ethics, Ex, music, true crime

Vince Gill was wrong… there is often a glimpse of the future in the past…

The featured photo was one Bill took when he was at war in Iraq. He was sitting in the latrine at the time. I’m suddenly reminded of it today.

Back in 1993, I was a student at Longwood College (now Longwood University). I never had any money in those days, but I often bought music, anyway. One album I remember purchasing back in the day was by the great Vince Gill. Even though in those days, I wasn’t all that hot on country music, I loved his song “Don’t Let Our Love Start Slippin’ Away”, so I bought the album from where it came– 1992’s I Still Believe in You. I ended up really liking that album and listened to it all the time. I recall that there was a song on it called “No Future in the Past”.

A nice duet between Vince Gill and Alison Krauss. They’re singing “No Future in the Past”.

The lyrics to “No Future in the Past” refer to a love relationship gone wrong. A man is lamenting how his woman left him, and he’s lying in the dark all alone, missing her, and unable to stop ruminating about the love he lost. The chorus goes:

I still remember
How my love once held her
How long do old memories last
Why can’t I forget it
Why can’t I admit it
There ain’t no future in the past

These lyrics suggest that he should just get on with his life, since she’s probably not coming back. Maybe that’s true sometimes, especially when it comes to love relationships. If the breakup is bad enough, the couple will split and never talk to each other again. But in the years since I was a college student, listening to Vince Gill’s plaintive tenor singing about losing love forever, I’ve learned that there’s often a glimpse of the future in the past. It may not be a return to a love relationship, but there are often pearls of information that, if we look hard enough, we can use to gain wisdom for the future.

This post is not about love lost, per se. It’s more about how we can learn from failed relationships of all kinds. One thing I’ve learned, after almost 50 years outside of the womb, is that people often show us who they are. If we pay attention, and take action when it’s warranted, sometimes we can avoid disaster.

Lately, I’ve been writing more about my husband’s ex wife, mainly because I suspect that, once again, she’s up to no good. After a few relatively calm years during which she mainly left Bill’s family alone, she’s boldly re-entered the scene. Last month, Ex and two of her daughters visited Bill’s 71 year old stepmother, who is potentially vulnerable due to losing her husband (Bill’s father) in late 2020. I’ve recently started watching Ex’s activities much more closely on social media, which is a new thing. I didn’t used to look her up at all. Maybe it was my intuition at work, but at some point last year, I decided to see what she was up to. Perhaps it was due to boredom caused by the pandemic lockdowns, or maybe it was just a sixth sense that something bad might be brewing.

At first, Ex’s activities were pretty laughable. But then, I noticed some rather obvious grifting schemes, first directed at celebrities, then crowdfunding, and finally “Ye olde surprise visit” to my SMIL. I can’t confirm it, but I have a feeling that Ex has successfully squeezed SMIL for money. It would make sense, since she deleted the link to the unsuccessful crowdfunding campaign after her visit. Also, she’s done it before, and people tend to do what works.

Bill is conflicted about what to do about this situation. He would really like to forget about his ex wife. For a number of good reasons, he isn’t very close to his stepmother. It’s not his business if she gives his ex wife money. BUT– he does care about his sister, and she is directly and negatively affected by Ex’s presence. Moreover, Ex has a habit of doing sketchy things to get by in life. She really shouldn’t be squeezing her bereaved former stepmother-in-law for cash. Bill doesn’t have a great relationship with his stepmother, but he cares about her as a fellow human being, and he knows that his ex wife is capable of criminal actions. So we’ve been talking a lot about this, discussing what should happen.

As luck would have it, this morning I was reminded of my writings about Erin McCay George, who is currently locked up in my home state of Virginia, serving a 603 year sentence for murdering her husband. I’ve written about Erin a few times, mainly because she went to Longwood, and she was there when I was. People knew Erin when we were at Longwood because she was the very controversial editor of our campus newspaper, The Rotunda. She “spiced up” the paper by publishing the salaries of the faculty members and devoting an entire issue to the topic of sex. She even made headlines by putting condoms in the paper. Some people thought she was awesome. Others thought she was a menace. Years later, after I read the book she wrote about being incarcerated– a book that is being used in a lot of criminal justice courses– I decided to have a look at some of the issues of The Rotunda that were published when she was the editor.

In May 2019, I wrote a blog post called “Foreshadowing trouble”. “Foreshadowing”, as we former and current English majors know, is a literary device in which a writer gives advance warning, or even just a hint, as to what will happen later in a story. Foreshadowing is also a more general term, especially when we look in the past. Sometimes, when we look back on events, we realize that there were warning signs that predicted disaster. In Erin McCay George’s case, it was her habit of allegedly embezzling money from The Rotunda’s coffers. According to people that knew about the incident– folks I knew when I was at Longwood– Erin was caught with her hand in the figurative cookie jar. She skipped town while an investigation was going on regarding the missing funds, journeying to England, where she met her future husband… the man she later killed for insurance money.

It occurs to me that if Erin had been properly dealt with in the 1990s, when she was allegedly embezzling money, maybe she would have gone to prison for that, instead of murder. Maybe she would not have had the opportunity to kill, or to have children who grew up without their parents. As I mentioned in a later post titled “Juicy threads!”, I suspect there might have even been a method to Erin’s madness as the college newspaper chief. Maybe the “spicy articles” were intended to distract people from what she was doing with the newspaper funds. On the other hand, her position as chief didn’t exactly give her a low profile. It’s possible she was just very narcissistic, entitled, and emboldened, and she knew she could get away with her crime. Indeed, it appears that she did get away with stealing from our alma mater. But, if she had been prosecuted in the 1990s, isn’t it possible that she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to commit murder? Obviously, she thought she could get away with that, too.

So… in looking at Erin’s case, and realizing that her very serious crime might have been avoided, I might apply the same wisdom to dealing with Bill’s ex wife. She has shown us who she is on multiple occasions. She has a trusty bag of tricks from which she habitually pulls her best laid plans. She manipulates people for money. Many people from her past have been burned by her, to include a certain university where she was once employed. She was quietly fired… and you might guess for what reason– hint hint… it had to do with her mishandling funds.

I remember years ago, I accidentally came across a news article about her. It was all about her big plans for the future. The story pissed me off, because it implied that she had shown up in Arizona in 2000 with just $3000 to her name, and no support for her, or her three kids (then 12, 9, and 7). There was no mention of the fact that Bill, who was an Army major at the time, was paying her $2550 a month in child support– more than a general officer would have been expected to pay. One of those kids he was supporting wasn’t even his child, and had a father who should have been supporting him. And yet, there Ex was, implying that she’d been left high and dry by the father of her kids. It certainly wasn’t true, and it pissed me off that she was bragging about how, in 2000, she’d pulled herself up by her bootstraps, while my husband (then just my online acquaintance) was barely getting by on $600 a month.

The article also doesn’t mention that she had a boyfriend who had been living in the house in Arkansas Bill bought for her, and for which he was still paying the mortgage. That house later went into foreclosure. Ex had tried to rent it out, but wasn’t cut out to be a landlady. The tenants trashed it and, according to her, actually stole a toilet. I can laugh about that now. Seems almost apropos. Ex was still dating her Dungeons and Dragons partner when she moved to Arizona. He moved out there with her, and they were married in 2002, two months after Bill told her that he was going to propose to me. They have since had two more children. So much for the bullshit about how she was “alone” and unsupported in Arizona. But I guess the truth wasn’t convenient for purposes related to this story. I’ve often wondered if she did this interview so we could see how she became “somebody”… although I’m not so sure the United Way got back much from their investment in her.

I really didn’t mean to find this article when it was new. At the time, I was actually looking for information about traffic stops in the town where Ex was living. Former stepson had, back then, several charges pending about his use of marijuana, and I wanted to know if he might have been caught in a sting. The day I was looking, the paper happened to run this article. I was so incensed by it that, for years, I made a point of not Googling her. I have now come to realize that sometimes it’s a good thing to keep your enemies close.

I think that if Ex would leave Bill’s family alone, I could go back to not paying attention to her. After all, Bill’s daughters are grown, and one of them speaks to Bill. There were a few years during which I cared a lot less about what Ex was doing. But now that Bill’s father has died, Ex has a new potential victim in Bill’s stepmother. While it may not be Bill’s business what Ex and SMIL do, he doesn’t want to see his sister or her wife caught in the crossfire. And again, she did run this crowdfund last month, linking it to her public social media accounts, but then quietly deleted her posts about it after her visit to Tennessee.

As a fan of true crime, I’ve heard and read so many stories about clues that foreshadowed trouble. People tend to want to mind their own business, and that’s not a bad policy most of the time. But when you are involved with someone who habitually does things that are sketchy, it pays to take heed and be proactively protective. So many criminals get away with their bad actions repeatedly until they do something really bad. And then there are real victims. Again, look at Erin McCay George. If she had been properly handled when she was accused of embezzling funds, James George might still be alive today. But too many people would rather turn a blind eye and just get on with life, rather than take the responsibility of prosecuting people when they’ve done something wrong.

So… I don’t agree with Vince Gill that there “ain’t no future in the past.” Sometimes, if you look at the past, you can clearly see what’s in the future. It’s just that we usually aren’t aware of what might happen until it’s too late. We don’t see the signs clearly until we gaze in the past and retrace the steps. When I look in the past regarding Ex and her past actions, I see a familiar pattern… I’ve often felt that the universe gives you chances to learn how to overcome certain issues. You run into those issues repeatedly until you manage to solve them. Well, here she is again… presenting the same problem. Maybe this time, we can do something about it.

Standard
celebrities, nostalgia, TV

Wandering into a Solid Gold time capsule…

When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, music shows were all the rage. I watched a lot of them, mainly because my sisters did, but the show that I liked best was Solid Gold. This musical variety show had a bona-fide star as its host– Dionne Warwick, Marilyn McCoo, Andy Gibb, Grant Goodeve, or Rex Smith– and a weekly countdown. There would be an array of musical guests, many of whom would lip sync to their hits, and a duet starring the host and a musical guest, which was performed live. They had “man on the street” segments, which would show off the singing or lip syncing talents, or lack thereof, of everyday people on the street. And, at least in the early years, there would be comedy. All of it was accompanied by hyper-sexual dancing by the Solid Gold Dancers, led by the highly exotic and erotic Darcel Leonard Wynne.

How do I remember all of this? Well, I was a fairly regular viewer back in the day. But I also remember it because I binge watched a bunch of episodes yesterday. Someone uploaded several of the earliest episodes of Solid Gold, and in a few cases, even left the ads in circa 1980 and 1981. I found myself falling down the nostalgia time shaft as I watched these videos, remember when I was still a child in the early 80s. I never stopped listening to a lot of the music from that era, so that was less of a shock than the ads were.

I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with the past. Maybe it’s because I wish I could do it over. There are other choices I would have made if I had known what would lie ahead for me. But I think I also like looking at the past because I genuinely enjoyed the music of that time period… and the fact that you could have a variety show that featured acts as diverse as Pure Prairie League (featuring Vince Gill), Glen Campbell, and The Rolling Stones! In fact, radio wasn’t unlike that back in the day. You could tune in to your favorite pop station and hear something by a band like Exile, which had sort of a country flair, and then hear Earth, Wind, & Fire or Led Zeppelin.

Since I have wildly diverse musical tastes, that kind of random characteristic of early media appealed to me very much. I miss it now, especially since independent TV and radio stations are now pretty rare. The person who uploaded the Solid Gold episodes lived in the Rochester, New York area, so the ads and PSAs were relevant to that area. But they also ran some pretty awesome early ads for jeans and person hygiene products. I felt both really old watching them, and young, as I remember how young I was in 1980 and 1981. There were poignant moments, too. Like, for instance, this song performed by the late Harry Chapin in a March 1981 episode…

As Harry Chapin introduces this song, he tells everyone that as a 38 year old, he’d already lived a quarter of his life. As it turned out, he was actually nearing the end of his life. He died on July 16, 1981. He speaks about others who died, too. I wonder what Harry would think of the world today.
And this was Harry’s last ever television appearance, which was on Solid Gold. It was taped just two weeks before his death.

I remember watching Stevie Nicks, as she performed live on Solid Gold. She was one of the few guests who performed live, rather than lip syncing and dancing to a recorded version. I seem to recall that she appeared to be a bit coked up for that performance, but who knows?

I always loved this song.

I am so glad someone uploaded those early Solid Gold shows. I had never seen them before yesterday, and they were truly entertaining in a campy kind of way. I forgot how different the early 80s were. We were a lot more innocent and fun back then. Not everything was about political correctness. And you really had no idea what you might see. The episode below had everyone from Rocky Burnette to Bill Cosby, as well as a truly hilarious performance by Cornell Gunter and The Coasters, and a strange dress worn by Stephanie Mills. The 80s were bizarre.

Bill Cosby before he was a jailbird is on this episode.

I think the reason I started watching yesterday, though, was because of the dancers. They popped into my head, even though I can’t dance at all. It was quite a shock to see that three of the former dancers were on a show called Live to Dance back in 2011. They were still pretty hot, despite their somewhat advanced ages.

Dayum! I am especially impressed by Darcel! She was about 60 when she did this.
Speaking of the Solid Gold Dancers… Pam Rossi now has her own dance studio.

It really doesn’t seem like the 80s were that long ago, especially looking at the outfits the dancers wore. To put it in perspective, though, most of what I watched yesterday was from 1981– forty years ago. In 1981, forty years ago would have meant 1941. That was when World War II was in full swing. And come to think of it, I’m sure people in those days thought the world was going to end, too. Somehow, we got through the war and everything that came after it. So I guess we’ll get through these weird times, too. Or, a lot of us will, anyway. I remember when AIDS the scariest thing. Now, it’s COVID-19, and global warming.

Anyway… it was a lot of fun to take a trip on the 1980s time warp. I feel old as hell now. Sometimes, I would like to go back to that era. Then I realize that there were many things back then that I don’t miss. I can always listen to music from the past without revisiting the many traumas of growing up. And watching Solid Gold is definitely a super fun and funny way to revisit the past. It also gives me a convenient topic to write about, other than the other “crap” in the world. God knows, I don’t feel like attracting more hate mail.

On another note, how lovely was Harry Chapin’s last performance! I wish I could have gone to one of his shows. What a wonderful, generous, and heartfelt song… and it was delivered by a man who truly loved and was loved by others. I’m so glad I got to watch it, even as it saddens me that he’s been gone for forty years. If you want to pick any of the videos in this post to watch, that’s the one I think you should watch. Harry Chapin was one in a million, and that last performance really warmed my heart.

Standard
Bill, musings

One night down…

I can’t think of anything earth shattering to write about this morning. I guess the one thing I can say is that I survived the first night of the first TDY in a year. This isn’t anything new for me. Over the past 18 years, I’ve spent a lot of nights alone. Bill has always had to travel for his job. This particular TDY is longer than most, though. He wont’ be back home until March is more than halfway done.

I think we’re both getting tired of these kinds of trips. I was very fortunate as an Army wife, though, since Bill’s one deployment was for just six months. Granted, he spent those six months with a narcissistic jerk of a boss who made his life a living hell, but he made it home in one piece and, more or less, mentally sound. Having grown up with a father who was tormented by PTSD after the Vietnam War, I am very grateful Bill isn’t similarly afflicted.

I probably wouldn’t be so bitchy about it this year if we hadn’t spent the last several months locked down. In previous years, we’ve been able to go on vacations or even just out to eat. Or we could plan something for the future. The current lockdown is set to expire on March 7, but Angela Merkel is talking about extending it even longer. People are getting PISSED, too. Businesses are suffering, and some are wondering how they will be able to keep afloat. Germans are generally very law abiding and cooperative, but even they have their limits.

Bill was allowed to travel because he’s on business. No doubt, the people who run the little hotel where he’s staying are happy for three weeks of revenue. However, Bill did tell me that last night, he had to wait for the proprietor to arrive and unlock the hotel. When Bill put on a mask, the guy shook his said it was “okay” because he’s already had COVID-19. Um… I’m not so sure that means he’s not still at risk. I did have a chuckle, though, since it just goes to show that even the notoriously anal retentive law abiders of Deutschland will still bend the rules sometimes.

Vaccine roll out has been extremely slow here, too. This is a rare time when I’m kind of glad to be American, because Bill and I will probably be able to get vaccinated sooner on post than we could on the economy. Bill has already told me he will be dragging me by the hair to get my shot… not that I would refuse it. One positive thing I got from being in the Peace Corps is that I don’t get too upset by needles, as long as no one tries to dig for a vein. I’m usually fine with shots.

Last night, I watched a live stream of Vince Gill and Lyle Lovett. I’m a big fan of both of these guys. I saw Vince play with the Eagles in 2019, and Lyle played Stuttgart in 2009 and we attended that show. It was a great show. Both Lyle and Vince were so normal and it was obvious to me that they’ve been friends a long time. I enjoyed the stories they shared and the songs, some of which were ones I hadn’t heard. Vince did one song that was a tribute to John Prine. I loved it. I don’t think he’s released it yet, but it was very witty and kind of poignant… the perfect tribute, really. John Prine was such a gifted songwriter.

I don’t play with quite this much style yet, but I’m getting better by the week.

What was especially cool, though, was the effect watching had on me. At the end of the streaming session, they played “If I Needed You” by Townes Van Zandt. Next thing I knew, I grabbed my guitar and joined them. I went to Chordify, figured out the easiest way to play (using a capo on the 6th or 8th frets), and played along. I did well enough that I might be ready to record it sometime soon. Maybe that will be my goal before Bill comes home next month. That, and finishing reading my latest book. It’s time for a fresh review.

Bill was sad to leave yesterday. I think Arran knew he was going. I got a few photos of them before Bill had to go. Yes, there were tears. Bill made me lunch before he went and had a few tears in his eyes before he kissed me goodbye. I don’t know what I did to deserve such a kind and loving man for my husband and life partner. But you can see why I really miss him when he’s not here. He’s the best. Arran sure loves him. Noyzi is slowly coming around.

I did tell Bill I hope he’ll do what he can to bolster his cybersecurity skills. He earned a second master’s degree in cybersecurity a few years ago, but he hasn’t had a chance to put it to use. It’s a hot field, and perhaps working in cybersecurity might help curb the lengthy separations that exercise planning requires. Granted, he’s in a niche field now, and has good job security, but there’s more to life than money. After 18 years of this, I think we’re both a bit tired.

Edited to add… I was inspired to make a video.

Standard
mental health, music

Pretty soon, I’ll be busting out some guitar songs…

This morning, I got a beautiful instrumental hymn stuck in my head, performed on guitar by Amy Grant and Vince Gill. I hadn’t heard it in a long time, but it’s one of those pieces I never get tired of listening to, even though I am not a particularly religious person at all. It’s just so pretty…

I first heard this version on Napster, of all things… years ago!

I downloaded the album this song came from, and every once in awhile, I decide I want to hear it. This morning, it was on the brain, so I played it. Then I looked at my guitar and wondered if I could play along…

I could have tried to figure out the chords myself, but I was in a lazy mood. I ended up on a site called Chordify, which had a very useful moving chord chart that scrolled as it also played the official recording of this song. Before I knew it, I had picked up my pretty blue guitar and was playing along quite well. I messed up in a couple of places, particularly with the Em7 chord, which is a new one for me. But sure as shit stinks, it sounded pretty damned good, if I do say so myself. I think if I practiced it a couple more times, I could probably play it quite passably… at least the rhythm part. And I could work on the riff, which is probably Vince’s work. I ended up subscribing to Chordify, because it’s a really cool tool.

The COVID-19 pandemic has mostly been a drag, but there have been some unexpected gifts, like finally learning guitar. For instance, Noyzi the rescue dog continues to bring us joy. I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time with Bill, and we still get along beautifully. I finally caught up on all the episodes of Glee and even discovered a few other series I probably never would have bothered with if not for the lockdown. Reading books is slower than usual, mainly because I fall asleep when I try to read and my eyes are not as good as they once were. I really need to visit the eye doctor for a new prescription. I think it’s time for bifocals. It’s also time for a dental cleaning.

I’ve been feeling kind of nervous and grumpy about a lot of things lately, but sometimes things get put in perspective when I get smacked in the face with reality. Every once in awhile, I watch a YouTube channel run by a mortician named Caitlin Doughty who lives in Los Angeles. She has a channel called Ask a Mortician, which is quirky and often very funny and informative. I don’t watch her channel religiously– I’m more of a casual viewer, I guess. But I happened to catch her most recent video, which really touched me. She presented the perspective of what it’s like to be a mortician in L.A. during the pandemic, particularly after the holidays. A lot of people decided to throw caution to the winds and see their friends and families. Sadly, that led to many people contracting COVID-19, getting very sick, and dying.

Well worth watching, especially if your patience is growing thin. I like this channel during less dire times, too. Caitlin is very cool and so interesting!

And now, Caitlin and her mortician colleagues are overwhelmed with business… and lots of people are finding out what it’s like to have a dead body waiting to be processed. At one point in this video, Caitlin is on the verge of tears as she describes the frustration and agony of having to deal with the constant and ever growing backlog of death, as well as the friends and family members who are left hanging when someone dies of COVID-19.

I have never not taken this pandemic seriously. In my case, it’s meant mostly staying in my house and trying not to go stir crazy. I haven’t been to downtown Wiesbaden in many months. I don’t even remember the last time Bill and I were there. I bitch about the face masks because I hate them, but make no mistake, this is a very real illness and a lot of people are not going to see the other side of the pandemic. So I sit here and hope for the best… and try to make the best out of this very strange time. I realize I’m very lucky because I’m in a living situation that allows for this. I probably have Bill to thank for it, too. If we weren’t together, I would probably not be able to hunker down so well.

Today, that means exploring Chordify, which turns out to be a really cool tool for learning songs. If you pay for a subscription, which at this writing is less than 36 euros for a year, you get access to tools that show you the easiest ways to play. In my case, that means extensive use of the capo until I get better at barre chords. I do need to practice them more, by the way. But considering the fact that I have learned just about everything I know from Fender Play, I feel pretty okay about my progress since last May, when I first started this journey. And maybe before too long, I might even make a video featuring myself on vocals AND guitar. In any case, it’s probably about time I popped the guitar video cherry. Maybe sometime soon.

Standard