ROAD TRIP

Music For The Highway, by Rich Paschall

Did you skip vacation this year?  Flying to your destination may have seemed like a scary choice. With increased crowds, traveling through airports and on airplanes may not seem as safe as pre-pandemic. Perhaps you should opt for a road trip instead. There is still time and the fall colors await you. Are you ready to “See the USA in your Chevrolet?”

When I first became friends with my favorite French guy, who was here on a business internship, we took some road trips to see America.  We would gather up our favorite CDs for the highway and head off in musical style.  In subsequent years he has returned for even more adventure.  You probably plug your phone into a USB port and listen to a playlist.  I guess we are just old-fashioned.

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Photo Credit: Marilyn Armstrong

Among my friend’s favorite American songs was a tune by America (the band), A Horse With No Name.  He knew it well before he arrived here, and I happened to own America’s Greatest Hits.  I thought it interesting a young French guy knew this 1970s song.  We had an odd collection between the two of us each time we headed out, but America was always included.  Certain songs now go with those great highway memories.

You may have your favorites.  Perhaps you and your friends have all taken parts for Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.  Maybe you have other sing-along tunes.  There are so many individual tastes for what might make good road music, that you would think I could not come up with a top ten.  Ha!

Indeed it was difficult to settle on a list but I finally had to narrow down this favorite grouping to songs that mention roads, streets, highways, or cars.  We’ll save the other up-tempo tunes for another time.

It’s just like Summertime and The Heat Is On.  Hop in your Little Red Corvette, 409, or Little Deuce Coupe and Shut Up and Drive.  Whether you are cruising down Electric Avenue or traveling the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, just stay On The Sunny Side Of The Street and you will soon be able to say I’ve Been Everywhere and I Get Around.  No need to sing the Basin Street Blues, we have your road tunes.

10.  Route 66.  There was a popular song, recorded by many, named (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, but the television series did not want to pay for it and commissioned another.  I picked the Nelson Riddle instrumental.

09.  Penny Lane.  Yes, the Beatles hit is in my ears and in my eyes.

08.  Takin’ It To The Streets.  The Doobies Brothers, 1976. Michael McDonald wrote it and was the lead singer.

07.  Drive My Car.  Yes, it is another one by the Beatles.  They’ve got the Beat, you’ve got the car.

06.  Rockin’ Down The Highway.  The Doobie Brothers hit the list again with another high-energy tune.

05.  Lake Shore Drive.  “There ain’t no road just like it, anywhere I’ve found.”  “Just slippin’ on by on LSD, Friday night trouble bound.”

04.  On The Road Again.  You can’t hit the road without Willie.

03.  Radar Love.  OK, it does not have a road or car in the title, but it is unmistakably a road tune.

02  Ventura Highway.  This America tune is among the ones I always heard on the road with my best friend.

01.  Take Me Home, Country Roads.  This John Denver composition is one of the great sing-along songs.  I think I sang it once or twice or…

Click on any title above or listen to all of them on my playlist here: Road Music.

You might also need our summer tunes playlist:  The Summer Wind.

A version of this article appeared last year on SERENDIPITY.  

AT THIS MOMENT

Karaoke Night, by Rich Paschall

From the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, we spent a lot of time in adult drinking establishments singing various tunes to varying degrees of success. You did not have to be any good at it. You just had to have enough nerve to get up and sing out loud. The truth is, of course, that most people are not listening to you anyway.  They are having conversations with their friends and ordering another round of whatever is making them loud and somewhat obnoxious at their tables or at the bar. It is a lot easier when you realize that few if any are listening or even care what you are singing.

The first song I attempted was Born To Be Wild if my memory serves me at all after all these years of belting out songs I thought I knew. I had heard others do the song. I knew it was rather easy and within my limited vocal range. So I did it a number of times before I had the courage to move on to song number two.

We were friends with a guy who did Karaoke at a local bar. There were nights when I took over for him, either because he was busy that night or because he would rather sing and drink. Since I sometimes had to fill the gaps early in the evening when there were no singers, I learned to do a few other songs.  And remember, no one was listening anyway.

One of the girls who frequented the place wanted to do a duet. We settled on “You’re The One That I Want” from Grease. Nope, I can not sing it that high. Do I look like John Travolta? We did learn, however, that you can adjust the key on those old karaoke machines, so we drop it down 3 steps, and we both sounded a lot better.

After I had been helping out the karaoke host for a few months, a woman who tended bar on occasion asked me to sing “At This Moment.” I told her I didn’t know it. In fact, I thought I had never heard it before. She told me I should learn it. She was quite serious. Since she was bigger and tougher than I, it seemed like learning the song would be a prudent thing to do. The next time I saw her at the bar she handed me a cassette tape. She had recorded the song back to back so I would listen to it two times in a row each time I put the tape on. It was the only thing on the tape. I learned the song.

As time went on I learned a variety of other songs. There were a few I had in mind for those that wanted to do karaoke with me. It was a strange experience to have people I didn’t know ask me to sing with them, and some could not carry a tune if we put it in a bucket for them with a large handle attached. But I was always a good host and tried to team up a couple of mediocre singers so I would not have to join the fray. Besides, I thought I was creating friendships. If you want to practice, I have the karaoke version of the next song hereYou supply the vocal. If that’s too much, here it is with vocal:

We had our “go-to” duets and we also had our group songs for those who wanted to drag up their friends but didn’t know what to sing. “Bohemian Rhapsody” was not one of my choices, although many chose to kill it anyway. Instead of that, I would suggest certain Beatles tunes and this one was always popular:

There was a Frank Sinatra song or two I would like to sing if I got the chance, and someone else did not beat me to it.  “Something Stupid” was a good duet if someone actually knew the Nancy Sinatra part. I liked “Strangers In The Night” but I could never do it well. This one was better (and easier) for me to sing:

Some nights we were busy and I did not get to sing much, if at all. Sometimes I got the chance to entertain myself a lot. When the opportunity presented itself, I would close the show with “For The Good Times,” and they were good times.

Enjoy the music above and don’t forget to sing along, nice and loud.

This post originally appeared on SERENDIPITY (teepee12.com) here.

WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS – Rich Paschall

A Return to France, by Rich Paschall

When you have been to Paris, you will likely hope that you can return someday. It is just a little sprinkle of magic that the city puts upon tourists and part-timers. There are no cities in America with old neighborhoods that somehow retain their special ambiance like the ones in the City of Lights.  I had been to Paris before. Recently we returned again.

Now for a little moment of truth. Since my ultimate destination was Strasbourg, I would have been tempted to go via Frankfurt as I had done the year before. However, my young friends wished to go to Paris. One had been there with me before. For the other, it was a new adventure. How could I say no?

Return to Paris

When traveling there are a number of sites you can use to book your airline tickets. It is wise to shop around. The old rules about when to buy just do not apply anymore. Airlines are using sophisticated algorithms to price tickets.  Prices are not changing every Tuesday as the old advice believed. Now they can change daily, even more often in some cases.

We were going to use low-cost passes for the trip, but with two weeks to go, I decided it was too risky. I purchased round trip tickets for a direct flight from Chicago to Paris.  I used Skybooker.com. I also had a comparable offer from ASAP Tickets. Airlines are willing to discount if they feel they can not sell 80 percent of the seats. Empty seats are lost revenue. The plane is going anyway so they want to get what they can. Our flight had a few empty seats.

When we arrived at Charles DeGaulle airport in Paris we took the train from the airport station to Gare du Nord in the city. The train does leave from the airport, but trust me. It is a LONG walk to the train once you get your luggage.

Gare du Nord

For the convenience of our brief stop in Paris, we took a hotel near the train station. This meant we could walk to the hotel once we arrived. If you plan it well, you can also be near another major station, Gare de l’Est. This is important for the next part of the adventure.

If your stay in Paris is brief, where would you go? My friends felt there was only one stop for a night in Paris. We headed to a nearby Metro station and took the train to the Eifel Tower. We found a nearby plaza and the view that many picture takers had located before. You have certainly seen such pictures, but it is a much grander site when you take it in with your own eyes.

Eifel Tower

We were present for one of the sparkling light displays that you can see at night. That was something they did not have the first time I was in Paris. In fact, many things had changed. Now the streets are filled with sidewalk vendors trying to sell a variety of trinkets. Most of them have miniature (and cheap) Eifel Towers. Some even light up. They must be selling well for so many vendors to be lining the streets on a rather cool evening.

The other surprise was the plaza where the Tower is located. When I was there about 15 years earlier, the plaza was open. Now it is closed off by what I would take to be bulletproof glass. There are limited entrances where you will go through metal detectors to go in. I guess that is a sign of the times.

We Also Have Strasbourg

After a night in Paris, it was a short walk to Gare de l’Est for a trip to Strasbourg. I purchased and printed our Rail Europe tickets before we left Chicago. The nonstop train is popular and we did not want to get shut out. If you avoid going in the height of Rush Hour, you can get your tickets for a few euros less.

Gare de Strasbourg

In front of the train station is the tram stop. From there you can go just about anywhere in the city. Our next stop was actually the suburb of Illkirch right alongside the city to the southwest.  In Illkirch we made our first ever arrangements at an Airbnb. Our host met us at the train station so we would not get lost on a very short trip to the apartment. The large apartment had two nice bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, a modern kitchen, and a large living room. Apartment City in Strasbourg would have been more expensive for a small place and for a hotel… Well, let’s just say this was the best choice. We bought provisions at the nearby supermarket and hosted our own wine and cheese party. My friend from Selestat, France joined us for a mini-vacation in the city.

If the Eiffel Tower is the must-see stop in Paris, the Cathedral Notre Dame de Strasbourg is the place in Alsace. We took the tram back to the closest stop at Place Kleber and wandered over to the magnificent Cathedral.

Place Kleber

When you have reached the plaza, you just have to look up and around to find the cathedral. Then you head off in that direction. If you look behind me to the left, you may spot the statue of French Revolutionary war hero Jean-Baptiste Kléber. Few may realize that he is actually buried below the statue. Well not all of him, his heart is in an urn in a chapel in Paris.  Seriously.

We also visited the neighborhood known as Petite France. Here you will find buildings preserved from the 16th and 17th centuries. Previously it was a neighborhood filled with tanners and millers and other trades of the era. Now it is home to restaurants, shops, and well-restored homes. This historic area of the city has been designated a World Heritage Site.

Petite France

As I have explained before, the reason for travel is to enjoy adventures with friends. It is also to visit with friends. In this case, it was both. For the tenth year in a row, I visited my friend in France. We have been on many adventures together here, in France and other countries. We always believe there will be another adventure soon.

French feast

In case you missed the reference at the beginning:

This post originally appeared on SERENDIPITY.

See also: “A France Vacation,” Sunday Night Blog, rjptalk.wordpress.com, March 8, 2020.
The Grand Est Region“, SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com, October 20,2019.
Alsace Adventure,” SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com, January 6, 2019.
April Love or April Fool?” SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com, April 7, 2019.

LATE LUNCH

With baseball season upon us, I recall the story of old friends and late lunch. This story originally appeared on SERENDIPITY

The Old Ball Team, by Rich Paschall


When they started the monthly get-together it was almost 15 years earlier.  There were a dozen of them then, and two of the “boys” had already retired.  They had all known each other since childhood and were within a few years of one another in age.  They went to the same park as kids and most played on the same teams.

They had decided years ago to meet once a month for dinner, so they could be sure to see one another regularly.  Over the years dinner changed to lunch, as some of them did not want to drive or be out after dark.  The sessions remained as lively as ever.  It seemed none lost their boyhood personalities.

With the passage of time, the group had dwindled in size.  While the first ten years saw no loss of participation, recent years were not kind to the group.  Three had passed away and another three were no longer well enough to attend.  One just seemed to disappear.  No one could ever say what happened to Roger, although a few tried hard to find out.

nationals in DC baseball

The meeting was now on the first Tuesday of the month at 1 o’clock.  Most of the lunch crowd was gone from the Open Flame Restaurant by then and the old guys could sit around and reminisce for as long as they wanted.  Today they wanted to hang on just a little longer.

Raymond had arrived right on time which was his way all through life.  Like the others, Ray was retired now.  Unlike the others, he carried a secret with him he would not tell, even to his best friends.

Bob came with Ray.  He was no longer able to drive and in fact, needed a good deal of help to get in and out of Ray’s car.  Ray always allowed enough time for Bob, so that they could walk slowly together and get in and out of the house, the car, and the restaurant safely.   To Ray, Bob was like a rock, the anchor of the team.  Now Ray was Bob’s rock of support.  There was a certain irony in that, and Bob would never know it.

Frank still worked a little.  It is not really that he wanted to do it, but he could not shake free of some business obligations he had over the years.  He did not need the money and tried to steer any business to someone else.  If you asked, Frank would tell you he was retired.

Bill was always late.  Everyone would have been surprised if he had been on time.  He maintained an active life and was always finding more to do than he had time.  This seemed to keep Bill healthy and robust.  Perhaps he was the only one of the remaining members in such good shape.

Without any doubt at all, Jerry was the talkative one of the bunch.  If others wanted to tell a story or share some news, they had better do it before Jerry showed up.  He was likely to dominate the conversation from the time he arrived until the time the check came.  It was guaranteed that Jerry would tell his favorites stories, although all of these guys knew them just as well as Jerry.  In fact, one or more of them probably participated in whatever episode he was recalling.

At every meeting, Jerry was sure to get around to the championship baseball game.  “What were we Bob, 12 or 13?  What a summer that was!  I remember when Bob dove for that ball in the last inning.  If that got through the infield we were screwed.  Raymond was so damn slow out there in left field.”  They all would laugh, even Ray.

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Usually, the boys would be planning to leave around two, but they told stories and laughed their way past 2:30 in the afternoon.  Finally, Ray called for the check.  Over the objections of the others, Ray paid the bill. They had always split the check evenly.  No one ever paid for everyone, but Ray was a diplomat and a businessman and knew how to get his way.  The matter was settled.

They all made it out into the warm spring day together and stood on the sidewalk for a moment.  Raymond gave them all a long hard look but said nothing.  He knew Bob could not come out any longer.  Bob’s wife had strongly objected to Raymond continuing to take him to lunch.  This would be the last time, for sure.  Raymond was dying of cancer but kept it to himself.  He looked well enough, so the others just did not know.

As the two walked to Raymond’s car nearby, the others said goodbye to Frank.  It seems that Frank’s wife had been insisting that they move to Michigan to be nearer to the kids and grandkids.  Since Frank was the practical one of the group, he also realized it was better to have a safety net of younger people nearby if the need should ever arise.  These old guys may have promised to always be there for one another, but that now came with the heavy reality that it just could not be so.

As Frank wandered off in the other direction, Bill and Jerry stood looking at one another and big, knowing smiles came across their faces.  Nothing more had to be said.  It was all right there before them. Words, tears, hugs would have been out of character.

Finally, Jerry left Bill with the same words he issued for years, “I’ll see you at the next game.  I’ve got the ball and gloves, you bring the bats.”

“OK, Captain,” Bill said and walked away.

HELLO, WE’RE HERE!

There was not much visiting last year, and I don’t guess we will be visiting friends and family any time soon. We certainly have the hope that by summertime we are able to get out and visit. What will you do when friends or family come calling? Be sure to click on “View original post” at the bottom to head over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of these memories.