Monday, July 8, 2019

Story Songs: Covering Summertime Blues

Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" spoke to lots of kids back in the late 1950s and later on through notable covers of the song.

It's a song of teenage angst, albeit humorous as one grows older, in dealing with the pressing issue of finding time to see a girlfriend while having to work.  

And each stanza ends with:

"Sometimes I wonder what I'm a-gonna do
"But there ain't no cure for the summertime blues."

The tune, penned by Cochran and Jerry Capehart, reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1958. 

I've always preferred Cochran's version, as I do with most originals, but there have been several notable covers through the years that have turned the song into a timeless classic.

Here are my favorites:

Blue Cheer, a San Francisco trio, recorded a thunderous version in 1968, hitting No. 14 on the charts. A few folks consider it the birth of heavy metal.

The Who took the song to No. 27 with its rousing rendition from its classic "Live at Leeds" album.

Country legend Alan Jackson provided a catchy twangy version to the song in 1994, which topped the Billboard Country chart.

And Canadian rockers Rush included the song in its "EP Feedback" CD in 2004. Simply powerful.

A diverse group of others who've performed and/or recorded the song includes The Rolling Stones, Little River Band, Bruce Springsteen, The Black Keys, T. Rex, Joan Jeff, Guitar Wolf, Stray Cats, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Chester, Olivia Newton-John, Van Halen, Buck Owens, Dick Dale, Bobby Vee, and Alvin and the Chipmunks. And I'm sure many more through the years.

As for Cochran, he scored another Top 40 hit with "C'mon Everybody," released in Oct. 1958 and reaching 35.  Sadly, Cochran died in a car accident in Chippenham, England, on April 17, 1960, at the tender age of 21.

Until the next time . . .

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Stray Canines and Felines of Greece

During my recent trip to Greece, I was amazed at the number of dogs and cats populating the tourist sites.

At a monastery in Meteora

From the Acropolis in Athens to the oracle of Delphi to the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, they were everywhere. Not especially in packs or large numbers, but still at the entrances, along trails, and on ancient ruins. They didn't bother anyone and seemed to have adapted to their new homes.

Among the ruins in Olympia
I've read that it's a major problem in Greece, with more than one million stray animals. One news story noted that it began several years ago, during the nation's debt crisis as people were forced to abandon their pets because they could no longer afford to keep them. I suppose decisions had to be made, as difficult as it may have been in letting go of a pet. 

Napping at Epidaurus
The animals I saw were docile, lying about and napping like regular domesticated pets. Some tourists would toss pieces of food to them. Most of the dogs were old except for a pup at Epidaurus, who apparently hadn't been there long because he was playful and appeared wanting an owner. It was sad.

I was told several agencies in the nation as well as Good Samaritan veterinarians and animal-rights activists try to provide food and medical care (such as neuter or spay) for our four-legged friends. 
At the Delphi Archaeological Museum

If you're interested in assisting these animals, there are organizations such as the all-volunteer Friends of Strays of Greece that accept donations.  Here's a link to other places that accept donations. 

At the Oracle of Delphi
And here's some advice from Greek Animal Rescue for tourists when they come across the stray animals. I admit I wasn't aware of the problem so I hope this post will be of some assistance to you.

Until the next time . . .

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Reflections on Greece — Part Three

Sightseeing is probably the main reason for traveling to far and distant lands. You read and study about different places and you want to see it firsthand. 

The Parthenon
And that's a reason my wife and I journeyed to Greece, to see places such as the Acropolis in Athens, the legendary city of Olympia where the first Olympic Games were held in 776 B.C., and Delphi, believed by ancient Greeks to be the center of the world.

While it's interesting and educational to visit these and other places (I must admit that after seeing several temples, they begin to look the same), it's going off the beaten path and experiencing another culture that enhances the adventure and truly makes it memorable.

Melina Mercouri
It's nice to have free time to do some exploring on your own. In Athens, my wife and I saw quite a few gypsies selling various items. We ventured to see the statue of internationally acclaimed actress Melina Mercouri, and across the road, Hadrian's Wall. 

Greek dancers
At a dinner at the quaint Tripa (or Trypa) restaurant in Corfu, our group was entertained by two traditional Greek dancers who had all of us shouting  "Opa!" to their rhythmic moves. They even had several of us out of the floor celebrating this colorful heritage. Opa is one Greek word that I'll never forget. 

Easter eve procession
Also in Corfu, we had time to discover Old Town, exploring the streets during festive pre-Easter celebrations that included tossing pottery out of windows. And in the evening, we watched a solemn religious procession near midnight. Religion is important to Greek lives as you may notice their flag has a cross, which symbolizes the Eastern Orthodox church.

Greek wines
Our group stopped at a vineyard in Nemea, where we learned about their wine-making process and sat down for a wine-tasting. And there was another stop at a business that makes top-of-the-line pottery and watched a craftsman at a wheel mold clay into shape. 

Our canine friend in Nafplio
We were amazed to see so many dogs and cats at the various sites. I was told that people often drop off the animals because they know they'll be cared of by the site personnel and tourists. While at Nafplio, we had a canine mingle with our group as we walked to several sites.

A cat taking it easy in Delphi
We had about 30 people in our group including 10 from Canada, seven from the Carolinas, four from Pennsylvania, three from California, two from Texas, one from Ohio, one from Tennessee, and my wife and I from Kentucky. It was a delightful and enthusiastic group, one that shared laughs and stories on a shared journey. One of the plusses of group travel is the friendships you develop along the way.
Group photo in Nafplio
Our guide, Enrico, was exceptional — intelligent, multi-lingual, informative, friendly, helpful, humorous, and as the gals would agree, handsome. 

Our dedicated bus driver got us to every venue safe and sound and on time, and the local guides provided us with information that enhanced each stop.

If you read one of my earlier posts, you know that my wife and I were accosted by pickpockets on the Metro in Athens. They managed to steal my cell phone but that was it as I was able to fend them off.  

My wife and I were determined not to let it spoil our trip, and while we still talk about the assault, it didn't overshadow the wonderful times we had in this marvelous country. I encourage you to visit Greece.
Mary and Michael, with Acropolis in the distance
Until the next time . . .  

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Reflections on Greece — Part Two

Another sidelight on our travels in Greece was the 1 1/2-hour ride on a ferry, to and from Corfu, across the crystal blue Ionia Sea. So relaxing and time to talk to fellow travelers or simply sit back and contemplate what's been experienced in seven days.
Lord Byron statue at Garden of Heroes

On the way to Rio we made a stop at the Garden of Heroes in Missolonghi. It was a serene and sobering setting, a sacred place where countless Greeks suffered brutal deaths in their war of independence from Turkish rule. The heart of Lord Byron, the great English poet, is buried on the hallowed grounds.
Statue in Archaeological
 Museum of Olympus

In  Olympia, we walked in the stadium where the first Olympic Games were held in 776 B.C. We saw the Temple of Zeus, now in ruins, considered of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. We explored the Archaeological Museum of Olympus, the repository of statues, columns, and facades from the ancient grounds.
Shopping area in Nafplio

We traveled to picturesque Nafplio, a seaside town that was the first capital of independent Greece. Some consider it the most charming town in Greece. From my short time there, I tend to agree.
Open-air theater in Epidaurus

Then it was on to Epidaurus, home to the country's famous open-air theater (we were told Kevin Spacey and Ethan Hawke have performed there), built in the 4th century B.C.  It's considered near acoustically perfect and can seat up to 14,000.

Burial grounds of Agamemnon
We also took in Mycenae, the burial grounds of King Agamemnon. No doubt Aeschylus's play, "Agamemnon," has been performed at Epidaurus many times through the ages.

Temple of Apollo

Heading back to Athens, we stopped in Corinth, the place where the biblical Apostle Paul spread the gospel around 50 A.D. It is also home to the Temple of Apollo and other ruins from the 6th century B.C.  
Corinth Canal

We made a brief stop at the Corinth Canal, a sliver about four miles long and 70-feet wide, that was finished in 1893. It was an engineering feat at the time, but today it's more of a tourist attraction since it's way too small for today's modern ships. But the water was a gorgeous bluer than blue from the Aegean Sea. 

The last part of our Greece odyssey tomorrow.

Until the next time . . . 

Monday, June 3, 2019

Reflections on Greece — Part One

It's been a month since my wife and I returned from Greece, spending nearly two weeks traveling across an ancient land which exceeded our expectations

To view images of this beautiful country in books or on the Internet is one thing, but to witness them firsthand while walking among the ruins or taking in the breathtaking vistas from mountains to coastlines is something to behold.   
The Parthenon

Our sightseeing journey began in Athens, the oldest city in Europe and the birthplace of democracy more than 2,500 years ago. We walked up to the Acropolis, the citadel overlooking the gray-toned city, and saw the Parthenon, Temple of Athena, Theatre of Dionysius, and the Erechtheion. You couldn't help but marvel at the architecture and the craftsmanship in erecting the buildings for their mythological gods.
Temple of Apollo

From there, we drove to the Delphi, home of the ancient oracle and the Temple of Apollo, situated on the steep side of a hill. You marvel how the ancient Greeks were able to transport materials to the rugged location.

We then drove to the Meteora region, to the village of Kalambaka, at the foot of the Pindus Mountains. We toured the Monastery of Great Meteoron and St. Stephen's Monastery, constructed nearly 500 years ago on the top of 1,000-foot high pinnacle rocks. 
Monastery of Great Meteoron
For those who have seen the 1981 James Bond movie, "For Your Eyes Only," one of the scenes was filmed at the Monastery of the Holy Trinity.

Meteora ranks as one of the highlights of the trip. The area is a geological wonder, stunning, gorgeous and unforgettable.    
Old Town in Corfu reflects Venetian influence

The next stop was the island of Corfu on the Ionian Sea, a place influenced architecturally by Venetian rule for nearly 400 years. We toured the grand Achilleion, the summer palace of Empress Elizabeth of Austria as well as Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, then spent an afternoon exploring Old Town of Corfu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Smashed pottery in Old Town
We were also there during the Greek Orthodox Church celebration of Easter, a colorful event that includes religious processions across Greece and in Corfu, the traditional tossing of pottery from windows that represents letting go of the old to make room for the new.  

We'll continue the trip in the next part.

Until the next time . . .

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Amazon Giveaway for "New Horizons"

Here's an opportunity to win an ebook of my latest novel, "New Horizons," the third book in the John Ross Boomer Lit series.

Unfortunately, the contest is open only to those who live in the United States. That is Amazon's contest rules, not mine. I'd prefer for it to be available to anyone, anywhere.

Click here to enter. There are no strings attached. Easy as pie.

The novel follows the trails of baby boomers John Ross and his wife, Sally,  as they journey to Budapest on a guided tour. It turns into a memorable trip in many ways. They also must contend with what is happening back home.

I do hope you'll let others know about the giveaway, so please share with other readers.

Good luck!

Until the next time . . .

Saturday, May 18, 2019

New Horizons Published on May 1

I was glancing at my posts and realized that while I gave progress reports on "New Horizons" the past few months, I never announced that it had been published. 

Well (drum roll, please), family, friends, readers, and other interested folks, "New Horizons" was published May 1 by Wings ePress

I suppose it slipped my mind because I was traveling across Greece from April 21 to May 3. And then it took a few days to recover from the trip including getting my body adjusted from the seven-hour time difference.

But as I said, it's out there, in print and e-book format. It's available at the Wings website as well as reliable Amazon.

The novel, the third book in the "John Ross Boomer Lit Series," is about John and Sally Ross's 10-day guided tour to historic Budapest. It's a wild and wacky trip as they meet a variety of traveling companions to make for a memorable journey.

And they also have to deal with what is going on back in the States as best they can. Nothing is ever easy for John and Sally. 

You can read an excerpt here.

Until the next time . . .