Newsletter, Feb 28, 2019

Greg Tamblyn Newsletter


In This Issue:

  • LaughterJam Humor Antenna
  • Ireland Group Adventure
  • MilkSnort! Update
  • Upcoming Schedule

“Laughter is an instant vacation.” – Milton Berle
“A good time to laugh is when you can.” – Jessamyn West
“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.” – Dr. Seuss

Here in The U.S. of Stress, we get so busy we frequently forget to have fun. Or we put it off. Sometimes we even feel guilty, because we’re supposed to be “working.” We can’t help it. It’s that Puritan cultural DNA we’ve inherited.

H. L. Mencken said that Puritanism is:
“The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

So we can all benefit from humor breaks during the day, and as the above quotes attest, even a little bit can go a long way.

What are some good ways to do that?  Read on, Grasshopper…

Bags-Are-Our-Passion-min-tiny           (I’m glad bags are their passion. I hope that includes guitar cases)

LaughterJam Humor Workshop

This is the name of a new playshop I’ve created for 2019, which I’ll be offering at many of my appearances. Part One (of 3) is what I call The Humor Antenna, or Mirthful Mindfulness, or Mindful Mirthfulness.*

* NOTE: this does not require any WORK.

It’s simply about making a decision every day to be on the lookout for the weird, wild, wacky, and wonderful. Then if possible, collect it and share it:

Unattended-Children-Will-Be-Sold-min-tiny                      (Sign spotted in Joe’s Crab Shack, Redondo Beach)

Humor is an attitude, like gratitude, compassion, forgiveness. It can be cultivated and developed. It’s a mindset, and one of the very best ways to get more humor into our lives is to just pay attention.

It shows up all the time in unexpected quips or malapropisms, funny signs, creative t-shirts, strange product labels, awkward headlines, kid and pet antics. You might even find it in the slogan of a famous and very large Chinese Buddhist Temple in greater Los Angeles:

Always-Well-Rounded-And-min-tiny (Happy to say that my own personal unit is getting more well-rounded every day)
                      (Love the blow-up pigs – Year of the Pig!)

So we simply pay attention, find the funny, and if possible, capture it and share it. If you have a smartphone, it’s easy. You can file your funny photos and videos. You can write down funny thoughts and quips (yours or others’) on your notes app. After awhile, it’s surprising how much Hahaha you’ve hoarded.

Use it for the amusement of your own personal self when you’re stuck in line. Inflict it on other people when you see their eyes glazing over. Because you collect the funny, they will start to see you as funny. If they don’t already.

And YOU will have changed the way you see the world every day!

All the above photos were taken on a trip to LA a couple of weeks ago. I returned home to find that somebody had installed this in our neighborhood traffic circle:
Banana-Traffic-Circle-min-tiny           (It’s true, every neighborhood roundabout needs a giant banana)

Feel free to send me any original humor that shows up for you. I’ll try to feature it in future newsletters, and also on my JokeQuote site. Giving you the proper credit, of course.

Join Me In Ireland This October

Happy to report I’m in super-fun talks with a fabulous tour company, putting the finishing touches on what looks to be a fantastic itinerary of the Old Sod. This is mostly a tour for folks who would love to explore the highest highlights (figuratively) of the whole island, including Northern Ireland.

As of now it looks like a 13-14 day tour, departing October 10. (So you’ll be back in plenty of time for Halloween.) And if you’re alert, with all of your Christmas shopping finished! Hope to announce it within a week or so, and I’ll have a lot more info for you then.

Please keep your eye on your inbox. There’s been a lot of interest in this tour, so you’ll want to sign up as soon as you can commit.

MilkSnort! Seems To Be A Hit

I’m getting great feedback so far about MilkSnort! The Joke party Game from you early adopters – thank you!

If you haven’t tried it yet -  (why not??)  – you could be in for some great laughs and a ton of fun. Makes a terrific gift. You can bring it to the party and everybody gets to enjoy it right now!  Check it out here.

Upcoming Appearance Schedule

Here’s what’s currently confirmed. Many more venues – especially in Colorado, California, and Texas, are awaiting firm dates. Many of these dates will be offering the LaughterJam Humor Workshop, in addition to other fun stuff.
For locations, times, content, and tickets, always please go to my Calendar:

Mar 28-31: Posi Music Awards and Festival, Tampa FL
* I’ll be presenting the LaughterJam Humor Workshop

Apr 7: Indianapolis IN
Apr 14, 15: Naperville IL
Apr 22-26: Council Grove Conference, KS (private event)
May 5: (on hold for N California venue)
May 19: Bloomington IN
Oct 10: Ireland Adventure Tour
Nov 9,10: Torrington CT
Nov 11: Cape Cod, MA
Dec 1: Albuquerque NM
Dec 8: Manhattan KS

Thanks for reading all the way to the bottom!

I hope to see you out there on the road, and as always, my atoms are your atoms.
- Greg
fullsizeoutput_171f(Passed this sign last Monday in Brookfield MO on the drive home from Indiana)

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2019 Group Travel: Where Next?

I’m exploring THREE different destinations for a 2019 group tour. Please let me know if any of these floats your boat. You can leave feedback in the Comment section at the bottom. Thanks!

MOROCCO SAHARA ODYSSEY: 16 days, approx cost: $3,400 (plus air), likely travel month: May or October

OAT Morocco Travel Sahara Odyssey Overseas Adventure Travel“Morocco travel enthralls even the most experienced adventurer. Tradition infuses its labyrinthine medinas, overflowing with centuries-old customs and the colorful bounty of the Earth. Village oases seem to rise from the desert, mirage-like. And the mighty Sahara, a timeless sea of sand, stretches to infinity.

In our O.A.T. small group, we’ll truly get to know the people of Morocco, experience their traditions, and taste the secrets of their flavorful cuisine. We’ll cross paths with nomads in remote stretches of desert, be welcomed in by locals for home-cooked meals and unforgettable conversation, and discover the beauty of Moroccan mosques—including Casablanca’s remarkable Hassan II. Along the way, we’ll enjoy intimate stays in authentic riads—Moroccon homes converted into elegant, ornately-tiled hotels with open-air, Andalusian-style courtyards.

All the while, we’ll benefit from the expertise of our local O.A.T. Trip Leader who will share invaluable knowledge and insight along the way. Plus, to get a true feel for the mighty Sahara that has so decisively shaped this culture, we’ll camp under its starry skies in a tented camp for two nights—and even explore by camel.” Click here for all info.

ULTIMATE AFRICA SAFARI: BOTSWANA, ZAMBIA, ZIMBABWE: 16 days, approx cost: $4,795 (plus air), likely travel month: November 1. 14 people minimum.

OAT African Safari Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia Overseas Adventure Travel“Majestic elephants congregate around a waterhole in the depths of the wilderness … members of a village near Hwange National Park welcome your small group … the spray of Victoria Falls roars in the distance … you and your travel companions exchange stories around a fire under a star-filled African sky. In the morning, you wake to the birdsong emanating from nearby acacia trees—and begin another day on the safari of your dreams.

On our Ultimate Africa safari, we’ll experience small lodges and tented camps; game-viewing drives and guided safari walks with our sharp-eyed Trip Leaders and expert, naturalist driver-guides; individual interactions in remote villages due to our small group size; a rhino tracking excursion (January-March and November-December departures)and flights via bush plane over the legendary African landscape. From world-famous Chobe National Park to the majestic Okavango Delta, and big game to local cultures—this safari has it all.” Click here for all info.

DISCOVER IRELAND TOUR: 14 days, approx cost: $4,100 (plus air), likely travel month: October

Vagabond 11 Day Driftwood Discover Ireland Tour - View Our 11 Day Ireland Itinerary“Truly a journey of discovery exploring and learning about all the best parts of Ireland, the 14-day Driftwood vacation is a breath-taking and fascinating tour of Ireland. We will take you to some of Ireland’s best-known tourist destinations like the Blarney Stone, the Ring of Kerry and the Cliffs of Moher. And because our groups and vehicles are smaller, we will also take you right away from the beaten track and show you our favourite hidden corners of this beautiful, charming, mysterious land.”

Note: this will be a customized 14 day tour of their standard 11 day tour. I’ve requested that it be expanded for us to have even more time in some special places, and a more leisurely pace. Click here for more info.

Let me know of your interest in the Comment box. If you’ve never commented on my blog, you’ll get a “waiting for approval” message, but it won’t take long. Thanks.

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Happy Mothers Day!

I hope my tongue in prune juice smothers
If I belittle dogs and mothers.
- Ogden Nash

God could not be everywhere, so he invented mothers.
- Yiddish Proverb

My own personal mother was frugal, and proud of it. When I was a kid she refused to buy us raisin bran. She bought raisins and bran flakes, and told us to go make our own.

When I went off to college, she sewed my name tag into every piece of clothing I owned, including all my socks. And some of the tags were visible above the shoe line.

* Even then, knowing nothing about obsession, this seemed a bit obsessive. But I’m sure it came from her 1930s depression-era upbringing.

She could sew anything. She even sewed my 6-year-old brother’s head back together in the bathroom after he fell through a floor at a construction site and hit his head on a rock. She was a doctor, so I guess that was legal.

She had a sense of humor, too. One morning when I was little, she got up and made pancakes. It was very unusual for her to have time to cook breakfast for us, so this was special. Well, the pancakes were actually pieces of round cloth, coated with pancake batter. So after they were cooked, sitting on our plates covered with syrup and ready to eat, we could NOT cut them.

Turns out it was it was April Fools Day. Good one, Mom.

Back in the ’50s, she was a guest on the TV show “What’s My Line?” The panelists guessed she was a doctor fairly quickly, but not what kind.

If you’d like to see the show, it’s on youtube. You can skip ahead to 10:50 if you don’t want to watch the whole thing:

Signing in to that show on the blackboard was the ONLY time I ever remember her having legible handwriting. (She was a doctor!) When I was in college she used to write me letters on the back of surgery schedules. The surgery schedules were more interesting, and a lot easier to read.

She was talented in many ways, actually. Great singer, gourmet cook (when she had time), gardener, and as mentioned, could sew like a pro. Also liked to bring home jokes. She heard a lot of those in surgery.

But she was not an easy mom. As I said, she was frugal. She was also strict, a perfectionist (majored in English grammar), and did not have much time for nurturing. Then in middle age she became a dedicated alcoholic, and never got into recovery.

This Mothers Day finds her two months short of her 95th birthday. About six years ago she developed dementia. The good side of dementia is she’s forgotten all about drinking. She’s been sober for 6 years and doesn’t know it.

She’s more fun now. She’s become very loving and appreciative in her current state.

Amazingly, she still has her sense of humor. When I tell her a joke, she knows if it’s funny or not. She also loves to sing along to old songs and remembers an uncanny number of lyrics. She still sings on key and can do harmony too. It’s all still there in her brain somewhere.

So as soon as I finish this, I’m headed over there to sing a few songs with her, and give her a shoulder rub. Who knows, maybe this is her last Mothers Day.

She wasn’t an easy mother, but she gave me life and a lot more, and I’m grateful.

Big Thanks to all of you mothers!

And as always, thanks for reading.

© 2018 Greg Tamblyn

Feel free to leave a comment in the box below. If you’ve never commented here before it’ll take a few minutes before your comment shows up. Patience! Thanks.


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Psychic Jay Bell Finds My Car Keys And Other Stuff

To understand the mystery of Psychic Jay Bell, we need to go back in time for a brief setting of the story, which finds me delivering singing telegrams, frequently dressed as a Flasher. It was the most fun job I ever had working for somebody else.

These moments of musical misbehavior mostly occurred at a workplace, a restaurant, or a party. But sometimes it got more scenic. One time I delivered a telegram at the ballpark in front of 30,000 Royals fans. Another time to a newlywed couple in bed on their first night together. Once even to a bachelorette party of a dozen or so naked young ladies at a backyard swimming pool. (Sorry, that’s a whole other story.)

Why This Job?

I had graduated from college, tried graduate school, tried various corporate sales jobs, tried a few other kinds of jobs (geologist, planetarium lecturer), and basically done everything I could to avoid attempting my one true but very risky passion: writing songs and singing them for a living.

Eventually in my mid-twenties I came to grips with the fact that I was going to have to give music a shot and see what happened.

There were a few problems with this.

First, I knew I wasn’t a very good songwriter. I wanted to be good, but I didn’t know how to be good, or even if I could in fact ever be good. I could tell that most of the songs I was writing were somewhat cheesy.

Secondly, I knew I could sing okay, but I was only an average guitar player. How much better would I have to get?

Finally, I had crippling, brutal, abject stage fright. I realized that if I was going to write songs, I might at some point have to play them for real, live, actual people. So I HAD to get over my terror of that.

Time To Face Your Fear, Bub

I finally cobbled together some courage and auditioned to perform on a weekend in the basement of a local club. Incredibly, somehow, I got the job. Despite my fright, I was now contracted to show up and “entertain” people for four hours, two nights in a row.

It turned out to be less and less scary as I got rolling, and then actually kind of fun. As you may have noticed, a lot of people in bars are not paying close attention to the singer. Many of the ones that are paying attention have consumed a quantity of distilled spirits that make the entertainer sound better – and funnier – than he or she actually is.

I guess it worked okay because the club hired me to come back in a month. I began auditioning at other bars, and sort of a career was born.

As I transitioned to making money performing in clubs, I needed another flexible, dependable income. Ergo, singing telegrams. It was easy, fun, paid well, and I could work when I wanted to.

Psychic Jay Bell

While I drove around all day amusing myself delivering frequently risqué telegrams to the unsuspecting ladies of Kansas City, I would listen to the radio in my old beater of a car. It only had an AM radio, so usually I tuned in to a talk show hosted by a goofy local personality named Mike Murphy.

Murphy’s show was about anything and everything, almost always with a heavy dose of humor. One of his occasional guests was another character named Psychic Jay Bell.

Psychic Jay Bell was, as you might suspect, a psychic. People would call the station with their questions, and Psychic Jay Bell would answer them with confidence bordering on arrogance. He did not suffer fools, and he was not a touchy-feely kind of guy. More like a drill sergeant. So callers had to be ready for the straight dope, at least as he saw it, and never sugar coated.

I found this highly entertaining.

One day I had an hour between telegrams and stopped for some groceries. As I got back in the car to drive home, I flipped on the radio and there was Psychic Jay Bell, enlightening the callers of Kansas City with his typical bravado. I listened for a few minutes until I got home, then shut off the car and took my food inside to put away.

Five minutes later I was ready to leave for my next telegram, but there was a problem. I couldn’t find my car keys. I looked in the car, on the front walk, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, but they were nowhere. It was crazy. I’d only been home five minutes and only been in two rooms. In a mild panic, I realized there was only one thing to do.

I Called The Radio Station

I told them I wanted to talk to Psychic Jay Bell. They said hold on, you’re next.

In a minute, Mike Murphy and Psychic Jay Bell came on the line and said, “Greg from Kansas City, you’re on the air. What’s your question?”

I said, “I can’t find my car keys.”

There was a split second of silence, then they cracked up. They were howling. Loud guffaws. They thought this was hilarious. Then they said, “No really, what’s your question?”

I said, “I’m not kidding. I’m late for an appointment and I can’t find my keys.”

Psychic Jay Bell said, “For crying out loud. You really can’t find your car keys?”

“Nope,” I said.

“Oh, Brother. Okay, wait a second.”

There was silence for a few seconds, then Psychic Jay Bell announced, “Your keys are in the bottom of a brown paper sack.”

My eyes flew open as I looked across the kitchen at the grocery sack on the counter.

“Hold on,” I said, and went to look.

There in the bottom of the grocery bag were my keys. I couldn’t believe it. How did they drop in there without me hearing them?

I went back to the phone and said, “You’re right! They were in my grocery bag!”

Psychic Jay Bell said, “Of course I’m right. That was easy. Surely you got a better question than that.”

I thought for a minute, then said. “Okay, well, I’m trying to decide about my career. Whether to go for it as a professional songwriter, and maybe singer. It’s a tough road and I just don’t know if I’m good enough. No guarantees. I might waste a lot of years and get nowhere. Any thoughts about that?”

Psychic Jay Bell thought about that for what seemed like a long time.

Finally he said, “Yes, that’s actually your best path. But you’re going to have to be patient. You’ll have to work hard, pay your dues. If you do, eventually you’ll do well, even win some awards. But it’s going to take some time. So don’t be in a hurry.”

Well, that sounded mostly good. I knew he could have been pulling my chain, except that his schtick was that he didn’t really do that. Lots of times I heard him tell people what they didn’t want to hear.

Then he went on to say, “You’ll have your best success with story songs, like Harry Chapin writes. Listen to some Harry Chapin and see what I’m talking about.”

The fact that he got specific about the kinds of songs was interesting for a couple of reasons. I felt it gave him a bit more credibility, but also it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I was not a huge fan of story songs, and although I definitely respected Harry Chapin, I wouldn’t have called myself a fan.

But I filed that away in my brain because it was so specific.

Okay, Fast Forward To Today

Between then and now were some decades of hard work and dues paying: leaving the bars behind, moving to Nashville, starting all over, learning how to write better songs, leaving Nashville years later for the Big Unknown, and starting all over again. But everything has, in fact, pretty much worked out the way he said it would eventually.

I have won some songwriting awards, and a couple of those have even been for story songs. I ended up writing more of them than I ever thought I would, especially humorous ones.

This past February at the EmPower Posi (short for “Positive”) Music Awards, I was honored with The Grace Note Award for Lifetime Achievement in Positive Music. (Awarded by Unity Worldwide Ministries.)

I guess Lifetime Achievement means you’ve been doing something for long enough that people notice. And when your peers want to give you something like this, it definitely does feel like validation. I deeply appreciate that people got together and decided to honor me. I am truly grateful for it. Kind of blown away, actually.

But It Made Me Realize Something

As lovely as it is to be recognized with an award (and it’s very, very nice), I’m aware that I’m a hundred times more grateful to YOU.

I see you at concerts and other events (sometimes after lots of years!), I read your newsletter comments and emails, and sometimes we have contests or other kinds of participatory stuff. I get a huge kick out of your stories, your feedback, your comments, your ideas, and your jokes. I honestly can’t tell you how much I value this, and I never take it for granted. Without you I have no idea what I’d be doing.

As Big Bill Broonzy famously said, “Thank you, thank you, and thank you again.”

So Here’s A Question

Did Psychic Jay Bell actually see the future? Or did he help me create it?

Honestly, I don’t know and can’t say. And I’m not sure it matters. Maybe both. The truth is I was already pretty close to going for it, at least for awhile. So maybe I would have done everything I did anyway.

But this is also true:

Whether he meant to or not, Psychic Jay Bell gave me a big dose of encouragement. And we all need a boatload of that. I probably needed it more than anybody.

So here’s the deal

I invite you to think about someone in your life who has given you encouragement that meant a lot. Maybe that got you over a hump. Maybe that you didn’t or couldn’t get anywhere else. Really, seriously, think about it. Right now.

Then, if possible, call them up and thank them.

Then think about the people in your life – especially (but not only) kids – who could use some encouragement. And call them up too!

And finally, if you happen to know whatever happened to Psychic Jay Bell, I’d really like to find out. :)   (You can comment below.)


© 2018 Greg Tamblyn

If you’ve never commented here before, your comment will have to be approved by your friendly neighborhood musical lafologist (me) before it appears, but it will. Honest.

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When I Get Old I’m Going To Wear Red – (poem)

This fun little verse was written by Joanne Pope, a long-time family friend, now in her nineties. She and my mother have been good friends since they were in college together, something like 70 years. Because Joanne didn’t have a daughter, she was especially close to my sister Claudia, who recently passed on. The two of them are in the photo at the bottom.

This poem is obviously Joanne’s take on the more famous one about wearing purple. I suspect one of the reasons Joanne wanted me to have it is because Claudia didn’t get the chance to be old.

Thank you Jody. :)

When I Get Old I’m Going To Wear Red

When I get old
I’m going to wear red
And live on Chocolate
And read in bed

And have six olives
In my martini
And smoke cigars
In my bikini

And learn to ski
Without a care
And wear fake nails
And dye my hair

I’ll have flamingos
In my front lawn
And play old records
And dance till dawn

I’ll win at bridge
And know each card
And raid the fridge
And cook with lard!

I’ll never listen
Just talk instead
When I get old
And I wear red!

© 1999 Joanne Pope

Claudo and Jody

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Help Me Choose My Song Art

Thanks for checking out this potential artwork for a single song release of Jesus Was A Bachelor.

Whatever piece I end up choosing will have the same wording – song title and my name – so please don’t focus on those differences. I’m mainly interested in the art and the font.

Let me know if any of them stands out, or makes you want to hear the song, or gives you a chuckle, etc. And if you don’t like any of them, don’t be shy. You won’t hurt my feelings!

Cast your vote in the comment box at the bottom, and your comments are welcome.  (If you have never commented on my blog before, yours will have to be approved by me before it shows up, but it will be, usually soon.)


Number 1:

Jesus-Bachelor-Cover2Number 2:

Jesus-Was-A-Bachelor4Number 3:

Jesus-Was-A-Bachelor7Number 4:

Bride at wedding in the church

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7.99 CD Sale

This coming Thursday and Friday (Nov 30, Dec 1) you can order as many copies as you like of The Shootout At The I’m OK, You’re OK Corral and Art From The Heart for only $7.99 plus postage.
* Prefer digital mp3 downloads? You can also download them at that price any time this week.
The Shootout contains 6 comedy songs and 5 heartfelt ones:
  • The Shootout At The I’m OK, You’re OK Corral
  • Just A Little Soul Hanging Out In Space – (Posi Award Winner)
  • They Know
  • I Have A Tendency For Codependency
  • A 21st Century Kind Of Guy
  • I Drink, Therefore I Am
  • Love Will Come Around – (Posi Award Winner)
  • Unconditional Love (The Story Of Evy) – (Posi Award Nominee)
  • It’s Never To Late To Have A Happy Childhood
  • You Can’t Blame The Wreck On The Train
  • Have A Little Faith
Art From The Heart has 3 humor songs and 6 heartfelt tunes, including an 8 minute version of the Heart of the Mother chant:
  • The Night I Left My Body
  • Underachievers Anonymous
  • Leftovers (Are Better Left Alone)
  • I Think Of God As A Poet
  • What We Want From Other People
  • Angels
  • Stand Like Mountain, Move Like Water – (Posi Award Nominee)
  • So Much Love – (Posi Award Nominee)
  • Heart Of The Mother – (Posi Award Winner)
You can preview these albums online at the links above, but CDs must be ordered by phone directly from me here at the world headquarters. Credit cards and mailed checks are accepted.
* Obviously, digital mp3s are different. You can download them directly from the links above (CD Baby) all week through Friday for $7.99.
Also available:
  • My other 5 CDs – ($13 or $22 plus postage)
  • My book, Atilla The Gate Agent – ($10 plus postage)
  • Analog Brain In A Digital World t-shirts – ($20 or $22 plus postage)
I’ll tell you my favorite Christmas joke. Tell me what you’d like, I’ll calculate the postage and take your credit card over the phone. (Or you can mail a check, but it’ll take a bit longer.)
The office number is 816-756-0069. 10 AM central to 8 PM. Thursday and Friday. If you get the voice mail, leave a message. It just means I’m on with somebody else, and I’ll call you back asap.
I look forward to hearing from you, and Happy Holidays!
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Monsters In The Bedroom

A few decades ago I inhabited a creaky old house I’d bought as a fixer-upper. Except for a squirrel that sometimes gnawed its way into the attic, I lived there alone. The house always felt a little strange to me, but I chalked that up to age (the house) and imagination (me).

One night, however, I awoke in the wee dark hours, filled with terror, staring at the ceiling. I was wide awake but unable to move. I had no control over my limbs, my mouth, my breathing, anything.

More frighteningly, I sensed a foreboding, malevolent presence in the room. I felt it moving around me and above me, ominously close. I could not move, could not speak, and was scared witless. I had no idea what was happening. But I could tell I was awake. Definitely not dreaming.

I lay there paralyzed, completely freaked out for something like 30 minutes.

Eventually – somehow – I fell back to sleep. When I woke up hours later it was daylight and I could move my body. The “presence” was gone, but still vivid in my mind. Hormones on high alert. No idea what happened.

I called a friend.

I told my friend about it, and he offered this helpful advice: “Get the hell out of there as quick as you can and never go back. Never spend another night in that house.”

Right. Thanks.

I’m not the bravest guy in the world. I’ve never been a fan of zombies, vampires, or any of that creepy undead, supernatural stuff. Horror movies frightened the hell out of me when I was a kid. I never saw The Exorcist. Was never even tempted.

But whatever this was, real or imagined, I just couldn’t let myself give in to it. In the safety of daylight, it just seemed silly. So I did nothing. Just tried to forget it.

Then, two weeks later…

It happened again. Everything was the same, except worse because I was awake longer. Maybe an hour and a half. Still unable to move or speak. Still in the presence of what felt like evil. Still terrified. Afraid to close my eyes, afraid to keep them open.

The next day I called my friend again. He offered to let me move in with him. I was tempted.

Another two weeks went by. Again, I woke up in the dark, paralyzed and terrorized. I lay awake for hours, unable to move. It felt like a devil in the room with me.

The next day I wondered if I needed medical help. Or spiritual help. Or a realtor.

Then, for some reason I never understood, that was the end of it. Whatever was going on simply stopped.

* A couple of years later that house caught fire and burned down. The fire marshal and the insurance investigator agreed that it was a “wiring problem,” but they could never figure out how or where it started.

All these years since, I’ve wondered what the hell was going on with me and that old house. The mystery of it has always bugged me.

And now I know exactly what happened.

I’ve been listening to the audio version of The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery. It’s by Sam Kean, who writes readable, enjoyable books about science.

Right there smack dab in chapter one, he describes exactly what I went through. He explains how it happens to lots of people. He tells how some of them lay awake for hours in sheer terror.  He reports that many of them are convinced they have a demon sitting on their chest. One Korean War veteran describes it as more frightening than anything he experienced in battle.

So what is it?

It’s called Sleep Paralysis.

To put it simply, when we go to sleep the brain kind of divides into three parts. One part regulates breathing, heart rate, etc. Another part handles the dreaming and unconsciousness. And the third part basically relaxes our body into near paralysis, so we don’t act out our dreams in bed and inflict bodily harm on ourselves (or a companion) fighting dream dragons or flying to Neverland with Peter Pan.

But sometimes one of these brain parts wakes up by itself. It’s not supposed to, but it can. So if the dreaming part of our brain wakes up and the “relaxed into paralysis” part doesn’t, we have an episode exactly like what I went through. Wide awake, but unable to move. And sometimes it feels like there’s a monster in the room.

But it happens – for physiological reasons he describes in the book – only when we sleep on our back. Like I did those three nights.

Kean speculates: it’s easy to understand how people experiencing sleep paralysis, especially before humans knew much about the brain and/or sleep, could come to believe in demons and possession. And how it could also – in more recent times – lead to feeling visited or even “kidnapped” by aliens, like in the book Communion.

* Not stating an opinion here about the reality of demons, UFOs or alien encounters. Just reporting what Kean says.

If you’re still with me, I’m sure you can imagine how satisfying it is to have this bizarre, terrifying experience explained simply, even all these years later.

And on a lighter note…

Sometimes in sleep paralysis only part of the body stays “paralyzed.” One morning in that old house the telephone woke me up. I rolled out of bed not realizing my legs were completely asleep. I did a full-frontal, arms windmilling, face plant onto the carpet. Had to drag myself over to the phone. But I was laughing.

If you’ve had your own version of sleep paralysis, I’d love to hear about it. Please leave your reply below, so we can all read it. Thanks.

If you’ve never commented here before, your comment will have to be approved by me before it shows up. But as long as it’s not hateful or just plain wacko, it will. Thanks.

© 2017 Greg Tamblyn

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Friends, Lovers, Fellow Travelers,

Thanks for checking out our Beautiful Ecuador, South to North Tour (January 11), with optional extensions cruising the Galapagos (January 21).

I challenge you to read our day-by-day itinerary and not be reaching for your passport! (But you might want to read the rest of this post before you click over there.)

Cotopaxi, the world’s highest active volcano:

Galapagos Green Sea Turtle:

Here’s the skinny:

I’ve spent the last several weeks working with Jenna at Adventure-Life Tours to create a custom tour that includes the best of just about everything Ecuador has to offer:

  • Historic, charming cities
  • Ancient Inca ruins
  • Breathtaking national parks
  • Multiple fascinating ecosystems
  • The world’s highest active volcano
  • Colorful native markets
  • Local culinary specialties
  • Lodging in quaint hotels and historic haciendas
  • A spectacular mountain train ride
  • and more…

The tour continues with optional extensions of 4 days or 8 days cruising the Galapagos. We’re offering two extensions simply to give you flexibility. But everyone who extends can be together for the first 4 days, so our camaraderie continues.

The Galapagos (as if you didn’t know) are the isolated and now protected islands that inspired Charles Darwin to form his theory of evolution. You can expect to see a wide variety of birds, tortoises, sea turtles, sea lions, colorful fish, and much more. You can snorkel as much as you like. We’ll be in the company of professional guides the entire time. We’ll be cruising in twin boats with comfortable cabins and all meals included.

It’s going to be so fun.

Why Adventure-Life Tours?

Adventure-Life Tours is the company we traveled with to Peru and Machu Picchu several years ago.  They’re a first-class tour company with excellent personalized service. They are known for their unique itineraries and exceptional guides. And Ecuador is one of their specialties. I’m thrilled to be working with them again.

Ecuador’s World-Famous Otovalo Market, filled with handmade native crafts:

Galapagos sea lions:

Before you pop over to our Adventure Life website for our full itinerary, more photos, maps, and more, here are the answers to your important questions:

  • We need a minimum of 10 travelers (including me) to make the trip happen.
  • The price for 10-13 travelers for the Ecuador portion is $2,495, plus airfare. If we get 14 or more, the price starts dropping. (Details at the tour website.)
  • This price includes all transfers, all transport within Ecuador, most meals (and several special meals), a full-time guide, and more.
  • If you’d like a single room, the single supplement is $500. (Tours like this are usually more fun with a friend anyway.)
  • The Galapagos extensions start at $1,660 plus airfare from Ecuador. The price depends on your choice of cabins, and whether you choose the 4-day or 8-day extension. (All of these details are at the links below.)
  • We have about six weeks to confirm 10 travelers, till Nov. 2.
  • Feel free to invite friends who you feel would be a good fit for our positive group of spiritual explorers.
  • Deposit is $400. Full payment is due November 2.
  • If for some reason we don’t have 10 travelers by November 2, all payments are refunded.
  • To confirm your space, or for any questions, please call Jenna at Adventure-Life on her direct line: 406-541-2678. If she can’t answer, just leave a message and she’ll get back to you as soon as she can.
  • Jenna is delightful, and will delightfully answer any and all of your questions. She can explain the cabin choices for the Galapagos Cruises, and help you with airfare if you’d like her to.
  • Before you call Jenna, please explore our tour website (link below).

NOTE: The faster we confirm 10 travelers, the sooner we can book our airfare. Don’t dawdle!

If you’ve never traveled with me before, we’re positive, open-minded explorers who enjoy new experiences and new horizons. We enjoy getting to know each other, and the new people and places we visit. We make time for connecting with each other. Whenever possible we sing, and tell jokes and stories. (I’ll have my guitar along, and share as many songs and stories as you can stand.)

Our one basic rule is: No Whining!

Check Out The Tour Website

Jenna has put together a special website just for us. You’ll see a menu for:

  • Overview
  • Full itinerary
  • Accommodations (the Haciendas look amazing)
  • Maps
  • Dates and Prices
  • and more

The links to the 4-day and 8-day Galapagos extensions are at the bottom of the Full Itinerary page.

Please explore all the pages. Click on the photos to enlarge them and read captions.

Feel free to get in touch with me or Jenna if you have questions.

I hope you’ll join us on this adventure to Ecuador and The Galapagos!

Shoot me an email after you sign up so I know you’re on board. :)

Overview page – click here

Full Itinerary Page – click here

Feel free to leave comments and questions below.

The Devil’s Nose Train Ride:

One of Ecuador’s Stunning National Parks:

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When Irish Eyes Are Chasing The Eclipse

A couple of years ago my friend John Dunne from Dublin (Ireland, not Ohio) emailed me and said he was coming to the US for the solar eclipse.

Naturally I replied, “What solar eclipse?”

I know what you’re thinking: “Greg, you’re an astronomy buff. You write songs     about atoms and stars. You even worked in a planetarium. How could you not know there was a solar eclipse coming to the USA?”

Well, two years ago I didn’t. Like most people, I was busy watching the Royals win the World Series, then watching the Republican Primaries undergo a political eclipse which brought a vast and dangerous darkness to the people and the planet. But I digress.

Ahead of the Curve

Somehow John knew all about the solar event, which surprised the heck out of me. We’d met many years ago working the same resort in the Caribbean. Since then he’s been a financial planner, and if he ever said anything about an interest in science or astronomy, he must have said it quietly, in ancient Irish, after several pints, in a noisy pub. Because I didn’t hear it.

Anyway, he announced his intentions, and I was thrilled. I checked out the eclipse path. It ran from coast to coast. And incredibly, just an hour north of my home in Kansas City.

Meanwhile, John was busy researching weather patterns, the jet stream, El Niño, butterfly wings flapping in the Amazon, and potential Acts of God at sites all across the US to determine the best place to watch.

I told him I’d meet them wherever he wanted, but if they came to Kansas City to watch, they could stay with me for free. And we could eat barbecue. And they could meet my dog.

The point is, John really wanted to witness this eclipse, and – eventually – he decided to come to Kansas City to see it. This delighted me no end, but also added a bit of pressure. Ireland was a long way to come from (plus a lot of money) for a three-minute event, so we darn sure better see it.

So I dove headlong into my own extensive research. I found several small cities and towns along the path of totality within reasonable driving distance, in case we had to be flexible and mobile for the weather.

Three Wise People Bearing Gifts

Friday night before the eclipse, John, his wife Alison, and teenage daughter Elizabeth landed in the Heartland. On Saturday we exchanged gifts, toured the city, went to a museum, visited a farmers market, ate barbecue, and took in a Royals game on bobblehead night. (I now have extra Kevin Appier bobbleheads if you need one.)

Sunday morning we did the jazz brunch at a well known jazz club:

The club was packed with locals and out of town folks in town for the eclipse. A jazz duo was playing personalized songs for the out-of-towners, like New York New York, I Left My Heart In San Francisco, Dixie, and even the University of Nebraska Fight Song.*

* The University of Nebraska Fight Song is not a jazz tune.

I felt it was my duty to let the band know there were people in the audience from a far away place called Ireland. The band (actually the duo) were duly impressed. Really? Ireland? How wonderful! We must sing an Irish folk song! We must sing Danny Boy!

So of course they did.

Synchronicity Or What?

Meanwhile, back at our table, we were approached by a Leprechaun. Or at least a guy who looked like he was auditioning for the part. He was a sweet older gentleman, short, stoop shouldered, wizened, with white hair and a cryptic smile. His name was Mickey.

He let us know he was an American of Irish heritage. He was a former airline pilot who had spent many nights in Ireland on layovers. He loved the country and the people. He would be most delighted and honored if we would come to his 25 acres out in the country to watch the eclipse. Right in the path of totality. With a swimming pool. He would even cook for us on his outdoor grill. I could bring my dog. We could avoid the crowds and the traffic. It would be perfect.

This seemed like a sign from God. We said yes.

Catch 22 and 23

The problem was that in his little corner of the universe, the weather forecast looked iffy. But the ladies (John’s wife and daughter) really loved the swimming pool option, I loved the “bring your dog” option, and Mickey was so nice, we decided to chance it.

We got up before dawn. Checked the weather again – still iffy – and headed north, several hours early. We stopped for breakfast at a Burger King (nothing is too good for my Irish friends), and made it to Mickey’s by 9am.

To say that Mickey’s Country Estate was a disappointment is like saying Trump has a slight tweeting problem. The pool was dirty. The house was dirty. Everything looked like it had been eclipsed about 40 years ago. Mickey, God bless him, was way past being able to care for it all. There was no way the gals (or the guys, for that matter) were going anywhere near that pool. Probably not even my dog. Personally, I found myself wondering what kind of life forms might be growing under the hood of the outdoor grill.

As for the weather, it had been mostly nice all morning, with only wispy clouds. But a friend called, said he was driving in our direction, and was caught in a hellacious storm.

After an hour at Mickey’s place the clouds were getting thick.

Since nothing in our surroundings, above or below, was appealing enough to make us stay, and since the weather forecasts looked better to the east, John and I decided that the four of us needed to make a break for it.

On The Road Again

Let me just say this was not a universally popular decision. The idea of riding in the car for a couple more hours just to see a three-minute event was not entirely appealing to the ladies in the party. (And to be fair, they had the dubious pleasure of riding in the back seat with my dog.) To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled about driving two or three more hours on minimal sleep myself, but I felt we had to chance it. I did not want John to come all the way from Ireland after all his painstaking research and miss this thing. I certainly didn’t want him thinking he should have gone to Casper Wyoming.

They don’t even have baseball. OR barbecue.

So we set out to retrace our path for 30 miles, then turn eastward towards Boonville or Columbia. If everything went well, we could be there in a little over two hours, with plenty of time to spare before the big event.

Unfortunately – and unknowingly – we were driving directly into the teeth of that storm.

Whether To Weather It

It was a nasty storm. Truly nasty. Heavy lightning, brutal thunder. Rain so thick at times you couldn’t see the cars in front of you. Ten or fifteen miles per hour on the interstate, tops.

As bad as it was, however, I’ve driven though lots of storms like that. It’s not scary to me, just tiring and annoying. But my Irish friends, especially the ladies in the back seat, were – to put it mildly – having a new experience. Not exactly the “dream vacation” variety. Not at all what they signed up for. Quite frankly it was freaking them out. If a banshee had landed on the car and screamed in our faces, it would not have frightened them any more.

Not that I blame them. But it was kind of a tense time there for about an hour.

Out Of The Storm, Into The Jam

When we finally made it through the storm and turned east, I-70 was crammed with cars full of people who’d evidently had the same brilliant idea we’d had. The rain had lessened, but there were wrecks, cops, tow trucks, and enough slow-moving vehicles to fill a medium sized lunar crater.

We moped along at about 20 mph for another hour, all the while noticing that 25 or so miles to the south was a lot of blue sky. That was away from the path of totality, but at least under a clear sky we might be able to see something.

Finally in frustration, we turned off that soggy, sloggy Interstate and headed south on state road 13 to Warrensburg, home of the University of Central Missouri Fighting Mules and Jennies, who have been national champions in some sport or another but I can’t remember what.

In Warrensburg, we learned we were just outside the zone of total totality, and to get back in it we needed to head east several more miles, ideally to Sedalia, home of the Missouri State Fair. Also a former girlfriend of mine named Jane who as I recall was really into tanning. Which presumably would not work during a solar eclipse.

So it was back in the car for another half hour. By 12:45 we’d had all the highway we could take. We were right on the edge of the clouds. It looked like we should stop now if we wanted to see anything.

Knobby Hobby

We pulled off at a dot on the map called Knob Noster, home of the Whiteman Air Force Base freaky-looking stealth bombers. (Fortunately, Trump did not have them cruising overhead on eclipse day.) Just off the highway there was a Casey’s General Store with a strip of grass in front. A few people were already sitting there waiting for the big show. We parked, got out the blankets, refreshments, and eclipse glasses. We looked up.

It had already begun! The sun was about one third covered, even through the wispy clouds. Smashing! But as we watched, incredibly, almost like magic, the clouds overhead politely moved off to the northeast. We had a clear blue sky.

We gaped at the unobstructed dark moon as it gently, gracefully took center stage from the sun. The cardboard eclipse filters I bought for my binoculars worked perfectly. So beautiful. Then came the diamond ring. Glasses off. The corona! Venus to the right. Darkness with a 360 degree sunset. Woo!

We had 57 seconds of totality. Not as much as if we’d been farther north or east, but it was enough. And more importantly, Irish eyes were smiling.


Just about then I remembered something that’s always astonished me:

On this planet we only have one moon. That’s unusual.

In proportion to its planet, it’s the largest moon in the solar system. Very unusual.

And somehow, it just happens to be the Exact. Perfect. Size. to precisely eclipse our sun.

Isn’t that just a little bit mind-blowing?

© 2017 Greg Tamblyn

Feel free to comment below. If you’ve never commented before on this blog, your comment will have to be approved by the Head Fred (me) before it shows up, but it will be. Patience, grasshopper. Thanks.

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