Archive for July, 2009


July 25, 2009

This week has been about dreams. 

My friend Dobie Maxwell made his national television debut this past week on Craig Ferguson’s show.  You can see his set here

Dobie’s life has redefined bad luck.  If you took the combined population of all of the trailer parks in the eastern half of the United States and compared their hard luck stories to his he’d win, big.  Since we are friends I have had a ring side seat.  Just when he felt like his opportunity might be within reach, I would get a phone call.  He would recant a tale of misfortune that makes the characters of Les Misérables look like pretenders.  Everything from near death car accidents, to being tried in Federal court for a crime he didn’t commit, canceled from national tours, and fired from major market radio gigs because the station changed to Christian programming have haunted him every year.  Not just once in a while, but every few months something happens.  He’s turned that bad luck into his on stage act.  I’m proud to know him despite his dysfunctions, maladies, and at times, self destruction.  He’s is an inspiration to me.  He’s shown me that even though life can toss you rotten eggs you need to mop up and move on.  Don’t lose focus, don’t quit, follow the dream.


I’ve encouraged my girls to follow there dreams because of the personal satisfaction that comes with that journey.  They can’t help the fact that their dream of professional ballet is not exactly embraced by our culture.  They can feel the warmth and personal satisfaction that comes with loving what they do.  They, like Dobie also know how much work it takes to be successful.   There is a show at the end of their summer intensive.  For Grace it was three weeks at ABT and for Carly it was five weeks at Butler for Jordan Academy’s intensive.  All of the dancers endured and learned in spite of the pain.  Their pain wasn’t like Dobie’s.  They weren’t escorted out of Bob & Tom’s studios with the, “and….stay out!” sentiment tossed at them like rotten cabbage, but they have put up with a lot.  For starters they danced 60 hours each week.  Most complain about those hours.  These kids covet it.  They trained in spite of dislocated shoulders, infected toes, and blisters while living 10 hours or more away from home.  They pushed through it and came out on the other side as better dancers.  In their performance they were as light as butterflies and as strong as steel.  As I watched they ran me through a range of emotions while distancing me from the problems of the day.  In five weeks they had become a solid dance company.  Their summer was spent living the dream.  All of the instructors/choreographers are to be commended.  To learn about this school log on to


Thursday night I dreamed that Carly and I went to see Dave Matthews at The Vogue, a small theatre in Indy.  The opening act was a group that dressed up like The Munsters.  I was looking at their make up while trying to figure out why they were Dave’s opening act. As I watched, I realized that one of my teeth was loose.  I was startled and dismayed.  I began thinking of the implications when it just fell onto my tongue.  That started a chain reaction of teeth falling out.  I started spitting teeth into the palm of my hand.  There was a whole pile.  They weren’t rotten, but they were dropping out like kids from an inner city school.  I awoke as I was counting the teeth and wondering if my insurance was going to pay for implants.  Nice!


Appearing on the Lawn…

July 15, 2009

There is a young entrepreneur in our neighborhood who loves his lawn mower.   He has five lawns within walking distance.  He sees dollar signs every time he fires up that red and black Toro.  He’s so happy, he sings while he mows.  It’s like a concert on the lawn.  I don’t mean sings to himself while mowing.  He belts it out like it’s an audition for High School Musical – Lawn Edition.  He’s got one of those industrial mowers that you can walk behind or add a little pedestal on wheels for your feet.   So you can stand, ride, and sing…apparently.  So it’s more like a little stage on wheels.  Everyone can hear him coming up the street over the power of that engine.  I can tell what song he’s singing when he’s mowing the neighbor’s lawn across the street, if I’m standing in our house.  That’s how much he loves to sing.  He put’s the iPod on eleven, (that’s the second Spinal Tap reference in two weeks!) engages the blades, and becomes The Beatles.  He doesn’t care that other people can hear him.  This evening he finished a song, looked over, saw me in the garden, and bowed while saying, “Thank you and good night!” with a big smile on his face.  I think it’s cool that he’s that comfortable with himself at age fifteen.  I’m forty-eight.  I can’t even sing in the car at a stop light with the windows rolled up for fear of what the person in the car next to me will think.  I don’t sing in front of my wife for the same reason.  I wish I could.  I know what song I‘d sing.  I visualize it in the car, before I get to the stop light.  Currently it’s “You & Me” from Dave Matthews new CD Big Whiskey,

 Wanna pack your bags, something small
Take what you need and we disappear
without a trace we’ll be gone, gone
the moon and the stars can follow the car
and then when we get to the ocean
we gonna take a boat to the end of the world
All the way to the end of the world

 You get the idea.  It’s romantic and it says what I’d like to say musically…if I weren’t a wimp.  Anyway today he was jammin’ when two of my daughter’s friends rode up on bikes to say hi.  They couldn’t get “Hi daddy Phelps” out of their mouth before …um…we’ll call him Dane, belts out some heavy lead vocals.  They rolled their eyes, laughed, and with a puzzled tone said, “What is he singing today”?  I couldn’t tell because the Briggs & Stratton accompaniment was distorting his lyrics.  Apparently none of his customers mind being serenaded.  He’s had the lawn across the street for three years so they must be cool with it..  Actually at their age they may not know.  They probably don’t even hear the lawn mower.  They just look out the window, notice that the grass is shorter, and call him to come get his money.  I really wanted to know what group he was singing this evening.  It was like a riddle.  Then he finished the yard and fired up the weed eater which doubles as a microphone and stand.  It became clear that today he was Rick Ashton,

 Never gonna give you up
Never gonna let you down
Never gonna run around and desert you

 You get the idea.  I don’t know what he was singing on the rest of the lawn, but that was his on encore.  I wanted to call him over and in my best, disappointed surfer voice, say one word, “Dude”!?  How could he go from The Beatles to that?  Well who am I to judge?  I can’t even bring myself to sing to a woman who promised to love me till death.

Death Insurance

July 9, 2009

My wife and I have been together over twenty years.  We have a running joke that if one of us dies suddenly the other was going to use a little of the insurance money to morn our loss from the beaches of Hawaii.  When she started grad school I took a look at our finances and said, “If you died in school there won’t be enough left over to party on the beach because of your student loans.  We need to increase our life insurance.”  She felt that I presented that info in an insensitive way.  So I gave her a flower, took her hand, looked at her lovingly, and said, “If you die in school there won’t be enough insurance money left to party on the beach after I pay off your student loans.”  Like any good grad student she digested the data and drew a conclusion, then scoured the house for cyanide capsules.  After about a week she came over to my way of thinking and we began the process of shopping for additional coverage.  We decided not to stay with AIG, our original policy holder, because they were in Hawaii attending a “seminar” when we called.

 Conducting a physical is part of the application process.  My friend says it’s because I’m old.  I said, “I’m under fifty.”  He said, “You’re old”.  We agreed to disagree.  The nurse came to my home July third.  She started with an interview.  She learned that I don’t smoke, I eat healthy, I’m 6’ tall, and 174 lbs.  I’m a Capricorn….wait…wrong interview.  I exercise, I have a strong pulse, and my blood pressure is great.  I know how to pee in a cup and I know how to breathe without even thinking about it.  She asked me if I’d ever done any drugs not prescribed by a doctor.  I admitted to smoking pot when I was younger.  She laughed and said, “Who hasn’t”!  I felt good about being honest.  I’d never answered that question truthfully.  Then I asked, “How many people answer that question honestly?  She laughed and said, “Almost no one.”  I knew right then I was screwed.  She said, “Since you answered yes there are some supplemental questions I need to ask”.  Like have I ever done heroin, (because marijuana is a gateway drug!) and thirty-two other drugs.  Seriously!  The list was three columns wide and three inches tall.  I’m glad I didn’t disclose that this policy was facilitated because I wanted to “party” on the beach when my wife dies.  I could tell that honesty was not the best policy.  When dealing with insurance companies, lie like a crook.  Hmmm the word crook and insurance mentioned in the same sentence.  She asked me to disclose the years I smoked pot.  What was the frequency? (Kenneth)…The volume? (eleven)…My reason for stopping?  Did I enter a treatment facility?  Was I under a doctor’s care?  Really!?  Do people enter treatment centers for smoking pot?  Do you suppose Keith Richards kicked all of his drug issues by himself, except for that nasty pot habit?  I’m sure he needed a doctor supervised twelve step program for that one!  I guess I should also disclose that I attended concerts.  I laughed at Cheech & Chong.  I owned a tie die shirt and I believed that free love was a great concept even though I was in elementary school during the sixties.  So I was too young to partake.  I think it is also important to say I never knew Art Linkletter’s daughter.  So I did have boundaries.

 There is a space at the bottom of the “supplemental” form where I could leave comments.  I felt like writing, “Would you rather hear me say, “I didn’t inhale”? – get over it.”   We are still waiting to find out if I’m accepted.  By the way, my wife answered, “No” to the pot question.  She digested the data and drew a conclusion.