Thursday, May 31, 2007

Basement Songs-"Put It There" by Paul McCartney

With the Great Strides walk this weekend, the idea of writing about one of my basement songs almost became overwhelming. For some unknown reason I place a burden on myself each week trying to come up with something meaningful to say about the music in my life and why it has great meaning to me. I’m uncertain how many people actually read these posts, but I take pride in trying to give those of you I know about something to dwell on for the weekend.. Inspiration was difficult to conjure up with all of the distractions in our life this week. Then I had an epiphany. This week, I wanted to write about fatherhood. I also wanted to find a song that reflected the spirit of Great Strides, a song that talked about people coming together and supporting each other. When I finally put one and one together, I realized that the song I should write about is possibly the most elegant and briefest of the basement songs: “Put It There” by Paul McCartney.

McCartney’s “Flowers in the Dirt” album was released in 1989 and immediately hailed as a comeback of sorts. After a decade of LP’s full of more misses (and ill advised duets with bizarre pop stars) than hits, McCartney came up with a record full of pop gems that rivaled some of his earliest solo material. With the help of Elvis Costello and a stellar backing band, “Flowers in the Dirt” had more bite than we’d become accustomed to from the ex-Beatle. Still, it is the shortest song on the album (2:08) that is the most touching and has grown in meaning for me as the years have passed.

Give Me Your Hand I'd Like To Shake It
I Want To Show You I'm Your Friend.
You'll Understand If I Can Make It Clear
Its All That Matters In The End.

Put It There If It Weighs A Ton,
That's What The Father Said To His Younger Son.
I Don't Care If It Weighs A Ton,
As Long As You And I Are Here, Put It There.
Long As You And I Are Here, Put It There.

If There's A Fight I'd Like To Fix It,
I Hate To See Things Go So Wrong.
The Darkest Night And All It's Mixed Emotions,
Is Getting Lighter Sing A Song.

Put It There If It Weighs A Ton,
That's What The Father Said To His Younger Son.
I Don't Care If It Weighs A Ton,
As Long As You And I Are Here, Put It There.
Long As You And I Are Here, Put It There.

When I first heard the song, the song resonated with me because of the sense of loyalty the father had for his child. Although it would be 10 years before I fully understood the context of the song, I still felt that he song‘s theme of loyalty and love was something any brother or friend could relate to and express to their loved ones. A that point in my life, most of the friendships I had made throughout childhood were slowly dwindling apart. The casual friends I had from grade school and high school were going their separate ways. Plus, the two men that meant the most to me, Matt and Steve, would soon be on opposite sides of the country. But the bond I had with them was and is a lifelong bond. No matter when or where they needed me to be, I would help. That is what I took from the song at age 21.

After Julie and I married, I carried this song in my heart as we traveled across the country to begin a new life in California. As a husband who would do anything for this woman, the love of my life, the sense of loyalty and commitment I took from the chorus had new meaning. We were two people becoming a family. If anything were ever to happen to her, I would be lost. Whatever and whenever she needs, I will be there for her. “As long as you and I are here, put it there.”

Sophie was born in 1999 and the song had new perspective. Now, I was responsible for this tiny human being. She would love me unconditionally, as long as I loved her back. When she nearly died on the day she was born, I held her tiny fingers in my hand and wept for joy that she was still with us. In my mind, this song played over and over again. “Put it there, if it weighs a ton… As long as you ad I are here, put it there.” Sophie has grown into the most wonderful little girl. You couldn’t ask for a more loving and caring daughter. Additionally, she watches out for and protect her little brother.

This brings us to Jacob. “Put It There” became something altogether different the day Jake was diagnosed with CF. Now, the song that played in my heart wasn’t just about lifting up my child when they stumbled through life’s seemingly normal challenges. Now, the song had a deeper, much more serious meaning. For every breather and medicine that he takes, each time he cries because the medicines taste awful or he questions why he has to take so many pills, I want to scoop him up and sing this song to him. Time and time again I have said I wish I could fix this; I wish I wasn’t just an ordinary man. All I have to give him is my love and a hand to hold. That may be why this song has such deep meaning to me. It is just an ordinary song to a child from a loving father, nothing grand, and nothing earth shattering. But that is the genius of Paul McCartney and it is why he is one of the greatest songwriters of all time.

Making the simplest songs have multiple meanings is a gift. There are very few blessed with this talent, which is why someone like McCartney is held to such a high standard. When he hits his mark, a song becomes a work of art, whether it’s ten minutes or just two. As I said, Great Strides is this weekend. Parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, Aunts, uncles, friends and complete strangers brought together by a ruthless disease. Yes, there are great strides being made. Yes, it should be a day of celebration, but it never feels that way to me. I walk around trying not to catch the eyes of the other parents, hoping to mask the fear I have in my heart, while the sun shines and the world outside our little circle carries on like any other Saturday. A day like that is as good as any to sing the words of Paul McCartney. On a day like that, we are ALL pillars supporting each other under the weight of worry and sadness.

I realize that this hasn’t been my focused entry. Too many things going on at once. Next week I hope to step away from the seriousness of my life and write about something light. I always say that and it never seems to happen. In the meantime, I hope you all get a chance to search out this song and give it a good listen. I challenge any of you to not tap your foot along with the chorus. And for you parents out there, good luck trying not to cry.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

King's Highway on the Internet

Fear has gripped me for the past year. I've been afraid to take a simple risk for fear my work may get rejected and ridiculed. I have feared that should my movie, "King's Highway" get posted on the Internet, I may lose the opportunity for some kind of distribution deal. I have been scared that by opening the movie up for free viewing, no one will actually watch it and the experiment will be a failure. But I've been a fool.

As you may know, "King's Highway" is a feature movie I wrote and directed back in 2001. That same year, Jacob was born and diagnosed and my grand plans to be a movie star director were sidetracked while I took on the responsibility of being a father. I have no regrets. I know I shouldn't have to say that, but you'd be surprised how many people would choose their career over their family. When the film was finally completed in 2003, my producing partner, Ryan Johnson, my creative partner, Villamor Cruz, my gracious star, Geoff Stults and I all assumed we would breeze into film festivals and walk away with some sort of distribution. Obviously, we were wrong.

It's not because of the movie. Oh, I know there are shortcomings. But when you have a budget of $5000, you have to make some concessions. But the movie works. There is a great deal of love in the characters, the performances and the production value. I am proud of what we accomplished. That we haven't been able to find someone to release it on video has been one of the biggest professional disappointments in my short career.

Then I heard about a new website called iklipz. It's like You Tube, but the site allows filmmaker to post entire feature films. And it's free.

I have known about the site for about a month and fear has hindered me from posting the movie. This morning, I finally placed "King's Highway" on iklipz. Let me tell you that a small weight was lifted from my chest. At long last, I can get feedback from people who don't know me and will, hopefully, offer an honest opinion. At long last I can find out if the hundreds of people who have seen the movie and liked it weren't just saying so because they liked me or thought that our accomplishment of producing a 112 minute movie for under five grand was greater than the movie itself.

You tell me.

To the right, there is a direct link to the movie. Watching a movie online isn't the greatest movie experience. The films are compressed and uploaded, affecting the look of the movie. But maybe, just maybe, some of you will get into the story and dig the music (which I slaved over finding) and will email me requesting a copy of the movie in clearer digital quality. Could "King's Highway" become some kind of cult hit? Who knows? But I am glad to finally be able to tell the people who come to this blog that they can see my movie in some form.

So, check it out. Don't cost nothin'. FYI: "King's Highway" is a romantic comedy/dramedy/road trip movie (gee, no wonder it's a tough sell). It stars the aforementioned Geoff Stults, who has appeared in "The Break-Up", "Wedding Crashers", "D.E.B.S.", "7th Heaven" and the new ABC series "October Road. His costars are Lori Heuring, from "8MM2", "Mulholland Drive" and "The In Crowd" and John DiResta, who appeared in the "Miss Congeniality" films, Ed Burns' "Ash Wednesday" and has had three television series. Yes, my sister in law, Karyn, plays a supporting role. I actually write this role for her when she was still acting. When we decided to go low budget, I asked Karyn if she'd come out of "retirement" to play the role. She agreed and I gotta tell you, she kicks ass.

Also, there is some stellar music, including songs by Mother Superior and Andrew Bird.

Oh, and you should know that the film would be rated 'R' for language (ooh, the language, sorry), some brief drug use (i.e. pot smoking) and brief nudity (written into the script at my producers request and because it was a part of the storyline, I honestly couldn't cut the scene, much to Julie's objection.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Just another update

The weekend was excellent. Julie's birthday was Saturday and we had an opportunity to go out like adults. The two of us went to dinner while Budd watched Sophie and Jacob. It sucks that she had to work on her birthday, but we both understand the reality of our lives. You take work when they give it to you. This year the kids got her a Rachel Ray cookbook, which Julie was excited to receive. I bought her a new Alison Krauss compilation. I nearly bought her an MP3 player so she would have a source for her own music while she drives around town. I'm determined to make sure she continues to have the kind of music she likes so that someday she can actually listen to something other than Radio Disney.

Sunday was spent straightening up the house. We planted shrubs outside the front doorway. It was a very casual day. That night, a couple of Julie's friends (other moms from school) took her out for drinks to celebrate her birthday. I'm glad that she went, in fact, I told her to go. She needs to have adult friends to go out with wand bitch about things and/or just talk about nonsense shit. And it's good for to have adult interaction with people other than me. I know how therapeutic it was to have Steve come and visit and for the two of us to have time to just talk and bullshit. She had a good time.

Yesterday, we cleaned the house for Mom and Dad's arrival on Thursday. I have to tell you, I really am touched that they drive out here every year to participate in this walk with us. I know that they usuall6y do the walk in Tucson, as well. They could easily just stay in Arizona, but they are determined to let us know that they are going to support us in every way they can. We also took the kids to see "Shrek the Third". Of the four movies I watched over the weekend, it wasn't the worst, but it was the second most disappointing. Honestly, I felt it retread a lot of ground from the second film. Still, the kids liked it a lot.

The dark cloud appears to be lifting off of my head for the timing being. I need to take advantage of this time and write as much as I can before that crap comes back. There were times over the weekend when I just felt so empty, as if I have a huge pit in my belly that needed to be fed. Yet, no matter how much I ate, there isn’t enough food in the house to fill it. After two days of eating crap, I quite bloated. Gads.

Like I said, I saw four movies over the weekend. I finally watched "Amelie", after having a copy in my possession for, oh, six months? It's my friend’s copy. Actually, it has become sort of a running joke that it has taken me so damn long to watch it. I thought it was a nice movie, visually stunning and all, but it tired me. Seriously, I started watching at 9:30 and dozed off a couple of times. I can't blame it entirely on subtitles. The second film I saw was "A Civil Action" starring John Travolta. The film was very disappointing considering the pedigree of talent. But I had read about 100 pgs. of the book the movie is based on and the movie glosses over a great deal of information that could have proved very cinematic. Travolta was completely wrong for the part. I mentioned Shrek already.

Yesterday morning, Sophie woke up early and after I returned from my walk, we watched "Night at the Museum" together. I am a big Ben Stiller fan, but I didn’t know what to expect. I loved this movie. And I loved that Sophie and I had an opportunity for the two of us to watch it together while Jake and Julie slept in. She and I don't get to do things like that much. This is my biggest concern, that she will feel neglected. I believe that after this weekend she and I will begin riding our bikes to the Library on a regular basis. We have done it once and it was great fun.

Finally, I have to mention that we have raised over Twelve Thousand dollars so far this year (Team Jacob, that is). This is incredible. Bloggers For A Cure is a great success. Considering that they kind of threw it together (Jeff's words), I'm am proud that they raise nearly $2000. Most astonishing is Pam Adlon, Karyn's friend (also the voice of Bobby Hill on "King of the Hill" and Andy on "Squirrel Boy"). Pam has raised over FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS in less than a week. Fuckingu8nbelieavable (pardon the French). If there are any of you out there that even glance over this blog and you haven't made a donation... please consider donating.

That's all I have for now.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Basement Songs- "When The Roses Bloom Again" by Wilco with Billy Bragg

What do you get when you cross one of the most important bands of this era with a British punk/folk poet singing a moving, tragic love song that is nearly a century old? You get magic, which describes Wilco and Billy Bragg’s slow, powerful rendition of the Will D. Cobb and Gus Edwards folk song, “When The Roses Bloom Again”.

In 2000, an obscure music compilation called the OXFORD AMERICAN SOUTHERN SAMPLER 2000 wound up on my work desk. Always in the mood to hear something new, I took the cd home and gave it a listen. Although the compilation has artists ranging from Tom Petty to Dean Martin, only one song jumped out at me. Jumped out and settled into my heart and soul. Initially I thought the song was a traditional love song, or even a break up song. Then I actually listened to the lyrics. A soldier, preparing to leave for battle, says goodbye to his true love as she pins a rose to his uniform. He tries to calm her and assures her that they’ll meet again, when the roses bloom along the river. Later, as he lay dying on the battlefield, his last wish is that his body be returned to his home state and the riverside where his true love waits and the roses still bloom. Chills went down my spine.

The first feeling I had was that this was more a Hawthorne or Poe story than a simple song. An overall sadness permeates from every measure, every note played. Jeff Tweedy, the lead singer of Wilco, sings as the narrator and attempts to remain removed from the tragedy, but he can’t keep his emotions out of the storytelling. Slight cracks in his voice and a dedication to the lyrics make it too difficult to simply be a detached storyteller. The music (rewritten and arranged by Wilco) is equally moving. Most distinctive is the organ that hovers over the rest of the band. It adds an angelic quality to the proceedings. Two acoustic guitars strum along, providing the melody, while a single slide guitar painfully cries in the background. Meanwhile, the bass and sparse drums keep everything in line; a constant beat like soldiers marching in parade.

This being Memorial Day Weekend, I chose this song over so many that I like because “When The Roses Bloom Again” is not a political song. It is a human song. It is a song that anyone on either side of the political spectrum can appreciate because no matter what you believe, the loss of human lives takes it toll on us. That is what Memorial Day is supposed to be about, isn’t it?

My childhood memories of Memorial Day always involve a parade. My father was the high school band director and each year he led the marching band down Lorain Road all the way to the city park in the annual North Olmsted Memorial Day parade. When I was young, my mom would gather us kids to stand on then side of the road, cheering as the band passed by. My dad, serious in his dedication to excellence, would walk on past us and wave as the marching band began playing one of the many patriotic selections he’d arranged. “Grand Old Flag” comes to mind.

I recall more Vietnam vets marching in the parade than any other war. They were distinct in their dress during the parade, wearing jeans and black t-shirts with the MIA/POW logo on them. The only veterans I knew personally were my grandfather Lamb and my Uncle Ben. Neither had seen any action in their respective wars (WWII and Vietnam) and I don’t remember my uncle ever being in the parade.

I joined he Boy Scouts at age 11 and became a participant in the Memorial Day parade. My Boy Scout uniform never fit. The sleeves were too short and the pants were tight in the crotch. That, coupled with he bright yellow kerchief I wore around my neck, made me very self-conscious. I didn’t want my friends to see me and mock me later in the week. “What a hassle,” I consistently thought. In 9th grade, I was in marching band. Each year we played the same arrangements as we marched through the center of North Olmsted. Those of us who could wore sunglasses and did our best to look apathetic about being in band altogether. I was a drummer, so I had it a little easier than most. Drummers looked cool, even though we were some of the biggest geeks in the band. But we got to wail on the drums and be loud. No skill required. Each year it seemed to get hotter and hotter shuffling in step along the burning black pavement. What a relief it was to arrive at the park where here were plenty of trees and shade.

I have photos of the Memorial Day parade from when I was a sophomore in high school. Two girls I knew, both of whom played the tuba, are leaning against their instruments, bored to tears. They each show weary smiles on their faces, desperately waiting for the ordeal to end. That’s how we all felt, I suppose. It’s strange and sad that I never came to appreciate Memorial Day considering that some of my favorite songs from the early ‘80’s were “Born in the USA”, “Walking On A Thin Line” by Huey Lewis and the News, and Sammy Hagar’s bombastic “Remember the Heroes”. What struck me about those songs was the sense of honor each singer gave to the soldiers. And each singer was pissed (especially Springsteen’s) with the U.S. for the poor treatment of Vietnam Vets. Yet, for all of the parades and flag raisings and drum rolls and the number of times I heard “Taps”, I never got the meaning of Memorial Day. I wish that someone would have taken me aside as a young man and explained that Memorial Day isn’t just a free day for Frisbees, baseball, lounging n the sun, rock and roll, hot dogs on the grill or Mom’s macaroni salad. It is a day of tribute to the fallen men and women who gave their lives for their country.

I do not believe in war. Yet, because my dad was a teacher, I didn’t have a negative attitude toward the military. Kids join the military for a number reasons. Good kids. Guys you hung out with and girls you tried to get to second base with became soldiers. And for the most part, these people remained good kids. It was what they saw in action that changed them, sometimes in horrible ways. As I’ve gotten older, the respect I have for soldiers has grown and I feel for the families and loved ones of the fallen and wounded. Can you imagine saying goodbye to a son, daughter or sibling, not knowing if you’ll see them alive ever again? The thought makes me so sad.

I use this column to discuss life. I try not to get too political. Even with this entry, I’ve held back my anger and grief over the Iraq War. Instead, I want to pay tribute to all of the fallen soldiers, men and women who have gone into hell to fight, kill, protect, and serve their country. On this Memorial Day, before the gas is turned on and the first beers are cracked open, let’s all take a moment and reflect on them. Let’s pray that they all can return to their own riversides and that the roses are in bloom when they get there.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Listen to what the man says

Last week I did and interview for a radio show up in Northen California which aired this past weekend. It's an excellent piece, even though I sound like a dork. The representative from the CF Foundation does a great job. And our course, my buddy Jeff Giles is the third guest, sounding all cool and shit.

The audio is set up at my friend, Ted's, blog, Py Korry.

Here is a direct link to the page.

Please check it out. It's only 20 minutes of your life. Think of how much time you spend suffering through Radio Disney.. no, that's me, sorry... and it will seem like nothing.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sophie's old man

With readership suddenly jumping into the twenties, I have had requests to post a picture of what I look like these days (or were those the voices in my head?).

I had planned on making an appointment with the Sears Photography Studio and having a formal portrait done. I still have the corduroy suit from my first homecoming dance and I swear, it still fits! No, really! But, with digital photography so readily available, I decided it would be much easier (i.e. cheaper) to just snap something of myself and post it.

Then I looked at every recent photo of myself and decided that two chins are more than any of you need to see. Thus, it was back to the drawing board. Literally. I came across an amateur artist who was able to get my likeness perfectly, especially the lips. In addition to it being the perfect portrait of me, you can feel the love oozing from the drawing. Each brush stroke (or marker tip, I guess) was placed to the paper with care and grace.

Thanks, Sophie.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Everywhere you go....

I've now come to dread Mondays more than I did a few weeks ago. We began recording dialogue for the new series on Mondays. It's bad enough that I'm worrying about every small detail the morning of the records, but it effecting my Sunday nights, too. I go to bed and stress about forgetting to have scripts ready or ordering food. Ugh. Some pointless to worry about it all. Ther are such bigger issues.

Today was great, though, because I took a half day and went to see Jake's last soccer class. As I watched him running after the soccer ball in the mass group of kids chasing it, I suddenly became that psycho dad, cheering him on, giving him coaching advice. It was so exciting. I was beaming the whole time. But, in the back of my mind I kept thinking, "This is the perfect sport to keep him healthy. Lots of running." Christ, even simple pleasures like watching you son excelling in a sport get clouded by the other thing.

Speaking of CF, Julie had one of her shittiest days in memory. Just a lot of hassles with Jake's school next year over a health plan for him. Julie has something in mind and the school has been resistant. On top of that, the two people she's been communicating with have been... jerks, to put it nicely. Obviously they don't get it. You HAVE to let us ease into this. It's not like he's been going to school his whole life. Jake is going to starting kindergarten and this will be his first real year at a school ()not counting pre-school). Of course we're going to be proetective and have certain things we want. Can't they just meet with us and hear us out before being so dismissive? Julie had a stomach ache all night and was exhausted. The worrying, man, it takes so much out of you.

I know how she feels. Last Thursday I just wanted to curl in a ball and sleep the day away. All of this talk about depression made me depressed.

The night ended on a glorious note for me, though. As Sophie was getting ready for bed, she was singing one of my favorite Crowded House songs, "Weather With You."

"Everywhere you go/Always take the weather with you..."

When your daughter is walking around, picking up on the music you're playing and sharing in the joy of that same music, well, that's pretty damn special. Someday, I hope, she'll pull out some of my cd's and say, "Jeez, Dad, I didn't know you listened to..(insert band name here)". Then she'll ask what a cd is for and how can she play one of these shiny metal discs. I'll laugh, and say, "in my day, everything was stored on a flat, silver circle." Then she'll laugh and say, "What a bunch of losers!"

No. No. No. She won't laugh.

The walk is less than two weeks away. I'll be glad when the fundraising is over.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

DVD review of "The Prestige"

Christopher Nolan continues to amaze me with his talent both as a filmmaker and a storyteller with the film, "The Prestige". In it, Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale play rival magicians at the end of the 19th Century. When Jackman's wife dies in a tragic accident, the two men who were friends become bitter enemies, each trying to come up with the best magic trick to outdo the other. What I enjoyed most about the film was the seamless way Nolan cut back and forth between periods of time. Based on the novel by Christopher Priest, the film is very literary, but it never feels stuffy or boring. The pace is not nearly as fast as the cuts back and forth in time that Scorsese used in "The Departed", but the effect is just the same. There are no annoying subtitles to tell you "present day" or "10 years ago". Nolan gives the audience credit for having the intelligence to follow the story and lets you go along for the ride. I really enjoyed this movie, even though I was watching it on my laptop in the office. Ah, the things you'll do so mom and daughter can have a girl's night to watch "Charlotte's Web".

All of the actor's give exceptional performances. Hugh Jackman has perfected his American accent and proves, once and for all, that he does not need to return to playing "Wolverine" (unless he wants to, which is fine with me because he's so damn good at it). Christian Bale continues to grab hold of leading man status. Whereas there were times in "Batman Begins" in which I wasn't too sure he was strong enough to carry the film on his back, here he appears much more confident and able. Michael Caine is perfect, as usual, and Scarlett Johannson is very good.

There are so many twists and turns that to try and explain them would not do the film justice. What I loved most was the mood created by Wally Pfister's stunning camera work and the exemplary music by David Julyan. I have never heard of Julyan before, but he has written a great movie score. The music probably wouldn't play well on its own, but underneath all of the action going on, it is pitch perfect.

Would I watch it again? Hell yeah. I'd sit down now and watch it again if it wasn't 11:00. I'm not 22 anymore.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Basement Songs- "Waitin' On A Sunny Day" by Bruce Springsteen

For those of you who frequent this blog, you know that the music of Bruce Springsteen has meant a great deal to me throughout my adult life. His 1987 masterpiece, “Tunnel of Love” was an original basement album. The night I heard legendary Cleveland DJ, Kid Leo, recite these words from “Brilliant Disguise”, I became a fan. “Tonight our bed is cold/ I’m lost in the darkness of our love/God have mercy on a man/ Who doubts what he’s sure of”. Wow. It still gives me chills. I listened to that LP nonstop for a year. And when my high school sweetheart moved away, the song “Valentine’s Day”, which closes that record, became the eulogy for our doomed romance. I associated that beautiful song so closely with that heartbreaking period of my life that I have trouble listening to it to this day.

As the years went on, the music of Springsteen became a part of the lives of my friends and family, mostly because I forced people to listen to it and implored them to see him live in concert (which is a religious experience). I proposed to Julie with a Springsteen song (in the basement, no less… but that’s a story for another time, I promise) and converted her into a fan when we saw him together in ’99. My greatest accomplishment, though, has been watching my two children, Sophie and Jacob, become fans and appreciate his music.

Back in 2003, I had just attended a show with my brother at Dodger Stadium. I wrote an entry on my old blog that detailed my training for the two marathons I ran, raising money for CF. My friends, if you ever want to raise a lot of money for a cause, run a marathon. People seem to appreciate a person sacrificing their body to run 26 miles. I wish my knees would permit me to continue running because I miss the daily grind and I miss being able to raise the great sums that I was able to generate back then.

Anyway, I haven’t written about Springsteen yet. I figured I could fill about a hundred entries about his songs. However, this being CF Awareness month, I wanted to write about a song that filled me with hope. So, I’m going to reprint most of what I wrote back then so that you get an idea why “Waitin’ On A Sunny Day” is one of the most important basement songs in my life.

When Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising" came out in the summer of 2002, the nation was still reeling from the terrorist attacks on NY and DC. His album, using images and emotions tied to Sept. 11 is full of hope, loss, redemption and the affirmation of life. It's a remarkably crafted album and I consider it one of his finest.

At that time in our lives, we were still coming to terms with Jacob's diagnosis. It had been over 6 months, but many of the emotions I was dealing with (or trying not to deal with) were still under the surface. I had my game face on. Then I bought this album.

"The Rising" proved to be a cathartic listening experience for me. So many of the emotions I had bottled up were released when I listened to songs like "Lonesome Day", "Nothing Man" and "Into the Fire". And one song in particular became my song to Julie. The upbeat melody countered the lyrics that seemed to be talking about life in the Malchus house. That song is "Waitin' On A Sunny Day". Here are the lyrics:

It's rainin' but there ain't a cloud in the sky
Musta been a tear from your eye
Everything'll be okay
Funny thought I felt a sweet summer breeze
Musta been you sighin' so deep
Don't worry we're gonna find a way

I'm waitin', waitin' on a sunny day
Gonna chase the clouds away
Waitin' on a sunny day

Without you I'm workin' with the rain fallin' down
Half a party in a one dog town
I need you to chase the blues away
Without you I'm a drummer girl that can't keep a beat
And ice cream truck on a deserted street
I hope that you're coming to stay

I'm waitin', waitin' on a sunny day
Gonna chase the clouds away
Waitin' on a sunny day

Hard times baby, well they come to tell us all
Sure as the tickin' of the clock on the wall
Sure as the turnin' of the night into day
Your smile girl, brings the mornin' light to my eyes
Lifts away the blues when I rise
I hope that you're coming to stay

Before this album came out I was already a Springsteen nut. Borderline psychotic. Oh, I wasn't above being critical ("Human Touch", anyone?) But he really could do no wrong as an artist. I have always been a lover of music. My mom raised me listening to the Broadway hits of the 70's. I used to ride around in grocery carts singing the songs from "Chorus Line" and "Chicago". And rock and roll became my escape, just like so many adolescent boys. I didn't discover Springsteen until I went to college. Once I started paying attention to what he was saying, though, I couldn't stop spinning his records (remember those) and playing his cd's.

An interesting thing happened in February (of 2003). CBS aired an hour-long Springsteen concert special that I recorded because I knew we'd being putting the kids down. As I was setting the VCR, Sophie asked what I was taping. When I told her, she told me she wanted to watch the "Springsteen" the next morning. Thinking there was no way she'd give up the "Rugrats" for a 50-year-old rocker, I said “yes”. The first thing she asked to watch the next morning was.... Rugrats. But the next thing she wanted watch was, yes, the Springsteen "Rising" concert.

She loved it, especially Soozie Tyrell, the violin player. Sophie would take a recorder she had, pull off the bottom piece and shove a drumstick in the end. This gave her a "violin". And with the other drumstick, she'd play along with all of the songs. On that same morning, I decided to try and watch the tape while giving Jake his breather. He only likes watching music videos during his breathing treatments (i.e. The Wiggles... or "WiWi's" as he says... and Sesame Street). You can imagine the pride that shot through me as he sat still for all of the songs. My God, there's nothing better in life than seeing your children latch on to the same fanatical things you appreciate. (That's a little much, huh?)

I have infected my family with Bruce-mania. Julie and I were married to a Springsteen song ("Book of Dreams"). Jacob loves jumping up and down to "Dancing in the Dark". My daughter knows who the freakin' Big Man is and knows about the changes made uptown when he joined the band. How cool is that.

Many (most) of you must think I'm a freak. But this music is my release. It helps me escape my problems and also deal with them. I can cry openly to a Springsteen song and no one will think I'm strange.

What I barely touched on in that original entry was that Sophie asked for her own tape of Springsteen music to listen to while driving. Of course I jumped at the chance. The cassette was compiled of all upbeat songs (there will be time for the sad songs later in life) and in the order they appeared on that concert video. I can’t tell you how many times we listened to that tape. So many, it wore out and I had to burn a cd for them. That collection of Springsteen songs is my favorite compilation of all time. It will always remind me of my children and that first year living with CF. At the heart of that cd is “Waitin’ On A Sunny Day”. The song was kind of written off by some critics when the album came out because it sounded like a bouncy, peppy pop song. However, like “Hungry Heart” before it, the upbeat music disguises something deeper underneath. As the lyrics show, this is no simple love song. This is a song about people going through hard times. This is a song about persevering over whatever is weighing you down. Most of all, this is a song about hope.

About a year ago, my friend Jeff sent me the greatest gift you can send a Springsteen fan, 11 cd’s of solo, mostly acoustic performances from his “Devil & Dusts” tour. 11 CD’s! There were over 100 songs on these cd’s and only a couple repeats (and the songs that were repeated were either different renditions altogether, or included guest performers). There are two recordings of “Waitin’ On A Sunny Day” included among those performances. Each strips away the pomp and bop of the studio version and reveal the gentle, soulful song hat it truly is. Singing with quiet hope in his voice, Springsteen conveys the true message of this song and made me a fan of it all over again. Incredible.

When I hear this song, I think of my wife and the difficulty we have expressing our grief and fears. Sometimes it’s so hard to hold a conversation because a lot of the time they deal with cystic fibrosis. When I hear this song, I think of my brother and I, scr5eaming our lungs out at Dodger Stadium, and me wishing Julie and the kids were there. When I hear this song, I think of Sophie and Jake, jumping around, she holding her “violin”, and He carrying the ukulele we bought in Hawaii. Most of all, when I hear this song, it gives me hope. By saying he’s “waiting on a sunny day”, Springsteen is saying that a sunny day will come eventually. It may not be tomorrow. It may not be next month. But it will come.

Our days a much sunnier than they were back in 2003. Although I struggle with what I like to call my “sadness”, I still have hope. Sunny days are always around the corner. And when they come, I know that my lovely bride and my two glorious children will be by my side.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Had an interesting morning that included an interview by one of my fellow Week In Rock roundtable co-horts, Ted Asregadoo. Ted has a website, (which has some really cool interviews… Paul Krugman! Clors Leachman! Eddie ‘freakin’ Money!), and he also works at two radio stations in northern California, KKIQ/KKDV, in Pleasanton. Ted’s doing a public affairs feature on CF, Great Strides and the Bloggers for A Cure. Gracias, Ted.

It’s very odd being interviewed. I feel like such a phony and get very tongue tied. The interview we did for the Santa Clarita paper turned out nicely, but I still felt like I was faking my way through it. Sort of like being half prepared for an exam and being able to bullshit your way through the rest (and no, Denman, I studied for every one of your tests… I just didn’t do well). My biggest fear is that I come off sounding like I have no clue about the disease or its effects. Worse, if anyone asks me about the medicines…. Well, we’ve already gone there (hey, I know 95% of the medicines by heart and I pretty much know what they all do). Julie is the pro. If someone wants to talk to a person who has it down, it’s her. Me? I’m just a dad trying to do my best and raise my kids under unusual circumstances.

Enough about me. Ted is doing a wonderful thing by addressing CF and bringing attention to the disease. He also interviewed my buddy, Jeff Giles (of jefitoblog… seriously, if you like music, why haven’t you gone there yet?) We were supposed to be in a conference call. That would have been great. Alas, technology would not permit it. I did hear Jeff’s voice for two seconds before we got disconnected. So, he will remain like Charlie on “Charlie’s Angels”, this disembodied voice (albeit, one who deals in words instead of speakerphones) who shepherds all of us angels into doing good deeds.
Jeff and I have been in a constant discussion about Crowded House and Neil Finn for the past couple weeks. I’m pretty stoked about their new CH record. Jeff strongly recommended a Finn Brothers album from a few years back that I plan to pick up this week.

The other interesting aspect of my day came when I received an email from a friend (one who reads the blog) who advised I look into therapy for my constant state of sadness. It’s funny, because I often think about if I’m depressed. My answer is generally… what I’m depressed about isn’t going to change unless there is a cure. Perhaps talking to someone on a regular basis would be a good idea. I don’t know. I’m in no way trying to downplay how nice it was for my friend to send me the email. That she cared about me enough to send it is very touching. And just seeing Steve’s reaction on Friday when I told him that I cried a lot… well, it almost made me cry. He was stunned. Mouth slightly gaping while the crowd of Dodgers Stadium was cheering. That was a pretty good indication that something isn’t “normal”.

But what is normal? Normal for me is getting through the morning with all of the craziness and holding my breath until everyone is off to school. Then doing the same thing at night. Maybe I’m sad because I don’t feel as if I’m spending enough time with Sophie and Jake. I don’t have an answer. That’s the sad thing. I’m clueless.

Truth be told I feel like I have a grip most of the time. I just need a release. Think Holly Hunter in “Broadcast News.” That was healthy, wasn’t it?

Don’t answer that.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Another rough morning in the Malchus household. Jake didn't want to do his breathers and had a melt down. Who can blame him? I wouldn't want to be strapped into a vinyl vest with velcro straps and have to hold a nebulizer cup up to my face first thing in the morning. When he has these fits, I really have to wonder whether it's just rebellion (like any 5 year old) or that he psychologically feels that it isn't fair that HE has to do breathers while the rest of us eat or breakfast as we get ready for the day.

I hate it. Finally, I was able to calm him down and sit with him. But I was crying, man.

The thing is, lately, I have this fear of being seen crying. Like, I won't cry in front of Julie and when Steve was asking me questions about how I'm doing, I had to look away or suffer another Dodger Stadium meltdown like the Springsteen concert (for those of you who don't know, I attended a Boss show in 2003 with my brother. It was a brilliant show in Dodger Stadium. However, Budd and I got drunk. And during the song "You're Missing" I lost it. I melted down into my brother's shoulder.) It seems like crying and Scott go hand in hand lately. Just a simple thought and I'm on the verge of tears. You know, that sharp pain in your nose type of feeling? Yeah, that's what I live with.

Sometimes I wish I could just shout and have a tantrum like Jake. I wish I could just let it all out in one fell swoop. It doesn't work that way, though. So I relegate my tears for the car rides home or in seclusion at my desk. Embarrassed more than ashamed, I just don't undertsand how I became this man. When I was much younger, in high school, I felt like I was so in tune with my emotions. I felt like I was so much more honest and able to exporess how I felt so much better (if I could avoid using "so" in sentance, in would make me a so much better writer).

I guess Dylan was right. I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.

All of these emotions tangled up inside me have done a number on any inspiration I may have had to write these days.


Monday, May 14, 2007


Okay, I know I'm supposed to be writing once a day in May, but you'll have to cut me a little slack for this past weekend. As you know, Steve was in town. Friday and Saturday were late nights and it took all yesterday to recover. I'm still pretty damn wiped, but man, it was worth it.

I want to detail this weekend, but I need another day to piece it together. As I'd hoped, we allowed ourselves to "be". By Saturday night, after everyone had gone home, to bed or (in the case of Julie's brother, Seann) crashed on the couch, Steve and I were just hanging out. Drinking Scotch, with the TV on, and cd's burning on my laptop, it felt oddly familiar. The setting may have been different, but the mood was most definitely Budd & Eleanor's basement in Ohio.

Like I said, I'll get into this more tomorrow and the next day. I have a lot to think about and so much to be thankful for.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Basement Songs - "Southern Accents" by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

On December 26, 1993, Steve and I hung out in the Malchus basement for the last time. Four days before my wedding, this would be our last opportunity to just “be”, throwing back a few drinks and listening to some music. After the wedding, Steve would return to the south and I would be moving west with my new bride. It had been the plan that he and I would spend a night hanging out. Instead of heading to some local dive bar or trying to organize a small party, both of us decided that we’d just spend the time together.

We actually began the evening watching the Michael Douglas movie, “Falling Down”. At that time, all of my belongings weren’t packed and the basement was still my little den. My older siblings had long moved away, and my younger sister was at college. So the year and a half I spent living with my parents after college gave me complete rule over the basement. I had set up a television and VCR and my new stereo was on a stand close by. The far corner of the basement was the place where I watched movies, listened to music, and thought about the great things I would someday write about.

If we had gauged the evening on the quality of “Falling Down”, I wouldn’t be writing this. Or, perhaps, because of the let down of the film, I AM writing this. You see, after the movie, there wasn’t much to say. Even the two or three 7 & 7’s we drank couldn’t erase the disappointment we both felt. Instead of some kind of intellectual discussion, we turned to old reliable: the music. I threw on some Tom Petty and we just chit chatted about the wedding, the move, Steve’s relationship with his girlfriend. Bullshit, really. But the good kind of bullshit. The kind of bullshit that friendships are based on. When you watch a movie like ‘Diner”, all those guys are doing is b.s’ing. It’s comfort talk.

Then, “Don’t Come around Here No More” began playing. This song has a special meaning to the two of us. The year of Steve’s graduation, we went to a Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers concert at Blossom Music Center. It was the ultimate summer show (the Georgia Satellites and the Del Fuegos both opened) Weeks before the show, we’d drive around town in the Whomobile, waiting for a Petty song to come on. At that time, TP hadn’t had his career revival from “Full Moon Fever”, so the radio stations only played his well known hits. “Don’t Come Around Here No More” was played A LOT! And every time the song came on while I was driving, the two of us would pound the crap out of the vinyl dashboard of the Whomobile (it was an old Delta 88, for those of you who don’t know the story). That is one of my lasting memories of that old car. Steve and I pounding on that dash, thrashing back in forth in the front seat while the crescendo of the song blasted over the car speakers.

With that memory in mind, I jumped up, grabbed some old cassette (I like to think it was my copy of “Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe” since Steve openly mocked the group and the moniker) and placed tape over the tabs. We were going to make a mix tape. I started the Petty song over and announced my ingenious plan. The two of us would make the tape together, each of us alternating songs. My collection of LP’s, cd’s and cassettes was limited at the time, but that wasn’t important. We could certainly fill 100 minutes of music from what I owned. While my plan may have been to commemorate our friendship or create a lasting collection of music we could always look back on, Steve had other things in mind. He chose to think thematically about the occasion and chose several songs that spoke about our lives at that point in time. Thus, we created a collection that not only traveled down the nostalgia highway, but took its place in line of the important moments in our lives. The road map of our friendship is laid out on that tape. “Rock Lobster” shows up (cut short because we both got sick of the song after its fifth minute. Years later I would realize that we shut the tape off literally thirty seconds before the song ended. Still, when you’ve had enough, you must end the madness). Simple Minds, Springsteen, The Who, Van Halen and The Outfield weave into the mix from our years in high school. They Might Be Giants, The Smithereens, Joe Jackson, The Reivers and Springsteen parade around from our college years. All of these songs have a special meaning to us, even ‘Bust A Move” by Young MC. However, the other songs Steve chose, the songs that were thematically linked to that night, are ones that I return to time and again. “The Road Not Taken” by Bruce Hornsby and the Range was Steve’s way of saying “good luck” and that he was proud of me following my dream. “Independence Day” by Bruce was Steve speaking about the two of us growing up in the Cleveland suburbs and doing everything we could to leave Ohio and become our own men. And “Athena” by the Who…. Well, okay, I have no idea why he put that one on. It was the end of the night and there was only room for one more song. After 5 or 6 drinks, you go with what thrills you in the minute.

However, the one song that sticks to me from all of the selections we made that night was the second one recorded. And we didn’t even lift the record needle. Once “Don’t Come Around Here No More” ends, Tom Petty’s lovely ballad “Southern Accents” closes out the first side of the album of the same name. “I love this song. Let it play,” Steve said. It was his selection, I thought, he can choose what he wants. I’m glad he chose it. “Southern Accents” is quite simply one of the most beautiful songs that Petty has ever written. Quiet and restrained, it really captures the blue collar/southern experience theme that he was trying to achieve throughout the entire album. Benmont Tech’s piano is practically the sole instrument, with very light accompaniment by the great Stan Lynch. Mike Campbell has a brief moment on the dobro, and Howie Epstein’s angelic harmony vocals shine elsewhere. Finally, the legendary Jack Nitzche created a string arrangement that gives the piece a greater sense of heartache and power.

If you are only familiar with TP’s hit songs, you must go back and listen to “Southern Accents”. The music alone is moving enough. Yet, the lyrics pull you in with Petty’s prayer to the south, lost love, and his mother (who had passed away shortly before the recording of the album). I especially like the second verse:

“Now that drunk tank in Atlanta’s
Just a motel room to me
Think I might go work Orlando
If them orange groves don’t freeze
I got my own way of workin’
But everything is run, with a southern accent
Where I come from--”

I have family that lives in Alabama and that verse reminds me of them. Not that they’re a bunch of alcoholics, but that they do things their own way and that they take pride in who they are and their southern heritage. With so much history in the south, I’m sure that’s one of the reasons Steve chose to live there (besides the good woman who became his wife and the basketball).

And then Petty goes into the bridge:

“For just a minute there I was dreaming
For just a minute it was all so real
For just a minute she was standing there with me”

How many of us have had the “one” slip away? You thought he or she would change your life for the better, but in the end you suffered a broken heart. If you’re lucky, your true love is waiting around the corner to help mend those gaping wounds. If you’re not so lucky, as some of my dear friends have been, you wind up at the bottom of a bottle, consumed with despair. Steve and I had been through so much in our lives when this song got laid to tape. We had seen each other at our worst, and had been there for each other in those times of need. I don’t think Steve intended “Southern Accents” to serve as a reminder of our past and the closing of this chapter in our lives. But it turned out to be the perfect song for that moment; the perfect song for The Final Basement Tape.

I have listened to my copy of that tape (Steve has the original) hundreds of times since December 26, 1993. I’ve always been amazed at how well the songs flowed together. The two of us were literally running around the house, tracking down songs, trying to keep the other one in the dark to ensure that the next song was an unexpected surprise. My tape would wind up in car, sitting there for months. Then, when I was feeling down, it would drop out of the glove box and it would play for weeks on end. I have never grown tired of those songs (not even Mellencamp’s “Pop Singer”). Then it would be put away until I was seeking the comfort of an old friend. This past January, I pulled it out while I took down the Christmas lights. Like a fool, I chose a tape player notorious for ruining things and it ate the tape, destroying my copy forever. Luckily, I had found digital versions of the songs a year before and burned a cd. But honestly, it’s not the same. The crackles and snaps are missing from my LP’s. And the terrible hisses are missing from my warped cassettes (some of them second generation recordings). There was something pure about that tape, like my friendship with Steve.

Each and every time I hear “Southern Accent”, I’m back in the basement. It's frigid cold outside. The two of us are just sitting there, taking in the music, nodding to one another with slight smiles on our faces. Our lives are about to change forever. I’m going to get married and move away. There won’t be anymore nights like this. (Well, I was wrong about that one).

“Southern Accents” is the last true basement song. It is the final good memory I have of my parents’ old house. Thankfully, it was not the last time I would see Steve. Our friendship since that night has grown and we’ve become closer. I trust him more than anyone other than Julie and my family. I would trust him with my children in a heartbeat. That is how much of a brother Steve is to me. I dream of a day when we may live closer. I dream of his children knowing mine. I dream of a lot of things. But until that day comes, I’ll have the music. I’ll have “Southern Accents” to help ease my pain and get me through to the next day.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Rest in Peace Dave Anderson

I'd like to dedicate this post to Dave Anderson, a man I knew from my high school days. For a brief time in my life, he was very influential on how I looked at the world and I viewed things spiritually. In high school, Dave was the teacher of the youth class I attended every Sunday for church. Instead of simply reciting passages from the Bible... or even reading from the Bible, for that matter, he lead discussions about a variety of topics. He often asked us teens what we wanted to do the next Sunday and tried to go along with our requests. One of the coolest activities he did was short short, dramatic films that brought up a lot of philosophical questions. Dave showed us "An Occurrence At Owl Creek", which heavily influenced my writing and what would become "The Mind's Eye" (my own short film). He never preached and really made religion and spirituality accessible.

For two summers (my sophomore and junior years of high school) I attended work camps in which Dave was one of the adult leaders. 2While some of the other adult leaders had a tendency to lose their cool when we kids were just being dumb kids, Dave always had a somewhat bemused smile on his face. He seemed to understand that we were just, in fact, dumb kids. But he never treated us like we were inferior. He treated us like adults. I can count on my hand the number of teachers who were like that in my life.

I recall the summer of my sophomore camp in which Dave watched as his daughter, Heather, made me up to look like a goth kid. Heavy make-up. Plenty of hair product. At first I thought it was a hoot. Dave even joined in and had some product put in his own hair. That night, another youth group from a different camp came to visit our group from Ohio. I stayed in make up and what not and really played up the whole "outcast" role while the other kids mingled with these new kids. It was a quick lesson in how people react to others who are out of the mainstream. So many of these other campers treated me like a freak and wanted nothing to do with me. The whole time, I felt that Dave was observing the behavior of these other kids. Observing and taking note that a lot of his students were learning a civic lesson.

Dave was a scientist. He worked at NASA. It always gave me comfort that a man of science was at church every Sunday. I had always assumed that scientists would be of the mind set that there had to be "physical evidence" to prove a god existed. What Dave was teaching us all was to have faith.

Dave was married to a wonderful woman named Peg Anderson, and he had two daughters. Peg emailed me today that Dave lost his long battle4 with cancer. He died at home, with his family by his side. Just before he passed, Peg was there to kiss him goodbye. When I read this, I nearly cried. Peg and Dave always set an example of how to be loving people. I'm sure they weren't perfect, but what does it mean to be perfect? I don't know. I can only tell you that these two had such positive energy., There was so much love you could see a light in their eyes when they were just standing near one another. Peg had been in a singing group with my mom when I was a child. And, of course, they went to my church. When sending out out wedding invitations, Julie's mom came across the invitation for Peg and Dave. "I know Peg Anderson." She said, shocked. Turns out that Peg and Julie's mom had taught a pregnancy class together many years ago, when Julie was a little girl. When I heard this, I took it as yet another sign that Jules and I should be together.

Over the years, as I have struggled with my own perception of religion, I often think back to those classes he lead. He seemed to push us, to get us to think about religion and spirituality. He wouldn't tell us that there was a right or wrong answer. Instead, he taught us that there was a right way to be a good human being.

My heart and prayers go out to Peg and her girls. Dave was one of the kindest men I knew. Although I did not keep in touch like I'd wished, we tried to send cards during the holidays. I pray that Dave is at peace, now. After having seen what Karyn's mother went through, I am sure he is.

God bless Dave Anderson. May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Jake's Mini March

A brief interlude from my entries on Steve to write about the CF mini-march Jake's pre-school class held this morning. His teachers wanted to show the kids (four and five year olds) that they can make a difference, even though they're little kids. So, a mini march was organized in which the entire class would walk around the school. Each child was asked to seek donations for the CF Foundation. Julie helped organize it by writing the letter home to the parents (which was then adapted by the teachers).

Yesterday, while Jake was home sick from school, the teachers read the book "Mallory's 65 Roses" which is a wonderful children's book that explains some of the disease. Today, when Jake came to class and the kids were getting ready for the march, they were chanting "Go Jacob! Go Jacob!" It fills me with such joy that these children accept Jake for who he is and not some kid who is different and has to take a lot of medicine. I only wish life were always like that.

Jules went to the school for the march and the little kids walked around the entire school. When the donations were tallied up, the total came to $840! Can you believe that? This just go4es to prove that even the littlest people can make a difference.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Rock Lobsters and Wrist Bands

While trying to gather my thoughts of this series of entries, I suddenly realized that this week may be more difficult that I thought. When trying to come up with an appreciation for someone I respect and admire, I fear the words may sound corny or heavy handed. Besides Julie, I feel there is no other person who knows me as well as Steve. He has taught me to be a better man and a better friend. He is closer than a friend, though. He is my brother in every sense except blood. And while nit may prove difficult to come up with individual wild stories or moments, that doesn’t matter. Just as I feel that Julie is my soul mate, I feel the same way about Steve, in the sense that our lives were destined to intertwined. I trust him above most anyone I know and for his friendship, love and brotherhood I am forever grateful

So let’s go back to the beginning. It was a hot, Spring day in North Olmsted and I was on my way home from Forest Elementary school. Winter must have just ended because I was still donning my thick, down jacket. See, my mom stored everything in the attic and for some reason the spring clothes never made their way out until it was June, at which point, shorts were required. That’s another story, though. On this day, I was walking alone, sweating, miserable. Then, from behind me, I heard footsteps and some low humming. Singing, actually. I was reluctant to look back, but as the voices grew closer, I turned to look. It was this kid, Dave Gedwell, a guy I knew from Cub Scouts. My lasting memory of Gedwell was a question he asked when we got a tour of the local McDonalds. “How do you make those wonderfully delicious French fries?” What kid asks a question like that? Later, after he’d gone to another school throughout middle school, he attended NOHS for his senior year. He’d transformed into a Larry Mullen-esque modern rock drummer. Quite good, too. I digress.

With Gedwell was a tall kid I didn’t recognize. They were jogging home, singing one verse of “Rock Lobster” by the B-52’s. “We were at the beach/Everyone had matching towels/ Someone went under a rock/And there the saw a rock/ But it wasn’t a rock/ It was a rock Lobster.” I’d never heard this song before. I was still listening to Sha Na Na. I thought it was a joke. But these guys seemed to be having a fun time. No introductions were made. I jus started jogging along with them, singing along, despite bit knowing the words. We jogged together until we reached the black path, this lonely stretch of a bike path that was more of an after thought than a reasonably planned route to cut through two neighborhoods. The blacktop was always in shoddy shape and the weeds along the path were always overgrown. I spent many a night wander home from Steve’s through that dark, mysterious path.

As they ran off, I thought, who was that guy?

That summer I met him again. He and I were on the same soccer team. We had a mutual; friend in a kid named Pat Lopriore. Pa was a tough kid who lived about halfway between my house and Steve’s. He and I had been friends since first grade. Pat knew Steve. So when we all ended up on the same soccer team, I was kind of cool by association. Ironically, it would be because of Pat that I would become a better friend with Steve. In 5th grade, I was placed in an advanced studies program at my school. Basically, kids with better grade scores were sequestered into their own classroom and taught more "difficult" lessons. There was a stigma being in the ASP class. These smart kids were called the ASS kids. Original, huh? Even thought Matt was in the class, I joined in with the groupthink that those smart kids were jerks. Of course, you know, the next year I was placed in that class as a 5th grader. Someone else in that class was Steve. I soon learned that this guy Steve was one cool guy. One of the cool things he did was wear wrist bands to school every day. It was so cool that I decided to come up with my own “thing”. So I wore a gray sweatshirt each and every day until it got up and walked away. Hideous. The thing was hideous.

Anyway, Back to Lopriore. In 5th grade I carried this air about me. I wasn’t one of those ASP kids. I was still one of the pod kids, even though I was being made to be in that class. This attitude worked until Lopriore and I got in a fight. Now Pat was the most popular kid in school. And who was I? Nobody. We got in this fight, half the kids in the “cool” clique gathered around and cheered on Pat, and after I walked away, I became a bit of a joke to those kids I had called my friends. Besides Matt, I didn’t have anyone I called my friend. And that was the turning point, I like to believe, that my friendship with Steve began. While Steve could have easily sided with the popular kid, he was already mature enough to be above that petty shit. Either that or he took pity on the kid with the ginormous glasses and poofy hair.

As I watch Sophie grow up and express so much empathy for her friends (and particularly her brother) I tend to think that kids really are capable of being noble. Was Steve being noble that day? I don’t know. But to this day, I am so glad that I got my ass kicked by Pat Lopriore. Not because it filled me with the sense of worry and neediness for being loved that I live with to this day, but that I was able to become friends with the blonde haired kid wearing the wrist bands.

We had met because of a B-52’s song. To this day, that stupid damn song still holds an important place in my heart. It would be a couple of years before we started to become close friends but the foundation was laid.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

100th Post!

Welcome to the hundreth post! I'd like to thank my wife, Julie, my two wonderful kids, Sophie and Jacob, my parents and my siblings. All of my extended family. And of course, all of you for stopping by every once and a while.

Hello? Hello? Is anyone there? (crickets)

Heh. So, uh, well....

I was fianlly initiated into that special parents club today. The "my kid puked while we were waiting in line at the drug store" club. Poor Jake. He's been fighting whatever virus he's had for over a week. Today, he just couldn't take any more. The saddest thing was that he hadn't eaten anything in almost 12 hours and all he threw up was bile. I wish we could nip this thing in the butt... NOW! Luckliy, he took a long nap and woke up feeling much better. Some of his miraculous recovery had to do with the Motrin he got, I'm sure. He seems to be doing better. Keeping my finger crossed that he'll be okay for school tomorrow.

The house is as clean as it's going to get. I have to do bills now and then drink a couple beers as a result of doing the bills.

We set up the pool this afternoon. I'll admit I was a real crank about the whole thing, but now that it's up and filling with water, I'm pretty damn excited. So, if any of you happen to be in the neighborhood, let me know and I'll have the pool heated for you. Of course, that will require me acting like God as I do not control the weather. In other words, anyone planning on visiting should come by on a sunny day.

In honor of Steve's visit this week, I thought I'd share some of my stories about the two of us. Last year I wrote a whole series about Matt as the anniversary of his death came up. Well, why do we have to wait for someone to die in order to appreciate them. Thus, starting tomorrow, you'll get five days of tales about Steve and Scott. Try to contain yourself, please.

Turned out to be a nice weekend.


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Hey, it's Cinco de Mayo!

I... don't really have anything to say about Cinco de Mayo. It just sounded like a cool header.

Saturdays are the mos difficult day to make entries to the blog. Usually I'm out on the yard, as I was today. Man, it was a long day. My friend, Steve, is coming to town on Friday and I wanted the yard to look well managed for him. Not that he'd care. In fact, if there is one person I think would not give a rat's ass, it is Steve. The two of us have been friends so long, we're brothers. Besides Julie, no one knows me better than Steve, which is saying a lot considering that he lives on the other side of the country. I'm pretty stoked about his visit. Giddy like a little school boy! Weeeeeeee!

Enough of that, Malchus.

Also making the day longer is Jake's continued fight with his cold or, as Julie believes it may be, a sinus infection. The poor kid's nose is running non stop and his head hasn't stopped hurting for over a week. Yes, he's already been to see a doctor. He's on an antibiotic right now. I believe that puts him up to 12 meds daily, right now. It's hard to keep track.

How the hell can I name all of the frickin' members of Yes, past and present, but I can't name you all of his meds. What was that old SNL routine with Belushi and Laraine Newman... "You're blocking!"

I resolve to memorize all of the names of his meds by tomorrow. I should know this, damn it! I'm disappointed with myself and right now shaking me head. Part of me, knowing that there are more than 10 people actually looking at this blog, wants to delete that previous paragraph. Forget it.

I'm no saint. I'm just trying to do my best.

I have to do better. I can slack off when it comes to myself. But come on, dude... this is your son.


Friday, May 04, 2007

Basement Songs "Distant Sun" by Crowded House

The music of Crowded House has hovered over my personal space since they flew into the world’s orbit back in the 80’s. It began during my first year at Bowling Green when my friend, Bob, made sure that I won a drawing at Finders, the record store he worked at in town. The prize was the soundtrack to “Tequila Sunrise”, Robert Towne’s underappreciated movie from that era. I was plenty excited to have my own copy of the epic power ballad, sung by Ann Wilson and Robin Zander, that plays over the end credits. After about two listens, I grew tired of the big drums and discovered another track on the LP, an obscure Crowded House song, “Recurring Dream”. I was hooked. A couple of years later, I spent the summer in L.A., just as their album “Woodface” was released. The second song, “It’s Only Natural”, became an instant favorite and showed up on one of the first mix tapes I made for Julie. The mysterious, chiming qualities of “Recurring Dream” are what first drew me in to the music, and the intricate vocal harmonies and brilliant word play of “It’s Only Natural” made me a big fan. In 1994, Crowded House released what would be their last studio album in over a decade, “Together Alone”. That year was one of the most pivotal times of my life. Recently married, a big move west, starting a career, and still trying to figure out the meaning of life, it was an exciting, emotional time, full of happiness and doubt. Thankfully, I wasn’t alone. Julie was by my side. We were figuring it out together. That year, Crowded House released their single, “Distant Sun”, one of the most brilliant, poignant, tormented love songs I have ever heard. Neil Finn’s lyrics are, at times, a bit obtuse, so I’m not a hundred percent sure it’s even love song. But what I take away from it is a feeling of hope. “Distant Sun” is embedded in my soul. Each and every time I come back to it, I fall in love with the song again, making it one of my favorite basement songs.

More than any other song from that period, “Distant Sun” speaks volumes about my time uncovering and slowly realizing who I was as an adult, a professional, and most importantly, a husband. When Julie and I moved to California in ‘94, we were just two kids in our early 20’s. I was following my dream and Julie, bless her heart, just wanted to be with me. When I really dwell on this fact, it is humbling to think that another human being was willing to change her life just to be with me. You have to understand the remarkable sacrifice she made to move out here. She left her family, her safety net, and everything she knew, to embark on a journey with me, some schmo with bad clothes, awkward hair, and ugly glasses. I’m not going to pretend it was easy. Julie HATED being here. Yet, she never said, “It’s time to go back.” To this day, she has never said, “You’ve given it a shot; time to move on.” I’ve said many times that Julie is my rock. She is the foundation to which our family finds its strength. And the groundwork for our family was laid down in those years in the mid-90’s. “Distant Sun” is one of the essential songs to the “soundtrack of our life” (I know, kind of corny).

The music itself is so lovely. I’m a sucker for the acoustic guitar, electric combo. The song begins with just Finn strumming his six string acoustic, before the rest of the band joins him. Mark Hart playing a wrenching 12 string, Nick Seymour’s understated bass playing, and the late Paul Hester’s great drumming and perfect harmonies. It’s glorious. I swear, the first few times I ever heard the song, I had to literally stop what I was doing to listen to every note, take in each word I could follow, and try to keep from tearing up. This being Los Angeles, the stop and go traffic was quite accommodating. There were days when I would sit in my car on the freeway and get to hear the song in its entirety before moving up 10 feet. Lucky me. Of all of the elements to this song, it is the bridge that fills me up with emotion. And it is the twelve words ending that bridge (leading into the guitar solo) that have made this song such a favorite.

12 words. That’s it. Each time I reach them, those same twelve words tear me in half. They come at you from out of nowhere. What was already one of the prettiest songs written becomes something new. Finn cries out, in torment, in desperation, with all of his heart, “I don’t pretend to know what you want, but I offer love.”

Ponder those words a moment. Has any phrase ever spoken so plainly explained what marriage is supposed to be? There have been many instances when I didn’t have an answer, I couldn’t fix what was hurting Julie. And believe me, I used to be one of those people who had to fix everything. But the words I had were pointless. The writer in me didn’t know what to say. The only thing I had to offer was love.

Through the tears, confusion, heartache, betrayals and anger, we learned how to act. And in 1994, we had only known each other a couple of years. We were figuring out together who Scott and Julie were. So many times, we had to go with our instincts. “I love you and nothing will change that.” And then we hugged, or cried, or made love. We connected.

“I don’t pretend to know what you want, but I offer love.”

Each time I hear Finn sing that, I can’t help but clench my fist, imagining I’m the singer, Julie is my audience, and I’m declaring with everything in me that nothing will change how much I love her and that she is the center of my universe. I look at this woman and I marvel. “Damn. I can’t imagine my life without you.”

To paraphrase the song, seven worlds collide whenever she is by my side. Our love has been a mighty force since the first time we kissed. We’ve been through so much together. I know that there is so much more to come. As I said, “Distant Sun” is embedded in my soul. Damn you, Crowded House; and bless you for this basement song I hold so dear to me. It will be with me forever, just as my love for Julie will go on forever.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

I'd like to know

I'd like to know when I'll be able to look at a flyer for the CF Foundation with my son's picture on it and I won't have to sneak away and cry.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Price of Admission

The other day I was thinking about the new Police tour and the cost of admission to a high profile concert like that one. For an ordinary, middle class Joe like myself to get in to a show like that, I have to shell out about $100 per ticket, and that's not even one of the better seats in the house (especially a stadium venue). The really fortunate few who can afford seats close up (or are fanatics and/or stupid enough to spend that kind of cash) end up spending somewhere between $500 and $1000 a seat! Now, I realize that artists like Sting and Bruce and Peter Gabriel are charitable people and they donate unknown sums of money to worthy causes. But suppose an act like the Police were to take $1 from each ticket and donated it to a charity after each show.

One dollar.

A show like Dodgers Stadium, which is sold out, would generate (at least) sixty grand in one night. 60 GRAND! And that's being a little conservative. Imagine if they donated just $2. That would be $120,000 in a mere 2 hours. Multiply that by 60 or 70 dates and the numbers start to boggle the mind.

I am no numbers man. While I realize that the inflated price of tickets has many costs factored in, why can't the artists, especially big acts who have billions of dollars, take this small fraction and do some good with it. To me, it's a no brainer.

Perhaps I'm being naive. In fact, I'm sure I'm being naive. Like I said, I have no concept of the marketplace. In fact, I don't even know what the marketplace is. But I know that there are people out there who want to help. They want to make this world a better place. But so many of us can't afford to do that. Money's too tight, friends.

Maybe I'll start selling copies of "King's Highway" bootlegs over the internet and take a big cut out of each DVD sale to give to the CFF. At least I'll feel like I'm contributing.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

May is CF Awareness month and a surprising pledge

To kick off CF Awareness month, I'm making a pledge to make an entry a day for the entire month. This isn’t a big pledge, though in the past I have always had trouble writing once a day. Not this time! You can hold me to it.

I received quite a surprise this morning when a woman I haven't spoken to in some 20 years (she was a high school girl back then) wrote me a lovely email and donated to the Great Strides walk. Thank you Sara! She and I went to a homecoming dance and to her prom back in the 80's. The prom was memorable if only because it was at the height of Prince mania and the guy who drove us to the dance was a Prince fanatic. That night we went to Pennsylvania (it was Pennsylvania, wasn't it? It's very fuzzy). During the drive we listened to a Marillion album. Marillion? What's that all about?

I have to admit that I wasn't the most mature date back then. I believe you would call me... hmmm, what's that word, an ass. At least, that's the way I remember it. Still, Sara and I remained friends until I went to college and we lost touch.

Let me spell this out for the 10 or so of you who still read Thunderbolt. This woman has not seen or spoken to me in 20 years. She only knows about me through the blog. I could be an axe murderer (I'm not, Sara, really). And she still DONATES! That, my dear friends, is generosity. That is human kindness. And that is what I am asking all of you to do. Please click on the link and donate.

I promise not to preach all month. But since this is May 1, I have a right to preach. It’s my son’s life we’re talking about.