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Homeward Bound

Just a fast note to tell you I am on my way home today. I'm writing this on Wednesday with loads to do to be ready for the short but welcome journey and I am sooooo slow at everything these days.

I don't know if I will write for Friday; just assume I'm getting settled in and I'll be back on the pages before long.

Thank you all for being the wonderful people I know you are. This would have been so much harder without you.


Hospital Land for the Overworked Executive

Personal Note: I'll try to post regularly now, but it depends on how I feel each day. Also, I am still fuzzy in the head so I'll keep these relatively short so they don't veer off into the crazy, however much you might get a laugh from that. Little vignettes, let's call them, of hospital life and what I'm learning here.

It appears, too, that my hospital stay may be extended by a day or two. That's not a bad thing, just careful.

I'm a novice at being a hospital patient, still learning. Those of you who have been here/done that will be way ahead of me in understanding that in some ways I have never been busier than when lying on my back.

Pills for this, injections for that and now it's time for vitals again. One set of numbers goes up and that's good. The same range in another set is likely to mean an additional pill or a different patch. Oh, now let's unplug that drip, but not the one that's really irritating you. And who knew scooting up in bed could be such a pain.

You learn to “logroll” yourself in and out of bed. At first it seems impossible it will ever work right but comes more easily faster than you would think. I am now nearing the status of world class logroller.

Looked at from a certain perspective, being a hospital patient is like returning to kindergarten. The first conversation of each day becomes, “Good morning, have you pooped today?” I never expected to have this much discussion of bowels but I think there may be an entrepreneurial opportunity in it.

Someone should do a little market research on what I'm thinking. That a week's stint in a hospital-like setting could be just what the doctor ordered for overly stressed-out masters of the universe: they do absolutely everything for you here, take care of every personal and private need you might have including, quite literally, wiping your ass.

And they do it without ever letting you feel it is inappropriate or embarrassing. It's just how it is in hospital land.

Okay, I know this is silly – just a thought I had among the buggy hallucinations but it is almost – just almost a real idea.


It's Ronni Here

I am not JUST sitting up in bed, anymore, folks. I'm typing, putting words on paper so to speak and my brain is working fairly well. That wasn't always so here in Hospital-Land.

The several days of hallucinations were odd and interesting.

Ant-like bugs were scooting up the walls of my room for a couple of days, little fishies swam upstream on a room divider curtain and at various times I saw people and cats and some other animals who were not really there.

My brain is still slower than I would like but after many hours of anesthesia during the surgery, they tell me, that is to be expected for awhile. For now, let's set that aside until later for something more important: hasn't Autumn been wonderful?

She was here when I woke up from surgery, although I don't remember much of that, if at all, and the next day I was so happy to wake up to her wonderful face again – this time with a real memory of it.

I've read all her posts and all your wonderful replies and comments now, and they are all the proof I need that this is the best blog community on earth.

I will never find the right words to thank each of you for your strength, constant support, good cheer and I am loving your black humor. You go, Cowtown Patti, with those Nwalins chicken feet.

Here's the big good news: maybe, MAYBE I will be able to go home on Wednesday. That's just a maybe for now; some additional test results need to come in so we'll wait and we'll see.

Thank you, every last one of you, for being there for me with so much love and so much kindness. You make me happy.


ELDER MUSIC: The Band, Revisited

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *


Very early in my blogging career I had a column on The Band. This isn't surprising as I think they were the most important band from the sixties and seventies (and I know many, nay most, will disagree with that assessment but that's the fun of blogging).

That first column rather concentrated on what the various members did after the demise of the group, so today it's The Band as an entity. And when I say THE BAND I mean the original consisting of Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson.


The rockabilly performer Ronnie Hawkins put them together as his backing band over a couple of years in Canada and all were from that country except Levon.

They were known as The Hawks. Later they went out on their own using that name (and a couple of others). John Hammond saw them perform and recruited them to record an album with him. He recommended them to Bob Dylan who was looking for a group to back him on his first electric tour. They were generally referred to on that tour as the band (lower case).

When they recorded their first album "Music From Big Pink" they were surprised that the record company called them The Band (they really hadn't decided on a name themselves). That turned out to be the most appropriate name for a group in the history of rock.


By the time they recorded that album they were seasoned professionals with more than 10 years experience behind them. From it is the first of their famous songs, The Weight.

♫ The Weight

Their second album, just called "The Band", is the best album in rock history. That's the one with The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and Up On Cripple Creek, but I'm not going to play either of those.


Outside of Woody Guthrie, not many songs have been written about unionization. The Band did just that. It's also about bringing in the harvest. It's called King Harvest (Has Surely Come).

♫ King Harvest (Has Surely Come)


The album also contained probably the best song about ageing produced by relatively young men – they were in their twenties when they wrote and recorded the song Rockin' Chair.

♫ Rockin' Chair

After the first two albums, the critics liked to downplay their next album "Stage Fright". They were wrong; this is better than "Big Pink" and nearly as good as "The Band".


By this stage they were all disturbed about the adulation they were receiving, thus the name of the album. Also, after so many years as a tight group, brothers even, cracks were beginning to appear. I don't know if All la Glory is indicative of that, but it's the next song.

♫ All la Glory


The influence of Bob came to the fore in the next song. He liked to throw biblical allusions into his songs, and The Band, or Robbie who wrote most of the songs, took that on board now and then.

I'm pretty sure there was no sacred harp in the bible, but I could be wrong. It's a good song, though: Daniel and the Sacred Harp.

♫ Daniel and the Sacred Harp

By number four they seemed to have lost their mojo, as evidenced by "Cahoots".


Of course, a lesser Band album is better than just about anything else around. I surprised myself by selecting two songs from the album, the first of which is rather odd, Shoot Out in Chinatown.

♫ Shoot Out in Chinatown

The next is obvious (well, it is to me). They were living in Woodstock, New York, before that town got overrun by musical tourists. They were quite a few other musicians living there at the time as well. One of those was VAN MORRISON.


He dropped in a recording session one day and traded vocals with Richard Manuel on 4% Pantomime.

♫ 4% Pantomime

We'll skip over "Moondog Matinee", an album of cover versions of old songs they used to play when they were starting out, and return later to the next one, "Northern Lights – Southern Cross". That brings us to "Islands", the contractual agreement record – their last studio album.

It wasn't very good and the best song they recorded for it was left off. Fortunately, with reissues of the CD version with all the extras we got it. The song is Twilight.


♫ Twilight

The Band went out with a blaze of glory with a Thanksgiving dinner and concert that was one of the major events in rock history. The concert was filmed by Martin Scorsese and it produced the best rock concert film ever. Someone who was invited to perform but couldn't make it is EMMYLOU HARRIS.

Emmylou Harris

However, she got together with the group and they recorded a song that appeared in the film. That song is Evangeline (originally known as The Last Waltz). The song is excellent, and that is an extraordinary achievement as they recorded it only minutes after Robbie had finished writing it.

♫ Evangeline (with Emmylou Harris)

Getting back to "Northern Lights – Southern Cross", an album that ranks with the first couple, there's an obvious choice.


Norma, the Assistant Musicologist and I agree the next song is their finest (and boy, that's saying something). I'll end with it, Acadian Driftwood.

This is the only distinctly Canadian song in their oeuvre. It's about the French settlers in that country after the English defeated the French in the 1750s. They had a choice of remaining and living under the English, returning to France or, as the song describes, moving down to Louisiana where there was an established community.

Acadian Driftwood

As of this writing, there are only two members left – Robbie and Garth.

A Room with a View

The good news keeps on coming! Ronni was moved out of The Unit and into a regular room this morning after her NG Tube was removed. She has been sitting in a chair and clearing her lungs out as the rest of her body starts to kick in and work on its own. I called to chat this afternoon and there was no answer as Ronni had gone for a walk!

Ronni's medical team continues to impress me. They are knowledgeable and compassionate. They are patient and are willing to take extra time to answer many questions that I spring on them.

Ollie is great and being loved on by many great friends. This experience has really brought to light the goodness in people. Thank you.


Post-Op Day 2

Hello Friends, I hope there is beauty in your day today.

I just returned from visiting Ronni in the ICU. She continues to make great gains in her recovery. When I arrived this morning, I must admit my heart skipped a beat when I saw an empty bed. I was thrilled to see it was because Ronni was sitting in her chair! We spent a good part of the day chatting and laughing- her current medications make Ronni hallucinate which was a riot for both of us.

Ronni's spirits are up and her pain management seems to be under control. Ronni's central line was removed from her neck (they could have warned me on this one!) which made her a bit more comfortable. The biggest complaint today is the inability to drink anything as they have yet to remove the NG tube. We are hoping for this to occur this evening and then it is off to a room with a window and ice chips.

Thank you all for your on going support and love.


Post-Op Day 1

Good evening to all on Team Ronni, I hope this finds you well. After yesterday's marathon of a day, it was nice to call Ronni's nurse this morning to find that Ronni was resting well as she had been all night.

I sat with Ronni for most of the day today. I talked to her while she slept and stalked monitors as if I knew what the blinking lights and beeps might mean. At about 3:30 this afternoon, Ronni was alert and very ready to get rid of the vent. After assessing her strength, it was successfully removed, and her first words were, "I can talk." That has to be the biggest under-statement of the decade.

It was as lovely of an afternoon as it could be when two friends find themselves chatting in an ICU. We laughed and I showed her pictures of Ollie that I had taken this morning, which made her smile. We talked about Team Ronni and how amazingly wonderful you all are and how very grateful we are to have you in our lives. We also discussed that I may run away with all of you when I start my very own blog upon Ronni's return to TGB.

Ronni's nurse is wonderful. She is empathetic, knowledgeable, confident and when needed, tough. She is very pleased with the progress Ronni is making and is confident that this will continue, as are the members of the Surgical Team.

I am off to enjoy a glass of Cabernet and cuddle with Ollie- he lets me do that now. Thank you all for your love and well wishes.



Hello Team Ronni- this is Autumn writing with an update. First and foremost, Ronni is out of surgery and headed to recovery. It took a bit longer than expected- most likely because The Good Doctor had to dance around all of you in the OR.

I do not know a lot at this time, other that Ronni is resting well and pain free for tonight. It was a very long day, starting with a coffee free wake-up at 3:30 AM, check-in at 6:00, and surgery at 8:30. (Crabby Old Lady only made ONE appearance the entire morning.) The surgery was 14 hours and Doctor sounded positive and confident that they were able to remove the tumor.

Yesterday,as Ronni and I tried to "play normal", fear, sadness, and anger crept in a few times. When this happened, we allowed one another to feel it and cry when needed. We would then summon the strength to move onto the next task on the List Of Things To Do Before Surgery. As we were running through the dry run to the hospital, I silently sat in the driver's seat wondering where Ronni was getting her strength. When we returned home last evening, my question was answered as Ronni checked her comments. Each and everyone of you. Every note, every thought, every devotion, novena, meditation, and chicken foot kiss was received and cherished.

I am sorry to you, the readers, as I am far from a writer but I am committed to making sure you all have regular updates. I will pass along any and all comments to Ronni. Her laptop is packed in her suitcase and I have a feeling you will hear from her sooner rather than later.

Oh, Ollie was thrilled to see me and is allowing me to rub his ears and tail.


Surgery Tomorrow

The day has finally arrived. After all this upending of my life, worry and fear, the surgery will be done tomorrow morning.

You know how we old people often talk about how time speeds up as we grow older? It's a common phenomenon among all of us. Whole books have been written about it.

That changed suddenly when my pancreatic cancer was diagnosed on 31 May. In the 20 days since then, time has moved like mud. Sometimes, when I've checked the day's date, my reaction was, “Is that all? Really? I thought it was at least two days later.”

But now the big day is here. My friend Autumn, who is also my health care proxy, has arrived from New Jersey. She will drive me to the hospital in the morning and be here through most of this week.

I've set up templates for her on my blog platform so she can easily update you on how things are going. I don't know how long it will be until I can post again but I'm taking a laptop to the hospital just in case.

I have no idea if I am being overly optimistic about that but indulge me anyway, okay? And we'll see how it goes.

Whatever comes of this, it will be hard to ever thank you, dear readers, in any way that matches my feelings. Every one of you has my deeply-felt gratitude.

Your concern, love, thoughtfulness, ideas, jokes, suggestions and support have carried me through these scary weeks and now, apparently, as one of you commented a few days ago, it's going to be crowded in the operating room with all of you crammed in there to cheer me and the doctors on. Isn't that a wonderful image to hold?

See you back here as soon as I am able.



Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *

Frederick II

FREDERICK II was king of Prussia from 1740 to 1786, quite a long time in the king business. Since then he's been known as Frederick the Great, or Old Fritz, depending on who you're talking to.

Like most of his ilk at the time, he was involved in several wars, the most famous of which was the Seven Years' War (which lasted about nine years).

At home, though, he was rather an enlightened ruler for the time and was a patron of the arts and the Enlightenment in general. He was especially fond of music, thus his inclusion in a music column.

Apparently, he was quite a good flute player and he had many composers write works for him to play. Besides that, he dabbled in writing music himself which aren't bad at all.

So, today's column will feature some of Old Fritz's compositions as well as some from the various composers who wrote for him. Not just the works written especially for him or we'd be all fluted out.

We might as well start at the top with Fred himself, and naturally the flute is involved. In this case it's the third movement of his Flute Concerto in C major.

♫ Friedrich II - Flute Concerto in C major (3)

Fritzy wrote a musical theme and gave it to JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH.


J.S. knew which side his bread was buttered on and he came up with a set of canons, fugues and other works he called The Musical Offering; it's BWV 1079 in the Bach category system.

This runs to 40 distinct movements so I might be a while checking them out to see which to include. Okay, I'm back, and I've decided on part of a trio sonata that was itself just a part of the complete work. It's the second movement of that Trio Sonata.

♫ Bach JS - Trio Sonata (2)

Working for the king must have been a good career move for the Bach family, because his second son CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH did the same.


CPE is generally considered the best of the next generation (although I have a soft spot for his younger brother JC), and he had considerable influence on Mozart and Beethoven (and other lesser composers).

He wrote lots of stuff, so it was easy coming up with something that would fit in but not sound too much like what we already have. In the end, I went for one of his keyboard sonatas.

I suspect this was written with the harpsichord in mind although it might have been the forte piano, just coming into vogue around about then. The track though is played on a modern piano. It's the third movement of his Sonata in F sharp minor, H37 Wq524.

♫ Bach CPE - Sonata in F sharp minor H37 Wq524 (3)

As well as the Bach family, musical talent ran in Fritzy's family too. PRINCESS WILHELMINE OF PRUSSIA was his older sister and a bit of a composer as well.


They were very close throughout their lives, probably because they had a nasty father and, in her case, a dreadful governess who used to beat her.

Willy married Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth, who was once engaged to her younger sister Sophie. Their dads made the change and didn't consult Fred about that and he was a bit miffed when he found out. Willy didn't know about it either and she was none too happy about it all.

However, they got on well together for a while until things went downhill. The pair essentially built Bayreuth and made it what it is today. That pretty much cost them all their money.

Willy played the lute and wrote an opera and some chamber music. This is the first movement of her Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings in G Minor.

♫ Wilhelmine - Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings in G Minor (1)

There's certainly a family affair going on today. The brothers Graun were attached to the court as well. Their composing styles are so similar that even today there are a number of their compositions that no one knows which of them wrote. However, we do know some.

I'll begin with the older and better known brother, JOHANN GOTTLIEB GRAUN.


From all reports, Jo was a violinist of the first rank and he was much praised in his day for the music he wrote which included operas, many violin concertos, sonatas for various instruments and string quartets. Naturally, I'll be a bit perverse and include his Concerto in C minor for Oboe, the third movement, rather than something for the violin.

♫ Graun JG - Concerto in C minor for Oboe (3)

CARL HEINRICH GRAUN is younger, but only just – he was less than a year behind Jo.


Carl started out as a singer in operas and then wrote a whole bunch of them. He was Fritzy's Kapellmeister (that is the bloke in charge of music) for 19 years until he (Carl) died.

A couple of musicians who went through his ranks were the young Joseph and Michael Haydn (again the family connection). I don't know if he learnt from them or vice versa. Probably both directions. Anyway, here is the second movement of his Sonata in F major for Flute and Oboe. Fritzy probably played the flute on this one.

♫ Graun CH - Sonata in F major for flute & oboe (2)

Continuing with the family theme, and a couple more brothers – the Bendas. We'll start with FRANZ BENDA (or František Benda in his native Bohemia).


Franz began his career in a troupe of travelling musicians as a singer and violinist. He settled down after a while and eventually caught the ear of Fritzy who hired him. He remained with him for the rest of his life, and he played a hell of a lot of music in that time.

He also wrote a whole bunch as well, and he was renowned for the quality of his violin playing. Franz had a daughter and grand-daughter who were also good composers. The line continued well into the 20th century with František Benda, a composer of film scores.

However, getting back to the original František, here is the third movement of his Concerto in E flat major for Violin.

♫ F. Benda - Concerto in E flat major for violin (3)

Franz's much younger brother was GEORG BENDA (or Jiří Benda).


Georg was only 19 when Fritzy grabbed him to be second violinist in his orchestra. Later his brother got him to be his arranger and to write music as well.

Georg is mostly noted for his operas – Mozart took especial notice of these. We're not having one of those, however. Instead here is the first movement of his Symphony No. 7 in D Major, conducted by Christian Benda, one of his modern day descendants.

♫ Benda G.A - Symphony No. 7 in D Major (1)

Now someone who didn't have a sibling to play with, JOHANN JOACHIM QUANTZ.


JJ's father was a blacksmith who died when JJ was just 11. On his deathbed he urged his son to continue in that trade but JJ was having none of that.

Fortunately, his uncle was a musician about town and he gave the young lad lessons. Later, he played all around Europe, doing the grand tour and caught the ear of Fritzy because he was a fine flute player. He accepted a position as flute teacher, flute maker and composer and hung around there until Fritzy died.

Again, I'm not going with flute, but a horn concerto played by the finest horn player in the last fifty years, Barry Tuckwell. This is the first movement of the Horn Concerto No. 3 in E Flat Major.

♫ Quantz - Concerto No. 3 In E Flat Major (1)

We'll end as we began, with the boss. FREDERICK wrote more than flute things as we'll see.


He also wrote symphonies (and other things). Here is the third movement of his Symphony in G major.

♫ Friedrich II - Symphony in G major (3)



My surgery is coming up fast and this will be the last Interesting Stuff for awhile. Like last week, it is shorter than usual - I've been kind of busy.

On one item, you don't need to rely on me while I'm absent. You can always see the main essay from John Oliver's HBO show, Last Week Tonight, on the program's YouTube page which is here.

Click the header “Video” to get the page that lists videos with the most recent first. The Sunday night video is posted there by early Monday morning.


My friend Kirsten Jacobs sent this along. I love it – such a funny, terrific idea. As the website tells it, the sayings on each cake are copied word for word from an internet comment or social media post. Here are a couple of examples:



Read more here and order your own Troll Cake here.


Once again, the week in politics has been taken up with something other than Oliver's most recent topic. That's a problem in timing - his HBO show, Last Week Tonight, is broadcast on Sunday night so it is a whole week until I post it here.

Even if it seems old, you should watch this one anyway. As the YouTube page says: “In the wake of a divisive election, the UK will begin the process of leaving the European Union. John Oliver and an intergalactic space lord propose a plan.”

Do stick around for the end...


Last week, Henry sent a get well poem for me. Now, this week, he is celebrating 80 years (!) since, as a boy, he arrived in the U.S. from Nazi Germany. The title is Remembering.

Eighty years ago this month,
my parents and two minor sons,
after their way of life was banned,
managed to escape from Nazi-land,

and, with tumultuous emotion,
traversed the Atlantic Ocean,
and, in a rendezvous they'd planned,
landed in the promised land.

Here we began our lives anew,
and as our English speaking grew,
learned how to relate
and appreciate
the transformation we had come through.

I know how fortunate I have been
to have come to and be living in
this land of opportunity
and a be part of this community
together with my next of kin.

Let me give thanks to all of you
whose helpfulness has seen me through
these 80 years in the USA.
I'm glad I came and I think I'll stay.


...“against trump fellators fanboys grunting maga mouthbreathers” goes on for 25 individual tweets. The conservative Daily Beast columnist's rant is not to be missed. Here's your start:


That's just the beginning. The rest is here and it is a magnificent catharsis.


In recent months, I've gotten to know a relatively new elder blogger, Barry Dym, via email. He writes on a wide variety of topics but keeps a special section titled, Letters on Aging which are good solid essays and strong thinking.

Here is part of a recent example about the “freshness” that aging brings:

”In a previous essay, I wrote young people seek independence. For older people, freedom comes almost unbidden when the ties that bind us to activities, relationships, and communities take flight.

“Let me begin by counting some of the ways, small and large, that that freedom comes to our doorsteps. There is the freshness of each, unscheduled day.

“I can ask: What shall I do? What do I want to do? At last, the weather plays a role as it hasn’t since childhood. If it’s sunny, I’ll take that walk. If rainy, I may read more, or call a friend. Or a friend might call me, and I can usually respond positively. Spontaneity is my friend again.

Barry's bio is here where you can also read his other blog posts – on aging and other subjects.


I'm fairly certain I've posted this in the past but you'll understand why it hits home hard at this moment in my life. It's an advert for organ donation and it is lovely.

* * *

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.

Fear and Loathing of Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreaticcancerawareness160leftEarlier this week, a surgical aide explained some of the things I will need to do when I get home from the hospital. It's a long list, some of them being relatively big changes in daily life.

Without putting any thought to what I was saying, I responded to one item with, “I have to do THAT for the rest of my life?” It took only a moment for me to laugh at myself.

There comes a time when using the phrase “the rest of of my life” to indicate “forever” needs to come to a halt. I'm 76 for god's sake and I've got pancreatic cancer. That phrase should have reached the end of its shelf life for me a long time ago.

As the days until surgery dwindle down now and most of the chores and preparations are finished, I've had more empty moments to let the actuality and seriousness of my condition sink in.

In short, it sucks.

In further short, I am afraid. There is so much to be afraid of:

I might, even unrelated to the cancer, die in surgery and the details of my life are not in good order at all for cleanup

Maybe something will prevent removal of the malignant tumor

Potential complications following surgery are not uncommon nor minor

With or without all that, recovery is long and arduous. Am I up to it? I don't know

From what I've read, I can write off the rest of this year; complete recovery from surgery will take that long

In terms of health, I've led a charmed life. I've hardly had to think about my body – just feed it reasonably well and move around a bit to keep it in good working order. I'm deeply unprepared for the difficulty of this journey

Mostly, I just want my life each day to be normal. Ordinary. Unremarkable. But that's not going to be anymore – at least not by my definition. Can I do this with a modicum of grace? It doesn't feel like it right now.

Okay. I'm having a bad day. So many of you, in comments and private email, have remarked on my good attitude and strength. It is nice to be perceived that way and maybe it's true.

But so is what I'm writing now, in this moment as I try to see the computer screen through tears. I am afraid, maybe the most afraid I have ever been.

And I am furious: why, with so much fantastic science in the realm of technology just in our lifetimes haven't we applied that much energy, money and innovation to finding a way to cure – or at least successfully treat – all the hateful cancers that make miserable the lives and deaths of so many millions of people?

Do we really need one more fancy cell phone or shiny auto model?

How about, at the very least, cleaning up the environment. That would prevent some goodly number of cancers. We know that but we do next to nothing. And not to point fingers, but we now have an administration in Washington whose members are actively reversing the few steps we have taken in the right direction. "So sad," as one of the perpetrators is wont to tweet.

There is, I have discovered, a not-so-subtle pressure on patients of dreadful diseases to put on a face of bravery and fortitude and grit and spunk. Some of the time that's easy. I actually feel that way - no effort involved.

And then are days like now when I am so frightened I can hardly breathe and unanticipated tears spring forth. I know I'm not the only one but someone needs to say it out loud, that it happens.


Bucket Lists and Telling Our Stories

It was the 2007 movie starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman that gave us the phrase – and title of the film - The Bucket List.

Since then, bucket lists are a common meme among most Americans - I don't know about other countries – and some people take them quite seriously.

If ever there is a time for a bucket list, it is when you are diagnosed with something as serious as pancreatic cancer.

In off moments since my diagnosis, I've been running the idea through my mind to see if there is something I want to do. An experience I've missed. A place I long to visit. A do-over maybe. Or something.

And nothing comes to mind.

The thing is, I've had a terrific life. Nothing spectacular, some disappointments, a bunch of terrific jobs that introduced me to ideas and people and places in the world I would never have done on my own. And taught me or led me to pretty much everything I know.

Most of my friends and acquaintances over the years have been smart, interesting, good people that I love spending time with even, these days, at a long distance. Too many I love died too young. I miss them but I hold them close in my heart still.

Further, in doing this blog, I've found how many people are unprepared for retirement and flounder around for a long time without a place to go every day, without a job or title by which to define themselves.

It was different and so much easier for me. In no way did I plan it; I just got lucky. I started this blog before the end of my career, segued with it to full time and now, after about 14 years, it is who I am and what I do: I write and produce a blog about what it is really like to get old.

And people actually read it. How good is that.

I would like to keep doing it for – oh, how about another 14 years or so. May the gods - and modern medicine - grant that wish.

But just in case, isn't there something I can come up with for a bucket list? Well, yes - if it is about longings. Two items but only one is doable.

Bucket list items, by their nature, are one-time things so this doesn't fit exactly but I think about it all the time: I wish I could live in New York City again. Not just visit. Live there. It is where I belong. The ground that I love. It is my home.

That's the undoable one. Here's the other:

There is a small, unpretentious restaurant in the coastal town of Cannon Beach, Oregon. I don't know its name but I know how to get there and they make the best fried razor clams I've ever eaten. As plain as the restaurant is, their razor clams dish is a world-class.

It's been awhile since I've been to the coast (it's only a two-hour drive) and a good friend has already signed on to take us there for lunch as soon after the surgery as I can do that.

On Monday this week, I came to see that there is something else, not a bucket list item, that is the best thing ever to get me through this “trial” and, after the surgery, to carry me forward for as long or short as it will be.

Two neighbors, a couple, came by my apartment that day. They are heading the little “committee” that will take care of necessities (like the cat) while I'm in hospital.

We finished that business and then spent the next 20 minutes or so telling funny stories about the pets (they had just adopted a new cat to replace one who died a few months ago) and other animals we've known and loved. We laughed so hard and I am still smiling from that as I write today, Tuesday.

Later that day, I had a phone conversation with an old friend on the east coast, telling him about my new predicament. We got through that and then we talked politics (we're both addicted) and comedians we like and some movies and TV shows and we laughed a lot about all kinds of things.

About life. Not death.

That's what I want from everyone right now. I'm not even in the hospital yet or in recovery yet but what energizes me and makes me happy and makes me feel alive is being with people, telling our stories and laughing together.

What's on your bucket list?


From Mystery Malady to Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreaticcancerawareness160leftAs I mentioned on Friday, TGB reader dkzody last week commented that she had believed pancreatic cancer is hard to diagnose and wondered what my “mystery malady” was.

Today, I'll tell you my experience with that mystery and my eventual diagnoses of pancreatic cancer. Keep in mind – no foolin' around – that my story applies only to me. I have no idea how this works out with other people.

Last October, after some unaccounted-for symptoms prevailed over two or three weeks, I visited my then-physician who brushed me off after seven minutes saying it was probably a virus that would go away soon.

The symptoms were painful or irritating or alarming enough (to me if not the doctor) that it was obvious I needed a different physician. If you really care, you can read about my difficult search for a new primary care doctor here.

After my many failed attempts to find a doctor who would take me, a friend intervened at a major teaching and research hospital here and I got an appointment right away.

The mystery malady had begun in October 2016 and has continued until 31 May 2017 when, finally, the diagnosis was determined. As terrible as it is, there is a kind of relief in knowing the malady has a name.

In between those dates, there was a collection of 12 to 15 symptoms that came and went mostly independently of one another, usually several at a time in various combinations over the months. Here's a list that is as close to complete as I can make it:

  1. Random pains rotating through sides, stomach area, chest and back

  2. Sick headaches a couple of times a week

  3. Malaise

  4. Vertigo

  5. Weird dark spots on skin that come and go

  6. Weight gain early on

  7. Weight loss later (once, 11 pounds in two weeks)

  8. Extreme tiredness – stopped daily workouts

  9. Hard to sleep more than three or four hours

  10. Bright orange urine

  11. Unbearable itching on every inch of skin

  12. Abdominal pain following meals

  13. Deep, horribly aching pains in upper arms

  14. Worst leg cramps I've ever experienced

  15. Jaundice

Usually, there were “only” two or three or maybe four of these symptoms at a time. The orange urine was so bright you could have lit up the whole bathroom with it. That happened for a week or two in February, subsided and again for a few days just before the diagnosis.

The itching occurred concurrently with the orange urine, was terrible all day and ten times worse at night. No anti-itch creams like those for mosquito bites worked. The pain of scratching too hard, even if I drew blood, was preferable to the itching.

If it were not so awful, it would have been funny: at one point I twisted a paper towel to pull back and forth between my toes because I couldn't effectively scratch there.

The deep-yellow jaundice appeared a couple of days before the diagnosis.

As I said, I never had all these symptoms at once. It was a mix-and-match mystery malady over seven months. A few continue as I await surgery.

Through all this, I was seeing the doctor regularly. He tested for just about everything and it seemed, over the months, that they took a gallon of blood from me. All the tests came back in the normal range. All the various kinds of scans and a colonoscopy returned normal readings.

Then, on 31 May, I returned home from that latest appointment to a phone call from the doctor I had just left: Get to the hospital immediately, he said. A bed is waiting. I'll meet you there.

I forced him to tell me why. The words “pancreatic cancer” were said but that's not something that sinks in at first. It takes awhile. If I found out what had alerted him to the diagnosis, I don't recall now.

It's also hard to recall what they did to me in the hospital, but before long the itching and most of the pain were gone. Lots more tests were performed and the endoscopy during which a temporary stent was placed to redirect some effluviant(?) of the body.

If you try to find out online why it is so difficult to diagnose pancreatic cancer, you won't get far. Most pages – even from some of the highly respected health organizations – go straight from “it is difficult to diagnose” to “once it is diagnosed, treatment is...”

If I tried, I might find some better information but mostly I don't have time and I'm not all that interested right now. Maybe someday.

So, there you go, dkzody. That's the mystery malady and the diagnosis.

As I said before, they – healthcare people – are keeping me busy. There is another test or consult almost every workday. There is much to arrange for Ollie the cat while I'm gone, for what I need to take to the hospital, for care when I get home and to arrange the house for what I can and cannot do on my own when I return.

I've tried to keep up with email from all you wonderful readers but I know some have slipped through the cracks and I run out of steam with a need to lie down to rest or nap several times a day. I had no idea how much there is to do to prepare for surgery. I thought the hard work is afterwards.

Oh, one more thing: Throughout this odyssey, I used the phrase "mystery malady" as kind of joke to myself about all the disparate symptoms. It has turned out not to be much of a joke but it served me just fine until there was a real name.


ELDER MUSIC: Jazzical Gas

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *

I can hear you from here going, "Huh? What does that mean?" A long time ago (in blog years, rather similar to dog years) I wrote a column highlighting lesser known classical composers and I asked Norma, the Assistant Musicologist what I should call it. She suggested "Classical Gas" ('coz that's the way her brain works).

Since then I've continued that series with that name in various permutations. I decided that I liked the idea and decided to do a series on lesser known jazz performers.

Independently, the A.M. and I came up with the same name for the column (we have a similar warped sense of humor). So, here are some jazz performers whose names you might not recognize, but play really well. Based on the experience of the classical columns there will probably be more of them.

DONALD EDWARDS leads his group from behind the drum kit.

Donald Edwards

He's been a much in demand drummer, but has only recently formed his own band. There are some fine players along for the ride, in particular Walter Smith III on tenor sax and Orrin Evans on piano.

They perform the Thelonious Monk tune Skippy. This has nothing to do with the televisual kangaroo as it was written years before that marsupial made his debut.

♫ Donald Edwards - Skippy

SARA GAZAREK is a young jazz singer who has recorded half a dozen or so albums, the last of which is a duet record with JOSH NELSON.

Sara Gazarek &Josh Nelson

That album's called "Dream in the Blue", and Josh plays the piano (and Sara sings, of course). From that they perform the classic Mood Indigo, written by Duke Ellington and Barney Bigard with words by Irving Mills.

♫ Sara Gazarek - Mood Indigo

BILL CHARLAP is yet another classically trained pianist who turned to playing jazz.

Bill Charlap Trio

He has musical heritage: his mother, Sandy Stewart, is a singer who regularly appeared on Perry Como's TV program (and she was also the first person to record the song My Coloring Book – before Barbra) and his father, Moose Charlap, was a Broadway composer.

Bill has played with many jazz musicians but most especially with Tony Bennett. The Bill Charlap Trio perform Not a Care in the World.

♫ Bill Charlap Trio - Not a Care in the World

Jazz singers and performers have a history of taking the current pop songs and putting their own spin on them. Today's performers do the same but instead of Gershwin and Porter, today it's Dylan and Cohen. A prime example of this is BARB JUNGR.

Barb Jungr

Barb has a fairly recent album where she performs songs by those two as well as David Bowie, Joni Mitchell and others. The song I like from that is called Shelter from the Storm, also the name of the album. This is one of Bob's.

♫ Barb Jungr - Shelter from the Storm

When he started out, JIM ROTONDI was hailed as the next big thing in trumpet playing.

Jim Rotondi

That's proved pretty much to be correct, although his name isn't really a household word. He's released a dozen or so of his own albums and scores of others on which he performed. For the last ten years or so he's been professor of music at a university in Austria.

From his most recent album is the title track, Dark Blue.

♫ Jim Rotondi - Dark Blue

CAMILLA GEORGE has recently recorded her first album with her quartet called "Isang" (that's the album's name, not the quartet's).

Camilla George

Camilla is resident in London but she was born and bred in Nigeria. She and her pianist Sarah Tandy work really well together and I can hear influences of Coltrane in her music. I'm looking forward to hearing more from her.

The Quartet's tune today is The Night Has a Thousand Eyes. This isn't the old Bobby Vee pop song.

♫ Camilla George Quartet - The Night Has a Thousand Eyes

KITTY WHITE was not just a jazz singer, she also sang gospel and pop music as well.

Kitty White

Outside the jazz world, she's probably best remembered for singing Crawfish with Elvis in the film "King Creole". However, today we're interested in what she did in the jazz vein.

One of the things she did was If You Were Mine, a song written by Johnny Mercer and Matty Malneck. Gerald Wiggins played piano on this track, and the sax player was Georgie Auld.

♫ Kitty White - If You Were Mine

MORT WEISS is a clarinet player mostly – he has played other instruments as well.

Mort Weiss

Mort started out playing Dixieland jazz but after hearing Charlie Parker he became a devotee of bebop. He's also played rhythm and blues and all sorts of music – whatever he can do to make a living, I imagine.

Here he takes the old pop song I Remember You and puts his own spin on it. Playing along with him is the Don Friedman Trio.

♫ Mort Weiss - I Remember You

A lot of good jazz these days is happening outside its traditional home country. Another example of this (there are several today) is CYRILLE AIMEE, who is from France.

Cyrille Aimee

Cyrille performs Each Day with the help of her one-time band mate Matt Simons. Adrien Moignard and Michael Valeneau play some really nice guitar on this track.

♫ Cyrille Aimee - Each Day

You might think that KYLE EASTWOOD's surname sounds familiar and you'd be correct.

Kyle Eastwood

Kyle is Clint's son, and Clint is a well-known lover of jazz and I guess he passed that along. Kyle is a bass player, both the double bass and the electric instrument, and these days heads his own group.

From his recent album "Timepieces" we have Prosecco Smile, featuring Quentin Collins playing trumpet.

♫ Kyle Eastwood - Prosecco Smile


As you may imagine, since the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and preparation for the coming surgery, I have not had a lot of time to collect material for this weekly compilation of “stuff.”

But here is a shorter-than-usual list of items you might enjoy, as I have.

* * *


This video is four years old and has been seen by more than 7 million people. See how you have and are spending your days in these bits of candy.

I'm astonished at this guy's patience in creating the video. I would have gotten bored and given up after the first two time periods or so.


I know, I know. This whole week has been taken up with the Comey hearing in Washington – and compelling it has been.

However, last Saturday on his HBO program, Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver took on President Trump's withdrawal from the Paris accords on climate change. It is Oliver at his best and worth your time.


I eat a lot of Japanese food and, of course, use soy sauce with it. As the Youtube page explains about this video:

”Japanese shoyu, or soy sauce, was traditionally brewed in vats over two years in a process that dates back to the 7th century. On the island of Shōdoshima, Yasuo Yamamoto ferments soy beans traditionally in bamboo barrels similar to the ones his family has built for the past 150 years.”

I sure do wish I could taste this soy sauce.

I Am Rooting for You, Ronni

When I was still publishing The Elder Storytelling Place, Henry Lowenstern was one of the most prolific contributors. He specialized in limericks, doggerel, light verse and such - often on current political events and always lovely and/or funny or both. He sent this yesterday titled as the headline for this item, and I love it:

I am betting my last denarius
that your about-to-be excised pancreas
will leave you with an even better hold
on what its like to be getting old
and I hope your recovery is instantaneous.

Thank you, Henry.


In the comments on one of last week's posts, a TGB reader reminded us of journalist and political activist Norman Cousins who, back in the 1970s, devised his own recovery program that included laughing himself well from a serious, obscure disease.

He recounted his personal laugh treatment in a book, Anatomy of an Illness, later made into a movie starring Edward Asner.

Without taking a whit away from my own upcoming treatment that I completely believe in, I figure a lot of laughing (if the stitches allow) couldn't hurt and might help. Besides, it always feels good.

So I've been looking for stuff I've laughed at a lot in the past. I've posted this one here before but so what. On each re-viewing, I have laughed harder than the last time. I never get tired of it.

* * *

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.

Some Reason for Hope

Although I could argue the point, it is possible there is always reason for hope and I found that on Wednesday during my consult with the surgeon and his team.

Having decided that formality is a good posture to adopt while facing the news of one's mortality, I dressed up for the occasion. I have never been able to get comfortable with suburban (and even urban) Oregon casual anyway, so I wore a pair of my best pants, dressy shoes with a small high heel and a velvet shirt worn loose (my concession to casual) with a big, fancy sun hat. (It was a gorgeous spring day.)

I was apprehensive, frightened too, but equally eager to know my future and, maybe ghoulishly, how long I can expect it to be.

Tests in the hospital last week and more in followup examinations since then show that I have a malignant tumor in my pancreas. The surgeon has a handy, multi-colored rendering on the wall of the inside of the human body and he pointed out the pancreas, showed me where exactly within it my tumor is located, the nearby gall bladder, duodenum and other body parts I had hoped never to know about.

Then he said this: my pancreatic cancer is “potentially curable” and this: patients with a tumor similar to mine wholly contained within the pancreas and in my otherwise healthy physical condition have a 25-30 percent “cure rate.”

Now I wouldn't take those odds to Las Vegas but considering that only about five-to-seven percent of people in the whole universe of pancreatic cancer survive, I'll go with it.

And in case you were wondering (I was), what would happen if I reject the surgery and do nothing (the only real alternative in this case), “you'll be dead within a year,” he said.

The surgeon will perform a Whipple procedure (look it up) in which the diseased part of my pancreas will be removed along with my gall bladder and some other bits and pieces.

It's a long, complex surgery, he said, about eight hours. I'll spend a day afterward in the ICU and another seven to 10 days in hospital. If I'm strong enough by then, I can continue recovery at home instead of rehab. His goal, the surgeon told me, is to return me to a normal quality of life (See Wednesday's post).

As with all surgery, there are risks and there are, sometimes, post-operative complications to deal with. Even without those, recovery is difficult and will pretty much take up the rest of this year.

The surgery date is 20 June. I asked what I can do in these next two weeks to best prepare my body for what I think of as an assault. Exercise and good nutrition, the team said. Eat, eat, eat. Exercise, exercise, exercise.

Obviously, there are many more details but be honest, can you stand even this much?

My surgeon and his team are world-class - he is a well-known pancreas researcher and I am in excellent hands. And this kind of prognosis, small percentage as it is, gives me huge incentive to work hard at helping my body prepare and afterwards, to heal.

Now, two TGB items. First, your support is wonderful. I hadn't given any thought to how this announcement would be received so the outpouring was a surprise and shock – in the best sense of the word. You have no idea how much you all mean to me.

Second, on Wednesday, reader dkzody commented that she thought pancreatic cancer is difficult to diagnosis and wondered what the “mystery malady” I mentioned was.

She is right about the difficulty and I'll tell you about my experience with that on Monday. But then I think that even though my current personal circumstance is uppermost in my mind every day, it's probably not in yours and we can get back to the real goal of this blog – what growing old is really like – for awhile.


The Joy of the Ordinary

Nobody tells you – well, nobody told me - how busy they keep you when you're sick. And these aren't things you can blow off.

Except for the weekend when I was fairly well wiped out from all the “work” I had done in the hospital the previous three days (and so it had seemed to be), I have had at least one medical appointment a day and there are more booked.

Okay, I lied. Monday there were no visits but there might as well have been: there were five telephone conversations with doctors and other medical professionals, some lengthy, and a lot of new information to absorb.

During the calls, I was a crazed note taker, scribbling as fast as I could. Most of this is new information about which I have no previous useful knowledge and therefore no past references to call on to make the information my own.

So after the calls I spent a lot of time rereading and organizing the notes to be sure they will make sense later.

All this does not account for phone tag and then the wait time on return calls – sometimes up to 30 minutes. I understand there are a lot of other patients whose conditions are at least as serious as mine and I don't begrudge that kind of wait. I just get tired from it.

And now, thanks to those health care people, I have checkups and followups, appointments, tests, etc. scheduled well into August. And they haven't even done anything to me yet. Whatever the outcome of treatment, this kind of busy-ness isn't going away soon.

Then there are the household chores. Enough kitty litter and cat food to last through a long hospital and, possibly, rehab stay so the helpers have what they need. A list of what to take to the hospital: The internet is fabulous for this kind of minutiae but it can't find the small travel hair brush I KNOW is here somewhere.

There are banking issues to arrange, usually in person, automatic bill pays to set up for my absence because god knows credit card companies and utilities don't care if you're sick when the payment is late.

Meanwhile, the electricity in half the kitchen outlets is suddenly dead – that's annoying - but no way to have the electrician here until I know my upcoming schedule. Plus, unrelatedly, my bedroom clock broke.

When I complained about some of that to a friend via email (hopefully with some self-mocking in my “voice”), it was a surprise to be told that I should lay those chores off on helpers, and that I am not doing “this” well.

Maybe so but I'm a beginner at "this" and here is the thing: I have just a few days before treatment begins, probably with surgery, and then my life changes to something completely new. It is a long surgery, a long hospital stay, a long rehab. And, I assume, chemo after that.

Maybe it will be successful. Wouldn't that be wonderful? But maybe it won't.

Either way, during these frightfully few days I have left before signing on to be a patient for god knows how long – maybe forever in terms of my personal life span – I am relishing the mundane errand.

While I can still do them - the chat with the bank manager, making the lists I need, buying a new clock and all the rest of the things I have been doing every day for my whole life and not appreciating until now - they feel important and comfortable and real and even almost miraculous in the current circumstance.

How wonderful it is to have just an ordinary day. How deeply I want more of them. And more after that. For as long as I can.

Today is a big day. After months of my “mystery malady”, what seems like a gallon of blood given for tests during that time, more different kinds of scans than I can recall, while some of you read this I am meeting with the surgeon and will learn about my immediate future and, maybe, beyond.

Thank you for all your kind wishes. I am enjoying them and appreciate every one of you so much.


The Disease Begins to Come Into Focus

Wow. You are, each and every one of you, wonderful people. Regarding the number of comments and seeing the latest of them, I never noticed before that after 100 comments there is a "more comments" link. You can follow that to see the additional comments.

The weird thing with this not-so-good diagnosis is I feel a bit like that old joke about how Mrs. Lincoln enjoyed the play: except for the cancer, I'm quite healthy so what could be wrong.

I've wakened each morning since the diagnosis on Thursday with, as has always been, thoughts about what I will do that day. Then I recall the new world I live in. Oooph.

And no matter how long I have slept I am, first thing now, already exhausted. Okay, I had an endoscopy and even if it doesn't show on the outside, it is surgery. I get that. Plus, here's an interesting medical tidbit one of the doctors gave me:

Cancer, he says, is high energy. It uses up energy at a faster rate than a cancer-free body, and he admonished me to watch for unexpected weight loss. Ha. It's the first time in my life I've been urged to eat more. Ice cream here I come.

Some of you wrote to ask, similarly, what a husband-and-wife set of TGB readers wondered:

”Would you be willing to share your ongoing story to the TGB audience? Only to express your current (at the time) situation as well as the symptoms that lead you up to the doctor's appointment. This may help thousands of us be watchful and more careful with habits like smoking, diet, and exercise.”

Since, for the duration, little else will be on my mind, that could be a useful idea and I'll give it a shot. I promise I'll do better than just an organ recital and that shouldn't be too hard since already I can see that having a frightful disease is more about dealing with it intellectually and emotionally than the day-to-day treatment.

Well, it is for now – until I'm in pain and and sick from chemotherapy. That's a different problem I've decided not to think about until the time comes.

My father died of this disease, pancreatic cancer, so I harbor no illusions about how awful it is. But that was 35 years ago. Maybe doctors know more about it now. Or maybe not.

Thank you all for being there. I knew we had created a special community at TGB over the years. But I didn't know until now how extra special it is.

Thank you for all the email too. If I haven't answered, it's only that I can't keep up (a good thing) and still do what is needed to be ready for what is coming. Please understand.

A lot of you seem to think I'm a brave person. I've never thought about that one way or the other but I sure hope you're right.

ELDER MUSIC: 1936 Again

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *

I started this particular column only so I could include this first song. Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and I were driving to Daylesford (north-west of Melbourne, famed for its restaurants) when we heard it on the radio.

"What is that?" we said, and "We have to include that in a column." And so it shall be. Fortunately, we got the name of the song but not the performer. I have since discovered that it is SOL K. BRIGHT & HIS HOLLYWAIIANS.

Sol Bright

That's Sol, third from the left. What a treat the song is, so for your delectation here is the Hawaiian Cowboy. I challenge you not to smile while listening.

♫ Sol K Bright - Hawaiian Cowboy

BILLIE HOLIDAY was in full swing around this time.

Billie Holiday

Naturally, I'll include Billie whenever I can. The song I've chosen was written by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields and first performed by Fred Astaire serenading Ginger Rogers in the film "Swing Time". It is The Way You Look Tonight.

♫ Billie Holiday - The Way You Look Tonight

Here is another unlikely cowboy. This time it's BING CROSBY.

Bing Crosby

At first I couldn't imagine Bing as a cowboy but after some research I found that he played one in the film "Rhythm on the Range" from 1936 – our chosen year, in fact.

Indeed, it was from that film that we get Bing's song I'm An Old Cowhand. There were about a dozen songs in the film which wouldn't have left much time for ridin', ropin' and rootin'.

♫ Bing Crosby - I'm An Old Cowhand

I could have included FRED ASTAIRE earlier, but I already had him for this next song.

Fred Astaire

Like the Billie's song, it was written by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields, and was also from the same film. Fred sings A Fine Romance.

♫ Fred Astaire - A Fine Romance

LOUIS ARMSTRONG could have been included several times this year, but I restrained myself.

Louis Armstrong

I also restrained myself from saying that he was the most important musician of the twentieth century. Oops, too late. Here is Lyin' To Myself.

♫ Louis Armstrong - Lyin' To Myself

While we're on the subject of important musicians, probably the most influential blues musician of the first half of the century had several songs on the chart this year. I'm talking about ROBERT JOHNSON, of course.

Robert Johnson

He didn't get around to recording any more songs (after the 40 or so he produced in his first recording session) as he was murdered a few months later. He was one of the earliest members of the "27 Club". One of his most covered songs is Sweet Home Chicago. Here is the original.

♫ Robert Johnson - Sweet Home Chicago

FATS WALLER is another who can bring a smile to your face, even when he's being serious.

Fats Waller

Fats wrote hundreds of songs that are attributed to him, and apparently many more. Early on, he had to sell them to earn a little money and for which he wasn't credited with the authorship. Alas, he died young, 39, of pneumonia on a train between Los Angeles and New York. Fats' song from this year is All My Life.

♫ Fats Waller - All My Life

THE BOSWELL SISTERS were the main competition to the Andrews Sisters around this time.

Boswell Sisters

Fats Waller was probably the first person to record and popularize the song I'm Going To Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter, however, he didn't write it. That was Fred Ahlert and Joe Young. Hot on Fats' heels, the Boswells had a go at it. They included parts of the song that aren't heard these days.

♫ Boswell Sisters - I'm Going To Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter

I'm sure that TAMPA RED had nothing but pure thoughts when he recorded Let's Get Drunk and Truck.

Tampa Red

Red started life as Hudson Woodbridge but from early on he was known as Hudson Whittaker. He was another influential blues man and was a master of the bottleneck guitar style. That's not evident on this song; piano and kazoo seem to be the dominant instruments.

♫ Tampa Red - Let's get drunk and truck

HAL KEMP played saxophone and clarinet and was a band leader in the thirties.

Hal Kemp

Unfortunately, he was killed in a car accident in 1940. BOB ALLEN was one of several singers who performed with Hal.

Bob Allen

Here they are with A Star Fell Out Of Heaven.

♫ Hal Kemp (Bob Allen vocal) - A Star Fell Out Of Heaven