Friday, February 10, 2006

One Song, Three Jokes, One Whiskey, One Beer, Many Thanks

Steve Allen, The Tonight Show founder, wrote one song and three jokes every morning.

This is what Dick, a classmate from a writing class I took this Fall, told us. I checked Allen's Web site and, indeed, he was in the Guiness Book of World Records for writing 8,500 songs.

As Dick told us about Allen in writing class, I pictured a man bent over his desk, black coffee steaming beside him, mocking him: "Face it. You have nothing left to write. You might as well write about me." And Allen sits there, forcing words to rhyme with java--"Lava, hava, fava, lava--God bless it, I already used that one!"

It wasn't as painful as all that, I learned this morning by reading his Web site. The ideas for songs came to him everywhere--in the car, on the town. "This is the Start of Something Big," the theme song for his show, came to him in a dream.

8,500 songs. Not to mention jokes.

I love the thought of such creative bounty almost as much as I love a Shoney's buffet. But this doesn't lessen the fact that everyday, he woke up and wrote. That required discipline. Or else addiction.

A professional poker player was on the Steve Kraske Show--a local radio program--the other day, talking strategy. He asked her if she was addicted to gambling. She said yes. Then she asked, Isn't everybody addicted to their job if they love doing it?

What is more beautiful than watching someone do a job they love? It always makes me think of Chariots of Fire, when the guy is running in Scottland and his face and whole body radiate utter joy.

I know a lot of you reading this have hard jobs. My uncle and brother are doctors. I can't imagine the mental and emotional exhaustion at the end of the day. My sister in law, aunt and uncles are salespeople--a job I can't imagine having the guts to do. And yet, I think they love their jobs.

My husband is a carpenter. I've watched him make flower boxes in the basement, and he points out imperfections he plans on correcting.

"Oh, no one will notice that," I say.

"Well..." he says. I know what he's thinking. He'll notice. That's what you do when you love your job. You do "your best effort," as teachers call it, speaking of hard jobs.

So here's to jobs we love. And here's to people who do jobs they hate in hopes that their kids will find jobs they love.

I love writing and want to thank every one who has read this blog and sent comments or sent it on to someone else. I really appreciate it. I'm always leary of asking people to read what I write. I wonder, is this like if my husband sent out pictures of every deck he built with a note that said: "Hey, everyone. This is my latest work. Let me know what you think." So people's nice notes have really meant a lot. It helps to have a big, loving family and a mom who is in contact by e-mail with everyone in the free world.

Speaking of love, I am kicking off kissy love week, in honor of Valentine's Day. It is in recognition of the fact that St. Valentine, a man of the cloth, was not even allowed to date anyone. So this holiday is about more than romantic love, something I learned by spending 22 Valentine's Days not having a boyfriend and loving every minute of it--I told you I know how to play solitaire five ways, right?

Columns this week will focus on family love, lasting love and finding love in unexpected places. Hopefully, none of the blogs will make you throw up. But depending on your sappiness threshold, I can't promise that.

Of course, love has to start somewhere, so here is the opening verse of "This Is the Start of Something Big:"

You're walkin' along the street, or you're at a party
Or else you're all alone and then you suddenly dig
You're looking in someone's eyes
You suddenly realize
That this could be the start of something big

That must have been a really nice dream Steve Allen had.

And if you've made it this far, I have to add a story about another kind of on-the-job discipline my brother Luke encountered. When he was in college, his car broke down outside of Atchison, Kan., where he went to school. The tow truck arrived and the mechanic promised to take care of everything. But, he said, "I'm not going to do anything until I drink a shot of whiskey and a beer." And in a disciplined manner, he did just that.

So you see, discipline, love and addiction are hard to tell apart sometimes. Far be it from me to say which is which. All I know is that mechanic loved his whiskey.


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