Music And Me

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There are few things more important than music in my life.  Breathing, health, family and friends will always be on the top of my list, but after that there is music.  Music is the very essence of who I am and I cannot ever live without it.

Music has been with me for as long as I remember.  I started playing the piano at the age of 5, and remember buying my first records at 11 or 12 years old.  I cannot imagine driving in my car, exercising, or performing any other passive function without listening to music.  As I write this article I am listening to music.  It is all around me, and I am always thinking about it.

Music is the way I express myself, and moves me in ways that I cannot accurately describe.   Without any warning, music can make me laugh or cry, lighten my mood, move me, it can remind me, and inspire me like nothing else.

The the right sound at the right time, in the right situation, affects me like almost nothing else in my life.  The other day How Can I Be Sure by The Rascals shuffled on my phone and the beauty of the song hit my emotional center with such force that I was close to tears, brought on by the beautiful lyrics and amazing instrumentation behind the words.  Similarly, while driving the other day I Don’t Want To Go Home by Southside Johnny And The Asbury Jukes came on and it lifted my spirit as I thought about summer, the beach, youth, and anything but the 18 degree temperature outside.

I am very open minded about music and listen to so many different genres that when someone asks me what type of music I like best I am unable to answer them.  Bruce Springsteen is my favorite artist (I have seen him over 60 times and am not ready to end that ride),  and if I had to make a list of other favorites the Beatles would be number two, but after that things get rather confusing.  For example the last 12 songs I have listened to on my iphone are:

 

  1. REM – Driver 8
  2. Grateful Dead – Big Railroad Blues
  3. Genesis – Ripples
  4. Rush – Subdivisions
  5. Springsteen – Streets Of Fire (Live ’78, Passaic)
  6. O.A.R – Shattered (Turn The Car Around)
  7. Bob Dylan – Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You
  8. The Band – Get Up Jake
  9. Pearl Jam – I Am Mine (Live)
  10. Phish – Ghost
  11. The Verve Pipe – Colorful
  12. Linkin Park – Bleed It Out

So, you can imagine my lack of surprise when some of my friends call me a music snob.  You can imagine how hard it is for me to make a mix CD for friends.  I like so much, and have so much material to draw from (close to 1000 cd’s, a few hundred albums sitting in a closet, and over 6000 tracks on my itunes library) that choosing the “right” songs for a mix is an impossible labor of love that totally depends on the mood I am in.

In a future article I will write about the social side of music, what that means to me, and how it has changed for me over the last 40 years.  I will talk about how in the old days your collection took up a wall in a room (and organizing it, if you did,, was a labor of love) and today it may fit into a hard drive the size of your hand.  I will talk about how I have shifted from an album oriented approach to listening to music to a track approach, how streaming makes exposure to  music much easier, and how all of this is good and sometimes limiting to how we share and listen to music.

Thank for listening.  If you love music as much as I do, I hope you found this article interesting.

And remember, it is possible to “learn more from a three minute record than we ever learned in school”.

 

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Life Happens, Cancer Happens, Life Goes On

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So, what happened?
Life happened.
Work happened.
Having a busy schedule and commitments happened.
Not writing a post since June is not what I wanted.  But somehow life just got in the way.

AND, getting prostate cancer and having a Radical Prostatectomy on Dec 9 happened.

It is absolutely amazing how the layers of life can get so complicated
and busy and then you receive a cancer diagnosis on top of it and all
of the shit that is hovering near the fan hits and gets all over
the place.

The good news is I am cancer free.
The bad news is recovery after surgery can suck the life out of you. My surgeon
was great and did an excellent job. What they don’t tell you before the
surgery is how tough the recovery is, especially after a major four hour
surgery.

The first few weeks were horrible as I had no energy and all I wanted
to do was sleep, not to mention going home with a catheter and an abdominal drain for a week. My continence is getting better but still not the greatest but I am told that this will improve with time. I need to be patient.

The most important thing is I AM CANCER FREE.

This whole experience has taught me alot about myself. I am not as strong
as I thought I was and I truly now know what it means to have to live one day
at a time. In the hospital I had to learn how to live sometimes one hour at
a time when I was waiting for my pain medication. My Al-Anon program
really helped me through the tougher times of this recovery and gave me the
strength and the guardrails to weather the days when my patience with my
body wore done and I started to lose it.

I still have bad days, but as I get stronger my resolve gets stronger and I am
able to weather and push through the tough moments. I am very lucky the cancer
was found in such an early stage and I am grateful for my long term prognosis.
I just need to be more patient with my recovery, take the bad days that come
along with the good, and live my life one day at a time.

More to come. Stay tuned….

Reading, The Old Fashioned Way

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A book, with paper pages dog-eared, words underlined to look up later, and a cover. A book sits with other books on a shelf, or is waiting on a nightstand or a table, ready to be picked up so the reader can re-enter that unique world.

Despite being a ‘techie’, I do not own a Kindle or a Nook. I prefer my reading the old fashioned way, with a book on my lap. I don’t need any of the distractions that technology brings. I just want the book and nothing else. I use my Ipad as a computer alternative for quick lookups, email, video, shopping, maps, etc. For me, reading on the Ipad is like reading a magazine article, quick and informative, as opposed to immersing myself into the world of a book.

A few weeks ago I was having a quick solo dinner at Panera Bread, a friendly place like a Starbucks for people to eat, read, meet with friends and use their free Wi-Fi. Many of the people eating by themselves had some type of an electronic reader. I was one of the few people there who was reading an actual book, and was actually not envious that they had their shiny electronic device to use while I had an old-fashioned book.

Yes, I know, having an electronic reader has many advantages. They are often lighter than many books, and you can have more than one title at your fingertips (even though you can only read one book at a time). You can also use most readers as a tablet as well. All you need is a Wi-Fi connection.

But a book, oh for me there are so many advantages to having an actual book, and it is often more than just the joy of reading. I know what I am reading just by glancing at it, and others know what I am reading as well. A book is a great conversation starter, and at this Panera I had two conversations with people about books. The first was with the cashier who saw the book I was holding (The Leftovers) and asked if I had read any other books by the author (Tom Perrotta). We had a great conversation about similar authors and recommended to each other additional books to read. Then, while getting up to leave I had an excellent conversation with the older gentleman sitting at the next table about the book he was reading, which I had finished a few months previous (Stephen King’s 11/22/63).

I am a “people person”. I love talking with others, even complete strangers in a public place, often to the chagrin of my family (“there he goes again, talking to strangers”). Having a book, as opposed to an electronic reader, is a natural ice-breaker and an easy way to make a connection with someone else. You may consider this nosey, but I want to know what others are reading and if they like it. I may want to read that book one day!

The Corner Of Our Eye

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They are in the corner of our eye.
People that come and go, in and out of our lives.
We may not see them every day, or even think about them more than once a month, or sometimes even less.
But they are always there, hanging on the peripheral of our daily activities.
We often forget about them, but then something happens that brings them back into focus.
Perhaps it is a memory, or a picture we see, or something they post on Facebook.
Or we see them at a wedding, or at the store and we are polite and make promises to get together.
Maybe we get a “hey, ‘what’s new, how are you” text.
And then we find out what has been going on in their lives, while they have not been part of ours.
And we find out that they are sick, or lost their job, or their mom has passed, or their kid did something great or perhaps got into some trouble.
And we weren’t part of it, or there to help them, to comfort them, to help get them through it.
And we feel horrible about it.
Not because we weren’t there, but because we were too busy to be there.
And then we feel guilty, and bad, and lament that so much time has passed.
Because it is not that hard to keep in touch with the people that mean something to us.
No matter how peripheral they may be.
A quick email, a quick text, a quick call.
Hey, how are you? Hope all is well. Let’s meet for lunch, dinner, coffee.
No pressure. Just a quick connect, let them know that they still mean something to you.
We should all do it before it’s too late.

Square Pegs, Round Holes & Solving Problems

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Some days just don’t work, like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.  No matter how hard you try, things just don’t fit together.

You have a busy Saturday with errands to run, appointments to keep, and kids’ activities to watch or drive to, and suddenly you realize it is not humanly possible to do be in two places at once.  You try to figure it all out, but sometimes a problem will seem so insurmountable that it will ruin the carefully planned dance of the day.

The only way to make things work sometimes is to either find a new peg or a new hole, or reshape the edges of one so they fit together.   Easier said than done, but sometimes moving things around in your life makes things fit together better and will help restore our sanity.

Thankfully, most problems have a solution.  You may not like it,  but a solution can always be found.

I was at my dad’s the other day to change one of his high ceiling light bulbs.  Nobody wants their 80 something dad climbing a ladder, trust me.  We started to talk about a trip they were planning.  As senior citizens a drive to Boston is not made without careful planning.  Where to eat, where to pee, did we remember the hearing aids, things like that.   Each transportation mode (driving, and who drives and how far, train, etc) have positive and negative aspects, and potential problems and pain points are all over the place. As we discussed the possibilities I realized that each stumbling block had a solution, which I carefully placed in front of him, until he agreed there was no reason why they couldn’t go to Boston via one of the many ways we discussed.

Sometimes things just don’t fit together.  But with a little sandpaper, reshaping of plans, and a willingness to compromise we can make the square pegs and the round holes fit together nice and neatly.

They Said It’s Your Birthday

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Happy birthday to me. Woo friggin hoo.

Another lap around the sun. Another lap getting lost, wasting time, being productive some days and others not getting a thing done, and wondering what I want to do with my life when I grow up. Another lap of laughter and tears and happiness and grief and hard work and absolute amazement of the good and the bad in this world. Another lap wondering how Plan A is going, and thinking about Plan B, C, D, etc.

Being overly reflective? Yes. Less work years ahead of me than behind. Wondering about the career choices I made in my life. One kid out of the house and thinking about a different future for himself (and we told him, take the chances now before you get old and regret it, just make sure you can pay your bills), and another kid that will leave the house in the fall to start the next phase of his life.

I think it’s ok to reflect now; after all it’s MY birthday. I think its ok to wonder where it all went and what I could have or should have done differently. I know I am not alone. Not only us, but all of our friends have kids that our moving on and parents (those of us that still have them around) that are really aging and we are getting those aches and pains and sprains and tears and torn cartilage and more gray hairs, and we are beginning to see that we are not young anymore.

I DO have a lot of gratitude. I have an amazing wife, and two wonderful boys who make me proud, each in their own way, have a lot of close family, and am blessed with many dear and close friends.

We continue to take the laps around the sun. We don’t give up. We continue to go through the everyday grind of life. We get up in the morning and go to work each day (paraphrasing The Boss), we take care of our chores, and we pay our bills, and fold the laundry, and call the plumber and go to our kid’s games. And in all of that chaos it is so easy to forget to take a minute and smell the flowers blooming in the spring and pull out of the bottom of our pocket the good things in our lives that often get pushed there by all the crap that we have to do.

Enjoy life, it’s too darn short. Today is my birthday. Happy birthday to me.

Masks, Lies, & Faking It

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Kurt Cobain said that “the worst crime is faking it”.  When Nirvana was active I was not a big fan, but I have grown to enjoy their music, appreciate their legacy, and influence on countless other bands. It is hard to believe that twenty years have gone by since he took his own life.

This post could be about Nirvana and music, or about women faking it in bed, but it is NOT about either of them.

This post is about masks.  Not Halloween masks, but the masks we wear daily.

We all wear them. Don’t lie and say this does not apply to you. This applies to nobody specific but everybody in general.  I am as guilty as everyone, and use one of those multi-layered rock solid locking masks sold at the high-end mask stores (not the cheap one sold on late-night television).

Our masks are on every day, from the moment we engage with people, until we settle down at night with a book or in front of the television. We could be having a horrible morning, after a fight with our spouse or we are worried about our kid’s schoolwork, but when a co-worker asks “How’s it going?” we always respond “Good!”  To do otherwise would be to go against social norms and admit that something is bothering us and that life is not peachy keen perfect.

Masks are our protection.  They are comfortable and behind them is safety. They allow us to look and feel better than we actually do.  Masks are the force field that keeps people at arm’s length and away from our troubles. Our masks allow people to only see the public persona that we have constructed for ourselves.  We can live and act like everything is fine, and nobody can see the bad and ugly parts of our lives.

But this is a lie.  A safe lie, but a lie nonetheless.   Our masks allow us to deny to ourselves and others how we really feel.  It is much easier (and safer) to make believe everything is great, than to admit that we have a problem, or are troubled by something.

It is easy to be a faker and make believe that everything is OK.  It is a lot harder to be honest with how we feel, and that starts with how we feel about ourselves.  Living life the safe way is easy, and our masks help keep us safe.  Taking a chance and taking our masks off a little bit takes courage, but allows us to be who we want to be.

I am trying to peel some of my layers off. It’s scary, but I will let you know how it goes.