It’s Been a Year

 

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida.

It’s one of those places now that, just by mentioning its name, evokes vivid, horrifying images for us all.

One year ago today, that school lived its worst nightmare.

An eighteen-year-old former student showed up on campus with a semiautomatic rifle and shot seventeen people to death; fourteen of them, students.

Most of us can’t possibly imagine what that experience was like; to helplessly watch the surreal scene of a gunman randomly killing people, killing your friends. 

And you wait, paralyzed in utter shock and terror, for your turn.

Can you imagine?

And today, all the surviving students, teachers, families and members of the community who have lived with this horrific tragedy every day for the last year, will commemorate this anniversary by honoring the memory of those who were lost, and by renewing their commitment to putting an end to the senseless violence that forever changes the lives of all who are affected by it.

Which, incidentally, is all of us.

 

So then, let’s all honor the memory of those who died tragically a year ago. Let’s remind ourselves of how precious the people in our lives are, and how we need to let them know that every chance we get, because the time could come when we run out of chances.

I was listening to a man on the radio this morning recalling his experience that day. He was at a Starbucks just blocks away from the school when the shootings happened. He clearly remembers all the parents’ phones ringing at once. He remembers the horrified screams, the panic and chaos.

And he remembers one mother’s tearful regret over not telling her daughter goodbye that morning before she left for school.

Remind the people you love that you love them. Today.

 

And let’s also honor the memory of those who died by letting our lawmakers know very clearly that there is no longer any excuse for weak and inadequate gun control laws. This insanity has to stop, and they have the power to make it happen, if they can just stop kissing the arse of the National Rifle Association.

Let’s all speak out. The Stoneman students are; let’s support them. Let’s join them.

Today, we are all Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

 

#MSDStrong

“WAP2”

 

As I’ve said before on this blog, I believe that it’s time that we men do a serious reassessment of how we look at, and talk about, and treat women.

Apparently, judging by their recent ad that generated so much controversy, Gillette feels the same way. I salute them for putting the message out there, that men can be better than they are in several ways, including their behavior towards women. I hope more companies follow suit.

Guys, you know we’ve always excused our treatment of women with a shrug, a smile and a Whaddya expect? We’re guys!

Well, if you’ve been paying attention the last couple of years, you’ve surely noticed that women are up to here with that. They’ve made it very clear the way it’s always been will no longer be tolerated. And they are taking a stand for the respect that is due them in both their professional and personal relationships.

So, I just want you to know, ladies: I’ve been listening, and I am trying to change my mindset, but it’s an almost 60-year-old mindset, and the process is slow.

Because, man, I see a lot of beautiful women where I work, and it’s easy to look at them just as bodies, and not as complete people, with actual lives. And not just at work either. At the mall, at the fast food restaurant, anywhere there are women, basically.

So, to help me, I’ve created this little acronym, WAP2, to remind me that Women Are People, Too. I haven’t fully absorbed this lesson yet, but maybe, at some point, I’ll get there. I’m about as far away from perfect as it gets, believe me, but I am trying to make some improvements here and there.

Like the Nobel laureate Bob Dylan once said, “The times, they are a-changin’.” For the better, in this case. Women are finding the courage to speak out against men’s disgraceful, demeaning treatment of them, and it’s been a long time coming.

Fellas, time for us to act like men, not boys. Men respect women. Remember, WAP2.

From Your Little Boy

 

You idiot! Why are you such an idiot?

How stupid can you get?

Shit, talkin’ to you is like talkin’ to a child, sometimes.

You cotton-pickin’, half-witted idiot!

 

I know that, over the course of our life together, you said many kind, loving words to me. I know you loved me.

I loved you, too. I admired you. I looked up to you. I wanted to be just like you.

And I hung on to every single word you said to me.

Including all the ones at the beginning of this post.

The ones that sliced deep into my heart. The ones that told me I was a failure in your eyes. The ones that have haunted me ever since, and I still struggle to forget.

As far as I’m concerned, I am an idiot.

And so, for the rest of your life, I couldn’t look at you without imagining you looking back at me and wondering how you ended up with such a stupid son.

 

I never told you this. I couldn’t.

I guess I thought it was something I had to just get over. Maybe it is.

But, dammit, it’s tough. Even with the memory of how good you were to me. (And you were.) Even with the memories of all the good times we had together. (And we did.)

You’ve been gone nineteen years, but even if you were here now, I probably still couldn’t tell this to you.

So, this is as close as I’ll ever get, I guess. Now that I’m nearly 60.

On some level, I forgive you. I know you were angry or frustrated when you spoke these words to me.

But, I could never convince myself you didn’t mean them, anyway.

Shouldn’t be so freakin’ sensitive, right? Dads say this $#!t to their sons all the time.

 

At the end of all this rambling, I guess all I really wanted to say is, I wish I had told you.

So you could apologize. And we could embrace. And it could be behind us. And everything would be okay.

But I guess I couldn’t do that right, either. Sorry.

 

#Where’s Me?

 

I’m still here, for better or worse.

One of the things you deal with when you have depression is an inability to concentrate. Your mind becomes somewhat scattered, and it’s hard to focus for any length of time.

In my case, I have a hard time reading a blog, let alone, writing one. Writing is generally something I enjoy, but when it’s this much of a chore, it takes away the fun.

Or maybe, I just don’t like having to work harder. Frankly, I’ve never liked it. I know it’s supposed to be rewarding in the end but, Jeez…

Anyway, that’s why I have a few blog posts started, but none finished, and why you haven’t heard from me in awhile. I have an upcoming appointment with my psychiatrist to see if, perhaps, my medication needs some tweaking. I’m feeling like, maybe it does. We’ll see.

 

In the meantime, a few short takes, since that’s about as long as I can stay on any one topic:

If you seriously think a wall at the border is gonna keep anybody out, you’re incredibly naive. Period.

Does anyone really need to hear the State of the Union address? I say, let’s skip it this year. Maybe, next year, too.

Newly elected Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gets my early vote for Congressperson of the Year. If you don’t know her, Google her. And incidentally, I’m thrilled to see the diversity in this Congress. Fewer old white guys in there is a good thing, far as I’m concerned.

Let’s be clear about climate change. The planet Earth is not in any danger; we are. The planet will keep right on going long after we’ve brought about our own extinction. Which we’re currently on the fast track to doing.

I can’t stand the New England Patriots, but I gotta give it up for quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick, going to their ninth Super Bowl together! That’s just plain crazy. I still hope they lose.

Congatulations to former New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera, the first player to ever be elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame by a unanimous vote. Not Ruth, not Cobb, not Williams, not Robinson, not Mays, nor any of the immortals who have entered the Hall before him. That’s how significant this is.

 

So, I guess I’ll close for now. At least, I didn’t quit on this one halfway through, so I feel pretty good about that. Take care, y’all.

___ New Year

 

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…

King Henry, “Henry V”, William Shakespeare

 

A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.

Author unknown

 

Well, Happy New Year, everybody!

Just curious: how many New Year Resolutions have been blown completely to smithereens by now?

I know, that’s mean. Sorry.

My resolution is to lose more hair this year. Pretty sure I can keep that one.

I realize it’s been awhile since you’ve heard from me. I’d like to post more often than I do; really, I would. It’s not like I don’t have things on my mind and my heart. I have a lot, actually.

But, it’s a fight for me to just write this.

My level of concentration is low these days. My brain just can’t seem to stay focused on any one thing too long. Just a byproduct of depression.

Another is the temptation to delete everything I write. So I’m posting this before I give in.

Bye.

 

Saturday Night’s Alright for Rocking

 

As long as there’s been rock and roll, there have been rock and roll idols.

From Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Little Richard, to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, to the Eagles, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Madonna, U2 and more, there have been certain stars who have shone brighter than all the rest.

You bought all their albums, you put their poster on your wall and, if you were lucky, you got to go see them perform in person. And you shared the experience with a whole host of other fanatics.

The brightest star for yours truly has always been, and always will be, Elton John. Sir Elton John, that is.

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This past Saturday, I went to see him in concert. For the fourth time.

And he was absolutely awesome!!

He was energetic, engaging and in peak form. At seventy-one, no less. Just incredible.

 

Elton claims this tour is his last, even calling it his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour, a twist on the title of his popular album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. 

Yeah, right; how many other performers have made that same claim, only to turn around and say, “Ehh, maybe not.” And I get it; performing must be awfully tough for a performer to give up. All that adoration is like oxygen to him.

So, we’ll see if, at the end of this three year worldwide tour, Elton sticks to his word.

But, if this was really my last time to see him in person, he definitely made it memorable.

 

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The show began with all the lights off, and snippets of several songs throughout Elton’s long and illustrious career playing over the speakers, getting us all into an appropriate frenzy.

Suddenly, on came the spotlight, and there he was, seated at his piano, where he announced his presence by emphatically striking the opening chord of Bennie and the Jets.

And, so began two and a half solid hours of spectacular entertainment. He was totally on top of his game all night.

 

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Among the Elton John classics we heard that night were:

Tiny Dancer, Rocket Man, Philadelphia Freedom, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me, Candle in the Wind, Your Song, Someone Saved My Life Tonight, The Bitch Is Back, I’m Still Standing, I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues, Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting, Burn Down the Mission, Daniel and oh, so many more.

I’ve also got to single out three standout performances. There was Indian Sunset, an obscure, but brilliantly written tune by Elton, for an equally brilliant vignette by his longtime lyricist, Bernie Taupin.

There was an extended version of Levon, featuring some of Elton’s best piano playing of the night. It even featured the familiar Elton pose, head back, eyes shut, mouth wide open as he pounded the keys with abandon. I mean, he and his band absolutely rocked the house.

And there was the crowd favorite, Crocodile Rock, which greatly pleased, among others, my wife to hear. The fun part was when Elton and the band stopped playing to hear the audience’s full-throated rendition of “Laaaa, la-la-la-la laaa…” in the chorus. We sounded great, if you ask me.

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He closed the show with Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, in keeping with the theme of this tour. As he sang, a video montage played onscreen of all his different looks, and a few of his more memorably outrageous outfits (Donald Duck? Really?) over his career.

As I watched, I thought, I don’t think anyone has had quite the journey that Elton John has had. This dude has had an amazing life, not just as an entertainer, but as a human being. The places he’s been. The people he’s met. The things he’s seen and done. His triumph over addictions. His significant contribution in the fight against AIDS.A456E868-1E53-4E1B-9BC8-71BFAF6FC56F

He has to just look back over his life sometimes and just think, Wow.

Early in the show, Elton lauded the singular talent of the late Aretha Franklin, reminding us we would never see the likes of her again.

Well, I say the same thing for Sir Elton John.

If this could actually be your last chance to see his show, I highly recommend you go. Performers like him come along once in a lifetime, and that’s the truth.

Sir Elton, thanks for all the good times. You are my once and forever rock and roll idol.

 

Year End Review

 

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As another year draws to a close, I’m still here. Alive.

Now, that may not sound like that big a deal to you, but all my fellow depression sufferers out there can appreciate the significance of that statement, because they know.

They know how much of my time is spent in absolute indifference to everything and everyone, and much of the rest of my time I’m depressed or angry.

They know nobody wants to see any of that, so I try to hide it around other people. Except my poor wife, who gets the whole experience, making her life much tougher than it ought to be.

(I truly hate that.)

They know self-care is not much of a priority, despite focusing most of my attention on me. My doctor tells me exercise helps with depression, but if I don’t care about exercising…

They know that, deep down, I actually hate feeling like this, that I actually want to get better, but I’m my own biggest obstacle to that process. I stopped seeing a therapist; I mean, if I haven’t taken to heart the suggestions she’s offered me already, what’s the use going anymore?

And they know the indifference can occasionally skate out onto the thin ice of desperation, hopelessness and even suicidal thoughts.

So, to still be here – living, breathing, at the end of another year – is, if not an accomplishment, a relief, at least.

Fortunately, I know, worst-case scenario, I have lifelines to hold onto so I don’t fall through the really thin ice.

Which is good to know.

 

I know this is the time of year to be jolly, and I’m sorry if I just dumped a bucket of cold water on that. I just wanted to let you know how I am as we approach a new year. I don’t know what’s in store next year, but somewhere in me is the hope that I can begin to move forward, mentally and physically, toward better health.

Meantime, I promise to have as Merry a Christmas as I can. 😊 Please do the same, all of you. Enjoy family, friends, food, music, decorating, shop…no, not shopping, forget that. But all the rest.

’Tis the season, after all.

 

 

 

More Requests for Your Carolers

 

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So, about this time a year ago, I shared a list of some of my favorite renditions of Christmas tunes; some familiar, others, less so.

Well, here’s a few more of my favorites for you to check out. Enjoy:

Don’t Save It All for Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, Céline Dion. The first one, a reminder to keep the Christmas spirit alive year round; the second, an uptempo love song about spending a special night with your special someone.

I’m also including The Prayer, by Céline Dion and Andrea Bocelli. Even though it’s technically not a Christmas song, it’s included on Céline’s holiday CD, These Are Special Times. But, everybody deserves to hear these two sing together. Andrea is, for my money, the greatest vocalist in the world, and the note he holds at the end of this piece is absolutely breathtaking.

Run Rudolph Run (live), Bryan Adams. Bryan does this Chuck Berry classic justice.

Jingle Bell Rock, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Everybody knows the Bobby Helms rendition, but this instrumental take is a lot more fun.

‘Zat You, Santa Claus?, Louis Armstrong and the Commanders. Louis gets an unexpected visitor one night. Who might it be? Hmmm…

Someday at Christmas, Stevie Wonder. This song was originally released in 1967, but its message is as timely as ever, which means, unfortunately, Someday hasn’t arrived yet.

Louisiana Christmas Day, Aaron Neville. A little zydeco music for Christmas. It’ll get your feet movin’.

The Twelve Days of Christmas (live), The Christmas Can-Can, Straight No Chaser. Two hilarious tunes by this men’s à capella group.

Christmas is Just Around the Corner, Barry Manillow. Barry knows how to deliver a happy tune, and this one about anticipation of the Big Day is yet another example.

Silver Bells, Kenny G. Jazzy instrumental version, with Kenny G.’s smooth sax out front.

Please Come Home for Christmas, Eagles. Fellow Texan Don Henley gives this one the proper blues treatment.

All I Want for Christmas Is You, Vince Vance and the Valiants. Country Christmas ballad featuring terrific lead vocals by Lisa Layne.

All I Want for Christmas Is You, Mariah Carey. Yeah, this is the one we all know. Mariah rocks it.

Little Saint Nick, The Beach Boys. Because, after all, it just ain’t Christmas without The Beach Boys, am I right?

O Holy Night, anybody. Best sacred Christmas number of them all.

 

There you are. Enjoy the music you love with the people you love this holiday season. Season’s Eatings, um, Greetings. Peace and love to you all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Wonder

 

A young, brown-skinned man, his wife and their newborn baby, fled their native country after learning it wasn’t safe for them to stay. They believed their sweet baby’s very life was in grave danger.

So, they sought asylum in a neighboring country.

Now, the people in this neighboring country had no idea who this man and woman were that sought entry.

Were they terrorists, or members of some bloodthirsty gang, intent on murdering everyone in their way?

Were they trying to smuggle something from where they had come?

Were they trying to enter the country illegally? Would they then steal jobs from some other, more deserving people, or expect to get a free ride in their new “home”, not paying their taxes or medical costs?

What possible consequences would there be for allowing this family asylum in their country?

Perhaps this can provide a clue:

The parents’ names were Joseph and Mary, and the baby’s name was Jesus.

You can read their story in Chapter 2 of the Gospel of Matthew, in the New Testament.

Egypt allowed them in. Would we have just closed our border and tear gassed them?

Remember, they were foreigners, they weren’t white, and nobody knew them.

 

Peace on Earth.

 

 

Tired

 

I’m tired, boss…mostly, I’m tired of people bein’ ugly to each other.

John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), “The Green Mile”, 1999

 

I’m tired, too, John.

By now, I’m flat wore out, as we say around here.

Lately, as you know, people are being ugly to each other in all kinds of ways, and I’m plenty tired of all of it, but especially…

I’m tired of people taking it upon themselves to go and shoot several other people, for any reason or for none at all.

You can’t go to church, you can’t go to the grocery store, you can’t go to a bar, you can’t go to school, you can’t f****ng go anywhere that there isn’t the possibility of getting shot to death.

The American flag may as well be flown at half mast from now on.

And the sadness of that is absolutely overwhelming.

This is how bad it’s gotten: One of the survivors from this week’s shooting in Thousand Oaks, California, was also in Las Vegas, Nevada a year ago, when that shooting occurred.

But another survivor of the Vegas shooting was killed this week in Thousand Oaks.

When people are present at more than one mass murder event…

The really cynical among us probably wonder what these gunmen have against country music, around which both these events centered.

The rest of us know it’s no laughing matter at all.

 

All these people. All these precious, beautiful, innocent people. Attending their classes. Worshipping their god. Enjoying a night out with friends.

Unaware.

Then, in the blink of an eye…

Utterly incomprehensible, unspeakable tragedy. My God, the tragedy.

I’m not gonna trot out all the gun violence statistics we probably could all recite by now. I’m not gonna bring up the gun owners and their Second Amendment rights. I’m not gonna rage against our government’s continued impotence over this crisis as the body count just keeps going up. I’m not gonna point out how the phrase “thoughts and prayers” is, by now, as empty and hollow as the barrel of a spent gun.

Because I’m tired.

I’m not numb to it, mind you. I haven’t quit caring about it; not at all.

I’m just…tired. Physically, mentally, emotionally tired.

First, the horror, then the sorrow, then the anger and frustration. Over and over and over. It wears you down, I tell you.

John Coffey, I’m right there with you, brother.