Posted by: 2russ | September 9, 2013


I first met Josh at Blue Jay.  I was walking my dog and he came around a corner of the wooded campground by himself.  He said:  “May I walk your dog?”   I later created a relationship with his mom, and then of course, with him and his brother, who was younger.

But then, it was at first sight, a trust relationship:  “Sure, here you go!” and I turned over the leash attached to a 65 pound red Doberman to a complete stranger!

I felt free!  I was on a camping trip, and now, no dog!  My co-pilot, my immediate family, in the hands of a 15 year old.

And that was the start of my long relationship with Josh!  Nearly 20 years. I think that the kind of encounter could actually be the best summation of what he was all about!  The here, the now!  No pretense was there, ever, with Josh!  Just pure science and understanding or a wish to find out how things worked.  Even dogs or pets he’d never experienced, he was fascinated over.

Josh was born shot from the womb, and he started walking early, and he was skinny, and fast.  He always had a hard time breathing and suffered from asthma, so he used a rescue inhaler from time to time.  He was quick and quick witted and very intelligent.  His inquisitiveness ended up getting him into trouble.  He loved guitar and all of the old Classic Rock from his mother’s era.  And he was good on guitar, although later he complained about tone deafness.  By that time, I was taking lessons for guitar.  I didn’t believe in tone deafness, although I too find it hard, as opposed to natural to pick up melodies and hear changes.  But he said he had to learn and memorize anything he played and ultimately he got discouraged over his playing.  But he appreciated guitars and I remember jamming with him, me on bass and him on guitar, a few times.

He played my old Guild OM model six string acoustic a few times and did a fine rendition of Greensleeves on it.

We moved to Northern California and he came with us.  His brother did too. It was the country.  There were bikers and thus, drugs – Meth!  Josh liked it because it made him seem alive.  Ironic.  It led to his undoing.  He got in trouble with the law.

Josh loved kids, animals, music, photography, cars, cooking and eating good meats and drinking beer.  He was so alive.  We loved it when he brought a girlfriend to dinner with us who he’d met at rehab.  She had a kid and he liked her too!  We had many good times but when he was crashing, we didn’t.  He was sick.

He moved back with his dad when we moved to Washington.  He got a good job with a countertop firm.  Then he was pulled over.  He and his mom were going to go back to the north to take care of it.  With money and time off to take care of it, he couldn’t stand the dread of maybe being back in jail in Auburn. So he stayed up nights.  On the computer.  Not making good choices.  He always said:  “Don’t blame your selves, it’s all me, and it is all about the friends you choose.”  He always knew exactly what to say to his family to allay fears.  He had Halcyon and that is one drug that can’t be mixed, but he did.  He could not sleep.  His pain was overwhelming. On February 26, 2007 a month and a day after his 34th birthday, he died.  Our life ended that day, too.

After that we never looked at life the same way.  We can see carefree people.  Now we sit and wait.  We wait for God’s whispers, as Josh is in our minds and hearts every day.


Posted by: 2russ | September 2, 2013


Keith was a friend of mine and one of about five of us who hung out together in Cato during high school and for a few years after school. There was Lee Jay Boyd, Karl Reid Hotaling, Mike O’Neill and me, and Keith.

I used to go down to Keith’s on weekends during those school years, to either pick him up to ride with me, or to catch a ride with him. He’d usually been working all day. Most guys hop in the shower. But not Keith! I’d knock on the door and perhaps his mother would answer and she’d say he’s getting ready up stairs. “Go ahead on up,” she’d say. So this one time he shouted out that he was in the bath and I said: “Oh I’ll wait out here!” He said: “No!” “It’s ok, it’s a bubble bath!” Sure enough, bubbles four inches thick. You couldn’t see a thing except his hair, mouth, eyes and nose! I thought that was hilarious. It was routine for Keith, he liked baths, baths with soaking bubbles!

I remember that he would get irritated with his grandfather, who we all called, Parm! His name as it turns out was Palmer Titus. Keith’s Dad’s name was Herbert, although I would not have remembered it except that both Keith’s dad and grandpa sponsored the printing of the Yearbooks for CMCS.

One time Keith was mad at Parm. Parm had an old farm, the original Titus Farm, off the corner of the Federal Road, (which I lived on) and Route 134. There was a hillside there and the school bus would turn the, and go by this field of Parm’s.

We noticed that a cow was always sleeping in the same spot for over a week. Finally we asked Keith. He said: “That cow died there, and Parm wasn’t aware of, or wouldn’t do anything about it!”

Keith had an older brother, Steve. I didn’t really know him. He was a year ahead of me. I believe he was taller than Keith. Keith was a good athlete. He was tough on the football field. Keith also had a sweet voice with a cut way of talking that I believe went right to the point. He was a nice guy.

One time, a bunch of us were out racing around and taking-off fast. I had my dad’s Studebaker Golden Hawk, which had a 289 engine and a four speed stick shift on the floor. I decided to take off and go through the gears. With second or third gear, under a load, all of a sudden something broke! It felt like the car twisted in under me. It felt like a sponge and a rubber band working against each other! Somehow, I limped it, the car, quite a ways over to Keith’s.

The more I think about it, the better I feel. Well, I broke the motor mount on the right side and it torque’d the motor every time I hit the gas! So… I had to nurse it, and somehow I got it to Keith’s! Back then it was maybe find a telephone booth, or just show up on someone’s door. Don’t know how it happened. But, starting late, like after 10:00 pm, Keith took the car down to his shop – down in the barn. We ended up staying up all night, and Keith welded the motor mount back to the engine. As far as me staying out all night, I just said I “crashed” at Keith’s. Well: Keith fixed it. I think now, (since now I know that a motor mount is a combo of rubber, steel and bolts), that it probably was ready to go out on its own. ‘Course, I edged it along a little, for sure. But, boy, did I beat myself up over that for a long time, in fact, until now! But the point is that Keith had this built-in kindness, and just knew what to do, ahead of time. I think he was a leader! As far as I knew, my dad never knew the difference about the car. I never gave up the ghost. The car worked great! Problem solved! Thanks, Keith!

1948 Chevy:

Well, I went off to college to Cortland College. So, sometime around 1967-1968, I had the “opportunity” to “get” a car! The car was, believe it or not, a 1948, same year as I was born, a Chevy sedan, black in color! It actually looked like a Mafia car, now that I think of it!
Anyway, I bought it for $100, and I am not sure how much I ever: started it, or drove it. But it ended up in the parking lot of the apartment that my roommates and I were renting. What a problem! So, one Fall, I got in touch with Keith!

He actually came down from Cato to Cortland. He had a flat-bed trailer. He hauled it up to the lot to the “right” of the barn, below his house, on the other side of the road. There it stayed! Kind of like Parm’s cow. Well, in a way!

So, after that, I said: Keith: “Market that car for me, if you can.” During this period, my Dad would drive by there, and glance at that car. In fact, during some summer, or spring breaks, I’d go by and see it too! I don’t know how that got resolved! I think Keith sold it eventually. I was glad he didn’t sell it to my dad! Anyway, Keith was gracious!

I remember that Keith had a trucking business. I know that he hauled hay, for one thing! I know that he always worked hard. He was a good football player on the high school team. Keith had a car that he was very proud of. It was a 1963 Ford Falcon. He had put a V8 engine in it and it was a three speed. He had it suspended with a beef-up set of springs. It was light weight, fast and clean. Guys in the ‘60’s liked their fast cars! His was very clean.
Looking through the Yearbook of our school, I found that Keith was very involved. He was in Communications Club, Varsity Football and Chorus. He had a sweet voice and a raspy voice at the same time. I am glad that he found great love in his family and children. He died too young. I hope that these remembrances are received well.

With these sketches and memoirs Keith is memorialized just a bit more.

Posted by: 2russ | July 23, 2013

Loss and Walking On


For a long time it took all of our strength to simply put one foot in front of the other, and walk.

Where were we walking?  We had to perform certain responsibilities; go to work, pay bills, get supplies, cook and eat.

And when your mind is dwelling on loss, what are you really doing?  You’ll never be whole again, or all there again.  And you see others, who you believe – based on their behaviors or their happy-go-lucky looking attitude – have never experienced loss on the level of your loss; losing a child, or a spouse – way too early.  

Divorce is a death, too.  It just symbolizes failure.  It just didn’t work.

We experience our parents and what our siblings endure.  We know our own mortality somewhat more, for it.  Parenting shocks you into realizing your own mortality.  

Having friendly eyes watching over you is comforting.  As I lay down dying, a little each day, knowing my friend’s smile, kind eyes and sharing, caring and memorializing sense of life –  buoys me.  Knowing we are in this together is a blessing – one that churns fondness, fickleness and forgiveness.

It could be said: I love that, or, I love it, or you.  It could be said….

Posted by: 2russ | February 12, 2013

Vinyl Renaissance!

Hey!  Check out my new launch!  Vinyl Spin!  http//vinylspinonline.vpweb

To go to my business card online just add the usual  dot com at the end of the link.  Apologies for any “ads” that may show up!  Ouch!


February 12, 2013….

Posted by: 2russ | August 10, 2012

The FOIL Jazz Festival Noon to 9:30 pm. Saturday August 11, 2012 at the Lummi Island Grange grounds and stage!

FOIL is Friends of Island Library!  I’m bringin’ my lawn chair!

CARE is a consultation association engaged in consulting, planning, publicizing and marketing for artists and others for productions, events and performances.  We are a charitable and education organization that donates a portion of its proceeds to local deserving groups or individuals, yearly.    Our planning fees are reasonable and are based on a percentage of your event’s success.  For information or booking contact:  360-920-5243, or .



Blues Ad 

The Benefit Blues Festival on Lummi Island

The Festival was a success!  Everyone liked Freedom Blues a band brought over for the day by Charlie Johnson from Custer and his Dakota Creek Recording Studio.  Charlie did the Sound for the day and he was Outstanding!  Also, the food by Herb and Deanne was wonderful!  Thanks again everybody!!
3rd Annual on Lummi Island –
Benefits M O R E for change – Features Art and Craft vendors, Food Garden, Beer/Wine Garden, Music stage, Speakers, Music by The Dave McAdams Band, Rhapsody in Blues, The Greg Pitsch Band featuring Johnny Brewer, and Native American Flute artist, Cindy Minkler. Also appearing: Marlee Walker and Eric Freeman & Kenny Williams. Special Instructions: Park on the Gooseberry Point side as available, then use the walk-on ferry. Bring blankets and lawn chairs. No outside coolers/open containers. Sorry, no pets. Very short walk to the venue at the Islander Store.
M O R E for change is an Association, organized around a group of people who share in a common interest and who engage in activities of reform for the incarcerated and for minimizing recidivism in released prisoners.

They are a charitable and educational organization that provides support services and education and which asks for donations from the public for  charitable purposes.

Their objective is to present educational discussion groups, forums, panels, lectures or other similar programs regarding the Justice System and issues relating to incarceration trends and practices.

Their current goal is to develop and maintain a Speaker’s Bureau through which the above stated activities of Support Service and Education will be implemented.

M. O. R. E. for change is Mothers of Offenders and Others Rallying and Educating for change.

They act as a Beacon, shining light on the epidemic of over-incarceration of citizens and others in the United States.

Please support their activities!

Sponsors: NC4RSO from Blaine WA, Care Associates,, Copylicious – Poster printing, – graphic design, The Islander Store, Lummi Island Gourmet, Costco, Budget Septic.

Support our Sponsors for the Benefit Blues Festival and M.O.R.E. for change seen on the poster below:  long download…BenefitPoster

Posted by: 2russ | October 24, 2011

A “Wild” Concert on a Small Island

Pianist Jonathan Levin took an amazed audience of 30 through 300 years of music, which included Beethoven’s epic Hammerklavier  Sonata.  Other composers whose work he played included Bach, Scarlatti, Liszt, Griffes, and Mcleer.

This recital concert featured stories, background and narrative of the pieces and their composers told by Mr. Levin prior to the performance of each piece.

Mr Levin started with Prelude and Fugue in C – sharp Minor from WTC  Book I by J.S. Bach.  The contrast in tone from that piece – to the Domenico Scarlatti composition to follow, Sonata in D major L. 164, was a refreshing and uplifting experience highlighted by the harpsichord feel crafted by Levin at the Grand Piano.  The audience was on the journey from Bach to an unknown.

Franz Liszt’s Transcendental Etude #8, Wilde Jagd was the next uncharted island explored.  Translated “Wild Hunt,” the piece featured a less than romantic “hunting” scene that was more haunting than hunting. The low bass evoked a screaming wild beast; the tenor horn sound, or call of the horns, warned of the hunters’ advance; the soprano interplay with the bass told the story until the final low thud of the beast’s demise sounded finality. It was advantage hunter in the 19th century.

Mr. Levin moved us along and played a short piece by a contemporary and friend, Christian Mcleer. Titled Thank You, the composition served the audience well, as an interlude both complex and interesting  – and questioning and dark.

The last piece of the first part of the program was by composer, Charles Griffes born in 1884. He died in 1920.  The piece, Piano Sonata, told a story open for interpretation:  Part I “Feroce – Molto tranquillo” and Part II, “Allegro vivace. ”

Written in 1918, you could feel the effects of World War I on Griffes.  It was as though Part I was a volcano waiting to happen with a full eruption and Lahore.  Part II, the allegro, was two lovers running first left, then right, trying now in disbelief, then later in panic, to save themselves.  This piece seemed to bridge the Romantic period and the Modern period, albeit through the chagrin of the end of innocence that was the “Belle Epoch,” and the stark reality of modern life represented by the advent of  “modern” 20th Century warfare. Mr. Levin efficiently “killed” the Griffes!

After intermission, Mr. Levin ended with music’s milestone epic, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Opus 106, the Hammerklavier.  Written at the end of Beethoven’s life, after his “Heroic” period, this dark and semi-tragic piece featured the opening “Allegro followed by the “Scherzo Assai vivace where two differently keyed voices were introduced.  One was in B-flat and the other was in B Minor.  The 18 minute “Adagio sostenuto” with its sweeping beauty lulled the audience to quietness.  The “Largo – Allegro risoluto” shook and evoked black meeting white, as no doubt Beethoven must have planned when writing this while deaf. The ten minute long Largo ended with a cadence of full-throated baritone chords ringing like sustains from a pipe organ.  The forty-five minute Hammerklavier was played with virtuosity.  Mr. Levin’s lengthy narrative introduction of the Hammerklavier seemed a bit tedious; but, upon the conclusion of its performance, the preview of the story proved necessary – considering the state of the story of lost love, and the state of Beethoven’s health and mind at the time the Hammerklavier was written and first performed.

This concert was no walk in the park filled with the sounds of Strauss waltzes and the sound of the Moonlight Sonata: It was a tour de force filled with wild hunts, volcanic eruptions, resounding thuds, trumpeting horn calls, lovers on the run and other 17th through 21st Century quarrels for the ears. Before there were movies, there was the visual story telling of this kind of music:  sounds producing sights!  Jonathan Levin treated us, and tricked us with a polished autumn concert of masterful works, performed masterfully. It was a sight to behold!

The concert was held Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 7:30 pm. at the Lummi Island Congregational Church

Mr. Levin, a resident of Brooklyn, N Y. was a finalist  in the 2011 Seattle International Piano Competition this year, in the professional category. He is the founder of the North Carolina Piano Festival held in February in Clayton, North Carolina.

Reviewed by Russ Thompson, October 24, 2011.  Lummi Island WA.

Posted by: 2russ | October 16, 2011

Write on

Welcome to   If you would like to contribute a timeless piece of prose, poetry, or your own musing, leave a comment!  Include your contact information, please!

Posted by: 2russ | May 26, 2011

Elegy for a Homemaker

Recuerdos de los Cascade

Memories of life at Grandma’s at the Cascade

Grandma Easter 2009

We watched the Virginia Tech shooting spree massacre, it was April, and Mother said “Oh”!  Turn off that CNN!”

June, July, August, age 92.  Happy 92nd birthday.

September 2010, Saturday afternoon, “Let’s go hear the live Big Band Jazz Band at the Bflat lounge on Douglas Road.  “OK!”

We had fish and sweet potato chips, (not with salt, but with crystallized cinnamon sugar on ‘em), and a “Salad Please!”  It was on her kidney dialysis diet.

October 2010, we’re all of a sudden in the pool at the Cascade.  Grandma, son and daughter-in-law! It’s the late morning; it’s a nice warm day.  Grandma’s got her hat, her sunglasses; she’s down there at Alligator level.  Soon, all of her friends showed up to swim.  The Pool was where Grandma held court.  We stayed in that day for over 1 hour!

Her friends came and went, before We got out.

That night, out on the front porch, we watched the helicopters coming in from the canyon tours at exactly 8:00 P.M.  It was cozy on the porch.  It was her window on the world.  She spoke to and monitored all the traffic in the park.  She noted who walked into or out of the pool and the clubhouse from her vantage point right across the street.  We had 26 plants and a new set of patio furniture on that porch. It was comfortable and beautiful to her.  She loved to grow flowers in the heat on that porch.  Grandma enjoyed the new patio and porch décor, and the new carpeting in the house, too.  She loved looking out at the pool or clubhouse to see the action at 2 in the morning or 4 in the morning.  Whatever!

Remembrances of Grandma on the Island

When Grandma visited us on the Island, we first came across the water, on the ferry, at night.  It was completely calm.  Pitch black.  The drone of the diesel engines.  No lights from the ferry on the water.  I said:  “We’ll be there in 6 minutes.”

“You mean we’ve already left?”“Yes!”  “Well, we’re not moving… are we?”“Yes!”“Well!  I Say!”

Grandma didn’t feel well on the morning of the Lavender Festival.  Her stomach felt “cold” and she had “no legs.”

So, after the festival day, we took her into town.  Late that night I got a phone call from the Doctor at the Walk-in–Clinic saying that the blood test didn’t look good and he’d arrange for us to come in to town in the morning and the cardiologist and the emergency room would take over.

Two stents.

This was July 2006.

Las Vegas 2006 to 2010

Grandma had a lot of sparkle in her eyes.  We had her 90th birthday party.  We were all learning about health and life, good diet, and discipline.

These years, in a way, were like our days, in youth, being raised by our mother.  Only now, it was like being raised all over again.  And we were raising our mother at the same time, in her kidney disease and the management of her health in the disease.

She knew life and love, family and old values, of growing up in Upstate New York, raising kids, working for 30 years for a company, working on a farm, learning piano at age 8 from her relative, caring for Her aging mother who lived to age 86, seeing her children move “out west.”

She followed her kids westward, and finally settled at The Cascade.

One time, as a kid, I remember that we had a two week summer vacation, my parents having only a couple a weeks a year off from their jobs.  Our parents took us up to New England and Canada on trips!

About 8 days into one year’s trip, Mother said to Dad:  “That’s it!  I’ve travelled enough!  Time to go Home!”

And, so, around we went.  Dad turned it around.  And, in a day or two we were back at the home compound, “Little Green.”

What is Home, What is a home?

Home, always home, the comfort of home, Home is where the heart is.  A heart needs a home.  Home, Sweet Home!  Lord, take me Home!  I want to go home!  Home at last, home at last.  Free at last, free at last.

Thank God almighty I’m free at last!


Mother loved to bake; she baked for the entire family for summer events at the lake.  Cakes with fresh raspberry frosting, frosting that is beat until it spins like a thread!  Molasses cookies for us at home, all year long.  Cakes for our Dad – Chocolate ones.  She would bake pies.

Mother loved to garden!  She even pulled weeds for us along our hedge on The Island in 2005.

But back in New York, when I was growing up, she had flower beds of phlox, a garden full of vegetables.  Between the lawns and flowers and the garden, there were 2 and ½ acres.  We had potatoes, tomatoes, corn, melons, cucumbers, and beans. Radishes, onions, carrots, and berries.

I remember on summer nights, our supper would be made of sweet corn, with butter, tomatoes with mayonnaise, cucumbers with vinegar, and potatoes.  Bread and butter- salt and pepper.  All vegetarian.  All fresh.  Sometimes we would simply have , Strawberry Shortcake!

A homemaker like mother also worked nearly 30 years at GE in Syracuse.  What a woman!

She was wife, cook, gardener, mother, daughter, musician, baker, worker, snowplower, neighbor, sister, friend and a love.

A woman is more,

And she was more!

Last year I asked her what she thought happens after life.  She had been foreshadowing her death.  She would say things like I won’t be around by Thanksgiving. Or I won’t be here to see this or that.  We talked about the afterlife, but there were no conclusions.

Before we knew it, she was Homeward Bound.  It was time, to go home…  Home to the free, and she was brave over it.  She was finally free at last!

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