Duke

I first met Duke Bope when I was 15 years old. We played junior golf together. He was a long ball, really good player and I felt like I was handling a telephone pole when I grabbed a golf club. No real feel for the game but my dad encouraged me to play, so I did. Duke and I ended up in inter-club matches together and in some instances when they tried to stack the deck, he was stuck with me for a high school golf partner. It was there that I first saw…….”the look”. A guy from St Elizabeth accidentally stepped on Duke’s brand new driver and he looked at the guy with a look that could melt stone. The guy turned 50 shades of white and I intervened and said, ” Ah Duke, we can get that fixed – no problem.” And we moved on. I thought we were going to have a homicide on our hands that day.

He loved to drive my ’64 Buick convertible even though he did not have a license and I always let him have the helm after school with our group of nitwits holding court with the top down. Not real bright on my part but how do you refuse a “Big 33” football player?

Moving forward, I went to see Duke at Boston University and we had some fun times hitting the music scene in bars in the Cambridge area. I specifically remember one night when we went to this joint and saw a flaming red head wailing on her guitar and singing the blues as well as anyone we had ever seen. Bonnie Raitt went on to international fame but we saw her in her Boston club days and still talked about it years later. Duke was a music guy and we always talked about the latest albums and concerts. For an ex B.U. football player, he had an artistic side which helped him in later life working with his dad and brother in the tile business in Pittsburgh.

As we both entered the working world, football was always entertaining to Duke and he always thought that if you didn’t wear a helmet and pads, it was not a sport. He never understood my love for cycling and remarked, ” I thought you quit riding bikes when you are 14?” I took him to the Thrift Drug Classic to see the international class cyclists ride up Sycamore Street in Pittsburgh and he was amazed. I said, ” Duke- these guys are in amazing shape” and he agreed but never really understood until I nurtured his understanding over the years. My son Jack taught him a lot about basketball and he became a big fan of Lebron James.

He and I were pals and as different as we were, we learned a lot from each other. Duke was a strong Christian and his love for the Lord was evident in his daily life. He always quoted scripture and had a serious demeanor to him. Over the years, I saw…….” the look” but I always liked to make him laugh and often at our dinner table with Janet, Jack and his mom, I would catch him off guard and make him belly laugh. He and I were so different yet we learned so much from each other.

I remember when I first dated his sister who eventually and fortunately became my wife, I made the trek to Bellevue where they both lived in the apartment building that their dad owned. As I pulled up to the curb, I saw Duke in the yard. His remark was, ” What brings you to Bellevue, Pat.” And “the look” came out again. I stuttered and stammered a response about a date at Hartwood Acres. He chuckled and went inside. I learned later that he remarked to Janet,” He is a nice kid.” Janet said, ” Kid? He is older than you.”

As the years went on, Janet and Duke spent time at the beach with their aunt and uncle and became very close as brother and sister, caring for their mom after their dad died.

Duke maintained his love for golf all of his life and as a single digit handicapper at Sewickley Heights Golf Club, he was well known for his ability and had a lot of friends there. He lost in a playoff this summer for the Senior Club Championship and his competitive nature came out when he talked to me about the match. He had the guy on the ropes and let him off the hook and it made him angry. The fiery competitor was not amused and no matter how I tried to say that it was amazing to make the finals, he wanted to win. He was a winner. Second place was never good enough.

We eventually moved into the same neighborhood with Duke so that his mom, Jack, Janet and I could live close by and we spent a lot of time together grilling, sharing time on each other’s patios and spending holidays and fun times together. When you talk to Duke’s friends, the common denominator besides being a strong Christian is that he was extremely generous. Case in point, when we moved in, the next day, a beautiful Weber grill was on my patio, courtesy of Duke. He would entertain his mother’s friends and buy them gifts along with taking them out to eat. He would have parties at his house and always had beautiful gifts for the ladies. He couldn’t do enough for you. His mother tells the tales that Duke would not of his anonymous generosity with people who were in need at CMA Church on the Northside. Picking up peoples tabs at McDonald’s where it was obvious that needy people were scrambling to put together enough money for a meal. He never wanted it known that he was the gracious host.

We lost Duke this week at 61 year old. A tragic and sudden illness took him away and we all feel the void in our house, the neighborhood, his workplace and among his customers and friends. A big strong human being was taken at short notice,and we are stunned. The only consolation for us is that we know he is with the Lord who he loved with all of his heart. If there is a golf course in heaven, I know that his dad was waiting on the first tee with a smile on his face. ” You’re on the tee, Duke.” I am sure he approached the ball, gave it ” the look” and creased it right down the middle as strongly as ever. Life is fragile folks. Love your spouse, your family, your friends, and take the time for all of them. Duke surely did. Thanks for reading.

Singing with the Ladies

Coming at you a little early this week. Things to do, places to see.

I remember my first interest in music on the radio, stereo, etc. was when I first drove my mom’s old 1964 Buick Special convertible to high school and I had KQV AM Radio blasting, along with WAMO and Porky Chedwick, the platter pushing Papa. The Pork played a lot of Motown and Atlantic Record hits and I was hooked on driving to music.

Fast forward and I was in college and first became enamored with the female folk and rock singers of the time. Joni Mitchell was interesting to me with my deeply buried rebel side. ” They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot” and ” Hey farmer, farmer, put away that DDT now”, appealed to me as did her haunting voice and chords that no one else could possibly re-create on a guitar. Joni and the LA Express were cool and I played her records along with Linda Ronstadt – ” when will I be loved?” That one went rocking out the window with the KLH speakers. Grace Slick, Janis and Big Brother, were other female rockers who held my attention. joni-mitchelllinda-ronstadt-580

Moving along with my life, I found myself in Cambridge, Mass. post college graduation, visiting my future brother in law. He was a student at B.U and we went to a little venue that specialized in local talent on stage. Sitting there drinking a beer, a cool looking lady comes out with her cowboy boots and silver cockroach killers on the boot tips. She wore jeans and a neat blouse and when she bent over her Fender Stratocaster and slipped on the little glass bottle on her left finger, I knew we were in for something special. Her flaming shock of red hair swayed to the blues riffs and I knew I had found my new female singer attraction. Bonnie Raitt played a lot of venues in Boston and Philly at the time and she was taking off in the music world and I was a fan. I bought all of her tapes and subsequent CDs. bonnieraittnickoftime

Love had not found me yet, and I had a period of time driving my car to work and to ski areas where I felt sorry for myself and comforted myself in the melancholy tunes of Karla Bonoff. Driving along dark lonely roads, I felt like she was singing directly to me, the poor soul- no girlfriend and nothing in sight. A cactus in the desert, as I referred to myself. The old tune” The Water is Wide” left me shattered along with ” Someone to lay down beside me.” But things started to pick up and eventually I found the love of my life with my Janet. 012_karlabonoff

I spent a lot of time in the car and still do. My percussion skills on the steering wheel, aka timbalis, go well with my bass drum gas pedal. Now mind you, I don’t endanger myself but the truck drivers laugh when they look down on me and see me rockin’ with the ladies on the radio in my Jeep.

Janet and I found a new female recording artist when we went to an outdoor concert at Hartwood Acres here in Pittsburgh, and first saw bluegrass sensation Allison Krauss and Union Station. I had always liked bluegrass although the genre was lost on my bride. But sitting up front in the cool evening of late summer, she was enthralled with Allison’s voice and song selection and soon we had all the CDs and I played them relentlessly on the road tapping the steering wheel and swinging and swaying my way down the turnpike. alisonjpg-8733181b71368ffa

So why the fascination with female singers? I can tell you it is not anything sexual, but rather somehow, a woman singing is really beautiful to me. It had been that way since I was a little child and when I first heard stereo recordings of some of the world’s best female singers, I was hooked. Opera singers, folk singers, rock singers, they all had that quality of voice that appealed to me and although I rock out in the car to The Dead, The New Riders, The Eagles, The Stones, and on and on at ear splitting decibels, I find that most of the time, I am listening to the soothing sounds of female folk singers and soft rockers.

I am open to new artists and listening to Pandora the other day, I was taken by a singer who passed away in 1996. Eva Cassidy had a wonderful voice and her renditions of blues favorites are really well done. Imagine that I had not heard of her until now?maxresdefault She actually only gained notoriety after her death and it is a shame that she is gone. Her rendition of ” What a Wonderful World” and ” Over the Rainbow” left me speechless when I first heard them. Please take the time and listen to her and see if you are taken the same way that I was. Really….listen to this. https://youtu.be/2rd8VktT8xY

I have listened to a lot of music over the years, and when you put as much time in the car as I have, you gain an appreciation for music and lyrics. I am constantly searching for new artists but still play the old tunes. I sing with the ladies on the road, in the shower, and anywhere my travels take me. The truckers till laugh. Thanks for reading.