Thursday, April 07, 2016

Remembering Merle Haggard in My Own Way

Whenever I hear a song by Merle Haggard on the radio I always turn the sound up a little and I remember. For me, Haggard's music is almost synonymous with my twenties, the 1970's and the 1980's. My mother was a fan of country music (We still call it Country and Western) and it was through her that I became a fan. Merle Haggard became a quick favorite.

When Jeri and I moved into our first home together on Newlin Avenue in Whittier, in February of 1978, it seems like we were having a party every other weekend. We had a big backyard, so it wasn't a problem. We brought the record player outside, the BBQ grill and plenty of meat to grill, a keg of beer, sometimes two, maybe some Jack Daniels and/or some tequila, and all the albums we owned at the time. Our friends brought their own music too.

Sometimes the parties got a little out of hand and the cops would come and shut us down, at other times they lasted into the wee hours of the early morning. Sometimes the neighbors complained but more often than not they would walk through the gate and join in. We listened to a lot of different music, mostly rock, oldies and Motown but in the very late hours when we were doing our most serious drinking it was Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Jr. and Merle Haggard. It was Merle Haggard that seemed to reach me the most. His music was so relevant to those things that were going on in my own life, good and bad.

On some days we had a lot of company and on other days it was just a few good friends but the core of our friends that stayed late to close out the night (or morning) were my cousins David and Dolores Robles, and close friends Sergio and Denise Billings, Mike Teran and Ken Robledo. There were others that came and went but this was the core. We would bring out any and all chairs and sit around the grill and talk about life and the future, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying a little and sometimes even arguing. All the while it was Merle Haggard and the boys in the background taking us through the night.

These are the days and nights and friends that come to mind whenever I hear Merle Haggard on the radio. I own many of his CD's but there is still something special about hearing one of your favorite songs or artist on the radio, even if you have all his CD's.

This song “If We Make it Through December” always reminds me of those early, hard, lean times my wife and I had so long ago. The man has been made silent now but his music remains with us.


Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Merle Haggard Has Died (April 6, 1937 – April 6, 2016)

My wife and I were on the 605 freeway earlier today heading out to the hospital to see my mother when I heard on the radio that Merle Haggard had died. Sad, sad news. He was a favorite of my wife and I.

Merle Haggard might have had his roots in Oklahoma but he was pure Californian. He was born and raised in Bakersfield. Merle Haggard wrote and sang his to and for the American working man and all that went with that: marriage, raising kids, hard drinking, friendships and a life time of working with ones hands. He seemed to have an innate understanding of all of it and this is what connected him to his fans.

Jeri and I saw Merle Haggard in concert three times over the years. The first was at an outdoor concert in the summer of 1982 at the Chino Downs Ranch in Chino, California. The second time was a few years later at Universal Studios during the mid 1980's. The last time we saw Merle Haggard was at the Pechanga Hotel and Casino in Temecula, California in 2010, courtesy of our daughter Meranda, when she gave us two tickets as a Christmas gift in December of 2009. All three concerts were great but this last concert was the most intimate and satisfying of the three. He really connected with the crowd that night. Haggard was an amazing entertainer. We had hopes of seeing him one last time. We will miss him.

Today was also his 79th birthday. R.I.P. Merle Haggard and thank you for sharing your music with us.

The photo below was taken by Jeri at the Chino Downs Ranch concert in 1982.

  Merle Haggard at Chino Downs Ranch 1982

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Photograph for Posterity........

Four Generations

Four generations: Great grandmother, grandmother and mother Anita De La O (nee Osuna), Son, father and grandfather Randy De La O, granddaughter, daughter and mother Savannah Guerrero (nee De La O) and great grandson, grandson, and son Jack David Guerrero.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

My thought for the day!

I honestly believe that if you wake up in the morning looking for hate, racism, faults and more, then you will find it or it will find you. Look instead for the good in people, better yet, look for the great in them. There is so much good in the world, so many good people! I know because I have met many of them.

Someone hates you because of who you are? They can't stop you. Live your life. Nothing or no one can hold you back.

Keep in mind, a younger generation is watching you! If you were raised in a house filled with racism then be the first to break the mold! Lead the way!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Sharing Life's lessons with my Granddaughter....

I picked up my granddaughter Mariah from school earlier today to take her to the dentist in Uptown Whittier. When she was done we walked back to the parking lot and there was a man standing in the entry way. He said something to me but I couldn't hear him clearly (my hearing is getting worse). I said “What?” He repeated himself but I still could not hear him clearly. I could see he was a man in need. He was wearing an old and dirty pair of pajama bottoms, a raggedy sweatshirt, dirty hair and beard and he was barefooted. He looked to be in his mid to late 30's but I'm guessing.
Since I couldn't hear him I didn't know how to answer him and then I heard my granddaughter say “No, I”m sorry.” “What dd he want?” I asked her. “Wait” she said. We got a little closer to the car and then she said “He asked if we had any money, even 50 cents”
I didn't have any cash on me but I did have two quarters in my pocket. I gave her the keys and told her to wait for me in the car. “He probably just wants to buy cigarettes or something.” She said to me. I said to her “If all I can do is help this guy get some cigarettes to help him make it through the day then that's what I'm going to do.”
I walked back and said “Hey!” He turned around, saw me and came running. “Look” I said “All I got on me is 50 cents but it's yours if you want it.” He was sincerely grateful.
When the opportunity presents itself I never miss a chance teach my children or my grandchildren a lesson. Mariah didn't say anything but I felt that she was puzzled that I went back to give the man my change. I got in the car and said “I'm going to teach you two quotes today that I have carried around inside of me for years. The first quote is “There but for the grace of God go I”. “Do you understand what that means?” She shook her head and said “No”.
It isn't always easy to verbalize a quote, even when I know exactly what it means but I tried. “It means, that he could be me but God has blessed me.” I wanted eye contact because I wanted to make sure she understood what I was trying to say. “Not everyone has what you have, a mother that works hard to give you a good life. Not everyone has that. You have been blessed. Do you get what I'm saying? “Yes, I do” “I don't have a lot but God has blessed me with a home and my family, and he has blessed me with you!" That made her smile.
I told her about a guy I knew from work that got laid off during the 1990's. A few years later I went to the company store and he was sitting out in the front with a sign asking for money. We recognized each other. We talked for a few minutes. He told me after he got laid off, he couldn't find another job, eventually he lost his home, his wife left him, he got sick and life just spiraled downward. “There but for the grace of God go I” I said. “life can change in a heartbeat!”
“You know Honey, I'm sure that guy doesn't want to be standing out there today asking for money. We never know any one's story. This is why we need to show them mercy and understanding.”
“The other quote is “I used to complain about not having any shoes til I met a man without any feet.” No explanation need for this one. It was almost self explanatory. She got it.
I took her back to school and before she got out I said “I don't know what you're going to learn here today but you learned something from your grandfather today didn't you? “Yes I did” She said. “Good , give me a kiss and call me if you need a ride home.”

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Happy Birthday to Maddie

Retirement Dinner at the California Grill


Happy Birthday to one of the great loves of my life, my granddaughter Maddie. Maddie is twelve today. I cannot find the words to describe my love for her. She is an amazing young lady. What an honor to be her “Pop Pop” She has brought so much joy, comfort and love into all our lives.
Happy Birthday granddaughter! Nana and I love you past the moon, past the sun and the stars and beyond!!

Below is a picture of my granddaughter Maddie at our family reunion at Legg Lake Park in 2006. She's probably saying to herself "who are all these people?"


Maddie

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Happy Birthday Andrew De La O

My Son Andrew and I


Son (2)


Happy Birthday to my son Andrew. Thirty four years ago today I became the father of this amazing young man! He lives and works in Seattle, Washington now but in my mind's eye I still see a little boy. I am always taken back when he comes home to visit and this big full grown man walks through the door. It will probably always be that way. Son, your mother and I love you! Happy Birthday!