Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (And Whimsy)

Posted on October 18, 2023 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with 2 comments

Old man. New tunes


“Don’t let the old man in, I wanna live some more,

Can’t leave it up to him, he’s knocking at my door,

I knew all of my life, that someday it would end,

Get up and go outside, don’t let the old man in.”

Don’t Let the Old Man in. Toby Keith

My second Camino is in the rear-view mirror. I completed my second trek across Spain at the end of June. The journey is over, but the memories linger. It seems every other day, I receive a message from one of my “Camino family” members – people with whom I shared blisters, stories from the trail and yes, some wonderful Spanish red wine. We came from many different countries as strangers and different walks of life. We departed as friends. On the Camino, you are simply a walker, putting one foot in front of the other trying to make it from St.Jean Pied de Port in southern France to Santiago de Compostela in western Spain – a distance of 800 kilometres.

Besides my close-knit Camino friends, I met many other interesting people along the way. I remember one guy in particular. He was an aging, white haired, ponytailed hippie. And he loved to talk. He had a voice (and a face!) made for radio. It was deep and mellifluous. Unlike a radio, which can be turned off, this chap was loquacious. There was no off button. I’m being very charitable. I bumped into this dude three or four times – three times too many in my estimation. On the fifth encounter, we happened to be eating in the same restaurant and he asked if he could join me. I was trapped.

I listened to him drone on. He was quite self-absorbed. Once again, my charity knew no bounds.  Only a glass of very nice cabernet held near to my lips kept me from screaming. Both of us were in our 70s. When I thought I couldn’t stand it a minute longer, he blurted out, “Len, don’t let the old man in.”

He went on to tell me about a Toby Keith song about aging. My ears perked up. The more I listened, the more the lyrics of the song resonated loud and clear. My patience was rewarded. “But in his final words I found an ace that I could keep.” The Gambler – Kenny Rogers

Last week, a young German friend, Jannis, part of one of my two Camino families, sent me a message with a link to the Willie Nelson version of the Toby Keith song. I took that as my cue to learn the song.

A bit of history. You may not be a big Clint Eastwood fan (I am) but you have to admire his energy and longevity in the movie industry. He’s 93. A few years ago, Clint was playing golf with Toby Keith at Clint’s charity event. “Struck by Eastwood’s relentless energy at an age when many are content to sit and reflect, Keith asked how he (Eastwood) keeps going. “He said, ‘I just get up every morning and go out. And I don’t let the old man in,” Keith recounts. (Music News – Cathy Applefeld Olson).

We can’t slow down the ageing process. As The Outsiders crooned in 1966, “Time Won’t Let Me”. Many of us are trying our darndest to “not let the old man in”. Keeping active physically and mentally will not ward off the aging process but it certainly gives us a fighting chance of having a decent quality of life.

I don’t mean to be morbid or maudlin but from time to time, I go to the graveyard to pay my respects to those who loved us and blazed trails for us. In particular, I acknowledge my parents who passed along the gift of music to their children, their grandchildren and great grandchildren. On Thanksgiving weekend, I did three gigs. Nobody ate more turkey or had more fun than me. The best thing about the gigs was that I was forced to learn some new songs at the request of the folks who hired me. You can teach an old dog new tricks, especially if you bribe him with delicious slices of chocolate and pumpkin pie, each adorned with whipped cream!

There is a section of the graveyard that contains the mortal remains of priests, most of whom taught at our local university. I knew most of them. As a lad, I worked at the pro shop at our golf course and the priests showed up nearly every day at the exact same time. I believe that this was their real sanctuary. I got to know them well and even had a few of them as professors. And now, they are all gone.

As I finish writing this piece, I am getting ready to head out for my daily 90-minute walk. The grim reaper is lurking somewhere in the corner. I can’t outrun or outwalk or outlast him but I’m going to do my very best to “not let the old man in”.

“When he rides up on his horse,

You feel that cold bitter wind,

Look out your window and smile,

Don’t let the old man in.”

Have a great weekend.

P.S. I really like the Willie Nelson version of this song.

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Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (And Whimsy)

Posted on October 11, 2023 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with no comments yet

Still cranking out a few tunes


“And we talked about some old times,

And we drank ourselves some beers,

Still crazy after all these years,

Oh, still crazy, after all these years.”

Still Crazy After All These years. Paul Simon


I just experienced one of the craziest Thanksgiving weekends in recent memory. I had two turkey dinners. Nothing exceptional about that. The leaves started to turn and fell gently to the ground. Fairly normal, I would say. I went for walks and read books, all part of my daily diet. So what, pray tell, made the weekend so unusual?

Those who know me well know that music has been part of my core being. I grew up in a household where live music was a staple, long before the advent of television. It seemed like every weekend, our house was a gathering spot for neighbours and friends.

As a teenager, I played in a band with my brothers. We were called The Escorts. No. Not those kind of escorts! We played at dances at the Parish Centre and at a number of venues on Cape Breton Island, most notably, our regular Saturday gig at the St.Peter’s Hall in Ingonish Beach. I can’t ever remember being so well off financially.

While doing my undergraduate degree, I played with a group called Fungus, an odd name for a band. Our tag line? “We grow on you”!

While working at St.F.X. in the early 80s, I played in a group with Raylene Rankin and (Father) Conrad Edwards. When the Rankin Family became famous, I often joked with Raylene that she got her start with our band called Byrne Abby. God rest her soul.

Fast forward to the present. I know that Mick Jagger has staying power so I’m not about to compare myself to the Stones but recently, I’ve had a renaissance of sorts. On Thanksgiving weekend, I performed at three different functions and have a fourth booked for early November. One was a family Thanksgiving affair; the second was a family reunion and the third, a celebration of life. They were all very different, but I enjoyed them all immensely.

I had to prepare three different set lists so I thought I would do a little quiz today. I will give you one line from some of these songs and your job is to identify the title of the song. Bonus points if you know the writer/performer. I will give you the answers at the end of the piece. No peeking!

Whatever will be, will be.

Oh, you’ll take the high road.

Now the whole damn bus is cheering.

So kiss me and smile for me.

We’d sing and dance forever and a day.

Look at the night, and it don’t seem so lonely.

Oh little did my mother think, when first she cradled me.

Whatever happened, to Tuesday and so slow.

She was afraid to come out in the open.

Runnin’ from the cold up in New England.

He was his father’s only son, his mother’s pride and joy.

So. How did you do?

Here are the answers.

Que Sera

Loch Lomond

Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Those Were the Days

Sweet Caroline

Four Marys

Brown Eyed Girl

Itsy Bitsy Teeneie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini

Wagon Wheel

The Wild Colonial Boy

If you got them all correct there is a good chance that you are a Maritimer and that you’re older than dirt! And of course, a musical genius.

In a few days’ time, I will celebrate my Golden Grad Homecoming at my alma mater, St. Francis Xavier University. I still shake my head to think that it was 50 years ago that I completed my undergraduate degree.

I am sure music will be part of the weekend as it has every single day of my life.

Have a great weekend.

P.S. “This gun’s for hire.” Bruce Springsteen. Are you planning an office party or house party during the Christmas season? I would be happy to join you. From Wilf Carter to Neil Young to The Beatles. Tunes you know and love. We’ll even throw in some Christmas carols. Private message me or drop me an e-mail at

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Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (And Whimsy)

Posted on October 4, 2023 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with one comment





Limping to the finish line


“To everything, turn, turn, turn,

There is a season, turn, turn, turn,

And a time to every purpose under heaven.”

Turn Turn Turn – Pete Seeger

A few random anecdotes about the joys of aging.

I met an old friend at the pumps the other day. We played hockey together in our youth and then lost touch for years when he was away for work. He has been back home for years and had been retired for about 15 years. I am a Catholic and am well aware of the Litany of Saints, often recited at the Easter Vigil. The list of saints has grown over the years and apparently there are now over 3,000 saints. Sadly, I am not on the list and the chances of me becoming a saint are slightly below winning the Power Ball in the United States where over 181 million people play each year.

I digress.

My friend has not enjoyed great health and as we pumped, he intoned his own litany of maladies, starting from the feet and working his way up to the torso and then the head. While I was astonished at the scope of his health issues, his parting words gave me something to think about. “All of my health problems started after I retired.”

Of course, there is some logic to this because retirement is an indicator that one is getting older. But I believe that there is more than just wear and tear and warranty issues that cause older people’s bodies (and minds) to break down. For the vast majority of our lives, from the time we learned to walk, we have had a sense of purpose, no matter how mundane it might be, but especially so during our working years. For many folks, when they’ve punched the time clock for the last time, they no longer have a good reason to get out of bed in the morning. This, I suggest, is not a good thing. Not many weeks go by without us hearing about a neighbour, friend or work colleague whose health has gone south after working their tails off for years.

I am not about to advocate for people to work until they have one foot in the grave. However, retirement planners would be well to discuss with their clients the need to keep active, mentally and physically once they’ve packed it in.

The other day I was chatting with someone I hadn’t seen in years. After talking about the weather and the blue jays (not the birds but the baseball team!), we got around to the favourite topic of seniors: the state of our health. There was a third person present, the proprietor of the business where we happened to meet. We started with the easy stuff like aches and pains and then got down to serious business. This old business acquaintance had suffered a life-threatening heart attack a year ago and nearly gave up the ghost.

Like me, he is now in his 70s. I asked him how he was spending his days in retirement. He informed us that he is in his 7th year of a Bachelor of Arts program at our local university. He takes a few courses a year and hopes to receive his B.A. in a few years’ time. I love hearing these kinds of stories. There is much to be said about lifelong learning. It is good for the mind, the body and the soul.

Having a reason to get out of bed in the morning is a key determinant to health in our golden years.

It’s never too late.

Keep learning…. from the womb to the tomb.

Have a great weekend.

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