Thursday, April 26, 2007

Basement Songs- "Father & Daughter" by Paul Simon


I worry about Sophie. My concerns run deep ranging from how does her brother’s disease affect her to is she receiving enough attention? The greatest fear I have for my daughter is that she somehow feels a lack of love on my part. I can tell her “I love you” until I’m blue in the face, but unless my actions show it, these are just words. Because of these fears, I try to set aside time and activities for just the two of us. I’m excited because today she is coming to spend the whole day at work with me, part of a “bring your child to work” thing the studio is having. Something else we love to do is watching baseball games. We have as been to several Dodgers games in the past couple of years. Sophie really tries to follow the game, asking questions about the players and how baseball is played. It’s not all about hot dogs and cotton candy. Sophie is a remarkable, smart, talented little girl who is growing up to quickly. I love her dearly and she is the reason Paul Simon’s “Father & Daughter” is on of my favorite basemen songs.

On of the joys of parenting is pushing your favorite music on to your children. When Sophie was baby, barely speaking, she sang along to “Someday, Someway” by Marshall Crenshaw, and created her own lyrics to The Buggles “Video Killed the Radio Star”. She doesn’t recall those songs anymore. When I play them for her now, she jus looks at me funny. Later, just before Jake was born, she had a favorite Ryan Adams song and always requested several Andrew Bird tracks from hi excellent “The Swimming Hour” cd. And then there’s the Boss. As much as I worship at the altar of Springsteen, Sophie has been converted into a proud disciple, to, thanks to me. How many 8- year olds know the lyrics to “10th Avenue Freeze Out”? Even I have trouble remembering all of the words. Hell, even Springsteen does, too. I’ll never forget the last show I went to in 2002. The day of the show, he family was listening to a compilation I’d made for Sophie and “Darlington County” begins plying. Sophie shouted out “Daddy, do you think Bruce will ply this one tonight?” Knowing full well that Bruce made up set lists the day of the show, and that he hadn’t played that song much on the tour, I smiled and replied, “You never know.” I had a pretty good feeling I wouldn’t be hearing “Darlington County” that night. “I hope he does!” She said, before singing along with the chorus.

That night, as you might expect, Bruce and the band DID play “Darlington County”. Can you believe that? When Bruce and the E. Street Band next tour, I plan to take Sophie to the concert. She ought to be 9 or 10 and I hope it will be a lasting memory. Of course, as Sophie was quick to point out to me when I told her of this plan, “It will depend if it’s a school night, Dad.” The girl, God bless her, really loves school. Still, with al of the music we share, it is still a schmaltzy, African rhythmed folk song by Paul Simon that best sums of how I feel about her.

“Father and Daughter” was originally released on “The Wild Thornberrys Movie” soundtrack. At the time the movie came out, I was still working for Klasky Csupo, the company that produced “The Wild Thornberrys” film and TV series. Because I worked in the cartoon business, this form of entertainment was an early bonding method with my daughter. She liked “Rugrats”, “Hey Arnold” and, yes, “The Wild Thornberrys”. So, when the film came out, she was pretty excited to see it. It was released about a year after Jake was born and my worries about Sophie were beginning. It’s not that she expressed anything that would indicate she wasn’t feeling loved, but I was still worrying about it. Halfway through the movie, the song begins to play as the character “Eliza” is sent away from her family for the first time. Just watching the Eliza leave her family and the sadness that was felt by every character made me reflect on the precious time I have with Sophie. It feels like just yesterday that I was dropping her off at daycare for her first day. Now, she’s nearly done with 2nd Grade and excelling at school and swimming. Where has the time gone?

Simon had already written on children’s classic, “St. Judy’s Comet”, for his son back in the 70’s. This new song was written specifically for his young daughter. It’s the perfect companion to the early treasure. Like so many of the songs I gravitated to when I began training for my marathons, “Father & Daughter” was relegated to my cheap little MP3 player and it will never be deleted. Sure, I have he Springsteen songs and others the whole family shares, but the simplicity and directness of Simon’s lyrics hit home with me.

“I'm gonna watch you shine
Gonna watch you grow
Gonna paint a sign
So you'll always know
As long as one and one is two
There could never be a father who loved his daughter more than I love you”

I am so proud of Sophie. Her caring and generosity, plus her enormous heart so full of love and empathy make her a very special daughter. They also make her a very special human being, one that we all can draw inspiration from. With so much craziness in our lives, and so many heavy issues to deal with, Sophie handles them with grace, panache, and most of the time, with a smile on her face. As she gets older, I’m sure she’ll have her own music to turn to for comfort and guidance. However, I hope that this basement song by Paul Simon somehow makes it into her own collection of music.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Our 2007 Great Strides Letter


Each year, I post the Great Strides fund-raiser letter Julie and I write. If you're reading this now, please, please, please click on the link and make a donation to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Aloha

Dear friends and families,

It’s hard to believe that this will be our sixth year participating in the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Great Strides Walk. It seems like only yesterday that we began reaching out to all of you as we began our battle against cystic fibrosis (CF). In 2002, Jacob was just a few months old as Julie carried him in the front pack on our first Great Strides Walk. Now, as an active 5 year old, Jacob will zip alongside big sister, Sophie, on his scooter at this year’s Great Strides on June 2 in Valencia, CA.

This has been an exciting year for Jacob. He began preschool, which he loves, in particularly because he’s at the same school as Sophie. In class, Jacob has been a brave boy, handling the questions and curious looks of his classmates when he takes his enzymes at snack time. Early on in the year, Jacob stood in front of the class and, with the help of his teacher, told them he has CF and why he has to take enzymes. We all know that he must take enzymes before each meal or snack so that his body can absorb the nutrients and fat from the food. Jacob explained that he takes them so he doesn’t get a stomachache. Standing alone in front of his friends at a young age not only showed real courage, but it also told his friends that CF doesn’t mean he should be treated differently. To top that off, Jake brought in his Vest (the vibrating machine that shakes lose thick mucus in his lungs) for a recent show and tell. He has also recently taught himself how to swallow pills. This is a huge deal for him since some of the liquid medication taste pretty bad.

CF affects everyone in the family. As parents, the daily routine of 13 different medications can sometimes get overwhelming. We are blessed that Sophie, 8, is such a caring and observant big sister. Sophie loves her little brother so dearly that she keeps us on our toes, at times reminding us when he needs enzymes or if we overlooked one of his other medications. Sophie recently saw an empty box from one of Jacob’s medication on the counter. Sophie asked Julie in a worried voice if Jacob was out of Pulmozyme. We were blown away that Sophie was not only keeping track of his medication supply but actually knew the name of the medicine. These two have such a special bond. As Sophie matures, the day will come when she has questions about CF. As some point she’ll probably come across statistics and the facts about the disease.

When that day does come, we will tell her that yes, those statistics are true. But there is hope. Since the year Jacob was born, the median age has risen from 32 to almost 37 years of age! And ever since the CF gene was discovered in the late 1980’s, scientists he been developing new, more powerful medications and treatments. As a result, people with cystic fibrosis are living longer, healthier lives.

What this means is that all of this fundraising is working! We are making a difference! But I’m sure we will all agree it is still not good enough. It will not be good enough until CF stands for CURE FOUND.

On June 2nd, we will once again be walking in the Great Strides walk. We are reaching out to you for your support by asking you for a donation to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. There two ways you can make a tax deductible donation:
Write a check to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and send it to this address:

The Malchus’
22331 Los Tigres Dr.
Saugus, CA 91350

Or, you can donate online using a credit card by logging on to:

www.cff.org/Great_Strides/JacobMalchus

Together we are making a difference; and together we will find a cure for cystic fibrosis.

From the bottoms of our hearts, we thank you for you kindness and generosity.

All the best,
Scott & Julie Malchus

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Basement Songs: "Everyday" by The Dave Matthews Band


In December of 2001, Jacob was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. To this day I can remember sitting in my cubicle at work and trying to comprehend exactly what this news meant. As Julie talked through tears, she began explaining that Jake would begin a life of medicines and breathing treatments. To this day, I regret that I wasn’t there with her when the doctor gave the news. I guess we both believed that he was fine. This kind of thing just doesn’t happen to us. Right. I eventually joined her at home that afternoon and we walked around the house, numb, taking phone calls from friends, calling others and trying to keep from crying. At first, with all of the information you gather on the Internet and from what the doctors tell you, it feels like they’ve just handed you child a death sentence. The next few weeks, as we began giving his medicines and doing his treatments, the two of us were zombies. Each year in December, we’re both kind of in a state. While we should be celebrating the Christmas holidays, there is this other anniversary that is always looming.

As you all recall the winter of 2001 was one of great sorrow and fear. Still recovering from the 9/11 attacks, people were looking for hope that the world wasn’t going to fall apart. Around that time, the Dave Matthews Band released the title track from their album, “Everyday”, and it immediately began getting heavy rotation on MTV and VH1… that is, heavy rotation when those channels actually played music videos, which was usually around 12 or 1 in the morning. Just like I did with Sophie, I got restless when Jake was born and stayed up WAY too late most nights. I had a great deal on my mind, obviously. I hate to admit that I wasn’t as mature as I’d have liked to have been. I was worried about my feature movie and how Jake’s medicines and treatments would affect our livelihood. That’s something I don’t talk about much because I feel like it makes me shallow. When you’re kid’s life is at stake, you shouldn’t worry about the money, right? And you sure as hell shouldn’t be worrying about your damn film career. My head wasn’t on straight. I wish I could go back and shake the older Malchus and tell him to wake up. It took me almost 15 years to feel like I am a good husband. Luckily, it hasn’t taken me that long to feel like a good parent.

I bring up all of these feelings because during those late hours, Jake would usually wake up. And I would grab him and try to ease him back to sleep. And during those wee hours, as I bounced him around the living room, I’d generally switch between Sportscenter and VH1. Thus, I saw and heard “Everyday” many, many times during that winter. I am not a big Dave Matthews fan. I have a single cd of their hits, and that’s enough for me. But this one song is special to my heart. Walking around with Jake, our first intimate moments as father and son, were very special to me. Holding his tiny body in my hands, I’d stare at him, wondering how such a perfect little person could have something wrong inside of him. It didn’t make sense.

It still doesn’t.

Thankfully, I grew attached to that Dave Matthews song, which has simple, hopeful lyrics that pretty much repeat themselves.

Pick me up, oh, from the bottom
Up to the top, love, everyday
Pay no mind to taunts or advances
I take my chances on everyday

Left to right
Up and down, love
I push up love, love everyday
Jump in the mud, oh
Get your hands dirty with
Love it up on everyday

All you need is
All you want is
All you need is love.
All you need is
What you want is
All you need is love.

Everyday
Everyday
Oh, Everyday...

That’s it, folks. But that’s all I really needed back then to give me the hope I needed to keep facing another morning. About a year later, as I was approaching my first marathon, I had programmed this song into my cheap little Rio MP3 player. I can’t tell you how many mornings ˆ was out on the pavement, struggling to make it those extra hundred yards or so and “Everyday” word suddenly start playing through the headphones. Immediately, I thought of Jake. I thought of those cold, pitch black December nights. And I thought of the hope I had for him and why I was actually running the marathon.

Hope is a funny thing. It comes from the least expected places and generally shocks you out of a somnambulist state. This week, some unexpected friends gave me new hope for finding a cure to CF. I’d like to dedicate this week’s basement song to my pal, Jeff Giles, for organizing the Bloggers for Cure. If ever there was someone “pushing love”, as Matthews says, it’s this guy. Thank you, Jeff.

Aloha

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Springsteen. Come on! The best line ever.

It's tough to declare which lines of his are the absolute best, but this morning, and for every morning for the rest of my life, I'm going to declare this to Julie (or at least until she tells me to shut the hell up already).

"Together we'll live with the sadness
I'll love you with all the madness in my soul
Someday girl I don't know when
we're gonna get to that place
Where we really want to go
and we'll walk in the sun"

Love you, Jules.

Aloha

Monday, April 09, 2007

Bloggers For A Cure

I don’t know where to begin with this one.

While on vacation in Tucson I received an email from my friend, Jeff Giles, who writes the excellent blog, jefitoblog.com. I have never met Jeff in person. We have a relationship based solely on writing and a shared love of music. A couple of years ago I responded to one of his posts about a Radney Foster song, “Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)”. It is a poignant, loving testament to fatherhood that I immediately related to. After a couple of emails, I wound up sending Jeff some Springsteen bootlegs and a friendship was born. The two of us have exchanged music regularly and last year I even wrote a guide to the albums of Journey. Jeff has been a big supporter of the blog and has regularly promoted the site. All this, mind you, through his own kindness.

Because he’s been a reader of “Thunderbolt”, he knows about our family and our struggles with cystic fibrosis. This year, he decided to pitch in on our efforts to raise money. Unbeknownst to me, Jeff went out and contacted many of his favorite bloggers and together, they have created a website, Bloggersforacure.com. Together, through their separate websites, they are linking donors to my CF Great Strides webpage. Additionally, many of these folks, most of whom I do not know, are offering some nifty prizes to the highest donors. It is quite a wonderful thing they are doing.

Like I said, I don’t know where to begin. To have strangers take up a cause in your name is so humbling. But there are no words to describe how touched we are in the Malchus family at having these people take up the cause because of Jake. You often hear about the kindness of strangers and the inherent goodness in people. My friends, this is a prime example of what “they” are always talking about. I wish… I WISH I could somehow express better the gratitude I have pouring out of my heart. Sadly, the best I can do is post links to their blogs in hopes that the 10 or so of you out there reading this little old blog will click on their sites and read what they’re doing.

As Julie and I begin our push to raise money for this year’s Great Strides, I can’t tell you how overwhelmed I am by the heartfelt gesture of Jeff and his buddies. Actually, I guess they’re my buddies, too, now.

Last week, Sophie and I began working on a family tree project for her class. One of the things she was researching was what our family motto is. Apparently, my mother’s side of the family, which hails partially from Scotland, actually does have a motto. But Soph and I didn’t know that at the time. So, I thought of the first thing that came to mind. “Don’t give up.”

“I like that, Dad”

Then I thought a moment longer and added one more word.

“Don’t give up hope.”

It’s because of good people like Jeff Giles that I have hope. Despite my sometimes sad entries about my personal struggles being a parent, I will never give up hope.

Thank you Jeff.

Aloha

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Basement Songs Travel Edition

We’re in Tucson this week which means an eight hour drive through the desert to my folk’s house. Whenever we take these long drives, I’m tossed back to m childhood and the long summer vacations we spent driving across the country. My mom was (and still is a nurse) and my dad was (and still is) a teacher (will they ever retire?). This meant that we had three months off when school let out and we sure as heck weren’t going to spend it sitting around watching television. My earliest memories of those trips were of an old Ford the family owned. I have no recollection of ever sitting in that car, only the sleeping arrangements. In the front seat, my dad drove, my mom rode shotgun and my younger sister, Heidi, 4 or 5 at the time, sat in the middle. In the back, my oldest sibling, Beth, always wound up on the floor of the car, resting on the foot rest. This left Budd to stretch in the entire backseat. Where was I? I had the best spot to sleep, the back ledge, under the rear window. Yes, my friends, this was long before there any of those seatbelt laws. I sometimes marvel at the fact that we never got in an accident. If we would have, there may never have been a Thunderbolt blog.

In my opinion, this was the ideal place to sleep. The sun always kept me warm, and my ear was always next to the radio speaker. My first introduction to rock and roll was during those summers. Those ads for “AM Gold” that you sometime see from Time-Life, those songs are the soundtrack to my childhood. At a time when FM was in its infancy, AM stations across the nation would spin the best “mellow” hits. Because of these trips, radio became my first love of music. To this day, I have a hard time sitting through most albums, especially with the digital age and every artist believing that they really have to fill an 80 minute cd. Please, people, if 40 minutes was enough for the Beatles, then it should be more than enough for everyone else. This is why, when I discover albums like the last Tegan & Sara or the new Shins that are concise and comprised of their best material, I am thrilled as a music fan.

The next car we had was a van. The Red van, as it came to be known. We had that thing for over ten years and it must have had over 200,000 miles on it. By the time we were driving around the country in that car, I was knee deep into my Hardy Boys obsession. I wanted to own every book. I think I wound up with ten. Later, when I became a Stephen King fanatic (in 5th grade!), I worked my way through “The Dead Zone” and “Carrie” while zipping past scenic landscapes. Budd still slept, by the way. Occasionally, Heidi and I would head into the back of the van and play with her dolls. I distinctly remember a time when I had her Ken doll serenading Barbie along with the radio. He was singing “Life’s Been Good” by Joe Walsh. That was my first exposure to lyrics having more meaning than just “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah.” When I look back on some of those “safe” songs from the 70’s, I’m amazed at how subversive they were. Take a song like “Afternoon Delight” by the Starland Vocal Band. What sounds like it’s supposed to be about a frolicking afternoon spent in the garden or something is really about sex. Pure and simple, the song is about sex. I don’t know if it was supposed to be a joke or an attempt to get things by the censors, but whoever was behind the Starland Vocal Band pulled a fast one on the world. Then there’s Paul Simon’s “Slip Slidin Away”, which comes across as another one of his mellow, cool jazz songs. The song is filled with as much disillusionment as Springsteen’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” I’ve been reading “All The President’s Men” this week and suddenly, “Slip Slidin Away” feels so tied to the let down and disappointment of the times. Yet, what Simon is saying in the song seems universal. People whose lives didn’t urn out the way they wanted. A woman who married before she was ready, and a father who is divorced from his child’s mother, and seemingly from his son, are just as prevalent today as they were in the 70’s.

For our trip to Arizona this Easter (a yearly tradition since Mom and Dad moved there), I decided to make a mix cd of some of the songs I recall from those long summer days. I figured that for the stretch of the drive in the desert in which even Am signals die, we could slap on this cd and sing along with some oldies (except “Afternoon Delight”… I don’t think the kids are ready to be singing that one). At first the cd was for our family. Something I wanted to share with Sophie and Jake so that they had a sort of musical memory book of my youth. But as I completed it, I decided I wanted to give this cd to my siblings and my family. They must remember all of these songs. Even if they were sleeping through most of the drives (like Budd), this music had to have seeped into their brains. As I completed the cd and burned copies for everyone, I got excited. I hoped that they would get a kick out of the mix, even if it isn’t their type of music (especially Mom ad Dad). This music shaped my life and many of these songs would become my early basement songs, so to speak. If the only time I got to listen to rock music was in the car during hellish days in a car with no air conditioning, then the thoughts and emotions I sorted through during those times would be tied to these songs. And like any good basement song, whenever I hear the selections on this mix cd, I was taken back to my youth. The sun beating on my face. The bump of the highway. Wind blasting on my face. And Paul McCartney thumping in my ear. Those were good times. I’m glad I had them with my family and I hope that someday, Sophie and Jake will be able to look back on the songs we played for them with fondness.

Here is the track listing for this cd:
“The Best of My Love” – The Emotions
“Silly Love Songs” – Paul McCartney & Wings
“Afternoon Delight” – Starland Vocal Band
“I’ll Be Around” – The Spinners
“New Kid in Town” – The Eagles
“The Things We Do For Love” – 10cc
“Le Freak” – Chic
“You Are the Woman” – Firefall
“Slip Slidin Away” – Paul Simon
“How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You” – James Taylor
“September” – Earth Wind & Fire
“Love Will Keep Us Together” – Captain and Tennille
“I Saw the Light” – Todd Rundgren
“Sir Duke” – Stevie Wonder
“Cruel To Be Kind” – Nick Lowe
“What A Fool Believes” – The Doobie Brothers
“Car Wash” – Rose Royce
“Stuck in the Middle with You” – Stealer’s Wheel
“Don’t Stop” – Fleetwood Mac
“Super Trouper” – Abba
“We Are Family” – Sister Sledge

Aloha

Monday, April 02, 2007

Hey, it's April! March is over and the Tribe has already won one!

I am so glad March is done. It was, by far, the worst month in recent memory. Both personally and professionally, I couldn't get my head on straight. It was a very frustrating and depressing month (as those of you who have checked in on occasion can attest).

Anyway, the month of April began in fine form yesterday. It was a beautiful day here in California. Sophie had two classic moments. In the morning, she came up to me while I was sitting, reading "All The President's Men" and she quoted two lines from the chapter I was reading. I don't know if it was because she was quoting Woodward and Bernstein, or because at 8, she can read pretty much anything I can, but I was pretty blown away.

Then, as the kids were taking a bath, I was mesmerized by the video for The Shins' "Phantom Limb". Toward the end of the song, Sophie comes walking down the hall in a towel, singing the melody from the end of the song. Awesome. How many parents can say their kids are singing The Shins to them (and she's only heard the song a couple of times).

And, of course, the Indians crushed the White Sox in Chicago this morning.

I hope the rest of the month turns out as pleasant as the first two days.

Aloha

Yes, it is opening day.

"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again."