Scott Saalman on turning 50 . . .

By SCOTT SAALMAN, The Herald

Nov. 24, 2014.

At 29, I first read a poem by Donald Justice which begins, “Men at forty/learn to close softly/the doors to rooms they will not be/coming back to.” How depressing it must be to be 40, I thought. Ancient. Near death. Forty, for me, so far away. Then my 40 came quickly — oh, the injustice — and though I trembled entering the door of a new decade, my 40s ended up being the best decade of my life. Many doors opened. But then, 10 years passed by like lightning with mercy, and the door to my 40s closed softly behind me.

Today, I turned 50.

As is typical when I wake up each day, I turned on satellite radio. The first song to play at the start of my sixth decade was Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me,” taking me back to age 14.

Remembering how I used to sing, dance and play tennis-racket guitar to this same song, I decided to get out of bed and relive my Budokan days, re-experience those magical moments of bedroom concerts and imaginary guitars, just to prove I still can Cheap Trick it. Later, I took two Advil to disguise the pain.

As has also become typical when I wake up another day older, I couldn’t find my glasses. A three-minute panic ensued, culminating with the realization that I was actually wearing them throughout the whole search. This was a first. Call off the bloodhounds. So. This. Is. 50.

I had plenty of warning about 50s’ arrival. I began receiving birthday cards at the start of November. Fourteen of them to be exact, which is more cards than I have gotten in the past five years combined. I know, I know. You’re likely thinking, “Wow. Scott, you must be one popular guy!” Yes, it would seem so until you learn that the 14 cards came from the same person, my dear friend Pat. She has a couple of decades on me, so it’s possible she simply kept forgetting that she had already sent me a card. Or, she was just acclimating me to the prospect of actually becoming 50. One card came with a bumper sticker: “I’m Old! I’m Supposed To Leave My Turn Signal ON.” The humor was lost on me, for I’ve recently been noticing my left turn signal inexplicably blinking … once even while backing out of my driveway. No recall notice from Toyota has shown up in my mailbox, so I’m thinking either I have poltergeists for passengers or it might be me. Fourteen cards. From one person. Spread sadistically throughout most of my birth month. It was like witnessing the slow-motion hammering of 14 nails in my own coffin. So. This. Is. 50.

Facebook alerted me early, too. The social media birthday wishes started showing up a day earlier than they should have. One of my friends goofed on the date, causing a chain reaction of early birthday wishes. At the time of this writing, 120 Facebook “friends” have expressed their happy birthdays to me. 120 friends! One was even the mayor. 120 friends! Holy mackerel. I should run for mayor. One of the messages sort of sucked, though: “Have a glorious birthday today and many happy days and months to follow.” My god, is my life so far gone now that my future can only be measured in “days and months?” So. This. Is. 50.

My parents took me out for supper two days before my birthday. It was a pleasant meal, the highlight being when dad started a sentence this way: “I was talking to my bartender this morning —”

“Dad, stop right there,” I interrupted. “What you have just said is so wrong on so many levels. At what age did your sentences start sounding like country music songs?”

During that birthday supper, I gave mom flowers — the first time I have done such a thing. My good friend Jim inspired me to do this. Before his mother passed away, he used to give her flowers on his birthday, in appreciation of her bringing him into the world. I always liked that classy idea. I plan to carry on the tradition. After all, as the saying goes, “Flowers are wasted on the dead.” Just don’t tell that to a florist.

Today, at age 50, at 9:49 a.m., I received a text from someone: Happy 50th old codger.

I’m not sure who it was, for the sender appeared as a phone number instead of a name.

I replied: Thanks, I guess.

He or she replied: That age will make a man stop and think … but there is life on the other side.

I will miss my 40s, to be sure, but maybe, just maybe, my 50s will be even better. After all, one of the 14 aforementioned birthday cards stated, “Fifty’s the new forty.”

The first text message I received as a 50-year-old chirped at 6:54 this morning: Happy, happy birthday, my love!

I can’t think of a better way to step through the door of a new decade than to have someone refer to you as “my love.” The mystery text person was right. There is life on the other side.

So. This. Is. 50.

I love it already.

Scott Saalman and the Will Read and Sing For Food players will perform a benefit show for Tell City Catholic Charities at 7 p.m., Dec. 7, at the Tell City High School Auditorium. It will feature Jasper musician Kyle Lueken, Ferdinand’s Bethany Boeglin,  WNIN’s Cass Herrington and others.

Will Read and Sing For Food to benefit Catholic Charities, featuring Cass Herrington and Stan Levco

Guest essayist

Cass Herrington

cropped-wrffstan.jpg

They’re baaaaack! Will Read and Sing For Catholic Charities benefit Dec. 7

TELL CITY – Following the success of last year’s show, the Will Read and Sing For Food players are returning to Tell City for another performance to benefit Catholic Charities.

The show is at 6 p.m., December 7, at the Tell City High School auditorium.

Hosted by Tell City native Scott Saalman, the show delivers gut-busting laughs and great music. It’s a unique mix of humor essays and live music.

Humorists for the Tell City show will be Saalman, Cass Herrington (host of Evansville public radio’s 88.3 WNIN), and Stan Levco (humor columnist for the Evansville Courier and Press). Musicians will be Ed Walston (folk, rock), Rob Zaricki (blues), Kyle Lueken (70s singer-songwriter cover songs), Bethany Boeglin (singer-songwriter), and Perry County resident Megan Gatwood (vocalist).

After 53 performances in the past three years, Will Read and Sing For Food, based in Jasper, has raised $32,555 for various community causes.

“Using humor essays and live music to entertain numerous crowds, the Will Read for Food volunteers have raised ($32,000+) for various worthwhile organizations. I applaud Scott for finding an innovative way to bring awareness and raise dollars for such important community causes, while entertaining crowds from many different backgrounds,” said Indiana Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann last year.

Saalman, a 1983 Tell City High School graduate, writes a humor column for The Herald (Jasper). His stories have also appeared in Evansville Living Magazine and in book anthologies, including “This I Believe: On Love.” He also read an essay on “The Bob Edwards Show” (Sirius/XM Satellite radio), and published a collection of essays, called “Nose Hairs Gone Wild.” One of his essays earned him a spot on the “notable” list of The Best American Essays of 2012 anthology.

“The show presents writing that is funny, meaningful and compelling, creatively mixed with music to be downright entertaining,” wrote Greg Eckerle in the Evansville Courier and Press. “There is no other experience quite like this. You have to see it to appreciate it. Incredible talent. Hilarious! My teenager and her grandmother enjoyed it as much as I did,” says Joyce Fleck, Director of Tri-Cap, based in Jasper.

“Will Read For Food is a lot like Garrison Keillor’s ‘Prairie Home Companion’ but with a purpose. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll want to get up and dance,” says novelist and past performer Margaret McMullen, who is the Melvin M. Peterson Endowed Chair in Literature and Writing Department of Creative Writing, University of Evansville.

Adult admission is a recommended $10 minimum monetary donation. Those 18 and under: $5. All proceeds go to Catholic Charities. Tickets available at Catholic Charities, 802 9th Street (547-0903) or via Mary K. Cardinal (547-8945). Tickets also available at the show.

Saalman is the son of Pat and M.J. Saalman, of Tell City, and grandson of the deceased Marion and Antoinette Saalman and Clarence and Lillian Goffinet.

Visit www.willreadandsingforfood.com or like their Facebook page: Will Read For Food (Jasper, Indiana).

Essay: Coming out of the Stall regarding Shy Bladder Syndrome

sbs2By SCOTT SAALMAN

Transcript from my first Shy Bladder Syndrome support group meeting:

Hello. My name is Scott … and I have SBS.

Hello, Scott.

I have been an SBS sufferer my whole life.

When nature calls, I like privacy. OK?

I prefer bathrooms with a workable door lock. My grandparents’ bathroom door could be kept somewhat shut only if you slid a drawer open to impede its forward progress. I hated that bathroom. Anytime as a kid that I visited that toilet, about 50 family members would decide they needed to go at the same time too, as if grandma had pulled the old Ex-Lax in the peach cobbler gag, repeatedly pushing the door open a few inches so it banged incessantly against the drawer, their hands reaching inside like in a horror movie scene, my peeing impeded for days (if not decades). My SBS ground zero.

I also blame the urinal for SBS. It’s the worst invention ever. When dad took me into public restrooms, we’d go straight to a stall, the urinals nothing but a mysterious, unexplained white blur. Only in grade school did I encounter my first urinal. Several of them in a row, no partitions. It was a new experience for most of us. Never were we instructed on their operation. We watched second-graders and learned from them. Some of us, sticklers for privacy, remained faithful to the stalls. One by one, though, we were shamed out by the rough boys: “What are you, a bunch of girls?”

Why do we still have urinals? Is this not the 21st century? Are we not a civilized society yet? It’s a caveman thing, I guess, this need to pee in the open. I don’t get it. Really don’t. Never could comfortably utilize the urinal.

I’ll use one if alone, if there are no noises, if no one’s in a stall whistling. I kid you not. It happens. Men do that. I’ve heard of whistling while you work … but whistling while you … never mind. It never fails though that someone else joins me and, worse, starts a conversation. He flushes, then he’s gone. I’m still pretending to go. Once, a co-worker standing next to me didn’t say a word. I waited him out, but he was taking forever. Finally, I faked finishing and flushed. He “finished” too. We left the restroom together. When he was of sight, I bee-lined to a different restroom, stepped inside, only to find him there too. Our eyes met, and we both knew, without saying a word, that we shared the same problem. It was like discovering a doppelganger. Out of respect, I went into a stall. We never talked about it later.

My cousins and I used to take Sunday drives with grandpa, and the dreaded moment would always come: the roadside group pee break. My cousins lined up side by side, like convicts shackled together at the ankles — facing the road even — and whizzed as cars whizzed by, while I basically needed a machete to clear a path through underbrush just to be out of eyesight — and earshot — unzipping once I found the right spot to concentrate, block out mankind, worry about both snakes and losing my compass, finally relaxing enough to pee until suddenly hearing the honk honk honk of grandpa’s car horn. “Scotty? You OK out there? You didn’t hurt yourself with that machete did you?” How I envied my carefree cousins with their bestial, unabashed bladders, waiting for me in the backseat; animals, all of them.

Gentlemen, I decided to come here tonight and go public with this very private issue we unfortunately share, thanks to a recent disturbing commercial I saw starring Rob Lowe. You know the one: The handsome, popular, socially-with-it Rob Lowe looks at the camera and says, “Hi, I’m Rob Lowe, and I have Direct TV,” followed then by a totally doofus, socially inept Rob Lowe who says, “And I’m painfully awkward Rob Lowe, and I have cable.” Then, the extroverted Rob Lowe, surrounded by friends in his fancy apartment, says, “Fact: Direct TV has been ranked higher than cable for over 10 years.” This is then followed by Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe, standing helplessly and dweeb-like at a urinal with others successfully peeing beside him, telling us, “Fact:  I can’t ‘go’ with other people in the room.” Of course, I related to the Rob Lowe with the shy bladder, empathized with his stigmatization.

Then it hit me. I have cable TV, too, like the loser at the urinal. My god, am I that guy? I wondered. Am I painfully awkward Rob Lowe with SBS? Is this how others see me, those not fooled by my otherwise Oscar-worthy performance at the urinal?

I came here tonight to stand before you, my fellow SBS sufferers, to share good news. After a lifetime of being late for classes and meetings and airplane take-offs, finally we have hope. Relief! A cure: Direct TV. I’m dropping cable tomorrow.

I will end my testimonial now, for I have to pee. Please remain seated and quiet for 10 minutes — and, whatever you do, don’t whistle! Thank you.

Bye Scott.

By the way, does anyone have an extra compass?

Scott Saalman and the Will Read and Sing Food players will hold a public benefit show for Catholic Charities at the Tell City High School Auditorium, at 7 p.m. EST on Dec. 7.

 

Watery World of Woe, by Bryan and Jaime Bolin

Lyrics by Scott Saalman; music by Bryan and Jaime Bolin. Performed at Old Town Hall for a Will Read and Sing For Food benefit show on Nov. 6.

Lyrics:

Water, Water everywhere

It’s so hard to take

I lost my first wife, Lord

When she drowned in Beaver Lake

Lord Take it easy on me

I think I’ve had enough

 

Water, Water everywhere

Our cruise wasn’t meant to be

You see, my second wife, Lord

She was lost in the deep blue sea

Lord Take it easy on me

I think I’ve had enough

 

Water, Water everywhere

All the boil, current and mud

I lost my third wife, Lord

When she was taken by a flood

Lord Take it easy on me

I think I’ve had enough

 

Water, Water everywhere

Her loofah delivered its wrath

I found my fourth wife, Lord

Floating in the bath

Lord Take it easy on me

I think I’ve had enough

 

Water, Water everywhere

It ebbs and it flows

I found my fifth wife, Lord

Strangled with a garden hose

Lord Take it easy on me

I think I’ve had enough

 

Water, Water everywhere

Summer is so cruel

I lost my sixth wife, Lord

Doing laps in our swimming pool

Lord Take it easy on me

I think I’ve had enough

 

Water, Water everywhere

Why is it my soul that you save?

I lost my seventh wife, Lord

To the surge of a tidal wave

Lord Take it easy on me

I think I’ve had enough

 

Water, Water everywhere

Let me rest a spell

I lost my eighth wife, Lord

When she fell in a wishing well

Lord Take it easy on me

I think I’ve had enough

 

Water, Water everywhere

Is it a sin to be clean?

I lost my ninth wife, Lord

When she was spun by the washing machine

Lord Take it easy on me

I think I’ve had enough

 

Water, Water everywhere

It’s enough to bring a shiver

I lost my tenth wife, Lord

When she was baptized in the river

Lord Take it easy on me

I think I’ve had enough