We Liked Ken
We blew into Murfreesboro and stopped at my Mother and Ken’s house. A bit of history. Mom’s second husband, Denis, had finally moved on, leaving her in considerable debt. Yet, she was an incredibly strong-spirited woman and pulled herself up and out of trouble. She eventually dated a widowed old friend, and they hit it off and married. Ken was a kindly gentleman and my mother’s third husband. Mom finally got a good one!
The house on College Street was a beautiful beige brick and stucco two-story home with a covered front porch and a trellis that continued around one corner of the house. It stopped under the window that was once my room. I had spent my troublesome teenage years escaping my father out that window onto the trellis with a short drop down to the porch. From there, I made my way to one of several other destinations.
A bit of personal history
Later, I returned to live at Mom’s house with my wife and children after the disastrous loss of our tiny home on Spring Street. I won’t go into the sordid details, but, in essence, it was the end of our marriage. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back, etc. Mom graciously offered that we could stay at her house while we tried to put something back together.
I had made the best personal use of the house by exploring the abandoned basement. The abandoned basement became my “Man Cave.” Although there were plenty of cobwebs, I also found all kinds of goodies like the old stereo, some chairs, and some forgotten bottles of wine buried in the old coal chute. I also found an assortment of fluorescent lights.
While I made one little corner reasonably comfortable, I kept the rest as cluttered as possible. This space allowed me to ‘carve out’ some small rooms where I put up black plastic so no light would escape. I bought some drier venting and a couple of small fans and vented up the old chimney. If you haven’t guessed by now, I should tell you I was building three small grow rooms in my mother’s basement. The three rooms comprised a nursery, a growing cycle, and a flowering cycle. It was successful and kept me well supplied without having to buy any! Much safer. It was an excellent hobby.
“What is that smell?”
Once, while my wife and kids were living there, Mom and I were in the living room, and my mother suddenly dropped to her hands and knees and began sniffing. “What is that smell? Is there some animal that has gotten into the house?” I told her I would take a look. It happened she was right above the flowering section of the rooms. One of the fans had quit working. I quickly replaced it.
Throughout the entire run of the operation, NOBODY knew of its existence, not even her second husband at the time, Denis, who was also an avid smoker. Unfortunately, I was remiss in dismantling it when I eventually moved to Nashville. But that was long ago, and now Donna and I were visiting Mom and Ken.
At The House
We parked the van on the street in front of the house so we wouldn’t block their cars in the driveway. Mom’s piano was in the “music room” in the front of the house. It had been a while since I had the opportunity to play, so I sat down at it and did so for an hour or more.
The fingers recalled all the songs I had composed and relegated them to memory. I felt that this was the moment to record them, so I found my old multitrack cassette recorder and placed microphones around the piano to find the best tones. I would play a little, listen back, move them, play a little, listen, etc. Eventually, I found the best spots and prepared to record.
As I would start the recorder and play, someone rang the doorbell. A friend of my mother’s coming to drop something off for her. Okay, I resettled at the piano and began playing my compositions. The next-door neighbor’s dog began to bark. Various noises and interruptions seemed to plague me as I attempted to record. A phone call, a large truck was passing on a street that never gets large trucks, and an ecstatic cheer from the kitchen as their team scored another goal on tv.
It absorbs all the everyday sounds we block out, paying no attention to them until we seek ‘complete silence.’ Eventually, I found that hour when the day slows down, work is paused, and people are occupied with quiet activities. The moment had finally arrived. Lunch. I played the repertoire of my compositions a couple of times. I picked out about half an hour’s worth that would take up one side of the cassette.
I then got to work recording the other 30 minutes of songs that would take up the other side. For these songs, I already had a head start. I had a little sequencer by Yamaha, a QY-20, that I had been working with as we traveled. It was about the size of a hard-bound book and could program up to eight tracks of instruments. Most of the backing tracks were ready. I needed to add guitar and vocals, so I got to work with that in mind.
After a day or two, I had everything mixed the best I could. Deciding to call it “Living the Good Life,” I made a cover for cassettes and photocopied a quantity which we cut out. We bought a “boombox” that would record tape to tape and went into the production of 10 to 20 cassettes. We could make more later as needed.
Can You Imagine?
While Donna and I were there, my sister also visited the house. While the four of us were in the living room, Mom turned to me and said, “You will never believe what Denis did!” Curious, I asked what he had done. “He had three marijuana grow rooms in the basement of this house! Can you imagine!”
“I’m shocked,” I said. “Who would have guessed?”
I later confessed… to Donna. Mom never knew it was me, and I guess if my sister reads this, she will laugh or be very pissed at me.
The Wages of Sin
A couple of other things happened while we parked in front of mom’s house. The Preacher man who lived next door had put a sign up in his front yard: “The wages of SIN is DEATH!” Trickster and deviant that I can sometimes be couldn’t help myself. I measured the space it would take to cover the last word, conveniently by itself under the rest of the phrase.
I then printed up a little something to place over that word. In the early morning light, I set my addition which made the sign read, “The wages of SIN is $19.99”, and went back to bed giggling at my prank. If anybody noticed it in the first days, I wouldn’t know, but someone eventually removed the sign some days later.
Another thing was that moment when my mom came out to the van where we slept and knocked on the window. She recounted her conversation with her friend who had asked her. “What if they get killed out there traveling in strange places?” My mother had replied, “At least they’ll die doing what they want.” I was so proud she came to accept our life choice.