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Averyell A. Kessler

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Shake, Rattle and Roll©Averyell A. KesslerThe sky was still December dark when my alarm clock rattled loud enough to shake teeth out of a corpse. Daylight was a long way off but I had an early class in Allen Hall, an ancient building facing the quadrangle at LSU. I rolled out of bed, stepping quietly to avoid waking my roommate and padded downstairs to the kitchen of my sorority house searching for coffee. When I entered the kitchen, our cook, Alma, was crying. She was an interesting lady and music lover who’d won a skinny legs contest at a Jimmy Hendrix/ Joe Tex concert.“What’s wrong,” I asked.“The king is dead,” Alma sniveled, dabbling her eyes with a tissue.“Elvis?”“Otis Redding,” she answered. “Plane crash last night.”“Oh, no,” I said. “His music is great.” We spent thirty minutes drinking coffee and talking about These Arms of Mine and Try a Little Tenderness.I remembered Otis this week when a strange item popped up on my laptop. It read “Wondering why young people are so angry these days? It’s because their music is $%#%!” Many folks don’t agree, but old time rock and roll still soothes my soul. Our music magic began with a revolution organized by Elvis and Buddy Holly, blessed by the doo-wop guys, and honed to a fine art by Mick Jagger, The Beach Boys, and James Brown. If you want to talk country music, I’ll toss in Charlie Pride’s Kiss an Angel Good Morning and Patsy Cline Walkin’ after Midnight.My music addiction started early when I realized something new was bubbling on the horizon. Big band swing and The Hit Parade were fading because no one cared what was behind The Green Door, or how much That Doggy in the Window cost. Daddy had already refused to listen the Rock Around the Clock, and snapped off Elvis singing Hound Dog on The Ed Sullivan Show. Even though Ed had only shown the upper half of Elvis’ body, rumors of his undulating hips caused community outrage. Suddenly, Joey Dee and the Starlighters burst into view with the Peppermint Twist. Anyone who’d hula hooped in childhood intuitively knew how to twist. Chubby Checker had a hand in it too – Come on baby, let’s do the twist. This was the ideal ice breaker for young teenagers wading into the frightening waters of a boy/girl parties. It was a perfect sing-along, required no body contact, and wore us out in short order – a chaperone’s dream come true. I made a short -lived effort to teach my mother the twist, but she was accustomed to Glen Miller’s big band and never got the hang of it.Then Murrah High School – a joyous mix of blossoming hormones, semi adulthood, the prom, and a sweaty cheek slow dance. We were lulled into romance by Ray Charles, I Can’t Stop Loving You, Percy Sledge crooning When a Man Loves Woman, and the ultimate snuggle up song, Nat King Coles’ When I fall in Love. Whew! If things got too intense, Hey You Get Off My Cloud or Wooly Bully took over. Somehow, we survived.I attended college in South Carolina for one desperate year, just long enough to hear the mellow sound of The Platters, learn to dance the shag, and sing With This Ring in the shower. Although I Can’t Get No Satisfaction was not popular at a women’s college, the Everly Brothers’ When will I Be Loved was well received. The only high point was our Christmas concert and dance when the scheduled performer canceled and the college was forced to hire an unknown substitute. Her name was Dionne Warwick.The next year I arrived at LSU. Party time! I discovered several college hangouts within 5 minutes of campus, all spotlight attractions making it hard to study for exams, compose term papers or arrive bright eyed for a 7:30 AM Botany class on Saturday morning. I learned that fancy heels don’t work well with Soul Man and that cutoff overalls (we called them hog washers) were far more fun. Anything by the Supremes was an instant dance event even if I was in my pajamas at midnight. I tried hard to figure out the mystery lyrics to Louie, Louie, but when that failed, I’d tune my radio to a station featuring Brown Eyed Girl and Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher. Somehow, I survived those years too.With little prodding, I’ll say that the music of my generation was terrific. My folks will not be listening to somnolent elevator music in a senior residence or popping Geritol laced Champagne bubbles with Lawrence Welk. We won’t be singing along with Mitch either. We’ll be moving to Honky Tonk Women, Mustang Sally, and listening to Aretha with the volume set to earthquake level. R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me. Maybe I’ll work in a little Elton John too because I really like Honky Cat. I know that it is possible to hum Proud Mary, as well as Mr. Redding’s greatest Dock on the Bay. I can still dance The Shag, but I’m a little rusty with the Watusi. Perhaps I’ll summon up Sixty Minute Man and see if I’ve still got it.My story is not unique. Most folks can summon up a list of favorites from their growing up years. But we all know when Billy Joe McAllister met the grim reaper, and how to open up our hearts and Let the Sunshine In. So, I’m making plans. Maybe I’ll borrow a T-Bird, blast the radio and cruise to the Hamburger stand. Perhaps Maybelline will drive up in her Coupe de Ville and take me for a ride. Maybe aliens will land at Graceland and return Elvis. One thing’s for sure, while we live, let us live. Sock it to me and shama lama ding doing.

Jeremiah’s Song©Averyell A. KesslerI wrote this several years ago, mainly to see if people would enjoy reading my words. Thanks to those of you who responded to my first post.It started with a tree frog. He was a little fellow with orange toes, bright red eyes, and a tight grip on a wide hydrangea leaf in my son’s backyard. I remembered a favorite song from college and said, “Hello, Jeremiah.” Yes, I know he wasn’t a bullfrog, but he was an instant friend of mine. Although I never understood a single word he said, I’m sure he had a bottle of mighty fine wine hidden in the bushes. I posted these thoughts on FB and began receiving replies from friends, as well as some from folks I didn’t know. They asked for more. The next week I posted The Mimosa Tree, a short, simple story about my childhood delight in climbing a tree in my friend’s front yard. More replies. I was off to the races.This week, I noticed that these first posts have something in common. It’s joy. Jeremiah said it quite clearly, even to the fishes in the deep blue sea. As for the mimosa tree, where else can a child reach out to touch the clouds, pretend to be aboard a pirate ship, or travel to the moon and be home in time for supper.There’s not a lot of joy around these days. The pandemic years have been a bee sting on the tip of my nose, a simmering pot of boiled kale and Brussel Sprouts, and an invisible splinter working its way deep into my index finger. For some, it’s been a dagger in the heart. But joy’s still out there somewhere. I remember it well.Joy was Mama tip toeing into my bedroom before sun-up and whispering, “Wake up, it’s snowing!”It was the rush of relief when I clapped like my hands were on fire and Tinkerbell sprang back to life,Also, Seale Lily’s Purple People eater sundae, as well as a long row of revolving stools, crunchy cones, and the tantalizing aroma of melting chocolate.I remember a smiley faced substitute teacher who canceled the spelling test and replaced it with bingo and a discussion of the latest episode of Spin and Marty.Joy was finding a dime under my pillow instead of a missing front tooth, Riverside pool opening for the summer, fresh salty wind whipping through my hair as the Ship Island Ferry plowed deep into the Gulf’s murky waves.I loved to plunk coins into the drink box at Shady Nook gas station and pull out an icy Orange Crush and a frozen Pay Day.Joy was returning to my Power School classroom with sore arms after holding off aggressive attackers during a game of red rover. And hopping out of the way as a dodge ball whizzed by.Later it was screaming in the stands as the Murrah Mustangs won a close game with fierce delta rival, jumping on the Heidelberg Hotel’s bouncing floor at the prom, and the arrival of my class ring. (Still have it) Staying up all night at a giggly spend the night party. Clutching my diploma on graduation day when the future stepped up, shook my hand, and said, “Come on. Let’s go!”It was a dozen Krystals hot off the griddle, nibbling Shoney’s hot fudge cake while circling the parking lot to see who else was there. A homecoming bonfire on a frosty October night, and listening to Coach Carlisle give a rah-rah speech as cheers echoed across the parking lot.A pineapple soft serve cone at the state fair, a postcard view of sparkling lights from the top bucket of a double Ferris wheel, flying high and fast on a beribboned merry-go-round horse.In college, it was singing “Baby Love” with my Phi Mu soroity sisters, and waving our hands in unison, playing a zinc king washboard in a washtub band, and squeezing into Tiger Stadium on Saturday night. Learning how to peel crawfish, eat a dozen raw, and crack open boiled crabs with a knife handle before polishing off a 64 oz mug of Budweiser. (It took several hours and multiple trips to the bathroom, but I did it) Also, dancing more than I walked.Joy is simpler now, especially as horrible virus years shambles toward a merciful close and disappears into the quicksand of history.For me, it’s summoning up old stories, remembering the ones I’ve forgotten, and discovering a cache of overlooked photographs.It’s baby giggles, receiving a grandchild’s homemade birthday card, and blowing out candles with a 7-year-old. Maybe the dog too.Shirley Horne creamy voice singing Duke Ellington’s best, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, Etta James’ At Last, and cranking up The Mississippi Mass Choir until the floor shakes.A rare and widely spaced lunch with friends, an unexpected message from buddies in Lake Charles telling me they’re safe after a hurricane, a good friend receiving an encouraging diagnosis. Somebody calling just to hear my voice. And always, posts from my readers saying I made them laugh. Or sometimes, cry.So little frog friend, thinking about you brings me joy. Thanks to your bright red eyes, I write all the time now and enjoy every minute. You encouraged me to be a high life flyer and a rainbow rider. I’ll never reach the status of straight-shootin’ son-of-a gun, but who cares? Peace is the inseparable partner of joy. I hope both return soon. When raucous voices fade, quiet takes control and anger vanishes like fog at sunrise, we’ll sing again.Joy to the world,All the boys and girls,Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea,Joy to you and me.Joy to the World, Three Dog Night

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