Because of my deep love of music and especially the wondrous poetry of meaningful lyrics, I fondly remember and listen often to golden oldies from the likes of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, and Kris Kristofferson.
One of my favorite lines of an old Kristofferson tune is "From the rocking of the cradle, to the rolling of the hearse, the going up was worth the coming down."
I think about that when I recall some of the more-famous people I've had the privilege of meeting or knowing in my career.
A couple college buddies played in the Major Leagues for a few years, including that Pocahontas star Larry Biittner.
One of my old college roomies is an accomplished professional musician in Arizona.
I used to drum and sing back-up vocals for Donny Bright.
I played the back-stage timpani with the roadies for Jackson Browne in a concert in Iowa City years ago. I couldn't read the music, but I could feel the beat.
I used to get Christmas cards from the late Myron Floren, the famed accordionist for Lawrence Welk. Don't ask.
I once went to the College World Series in Omaha with Kenny Bern, and another time with Randy Wilkinson.
Back in the late Sixties, I played a few tunes on Neil Diamond's guitar and visited with him in a locker room cubicle before his concert at Vets Auditorium in Des Moines. I went to his post-concert party, too. A Des Moines DJ, a former college buddy, emceed the concert and got me in with the In Crowd.
In the mid 1970's, I did San Francisco one day and night with Rick Barry, Nate Thurmond and Jim Barnett of the NBA San Francisco Warriors, and a brother-in-law. We imbibed and gawked at the city lights and San Francisco Bay in the rotating lounge atop the TransAmerica building, and dined superbly in Thurmond's funky restaurant where the bathroom was an old two-hole outhouse accessible only by a shaky boardwalk and rope bridge.
On that same trip, I later dined next to the late NRA guru and actor Charlton Heston in China Town. He said "Nice choice" when he saw the bottle of wine my brother-in-law ordered.
Earlier, the village queen of Sausalito offered to buy my tie. He didn't offer enough.
Also in the 1970s, I shared a few late-night beverages while doing a story at the Cherokee airport with Iowa coaches Hayden Fry and Dan McCarney, who had flown in on a recruiting trip for an area kid. "My goodness, do you have any eligibility left?" joked Fry while squeezing my shoulders.
I used to talk to former Green Bay Packer and St. Louis Rams All-Pro guard Adam Timmerman on the telephone after games.
I visited for half and hour with Hall of Fame QB John Elway at the Crazy Horse Monument in the Black Hills.
I ate yogurt in a Minneapolis mall with the NBA's Miami Heat and then-coach Kevin Loughery.
Then Kansas City Chief coach Marty Schottenheimer flipped me the golf ball I hit in his back yard when playing the Leawood, Kan. Deer Creek Course he used to live on.
I've played many rounds of golf with former Minnesota Twins star pitcher Jim Mudcat Grant.
"From the rocking of the cradle, to the rolling of the hearse, the going up was worth the coming down."
To all these famous folks I've met - even fleetingly - I've always asked the same question, "What'll you miss most when it's all over?"
And you know something? It's never the money, the fame, the lifestyle, the travel, the threads, the vehicles, the women, or the freedom and thrills all that may bring.
It's the adulation. The homage. The cheers and applause we peons impart on those chosen few.
From Jackson Browne to a night on that Frisco town, most of these incredible talents all agree on one thing - it's the cheers you miss the most when your time in the sun is done.
It's the cheers that made the going up worth the coming down.
And we all come down, sooner or later.