Sunday, September 30, 2007

Glad to see you go, go, go, go, goodbye

Dear September,

I'm not quite sure how to put this, so I'm going to come right out and say it: You've outstayed your welcome.

Look, I was excited as you were about you coming to town for a month. I mean, what's a year without a visit from old September, right? but, dude, you've really been a downer this year and I just can't take any more of your crap. Now September, I don't want you to get upset. I love you. I really do. What, with the change of colors in the leaves and the cooling weather (usually), you're one of my favorite months. And how can you go wrong with that three day weekend you gave me at the beginning of the month. Dude, that was great. Oh, and the weekend when it rained. Killer, my friend.

But like I said, you've become too much. You've given me hellacious writer's block, you've caused turmoil in my family life, and you made me put on some weight. I didn't want to eat those Oreos, but I had no choice. You drove me to it.

I will always appreciate getting a sneak at the new Springsteen album. I will always treasure the final month of the 2007 baseball season when Sophie and I bonded while she kept track of the Indians wins and losses. For those things, I am forever grateful, September. But the writing has been on the wall for two weeks now and I insist that you leave.

Tomorrow morning when I get up, I expect you to have your things packed up and out of the house.

This isn't goodbye forever, September. But I need some time. Maybe... maybe in a year I'll be ready to see you again.

Take care of yourself, September.

One last thing. I want my "Bad English" LP back. I never said you could borrow it.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Happy Birthday, Steve-o

At some point during a 1998 Sammy Hagar concert, between the beers and the whiskey, the hugs with my brother and the singing along to "Three Lock Box", I had an epiphany. I don't recall where I heard it said, but I was suddenly reminded that we might have more than one soul mate in this world. There are the soul mates that are our true loves. I am a blessed man to have found Julie and had my life completed in that way. Then there are those people who complete us as friends or brothers.

I'm not sure why this thought came to me in the middle of the Universal Amphitheater or why, as I was screaming, "When eagles fly-iiii!" that I thought of Steve. But he stayed on my mind for the duration of the concert and the short drive home. After Budd had dropped me off outside our apartment, I kneeled in the bushes, puked, then stumbled my way up the stairs to Julie. I stank so bad from cigarette smoke, sweat and liquor that I didn't even consider sleeping in our bed. She shook her head at me ("you'll be sorry in the morning") and kissed me goodnight.

But I couldn't sleep. I had to share my epiphany with Steve. So, at 12:00 Pacific time, I dialed him up in North Carolina. Yeah. I woke him up. And yes, he patiently listened to the warbled mumblings of a drunken fool.

"Steve", I said, "I had this realization tonight... an epiphany" (which I'm sure came out 'epiphanry'). "Our souls are big things, man. And it takes a lot to fill out those souls. If our souls have been wandering all over the universe to finds a soul mate, who's to say that only there is only one person out there that completes someone else. I know, I know, I'm drunk, dude, and I know how this must be sounding and all, but dude, if a soul mate is someone who knows you inside and out, someone who completes a part of your life, why can't that person be a friend or, like, a sibling, or somethin, you know? Okay, so hear me out, man, and, like, I'm soooo sorry to be calling you at... oh, shit, man, it's like two o'clock there. Dude! I didn't think you'd really answer. Man, I'm sorry. huh Oh, so, then, like, I figured it all out, while Sammy was singing his ass off tonight. Dude, Sammy ROCKS! But, uh, anyway, I was just thinking, and, like, don't take this wrong, but, like, you're that guy. My best friend. You're like one of my soul mates, man. I'm a better person cause of you, Steve, and besides Jules and Budd, there is no one else I trust more than you, man. You are my brother, man. Does any of this make sense? Shit, I'm sorry for calling soo late. I shouldn't have had that Johnny Walker. Okay. Okay. Oh-kay. That's all. Tell your wife I say hello."

As always, Steve was gracious about all of this. When he spoke the next day, he was actually concerned that I wasn't sick. And he was flattered.

While some people would have fled from the lunatic on the other end of the phone, he knew where I was coming from.

In life we are lucky to find just one person that we can confide in and share all of life's wonderful moments and horrible happenings. I have Julie. She is my light always guiding me through the darkness. And I have Steve. A moral compass. A shoulder to lean on. Someone I can tell everything to and someone I trust with my life.

A friend in every sense of the word.

A brother.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A really pleasant weekend (it actually RAINED!) was capped off by the Indians winning the Central Division and earning a place in the playoffs. This may not seem like much to some of you. I mean, professional sports is just entertainment. But something about baseball in October is simply magical. After 162 games, a select group of men trot out onto chilly baseball diamonds where they have to warm their hands by blowing on them and some need to wear turtlenecks. Fans gather in the stands, chanting and cheering while wearing parkas, winter goats and several layers of gloves. The lights shine down and sparkle like jewels. Adults who have dreamed their whole lives of a championship fall to their knees and pray... or cry. They become young again. Some have their own children and hopefully, the joy and excitement these parents feel is passed down to their kids. I can't wait to watch the playoffs with Sophie and Jake. And if the Tribe makes it to the World Series, Sophie's going to have some late nights, I can tell you.

Go Indians!

Friday, September 21, 2007

My wife is so tough and heroic that I often forget that she is also human and suffers like the rest of us. Yesterday she suffered a migraine that shut her down completely. It was so bad that she called me in tears to come home while she went to see a doctor. I can not recall the last time I have heard her in this much physical pain. In moments like these, I become panicked and rush around like a chicken with my head cut off. The two of us have a tendency to put off our own ailments and tough it out. Personally, I feel like we deal with enough medicine in our house that I hate being the patient.

Of course, I hated being sick as a child. This most likely has something to do with my mother being a nurse and the horror stories she would tell of from the E.R. But, that, as they say, is a another story (for a different type of doctor).

Coincidentally, I spent the morning at the doctor's myself, having some areas on my feet inspected. Turns out I have a condition called vitiligo.

Hey Scott! What is vitiligo?

Glad you asked.

Vitiligo (vit-ill-EYE-go) is a disorder in which white patches of skin appear on different parts of the body. This happens because the cells that make pigment (color) in the skin are destroyed. These cells are called melanocytes (ma-LAN-o-sites). Vitiligo can also affect the mucous membranes (such as the tissue inside the mouth and nose) and the eye.

Of course, I pulled that information from a website and just reading it made me nauseous. And that's another reason I hate going to the doctor. When someone actually explains what's wrong with me, I want to puke in the closest trash can.

Vitiligo, by the way, is the condition that Michael Jackson had that cause him to bleach his skin.

This has been a tough week. Jake was sick on Monday (getting over a weekend cold) and then he was diagnosed with an ear infection on Wednesday. Sophie felt queasy earlier this week, too. Must be something in the air. Or our house. My imagination is going wild.

Still, we pulled it out. We Malchi are pretty tough. And the woman who heads the household is the toughest one of us all. I have said many times that I do not know where she finds the strength to juggle all of her volunteer activities as well as handle all of Jake's medical issues. On top of that, she is great in helping with the homework (as I found out yesterday. Damn, did I feel like an idiot). I hate when Jules is sick or suffering. I am relieved and happy that she's feeling better.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Thank you

It always amazes me when people I have never met face to face come out of the woodworks to wish me well. Last week I posted that I may be taking some downtime from the blog. Several of you wrote back telling me to take my time. This kindness can not go unnoticed.

Thanks to all of you.
Driving into work this morning, I was learning new tricks with my MP3 player and somehow wound up on Badly Drawn Boy's "I Love NY" from the ABOUT A BOY soundtrack. It is a song that I've written about in the basement series ( and it is also a song I avoid when it pops up on the player. The strange thing is, the past few times it has come on, I've let it play and no tears came to my eyes. I was not sad or happy. At one point, I thought I must have listened to the song too many times and it has worn out its value to me.

Not the case this morning.

Man, as soon as it began, I started to lose it. Perhaps it's because Jake was sick over the weekend with a cold. Or perhaps it is because I haven't shed a tear since, like, June, but I was having a hard time seeing the driveway as I pulled into the parking garage. These past couple of weeks have been very special for me with the kids. Two weeks ago, when the Indians were on TV, Sophie wanted a hat to wear as we rooted for the Tribe. We couldn't find her pink Indians cap she owns, so I gave her one of my old time Cleveland Indians caps that no longer fit my fat head. Can I tell you how long I have waited to give one of my kids an old ball cap to call their own. She wears it around the house and looks adorable with her curly brown hair hanging out in frizzy tangles. And last night, as I sat with Jake during his breathers, he took my Indians hat off my head and wore it for a while. Eventually, we found his cap (with an "I" on it) and he wore the thing to bed.

Sometimes simple things like that are what I need to remind me of what my focus is supposed to be. Those kids. My wife. Our family. I am a blessed man to have these wonderful people to help me get through the days. I am a blessed man.

I guess the simple melody of Badly Drawn Boy's composition reminded me, too.

I'm glad I had that brief moment of letting go. Too many things are bottled up inside of me right now and having just a minor release has helped tremendously.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Slowly coming back

I almost closed the theater this week. At one point I felt that there is nothing left I want to write about. But I feel like there are too many wonderful things that my children do that I still want to share those things with my friends and family. For now, the basement door is going to be closed.

I know, I know, you're all devastated. Sorry. If you still want a free song, email me and I'll send something special each Friday. I suspect that I'll find inspiration in the coming weeks.

I really want to try doing this regularly. I really like the whole blogging experience. Unfortunately, life trips you up and in this case, my knees are too scraped to bare my soul right now.

So, then, how 'bout them Indians?


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A moment of silence, please.

Julie and I were getting ready for work when her mother called from Cleveland. "Turn on the news" she said in a worried tone that immediately sent chills down my spine. There on the television, the two towers were in flames.

"Oh my God!" I exclaimed. Julie rushed out of the bathroom. She was 7 months pregnant with Jacob. Somewhere in the living room, Sophie was probably watching the Wiggles.

Mesmerized, traumatized, we sat and watched as firefighters and police officers attempted battled the flames while the rest of the country... the rest of the world... tried to make sense of it. What the HELL had happened? Word came in about the Pentagon. Then the crash in Pennsylvania. Finally, in horror, we saw the towers crumble into the earth taking the lives of more innocent people with them.

Although I have seen the footage over and over again, I will never forget that moment of disbelief. This isn't real. How can this be happening?

My boss called and told me the office was closed for the day. Julie went into work and soon learned that one of the executives from her company was on one of the planes. Sophie and I stayed at home. I didn't know what to do with myself because I couldn't sit around all day watching the news with a two year old running around. Numb. That's what I remember. Numbness and guilt that I was in a safe place.

I watered the lawn.

The next day, driving to work and stuck in the morning traffic on the 101, I looked around at all of these people in their cars, all of them seeming to be getting on with their lives. Cell phones, makeup and coffee for the morning commute. Were they like me, mystified that across the country our fellow citizens... our brothers and sisters... were digging through the damage, breathing death, and searching for their loved ones while we went about our business?

Nothing made sense. It still doesn't.

I will never understand how killing people justifies anything. Never.

Everything is everything, says Springsteen, but the loved ones from that day who died in moment of hate are still missing.

And they will not be forgotten.

Monday, September 10, 2007

It wasn't my intent to last week off. The holiday weekend coupled with a short work week really placed some pressure on me at work. Still, I could have at least written something nonsensical in order to keep the masses (okay, 30 people) happy.

By the end of the week, some really heavy shit came down and I just wasn't able to form a sentence. The last basement song entry was written before my brain cloud made itself visible.

I can't promise anything this week other than some thoughts here and there. Distractions like watching a movie during lunch with my coworkers or taking in an Indians game are good for the soul. However, the moment I begin typing on the keyboard, I can feel myself opening up and I can't do that right now.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Basement Song- "Out On The Weekend" by Neil Young

We had a custom in 76 Rodgers my first year at Bowling Green. That year I roomed with my cousin Dave and nearly each night we’d slap an LP on the JC Penny turntable I inherited from my brother, Budd, and let an album side play while we slept. The record player was an old 1970’s model with a return mechanism that kept an album side repeating continuously until you shut off the machine. Back then I was old school and had two crates full of crackling, well loved records. Cousin Dave began our unusual ritual, most likely after a night of Iron City beers and a couple Marco’s pizzas. Our first semester was pretty typical of the freshman experience. That initial taste of independence coupled with the recklessness and abandon of youth lead to many nights of laughter resulting from the stupid shit we’d do.

Cousin Dave and I weren’t exactly bosom buddies when we decided to room together. A year older than me, I looked up to him, yes, but more like a second brother than a friend or a confidant. Still, having the opportunity to live with someone I grew up with was more inviting than sharing my space with complete stranger. At least Cousin Dave still had to associate with me (out of family obligation) if we ever fought or grew sick of one another (which we did).

So it was Dave who one night put on an LP and let it play all night long. I didn’t mind; in fact, I liked it. Waking up to the dreamy sounds of some song you love is like being enveloped in a warm blanket: comforting and familiar. Throughout the fall, Clapton’s Slowhand; Tracy Chapman’s first album and Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love and Born to Run all became the bedtime music that lulled us to sleep on a nightly basis. The most frequent artist to sing us complex lullabies was Neil Young, whose tangy warble on his masterpiece, Harvest, became the soundtrack to the autumn of 1988. At the time, Cousin Dave and I were just discovering the music of Neil Young. In my opinion, there is no finer record to introduce a novice to his catalogue than “Harvest”, and there is no finer song to ease you into the Neil Young mindset than track 1 on side 1, “Out On The Weekend”.

Harvest was given to me as a gift by my friend, James, after the two us toughed it out at a cold, rainy Young concert in early September of that year. This was at the very end of Young’s “fuck you David Geffen, I’ll make whatever kind of music I want” period in the 80’s, so the concert venue was far from sold out (the actual show was Neil Young an the Blue Notes, who produced a solid record and a controversial video that year). James bought me Harvest to build my interest in Canadian poet and I am forever grateful. While I quickly took to the popular songs like “Heart of Gold” and “Old Man”, Cousin Dave was enamored with “Out On The Weekend”. Perhaps it had something to do with his musical upbringing consisting of a fine mix folk influenced country music. “Out On The Weekend” typifies Young’s strength in that genre.

Our countless nights of partying or blowing off steam began with the mellow “doom doom thunk” of Kenny Buttrey’s drums and the guitar and harmonica of Young. The rest of the Stray Gators Band ease into the rest of the song, slowly getting the blood flowing as if we’ve just woken up from a long bender. (The Stray Gator’s, by the way, consisted of Ben Keith on steel guitar, Tim Drummond playing bass, and the legendary Jack Nitzsche handling the piano and slide guitar).

Initially, “Out On The Weekend” sounds like a typical getaway song.

Think I’ll pack it in and buy a pick-up
Take it down to L.A.
Find a place to call my own and try to fix up
Start a brand new day

For a couple of young guys (19 & 20), what better was to get you motivated for the classroom than a song supporting the age old motto of following your dream- moving to L.A. (which is what I panned) and starting your life. That first verse is what lured us in. Dave’s constant playing of the song (sometimes two or three times in a row) and the repeated times it soothed us to sleep made “Out On The Weekend” a standard in room 76 of Rodgers dorm. At any given point in the day, whether it be after a shower, between classes, or before the tray races we held with our R.A., the plaintive cry of Young’s harmonica could be heard coming from our room. With the popularity of hair metal and early dance music at that time, we must have seemed like oddballs on our floor. Then again, with a 50 inch stuffed Bullwinkle doll and a map of Tennessee taped on our wall, it didn’t take much to appear a little odd. At that time, I had severed ties with my high school girlfriend. It was a long, painful period for me after she moved to Tennessee (hence the map). When she finally wrote me a final “we have no chance”, I went through a very blue period. The only thing that could ease my mind was buying something ridiculous (hence the stuffed Bullwinkle which we hung from our ceiling). I bring this up because it is the second verse of the song that reveals a deeper meaning to “Out On The Weekend”, a meaning that connected with my heartache at the time.

The woman I’m thinking of- she loved me all up


See the lonely boy, out on the weekend
Trying to make it pay
Can’t relate to joy, he tries to speak and
Can’t begin to say

This isn’t a song about running to find your dreams; this is a song about moving forward and putting the pain behind you. This is a song about heartbreak. Pure country.

Dave and I never spoke about what the song meant. He wasn’t one to expose his emotions as openly as I did. With a constant smile on his face and a devilish gleam in his eye, Dave easily disguised any pain he may have been feeling. While I constantly fought back tears during Springsteen’s “Valentine’s Day”, he challenged me to live life for the moment and not wallow in the misery of a broken heart. Looking back at that time, I like to believe that he was doing his best to get me going in my life, as if to say, “Deal with the pain, cousin. She’s not coming back. You have to move on.” In other words, “You have to pack it in and take it down to L.A.” Thanks to his subversive methods, that was what I was able to do.

Ten years ago, Cousin Dave came to visit us in California (the first of several visits). I recall it as a period o cautious fun. We drank, went to an Indians/Angels game, reminisced and toured Los Angeles in his rental convertible. It was a wonderful time. One of the first things he did upon arriving in California was purchase Harvest on cd just so he could listen to “Out On The Weekend” over and over again in the car. When he left for home, he gave me that cd, which replaced my beat up vinyl copy of Harvest. It was the second time I was given this classic album as a gift. I am forever grateful.

Throughout the years, Cousin Dave has become one of my closest friends and supporters. When it came time to shoot “King’s Highway”, he came out to help with not only the first 9 day shoot, but also the three days of pickups. And when we needed hast or magnets for CF fundraising, Dave has never hesitated to help design something at no charge (he works in promotional merchandising). Try as I may to convince him to move out west, he enjoys his life in Washington DC. Although our year as roommates ended poorly (we were at each other’s throats by the end), all subsequent years at BG were sometimes lacking the spontaneity we shared while living in Rodgers dorm. We would hook up once a month to watch a Browns game or go out to hold us over. And if there came a day or night when I felt I needed a little nudge- a simple reminder to keep pursuing my dreams and not to dwell on life’s minor setbacks, I could always put on side 1 of Harvest and listen to “Out On The Weekend” over and over again.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The wonders of technology allowed me to experience the remaining minutes of Bowling Green's upset victory over Minnesota last night while on the phone with my cousin Dave. It was 11:30 his time in Washington DC and the two of us were conversing via our cell phones while simultaneously viewing BG's final overtime drive through DirectTV.

It wasn't so much the victory as it was just being on the phone with him, cheering on the Falcons at the same time. It felt like old times, laughing in disbelief as the BG coach decided to go for a 2 point conversion instead of the safe extra point. The risk paid off and Julie, Dave and I were jumping up and down, practically screaming.

May not seem like much to anyone who isn't a sports fan, but it was a nice little moment. I haven't spoken to Dave in a couple of months. With the Springsteen album due, the Indians beginning to heat up and college football starting again, it felt like the right time to call him. Turns out I was right.