Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Memories, Part Duce

When I was a kid, I loved to sing. Still do. Did a 2-year stint with the local Interfaith Gospel Choir, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Only problem was we were performing every weekend, Saturday and Sunday, leaving no time for me to spend with my husband.

Since I left the choir, I've stuck to performing at occasional weddings. This past summer I sang at my niece's wedding and it is fair to say I blew my family away. With the exception of my dad, no one had ever heard me before. Interesting predicament for the bride-to-be to not know what her singer was going to sound like, even if the singer was her aunt. But she held her chin high and said,"Even if it's bad, she's family," and she marched on (secretly praying the entire time, I am sure, that I wouldn't totally screw things up). And I am happy to say that I DID NOT screw up, but performed quite a wonderful rendition of Etta James' "At Last." During the singing, my niece (the bride) is looking her dad (my brother), and they're both mouthing to each other, "That's Aunt Leslie?!?!?" Yep, quite a surprise.

Yes, it was the hours upon hours in front of the bedroom mirror, trying desperately to capture the facial and wide-mouthed expressions of Hayley Mills singing as Pollyanna. Or the moody sounds of The Carpenters and Debbie Boone. The hours of listening to Loretta Lynn, Lynn Anderson, Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius, Jim Reeves . . . I was never a rock and roll person. I was the pure definition of Barbara Mandrell's "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool," - - and damn proud of it.

So much incredible influence from all parts of music - Often I wish I had had the balls to pursue music. But the way I was at that time of my life, I would've been eaten up and spit out in less time than it takes to say, "Excuse me, I have an appointment?" BAM! Door would be slammed in the face and that'd be all she wrote.

So I content myself with living room and car singing, the occasional shower singing, and the even less occasional wedding. Hey - Did I tell ya I can belt out a mean National Anthem? I just need a ballgame to prove myself.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


I grew up on the Central Coast of California in the small hamlet of Cambria, nestled in between San Simeon (home of the famous Hearst Castle) to the north, and Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo to the south. It really was a wonderful place to grow up. One of those small towns where crime was unheard of, everybody knew everybody, and you didn't have to worry if your kids wandered off for hours on end. In fact, I remember my mom telling us, "Go outside and don't come for back for a couple of hours!"

We lived "in the woods" and "by the beach" all at the same time. We had great trails we'd made from our back yard straight through the pine trees and down to the beach, which was a couple of miles away (a very long way when you were a kid!). We'd grab our dog, Kraut (like sauerkraut. He was a German Shepherd mix) and head off for hours of exploring, with our only worry being whether or not we'd end up with poison oak.

If you headed off in one direction, within perhaps half a mile you'd end up on the edge of the tree line and on a dead end road, which would lead you back to the main road to our house. There was a house at the end of that dead end, and in order to get back on the main road, you had to enter their property for a few feet. To my recollection, there was nothing strange about it in looks, but for some reason we kids had it in our heads that whoever lived there hated kids, and if we ever caught on the property all hell would break loose.

We'd emerge from the trees and stand, looking across the wide expanse of the dirt driveway/dead end road, watching for any signs of life. Only when we were absolutely certain no one was home would we hit that road at a dead run until we passed through the gate. It was always thrilling. Why we didn't just turn around go back the way we'd come, I don't know. Guess it was the lure of the known.

I don't ever remember seeing anyone out and about on that property, however, I do remember a woman I'd never seen before "suddenly" appearing before me once when I was by myself with Kraut near that property. . . . . But that's a story for another time.