Russell H. Ragsdale


Five Days of Gratitude – Day Five

Fifth day of gratitude:

  1. I am grateful for music.  I grew up singing.  Yes I studied the piano for a while and after that I took up the cello but, all through this time and long after when all my instruments were gathering dust, I was singing.  I sang in the choir at church and when I started high school I was able to go to classes in the school choir as well.  It was the school choir that gave me an introduction to musicals.  My voice has great volume when I want it to and I suspect even when I didn’t want.  I sang baritone and, because my voice had a lot of force, I was always getting cast in the stage productions at school when we would put on musical theater pieces.  Most of the really good parts were often given to tenors but just being in the cast was always lots of fun.  I never really thought of myself as a leading role however until I got invited to audition for the Los Angeles City Choir.  Whereas the high school choir might have 60-80 kids in it, the L. A. City Choir was to have 400 of us.  They just assembled that group for a single performance and I was excited to be part of it.  I still didn’t have any inkling of what that could mean to me but it was a lot of fun getting together to sing in this huge group of kids.  We rehearsed a lot of pieces of music but all by the same composer and it still hadn’t dawned on me yet what the program was to be.  After a few rehearsals in really big music rooms they cut the group down to the last 400 of us and we were told we would perform in the Hollywood Bowl.  It was going to be Family Night and Meredith and Rini Wilson were to be featured along with some big name famous singers.  As we got closer to the performance time I was selected to be part of the group that would sing the opening from the California Story.  Then they told me that I had been selected to sing the opening solo.  Wow!  An audience of 25,000 people sat staring at me as the lights came up on opening night.  It took me about four gulps but I finally got the first note of the program out.  It was a fabulous experience!
  2. I am grateful for Skype because it lets me connect with people I care about even though I can’t be with them at times when I travel.  When somebody is missing you and just wants to say hello just the sound of a voice can be so comforting.  It is a fact of my lifestyle that people I have come to know and care about are scattered all over the globe.   You can’t replace a dear friend, you can’t always even be where they are, especially if you are far away somewhere and feeling lonely as writes almost always must.  I have a friend in Birmingham who I have known for 20 years but I can’t reach him lately for some reason.  I know he travels too because he has told me about his sister in Spain and a brother with a pub in Ireland so I guess he is just like I sometimes am and that is something I above all people should expect to experience.  He is a little younger than I am but still that doesn’t make him a spring chicken either and I confess I worry a little because we are so far away from each other.  I will be very glad when I turn on my skype next time and see his smiling face among the available contacts.
  3. I am grateful for television not because I like to watch it because there is little I would like to do less than watch the news.  My apology to any broadcaster who is reading this but I am just too sensitive for such a concentrated diet of unhappy information.  I do understand that they have to serve the public and that, as far as they can tell, is the thing that most interests most people.  I however am grateful to TV because I got to be on it.  I was part of a weekly cooking show here is Kazakhstan for seven years and have met a lot of very interesting people, some of which are friends of mine to this day.  It took me from daily life and gave me the opportunity to speculate on illusion from an interesting perspective.  I have long speculated on the illusory nature of dinning because I was in the restaurant business, as many of you know, for about 20 years. Doing this show I was able to ask myself about the illusions people have about food preparation.   Audiences watched the show I was on because celebrities were making the food and that poses an interesting question.  People tend to regard celebrities as different from ordinary folk and thus they reason that they may be better than most at everything.  How far does talent extend and moreover, how can one convince the viewer that, even if these people don’t necessarily possess special skill in the kitchen, they can still be considered special and maintain that star status?  A lot of showmanship goes into that because often times that is the only distinguishing quality they have in the kitchen.  These people were talented and attractive and a lot of times that was more interesting to the camera than the food they made.  Also food can be visually attractive but not tasty.  Ah illusion, we gobble you up as if you were tasty.