Only You Know How to Define a Tragedy

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, This column was written before tornadoes struck Southeast Tennessee earlier this week, which is why they are not referenced.)

What is a tragedy?

I have asked myself that question many times since January 28, 1986. That was the day space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds into flight, killing all seven crew members on board.

I’ve referenced this story before, because it marked a turning point in my development as an adult. It forced me to think about things outside my own little world.

I was sitting in a journalism class at The University of Tennessee when the news of the Challenger explosion came over the Associated Press news wire.

As the professor discussed this story and how it should be handled, my mind wandered ahead to my next class which involved me going to the WUTK radio studios and creating a newscast for a broadcast class I was taking.

Every Tuesday and Thursday I would create my newscast script by arranging the stories in order of importance, cutting the fluff and pasting the facts.

Most days it was rote, but that day would be different. That day, I would be breaking the news of the Challenger disaster to everyone listening to the station. I’m not sure how many listeners there were, but even if there was only one, he or she would get my best effort.

I snapped back into the moment and asked the professor something like, “Can this be called a tragedy?”

He looked back at me over his glasses and said, “What are you going to call it when 100 people die?”

So I didn’t call it a tragedy on the radio that day; but I sensed in my gut it was one.

I’ve used that same “tragedy filter” the journalism professor gave me that day many times over the years as I have examined seemingly-tragic news stories. And as I grow older — and see more of it — I realize that tragedy isn’t something someone tells you it is.

Tragedy is not something that can be quantified.

Tragedy is a feeling in your gut.

We’ve had more than our fair share of tragic events in my bone-dry neck of the woods lately.

As you already know, six children from Woodmore Elementary School in Chattanooga lost their lives last week when their bus left the road, flipped on its side and hit a tree. The video footage of devastated parents and loved ones, educators, and members of the Woodmore community is heartbreaking.

Around the same time in my town, two children drowned in a swimming pool and left our community in shock.

Personally, I cannot stop envisioning the empty seats at those Thanksgiving tables. In all actuality, though, they probably weren’t celebrating Thanksgiving in those homes.

Those are tragedies.

As I write this, numerous buildings and countless acres around Gatlinburg in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park continue to burn as wildfires rage out of control. People are missing and feared dead.

One of the pictures in the Knoxville newspaper showed an armageddon-like nighttime Gatlinburg street scene with smoke and ash contrasting with the big light-up plastic snowflake decorations attached to light poles.

We won’t know how big of a tragedy it is until the smoke clears.

But it is one.

Lately, the bad news continues to come seemingly out of nowhere — here at home, nationally, and of course, abroad.

All those situations are someone’s tragedy. Some of them should be all of ours.

I didn’t realize it then, but I now understand the professor wasn’t trying to be insensitive to the Challenger situation. He was trying to get us to put perspective on a news story. Taking it further, he was trying to teach us to deliver the facts and not label stories as tragedies or triumphs.

Maybe that’s a good lesson in journalism fundamentals, but out here in the real world, tragedies are easy to spot.

You feel them in your gut; and, lately we’ve felt plenty.

The Things We Remember Are Astonishing

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI remember two things about second grade. 

First, was the day one of our classmates walked quickly up to the teacher’s desk, stood real close to her and started to whisper, “I think I’m going to be…,” at the exact moment she ruined the teacher’s clothes and gave the rest of us something to talk about for the rest of our lives. 

It was an astonishing sight – which brings me to the other thing I remember about second grade. 

I learned the word astonishing. 

We were issued two reading books that year. One was titled Enchanted Gates, and the other was Shining Bridges.  

They were brand new; and I think that’s why they still stand out in my mind more than 4 decades later. 

I remember the day the teacher unpacked the boxes and handed a copy to each of us. 

They were beautiful. They smelled new. Their covers were shiny. They cracked when we opened them. They didn’t have old, grimy chocolate fingerprints on the pages or any folded up pieces of notebook paper inside. 

No one had drawn in them nor written their initials on the textblock (which is what the front edge opposite the spine is called. I googled it.) 

My name would be on the first line of the “This Book Belongs To” sticker inside the front cover. 

We were instructed to go home and have our mothers make book covers from brown paper sacks to minimize the number of our grimy chocolate fingerprints we would leave for future students to endure. 

I am sure the stories in these books were captivating, but only one barely managed to stick with me at all. It was a story where a character named Ramona used the word astonishing. 

I cannot tell you what Ramona was describing, let alone anything else about the story. I merely remember seeing that huge word and thinking it must be the biggest word in the world. 

Plus, it was fun to say. 

I felt so grown up looking at that word in that second grade reading book. I imagine it was hard to believe just a year before we were limping through See Spot Run and struggling to figure out why Dick and Jane kept repeating the same three-word sentences over and over. 

By second grade, though, those days were finished. One-trick Spot was ancient history. Three-word sentences — are you kidding me? That’s kid-stuff. See you later, Dick. Adios, Jane. 

I’m sure we learned lots of other new words in second grade, but astonishing will always be my favorite. 

Using it in everyday life never caught on, though, and I know why. 

It’s not your fault, Ramona. You did all you could. You were stuck in a book and sketched with probably three freckles on each cheek, yellow hair and a frumpy brown sweater. You never had an opportunity to impact pop culture. 

To use your word, you weren’t astonishing enough. 

You weren’t on television. 

What if Marcia Brady would’ve said, “You have an astonishingly low number of friends, Jan?” 

What if Donny Osmond would’ve sung, “Until the twelfth of never, I’ll still be astonished by you?” 

What if astonishing would have replaced “shazam” or “yabba dabba doo?” 

Or, what if that Farrah Fawcett poster would’ve had “astonishing” printed across it? 

Our vocabularies would’ve been changed forever. 

Hitting that television at 3:30 was my favorite thing to do back in that day. Ol’ Ramona stayed in the book bag until I had my daily dose of comedy. 

Sometimes, I look back at those days and feel superficial. I always realize, though – as I’m sure you do — that more schooling stuck with us than we realize. After all, I’m writing this, and you’re reading it. 

We all know, however, it is not nearly as astonishing as Netflix. 

Singing With the Saints

music musings, beaverdamusa.comThis musing is going to be a little different from my others.  It’s is going to be more reflective or personal.  For the past 10+ years, I have sung in the choir at my church – Kingston Springs United Methodist Church in Kingston Springs, TN.  If you are interested, I sing bass and love it. 

Our choir director is Julia Rich who is a gem and performed with the Glenn Miller Orchestra for years.  Her late father was a United Methodist preacher who served in the Middle Tennessee area for years. 

One of his stops was Tulip Street United Methodist Church in East Nashville.  Tulip Street was founded in 1859 with the building started in 1860 and finishing after the Civil War.  The architecture of the outside is beautiful and the inside is stunning and cathedral-like.  But, like many of these old churches, the neighborhoods are changing, people are changing how and where they worship.  With an average worship attendance of somewhere around ten, the decision was made to close this grand ole church.  

Like any good Methodist, when faced with a crisis – they decided to eat.  Seriously, a Homecoming/Last Service was planned where former pastors, members, and staff were invited back to celebrate the church to celebrate its history.  Our choir director was asked to come and sing since her father was pastor at Tulip Street, and she then volunteered to bring us to the festivities.  So we grabbed our robes and music and sang during communion as shown below.  [In case you wondering, I’m the bald dude on the back row on the far left, looking at the picture.]  

tulip1How about that beautiful pipe organ!  It was installed in 1891 and has had minimal alterations to it.  The sounds that came out of those pipes were magnificent.

Sitting and standing up there in the choir loft, my mind starting to wander – not during the sermon, of course.  I started thinking about all the people who sat where I sat over the last 150+ years.  What would they think about the church closing?  Did they hear the same pipes/bellows clicking as the organ played? 

I realized that I was part of the last choir to sing at this church.  Wonder what the first choir was like?  Wonder if the saints who have gone on gathered around on October 9, 2016 to watch that sanctuary once again be filled with music and people?  I would like to think so.  It was quite an honor to sing there and I really appreciate the opportunity.

Musing and singing with the saints


P.S.  Someone recorded the service and posted it on YouTube – the choir starts at 1:22 into the video at (  

P.P.S. – You can check out the Tulip Street UMC page on Facebook for much more information.  I am also attaching some pictures of the church my sweet wife took.



Act Cool! Here Comes a Grammar Police Officer

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comPeople who get paid to do a job have an obligation to do that job at least somewhat correctly. 

If you go to the doctor with a broken arm, you expect her to fix it. If you go to a restaurant for dinner, you expect it to be enjoyable. 

If your car has a flat tire, and you take it to the tire store and pay them to patch it, you expect a tire full of air when they get finished. 

If they take your money and send you on your way with a tire that is still flat, you don’t say, “That’s okay. I’ll just ride the rim. Here’s 20 bucks.”  

Along those same lines, someone who gets paid to communicate should be able to construct a simple sentence at the bare minimum. That task should’ve been mastered in the fifth grade, especially for someone who makes a living by using the language. 

I follow several major news organizations on Facebook. I’m talking about big regional, national and international pages run by newspapers, television networks, etc. 

Every single day, it blows my mind how many times the official Facebook accounts of these big news organizations make grammatical errors in their posts. 

“Here come the grammar police,” you may be saying. Or, “Don’t be so uptight. It doesn’t matter all that much.” 


When a company’s sole responsibility is to communicate, that company has an obligation to communicate correctly. Simply putting out garbage that a fifth grader could mark up with a red pen is unacceptable. 

I could bore you with a hundred examples, but I will only offer one. 

I grew up watching WSMV in Nashville. Between diapers and college, I only missed the 6 o’clock news a handful of times. 

These guys broke my heart completely in two early Saturday morning with a Facebook post. It was horrible. When I saw it, I couldn’t believe it.  

Here’s what it said, exactly as it was posted: “If your up bright and early, so are we. Join us on Channel4 News Today, For the latest on Hurricane Matthew, and its finally feeling like fall!!! We’ll keep you updated” 

There are enough comma splices, missing punctuation marks, botched contractions, run-on sentences and vomiting exclamation points to send an English teacher into a coma. 

A few minutes after reading it, I was able to close my mouth and get my mind on something else. I went back 2 hours later to make sure they had fixed it. They hadn’t.  

All day long Saturday, I fully expected to read how the station manager saw it at home, led the cops on a high-speed chase before crashing his car into the newsroom, vaulting a cubicle wall and diving toward the delete button on the computer where the evil deed had been done. 

It is now Monday afternoon. It’s still there; I just looked. 

No cops. No crash. No deleting. 

This very well may sound like my silliest tirade to date, but the news business is my first love. I am deeply passionate about it. 

News organizations have always struggled to maintain credibility; and with all the fake or politically-motivated imposters out there today, that chore is harder than it ever has been. 

That precious concept of credibility is no longer confined to conveying the facts of a story. In today’s world, it extends to an organization’s ability not to look foolish on Facebook. Heaven knows, we have enough of that already. 

I guess I could hush, polish up my résumé, and go out there and do something about it. 

But, I’m too busy. When you work for the grammar police, you never get a day off. 

An Evening With John Waite

music musings, beaverdamusa.comFor years, I have been a fan of John Waite, dating back to the Babys era. I even mused about John once for this blog.

I had noticed he was doing some dates across the country on what is billed as the Wooden Heart Acoustic tour. For the longest, the closest was Memphis back in May. I even commented on a Facebook post John that he should add a Nashville gig, to which he replied “What about Memphis?”. While I love me some John Waite, I had to explain that a trip down I-40 to the Bluff City just wasn’t my cup of tea, even if I could stop at Buffalo and get some pie at the Log Cabin.

IMG_0291Anyway, he finally announced a show at the intimate and great venue – the Franklin Theatre. Having seen a few shows there, I knew it would be a great evening, so I snagged some tickets up front at the tables which put us about ten feet from the stage.

The opening act was Raquel Aurilia who sang six songs accompanied by just an acoustic guitar. Her voice was nice and gave everyone a chance to settle into their seats.

For the ADD readers – it was a John Waite fan’s dream. Now, for those that enjoy a little more detail, read on. John came out with a very stripped down band – a guitar, a bass, and a cajon. [I learned that night that a cajon is the proper word for beat box]. John would occasionally play the acoustic guitar during the set. His guitar player was Nashville native (who isn’t now) Kyle Cook (, formerly of Matchbox Twenty. It was a treat to watch him play. Kyle played on John’s Rough & Tumble and co-wrote one of my favorite John Waite songs – If You Ever Get Lonely.

John explained that the show would be very laid back and he would talk about the songs and their inspiration. He also added that the audience would get to ask questions throughout the night. So, he basically set the stage for our own Storyteller session with him and about 400 of his closest friends in Franklin. What a treat.

Throughout the set, we were treated to tidbits and stories prompted by the songs or questions from the audience, such as:

* He grew up listening to country music as a child in England. He talked about walking to the bus stop for school and staring at a Marty Robbins album in a store window and how he dreamed of making it to play and sing in Nashville.

* One of his favorite moments was getting to sing on the Grand Ole Opry, courtesy of Allison Kraus. Allison and John redid his monster solo hit Missing You several years ago with commercial success.

* He talked about how much he admired Vince Gill and his guitar work so much that he cut one of Gill’s songs – Whenever You Come Around. As he was playing this song on the Opry stage, he realized Gill was playing with him on stage.

* Waite lived in Nashville for a few years and really loved the vibe. He mentioned that he left because NYC really felt like home. He said that Nashville has become too crowded and is losing its country music vibe due to the record labels.

I could go on and on about how great of a night it was, but I realize not everyone is as big of a John Waite fan as I am. Which brings me to my final point. It was truly an evening for John Waite fans, but not a casual one. Yes, he did some hits from all eras of his career – Babys, Bad English, and solo. But, he also threw in some real deep cuts. It was refreshing to see an artist do the songs that he wanted to and that the true fans would appreciate. If you have a chance, go check out John Waite if he stops in your neck of the woods.

Musing in Nashville.


Set list:

* When I See You Smile – probably my favorite Bad English song

* In God’s Shadow

* In Dreams

* New York City Girl

* If You Ever Get Lonely – Favorite solo song; was recently covered by country duo Love & Theft

* Missing You

* Bluebird Cafe – stripped down acoustic. Told the story of a real waitress and how he imagined why she was in Nashville.

* Whenever You Come Around – this is when he told the story of Vince Gill playing with him on theOpry.

* Downtown- only instrument was a Spanish acoustic guitar

* Magic Camera

* Best of What I Got – Bad English

* Change

* Head First – Only Babys song he did.

It’s a Dog’s Life Has Evolved Significantly

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comThe other day, I overheard this exchange in the dairy section at the grocery store:

Woman: Go get some yogurt for the dog.

Man: What kind?

Woman (annoyed): Whatever’s cheapest. He’s a dog.

That little vignette is funny on several levels if you think about it.

First, these people feed yogurt to their dog – which was funnier before Kim told me some people do it to aid in the animal’s digestion.

Second, the man certainly doesn’t take much interest in little Muffy or her digestion, or he would know what kind of yogurt she eats.

Third, by the terse, loud way the woman answered the man’s question, it is obvious she treats Muffy better than she treats him. But then again, she’d already probably had to tell him two or three times which variety of salad dressing the dog likes.

It’s crazy the way we dote over our pets, isn’t it.

My mother-in-law’s cat once underwent cataract surgery. I’m not sure how she knew the surgery was necessary. I guess she noticed a problem when the cat lost interest in working the crosswords.

In my house, we’re nearly as bad. Our cat — who hates everyone and everything except for me for some strange reason – sits in the foyer of our house and meows until someone escorts her down the hall to her food bowl. I am convinced she would starve to death sitting there waiting for someone to walk with her.

Then, when she gets to her food, she slowly circles it, steps up on the bathroom scale next to the bowl and eats. I’m not sure why she feels the need to launch a sneak attack on her food.

Her reluctance to go down the hall has gotten to the point that when we go out of town overnight, we put food in the foyer just so she’ll eat while we’re gone.

None of these pet stories, however, can match the absurdity of something I saw on television recently.

The TV was on one of those shopping networks. I’ve had fun at these shows’ expense before. I marvel at the way the host can spend 3 hours describing a can opener.

This particular day, though, the host was pitching a tap water filtering machine for your kitchen.

Now, I realize the whole Flint, Mich., situation has put tap water in the news, but I still believe I can partake in a swig or two without feeling like I’m poking an alligator between the eyes with a short stick.

The host went on and on about why we need it, stopping just short of having a World War II air raid siren going off in the background while he told how we all were going to die from drinking unfiltered, poisonous tap water.

Then he got weird. He said, “And you certainly don’t want to feed tap water to your pets, with all the chlorine and other contaminants.”

This guy obviously doesn’t have pets.

Our cat drinks from the pool. She drinks from puddles (back when we used to have puddles). She drinks from a bowl we keep on the deck that usually has a flying insect or two floating in it.

Sometimes she drinks from the dogs’ bowl – which is a different proposition altogether because heaven only knows what the dogs have managed to transfer into their water considering they will eat, sniff or lick anything – and by that I mean positively anything.

I’m a responsible pet owner, but then again, I try to keep things in perspective.

Yes, I escort my cat to her food bowl. But I will never filter her water.

If she stops doing the crosswords, though, I would probably have to intervene.

How I Became a Dog Owner

erica bryan, behind the mic, beaverdamusa.comSo…there’s been a new development in my life…you know, besides my EP coming out…or my Pre-sale (ah-em….go order it NOW! pretty please!)……I have decided to get a dog!

Now, those who don’t know me will probably be like “oh, that’s nice!” and then those who do know me will say, “WHAT?! Erica, you’ve never liked dogs!”

So…let me explain. My family never had a dog. The only animals we had were a couple of fish and a cat that died a horrific death only a year after we got her. So the majority of my life we had no animals. The only interactions I really had with dogs were the ones that were always jumping on me or shedding on me and I really didn’t understand why people wanted them.

Now, fast forward to my time in Nashville when I was a poor musician and really needed money: I would house sit or dog sit for anyone! As I started dog sitting, I realized that there were actually dogs that were well behaved and didn’t just constantly jump on me! One dog, June, just followed me everywhere and laid down calmly next to me no matter what I was doing! Another dog, Ginger, would just go outside and play by herself all day and then hang out with me and watch TV! I realized, dogs could actually be enjoyable to be around!

Last year when I stepped away from my office job and started working from home, I started to think: wow, I could really use a companion right now to have fun with! And I thought: maybe I, too, could have a dog that was enjoyable to be around- that doesn’t shed and is trainable! After some research, I came across the goldendoodle! Non-shedding, lovable, playful, trainable- sounds great!!!!

puppy1So, let me introduce you to my new puppy, Luce! [luch-ey]. Luce means light in Italian and Luce is named after the vineyard my husband and I got married at, Montaluce. Right now, Luce is 5 weeks old and I’ll get to take him home at the end of July!

Now, I know I don’t know anything about having a dog- except all the books and podcasts about dog training I’ve been reading and listening to! So, I’m expecting the first couple months to be lots of poop and pee and headaches…but I’m still excited to bring home my new best friend!

And if you’re into this cuteness, you can follow Luce on instagram!

Now….go order the Jericho EP! 



How to Have a Christmas Shindig

erica bryan, behind the mic, beaverdamusa.comWell, my one friend had a “How To” blog…but she stopped blogging, so I guess that means I can use that title? Mine won’t be as funny- but maybe it will inspire a Christmas shindig at your home!

Now, I used the word shindig because I thought that meant small…but apparently it means a large and elaborate celebration. Whatever the size may be, any Christmas gathering is a good one! (And I know, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but my house is already decorated–don’t be a hater!)

I love the Holidays because I feel like it’s a good time to reflect on what’s really important in life. Thanksgiving and Christmas is a time where you take some time off work (oops- sorry retail workers) and spend time with the people who matter most to you: your family. It’s also a time to look around at everything you’ve been blessed with and what you’re thankful for, and hopefully reflect on the needs of others around you. Oh, and you also eat a lot of fattening things.

So, here are some things I did for my Christmas Shindig.

1. Make lots of cookies. Eat most of the dough…and then bake the leftovers.

shindig 1

2. Pick a Christmas charity to shop for! My friends and I chose to support Next Door, a drug rehabilitation center for girls. We made Christmas bags for their Christmas party! If you can’t think of a charity  in your area, try donating to Operation Christmas Child.

3. Go shopping!!!!

shindig 2

4. Come back and assemble your gift.

shindig 3

5. While assembling, eat lots of cookies, sip lots of cider, and listen to lots of Christmas Michael Buble. ​

shindig 4

6. Make some Christmas memories!!


Magic Woman, Ann Wilson

music musings, beaverdamusa.comWow.  After seeing many shows over my 51 trips around the sun, it takes a lot to knock my socks off. Ann Wilson did the other night when The Ann Wilson Thing (TAWT) rolled through the City Winery in Nashville.

If you don’t know, Ann and her sister Nancy formed Heart several years ago and have had numerous hits through the decades and still perform to this day.  Ann wanted to get out and do some different things that she couldn’t do in Heart.  She set out to do less than ten cities and luckily, Nashville was one of them.

ann wilson, beaverdamusa.comThrough the years, Ann has been known for her tremendous vocal chops and she didn’t disappoint.  As she went through the set of classic rock and soul tunes, there wasn’t a note she feared.  Her voice is still as pure and powerful as the day she started Heart.  She used the TAWT shows as a chance to sing classics that she has loved through the years.  She covered songs from artists as diverse as Buffalo Springfield to Lennon to Aretha Franklin.  The lady did them all justice.

As the show progressed, you could tell that she was really enjoying singing these songs and interacting with the sold-out crowd at the City Winery.  Speaking of winery, they had tastings of the Ann Wilson wine (cab/merlot blend) available and you could even buy a bottle to take home.  However, about a few songs into the set list, Ann mentioned the wine.  She also mentioned that she had been sober for almost six years, but heard that the wine was very good.  I didn’t get a bottle.  Didn’t seem right.

ann wilson,, zach clayton

Alison Krauss and Emmylou Harris joined Ann Wilson on stage during The Ann Wilson Thing tour’s stop at The City Winery in Nashville.

Remember, there is always a Nashville moment.  The moment this evening was when Ann brought out “two of my musical heroes” in Emmylou Harris and Alison Krauss.  Emmylou sang three songs with Ann and Alison on backing vocals.  It was quite the treat.

In summary, it was a special night.  Ann has been vocal in the past about record company suits making them look and sound a certain way.  On this night, she got to do what she wanted to do.  She looked great and sounded even better.  The pipes are still there and I would put them up against anyone half her 65 years.  Thank you Ann for choosing to come to Nashville.


P.S.  Here is the set list:

  • For What It’s Worth (Buffalo Springfield)
  • I Put A Spell on You (Screamin’ Joy Hawkins)
  • Fool No More (new song)
  • War of Man (Neil Young)
  • Every Grain of Sand (Bob Dylan)
  • Isolation (John Lennon)
  • We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place (Eric Burdon)
  • Don’t Give Up (Peter Gabriel)
  • Your Lone Journey (Doc Watson) – with Emmylou and Alison
  • Strong Hand (Emmylou Harris) – with Emmylou and Alison.  Emmylou wrote this for June Carter Cash
  • Orphan Girl (Gillian Welch) – with Emmylou and Alison
  • I Want Someone Badly (Jeff Buckley)
  • You Caught My Eye (Judy Boucher)
  • River Deep, Mountain High (Ike & Tina Turner)


  • Ain’t No Way (Aretha Franklin)
  • The Danger Zone (Ray Charles)

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Coach Billy Jack teaches Professor Sinclair how to figure percentages in a way only he can. And, Chely has a run-in with the Duck Dynasty boys. Featured games: Texas A&M-Alabama and LSU-Florida. Finest Craft Beers from America’s Best Micro Breweries- 728x90 banner