Posted by The Shamrock on

Jack Johnson, 4.26.2018

All the Light Above it Too Tour

The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion for the Performing Arts

The Woodlands, TX


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My Second Jack Johnson show (first was August 2010)
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Me, my buddy Chris, his wife Meredith, her friend Heather
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Opening Act: Fruition

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Waiting for Jack Johnson
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Jack Johnson

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Fortunate Fool

Tomorrow Morning


Jack Johnson and Fruition
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Breakdown (with Fruition)

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Jack and Band
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Posted by The Shamrock on


Grandma Murphy and Shellie

My cousin Michella lit up any room she came into.  I was closer to her in age (one month older) than any one else I am related to. I say was because she passed away this afternoon.  Throughout our adult lives we’ve only seen each other a few times a year, but the strong bond from childhood made any time apart feel like mere seconds as we could joke with each other instantly upon seeing the other.

Our grandparent’s house on Short Street in Patton Village (Splendora, TX) was usually the scene of our shenanigans growing up.  Some of my earliest memories are of playing with my cousins “Shelly” and Wendell in our grandparent’s yard, as the adults would usually give us the boot outside.  In later years, my sisters Gaylyna and Amber would join the tribe, along with our cousin Travis on occasion. My older brother Brad was around in the early years too, but you would probably find him somewhere curled up with a book or working on a tree house way behind Papa and Grandma’s yard rather than hanging with us youngsters. While being heavy runs in the Murphy family, we didn’t get that way from sitting inside watching TV, though we did enjoy watching “The Dukes of Hazzard” on Friday nights.  We were usually outside playing or plotting.  We’d make obstacle courses with lawn furniture, build forts, help our Papa burn leaves, tunnel through piles of dirt Papa had brought in, and just about anything else to entertain ourselves.

The first five Murphy cousins

Shelly had no fear and was probably the toughest out of all of us.  One time we walked down to the Splendora Food Center at the end of Tram Road. We noticed an old shopping cart on a burn pile out back. I think it was Shelly that went in and asked if we could have it.  So, we started pushing it down Tram Road, wobbly, half melted wheels and all.  My Mom was at my grandparent’s house and became worried that we were gone so long.  Mom came driving down Tram Road in our family’s brown Chevy van with a recently broken out windshield (that’s a story in itself). We loaded the shopping cart into the van and took it back to Papa and Grandma’s house.  What do you do with a shopping cart with half melted wheels?  We dared each other to get pushed into the steepest part of the ditch in it.  Shelly had no problem going over in the steepest parts.  That’s just who she was, nothing scared her, and she found most things funny, even in serious situations.

When our family moved from Kansas to Splendora in the fall of 1985, I had already been to several different schools between Texas and Kansas. When I started school in Splendora in the middle of 4th grade, Shelly was the only person I knew. We were in the same grade, but different classes. She looked out for me though.  If she thought someone was messing with me, she would get in their face and tell them to back off.  We moved a few more times and I attended school in 6th and 7th grade in other places, but when I came back to Splendora in 8th grade, she was quickly on the prowl if she caught wind of someone giving me problems. She was fiercely loyal.  During our freshman or sophomore year of high school, the World Geography teacher, Ms. Audrey sat everyone in alphabetical order.   Somehow Shelly and I ended up in the same class. I think it was the only class we were ever in together.  We had a good time as we cut up a lot! I guess too good of a time for a week or so anyway.  Within a week, Ms. Audrey had Shelly moved out of the class. Two Murphys in the same class was too much for her.

As I sit here writing this out, I can’t even comprehend how much I am going to miss my dear cousin.  She lost her Mom, Aunt Evelyn a few years before I lost my Mom.  When my Mom passed, Shelly was good about checking on me and seeing how I was doing.  I realized I hadn’t done the same for her when she lost her Mom. Even though she had a mischievous stripe that was assigned to us at birth, she was also a very caring person.  I don’t know if someone who didn’t know her that well would know that about her.  Thank you, Shelly, for always having my back! I hope you could count on me like I could you.

While I am heartbroken, I will always remember the laughter shared with Shelly.  The same laughter as recently as last Saturday, as from our childhood running around our grandparent’s house and yard. Though the laughter ended too soon today.

Brad, Me, Shellie, Wendell, Gaylyna in 2008 or so

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Finding Thomas Jefferson Murphy

For several years my Dad has been wanting to locate his grandfather’s grave in Waco, Texas.  He was there as a boy but had not been there since.  Until last week.

We had put off taking the trip for several years.  I scheduled vacation days for this trip back in January.  I hoped that we would have good weather since it would be the beginning of spring. The weather ended up being very nice and taking the days off was well needed from work as the company I work for was acquired by another company as of March 1.  Several people have been let go in the last three weeks (out of ten people). You might surmise that taking vacation days when the people are being let go is foolish. Everyone else that is left has been taking their days, the days were take it or lose it days (before April 1), and there is never going to be a good time to take vacation now with the staff reductions. Besides that, I have little confidence that the new owner’s will keep me more than a year (if that), but for now I do have leverage as they need me right now.  That’s just until they can move my duties to someone in Indiana though.  Foolish or not I took my days and am glad I did.

Dad and his wife picked me up on Wednesday morning and we made the drive to Waco.  There was a stop at Buccee’s in Madisonville. I am good with stops there for about five years. I know it is unpopular to not be in love with the place, but I am just a fan of the crowds and constantly bumping into people.

We arrived at Rosemound Cemetery in Waco about 12:30 pm.  With the help of we already knew which section my great grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Murphy is buried in. Whoever had listed the grave on the site had also looked up the obituary too.

Name: Thomas J. Murphy
Death date: 03 May 1937
Death place: Waco, McLennan, Texas
Gender: Male
Race or color (on document): White
Age at death: 59 years 1 month 2 days
Estimated birth year: 
Birth date: 01 Apr 1878
Birthplace: Coryell Co., Texas
Marital status: Married
Spouse’s name: Lula P. Murphy
Father’s name: Jim Murphy
Father’s birthplace: Texas
Mother’s name: Victoria Manning
Mother’s birthplace: Texas
Occupation: Laborer, City Health Department
Cemetery name: Rosemound Cemetery
Burial place: 
Burial date: 04 May 1937
Additional relatives: X
Film number: 2117277
Digital GS number: 4166743
Image number: 655
Reference number: cn 27630
Collection: Texas Deaths, 1890-1976

Source – Waco News Tribune 5-4-1937

Thomas Jefferson Murphy, 59, died at 10:55 a.m. Monday at his home, 1709 Clark Street, after a short illness. Funeral services will be held from Compton’s chapel at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, interment in Rosemound cemetery, Rev. J. D. Everett officiating. Mr. Murphy is survived by his widow, one son, three daughters, a brother and a sister. He had lived in Waco since 1918 and was connected with the health department of the city of Waco.

Dad was the first one to spot the grave.  We think it was repaired at some point. Dad thinks that someone had given his father a piece of granite that was used to make the stone.  The T in TJ looks like a J, so at first glance it looks like JJ Murphy, but closer upon closer inspection you can tell it is supposed to be a T and the maybe a scoring mark has eroded to make it look more like a J.

TJ Murphy’s grave

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Thomas Jefferson Murphy passed away when my grandfather was 16. TJ’s wife, my great grandmother was 37 by our calculations.  TJ passed 14 years before my Dad was born. Dad sadly didn’t know either of his grandfathers as they were both gone before his time.

After leaving the cemetery we went to the address listed on the obituary to see where my grandfather’s family lived. 

The house on the lot now was built after 1937 but was still neat to get an idea of the street my grandfather lived on and imagine what it looked like when he lived there.  I am glad we did this, it’s always great to learn more about your family roots.

From there we visited Homestead Heritage which is just outside of Waco.  Joan had been before.

According to their website:  “Homestead Heritage is an agrarian- and craft-based intentional Christian community.”

They have a café, blacksmith, pottery, craft, market and general store on the property. They make a lot of cool stuff among all of the shops.  We had a nice lunch at the café. Joan did a little shopping. All of the people there are very friendly. It’s worth a visit if you’re in the Waco area.
Homestead Heritage

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From there we ended up at the Best Western in Bellmead for the night.

Morning view from the Best Western
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On Thursday morning we headed to Fort Worth and arrived at the Fort Worth Stockyards with a little time to spare before the first cattle drive of the day.

This was my second time there. My brother Brad and I made a quick stop there in August 2011.

Fort Worth Stockyards

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Dad and a new friend
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Luxury Transportation

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The Cattle Drive
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Dad and Joan waiting for the cattle drive
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New stickers for the laptop
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John Wayne Toilet Paper

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From there we drove to downtown Dallas to see Dealey Plaza, sadly known as the place President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.  We didn’t stop and visit the museum as downtown was very busy and Dealey Plaza was full of other tourists.  I had just always wanted to get an in-person perspective of where such a tragic but monumental event happened.

We then had lunch and ended up at a La Quinta in Fort Worth for the night.

Friday morning, we drove out to Grapevine and visited Lake Grapevine, and took at look at historic downtown Grapevine.  There are a lot of neat shops there.

From there we ended up at DFW Airport’s Founder’s Plaza. 

This place is setup nice to watch planes land and take off at DFW airport.  A speaker also broadcasts air traffic control communications from the FAA tower.  If I lived in the DFW area this is probably a place I would visit a lot. Since Houston seems to have an inferiority complex to Dallas, they could take a lesson and setup something like this at IAH or Hobby.


DFW Airport Founder’s Plaza
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I will say though that as much as I hate Houston traffic, the Dallas metroplex seems to be worse. I only thought Houston had a lot of road construction going on.

We made a quick stop at the Burlington Coat Factory at Grapevine Mills Mall, then met my cousin Rick, his wife Kendra, and Uncle James who is down visiting them from Oklahoma, for lunch at the Cracker Barrel in Grapevine.  It was very nice to have a meal and quick visit with them. I enjoyed it immensely!

From there we made our way to our hotel in Richardson for the night. Originally, we had planned to visit South Fork Ranch, known from the TV show Dallas, on Saturday morning. We decided to get on the road back to The Woodlands (and then Beaumont for Dad and Joan).

People who read most of my travel journals are probably thinking this one lacked the prestige of visiting a premier national park or driving down the PCH in California.  Sometimes a low-key trip with family and no agenda is nice.  It was nice to get away from work for a few days and do something that was really important to my Dad, which in turn became important to me.

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The Talk I Never Had

I don’t dream about my mother a lot, but occasionally I do and it’s usually a tough morning or day when I wake up and think about the dream.  In the most recent one I was making travel plans for a family vacation (no doubt because I have been making travel plans for a couple of upcoming family trips).  In the dream I was going down the list and making sure everyone had room reservations for wherever we were going in the dream. I realized I didn’t have a reservation for Mom, which made me question why I didn’t include her, which made me remember she’s not with us anymore, which ended up waking me up. While I am no dream expert, this was probably brought on by her birthday on February 11th, and upcoming four-year mark of her passing (March 12th).

In some ways four years has flown by, in other ways it feels like time has stood still and things are moving around me, but I am not.  Probably the only positive to losing Mom is a lot of trivial things that used to matter to me, don’t anymore. I also think I am more empathetic when someone else loses someone.  My cousin Michella was very kind and checked in on us several times in the days, weeks, and months after Mom passed.  It made me realize that I had not done the same for her and my cousin Wendell when they lost their mother (Aunt Evelyn) a few years before.  Since then I have tried to show more compassion to friends and family in their time of loss.  I can certainly do better.

This is not to suggest that when we lost Mom, I had escaped grief. Before losing Mom, I lost some giants in my life which include several uncles, aunts, and my grandparents.  They were all huge losses and I think of each of them often.

We also lost two brothers that were only with us a few short months each and I can barely remember as I was young.  I think their deaths affected me in ways I can’t really relate to anyone.  Maybe it’s a touch of survivor’s guilt, wondering why I am here and they are not.

Despite all those losses, I guess the obvious somehow escaped me that someday I would navigate losing a parent.  While we lost mom at when she was relatively young, I think of friends and family whose parents passed when they were kids.  I was 37 when Mom passed, a grown man. Somehow being a grown-up kind of sneaks up on you, at least it did for me. Perhaps because I don’t have kids I forget that I’m old enough to have kids in their 20’s.  A grown man is supposed to be prepared for these kind of things, right?  Mom was in bad health for several years and perhaps I foolishly at times thought during that last year I was prepared for life without her. I wasn’t.

Rob O’Neil, the Navy SEAL credited with shooting Bin Laden tells in interviews about young kids aspiring to be Navy SEALS telling him they take cold showers so that they will be used to the harsh cold waters of BUDS training.  He tells them to stop because no matter how many cold showers they take, they will never get used to the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean they will face in BUDS. In one interview he said something to the effect of “if I tell you I am going to kick you in the crotch in a month, do you think having someone kick you in the crotch every day leading up to that day is going make you used to being kicked in the crotch?” While it may be a crude analogy, I can relate to it. No matter how prepared I thought I was for losing Mom, it did not soften the blow.

A former co-worker texted me last year not too long after he lost his mother and said, “I don’t know how you did it, I can hardly function at work”.  I related to him about knowing how it feels to know your life is forever changed, but people are moving around at full speed, while you’re doing good just to show up on some days.  If taking a few months on a sparsely populated beach or isolation in a mountain lodge had been an option, I would have taken that over returning to work after my allotted bereavement days.   Most of us don’t have that for an option. My first night alone after Mom’s funeral was a pretty rough one.  I went to a restaurant for dinner and came out just feeling utterly lost.  Not that it would have made the pain go away, but if a bus of hippies had pulled up right then and invited me to join them for an endless road trip across America. I probably would have just climbed on the bus and left being a “stable adult” behind.

A bus did not show up though, and my last name isn’t Rockefeller, Getty, or Hearst. Back to my apartment I went to prepare to return to working for “The Man”.  Maybe the cruelest part of grieving is life really does go on without the ones we lost.

I still have Mom’s number in my contacts. Even thought the finality of finalities has already happened, somehow taking her out of my phone seems unbearable.  I guess I would be freaked out if her contact picture showed up as an incoming call.  I’d pick it up though as scary as it would be.

Maybe it’s different for other people, but I didn’t have the scene from a movie deathbed talk with Mom where I apologized for anything I done towards her, and she gave some words of wisdom to carry for the rest of my life.  Besides some sporadic stupid parent v. child arguments, we had at various times that I should have conceded, we fortunately did not any lingering bitterness or disagreements between us that I am aware of. This is not to suggest I wouldn’t have chosen words better at times, better yet bit my tongue.  I’m not suggesting Mom was perfect or in the right every time, but again those were trivial things that really didn’t warrant an argument then, and especially don’t warrant any hard feelings now that she is gone.

Oh, but I would have loved for that talk just to double check and make sure everything was clear between us.

I don’t know the secret for overcoming grief, because at times I am still overcome by it.  Several years ago, I set out to be more stoic about things, but that façade crumbles quickly when I think of my family.

I go through musical phases where one artist sticks with me a while. The last year or so that has be The Avett Brothers.  A lot of their lyrics just really connect with me at this point in my life.

From a song of theirs called “The Perfect Space” this line always gets me:

I wanna have pride like my mother has 
And not like the kind in the bible that turns you bad

Mom was very proud of her family, and even though I didn’t give her reasons to be proud at times, she was.

Please pardon the Casey Kassem-esque song dedication, but if the phone did ring and Mom’s picture showed up as the incoming call, and I could have that last talk with Mom, I would try to convey this.


Through My Prayers

The Avett Brothers

Hard to believe I won’t see you again
We were just fighting when winter began
The coldness of our words competing with the wind from the north

Still they make me shiver but in a very different way
The pages of the calendar kept turning away
I have some better words now, but it’s too late to say them to you

My dream of all dreams and my hope of all hopes
Is only to tell you and make sure you know
How much I love you and how much I always did

And yes I know you loved me I could see it in your eyes
And it was in your struggle and it was in your mind
And it was in the smile you gave me when I was a kid

Feels like no one understands
And now my only chance
To talk to you is through my prayers
I only wanted to tell ya I care

Every night after and every day since
I find myself crying when the memory hits
Sometimes it knocks me down, sometimes I can just put it away

Down in my mind where I don’t care to go
The pain of a lesson is letting me know
If you have love in your heart let it show while you can

Yes now I understand
But now my only chance
To talk to you is through my prayers
I only wanted to tell ya I care
I only wanted to tell ya I care

Songwriters: Robert William Crawford / Scott Yancey Avett / Timothy Seth Avett

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We Are At This Moment

“We are at this moment where we have never been before, and before I finish saying it, we have passed it and will never be there again.” – Rev. Clegg W. Avett (1914-1976)