Americana, Autobiographical, Inspired by a Place, Inspired by College, Introspective, Nostalgia, Redbird Country Essay, Storytelling

Where is Redbird Country?

I came across an interesting fact when I typed in a Google search for “redbird” years ago. It wasn’t just that one fact that a Redbird is the same as a Northern Cardinal. It’s also a “Summer tanager,” which is not as well known, but it is a medium-sized songbird that was described by a Swedish naturalist back in 1758. The location given was Carolina but it was revised to North Carolina.

As a Santa Cruz County native, I knew that Santa Cruz High School’s mascot is the Cardinal and so is Stanford’s, which is a school I longed to go to when I graduated from High School. I didn’t have the grades for it but I still liked going there to visit with a friend of mine, Mark Hernandez, who was our Senior Class President at Watsonville High School with other friends like my good buddy Gary Rojas who also made the trips during his Freshman 1987-1988 school year.

We eagerly hung out with his new friends in his dorm and I remember one weekend, we got to see the Cardinal Men’s Basketball team and it was such a blast to be able to be inside that arena, watching the excitement, feeling that rush of being alive, seizing the moment while still in our youth, seeing this team out on the court working their butts off for adoration and respect, but most of all, to win the game.

My wife Melanie, who you will be learning a little bit about in these columns I am now writing as a freelancer, graduated with the Class of 1989 from Webb City High School in Webb City, MO, and was part of the school’s dance team called the “Redettes”. Their team was the Cardinals.

The St. Louis Cardinals are a popular team to root for out here in Central Illinois. Sure, there’s the Cubs, but you still will see those diehard fans with their red and white jerseys and hats, parading around town or at work on game days.

Then we know that Illinois State University is the home of the Redbirds and they had several students that went on to become celebrities such as Jane Lynch, Craig Robinson, John Malkovich, Gary Sinise, Sean Hayes, and one of my personal favorites, Gary Cole, who played Bill Lumbergh in the cult classic Office Space.

Illinois State had banners all around Uptown Normal calling it “Redbird Country” but I have not seen them up in a while.

There are 7 States that have named the Northern Cardinal as their “state bird.” They are Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina, West Virginia, and then finally, Virginia. They are thought of as being a symbol of hope, joy, health, rejuvenation, and celebration. What I’ve found out is that it is also known among bird watchers that fans of the Northern Cardinal are rare, energetic, and always willing to take care of those in need.

Victoria McGovern once famously said, “May you come to find comfort in and remember: cardinals appear when angels are near. So go now, sit outside and drink your tea. Keep a look out for the little red bird — if it is there, your loved one will be.”

I don’t know if Redbird Country could be considered one place though. I think it’s all around us, because in my travels around the Midwest as an Uber & Lyft Driver, I’ve met countless people from all walks of life who are much like the cardinals mentioned in McGovern’s quote. Those people were like angels to me. I had a passenger last night who I talked with and she said, “I’m proud of you for going back to school.” I didn’t know her before that ride and I may never see her again.

So, in the question, “Where is Redbird Country?” – I have to reply that Redbird Country is everywhere but especially, after living here in Central Illinois for almost 20 years now, that even if I was not raised here, it is most certainly in my heart.

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Adult Themes, Americana, Ballad, Country Song, Growing Up, Inspired by College, Love, Love’s Timing, Lyrics, No Music Yet, Nostalgia, Optimism, Relationships, Romance, Storytelling, Young Love

Soon Enough

I was twenty three
I liked this girl so much
I wanted her soft touch
And hold her close to me

But I had no game
She was seeing a guy
He was eagle, I was a firefly
In a jar wanting to to be free

In that push and pull relationship
I knew that something was wrong
But I didn’t care
I wasn’t scared
Cause I could write her a song
About how much I had fallen
And how much I would do
And I’d play it her someday
So she would know the truth
And I would call her bluff
Oh, and that day
Couldn’t come soon enough

Then I was twenty eight
She called me for a coffee date
I thought it might be fate
She was returning to me

She grew up, so did I
And when I saw her smile
Mem’ries flooded my mind
And it knew it was meant to be

That push and pull relationship
Changed into something right
And we shared
I wasn’t scared
Cause she stayed the night
And I played the song for her
Then she got so confused
About us and what we were
She told me her inner truth
I had called her on her bluff
She packed up
Couldn’t get out soon enough

I misjudged her intentions
I thought she’d seen the light
She turned to me for the real thing
Once they got into a blowout fight
But she didn’t see it my way
She said she liked the single life
I finally got what she was sayin’
She was never gonna be my wife

At the age of thirty two
We were given another chance
We did that wedding dance
She cherishes me tenderly
She treats me the same
as she did back when
It happened soon enough
Now we have a family

Yeah, it happened soon enough
Our loving, joyful, incredible family

August 21, 2022

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Adult Themes, Americana, Autobiographical, Ballad, Creativity Themes, Folk Ballad, Growing Up, Inspired by College, Inspired by High School, Inspired by People, Introspective, Lyrics, No Music Yet, Nostalgia, Old Wounds, Relationships, Unrequited, Wistful

For Old Friends

This one’s for the ones who didn’t keep in touch
Those who wandered off into the forest of war
Those who wondered how I was but didn’t call
Those who I loved once upon a distant shore

This one’s for the guys I went to school with
And those girls who married up and moved on
Those who had to get out of our hometown
Those who are missing, those who are gone

I miss you more than you will ever know
I think of you and the memories we made
On those dirt roads out by the beach
At the house parties, drinking lemonades
If you ever get out to my neck of the woods
If you ever want to come over, let’s talk
I promise to pay attention to your observations
And it’ll feel like we just took a nature walk

Did you think of me at all when you were striving
To make the cut, the grade, or knit that shawl?
Did you get to ski that trail you couldn’t back then?
Did you ever learn to hit that golf ball?

Did you fall in with the wrong crowd?
Did everything seem to fall right in place?
I wouldn’t know cause we’re not talking now
We could get on Portal so I’d see your face

I miss you more than you will ever know
I think of you and the memories we made
On those dirt roads out by the beach
At the house parties, drinking lemonades
If you ever get out to my neck of the woods
If you ever want to come over, let’s talk
I promise to pay attention to your observations
And it’ll feel like we just took a nature walk

Now, maybe you’ve seen some of my lyrics
I’ve been posting a lot on my writing website
But don’t believe everything you read on it
I’ve been struggling to sleep through the night

I worry about all those things we've been through
If we could pick up where we left off back then
Cause I don’t know about you, but it’s been hard
I really would like to chat with you, dear old friends

Oh, I’d really love to chat with you, dear old friends

March 7, 2021
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Americana, Inspired by a Place, Inspired by College, Jazz, Lyrics, No Music Yet, Nostalgia, Optimism, Piano Song, Relationships, Romance, Young Love

Wallet In The Snow

Found a wallet in the snow
Opened it up and I saw the ID
She was born in the Summer
I was so reckless and free
Her name was Jennifer Ann
Her home base was Evanston
She must have come down
To have drinks and some fun

With college friends in town
Her bank card was in there
And so was one for a library
It was missing, I knew she'd care
On a receipt was a phone number
Of a person named Chris
So I decided to call her up and
The conversation went like this;

The reason why I’m calling
Is because of somethin’ I found
I’d like to talk to Jennifer
Is she still around?
Chris said she left this mornin’
And said she’d get it to her ASAP
she was headin’ up there Thursday
Then Jennifer would be happy

So Chris called up Jennifer
She said it was dropped outside
Jenny then called me to say
When she found out, she cried 
I dropped it off at Chris’ place
And thought that was that
But she invited me inside
Chris wanted to have a chat

We talked for a long time
Turns out they were related
They were cousins & best friends
She said they were frustrated
Chris didn’t have her ID, so
They walked to the liquor store
For beer and snacks, you know
They later passed out on the floor

I said I’ve gotta get back to work
She said hey, what do you do?
I told her I was an Lyft driver
She said oh, I could pay you
For a ride up there Thursday
We could all go out for a drink
It’s the least she and I could do
She’d like to meet you, I think
 
And I can’t believe I said yes
That Chicago night was the best

Because Jen brought a girlfriend
Who I hit it off with so well
And the whole thing was fate
How I loved dating sweet Michelle
It all worked out, we got engaged
Jen & Chris were her bridesmaids
Now I work at her father’s law firm
‘Cause I graduated with good grades

Just so now all of you know
What can happen when you return
That found wallet in the snow
What a lovely lesson to learn
You could meet the love of your life
When you return that wallet you found
Oh I’m so happy I returned that random
girl’s wallet I fatefully found
In front of that liquor store in the snow
In front of that liquor store in the snow

February 7, 2021
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Adult Themes, Ballad, Blues, Grief Song, Growing Up, Heartbreak, Inspired by College, Introspective, Love, Lyrics, No Music Yet, Nostalgia, Old Wounds, Relationships, Wistful, Women, Young Love

Never the Same After You

I had a heart so hard
I hurt everyone I could
One night stands every week
I’d meet these girls
At the local dive bars
And pretend I was meek

Then I saw you one night
You were different than them
So self-assured and wise
With a confident smile
And a loving soul
Kindness shone from your eyes

Chorus:
And I was never the same after you
Showed me what true love was
You gave me all of your attention
Like a nurturing woman does
Made me feel like I’d  conquer the world
And you cut right to the truth
No, you never pulled any punches
And I was never the same after you

Things moved pretty fast
You shared your story with me
Told me men hurt you so bad
They’d build you up so quickly
You thought they were sincere
Then vanish and you’d be sad

The longer I saw you
The more I started to see
I wasn’t gonna let you go
But you kept a secret
’Til t was too late you knew
it would hurt me to know

And I was never the same after you
Showed me what true love was
You gave me all your attention
Like a nurturing woman does
Made me feel like I’d conquer the world
And you cut right to the truth
No, you never pulled any punches
And I was never the same after you

Bridge:
I went to every one of your appointments
Set a peaceful bed up for you to rest
You deserved a strong man to give you
His devotion and his absolute best

Oh, I was never the same after you
Showed me what true love was
You gave me all of your attention
Like a nurturing woman does
All I want to talk about now
Is your spirit so sincere and true
And whenever I see you in Heaven
I’ll say the rest of my life
Was never the same after you

I was never the same after you

January 6, 2021
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Adult Themes, Autobiographical, Country Song, Growing Up, Inspired by College, Lyrics, No Music Yet, Nostalgia, Old Wounds

Better Plans

I wanted it so bad
Would’ve sold my soul
To make it big
In Pop or Rock n Roll
So I kept it up
With a stronger will
I pushed too much
I couldn’t wait until

The lights were centered on me
Singin’ all my songs for the crowd
And I could finally get noticed
And my parents would be proud
Then I crashed and burned
I couldn’t be what I wanted to be
But little did I know back in the day
God had better plans for me

I drove back home
Was welcomed back & told
I’d have to find work
Get my life under control
Wrote, wrote & wrote
With a buddy of mine
Things only got worse
But I thought I was fine

The lights would center on us
As we sang songs for everyone
And we’d finally get noticed
We were gonna have lots of fun
But we crashed and burned
We couldn’t be what we wanted to be
But little did I know back in the day
God had better plans for me

It was clear what I had to do
I had to focus on my family
So I did but I still felt empty
‘Cause I had something
No one else could steal
It was truth, it was real
And it was totally free
God’s better plans for me

While it’s not what I expected
I can’t help having pride inside
Cause I didn’t get so down
That I’d commit suicide
Instead He heard my prayers
Today, I am just grateful to be
Cause I know God
Yeah I know God
Had better plans for you and me
God had better plans for you and me.

November 19, 2020

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About Family, Autobiographical, Country Song, Growing Up, Inspired by College, Lyrics, No Music Yet, Nostalgia, Rites of Passage

Don’t Forget Your Key

You’re heading off to college this morning
I got up early so we could talk before you go
I’ve made pancakes with chocolate chips
And wrapped something up with a bow
I know I haven’t been the greatest father
I missed some softball games you’ve played
That whole year I spent away in California
Wasn’t the smartest decision that I made

And I’m sorry for all the disagreements
About those boys who weren’t right for you
I’m sorry for grounding you on weekends
For something you said you couldn’t do
I’m sorry for saying you’ve lost my trust
And I’m sorry for just about everything
I did to force you who I wanted you to be
I hope you like what’s outside in the drive
And one more thing, don’t forget your key

You’ve liked my Chevy since you were eleven
But I didn’t let you drive it, you got a Bug
I was too overprotective and domineering
Hooked on stubbornness like it was a drug
Your mother said you’ve cried in your room
Whenever I said your choices were wrong
Even when you snuck out your window
I kept it secret and didn’t want to hurt Mom

And I’m sorry for all the disagreements
About those boys who weren’t right for you
I’m sorry for grounding you on weekends
For something you said you couldn’t do
I’m sorry for saying you’ve lost my trust
And I’m sorry for just about everything
I did to force you who I wanted you to be
I hope you like what’s outside in the drive
And one more thing, don’t forget your key

I’ll tell you you this, I’ll miss you like crazy
I’ll miss hearing about each lesson you learn
I’ll miss those things you don’t think of now
Like the picture from Prom you had to burn
It was of you & the boy who broke your heart
Who left you for a mean girl you didn’t like
I hope you’re ok with taking my Chevrolet
To college instead of that 4 year old bike

Honey, I’m sorry for all the disagreements
About those boys who weren’t right for you
I’m sorry for grounding you on weekends
For something you said you couldn’t do
I’m sorry for saying you’ve lost my trust
And I’m sorry for just about everything
I did to force you who I wanted you to be
I hope you like what’s now yours in the drive
And one more thing, don’t forget your key

Oh,
I hope you like what’s now yours in the drive
And one more thing, don’t forget your key
You’re always welcome to come home
And visit your Momma and me
We love you daughter, don’t forget your key

July 13, 2019

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Autobiographical, Ballad, Country Song, Growing Up, Inspired by College, Introspective, Love, Lyrics, Nostalgia, Relationships, Romance, Wistful, Young Love

Sweetheart from Soquel

I once had a sweetheart from Soquel
Who moved across the bay from Carmel
We worked together at a local resort hotel
That summer she had me under her spell
I was a couple of years older than she
I don’t know what she ever saw in me
She already had her Associate’s degree
And loved reading all my latest poetry

We never know who’ll be right
Who’ll know us better than we do
Who’ll see the magic in our eyes
And never know how they knew
Why they were only passing through
Why they were only passing through

She said she knew I’d be famous one day
She knew eventually I’d move down to LA
She helped me polish my original screenplay
We’d go on drives to beaches in Monterey
She was my dear sweetheart from Soquel
While I was very shy, she loved raising hell
Others didn’t think she was a bombshell
To me she was, and she treated me well

We never know who’ll be right
Who’ll know us better than we do
Who’ll see the magic in our eyes
And never know how they knew
Why they were only passing through
Why they were only passing through

That sweet summer came to a close
We broke apart but that’s the way it goes
Where she is now only heaven knows
She haunts me like a ghost at my shows

We never know who’ll be right
Who’ll know us better than we do
Who’ll see the magic in our eyes
And never know how they knew
Why they were only passing through
Why they were only passing through

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About Family, Adult Themes, Autobiographical, Folk Ballad, Growing Up, Inspired by College, Introspective, Lyrics, No Music Yet, Nostalgia, Rites of Passage, Wistful

Beach in Seabright

V1:
I look at my kids
I look at my wife
I think to myself
What a wonderful life
We have a house
A couple of cars
I feel so grateful
As I stare at the stars

Chorus:
And I know time is moving
faster than I’d like
I know it’s been a while since
I’ve been on my cruiser bike
I also know all of this
is I would dream about
As I’d go out with my friends
night after night
Searching for the one
with sweetness and light
At the Yacht Harbor near that
quiet beach in Seabright

Bridge:
I didn’t see it comin’
But I fell hard and fast
I was confident and cool
wishin’ and hopin’ we’d last
And sure as hell got so lucky
We’ve been together for this long
When I think we’ll break apart
My prediction is all wrong

Chorus 2:
And I know time is moving
faster than desired
I know it’ll be a while
Before we’ll both be retired
I also know all of this
is what I hoped for as a teen
As I’d go out with my friends
Friday and Saturday night
Searching for more than
sweetness and light
At weekend bonfires on that
quiet beach in Seabright

V2:
I look at my kids
And who I’ve become
We didn’t end up where
In the town I’m from
This journey I’m on
With my new family
Is the best damn thing
That’s happened to me

Chorus 3:
And I know time is movin’
faster than I’d like
It’s been a while since
I’ve been on my cruiser bike
I also know all of this
is all I’d ever need and want
Someday I’ll take them all to
The Crow’s Nest Restaurant
Where I’d admire everyone
with sweetness and light
Who grew up like me on that
quiet beach in Seabright

Who grew up like me on that
quiet beach in Seabright

First Draft, December, 2019
Second Draft, January, 2020

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