Exact Change

by Sandy Cash

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1.
The athletes had come from all over the country To run for the gold, for the silver and bronze Many the weeks and the months of their training All coming down to these games The spectators gathered around the old field For cheering on all the young women and men As the final event of the day was approaching Excitement grew high to begin The blocks were all lined up for those who would use them The hundred yard dash was the race to be run There were nine resolved athletes in back of the starting line Poised for the sound of the gun The signal was given the pistol exploded And so did the runners, all charging ahead But the smallest among them he stumbled and staggered And fell to the asphalt instead He gave out a cry in frustration and anguish His dreams and his efforts all dashed in the dirt But as sure as I’m standing here telling this story The same goes for what next occurred The eight other runners pulled up on their heels The ones who’d been training so long to compete One by one they all turned round and went back to help him And brought the young boy to his feet Then all the nine runners joined hands and continued The hundred yard dash now reduced to a walk And the banner above that said “Special Olympics Could not have been more on the mark That’s how the race ended with nine gold medals They came to the finish line holding hands still And a standing ovation and nine beaming faces Say more than these words ever will So much more than these words ever will
2.
I’ve never been a swimmer But the kids are out of school So I pack ‘em up and drive them To the local swimming pool They jump into the shallows Bodies flashing in the sun But soon they’re at my deck chair And begging one by one Ride me on your back so I can sail across the ocean Lift me up so I can brave the stormy sea Hold me in your arms and I’m the fiercest pirate captain And I’ll rescue you if you’ll believe in me Now my first grade swimming lessons Left a memory blue and cold Dropped with strangers by the poolside Trying to do what I was told The teacher saw me waver And kind, said, try once more But no matter how she coaxed me My feet never left the floor For three whole weeks I faked it And believed that no one saw Nine fat zeroes on my swim card My mom’s silence said it all Guess she was embarrassed Didn’t know quite what to say But I know that I was thinking On the long ride home that day Ride me on your back and I can sail across the ocean Lift me up so I can brave the stormy seas Hold me in your gaze and I will never more be frightened And I’ll believe in you if you’ll believe in me I walk through the water, feel the warmth of the sun Feel the clutch of their arms that says I am the one Once a small, lonely child, now a mother and a wife Looking back, moving forward It’s the journey of my life Still walking through the shadows But in a very different way I stand firm as they float weightless Venturing further every day The bounty they bestow on me My glorious pirate crew Is to know I can weigh anchor I have sailing still to do Now my little one’s sweet breathing Blows a whisper in my ear And before I feel quite ready She kicks off and disappears The bubbles grow more distant Then her head breaks through the waves The jubilant girl overboard That no one had to save She says, Watch me swim, I’ll show you How to sail across the ocean Let me go and I can brave the stormy sea Held within your love I learned what freedom’s really made of And I’ll teach you, if you’ll believe in me I’ll teach you, too, if you’ll believe in me.
3.
I hear my dad come home I hear my mommy call I watch them read the letter I see their faces fall I may be only three But I am not a fool I’ve just been rejected by the Riverside Nursery School I’m bad… bad, bad, bad What am I gonna do? I’m fine in a sandbox But I choke in an interview Bye, bye future, bye, bye dream Bye, bye happy, bye, bye self-esteem My epitaph will be she hit her peak at three And then took eighty years to die Bye, bye future, bye, bye Oh, no, another letter Must be from my safety school I’m breaking out in hives I can’t control my drool They’re reading, read, read, read They’re talking, say, say, say They’re laughing, oh, oh, oh! I thinking I’m on my way What a proud girl am I! Rivka Mizrachi’s playgroup! Hello future, hello clout Old boy netowrk, that’s what school’s about And years from now, when Time and Newsweek Interview my sitter She’ll say “Early failures hurt her, yes But did not leave her bitter It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood The sun is out and life is good Hello future, hello!
4.
New Toys 02:20
I’m just a fire engine, blood red and shining If you want the man can take me from the window and pack me away I’ve got a battery operated siren with wheels that really turn Promise Mom we’ll be quiet ’til we’re home and we’ll play Take me to school on Monday Show me to your friends Put your GI Joe on my ladder Bury me in sandbox ’til recess ends But I can save Barbies’s Dream House from burning to the ground If you save me from Daddy’s closet when he’s found me lying around I’ll be patient in December when Christmas brings new toys And when you peel the paint from off my fender – try not to make a noise And after the garage sale Leave your tag upon my hood And when you go on off to college and leave me here for good And someday you’ll think about me Someday when you’re bored ‘Cause now Christmas comes around and you don’t get toys anymore.
5.
Why is it that as we grow older and stronger The road signs point us adrift and make us afraid Saying “You never can win,” “Watch your back,” “Where’s your husband?” Oh, I don’t like the signs that the sign makers made. So I’m going to steal out with my paint and brushes I’ll change the directions, I’ll hit every street It’s the Tinseltown scandal, the Robin Hood vandal She goes out and steals the king’s English And in the morning you wake up and the signs point to you They say “I’m so glad that you finally made it here,” “You thought nobody cared, but I did, I could tell,” And “This is your year,” and “It always starts here,” And oh “You’re aging well.” Well I know a woman with a collection of sticks She could fight back the hundreds of voices she heard And she could poke at the greed, she could fend off her need And with anger she found she could pound every word. But one voice got through, caught her up by surprise It said, “Don’t hold us back, we’re the story you tell,” And no sooner than spoken, a spell had been broken And the voices before her were trumpets and tympani Violins, basses and woodwinds and cellos, singing “We’re so glad that you finally made it here You thought nobody cared, but we did, we could tell And now you’ll dance through the days while the orchestra plays And oh, you’re aging well.” Now when I was fifteen, oh, I knew it was over The road to enchantment was not mine to take ‘Cause lower calf, upper arm should be half what they are I was breaking the laws that the sign makers made. And all I could eat was the poisonous apple And that’s not a story I was meant to survive I was all out of choices, but the woman of voices She turned round the corner with music around her, She gave me the language that keeps me alive, she said: “I’m so glad that you finally made it here With the things you know now, that only time could tell Looking back, seeing far, landing right where we are And oh, you’re aging, oh and I am aging, Oh, aren’t we aging well?”
6.
Hello Joanie, this is me; say I found that recipe for Orange cocoa cake, so Joanie get a pencil quick, because can You believe I’m by myself? Al’s at work, the kids are out They’re playing house, all three of them, they’re all out on the deck One half cup unsweetened cocoa, one half cup of boiling water Quarter cup of butter and a quarter cup of short’ning, Two cups sugar, one eighth teaspoon salt, teaspoon of vanilla One and one half teaspoons baking soda, ‘scuze me just a sec Dave, dear, I’m right over here Would you like some crackers and baloney Are you having fun? Don’t get too much sun. Please excuse me, while I talk to Joanie Two eggs Joanie, David, David, crackers dear, not malted milk balls In the cupboard, Joanie, one cup buttermilk or sour milk One and three fourths cups unsifted ring, baloney in the fridge Unsifted general purpose- David did you really check One and three fourths cups unsifted general purpose flour, Joanie There I finally got it out. Okay, David, malted milk balls Only five though- three fourths teaspoon grated orange peel A quarter teaspoon orange extract uh-oh, ‘scuze me just a sec Liz, Ben, I’m here in the den Would you like some crackers and baloney Are you having fun? Don’t get too much sun Please excuse me, while I talk to Joanie Joanie, one more eighth teaspoon of- Lizzie what’s the matter dear? Baking soda Joanie. Lizzie, don’t hit Benjie; that’s uncalled for That’s okay, Ben- Joanie three more tablespoons of buttermilk or Sour milk- oh, come here, Liz, what’s that on your neck? Now don’t worry, Liz, it’s only one real tiny tick. Someone, David, go and get the tweezers, Joanie, maybe in the bathroom Joanie, maybe we should- Ben, don’t cry, have one more malted milk ball Lizzie, mom’ll be right there, ‘scuze me just a sec Really gotta go, Joan, see about a tick, then we’re Gonna have a party with the neighborhood kids Then Lizzie has to go to an appointment at eleven And we’re takin’ Benjie too, because he has to buy a costume He’s in a play tomorrow over at the shul Isn’t that tomorrow, Benjie, Benjie, wheredja go, If it isn’t Ben remind me what’s your costume for tomorrow? I remember now, a hamantasch Lizzie can’t go, there’s a party in the park for all the People with pets, well you know, she gotta go to that ‘n Daddy gonna take her and the kitty in the Chevy After that, we have to reconnoiter over at the Big Boy I gotta go Joan, by the way d’ja ever Reconsider gettin’ married, having children of your own Turn the television down, your mother’s on the telephone Call you back Joan, too-da-loo
7.
Kilkelly 07:55
Kilkelly Ireland 1860, my dear and loving son John You good friend the schoolmaster Pat McNamara So kind to write these words down And your brothers have all gone to find work in England The house is so lonely and sad The crop of potatoes is sorely effected The third to a half of them bad And your sister Bridget and Patrick O’Donald Are going to be married in June Mother says not to work on the railroad Bs sure to come on home soon Kilkelly Ireland 1870, my dear and loving son John Hello to your missus and to your four children And may they grow healthy and strong And Michael has got in a wee bit of trouble I suppose that he never will learn Because of the dampness, there’s no turf to speak of And so we have nothing to burn And Bridget she’s happy to name the child for them Although she has six of her own You say you’ve found work but you don’t say what kind When will you come on home Kilkelly Ireland 1880, Dear Michael and John my sons I’m Sorry to give you the very sad news That your dear old mother passed on And we buried her down at the church in Kilkelly Your brothers and Bridget were there You don’t have to worry, she died very peaceful Remember her in your prayers And it’s good to hear that Michael’s returning With money he’s sure to buy land The crops have all failed and people are selling For any price that they can Kilkelly Ireland 1890 my dear and loving son John I suppose that I must be close on to eighty It’s thirty years since you’ve gone And Because of all the money you sent me I’m still living out on my own Michael has built himself a fine house And Bridget daughters have grown And thank you for sending the family picture Such lovely young women and men They say that you might even come for a visit What a joy to see you again Kilkelly Ireland 1892, my dear brother John I’m sorry I didn’t write sooner to tell you The dear old father has gone He was living with Bridget, they say he was cheerful And happy right up to the end I wish you had seen him play with the grandchildren Of Pat McNamara your friend And we buried him down alongside of mother Down at Kilkelly churchyard He was a strong and a feisty old man Considering his life was so hard And it’s funny the way he kept asking about you He called for you at the end Why don’t you think about coming to visit? We’d all love to see you again
8.
Roger Wingtip is my dentist there’s no one can compare when he talks about bicuspids he makes you really care I once chewed three packs of licorice to spend more time in his chair Roger Wingtip is my dentist there’s no one can compare Oh Roger you cause me pain an ache that cannot be diminished with Novocain Oh Roger when we’re apart it feels like root canal of the heart One day I got the chance to tell him what I had to say I said ” I rink I ruv ru” but his hands got in the way He looked at me and said “Yes, I think the weather’s fine today” Only once I got the chance to tell him what I had to say
9.
I was minding my own business with a mug of herbal tea I hear the ringing of the phone…I answer…it’s for me “I’m so-and-so-and-such-and-such and I do this-and-tha I work for the Chicago Bulls, I wonder, can we chat… The coach asked me to call you up, it seems he’s heard you sing And wonders if your talents to Chicago we could bring To sing the national anthem on a nationally televised game It’s all sold out,” he says to me, I says to him “Who’s playing?” The Bulls against the New York Knicks,” he rapidly replied “I’ll have to check my book” I said, and cupped the phone and cried “My prayers are answered, thank you Lord, I always knew you would” I pick the phone back up again and say “I suppose I could… Just one little item, though, before we close this deal America the Beautiful just might have more appeal Something ’bout those bursting bombs, I’ve always kind of spurned it” He said “Star Spangled Banner, Ms. Cash” and so I learned it I show up at the Stadium, the crowd is filling out Eighteen thousand six hundred and seventy six, about I take my place at center court, I’m standing on the Bull I lift my head to look around, the freaking place is full So there I am, I start the song, but not my usual way Not like the whiny folksinger you’re looking at today I raise my voice, I let ‘er rip with passion, verve and style I go to hit the highest note, the place is going wild I finish with a flourish “…and the home of the brave…” Up there in the balcony I swear they’re doing the “wave” Triumphantly I leave the court, an usher guides my way I guess I’ll take my seat there on the bench with Michael J Instead we take a couple turns, the next thing that I knew We’re halfway up to Heaven in the mezzanine, it’s true I look around, I’m shocked, I’m stunned, it’s hot dogs, peanuts, beer Oxygen, binoculars, that’s all they sell up here So in a somewhat strident voice I grab my friend and claim “I can’t believe they stuck us way up here to watch this game” Immediately the woman to my right does one of these “Just what exactly’s wrong with this location?” she decrees “We come to every game” she says “and this is where we sit These are our seasons tickets, sir, and you are full of envy And then she does a double take and breathily mumbles “Oh… Aren’t you the one who sang the national anthem down below?” My chest begins to swell with pride, I’m recognized I guess With ever ounce of wit, panache, and charm I answer “Yes…” I’m pulling out my pen, she probably wants my autograph Instead she says “Gee, usually they get famous people to do that…” There’s little more to recount in this poignant paradigm The Bulls went on to win that game by one in overtime And I went on to eat a slice of humble pie delight For you usually get what you deserve And I got mine that night
10.
If I had a car phone and you had a car phone I could call you up right now I wouldn`t have to know where you are I could dial in your car And we could talk Connecticut to Kansas and be paying the bills all our lives People with cars with phones inside make more money than you or I If I had an airplane or you had an airplane you could rest your head next to mine Call me in my car tonight tell me where to meet your private flight And we`d get a hotel cause people with airplanes sleep in very nice rooms for the night they rush off in the first early morning light living their lives at the speed of their flight Some people have car phones and some they have airplanes but only I have you So pay phones and buses will do the speed of a heart they don`t try to improve And if I`d had a car phone and you`d had an airplane we might never have met on our road cause you aren`t where you are you`re more where you go Can you live your life fast and try to love slow
11.
Exact Change 06:15
Old debts come due, I dig my hands Into pockets full of home town sand No bills can be paid off in this currency Payment terms might be arranged If you could promise Exact Change But the price we pay for change is the uncertainty I packed it all up years ago Too old to stay and too young to know The reason for my wild and weary travel Tomorrow was my only friend It dared me time and time again To swing high on that thread as it unraveled I didn’t need a reason I only needed rhyme Not looking where I leaped became a specialty of mine That we fell into this love must surely be a sign That there would be some changes for the better I was counting on some change for the better You built our house of brick and steel And fed me love in three square meals Security in solid weights and measures Your path to me was straight and true I hardly knew myself with you And that was my most closely guarded treasure But the change so blindly counted on could never be exact I heard myself start cursing you for all the things I lacked The rock of my salvation filled my glass house till it cracked And shattered in the shards was my reflection I stood with you and saw my own reflection We spent all that afternoon Side by side, with pail and broom Sorting through and mopping up and clearing And as you kissed me on the eyes It startled me to recognize How little of your song I had been hearing ‘Cuz if it’s change I’m looking for we’re changing all the time I start to feel it when I leave my bitterness behind And If I find the change is not exact, well, never mind As long as we can make this change together I’d say that we’d be changing for the better.

about

Released in 2000, Exact Change was my debut release as a folksinger and songwriter. Played on folk radio from California to New Zealand, it is a selection of both original songs and covers that capture the spirit of my live performances as they were back then.

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released January 1, 2000

Produced by Mitch Clyman, Muso Studios, Jerusalem

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Sandy Cash Israel

From the Midwest to the Middle East, American-born singer-songwriter Sandy Cash is a musical storyteller whose thoughtful – and theatrical – performance style is rooted in the songs on which she grew up back in her native Detroit.

Sandy draws on history and present-day politics, while exploring themes such as the sustaining love of family, a commitment to community, and a healthy sense of humor.
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