Popular Troubadours of Divine Bliss performing at Will Read and Sing For Food event Thursday

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HUNTINGBURG – The Troubadours of Divine Bliss, who were a feature act in last spring’s Will Read and Sing For Food show at the Astra theater in Jasper, are returning to perform with the troupe Thursday, Nov. 6, 7 p.m., Old Town Hall.

This show, which is the kick-off event for the city’s Christmas Stroll, will benefit the Shared Abundance Food Pantry.

“This will mark the fourth time they have volunteered their talent and demonstrated their songstress’ servitude for Will Read and Sing For Food causes. We are lucky to get them when we can, for they do a lot of touring, domestically and overseas. These two ladies are crowd favorites whenever they play. I love watching them cast their spell on our audiences, some being devout followers of Divine Bliss, some being first-timers turned quick fans,” says the show’s founder and host Scott Saalman.

Divine Bliss consists of guitarist Aim Me and accordionist Rene. Both sing and demonstrate amazing harmonies together.

Will Read (and sing) For Food is a unique mix of live music and humor essays. Besides Divine Bliss, Thursday’s show will feature Herald humor columnist Scott Saalman and musicians Ed Walston, Bryan and Jaime Bolin and Daniel Ross. Matthew Crane (Dubois Country Free Press) will also read an original, humorous essay. Admission is a canned good or monetary donation, which will be given to Shared Abundance. The show will be held at Old Town Hall (309 N. Geiger Street). In the past three years, Will Read and Sing For Food has raised $32,391 for community-related non-profit organizations.

Sweating Bullets in Subway to Support Soldiers

subwayBy SCOTT SAALMAN

I had just paid for my daughter’s 6-inch sub when two military men in fatigues joined the sandwich line.

It was Saturday afternoon, and they were on break from a training exercise. I decided to buy their lunch, a patriotic impromptu act of kindness performed by a life-long, pampered, take-freedom-for-granted American citizen. Always the civilian — I.

I never joined the military. I entered college to avoid the war (well, technically, the pushups of war). There was no war in 1983 — but I covered my butt. A cowardly kid, I had the only Talking G.I. Joe in the neighborhood with a Canadian road map.

Buying a sandwich for two soldiers wasn’t going to bankrupt me; however, there was cause for pause, for they were big, fit, hungry looking gents, causing me to ponder postponing my plans until one day sharing Subway with a punier patriot. You know, save a little dough at the sub shop. It’s not that I’m tight with money, for that would insinuate I have money to be tight with, which I don’t. Note how I went to Subway to buy my daughter a sandwich, sans one for daddy-o. I planned to await her wrapper crumbs.

After great internal debate, I decided to deploy my inner random act of kindness. I told the cashier my intent. She seemed relieved, for I had been standing there in silent, private debate for a rather lengthy time, likely looking like a hold-up man trying to conjure up enough courage to whip out my pistol and demand, “I want a 6-inch sub with turkey and American cheese and extra mayo. And I want it now!!!!”

I had hoped to remain anonymous, but I couldn’t pay for the soldiers’ meals ahead of time since I didn’t know what they were ordering. The cashier was impressed by my kindness, though not enough to add a free cookie to my daughter’s take-out. Not that I asked. Apparently, it wasn’t national “pay it forward” day.

Before the soldiers made their meat selections, a third soldier arrived, soon followed by a fourth. Now there were four hungry soldiers. Great. A whole platoon was obviously on its way. This wasn’t a lunch break; this was an invasion. Operation Overdraft!

To tell the cashier that I would pay for only the first two soldiers seemed slimy.

The foursome went for the 12-inch subs. I hadn’t even thought about that possibility. I was thinking 6-inch subs, like my daughter’s — you know, in the $5 dollar range. Four soldiers; 48-inches of cost. To stipulate only 6-inch subs, to deprive the soldiers of half a sandwich, also seemed slimy. After all, it’s doubtful these men would be deployed “halfway” to Afghanistan.

Sweat formed at my brow. Springsteen was right: It’s hard to be a saint in the city. I put my ATM debit card away, replacing it with my Discover. It was, after all, the second Saturday of my biweekly paycheck. I considered applying on the spot for a part-time “sandwich artist” job, you know, just till next paycheck.

I once was the recipient of a random act of kindness at a local restaurant. This was at Heichelbech’s (Heichs), which has the best club sandwich in town. In fact, I once mentioned in a column that Heichs has the best club sandwich in town. The following week, the owners, having appreciated my column, gave me a free club — fries included. Full disclosure: I did not write that column to get a free club. I have journalistic integrity. To say I was a bit bummed to open the menu and find that Heichs hadn’t renamed their club “The Saalmanwich” would be an understatement. Still, the only thing that tastes better than a Heichs’ club sandwich is a free Heichs’ club sandwich, since Heichs does have, in case I haven’t mentioned this yet, the best club sandwich in town. In fact, I’ll be going there next week, plenty of time for them to update the menu.

As the sandwich artist worked on the four 12-inch masterpieces I commissioned for the military, my mental cash register went on a cha-ching binge. I prayed cookies and chips wouldn’t be added, not to mention fountain drinks, whose prices, in case you don’t know, are controlled by OPEC.
Did I mention the sweat at my brow?

When the soldiers learned that I was buying their meals, they were sincerely appreciative. They even tried to talk me out of it. My god, did the military teach them to read minds? There was an elongated pause as I seriously considered taking them up on their reverse random act of kindness. “Nonsense,” I finally said. What did they take me for — a tightwad? “I really appreciate what you are doing for our country,” I added. As each man passed by with his 12-inch sub, chips, cookie and giant cup, he said, “Thank you, sir.” I was sincerely touched by their politeness, and I started to feel all warm inside for such a simple act of kindness.

It was a small cost for freedom, one well worth the bullets I sweated in Subway.

Scott Saalman and the Will Read For Food players will perform a public benefit show for Anderson Woods at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 23, at Klubhaus 61.

Remembering “The Girl Across The Field”

by Scott Saalman

The field just sat there day and night/that’s all they said it could do/but I know that’s not entirely right/for it took me from here to you . . .

I was 15 when I wrote those lines, a high-school freshman’s first crack at song verse and an inaugural attempt to woo a girl with writing.

She was the girl across the field. To visit her—there were hundreds of visits—I ran down my parents’ driveway, crossed Brushy Fork Road, leapt a ditch, ran through the grass and clover, the field gradually inclining then declining only to rise again like a camel’s hump, the barking of a neighbor’s beagle keeping time with my footfalls until finally I passed between front porch pillars and rang the doorbell.

She smiled from the other side of the front door’s glass, and my field-racing heart pounded even faster. She, with city roots, was of a cultured upbringing, a refreshing, exotic transplant to our little river town. Ensconced in a rural route existence, I was barely better than a wilding.

Often we sat “Indian-style” on the porch with our kneecaps touching, discussing movies, music and books. She loved “Family Ties,” and told me Alex P. Keaton reminded her of me. In her basement, we’d shoot pool—my eyes discretely seeking out all the right angles as she pressed against the rails and aimed her shots (geometry finally bringing meaning to my life) while listening to Devo, Blondie, Neil Diamond’s “Love on the Rocks” and the theme from “Arthur,” her favorite movie then.

I started to write song-poems because of her. I did this to separate myself from the pack of jocks that she, as cheerleader, was obligated to fall for short-term. I wrote to be different, creating a niche to be noticed. My words vied for her attention as she cheered on baskets and touchdowns. It worked. Not how I hoped. We remained woefully platonic during our wonder years.

In 1983, after high-school graduation, we gradually lost touch, she attending private college on the east side of the city, me making do at a public one on the west side, the kind of college where students wore other college names on their sweatshirts. From mid-1986 to the late 1990s, we lost contact. Then, in 1999, on the day I returned from Disney World with my son, I learned from my mother that “the girl across the field” was dying.

I commenced immediate correspondence, despite my then wife’s reluctance. “Thanks for the letter,” she e-mailed. “It was so uplifting to just see your handwriting again.” When I asked to see her, she responded, “I’ve decided I’m too sick and ugly and I’d rather you wouldn’t.”

I flooded her with “remember when?” recollections that she didn’t remember.

She forgot the old fashioned sodas at Dairy Queen. She forgot how I watched her porch light from my side of the field, its glow telling me she was still dragging Main with some lucky athlete, how I raced through the weeds up the field when her date’s car backed down her driveway, and how she waited for me to emerge breathlessly from the shadows to hear her report.

“I can’t believe you remember so much. I remember very little…the chemo has wiped out some of my memory banks,” she responded. “We went to ET together? You mowed our grass?”

Her e-mails focused mostly on the present references of white and red cell counts; chemo and CAT scans; ovarian cyst, biopsies and malignancy; Taxol and Topotecan; nausea and fatigue; lost hair and hair returning (“My hair is coming in strong now. It has really given me hope. I feel invincible.”)

Sometimes, though, she expressed appreciation for our reconnection. “Thanks again for your friendship.” “You always lift my spirits.”

The last e-mail she sent to me before relying on a distribution list to simultaneously update her friends and family on her health status ended with, “Michael J. Fox was on ‘Rosie’ the other day. He reminded me so much of you…of how much fun you are to be around.”

I smiled. Finally, she remembered something from our past.

On 4-26-99, she reported to all of us, “I have 4 tumors.”

On 5-8-99, the e-mails coming from her e-mail account were actually written by her husband, due to, as he put it, her health declining “considerably.” His subsequent e-mails became bleaker. Phrases like “a short time to live” and “deteriorated drastically over the weekend” darkened our in-boxes.

On 6-20-99, he reported that her 14-month cancer battle was over.

Even now, 15 years later, I don’t know what any of this is supposed to mean to me. I do know she died at 34, leaving behind two children and a husband. I do know she would have been 49 this year. I do know that she was buried on the same day my daughter was born. And I do know that a very long time ago I used to write for her—the girl across the field—and here I am today writing about her.

Hold on to your people; hold on tight.