Saturday, January 31, 2015


Walked outside to get Carol's paper this morning.

It was 8 degrees with a howling wind. I gotta believe the wind chill was 3,188 degrees below.

In the three minutes it took to walk out and back, my cheeks froze in a grotesque parody of a smile.

In Glendale Arizona it is 54 degrees with a projected high today of 65. That's not as warm as I expected but it is light years away from where New England is at.

Glendale Arizona is where I am supposed to be.

It is warm. THE PATS are playing in the Super Bowl.

Why wouldn't I be there?

I have to admit I am disappointed with my sons.

In October they marshaled their considerable financial resources to send me to the second to last Allman Brothers concert ever to be held in the history of the world - in NYC.

Interestingly enough, Keith and Craig's incomes are exactly the same, even though they toil in completely different industries.

They each earn $14 million annually.

What a magnificent gift, what an incredible trip that was. Me and my longest standing friend in my life, Mr. Phil Camerlengo, meeting up in New York City to dig on the band that has kept us young and interesting for 45 years.


I'm sure my sons figured they had raised the bar as high as it could go. That they had done something for me that I could appreciate deeply, and would never forget for the rest of my days on earth.


They established a base from which to improve upon.

I knew THE PATS were going back to the Super Bowl. I was secure in my gut feeling. Even during the Baltimore game my gut calmed me into football serenity.

When THE PATS destroyed the colts, I sat back with a smug smile, a cold beer, a short whiskey and an excited air of expectancy, waiting for the phone to ring.

I knew it would not ring that night. You gotta absorb the reality, adjust your focus to championship levels and allow the excitement to subside into every day survival mode for two weeks.

Besides there are logistics. You gotta do research, you gotta plan ahead, you gotta coordinate and communicate, you gotta free up funds.

It takes time.

A few days later I became concerned. There was no phone call.

I had spent the intervening time rehearsing the feigned excitement I would project over the phone.

A conference call. "Dad - it's Keith and Craig. Guess what? We got you two tickets to Glendale. You and Mom are going to the Super Bowl."

"What? What are you talking about? Are you serious? What a surprise." As I smiled in smug satisfaction and expectation realized.

Today is the day before the Super Bowl. Still no call.

I just went to Stub Hub. There are 181 tickets left priced from $10,000.

I don't know what the problem is. $10,000 is not even one week's paycheck for either of my sons. I don't think $20,000 is to dear a price to pay to purchase happiness for their frail and tired and aging parents.

Apparently they have become selfish.

That's all right. It is what it is.

We'll go to Keith's house tomorrow to watch the game. We'll pretend to be enjoying ourselves.

However, I am going to sneak unapproved snacks to Cooper and Jack at every opportunity. I have already arranged for a friend of questionable character to raid Craig's house to appropriate his infamous shoe collection.

I am not a father to be messed with.

I look forward to 2015 and enjoying the Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals, the Sox in the World Series, tennis at Wimbledon, golf at the U.S. Open, a couple of Mumford & Sons concerts, a couple of Ray LaMontagne concerts, a nationwide blues tour, and front row seats to The Stones  and U2 if the come around.

Courtesy of my loving and respectful sons.

Guilt is a powerful motivator. Really it can be applied as a synonym for love.

I really love my sons.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Small Talk

Inhabited the recliner for the 5:00 to 6:30 slot before cooking supper last night.

You know, "Around The Horn, PTI," miscellaneous. Flipping back and forth between ESPN and the NFL Network.

Caught coverage of THE PATS' plane landing in Arizona. Watched them "de-plane." Got excited.

I do not apologize for this. This is the approach I am taking this week. I am going to watch a lot of coverage. I will laugh at stupidity, wallow in sentimentality and ride a wave of excitement.

I do get caught up in seemingly silly things. Like getting excited at watching THE PATS walk off their plane. I refuse to be embarrassed by this. Instead, this year I champion my obsession.

It is the goddamn Super Bowl for Christ sake, and I am going to wrestle every moment of anticipation and future memory out of the event. I will do it my way and dig what I dig with an easy grace and an emotions on my sleeve boldness.

Got a kick out of the de-planning commentary, though. Andrew Siciliano. I have to believe he was doing it tongue in cheek. I think he is too smart to "report" details like "Looks like Brady is wearing a scarf."

Turned out Brady had a pair of high priced headphones draped around his neck, which Jamie Dukes did not hesitate to point out.

I sense tension on the set - always - when Siciliano is the anchor. I  think the ex-athlete/sportscasters do not like him. I don't. He is obnoxious. It is obvious to me that Mike Mayock despises him. Then again Mike Mayock is a bit of a turd himself. Got that old school tough football guy mentality and no sense of humor.

Siciliano noted "Here comes Vince Wilfork all dressed in black."

To which Solomon Wilcots remarked "Very slimming."

I'm pumped. Forgot to watch the 8:00 p.m. Brady/Belichick press conference last night. Carol and I were watching "Rescue Me" on Netflix.

We are flying through every season every episode. We loved it when it was on the air and we are digging it on Netflix.

Great show.

Anyway, it is Tuesday already. FYI the Super Bowl is on Sunday.

Luckily I have today off. Carol does too. Snow, baby - snow. The only thing it is good for is panic and bonus days off.

Frankly I am stunned. The NH State Liquor Commission has proved over and over again that they do not give a damn about their employees in any way, shape, form or manner. I have driven white knuckled to work through blizzards so many times it makes me nauseous to think about it.

So the store can rake in $118 in sales.

I have it on good advice that it took some high level prodding to get these bozos to close the stores today and that they did it hours after every other state run agency had already announced closings.

Cannot wait to escape their evil, greasy clutches.

BUT I am home today with my extra special wife and we will dig this bonus time deliciously.

Gonna be Super Bowl coverage, gonna be "Rescue Me", gonna be shoveling, gonna be a nice dinner.

Meanwhile the countdown to Super Bowl XLIX continues as January slides into February.

A week to remember, baby - a week to remember,

Monday, January 26, 2015

BOOM! Just Like That

Just sat down to enjoy a little brunch to fuel me for this "gonna get shit done and accomplish something" afternoon.

Popped on the NFL network and was happily surprised to catch the last five minutes of THE PATS Super Bowl send off rally in City Hall Plaza.

Listened to Wilfork and Brady and caught a replay of Robert Craft's comments.

Roaring crowd and confetti.

Watched the team bus head on down the road towards Logan Airport.

Got goosebumps.

I am officially in "losing my mind" mode.

Just So You Know

I am approaching this year month by month.

I am looking at each new month like a new year.

The first of each month will symbolize another fresh start. Another challenge laid down.

I refuse to allow 2015 to rocket by like 2014 did. And I am damn committed to ending this year on a high note.

For me and everybody else.

2013 ended with health issues and physical set backs for me. Pinched nerve, high blood pressure, tri-focals.

You remember. I talked about it incessantly.

2014 ended with the deaths of Jonathan and Sarge.

I have had enough.

I will do the best I can do this year.

I will try. And try and try and try.

As Duane Allman wrote in 1969: "I love life and I will be the best man I can be."

I haven't felt this way in a long time.

I am putting out a positive vibe. I'm hoping it becomes an umbrella to protect every single person that I love.

I want all of us to be healthy. I want all of us to be happy.

Today is January 26, 2015.

I am not afraid.

Finding Family

I am gearing up for the Super Bowl.

I paid some attention to the talk last week but it was tough because 107% of what I heard concerned underinflated footballs.

I will try to steer clear of the too easy too obvious ball jokes because that approach has taken on a life of its own.

I have to admit a lot of it was funny. Belichick tried to minimize it in his press conference by using the word football - it was obvious he was making a conscious effort.

Brady was not so cautious. As a result a lot of comedians put together a lot of routines with Brady's comments spliced in and they were pretty goddamn funny.

Even Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC put together an extended shtick on his show.

Apparently even pseudo-intellectuals cannot resist ball jokes.

Anyway....................I am going to dive in this week. Christ, it's THE PATS in the Super Bowl - again. Why not?

Carol is always telling me I am too hard on myself, I need to lighten up, I need to enjoy things more.

She's right.

So this week is my week. To indulge, revel, roll around in and enjoy the fact that THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS are making their eighth appearance in this  monumental game.

And to look forward to experiencing this game with Carol, Keith, Emily, Craig, Karen and Eddie.

I hunger for victory.

Watched a segment on the NFL network - or ESPN - called "Finding Family." It was about football players on the winning team at the Super Bowl who immediately fight their way through the on-field crowd to find their family sitting in the stands.

Guys who get so emotional as their sons and daughters are handed down to them from the stands by their wives, who then climb down to join the celebration.

Players who seek out their parents in the stands to get them down on the field to celebrate with.

Brothers, sisters - the people who mean the most to these guys.

Guys just standing on the field pointing towards the stands and where they know their family is sitting. A personal moment in a sea of insanity.

I love the shots of massive football players holding tiny sons in their arms as confetti reigns down, music blares, lights flash, tears flow and young, wide open eyes take it all in.

Guys who win the Super Bowl have achieved something they have worked their entire life for.

Sacrificed, sweated, hurt, worried, wondered and dreamed for and about.

What an amazing feeling that must be to have a passion that consumes you. To dedicate yourself completely to working as hard as you can to turning that passion into success. Through pain and doubt and set backs and unpredictability. For your entire life. To hold that trophy in your hands as the ultimate symbol of just how far you have come. The ultimate symbol of the ultimate success.

It doesn't end there. It ends with family.

These guys look for their precious family because those are the people who count. The people who sacrificed along with them, who encouraged them and believed in them.

The people the players want to protect and reward and take care of and say thank you to.

The people the players get love from and give their love to.

As this week moves on I am sure I will get stupid about it all. The TV hype will get bigger and more repetitive. Too many words will be spoken, too many opinions will be rendered.

"Finding Family" was a good base to work from. A good start. It made the significance of this game more real and more human.

I will enjoy this game heartily.

My enjoyment will be magnified exponentially through the company of Carol, Craig, Karen, Keith, Emily, and Eddie.

That is where it's really at, baby.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Strange Perspectives

I learned this morning that Charles Laquidara quit WBCN for two years to dedicate his life to ingesting cocaine.

He was so into the drug that he decided to quit his job and do cocaine for the rest of his life.

When he quit he told his friends that he knew the drug would kill him but figured it was a great way to go.

That's how much he loved it.

His explanation for quitting the job: "I was heavily into cocaine, and the show was getting in my way."

It's The Little Things

Woke up this morning at 7:02.

My mind immediately told me it would be unforgivable to get up that early on a Sunday morning.

I agreed.

But I was awake. Had to go to the bathroom. Knew that if I got up to go to the bathroom I would never get back to sleep.

So I waited.

Listening to Carol sleep, and Maka do her tiny wheeze.

Until Lakota climbed her way up onto the bed right next to me and demanded attention.

I patted her for a while, kissed her head and got up, looking at my beautiful wife for a second and smiling at Maka all curled up at Carol's feet.

Performed obligatory bathroom disciplines. Opened the bathroom door and both cats were sitting there, waiting.

So goddamn cute.

Maka ran down the stairs, energetic as always. Lakota - slowly, step by step.

As I walked own the stairs listening to the January wind howl, I thought about how nice it is to get up to a warm house.

I dumped out, wiped out and refilled their water bowl. I always get a kick out of how soon they get thirsty when I refill the bowl.

Apparently they prefer their water cold and fresh.

Did the daily neck stretches to fight back against residual pinched nerve discomfort. My neck and shoulder and arm have never been the same since that episode over a year ago. My body and me have struck an awkward balance between almost constant but minor discomfort and occasional pain.

But the pain is never severe and I am always able to bounce back.

Walked out to get Carol's paper, a new ritual.

It has always been a joke with us on weekends when she comes downstairs and I am casual in my recliner, book in lap, empty coffee mug at hand, for her to say: "Did you get my paper?"

I never used to do it. When Jonathan and Sarge died last year I started to do it. Because I am now obsessed with being focused on my family. I care about little ways to make them happy.

I feel good when I make that minimal effort and Carol can come down to a waiting newspaper.

Brewed up a cup of coffee and sat to read the book I am reading about WBCN. A book my son Keith recommended to me.

Got me thinking about my sons. Keith who recommended this book which I am digging deeply, and Craig who gave me a laptop which has freed me to exist in the 21st century.

Little things that make me happy. Deep relationships that define my life.

In between chapters I thought about today. Carol and I are traveling to dreaded Massachusetts to see my brother Ed perform with Symphony Pro Musica. A group of musicians who are supremely talented. Some of whom make a living at it, most of whom don't but should.


I thought about Eddie and the hell he lived for eight years capped off by the worst emotional pain any human can experience.

These concerts have taken on a deeper significance in my mind now. They represent a part of my brother that is exceptionally talented and committed. I'm guessing they are also a source of soothing, temporary relief for him from his new, harsher reality.

He is proud of these performances, and I am over the top proud to see him associate with and perform with exceptional musicians. Musicians who obviously believe he is exceptional enough to perform with them.

Got up early today. My mind was consumed with thoughts and images and emotions regarding Lakota and Maka, Carol, Keith, Craig, Eddie, Jonathan and Sarge.

Two precious cats, two loved family members who are no longer physically with us, four people who, along with Emily and Karen, make up the small innermost circle of my life.

The small, intense, life-justifying circle that is my life as much as my heart beating and my lungs breathing is my life.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Trust Yourself

Carol went to an Oriental restaurant for lunch last week with her work crew and came home with a fortune.

She wanted me to play the lucky numbers in the lottery, which I did.

I don't know if we won yet or not; I haven't checked. I am cavalier about such things, recognizing of course that money cannot buy happiness and that it is more important to contribute to society through diligent work and self sacrifice; dedication to your job.

What? Jesus Christ I am going to check that number as soon as I stop dribbling this drivel onto the page.

I was more interested in the saying printed on the other side of the fortune.

"Trust yourself. You know more than you think."

That is probably true of most of us and a good philosophy to carry forth into 2015.

"Oh My God, Joey"

It was 7:00 a.m., Carol was getting ready to go to work this morning, I was lounging in bed because I (thank God) have another day off from my ridiculous little job, when Carol said : "Oh my God, Joey. Look!."

I sat up quickly and immediately got a cramp in my aged thigh but it was worth it.

Looked out through our glass sliders to see five deer approaching our yard.



We observed then for 30 seconds or a minute, then Carol ran downstairs to get the camera.

While she was gone they suddenly became alert, looking towards our idiot neighbors' yard.

They stood still for a moment as only deer can, then bolted back into the woods.

I looked out to see if our mongrel neighbors had scared them away but there was nobody out there.

I believe this was a case of truth and beauty confronting the aura of ignorance and insensitivity.

Our neighbors are real low lifes. Hunters, gun enthusiasts, with an average education level of the fourth grade; proud outspoken enthusiasts of every poisonous prejudice imaginable.

Scum. Real scum.

I think what happened was the deer suddenly sensed that they were near enemy territory, the worst enemy imaginable. Must have been conflicting because all they were getting from our yard was love and awe.

But survival instinct trumps all else and they bolted.

Deer are magical and I think it was cool and meaningful that they walked into our yard.

I don't ultimately understand the significance but I am going to assume something positive and run with that.

Could help me make it through the day.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Football & Family

THE PATS are going to the Super Bowl again.

For the 8th time. That, my friends, is goddamn amazing.

Carol and I were digging the game with Keith and Emily last night.

It was a shitty night to be driving. Icy crazy roads. Yet we jumped into The Peace Mobile and forged a slow, hazardous road to K&E's home. The ride home was no less treacherous.

The weatherman blew it again. Gonna get warmer, ice will melt, no black ice, no problemo. It got warmer in strange pockets of warmness but for our travel purposes it did not get warmer where we needed it to.

And forget about Henniker. Henniker never gets warmer. It exists in its own arctic zone. Climate scientists often mistake Henniker for the North Pole. They set out on expedition and suddenly they are standing in front of Harvester Market. Wondering aloud - "There is a grocery store on the North Pole?"

They waste a lot of money that way.

Anyway, initially I thought to myself that we are quite THE PATS fanatics. Battling icy conditions and all.

As we sat with Keith and Emily I realized the truth.

It is all about family. Watching that game with our son and his wife made it better.

That is what was important to us. That is why we threw caution to the wind when any sane person would have stayed home.

It was such a relaxed night, sitting in the living room in front of the Great TV, digging on THE PATS kickass performance, engaging in easy flowing conversation, checking in on the changes in their life, laying out the changes in ours.

Our family has settled into a comforting ritual, aided and abetted by the consistent success of THE PATS.

The wild card or divisional game is taken in at Paula and Bill's house. A mad, fun, unpredictable, and amazing time fueled by fanaticism, enthusiasm, alcohol and the occasional mind bender of questionable legality, food, friendship and family.

It is a goddamn blast and an event. Paparazzi often circle the house in hopes of snagging scandalous photos. But we keep it in the basement where there are no windows.

The conference championship typically occurs at Keith and Emily's, although we have consumed Super Bowls there as well.

This get together loosely includes my brother, Craig and Karen, Carol and me, K&E. A revolving cast of characters depending on who has what going on.

And the weather. Depending on the goddamn weather. My brother Ed couldn't make it last night because of icy insanity.

We missed him.

No matter what the lineup is, it is always a laid back, easy flowing night of comfort, conversation, laughter and football.

Craig and Karen have owned the Super Bowl in recent years. Same cast of characters, less revolving. Probably because of the magnitude of the game. Especially when THE PATS are involved.

C&K always fret about the lack of seating space. Doesn't matter to us. We take over the couch and circle around their GIGANTIC TV in whatever chairs are available. Food gets spread out on the coffee table, the kitchen table, the ceiling, and wherever else we can fit nachos and chicken wings and pizza and KFC and speecy spicy meat-a-balls.

A goddamn good time. Craig's awesome sense of humor and Karen's smoothly cool personality (and ability to deflate Craig's ego when necessary) combine to make the day a blast.

The space may be small but the family bond is huge.

What a cast of characters. Paula and Bill, Keith and Emily, Craig and Karen, Eddie, Carol These people are my family. How lucky am I to have them?

Goddamn lucky is the correct answer to that query. I feel lucky to be around them, to spend time with them in social settings and family settings where reality looms large and the pettiness of the world recedes.

A reality of trust and respect and love and comfort and happiness. I do not need any more than that.

These games are great. Exciting. In and of themselves, and because of the family get togetherness they inspire. THE PATS have brought a lot of happiness into my life and the lives of my family.

But the big thing is the ritual. The family closeness. The shared time, the conversation, the laughter, the love.

These things take an over the top event and make it HUGE.

The memories of the games stay with me. They bring me satisfaction and an escape from the mundane.

The memories of time spent with my family sustain me.

See you on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.


Gonna be one hell of a game.

Gonna be one hell of a family moment.

Funny How Things Work

Finished off the Lennon biography and started up "Radio Free Boston - the rise and fall of WBCN".

The Lennon thing was hanging around my home for a year or more. I kept procrastinating (there's that goddamn word again).

I started reading it and I devoured it, licking my chops with every sit down.

Keith turned me on to the existence of the BCN book, I grabbed it and now my eyes/brain are sucking it in.

It is a natural progression, however unplanned for.

BCN came on the air in March of 1968, and jumped feet first into an FM radio revolution started in San Francisco.

No loud mouthed jocks, no predictable playlists.

Intelligent radio for discerning listeners.

One of the originals described the concept as creating a mood with the music and running with it.

I love that. That is how music is supposed to be. Not pre-planned but spontaneous.

A jock got a call from a member of the Boston Symphony one day when he segued from a classical piece to rock while maintaining an emotional consistency.

This professional classically trained musician thought the moment was perfect.

That it what this station was all about.

The Beatles got their start in 1957 when John met Paul and exploded into history in 1963 and 1964.

They changed everything.

BCN was a classical FM station that was floundering financially when Ray Riepen convinced the station owner to let him experiment with a new rock format in an attempt to revive advertising income.

He was given the 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. slot to see what he could do with it. Riepen brought in college DJ Joe Rogers.

The station played classical music all day except for that slot. When Rogers went on the air for that first shift and played Frank Zappa followed by Cream, the phone lines lit up with irate classical listeners.


BCN changed everything.

On the back cover of the book is this quote from Gregg Allman: "WBCN welcomed us in those early days; so much so, that Boston became a home away from home for the Allman Brothers Band and for me. BCN was truly one of the greatest of American radio stations. I miss those guys."

This is deeply meaningful because the Allman Brothers were a hard sell in those days. Deeply rooted in the blues, featuring virtuoso guitar players and musicians, interpreting and re-inventing the blues, jamming endlessly and brilliantly for extended periods of time.

They were a different animal.

Having BCN supporting their music is huge, and says a lot about the open minded philosophy of this station.

I have often said that I cannot pinpoint the moment when I first heard the Allman Brothers.

I wish I could. I wish I could say "Yeah, I was stoned out of my mind at this small, cool party at Phil Camerlengo's house where Snickers bars and long haired, free spirited, casually dressed women ruled, when all of a sudden this music comes over the radio and knocks me to the floor in  writhing ecstasy."

I can't. But I can guess within a small margin of error that I first heard the Allman Brothers on BCN.

There's a quote from Bono on the back cover as well. "WBCN - four letters that made a big difference to our U and our 2........Without them taking risks on new music, I'm not sure the U2 story would have been the same."

That is two deep quotes from two heavy duty bands from different eras.

That says a lot, baby.

With this book I shall continue my emotional trip down memory lane.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


I thought I would write some gobbledegook.

I have been inspired by some of John Lennon's writing. You got to have patience to read it. If you do it is pretty entertaining.

I have to wonder though, as I always do, whether he is being cut slack as a Beatle when they call his writing genius.

On one level I suppose you could say that. On another level you could call it childish.

Depends on your perspective I guess.

This happens all the time though. An artist veers off in a direction that is original and quite personal and some critics hail the work as fresh genius unmatched in intensity and creative inventiveness.

Others call it rubbish.

Subtly nuanced is one of my favorite descriptions. When a critic is trying to make a distinction about some new work by a creative type, trying to separate it from previous work, they call it subtly nuanced.

Even though as hard as you try you cannot see it, hear it, or in any other way discern the originality of this stuff.

I believe critics take liberties in their supposed expertise to make more of something than it is.

Here is some gobbledegook to get me out of here.

I am feeling Sunday morning blues football ecstatic in an understated yet explosive way as I count the minutes (and the years) racing by in a Ferrari blur of sounds, emotions, impressions, and expectations. I am here but I am not and later I will be somewhere else rooted like a plant in intensity and (hopefully) ecstasy. It's Sunday I ain't in Dina church but I am no less spiritual and at exactly 6:40 I will be in JoeChurch worshipping like the Devil. Today is a goddamn good life.

As I Write

As I sit perched on this stool scribbling words into the ether I am simultaneously listening to Sunday morning blues on WZLX.

Thanks to my brother Ed.

He has been prodding me, literally for years, to check this out. Kept telling me how good it is.

I procrastinate.

In fact, as I keep taking a hard look at myself in 2015, I have realized procrastination is quite possibly my worst vice.

And that is saying a lot.

I think I have noticed this in the past, but I put off doing anything about it.

This morning as I went into the fridge to grab a hold of some heavy whipping cream to spike my coffee with, I noticed that I did not date last night's leftovers. (Steak tips, baby - barbecued beautifully).

I package up leftovers in containers and slap a piece of masking tap across the lid with the date of said dinner. That way I can track their provenance and either dump them when they have passed the expiration date, or freeze them for future deliciosity.

By the way the masking tape thing reminds me of my father, but I am not entirely sure why.

I saw the unmarked container and thought to myself I better remember to mark it up it later. THEN I said NO - do it now. Even before consuming my precious coffee.

I am exceptionally proud of my unbridled initiative.

This listening and writing thing is a fascinating experiment. Typically I cannot write with anything distracting me at all.

I have tried in the past and failed miserably.

This morning is different. This morning it's the blues.

I live for the blues. I love music but I idolize the blues. Gotta have it. It is part of my DNA, it is tightly woven into who I am.

I am sitting here typing with very little effort (which is probably why I am not rich and successful) as the music floats in through me and back out again.

The writing is natural. The blues is natural.

Christ this feels good.

It is entirely possible that had I listened more attentively to my brother's words over the years I could be much further along on the scale of personal evolution than I am.

He is indeed wise.

I take a great deal of comfort in knowing that it is not too late.

(Editor's note: Jesus Christ, man - this is damn delicious. Song came on as I wrote - voice sounded familiar but I didn't focus on it too severely because my fingers are flying. Got to a guitar break in the song - slide guitar - and suddenly my brain said "That has got to be Derek Trucks." It was. The song was by the Tedeschi Trucks Band. The singer was Susan Tedeschi, Derek's wife. A few minutes later they played a song by Joe Bonamassa. My soul is flying even as my brain is frying.)

What Is It With These Guys ? (Redux)

Just got to the part in Lennon's biography where he gets shot and killed.

Got a sinking feeling in my heart, goosebumps on my body.

December 8, 1980.

Most people heard about it through Howard Cosell on a Monday Night football broadcast.


The book talks about that and how the rest of us picked up on something bad the next morning when there was nothing but Beatles songs on the radio.

I was one of them. Eating breakfast, probably some ridiculous bowl of cereal, listening to the radio wondering why the hell they were playing back to back Beatles' songs.

Radio had already wimped out at this point. No individuality, no creativity. Playlists ruled and bored, and you just didn't play multiple songs by one artist.

I knew something was wrong.

Turns out something was very wrong.

In an interesting aside, it is obvious I had not stayed up to watch THE PATS play the dolphins on Monday night football.

I was not yet a die hard PATS fan, just a football freak.

Can't blame Keith, though. He was only 7 months old at that point. His influence had not made its way into my heart yet at that point EXCEPT FOR THE FACT THAT HE WAS MY FIRST BORN SON AND I WORSHIPPED EVERYTHING ABOUT HIM. (Still do.)

He couldn't even talk. But I am sure he was thinking on that Monday night when I went to bed, probably at half time, Dad, what the hell are you doing? For Christ sake it's THE PATS. Have some balls.

He was probably also thinking, Christ, this one is gonna be a lot of work.

PATS lost 16-13.

The world lost John Lennon.

I re-lived it this morning for the thousandth time.

What is it with these guys?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Sadnes As A Reality Check

Sadness is a reality check.

It lets you know your life is off track. It slaps you awake to the reality that life can be harsh and unpredictable. It reminds you that death lurks out there at the end of the road, that death will take away loved ones and eventually death will take away your own life.

I am beginning to think that sadness is the only accurate life signpost.

Happiness seems to be more transient. I have noticed that happiness does not spread, it does not take root and redirect my life.

I can be happy about just about anything. Feeling good about little things, big things, meaningful things and meaningless things.

Inevitably anxiety returns. Worries, pressures, distractions.

Happiness goes away.

I am not really sure what happiness is. You can fake happiness. So many people do.

The whole mindset of presenting a positive front to the world annoys me. People who give you over the top exuberance to a simple question like "How you doin'?"

You don't have to walk with shoulders hunched and gloom haunting your aura, just be honest with your emotions.

If you are happy, go with it and be thankful. If not, tone it down a little. You are not fooling anybody.

Everybody gets sad. I think people are sad more often than happy. I appreciate people who can admit to this.

It's called being real.

Reality check sadness is the bone deep kind. Brought on by death. Brought on by disaster. Brought on by hearts and souls jolted rudely out of blinding misconceptions.

I am deeply sad right now. It won't go away. It is making me think.

Happiness doesn't make me think, other than to wallow in the good feeling, to try to stay in that moment and milk it for all it's worth.

This thing, this sadness, is making me think about life in a way that I would prefer to avoid but cannot.

This sadness won't allow it.

The depth of the thing keeps blind siding me. My mind brings it back around unannounced. A conversation with my brother or Carol can stimulate tears.

I have thought about Jonathan and Sarge over and over again. I cannot stop it. The tears keep coming.

I am only the brother, the husband. My sadness is infinitely removed from the heart of the thing.

Yet it consumes me.

This sadness is the thing that leads to an understanding of true life. It brings perspective.

It has me thinking about my own life. It has me thinking - hard - about the people in my life who are my life.

The trick is to dig happiness when you have it. And to deal with sadness when it comes around.

Burying it accomplishes nothing.

Read the sadness for what it is and react accordingly. Don't just accept it.

Bone deep sadness is your mind trying to tell you something.

Don't ignore it.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

HOF My Ass

Had the NFL network on yesterday for distraction.

I am not really into the playoff hype. I mean, I am as giddy as a school child about today's game, I cannot wait for 4:35, I cannot really explain to you what I am feeling.

I have been over all this before - what football means to me, what THE PATS mean to me, the connection to my father, the connection to Keith (who shamed me into PATRIOTS fidelity).

I shall not blubber over you with my emotions and my thoughts.

When I say I am not really into the playoff hype I mean the talk. The endless analyzing and over analyzing, dredging up decades old history, re-hashing recent history, all that jazz.

I don't give a damn about anybody's opinion. I don't give a damn about anybody's prediction.

I do soak up the emotional hype. The intensity of an NFL playoff game. The do or die atmosphere. The assumed fanaticism of casual fans and even non-fans. The fact that everywhere you turn on TV, on the radio, in stores, on the road - you see GO PATS.

Bakeries baking PATS cookies and brownies and pies. PATS flags and balloons and gear in supermarkets. PATS flags on houses.

A bunch of guys came through the liquor store this week wearing PATS hats, jerseys, sweatshirts, jackets.

To the guys I know are true fans - through endless mini cash register conversations going back to training camp - to those guys I said "Go PATS." High fived a few.

I refused to say it to anybody who was an obvious band wagon rider.

Sorry - even a man like me with relaxed convictions has to stand for something once in a while.

No other sport carries with it the post season intensity that football does.

I love it.

I have strong feelings about today's game. I have even been throwing out a predicted score and outcome, something I never do.

I won't do that here.

My son Keith is quite superstitious, even more so than me. I cannot harsh his vibe with my expectations.

Here is the truly amusing thing about this post. When I watched the NFL network as I ate brunch before heading into HELL/The Asylum yesterday, they were covering the 2015 Hall of Fame nominations.

Going over the process, explaining how it works. The subjective nature of the beast pissed me off. That's what I came in here to write about.

Hence the title, which I have decided to go with.

But playoff fever swept me away. Came up and out of nowhere. The words pored out, my fingers flew and my thoughts were laid bare for all to see.

For a football fan the NFL playoffs are enormous in intensity, implication, and emotion. Sometimes you ride high all the way to the end. Sometimes you crash and get crushed along the way.

But either way you feel alive.

So fucking alive.

I'll talk about the Hall of Fame some other time.

Right now the only thing I give a damn about is PATS/ravens.


Cannot get here fast enough.

What Is It With These Guys?

Got to the part in the John Lennon biography where The Beatles split up.

Got a sinking feeling in my heart.

The Beatles split in 1969.

What is it with these guys?

Our Ring

I lost my wedding ring.

It has been on my finger for 36 years, 28 days. Approximately. I cannot convey to you what an empty feeling that is for me.

I was reading this morning, had been for about an hour. Stopped to stretch and somehow I noticed the ring was gone. It's not like I check for it all the time or admire it with swooning intensity. It's just that, all of a sudden, I noticed it wasn't there.

Since I have lost weight it has slipped off my finger from time to time.

Always when I am cold.

Could have happened this morning. Could have happened yesterday.

I walked around the house, walked around the yard, took a look around and in my car.

Not there.

Some people downplay the significance of a ring or a piece of paper. They can kiss my ass.

The ring is inscribed with words Carol and I dedicated to each other. I take it off from time to time and squint to read those words.

The ring is a solid reminder of the life Carol and I have shared for almost 37 of our 61 years on this planet.

A good life.

A life that through all the ups and downs and hard times has resulted in the greatest magic of all.

Keith and Craig. Emily and Karen.

I lost my wedding ring.

I am fucking pissed.

Friday, January 9, 2015

What Of It?

There is a bird perched on a branch outside this window as I write.

Was perched, now gone, one sentence in.

What a cool winter scene. The bird was pecking at the branch it sat on.

I am a city boy. I do not know what this means.

It was a small bird, kind of cute. Cuteness that belies the majestic capability of flight.

What a powerful concept flight is, what an amazing sense of freedom it implies.

My gut says birds don't appreciate this anymore than humans appreciate the ability to walk or the fascinating utility of opposable thumbs.

Then again, anything in nature is smarter than anything in humanity.

Maybe the bird exults when it soars. Maybe it thinks consciously or feels subconsciously how very cool it is to cut through the air, negotiating wind, digging the sun, flying faster miles an hour.

Maybe it is like meditation to the bird, providing a sense of peace and calm.

The moment was: the bird sitting on the branch pecking, hard packed snow underneath reflecting nothing but cold do to the lack of the sun. A subtle wind, few leaves left stranded on the trees, occasional cars slipping by (much too fast on my rural road), squirrels in frenzied survival mode.

The bird did not give off any air of desperation or depression. It moved quickly and confidently.

Beautiful to see.

Are there levels of emotion in the animal kingdom? I sense moods in our cats sometimes. Maybe sadness, lethargy, maybe a touch of illness.

Also happiness, excitement, love both given and gratefully received.

Do birds get sad or lethargic or slowed down by illness? Or are they naturally happy to the exclusion of all other emotion, which is exactly how they come across.

And if so, what does that tell us about classes of animal society?

I'm getting carried away here. On purpose.

I am trying to write differently this year. Or trying to add a new dimension to any good style of writing I may have.

What I am trying to avoid is bad writing. Boring writing.

Unfortunately, forays like this into new perspectives will probably result in some horrible stuff until I master it.

Or abandon it for some other approach.

You probably think the above is nothing but drivel.

That's OK. It probably is.

At least I am trying something new.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Just Some Words (Slapped Together in Nonchalance)

It was insanely cold. Josh looked out the window at frozen snow, treacherous ice, fallen trees and urgently racing squirrels, and lusted for summer.

Visions of smoke cloaking the barbecue grill, cold beads of condensation running lazily down a frosted mug filled with a pretentious designer beer, favorite T-shirts casually caressing a beer gut, and easy shorts baring ivory white chicken legs, soothed his tortured mind.

Winter had been slapping Josh around all his life. He couldn't seem to get away from it and he didn't really know why.

The cold shriveled him up, folded him into half of who he really was and took away a lot of options.

His charming personality was compromised during the winter months because he spent most of that time complaining about the cold. Obsessing about it, trying to figure out a way to justify living in it, ducking in and out of it like a wild animal desperate for safe harbor.

Until recently. Josh turned a corner into the new year as temperatures plummeted, and his mind grasped a new potential.

Suddenly (after a lifetime of incubation) it became crystal clear that winter was a time for transformation. For evolving.

Why not?

Nobody was looking. Nobody would ever see it coming.

He could change his life, change his habits, change his outlook and emerge into spring a new man.

Barely recognizable and infinitely improved.

Long hours spent inside created potential for study and reflection, for illuminating dark corners and identifying what was real and necessary, and what was aberration.

The cold stimulated focus and intensified alertness. Josh's mind was better poised to absorb new concepts, to adapt to familiar stimuli in more useful ways, and to accept change rather than to deflect it.

He felt powerful.

It was Josh's delicious secret. In the dark, at night, reading, studying and improving himself, evolving into the man he always knew he could be.

A man to be reckoned with.

It was insanely cold. Josh took a break from his determination to look out the window at a bleak and frozen landscape.

He smiled.

New Year's Resolution

Made one New Year's resolution this year, and I am going to stick with it because there can be no doubt that it will transform my life for the good in an almost immeasurably exponential way.

I pledge to use the word "mountebank" as often as possible.

Seems like there are more and more opportunities to do so in our rapidly devolving society.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

One Quick Note

As New Year's Eve exploded into New year's Day we were watching coverage on Channel 4.

At a break I switched to another channel and caught Elton John live in concert.

He was singing "I'm Still Standing".

Seemed prophetic.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Last Words

When someone dies, we often find ourselves thinking back to the last conversation we had with them.

Wishing we had not said something, wishing we had said something, wishing there even was some meaningful last conversation.

I got lucky.

The last time we visited Sarge, I was the last one walking out of the room. Cori was standing next to the bed.

He said "Ciao for now."

He used to say that all the time. Typical cool Sarge phrase that he made all his own.

I use "Ciao" a lot but I try to refrain from using "Ciao for now" to avoid charges of plagiarism or being sued for copyright infringement.

Truthfully, if I used it a lot I would have felt guilty for stealing it from Sarge. So I use it sparingly.

Anyway he said "Ciao for now" as I was walking out the door. I turned around and told him I had stolen that phrase from him. That I used it from time to time and that I had stolen it from him.

He smiled.

That is the last conversation we ever had.

I can picture the smile, I can hear his words and I will cherish the memory forever.

The Grind

Back officially to the grind tomorrow.

Have only worked 4 days since December 16. Had already committed to four days off for Christmas and four more for New Year's. I am lucky to have that option.

Got the call about Sarge on 12/17 and Jonathan on 12/18. So we ended up taking some additional time, time we wish with every fiber of our being that we did not have a reason to take off.

Carol has worked three days since December 16.

This week brings about what some would call a return to normalcy.

It is not.

It may be the new normal, a normal without Jonathan and without Sarge, but it will be anything but normal. There is no normal anymore.

In a fascinating twist of fate, I go back tomorrow for inventory. Inventory in a liquor store is a hideous thing.

We got a lot of bottles.

It is typically a 12 hour, incredibly tedious day, with me returning home somewhere between midnight and 1:00 a.m.

Whereupon I will consume an ice cold bottle of beer and a generous helping of whiskey.

Should be interesting. I am typically short of patience on inventory day as it is. This time around, I am in absolutely no mood to deal with such a meaningless waste of my time.

Could be fisticuffs.

Carol's day will be no easier. Back to administrative nightmares and inconsiderate co-workers. The woman is a rock and amazingly organized and on top of everything about her job.

But I think when you get right down to it, she is not much more fond of her job than I am of mine.

No different than you and everyone you know.

So here we go. Back to something we both gotta do even though we are broken inside.

Just like Cori and Ed and Kathy have probably already done.

When January 2 rolls around, it can be a real slap in the face. You dug Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Hopefully there was a lot of magic there.

And hope.

Suddenly it is 01/02 and you feel cold, challenged, a little lost. Desperately seeking newness and change. Not wanting the new year to be a bland continuation of the old year.

So there is that, and for my family and my extended family, there is the memory of Jonathan and the memory of Sarge.

There are jobs and bills and deadlines and commitments.

I don't think 2015 is going to fall into place like every other year. In fact I know it.

Too much has been lost.

We will make the best of it that we can.

It all starts for real tomorrow.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Sadness

The sadness was different than any that had come before.

This was a different animal. It had a physical aspect to it, or at least felt that way.

It was tangible, it had weight and it would leave its mark.


He knew this intuitively.

It followed him in every direction, physical and emotional, no matter what he was doing or however distracted. It lurked in the background when other matters dominated his attention.

Through the dark, smiles and laughter bubbled up, but even that felt different. Still, it was important.

He knew he had to pick up his life and live it again, although it felt like a betrayal to do so.

Some of it happened naturally; some of it through a force of will.

Still, at quiet moments, the sadness welled up like a tidal wave. A quiet, invisible tidal wave that forced tears from his eyes and detachment from his soul.

It was powerful enough to overcome distracted moments as well. Times when his mind was otherwise engaged and seemingly free of the weight.

Even then he could be overwhelmed; suddenly; surprised. Knocked back from where he was to where he did not want to be. Forced to recognize that which he wished never occurred.

Wished with all his heart and all of his soul.

His mind was working it all over. Trying to make room, to find a place for the emotion. Recognizing that it would never end, never go away, attempting to settle it in a corner where it would exist on its own.

Not to be ignored, but to live independently in a way that would allow everything else that must happen to happen. To be reflected upon when the mood was right or as life's emotional turbulence dictated.

But this piece did not fit. It never would. It was forged through sudden and intense pain and loss, it was its own memory, its own emotion, it was outside his previous experience and it stood defiant against attempts to categorize it.

He had been changed and he would continue to change in response to the sadness that lived inside of him.

It had weight and would leave its mark.

Friday, January 2, 2015


"Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will."

Apparently controversy rages over who originated this quote.

Suzy Kassem or Karim Seddiki?

I thank whoever the originator is.

John Lennon

I am reading a massive biography on John Lennon's life.

Wait, what? Are you kidding me?

I have read so many books on The Beatles as a group and individually you would think my appetite would be sated.

I thought so myself.

The book is titled "Lennon: The Man, The Myth, The Music - The Definitive Life", by Tim Riley.

It was written in 2011. I have had the book for a year or more. Walking by it, staring at it, putting off reading it.

Because I thought it would be more of the same, and one thing I despise, cannot tolerate, is being bored when I read.

Even though I did my homework. I don't just run right out and buy every Beatles retrospective. Everything I read said the book had more to offer, that it was above and beyond.

All true. I have read details I never read before. There are even pictures in the book I have never seen before.

Tim Riley is an NPR music critic. Described as "the eminent NPR critic."

How can you go wrong?

The book seems to be feeding into my mood right now. The perfect book for the perfect moment.

It is so well written that there has been excitement building in me as if I had been transported back to the early sixties and were witnessing the birth of The Beatles.

From the formulation of the group through the early reputation building gigs in and around Liverpool to the wild and crazy Hamburg days and back to their triumphant domination of The Cavern Club in Liverpool.

I am over 200 pages in, and they haven't even made it to America yet.

My impression is that the book was objectively written. Riley speaks highly of Lennon; he also reveals nastier sides of John's personality.

But he dives deeply into John's life and background and tries to find explanations for his multifaceted personality.

I am raw emotionally now. I have also always been emotionally tied up in the history of The Beatles.

You know that. I have babbled incessantly about them over the years.

I won't belabor the point.

The Beatles had an enormous impact on my life and still inspire promise and hope in me.

Reading this book is making me nostalgic. Reading this book is giving me hope.

Coming up on 51 years after The Beatles appearance on The Ed Sullivan show. And John Lennon is still instigating for me to get up off me arse and do something.

I appreciate the perseverance.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

January 1, 2015

Today is my birthday.

My sixty first.

Gonna keep it simple this year.

No promises.

No apologies.

No explanations.

The First Day

The first day of the new year.

The first day of the rest of my life.

I am feeling it today. Deeply. Emotionally.

In the first half hour that I was up and about this morning, as Carol slept and our cats greeted me lovingly, tears welled up in my eyes three or four times.

I am always introspective on New Year's Day. I think everybody should be.

"The unexamined life is not worth living." Socrates.

Day One is the perfect day to take an honest look into the mirror. If you can stand up to the reflection you are doing well.

If not, something's gotta change.

Double whammy for me. Day One is also my birthday. Adds another layer of depth to the introspection.

Especially now.

Last year floored me when I turned sixty. I was shaken. I mouthed all kinds of resolve.

And the year blew by.

The older you get the faster times goes by. Such a cliché. One that I never really bought into.

Definitely felt like my life was moving too fast, but there was a sense of traction. It never felt out of control.

2014 put an end to that. I simply cannot believe I am sitting here on January 1, 2015. Last year was a blur. It went by so fast I am not sure I ever saw it.

That frightens me.

I have no sense of having lived 2014. I am disoriented.

I may not have lived 2014, but I felt it.

Three untimely deaths in 2014. All of them offspring survived by parents.

The worst scenario possible.

My cousin lost her daughter after a life long battle with disease. My wife lost her brother after a long battle with cancer. My brother lost his son after a protracted battle with heroin.

I will not forget 2014.

Carol and I are New Year's Eve warriors. We refuse to go to bed until we usher in the new year.

Many people my age go to bed early. I hear this all the time. Just another day.

Bullshit. You need magic in your life. Sometimes it happens naturally. Sometimes you make it happen.

I got home late from work. We watched two episodes of "Rescue Me", on demand. A show we used to watch religiously and really enjoyed. We tuned into The Stooges marathon and caught two episodes. Really got lucky there because one of them was the "B A Bay" episode. We ate Chinese food.

At midnight we toasted 2015 with a bottle of champagne given to us by Scott Towle, a close friend of my son Craig and a good friend to this family.

That made the night more meaningful because it suggested the circles of influence we all create, unknowingly, much like George Baily in "It's A Wonderful Life."

When Sarge and then Jonathan passed away, one of the things that struck me was the ripples of pain that spread throughout so many lives. So many lives.

If you take a step back, you realize how many lives they touched. You realize just how much happiness two people can bring to the world.

I was thinking about that as we sipped Scott's champagne. The champagne he went out of his way to drop off with us on Christmas Day.

My son's friend. So many people in our lives that we touch and who touch us. We are not really aware of the magnitude of it.

Or of the precious nature of it.

Three family members left this world in 2014 who I will never see again. Never talk to again. Never hope for, never laugh with, never worry about, never enjoy the company of.

They left a lot of people behind.

We should honor their memory by taking note of the people we have in our lives. By really paying attention, by appreciating them, by giving them our love and by warming in their love.

Feeling kind of fragile today. Introspective.

Feeling kind of lucky too.

Duane's Words

"This year I will be more thoughtful of my fellow man, exert more effort in each of my endeavors professionally as well as personally, take love wherever I find it, and offer it to everyone who will take it. In this coming year I will seek knowledge from those wiser than me and try to teach those who wish to learn from me. I love being alive and I will be the best man I possibly can."

Duane Allman, from his diary on January 1, 1969.