Dan Valentine – Salt Lake City

May 16, 2010

By Dan Valentine

No tale of trial and tribulation today.

These past many years, I’ve been writing lyrics, a trunk full, concentrating on what they call “money” songs–holiday songs, city songs. One hit Christmas song and you can retire for life, or so they say; same goes for a hit New York or San Francisco song.

There are only a handful of Salt Lake songs. John Lange, the father of Hope Lange, the actress, wrote one: “I Lost My Sugar in Salt Lake City.” Johnny Mercer recorded it and made it a hit for a time. The Beach Boys had a hit with “Salt Lake City.”  And that’s about it.

They say write what you know about. So, here goes. I wrote it pacing up and down Jamaica Beach, TX. I had the series “Big Love” in mind.

(c) 2010 by Daniel Valentine

As nice a town as any ever you saw …
Lovers zig-zag down the slopes and embrace.
I put my bag down and said, “This is the place!”

Salt lake City! SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH!
I found the sweetest angel ever you saw.
When I walked by ‘er, she smiled and I swear
Hymns from a choir singin’ filled the town square.

Lost my last buck
Shootin’ craps in Las Vegas.
Thought I’d run plumb outta luck,
But I rolled a seven
When I hitched a ride
To a suburb of heaven.

Of all the happy fellas ever you saw,
Sisters and brothers, I’m lovin’ my life,
Tho’ unlike others I’ve got only one wife.

Lost my last buck
Shootin’ craps in Las Vegas.
Thought I’d run plump outta luck,
But I rolled a seven
When I hitched a ride
To a suburb of heaven.


Dan Valentine – The Law

May 16, 2010

By Dan Valentine

Where was I? Oh yes, the law!

I came to Nashville with a trunk full of songs–just like in the movies–plus a screenplay, a short story or two, and some summer clothes. And my resume.

I was staying at the Music City Hostel. Free waffles and coffee. $600 a month! Not bad! Embassy Suites is some $150 a night, if you’re lucky. I know. I stayed there my first night in Austin. Free breakfast, free cocktails at night, well, y’know …

Back to Nashville.

A few days before running out of money, I read a story in the local paper about an organization called Operation Stand Down, a group that looks out for honorably discharged veterans in need–in particular, those homeless or about to be.

I looked up the address and walked to their headquarters, several miles away, and was greeted with open arms, as is every vet in need.

Earlier in the day, I had asked the owner of the hostel if he could store my suitcase for me for a time. He said sure, but only for three months. That was nine months ago. I’m afraid to inquire about it.

Back to Operation Stand Down.

I told a counselor my story: onetime daily humor columnist, former special assistant to a US Senator, onetime member of the BMI Musical Theatre workship in New York, etc.

We hit it off and he offered me a bed in his home until his wife returned. She was out of town visiting relatives or friends. I stayed three nights. In a bed in a room of my own! It had been awhile. (At the hostel I was sleeping in a bunk bed–the top berth is murder to get into when you’re over 60–in a room with several others.) Then his wife called, said she was returning early. She was just a few hundred miles away, in fact.

He let me off in the parking lot of Operation Stand Down, giving me some survival pointers, one being: “Don’t go to the Mission.” (A refuge for homeless to sleep the night and get a meal.) “You’re not ready.”

I walked down to Vanderbilt University, spent the day in a bookstore reading a hefty Stephen King novel. I had the time.

That night, now homeless and penniless, I stayed up all night in the cafeteria of Vanderbilt Hospital, writing.

Second day, back to Stephen King.

Second night I returned to Vanderbilt Hospital and the cafeteria, writing, where a cop asked me why I was there. I told him my wife’s grandfather was in surgery.

Third day. The book store and Stephen King. Then back Vanderbilt Hospital. I hadn’t slept now going-on three days. I was exhausted. I went outside and found a fairly hidden place in the bushes, took my sport coat off, laid it on the ground, and tried to sleep. Impossible. The spot I had picked was right where the medical helos were landing and taking off. What a nightmare–soundtrack straight from a Vietnam flick.

I donned my coat and returned to Vanderbilt Hospital, roamed the halls, found the cancer ward. There were chairs and couches with some thirty people sleeping and waiting for the outcome of a loved one’s operation or something.

I found an empty chair, took my sport coat off for a blanket, and went fast to sleep.

Cut to close-up of boot nudging me awake. I opened my eyes to find three cops staring down at me, one in riot gear–helmet, billy club, gun in holster, etc. (in case of a terrorist attack, I guess.)

I sat up and said, “I’m-a-Vietnam-vet-I-have-two cents-to-my-name-I-haven’t-slept-in-two-days-I-haven’t-eaten-in-three.” (That last was a lie. I’d had more than my share of complimentary oranges at the downtown Marriott.)

What gave me away? I had forgotten to brush the leaves off the back of my coat, I was that tired, and someone doing his/her civic duty must have called the cops.

I was led downstairs and interrogated. One of them was the guy I had lied to the night before. A nice guy, he didn’t take offense. Finally, after an hour or so, they said they’d drive me to the Mission. I said, “I’m not going to the Mission. I was told not to go the Mission.”

It was three in the morning now. To make matters worse, it had started snowing. Cold as hell outside.

I mentioned Operation Stand Down and said I’d go there, and off I went into the night, in the freezing cold, snow coming down. A cop car followed closely behind, making sure I went to where I said I was going.

I stood in front of the entrance of Operation Stand Down for some four hours, in the freezing sleet and cold. I can’t remember being so cold. Every once in awhile the cop car would drive by, checking on me.

Welcome to Nashville. Welcome to the real world, as they say!

Ken Ham and Atlantis

May 16, 2010

Uh-oh.  Did P. Z. Myers see the name of the commanding officer of the space shuttle Atlantis on the current flight, STS-132?

Short press release from NASA:

Sun, 16 May 2010 06:48:08 -0500

Commander Ken Ham [emphasis added] and the crew of Atlantis performed the Terminal Initiation burn at 7:40 a.m. EDT, firing the left Orbital Maneuvering System engine for nine seconds to place the shuttle on the final path for its 10:27 a.m. docking to the International Space Station. When Atlantis is about 600 feet from the station, Ham will maneuver Atlantis through a backflip rotation to expose the heat shield to station crew members who will use digital cameras to photograph Atlantis’ upper and lower surfaces through windows of the Zvezda Service Module. Oleg Kotov will use a 400mm lens, and T.J. Creamer, Soichi Noguchi and Tracy Caldwell Dyson all will use 800mm lenses. The photos will be transmitted to Mission Control for evaluation by imagery experts and mission managers to determine whether the heat shield sustained any damaged during launch.

Not only is it not the same Ken Ham, I’ll wager they are completely unrelated, and that they’ve never met.  I wonder how the astronaut lives with people confusing him with the Ken Ham of the creationism cult.  Perhaps creationists stray into the real process of space exploration so rarely that no one has made the connection yet.

Ken Ham, creationist

. . . this Ken Ham, who doesn't "believe" in much of the science that gets the other Ken Ham into orbit.

Ken Ham, commander of Space Shuttle Atlantis, on STS-132 - NASA photo

This Ken Ham, the astronaut (NASA photo), is not to be confused with . . .

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