Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Post Springsteen drag

The Boss concert was last night and I plan to post a review by this weekend (a deadline, imagine that). I'll will just say that the show was awesome. One of the best I've seen... ever.

Right now, I'm dragging through my day. I didn't get home until 12:30 and into bed until 1:00. But I'm jazzed because it's Halloween and we get to go trick or treating tonight. Tomorrow I took the day off of work to hang out with the family (oh, and it's my birthday).

That's all for today. November got off to an early, excellent start last night.

I'm rejuvinated and inspired.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

My mother is doing very well. She’s sore, which is to be expected, but her spirits are very high. When I told her that many of my friends had sent the prayers and good thoughts in her direction, she was very appreciative. She asked to thank all of you out there in the blogosphere for being good people.

We all await test results from some of her lymph nodes that should be available to her by tomorrow. If all goes well, this should be the end of the cancer scare. Once again, I would like to extend my full gratitude to those of you that wrote me or called. To begin with, I am fortunate to have people even reading thunderbolt. That those same people have hearts and time to show concern is a blessing.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Jake had a checkup at Children's Hospital yesterday and it was pretty tough. At one point, when they wanted to do a throat culture, he hid under the exam table and it took Julie and two others to get it done. Getting a blood sample was also equally diffuclt.

Last night when I was putting him to bed, we spoke a little about why he reacted that way. He said, "That throat thing makes me gag. It freaks me out, Dad".

He also said he wishes he didn't have CF.

I told him I wish he didn't, too.

We're going to have to put jake back on one of the medicines he was taking so that he can continue to gain weight. His doctors were concerned that he didn't gain any weight between checkups. I'd like to think it has something to do with the fact that the kid only eats Eggo Waffle Cereal, Spaghetti, Ritz crackers and Apples, but there are so many times he just doesn't want anything to eat. We were so happy when he was able to stop taking this medicine, but now it appears that he needs to help him gain weight.

Whatever it takes to keep him healthy.

Whatever it takes.


Mom update

I meant to write last night but I ran out of steam.

First, I want to thank those of you who sent me emails wishing my Mom the best. These thoughtful gestures made the stress of my day ease just a little.

From what my dad told me yesterday afternoon, everything went well with Mom's surgery. The procedure took, like, 3 hours. Her doctor's are optimistic that they got all of cancer. This is a huge relief.

Somehow, I got a chance to talk to mom while she was waiting to find a room. She was groggy, but expressed how impressed she was with the hospital. She said everything was "cool". I, uh, never would have expected my mom to use that phrase in this type of a situation. Apparently some of her sons' California phrases have rubbed off on her.

I'm not sure what else I can say about all of this. I felt a huge weight lift off of me once I got to speak to my father. It was a weight I was unaware of pressing on me until it was gone. Like I said the other day, I am becoming more like my dad than I want to.

On that note, my dad sounded SO exhausted. I could tell that the stress of the day was taking its toll. Hopefully he rested easy last night.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A few weeks ago my mom called to tell me that her doctor had discovered cancer in her uterus. The procedure to remove this cancer is to perform a hysterectomy, which she’ll have done tomorrow morning. They have told her it is stage 1 cancer, so we all feel optimistic that once the operation is done, she will be fine. But there’s always that nagging “what if” that digs into my brain before the results from any test comes back.

It has been a long time since I’ve heard my mom sound anxious. In fact, I can count on my fingers the number of times I have hear the type of nervousness I heard in her voice that night she told me. I know that my dad is anxious as well, although he would never directly tell me. However, he let slip his feelings while they were visiting a couple weeks ago. As we drove to Lowe’s for one of our many visits, he sat quietly in the passenger seat. Trying to break the ice, I quipped, “Hey dad, thinking about the Indians?” (who were, at that time, still in the playoffs). His reply was the most philosophical I have ever heard him.

“When you think about it, what does it really matter at the end of the day. How does that game really affect our lives? It doesn’t.” Then he went back into his stoic stare out the window while I waited for the light to change.

Originally, Mom was supposed to have this operation in two weeks. However, an opening became available and she decided she wanted it done right away. I can’t blame her. To have to wait a full month (like she would have had to) must be torture. Another positive sign about her cancer is that they felt the operation could wait. If it were more serious her doctors would have dope the procedure right away.

Not that this isn’t serious.

I may have issues with my childhood, but I love my parents deeply. Whatever mistakes they made are in the past and I have moved on. I find myself becoming more like my father in many ways. The stress that I feel about serious, life threatening issues somehow becomes bottled up, even when I don’t want it to. I am very concerned about Mom and Dad, yet I don’t feel myself gushing with emotion. I hate that. I’d rather be worried to death with my stomach in knots than have a short fuse like I’ve had around the family. At least with my emotions on my sleeve I feel alive.

For those of you who read this blog, please send out a good thought or prayer for Eleanor Malchus on Thursday morning. While they may say that this hysterectomy is routine, I assure you there is nothing routine about what she is going through.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Santa Clarita fires update

Because some folks drop by thunderbolt to see how the family is doing, here is an update regarding the Santa Clarita fires.

There were five fires burning at one time and a couple came within a five mile proximity to our house. The sky was full of soot and at times it burned to take in a deep breath. However, the flames never came so close to the house that we were in in immediate danger. We did have some friends evacuate their homes because they lived closer to the fires. School was canceled yesterday and today because of the air quality, although we debated about letting Jake out of the house anyway. If our lungs were irritated, I can only (then again, I don't want to imagine) what the shit in the air is doing to his little body.

It was very strange to walk out of our house and look down our driveway at the clear blue skies then turn around and see plumes of gray smoke in the air. That's how strong the Santa Ana winds are. With gusts of nearly 50 miles an hour, trees are being toppled.

You can all turn on the news and see the destruction these fires have done to southern California. Sadly, good friends (practically family) of ours, the Gardners, await news of the fate of their beautiful home in Lake Arrowhead. Lake Arrowhead is a quiet mountain community that was attacked by the fires all day yesterday. The Gardners escaped the blaze wity two cars full of memories. They can only monitor the Internet to get updates up whether their home is still standing or now ashes. I am hoping for the best, we all are.

I took the day off of work yesterday to collect some of our important personal files (birth certificates, loan information, etc.) It is very sobering to put together an emergency box like this. Late on last night, I began to contemplate what all we would try to rescue in case the fires crept close to our home. The list was small. It made me realize how unimportant so many of the material things I've collected over the years are in the broad scheme of things.

I think of the Gardners and all that they may have lost and the importance of family is all I can think about. We have been blessed that many people are checking on us to make sure we are safe and that Jake is healthy.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Today is the first day in a long time in which I broke down because my son is is doing well. I wanted to say healthy, but with CF, will he ever be fully "healthy"?

Today, the toddler son of a CF family Julie talks to entered the hospital because he has been very sick lately. I can still feel that fear. I can still picture myself in my car driving to and from Hollywood to Children's Hospital then back to Santa Clarita when Jake went into the hospital the first time.

I want to wrap my children in my bulletproof arms and protect them forever.

If you have a son or a daughter, hug them now and tell them how much you love them.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Mom and Dad left yesterday morning after a long week of working on the front of the house. Everything is not complete with the house, but so much got done through working with Dad that we are very grateful. It rained last night and that seemed to wash away some of the bad taste left from the anemic play of the Indians in last night's game. It was game 1 of the American League Championship Series and the Tribe had no answer for David Ortiz or Manny Ramirez (let alone the rest of their lineup). I like that Cleveland never gave up, but their entire play seemed sluggish. A hangover from the Yankee series? Perhaps. We'll see if they can rebound in game 2 tonight.

I'm in a bit of a haze right now. Taking the week off of work to paint the house was a great idea, but it was no vacation. I worked my arse off, I tell ya. Tomorrow we're going to the Lombardi Ranch pumpkin patch. I'm doing my best not to get stressed about how much we may spend tomorrow.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I’ve been at home all week working on the outside of our house. To say that I haven't done this much manual labor in a long time would be an understatement. My folks are in town and I have really enjoyed the time spent with my dad as we built window frames and painted the front of the house. Of course, being at home means I am stuck with this God awful dial up service that is as slow as a sloth taking a dump.

Besides the stories my dad has told me of his youth growing up in North Olmsted and working on my grandfather's chicken farm, we've had some good meals and great conversations. As you all know, by now, the Indians beat the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs. Sunday night was gut wrenching as the entire family (including Budd's clan) gathered at our place for the game. Unfortunately, the Yankees won that night. While the agony of defeat was something I could handle, it was too much for Sophie and she broke into tears when the Indians lost. She has really gotten caught up in the emotions of these playoffs. I need to dial it back some so that she can learn that it is only a game.

Still, when the Indians won on Monday night, I ran down the hall and lifted Soph into the air, cheering. Then I threw Jake up and we all shouted for joy. If the Tribe's run in the playoffs is a short one, at least we had that one night of celebration.

Usually the time spent with my Mom and Dad ends just in time and I am at my wit's end by the end of their visit. Don't get me wrong, I love them to death, but we're all adults and need our space. Who doesn't experience that with their own parents, I ask you? But this trip has been different. It was especially nice to have them on hand this past Monday.

Some of you may know that we had some concerns about Jacob's heart the past three weeks. He went in for an ear infection and the doctor heard an irregularity with his heartbeat. Jake then had an EKG, which indicated an irregularity, and the stress and fear set in. Julie was scared. I haven't heard her express her fears like she did in a long time. On Monday we took Jake to a cardiologist for an Echo exam (like an ultrasound of his heart) and I am relieved to say that there is nothing to worry about. Thank God!

Anyway, Mom and Dad were here to watch Sophie and it was a great comfort to us knowing that she was with them, relaxed, in case we would have received bad news. But like I said, the news was great. Now we can go on living our lives with just CF to worry about. We have other health things to be concerned about dealing with my mom. I’m not sure if she would mind me talking about it, I will ask. But until the time that I can go into detail, any of you who know Mrs. Malchus, please send out a good though or prayer (or whatever you believe in) for her.

I must be off. It’s late Wednesday… Good Christ, it’s only 7:30! I feel like it’s 11:00. I am OLD. I’ll try to write more later this week. I have some exciting news about a new project I’m involved with. I should be able to give details in the next week or so.


Friday, October 05, 2007

I did not expect that

Seriously, I expected a closer game. Then again, I should have know better when Sophie and Jake put on their lucky hats. Although they didn't watch the entire game, there was a little bit of excitement for them in the series opener last night. I'm sure that watching their dad pace in front of the television will leave a lasting impression.

I can't explain why I'm so excited about this year's playoffs. I think it's the hope of watching your team succeed and possibly win it all. That hope is something the city of Cleveland needs badly. If there is one town that needs a championship to lift the spirits of an economically depressed area, it's Cleveland. And these group of guys on the Indians team are men of character and classy teammates. You never get the sense that there is any finger pointing in the clubhouse. If someone fails, the whole team fails. And if someone is outstanding, well, his outstanding achievements are for the team. I am most impressed with C.C. Sabathia's maturity as a pitcher. A couple of years ago, he would have been bitching about the strike zone and the calls he wasn't getting. But C.C. took it in stride. Good for him.

Hope, my friends. That is the theme of the fall of 2007. Springsteen. Indians. Hope.

Game 2 begins at 2:00 (PT)


Thursday, October 04, 2007

And so it begins...

The Indians have just taken the field in game 1 of the divisional series against the Yankees. I'm on the edge of my seat. I love this team.

Go Tribe!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

ABC's "Cavemen"

I have to be upfront and tell you that I sat down to watch "Cavemen" because my close friend, Tony Gardner, designed the makeup for the cavemen characters both in the popular Geico commercials and the television series. Tony is a master at what he does, having been in the effects business for over 25 years. Most recently, he and his company transformed John Travolta into a woman for the hit movie, "Hairspray" (although you wouldn't know it by the way New Line promoted the film). Like I said, Tony is a friend. I want him to succeed.

That said, I anticipated the worst after each and every review I read for the show stated that "Cavemen" is terrible. Julie and I hunkered in for a long half hour. We analyzed the makeup for about 5 minutes (it was stellar, of course), but you know what, we both got caught up in the first episode and laughed a lot. The show was very funny.

I'm not saying it's the next "Arrested Development" or even "Two and a Half Men", but I laughed much more at the jokes in "Cavemen" than I did at the over hyped Fox sitcom, "Back to You" (starring Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton). "Back to You" was supposed to be the "return of the sitcom". Yeah, well, I loved that one so much that I didn't miss it when I forgot to TiVo last week episode.

The negative reviews of "Cavemen", I believe, were clearly a case of TV writers hating an idea and not giving it a chance. While a show like "Brothers and Sisters", which was dreadful in it's first, like, five episodes, was allowed room to grow and given some leeway, a series based on a commercial is deemed horrible and not worthy of a second look. Well, I'm here to say that I'll be checking in on "Cavemen" next week and it's not because I know the guy who does the make up effects.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Bruce Springsteen's "Magic"

I'm sure you can look anywhere this week and find a major publication reviewing the new Bruce Springsteen album, "Magic". A.O. Scott wrote an excellent article for the NY Times last week and Ann Powers of the LA Times delivered a glowing review, too. My favorite quote so far comes from Chris Willman of Entertainment Weekly when he stated "If there's another ''Glory Days'' here — an inevitable concert standby that Bon Jovi will spend the next decade trying to rip off — it's ''Livin' in the Future,'' an insanely jubilant celebration of denial as a coping mechanism."

I decided to ramble for a few minutes about the new Springsteen record, as if I was talking to an old friend while pounding back beers in a local dive. Imagine, if you will, music blaring over the jukebox, the sound of pool balls cracking and glass mugs clanging as I shout out my opinion to you.

I was fortunate enough to receive an "advanced" copy of "Magic" two weeks ago, so I've had time to live with the music and grasp whatever lyrics I could wrap my brain around when I wasn't rocking out. Yes, this is a rock album. There are only 2 slow songs on the entire album (3 if you count the lovely bonus track). On top of that, this album is a return to the soundscapes that Springsteen mastered in the late 70's and early 80's. When I listen to the songs on "Magic", I am reminded of not only "The River" and "Born to Run", but also "Born in the USA", which, despite its weaker songs, is one of the great pop albums of the 80s'. And in the end, "Magic" is truly one of the great pop records of this year.

Springsteen has gone on record as saying he decide to return to pop music, after spending the past 20 years trying to create cohesive albums with a unifying sound, whether it was the countrified "Tunnel of Love", the slick "Human Touch, "The sparse "Tom Joad" record, or 2002's anthemic, weighty "The Rising." Actually, if you listen to "Magic" all the way through, I believe you'll find elements of every type of Springsteen "sound" on this record. For that reason, "Magic" reminds me a lot of Springsteen’s "Tracks" box set that came out in 1998. On those 4 cd's we saw a cornucopia of styles and songs that somehow didn't fit into the Boss' scope of things when he released his landmark records. It seems that finally releasing that music had an enormous effect on Springsteen. It seems that he listened to all of this "lost" music and wondered why "Loose Ends" or "Be True" were never properly release. He may have also wondered why the hell it took so long to make his LP's (something he seems to be making up for since 2002, when he has released nearly an album a year). From what I've read, "Magic" came together rather quickly. But make no mistake; this album is not loose, say, like "Lucky Town". Brenden O'Brien has once again expertly produced the songs (this being his third Springsteen record) and the musicianship is a joy to listen to.

Like "Born in the USA" did twenty four years ago, "Magic" begins with the driving, angry song, "Radio Nowhere", which lays the ground for the rest of "Magic". And like his landmark 1983 album, "Magic" appears to be a typical Springsteen record. But dig below the surface, and you find a lot of anger and darkness. But this should be no surprise for Springsteen aficionados. He has always hidden his message in the great hooks he creates. "Dancing in the Dark" may come of as a light, pop confection, but pay attention to the lyrics and you uncover a sad, depressing song. The same holds true for most of the songs on "Magic". Lovely arrangements are ear candy, but reading along with the lyrics, you see clearly that Springsteen is so happy go lucky. In fact, he's pissed. He's pissed at the Bush administration. He’s pissed that sons and daughters are getting killed in a war that shouldn't have happened in the first place. And he's pissed that the country that he loves and for which he has always held out hop seems to have lost its way.

I'll admit that upon first listen, I was a little taken aback at the music on "Magic". It felt like he was recycling his older music after spending the past three years exploring folk and gospel (on both the "Devils & Dust" cd and tour, and his triumphant "Seeger Sessions" album). But after two listens, the songs stuck in my head. I found myself walking around the house humming "Girls in their Summer Clothes" and discovered that I can't go a day without hearing "You'll Be Coming Down". In fact, the latter song may be one of my favorite Springsteen songs in years. The sound harkens to "The Rising", with chiming guitars and pitch perfect harmonies. During the second verse, the accompanying guitar incorporates the sort of echoed guitar effect that the Edge has mastered. Combined with Patti singing alongside her husband, it brings chills to my arms.

"Livin' In The Future" is already a favorite in our house, with it's poppy sax sound that not only reminds me of "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" and "Hungry Heart", but also the great Gary U.S. Bonds song, "Out of Work", that Bruce wrote for him.

Originally, I felt every song was great except the finale, “Devil’s Arcade”. However, after finally hearing the clean version of the song and getting to read along with the lyrics, I have changed my mid. “Devil’s Arcade” aches with the pain of every mother and father, sibling, lover or child who have lost someone in the Iraq War. And the music soldiers on… driving home this pain until everything slowly fades into nothing. “Devil’s Arcade” close out “Magic” in inspiring fashion.

As a bonus, Springsteen tacked on “Terry’s Song”, a plaintive elegy he wrote for his longtime friend who passed away in July. It is the perfect coda to yet another Springsteen masterpiece, and the best E Street Band record since “The River”.