Music, Travel/Adventure

Stalker or Follower?

October 7, 2018

Uncles Doing “The Rounds” In Seattle

My Uncle Walt (79 years old) lived here in Seattle for 20 years, until about a year ago, when he moved back to St. Louis, Missouri, the town where he and the other Adams family members (including me) grew up.

My Uncle Howard (76 years old), his younger brother, came with him on this trip to Seattle.

Uncle Walt drove his car from St. Louis to Grand Junction, Colorado (where Uncle Howard lives). Then Uncle Howard drove the two of them, in his car, the rest of the way to Seattle. Along the way, they made a few stops: Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Yellowstone National Park; Mt. Rushmore; and Butte, Montana.

I think its great that they are active like they are. And they were always great uncles to us kids. Actually, my Dad’s four brothers and two sisters always treated us well with a lot of love and laughter.

Uncle Walt has cancer that he doesn’t believe he can get rid of. He wanted to come and see me and my kids and Seattle one more time because he doesn’t know exactly what his future holds or how much time he has left. But that doesn‘t stop him from enjoying life to the fullest. He’s strong. He said he’s, “….ready for whatever is next because I’ve had a real good life.”

He has been to about 70 countries.

When I was in Korea, he stopped to visit me once, on his way home from having worked in Kenya, teaching English in the Peace Corps for two years. Then four years later he joined me in Korea again. I was in the Air Force at the time. He came to work there for two years as a “Sillyvillian” (that’s what I called him).

So he has always made a point to visit the nephews and nieces throughout these years. Even my sons like to hang out with him because Uncle Walt has always been a part of their lives too.

So Uncle Walt likes to drink. Once or twice a week, he likes to do his “rounds”, as he calls them. Essentially, he bar hops to four or five of his favorite bars in Seattle, telling stories of the people he’s met along the way during his travels, or talking about certain passages in books he has read, and generally, bestowing his ever-expanding “wisdom” upon anyone who will listen.

He has a lot of stories and I’ve never heard him tell the same story twice. And he loves to sing. He knows the words to more songs than anyone else I‘ve ever known.

While we were in Korea at the same time, he came down to Seoul, once a month, to do his rounds and I joined him almost every time. We liked this little country western music bar called “The Stomper”. We would drink beer and ask Mr.Lee, the little Korean DJ, who was spinning the platters, to play certain songs we always liked to sing together.

Our singing didn’t seem to bother anyone so we sang off-and-on, then he would tell stories and we’d talk about family members and things that happened back in the day when I was just a squirt and didn’t know what was going on. I learned a few interesting things about our family that I didn’t know when I was a kid.

And Mr. Lee, the DJ, was amazing!! He had all his thirty-three and a third platters all organized on one long shelf and when we would say, “Mr. Lee! How about…..Ricky Skaggs….. Angel On My Mind?….

…most of the time he would place his hand right over the general area where he knew the record to be, and then, within seconds, pluck the record out and have it on the turntable playing for us.

We always applauded his efforts. I think he kind of liked it when we came in too. He really knew his country songs!

And his “precision extraction technique” of finding the album of the song we had requested he play, was as much fun to watch as I remember having while watching a juke box “robotic hand” zoom left or right, stop precisely over the selected song, pull out the 45 disc, turn it over, and start it playing. 

Then the singing and stories would commence.


The Owl And The Thistle

One of the stops on my Uncle’s rounds, in Seattle, was a bar called, “The Owl and The Thistle”.

So on their trip here last week, after work, I joined up with him, Uncle Howard, some other friends, and my kids, at The Owl and Thistle. When I got there, it reminded me of the last time I went there with my Uncle Walt.

In September, 2015, while my Uncle still lived here in Seattle, he called me one day and asked if I would join him there to listen to a band that was playing. The owner of the bar was his friend and the owner also played in the band. So I said yes and joined in.

I met him later that evening. The band would be playing about a half an hour later. So we ordered a round and started talking. By that time, I had become aware of Lizz Wright and I had seen her twice, once in Madison, Wisconsin, and once in Asheville, North Carolina.

I casually told Uncle Walt I was planning to go see Lizz in Switzerland in October.

He looked at me very seriously and strangely, and declared, “Dennis! You’re stalking her!”

At first I just laughed, but then I saw he was serious. I looked at him seriously, and said, “Are you kidding me?”

He reiterated, “That’s just plain stalking someone!”

I said, “Because I‘m going to see and hear her in Switzerland, you think it’s stalking?”

He said, “Yes.”

I said, “Uncle Walt, you’ve known me all my life. You know I’m not a stalker and I’d never stalk anybody. I’m just going to see Switzerland and see and hear her sing. I love her singing and I’ve always wanted to go to Switzerland. So this is a good way to do both.” I added, “WTF are you talking about?!?”

I asked him, “Those guys that paint their faces and bellies blue and green and go see every football game of the year in different cities. are they stalkers or followers?” He said, “Well that’s different!”

I said, “No, it’s not. They are fans. They are followers. They go wherever the teams play, in support of those teams, and I imagine some of them also vicariously live the life of their football hero.” But, me, on the other hand, have no desire to be a singer or live vicariously through Lizz’s life. I have no desire to be her. I only want to see and hear her sing. She’s my favorite singer of all time and beyond. And it’s my right to go and see her anywhere and anytime I so desire.”

And what about the “Parrot heads”? Does Jimmy Buffet consider them to be stalkers or followers?

And the Deadheads? Do The Grateful Dead members consider their fans to be stalkers or followers?

The conversation then ended.

I was stunned that he would say such a ridiculous thing. It was very unsettling to me.

Neither one of us said anything about his remark the rest of the night.

I chose to not talk to him about Lizz ever again.

But it did not deter me from going to see and hear her sing wherever and whenever I wanted to. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past four and one-half years.

And it’s been very enriching as I experience different countries, cultures, food and music. I recently wrote a post called, Serendipity At Work, which includes a video collage of some of the places, people and things I have experienced as a result of my decision to make travel, and listening to Lizz, a priority in my life.

I’ve listened to a lot of different music and singers in my lifetime, so I have something to compare Lizz to. She stands out from the crowd. She stands above the rest.

It’s like the old adage that says, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

Her voice and style of singing is what I was, unknowingly, waiting for, and when I heard her for the first time, I almost suffered whiplash, from quickly turning my head toward the sound of her voice coming from the radio. It seemed like what I always wanted to hear.

I know I’m being a little dramatic here, but you get the point. To me, she’s special above all others.

So when I’m able to travel, and I have the time and resources, I’ll go anywhere in the world to see and hear her sing. I can’t say that about any other singer in the world.

She’s not a passing fancy, to me, or the “flavor-of-the-day”.  Nor is she just the next greatest singer of the week or of the year. She will always be number one to me. I know what I like and her music is it. Just like, in my mind, no one will ever top Elvis for the way he sang. And no one will top the Beatles for their youthful enthusiasm and inspiring creativity. Elvis is my favorite male singer. The Beatles, my favorite group. Lizz, my favorite female artist AND my favorite singer.

Whenever someone hears me listening to Lizz, they’ll come up to me and ask, “Who’s that?

I tell them her name but no one seems to know who she is. Only one girl knew, during the past four years I’ve been talking to people about her. I’m always surprised that she’s not a household word yet. The people who ask me who she is say that they love her music. Also, Lizz has a great following, all over the world, and she has 65,000 followers on FB. Someday, the whole world will know her simply as Lizz with two Z’s, or simply Lizz.

If you take time to read some of the comments on her Facebook page, you’ll see thousands (if not millions) of fans who feel that affinity for her, just like I do. They say the same things I always think about, in regard to Lizz. So it’s not just me. Im just one-in-a-million. (No pun intended.)

She’s an impressive figure with a great presence. Once you see her, you don’t forget her.

I’ve said a lot of positive, good things about her in many of my posts on this website, but just praising her effusively, doesn’t make me a stalker. It just makes me a man with good taste.

I get different reactions from different people when I talk about my travels to see and hear her sing. There have been only two people say, jokingly, “Oh, you’re her stalker?” But they are not serious like my Uncle Walt was. But all the rest have always made positive comments to me, like: “Oh, you really are a fan.” or “Oh, sounds like you are her best fan.” or “You really do like her and her music.” To all of them I reply, “Yes, she’s my favorite.”

Traveling to see and hear someone sing isn’t an original idea. It’s nothing new. Some people do it all the time. But it was quite new to me. And then to do it with such commitment, to see only one singer, that was new also.  But I have enjoyed every minute of it. I never tire of seeing and hearing her sing.

I did travel to see and hear Elvis in 1969 (I was 19 at the time), when he was trying to make a comeback. A basketball buddy of mine got the idea to go and asked me if I wanted to go to. We both played college basketball at a small Baptist College in Missouri that we were attending at the time. That’s how we met. But I haven’t traveled to hear anyone sing since then. And I don’t think I’d go see and hear Elvis again either, even if I could. Once was enough for me.

Then four years ago I started traveling to see and hear her on a semi-regular basis, two or three times a year. And I’ve been writing about my travels and Lizz shows ever since.

Now, when I hear a song she wrote, called “Hit the ground”, it triggers thoughts of being in Aspen, Colorado.

When I hear her cover of “The Nearness Of You”, I think of Zurich, Switzerland.

“Seems Like I’m Never Tired Loving’ You”….. Chicago, Illinois.

“I’m Confessin’ “,  “Dreaming Wide Awake”,  “Without You”…. Lake City, Washington (the place I lived when I got my first Lizz CD, “Dreaming Wide Awake”).

“The New Game”…..Boston, Massachusetts.

“Wash Me Clean…..somewhere just over the border into New Hampshire because I got a little carried away listening to “Wash Me Clean” and spaced out just long enough to miss the turnoff to Rockport, Massachusetts, the intended destination that afternoon, for the next Lizz show I was going to at the time.

Those are all fabulous memories. I cherish each and every one of them. Her style of singing just resonates with me. It is as impressive as her voice. It touches and soothes my soul. That’s why I never get tired of listening to her. Other fans have said this about her too. I am a devoted follower of Lizz’s music and her FB page.

Everything I know about her I’ve learned from her Facebook page. She only puts the information that she thinks the fans would want to know:  her latest releases and recordings, her tour dates, her charity work, her travels, her thoughts, her taste in OPM (Other People’s music), her photography, pix of her and others, and any special announcements. It’s very endearing. This is one reason why she has so many loyal fans.

So to be clear, I’m not a stalker. I‘m not hunting her. And I’m not even her obsessed fan. I don’t care where she lives and I don’t want her phone number or any other personal stuff unless she wanted me to have it for any reason. I’m about as much of a stalker as Lizz is an Olympic Gold Medalist in Pole-vaulting. Trust me, she’s not.

From the very first moment I became aware of her, and from now until forever, I never did and never will expect anything from her. (I do have my wild hopes and dreams). But I don’t expect  anything from her (except more good music for years to come).

There‘s a big difference between expectation and hope and I know the difference.

Expectation can often lead to disappointment. But hope never disappoints and leads to joy sometimes.

What I am is passionate about her, her voice, the way she sings, the songs she writes and the songs she selects to do as covers. It’s a phenomenal combination.

I’ll travel to any place in the world to see and hear her sing. I’ll return to my home and write about my trip and Lizz’s performance, and then I’ll do it all over again, the next time.

All these feelings I have for Lizz and her music, are just that. They are feelings. And I can handle them. I’ve been handling them for four years now. I think I’m the only fan who travels so frequently to her shows, who writes so often about her and who has written three songs about her. She elicits that from me because her music is inspiring to me and she is such a lovely person. I don’t do it because I want something back from her. I do it for me. Her music is the reason I do it. It’s also a way of handling those great feelings I have about her and her music. But, again, I don’t expect anything from her.

To her, I’d say “Take the fire, you don’t have to give it back to me.”

For those of you who  are unaware, that line (above) is one of my favorite lines from a song called, “Fire”, which Lizz wrote herself.

For the past four years I’ve traveled frequently to see and hear Lizz sing and it has been great.

But I’m not planning anymore trips anytime soon and I miss that.

It’s as if my freedom and one great joy have been taken away from me.

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