, “I found a way to get a guitar!”

I tossed off my gloves and walked over to hear what had transpired regarding one of his clients.

James runs his own guardianship business for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia issues. While there are certainly the usual phone contacts with living facilities, calls to doctors, setting up appointments, arranging for court dates, and at times making arrangments with a realtor for the sale of property he also makes sure the personal needs and better yet, wishes of his clients, are met.

One client, an 80-year-old man, was born into a Menominee Indian family in Northern Wisconsin. He, along with his seven siblings was split up as children and sent to live with eight other families in an effort to acclimate them into ‘white culture’. While I have read about this troubling and absurd policy, I have never before known anyone who personally was impacted.

As a boy and teenager, he did not fare well, was not a high school graduate, and soon found himself in the military. After spending much of his life in the South he recently moved back to Wisconsin for the final chapter of his life. The court system asked James if he could help, and the man became a client.

When in his teenage years he started to play and much enjoy a 12-string guitar. With the ups and downs of life that musical joy was not a constant part of his world. About a week ago he mentioned to a person at his facility that it would be nice to again play the guitar and hear the chords from his favorite songs.

James heard of this request and started looking for used guitars in the city, but also took the next step and started to arrange for some local friends who are also musicians to spend time with the man playing and singing.

One of those contacts, a guitar player and performer we have known for years, called back to say a friend had recently offered him a 12-string guitar. He had originally turned it down, but he had checked to see it if was still available. The guitar had belonged to an older woman who had died, and it was agreed the woman would want the chords to again be heard by someone most needing to hear them.

As I heard this news on the back porch tears came to my eyes.

That performer is picking the guitar up this weekend, will spruce it up, put new strings on where needed, and tune it. Then this coming week he will make a surprise visit to a man who likely does not think his desire for musical memories can become reality.

I trust the placement of the fingers and the chords plucked from the strings will transport that man to an inner place of contentment. Knowing the performer, his smile, and his kind personality I am sure there will be several others at the facility who will find themselves being transported back to fond memories through the chords of a guitar.

Maybe it is the headlines of the day that are gut-wrenching from Ukraine juxtaposed with the genuine kindness from a family we have known in the city for many years, who upon being presented with a need, simply said through actions ‘ let’s make this happen’.

Music remains the connector in life and through lives.

And so it goes.

Madison’s Freedom Inc. Should Not Make Demands Of Judges

Anyone who reads this blog for only a few weeks knows that the proliferation of guns, and the increasing deaths and injuries from these weapons, is a continuing theme. The gun culture has exploded and the price for society is too darn high.

So it comes as no surprise that when a person shoots and kills someone with a gun that was not legal to own I then support the legal process that renders justice. One of the common-sense themes I emphasize is that the laws and statutes that are on the books need to be enforced. That is one way to stem gun crimes.

This brings me to Kenyairra Gadson, a woman who made news earlier this year for the trial regarding her shooting and killing Steven Villegas. She contended in her trial it was a matter of self-defense.

…a jury returned a guilty verdict on January 26, convicting Gadson of first degree reckless homicide and illegal possession of a firearm. Dane County Circuit Court Judge Chris Taylor, a former Democratic state legislator, will determine a sentence on May 6. Gadson faces up to 65 years in prison. 

This story would not make for any more front-page headlines if not for Freedom Inc. and Gadson’s advocates…demanding that Taylor sentence Gadson to the time she has already served over the course of the case.

In other words, allowing for Gadson to be released on May 6th.

I have found it troubling in the past for huge rallies and powerful interest groups to protest at the United States Supreme Court. Putting undue pressure on judges or trying to manipulate the justice system is unseemly and runs counter to the more elevated nature we need and want justice to have in the nation.

And in Dane County.

I still hope for younger generations to take a deep dive into civics and better grasp why certain foundations and fundamentals must exist in our judicial process. Clearly, that is not the case when Freedom Inc demands anything from a judge.

The legal procedures from any arrest to trial have a very precise and process-driven set of steps. I believe those were followed in this case, and the jury verdict following this trial concluded as the evidence demonstrated.

If this jury’s verdict can be so easily dismissed, and a judge flippantly undermines the work of the men and women who took the time to do their jury duties, then what credibility does any jury have in the future? Freedom Inc. and Gadson’s advocates need to understand that the process they scorn now and try to undermine is the same process that will allow them in another case to have their day in court and the protection from the system.

It really is not a difficult argument to comprehend.

As such, there is no rational judge who will toss aside all the evidence and the work of a jury following a trial for the ‘demands’ from the ones who lost in court. No judge will be so disdainful about law and order in society.

Because law and order do matter.

And so it goes.

Madison To Cement Away Median Flowers, Shrubs

If we listen to Madison Mayor Conway-Rhodes there is a continual theme of working on projects which increase tourism, conventions, and special events so to add dollars to the city coffers.  That, in and of itself, is always a thrust of any leader in the city. With such intentions, however, it would then be assumed efforts would be made to continually enhance the aesthetics of the city—not degrade them. 

Right?

Well, actually, wrong.

KAYLA WOLF, STATE JOURNAL

It was really troubling to read on the front page of the Wisconsin State Journal today the following news story.

Due to budget constraints, Madison intends to soon convert nearly half of the planting beds with perennials that enliven medians of major streets to turf or colored, stamped concrete.

The city’s operating budget cuts funding for maintenance of 208 planting beds in medians from $165,000 in 2021 to $86,422 this year. To lower costs, the city is moving to take 110 beds out of contracted maintenance and covert 89 of those beds to turf or concrete.

The city intends to convert 62 planting beds to grass, mostly in locations where they’re now surrounded by turf that requires some mowing, such as around Northport Drive and Packers Avenue on the North Side. It will convert 27 beds, mostly in high-traffic areas or narrow medians, like those on East Washington Avenue and John Nolen Drive near the Monona Terrace underpass, to colored, stamped concrete. (‘Look daddy..look..there is colored cement!!’ I assume this is the mayor claiming to be working on equity issues.) Another 21 beds will require new maintenance from the Parks Division and funding in the 2023 operating budget.

Shrubs will be removed but not trees.

Seriously, what is happening to logic in our city government?

Madison is known for its love of trees and flowers, concern about runoff water, and care for the environment. So to have the city government convert medians to drab harsh cement while pretending there are no options in the operating budget that might be adjusted so as not to anger the entire city is rather remarkable.

Yet, here we are.

I suspect many a call and email will land on the desks of city alders as this topic will make for many a disgruntled resident. The mayor, too, must be mindful that her term in office is coming up for renewal.

Or not.

And so it goes.