Pre-Thanksgiving Decisions

This coming weekend our children, their children and most of my wife’s family will gather at our home, and I’ve been thinking about what background music to play before, during, and after the meal.

Some artists I can eliminate from the beginning. Tom Waits is out, as are the Last Poets and anything by Captain Beefheart. I have some William Shatner, and the Golden Throats compilation CD (featuring Jack Webb doing “Try a Little Tenderness”), but I’m thinking they’re probably not going to be on the list either.

I’m always up for a little Grateful Dead, so that’s a possibility. A classic mix, maybe, with the Dead, Van Morrison, Paul Simon. Johnny Cash — now there’s a thought. Hard to go wrong with the Man in Black.

I’ve also thought about going strictly instrumental; you know, just something tasteful to fill in behind the conversations. Miles Davis, MIchael Hedges, Bill Evans, lots of different ways to go there.

I could use this gathering to showcase women artists, given all that’s happened in politics and society in general. So, Holly Cole, Joni Mitchell, Lorraine Ellison, Bonnie Raitt, Dolly Parton, k. d. lang, Jennifer Warnes.

What I’ll probably end up doing, though, is wait until a half hour before people start getting here and grab what seems good at the moment. That’s how it usually goes.

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A career working with teenagers on the fringes of society has made me both sensitive to and appreciative of the complexities of character and the struggles, inner and outer, that we all wrestle with in one form or another. My writing emphasizes character development over action, and, as a lifelong Southerner, the rhythms and cadence of the Southeastern United States influence both my spoken and written voice.

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