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June 27, 2013 8:15 am

The Amend Corner: Scattered clouds, scattered thoughts

Written by Don Amend

I’m a bit too old to be a baby boomer. My birth just a few weeks before D-Day makes me a war baby.

One of the consequences of this situation was that I eventually became big brother to five baby boomers, which, while not a terrible thing, did mean some cultural differences within my immediate family and often these differences involved music.

For example, I never really got Beatle fever back in 1964. I was a sophisticated junior — at least as sophisticated as you can be at UWyo — when they hit “The Ed Sullivan Show.” My musical tastes at the time ranged from the Coasters to the Kingston Trio, and I was hooked on Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers, who had toured the U.S. bringing their repertoire of Irish pub songs to us Yanks.

This last, I admit, was a bit odd, since their Irish songs were mostly about the glories of whiskey and the fun of chasing women, neither of which I, due to my strict Baptist upbringing, was actually involved with. Moreover, while I do have a bit of Irish blood — maybe as much as a quart — that hardly qualifies me as an Irishman. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the music.

By contrast, a couple of my siblings, notably my second brother, were devoted disciples of the Beatles and sometimes took offense at my disdain for the British Invasion, and if they had any use for Irish pub songs, they didn’t show it.

But that doesn’t mean we always disagreed about music. My brother and I both developed an affinity for the songs of Paul Simon and his buddy Art Garfunkel, so we had at least a few notes in common.

One of those songs, “Cloudy,” came to my mind on a recent road trip, when we drove for an entire day under a heavy cloud cover and intermittent rain. I spent the day gazing through the windshield at the clouds, and my polarized glasses turned the generally gray mass into a constantly changing irregular pattern in shades of gray.

For five hours, I contemplated that drab kaleidoscope while my mind wandered through thoughts that, like Simon’s, wandered from Berkeley to Carmel, and from Tolstoy to Tinker Bell. One minute I was solving the world’s problems, the next I was recalling some silly incident from my past, and my thoughts were so scattered that most of them disappeared by the next morning when I began thinking about this column.

The next day was entirely different, featuring a mostly blue sky with big fluffy clouds floating lazily with the wind, and like a kid, I started looking for familiar shapes. There weren’t many. I did see an alligator, a seahorse and a computer mouse, but that’s about it, probably because aging has taken the spontaneity of youth from my imagination.

Had that spontaneity been there, I might have seen a serious image up there, as Linus did in an old Peanuts comic strip. He managed to find a group of clouds that formed the image of the Biblical story of the stoning of Stephen. I was more like Charlie Brown, who saw only a ducky and a horsie.

Ok, when I started this, I had a point, but somewhere along the way, I lost it, so now I have to find a way to wrap this up.

I’ll just say that my musical tastes have become more eclectic over the years, and recently I added the Fab Four to my obscenely large iTunes file. I did it mostly as a reflection of their place in musical history rather than any great love for their music, but I do listen to them from time to time.

I might also mention that my brother took a trip to Ireland a few years ago and spent a lot of time in the pubs. He said he was looking for authentic versions of Irish pub songs, and since he was touring with a choir, I believe him, especially since that’s all he talked about when he told me about his trip.

All of which is to say that, after all this time, the difference between my baby boomer siblings and me moderated considerably, although it probably has not disappeared.

So if you pass my brother’s house, you are more likely to hear John, Paul, George and Ringo, while Irish ballads are more likely to float through my windows.

Either one of might surprise you, though.

That’s my scattered thoughts for this week. I’ll try to get it together next week.

1 Comment

  • Comment Link July 03, 2013 6:10 pm posted by Lorie Swenson

    As the younger sister in the Amend clan, I'd like to weigh in. I was unimpressed in grade school when the Beatles came to the US, but by high school I realized they were the greatest band ever. But I also like Paul Simon. And Joni Mitchell. Two of the greatest singer/songwriters ever.

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