Posts Tagged ‘Luckiest Man Alive’

Monday, 14 April 2014

This weekend will be a big event in Long Beach, the newly revived Razor Clam Festival; this year one of the giant frying pans will be used to create clam fritters.  So we have to get the parks where the events will take place to look just spiffing.

We started with the quadrant of parks on Fifth Street.

in front of Captain Bob's Chowder

before: in front of Captain Bob’s Chowder

The garden in front of Captain Bob’s Chowder consumed a lot of my time; it has the very annoying wild garlic (some sort of maddeningly horrid Allium with dull flowers, that reseeds like mad), and old bulb foliage, and horsetail, and the dead foliage tips of the good alliums.  Oddly, the bad allium loves this park and the good ones don’t do all that well in here.  In the center, a big Phlomis fruticosa (Jerusalem sage) died to the ground and is struggling to return, so it’s all very sad looking right now.  Next month, the Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and the Nepeta (catmint) and other perennials will make it  lovely…too late for clam fest!

after a long struggle...better

after a long struggle…better

Just a few narcissi still bloom in that bed.

Just a few narcissi still bloom in that bed.

The day was one of those thoroughly miserable early spring VERY cold and strong north wind days.  I was not a happy worker.  The nicest part of the day was when we planted (well, I placed and Allan planted) some new perennials in the bed in the frying pan quadrant of the park.  The building next to it sheltered us from the north wind.

I hope some of the tulips are still blooming for Saturday's festivities.

I hope some of the tulips are still blooming for Saturday’s festivities.  In the foreground, that blue star juniper (YAWN) would not be my first choice.

Allan worked on the quadrant with the pond and waterfall, removing lots of leaves and a few weeds from the L shaped border.


Darmera peltata

Darmera peltata

The gunnera to the right of  the pond is very slow to start this year.

The gunnera to the right of the pond is very slow to start this year.

In my own garden I would have left the leaves, as I think they are good for the soil.  Parks seem to need to be all tidy.

This center bed is very hard to weed as it is so rooty.

This center bed is very hard to weed as it is so rooty.

Allan did a good job and we added some mulch from the city works yard.

Allan did a good job and we added some mulch from the city works yard, after dumping large amounts of debris.

I dealt with much of the horsetail in the restroom quadrant of the park.

I dealt with much of the horsetail in the restroom quadrant of the park.

a mess with some good plants including Thalictrum 'Illuminator' with gold foliage and some (new this year) Camassia

a mess with some good plants including Thalictrum ‘Illuminator’ with gold foliage and some (new this year) Camassia

oh so much better

oh so much better

We quit at around five, chilled and fed up with the wind.  At home, I happily examined something exciting that had come in the mail:


Bill Dale, to whom I had emailed a fervent fan letter about his perfectly great song, Luckiest Man Alive, sent me two demo CDs.  I am planning to track down the bluegrass, country, or folk DJ from the local public radio and see if I can introduce them to my favourite song.  I am still obsessed with it.

I settled down in my comfy chair to read….and yet even though the book was an intensely interesting one, I felt too tired to concentrate.  Fortunately, the movie we watched in the later evening was gripping enough to fully keep my attention, although I have one complaint:  If the film maker makes a point at the beginning that there is no sound in space, why have schlocky orchestral music playing to increase the suspense?  I think that no musical soundtrack would have been much more effective.

I heartily recommend this book.

I heartily recommend this book.


and this film





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Saturday, 5 April 2014

Weekends are not guaranteed leisure time when one is self employed and feeling a bit behind on work. However, I had no intention of working in the light rain on Saturday and thought Allan and I had come to an agreement on that.

Frosty did not want to go out.  Too cold!

Frosty did not want to go out. Too cold!

Then I heard the distinctive clanking of the utility trailer being hooked up to our van. Huh. Apparently we were going to work after all. Ok, we could start to deadhead the Ilwaco planters, and if the weather did not worsen, we could weed Larry and Robert’s garden, and….

I saw small weeds at the post office and ignored them for now.

I saw a few small weeds at the post office and ignored them for now.

By the time we got to our first parking spot for deadheading, the weather had changed for the worse. We got the planters near our parking spot done….


And then the wind increased and we took refuge at Olde Towne Café. I think we worked for five whole minutes.

in Olde Towne Café

in Olde Towne Café

No one was at Olde Towne except for owner Luanne and her son and co-worker Michael, so Allan and I had a good, long natter with Luanne. Then, back home for me, while Allan went to our friend Jenna’s Queen La De Da’s soon to be former shop to help with some painting. (She is a responsible sort who is going to leave the space in better condition then when she leased it.)

Welcome home!

Welcome home!

At home, the cats welcomed my return and were soon on my lap while I began to read a well written, witty, and surprisingly good thriller called The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. Even with a late start, I got part of an ideal bad weather reading day.

outside: wind and rain

outside: wind and rain


As I was firmly stuck into the novel, figuring I could have it finished by 8 o clock, my phone rang at about 6 PM. It was Pam from Back Alley Gardens invited us to join her and her friend Leslie (Sweaterheads!) McCray to hear their husbands perform in a musical duo at The Cove Restaurant in North Long Beach. Could I really manage to wrest myself away from the book, the cats, and my recliner? I did manage, not without a bit of grumping and moaning. (Allan was happy to go out, no grumping from that end at all.) It turned out, as I inwardly knew it would, to be an excellent evening.

musical duo

Brad Griswold and Dave Clinton at The Cove

Brad Griswold and Dave Clinton at The Cove

The Cove has just recently started serving dinners on the weekends. The food lived up to its delicious reputation. We had a table by the fire with a good view of the little stage area.

cozy fireplace

cozy fireplace with (lower right) the remnants of Pam”s delicious clam appetizer.

The old timey and bluegrass music took me back to Folk Lab in high school and hours spent at Folk Life Festival in Seattle.

Folk Lab, 1971; class requirement was simply listening to one's fellow more talented students.

Folk Lab, 1971; class requirement was simply listening to one’s fellow more talented students.

Back to the present day: The Clinton-Griswold (unnamed) duo sang a few songs, and when they sang, I turned away from dinner conversation to listen.

musical duo

musical duo

During their second set, they performed a number I had not heard before. By the time the song was done, I was weeping not very subtle tears. It was introduced as a song that anyone who’d had a dad in WWII might be able to relate to. I don’t know what got me so choked up by the song, but when I got home I had to Google diligently to find out its source and the words.

It’s called “Luckiest Man Alive” by Bill Dale of Little Laurel Music. I downloaded a version by the Nashville Bluegrass Band and then today, I finally tracked down a version by the songwriter himself.

Bill Dale on MySpace

Bill Dale on MySpace

I found a review of the Nashville Bluegrass Band album in which the song appears that well describes its appeal:

“Bill Dale’s “The Luckiest Man Alive” is a strikingly unordinary treatment of its subject, the postwar life of a World War II veteran. If you have imagination enough and your knowledge of country music extends that far back, you might even conceive of it as a sequel to Ernest Tubb’s classic “Rainbow at Midnight.” Or maybe as a hopeful counterpart to Paul Siebel’s bleak late-1960s song “Bride 1945.” Whatever it is, it is one hell of a good tune, and it stands out even amid some pretty stiff competition here.” -Jerome Clark, Bluegrass Works

Coming through a scathingly hard time, being happy even while working the graveyard shift, being a good spouse and father (clearly loved by his children and I would assume by his wife), and just the joy and appreciation of life touched something in me that’s had me thinking of the song and pursuing its lyrics since I heard it.

I got the lyrics the old fashioned way, by hitting pause and writing them down, so I think the song might be an obscure one. (Not being a follower of that genre of music, for all I know it was a top hit on country radio.)

There must have been twenty five hundred men standing at the rail port side,

Laughing and throwing their hats in the air; sweethearts and babies and wives.

When my daddy came home, it was after the bomb in 1945.

He said “I’m lucky, the luckiest man alive.”

He left the sawmill and  moved into Asheville soon after I turned five.

They put him on graveyard down at the railroad; he worked a lot of overtime.

We bought a home with a veterans loan in 1959.

He said “I’m lucky, the luckiest man alive.”

His old uniform used to hang in the closet till one day it just disappeared.

And when my mother asked him about it, he said he gave it to Goodwill.

But still through the years just the word Okinawa would put a fire in his eyes,

He’d say, “I’m lucky, the luckiest man alive.”

Then came the years when the darkest of fears covered up the brightest skies.

His youngest son went to South Vietnam. He and my mother cried.

When my brother came home, he was holding a sign in 1965.

It said I’m lucky, the luckiest man alive.

Now his children’s children all ask him to tell them what was the Big War like.

He said it makes him sad to remember how many millions died.

And shaking his head, he says “If life’s a gamble, I must have won first prize.

I guess I’m lucky, oh yes, I’m lucky.

Just call me lucky, I’m the luckiest man alive.”

Postscript added a week later:  I struck up a correspondence with the songwriter, Bill Dale, via his website.  He told me:

“Songwriters like me can go a long time without a pat on the back.  Your kind words yesterday lit up an otherwise gloomy spring day here in Nashville.  Thanks so much for your kind compliment.  It means a lot.

Yes, as you suspected, the song is about my own father with some poetic license thrown in.  He never worked for the railroad but was the parts manager at a Pontiac/Cadillac in Asheville for almost fifty years.  He died in 1999 but not before hearing “Luckiest Man Alive”.  I think he was quietly proud.  The song has been kicking about for a while now, and about once a year I hear from a bluegrass band who wants permission to put it on a cd.  A North Carolina friend told me last Memorial Weekend he had heard on a radio program playing songs on the theme of vets.  I do appreciate your interest. “

You can see the influence of his very kind and wonderful dad there.  I so appreciated hearing that his dad inspired the song.

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