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© Tom Gilbert

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October, 2020

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Helen Jones Woods and the International Sweethearts of Rhythm 

October 29, 2020

Living to 96 is an accomplishment for anyone. Helen Jones Woods passed away recently, another 2020 casualty of COVID-19. But in her passing she leaves a legacy as one strong and independent woman who lived a full life.

In addition to being a member of an all female instrumental swing band, she spent time as a nurse and a teacher's aide. She felt called to help people, such as problem children who often need a lot of love and compassion. She must have been cut out for that job. She self-proclaimed herself "the director of hugs and kisses."

It sounds like she was quite a wonderful woman (The Improbable Life of Helen Jones Woods and the International Sweethearts of Rhythm by Megan Mayhew Bergman, posted to New Yorker Magazine). I love to hear the life stories about people like Helen Jones Woods. It affirms for me once again that many people are living extraordinary lives. And that even in so-called normal lives people can be extraordinary in how they live, full of care for others and using their talents.

Certainly Woods was talented. In the 1930s and 40's she toured with a record-breaking and racially integrated all female swing band. The International Sweethearts of Rhythm was an instrumental group that toured the world. She played trombone and joined the group at the young age of fourteen! The group had members from five different races, a real testimony of diversity creating something greater than the individual parts. They toured extensively and to packed venues. 

The touring was not without challenges. They dealt with discrimination and Woods added working for civil rights to her life resume. An impressive life and one worthy of remembering and taking cues from. The best lead by example and it sounds like Woods did that very well.

Ocean View of a Life Story

October 21, 2020

With all the turbulence this year you can't blame me if I decide to take a look under the surface, an ocean view, as it were, of a life story.

I have come across two interesting tales. One is about a Great White Shark and the other a fascinating octopus.

Researchers came across the big shark, one they dubbed "Queen of the Ocean", off the coast of Nova Scotia. She's quite amazing, estimated at 50 years old, more than 17 feet long and weighing 3,541 pounds.

What they discovered about this massive shark is she is probably a grandmother as her first babies would be easily 30 years old and birthing their own baby sharks. Do NOT start singing the song! If you do it will be stuck in your head for hours - you've been warned.

The ocean scientists have named this Great White Nukumi, a term from the indigenous Mi'kmaq people that translates as "the legendary wise old grandmother figure".

The amazing octopusThe other under the sea creature is the extraordinary octopus. They are truly one of the most unusual and intelligent ocean animals. I watched the Netflix documentary, My Octopus Teacher, and this wonderful story is about a man who lives by the sea and discovers, befriends and follows an octopus every day for a year. It was a heartwarming and informative story that I recommend.

Learning about the lives of other inhabitants of our planet besides humans should make us better aware of our humanity and our place in the world. We can learn about ourselves by learning about them.

Grand Time to Visit Grand Canyon

October 15, 2020
The Grand Canyon is a grand site
Here in New Mexico we have great weather typically in October. That's true as well for Northern Arizona which is similar in a lot of ways to the Land of Enchantment. The elevation and dry desert climate make for pleasant temperatures, not the great heat you might have during summer.

The Grand Canyon in Arizona is one of the great sights and wonders of the world. It is immense and truly beautiful. Such a popular destination for tourists means you should plan carefully. During this season of the coronavirus there are more restrictions, of course. But you can still go. Check the government site to know more.

To know the best times to visit, the best places to camp, and a wide amount of great information if you would like to camp at the Grand Canyon you need look no further than The Camper's Complete Guide to Grand Canyon Camping,  posted to OutsideHow. There is an incredible amount of useful information put together by the writer Brian, who is using his Bachelor's degree in Exercise and Sport Medicine.

My memories of visiting the Grand Canyon have stayed with me. The first time I was a college student on a road trip. My friend and I watched the sunrise from the South Rim and it was spectacular.

There are many amazing natural wonders that need to be seen in person. If you get the opportunity don't miss out on a visit to one of the grandest places on Earth!

John Lennon at 80

October 9, 2020

John Lennon would have been 80Today is John Lennon's birthday. The singer, songwriter, member of the Fab Four (Beatles) and peace activist, had he lived would be 80 today.

All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

I can't say what John Lennon would be doing today if he was still around. But I do know that remembering his music and the message he gave us with lines from songs like, "Give Peace a Chance" still matter. They matter to me - hopefully to you as well.

Lennon was a human being. That means he had his good points and his flaws. Just like we all do. But with all his fame and money he did choose to promote a message of peace and love. Man, we definitely need more of that.

Musicologist and radio program creator Paul Ingles (Good Radio Shows) has a music program he produced that is well worth listening to on Lennon's birthday. 11 from John Lennon: An Appreciation Hour has songs and commentary. I listened to it on my morning walk and recommend it.

Eddie Van Halen, Rock Guitar Legend, Gave His Son the Gift of Music

October 6, 2020
Rock guitar legend Eddie Van Halen has died
During my many years working at rock radio stations there were countless times I played Van Halen songs. I played them loud, blasting the music through the studio speakers and quite often doing some air guitar. Van Halen was one of the biggest rock groups of the 1980's into the 2000's. Lead guitarist Eddie Van Halen was a driving force in the band. Ed could shred!

Eddie Van Halen lost his battle with cancer today. 65 is considered elderly for rock n' roll. It's typically a young person's world. But as we've seen with many others, you can keep the rock spirit alive long past your twenties and thirties.The words his son said about him speak a great deal to how much he treasured his father's gift of music (more on that below).

There are plenty of tributes online already. I usually turn to Rolling Stone Magazine when I hear news about prominent rockers. The article speaks a great deal about Eddie Van Halen's virtuosity on the electric guitar. There is also plenty of interesting material about his past, the band, and the era that he reigned as one of the premiere guitar shredders.

For this site that focuses on life story and legacy what I found most moving was the words his son said about his father. Wolfgang Van Halen got a great gift - the gift of a loving father and music mentor - and he even toured with Van Halen on bass for a time.

Wolfgang, the son, said of Eddie, the father: "He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I shared with him on and off stage was a gift. My heart is broken and I don't think I'll ever fully recover from this loss."

It is tough to lose our parents and loved ones. I have a feeling that Wolfgang Van Halen will help carry the legacy of his father forward through the years. A painful loss, but it sounds like Eddie Van Halen made quite a contribution above and beyond the music.

Everybody has a story to tell!
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