Me, CINDY and the CLINK
Recently, Cindy and I had the unique opportunity to perform in a prison down in South Carolina. It was the first such opportunity for either of us, although Cindy is not entirely convinced that I haven’t spent a least a day or ten in The Greybar Hotel at some point in my somewhat colorful life. I have probably shared a few too many of the shenanigans I was involved during my teenage years. Plus, I may have dropped the names of some of my friends back then – Snakeyes Synder, Boogerman McFarland and Nasty Booboo, just to name a few. I’m just saying I understand her concern.
At any rate, as we entered the prison grounds, I could tell Cindy was a little nervous: “Look Paul, under no circumstances are you to mention during the show that I am single.”
“What, I’m supposed to say we’re married?” I asked.
“Good Lord and in the name of everything that is holy, no! I would never let you say that. Never! Just don’t say anything either way.”
“I’m not sure I understand, Cindy.”
“Paul, this is an all-male facility and I don’t want to give them any ideas. Now, just keep walking.”
Let me backtrack for a moment. Before we could even get approved to sing in this facility, there was a mountain of paperwork to be filled out, with questions like, “Have you ever been in jail?” “Do you know anyone who is incarcerated here?” I noticed that Cindy looked right at me when I read those questions, presumably to see if I was going divulge any sordid secrets through my body language or voice inclination.
I can’t remember how many security points we had to go through before getting to the prison’s auditorium but Cindy peppered me with questions the whole trip. “What do you expect, Paul?”
“Well, you know a lot of these prisoners think they got a bad beef.”
“Are they going to be sick?”
“You said some of them had bad beef.”
“I said, ‘Got a bad beef. They think they were falsely convicted.”
“How’d you know that term.”
“I can’t remember. Hey, do you think the inmates will be in their peels,” I asked Cindy
“I certainly hope not.”
“Their peels! I don’t want to see those inmates naked.”
“Peels, that’s prison talk for those orange jumpsuit uniforms they sometimes wear.”
Cindy looked at me like she’d just made a discovery about me, “So, Mr. Paul Huff, how do you know so much about prison slang? I mean seriously!!”
Before I could answer, we were suddenly in the auditorium. Several prisoners (in their peels)were already there, each of them seemingly eager to help us set up, or do whatever we needed for them to do. Honestly, Cindy and I were both taken aback by how, shall I say “normal folk”, these prisoners seemed to be.
Eventually, we started to sing, of course. We sang for an hour or so, and each song was received in a manner more appreciative than any Cindy and I have ever experienced. Loud applause, lots of “amening” and quite a few tears seemed to accompany each song. They would stand, they would clap their hands or snap their fingers to the beat of the music, they would hold their hands over their heart, and they would smile. Oh, how they would smile. When we sang “Amazing Grace”, and they sang along, it seemed like a sacred energy just washed over the entire auditorium. When I looked over at Cindy, she was trying to hold back her tears. When I looked out at our audience of several hundred male prisoners, I didn’t see criminals or bad people; rather, I saw hope and change and goodness in progress. Of course I’ve always been an optimist, and some of those men will no doubt commit crimes again. Yet, many of them seemed to have found something bigger than all that. I had the feeling that many of them had given up their own will and had subjected their thoughts, ideas and deeds to the will of a higher power. That felt good. Really good!
Later, on the ride home, Cindy and I talked about that experience: Cindy said, “I loved everything about it, Paul. I would come back down here and perform again in a heartbeat.”
“Yeah, me, too. What was your favorite part?”
“Probably seeing those men in their peels.”
“Their peels, huh?”
“You know those orange-colored jumpsuits they were wearing. And you know what, Paul, I bet a lot of them did get a bad beef. And...”
Just who did write "livin' on the faith frequency?"
About a month ago, my singing partner, Cindy Ballaro, and I were learning a new song I’d written called, “Livin’ on the Faith Frequency.” Honestly, handing our compliments is not one of Cindy’s stronger points, but she is generally complimentary of my songwriting. I knew she really liked this new song, but I wondered what about this song particularly that drew her in. I was ill-prepared for her answer.
“I really like this new song, Paul,” Cindy said.
I started to answer, “Well, I ‘m really glad...”
“You wanna know why I like it?”
‘Well, what’s left?”
“Why I really like the song, Paul, is because it was me who basically wrote it?”
“You wrote it?”
“Basically, you did not write it.”
Cindy stared incredulously at me. “Are you denying that everything in that song you learned from me?”
“Yes, I am denying that everything in that song...”
Cindy let out a very audible sigh and it interrupted my thought. “Paul, don’t you remember last year when we were putting together that full church service?”
‘Well, yes, but...”
“We called it “Choosing the Path of Joy.”
“Well, I might...”
“And we talked about how faith is one of the critical tenants to choosing the Path of Joy.
“Well, I kind of do, but…”
“And, I told you that I’d lived a lot of my life on the faith frequency. Do you remember that, Paul?”
“It might be coming back to...”
“Would it be helpful for me to remind you of what the faith frequency is?”
“I know what it is, Cindy, I wrote a song about...”
“I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “God is always talking, you’re just not tuned in.”
“It’s a lot like a radio station, Paul. You have to dial into the right frequency to hear it. Living on the faith frequency is like being connected to God’s radio station where you can have that unwavering belief that God is going to take care of it, whatever it is. So you go in confidence, knowing – knowing that it’s going to be okay.”
“Well, yes, it’s like I say in the song...”
“You say? No, Paul, I say!”
“You’re not going to let this go, are you?”
“You know me, stubborn as a stone.”
“How about I just tell people how I came up with the song?”
“Mentioning my name, of course.”
“I’m glad we had this little chat. Now, I’d like to get back to practicing the song.”
“Cause there are a few words I’d like to change.”
AND OTHER STUFF CINDY LIKES TO TALK ABOUT
Cindy and I were at my digs practicing our music a couple of weeks ago when, out-of-the-blue, Cindy asked me if I realized we had an anniversary coming up? The possibility that you might have forgotten something like that strikes fear in the hearts of the toughest of men, and the sweat on my forehead was giving me away - of that, I was sure. Although Cindy and I aren’t involved romantically, two previous marriages must have been sufficient fodder to trigger my psyche.
“Are you alright, Paul, you look like you’ve just been held at gunpoint?” Cindy asked me.
I was thinking, “I’d rather be held at gunpoint than to face this oversight.” Instead, I said, “No, no, I was just thinking about our, uh...”
“Anniversary? Oh, that’s sweet. Just think, in March, we will have been singing together for three years.”
“Singing together? Singing together! Oh, yeah, yeah, wow! It’s hard to believe it been almost three years.” I could feel the blood returning to my cheeks, “And so many doors keep opening up for us, right?”
Cindy, ignoring me, was looking down at a notebook where she’d been scribbling, “You know, it’s good to look back and reflect on specifically what we’ve been able to accomplish, don’t you think?”
“I’ve been keeping up with our accomplishments since we’ve been together. Do you have any idea how many engagements we’ve played in less than three years?”
“I would guess about...”
“Over 300! Can you believe it, Paul, can you believe it?’
“I think that’s...”
“Over 300! And we’ve performed for thousands of people. Aren’t you even remotely interested in our accomplishments, Paul?”
‘Sure, I am, but I...”
“We’ve won competitions, been awarded a grant and done entire church services. We’ve...”
“I was going to say...”
“Recorded our first CD together. You know, Paul, we have a lot to thank Spirit for.”
“Well, I agree.”
“But how are you going to thank Spirit when you can’t remember not even one of our accomplishments? Sometimes I worry about you in that way, you know?”
“Well, my memory is bad.”
“How bad can it be?”
“How bad can what be?”
“Your memory, Paul, your memory! Gracious, do you know how hard it is to work with you sometimes?”
“You might’ve mentioned it a time or...”
Cindy got up abruptly and headed toward the door, “I need to go, Your head’s obviously not in the game today. Go write a blog or something.”
Alas, the business of In-A-Chord does somehow manage to get done, despite my personal shortcomings :). We indeed do have a lot to thank Spirit for. And in all sincerity, none of our accomplishments would have been possible without the support of our fantastic fans. We love you guys and gals and promise you more heart, harmony and humor is coming.