Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Days Of Wine and Octane

I really will write something here soon.  Meanwhile, enjoy this funny-yet-sad piece of reality ..

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Haha

Plenty to write about but not in a writing mood tonight, so I'll share a funny ...


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Good Song

Had to hear and share this song this morning.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Only Two Days

The self-discovery journey I’ve been writing about for awhile was mostly my search for identity, but along the way I have learned a lot about how I react to things. I have a pattern. When I first face a situation I tend to project possible scenarios and sometimes act on those projections. My obsessive nature can take over at that point and I can get worked up over things that might never happen. Learning this kind of thing about oneself can come in handy for preventing embarrassing behavior or to help reduce stress by reducing obsessive over-thinking of negative projected scenarios.

Last week a new little medical situation developed and I began to react with my usual pattern. It is probably nothing serious but for a few minutes I contemplated one of those scenarios … one in which whatever is wrong turns out to be a rapidly expanding, incurable disease that will take my life in two or three days. There is no clear diagnosis yet but it is probably NOT the scenario I just described.

For a few minutes, however, I thought what that would be like if I only had two days to live. When I have gone through this process before it usually makes me nervous, my heart rate climbs, I can feel my stress level increase, I say silly things about what I’m thinking, then I calm down when I realize I’m being foolish.

This time I calmly thought about it and said to myself, “Hmm, OK, I’ve had an interesting life; I wasn’t ready to go but, well, whatever. I wonder what my friends and relatives will say when they read some of the crap on my computer or my decades of hand-written musings. Will anyone be able to figure out who to call to give them the news because my home office is so disorganized and my three or four closest friends don’t even know each other.”

I was a little surprised at myself for that reaction. Don’t worry, I am damn well NOT ready to end it. I have a high self-preservation attitude and a belief that something significant is ahead for me; that my education and life experiences up to this point have some meaning and will add up to the skill set needed to have some positive impact on something or somebody. That being said, it still puzzles me that I didn’t have my usual obsessive reaction to the slim chance that something medical is actually wrong with me.

One scene that did come to mind: if I only had two days to live and was unable to travel during that time, I would move heaven and earth and spend every last dollar I could find to make it possible for a very specific seven or eight people to travel to see me. I couldn’t imagine not seeing them one last time. Some of them I see a few times a year, some I haven’t seen in more than ten years. They are spread all around the world. I have hands to shake, lips to kiss, thoughts to share, stories to tell and hear, smiles to photograph one last time. Geez, I am getting more worked up over this now than when I first thought about it.

As I wrote that last paragraph (which, by the way, wasn’t how I thought this story would go), it occured to me that I have the power to do what I described, if spread out over some time. So why haven’t I?

What about you? Do you ever think this way? I wrote about this last year and asked a similar question. What would you do if you had only two days to live? And assuming you have years left, why haven’t you done some of this? Like travel to visit special friends.

I ask you as much to hear the questions out loud for myself as to know your answer. But if you’re one of those specific seven or eight people I mentioned, I want to find a way to spend in-person time with you SOON and OFTEN. Or maybe you could visit me. What are we waiting for? What if the Mayan Doomsday date of December 21, 2012 really is the end of the world? Or what if the world ends in two days? Any plans for tomorrow? Call me. I’ll be at the doctor’s office.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Happy Mardi Gras!

As old as this song is, it is still a good representation of New Orleans music.  Enjoy.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tuesday

Mardi Gras is always on a Tuesday but it’s different each year, coinciding with the Christian religious calendar that sets movable seasons and dates like Lent and Easter. The 2012 date is this Tuesday, February 21.

In New Orleans, it is a few weeks of ‘letting it all hang out’ style celebrating culminating in a day of total drunken craziness and debauchery. Well, it is also a family day for dressing in costumes and watching parades. Which end of that spectrum depends on what neighborhood you spend time in that day. I’ve seen both sides. I have also been to some of the more sane celebrations called Mardi Gras Balls, which are dress up pageantries of a costumed royal nature, during which the King and Queen of the Krewe (private club/organization) preside over the merriment.

Everyone should experience Mardi Gras once in their lives. It might be the only time you can participate in public drunkenness and near-nudity and not be arrested. Harming somebody will land you in jail, but not much else. I am not advocating any of this behavior, by the way, but it is definitely a sight to behold. During the adult years of my life in that town I was certainly drunk on Fat Tuesday (the English translation of Mardi Gras) but never naked (in public).

It’s kind of ironic that such a crazy day is tied to religion. The logic is that it’s a time to party hard before the somberness of Lent. Hey, who am I to judge.

It is entirely possible to enjoy that day and season without a drop of alcohol. The parades involve intricately decorated floats, marching bands featuring New Orleans music styles among others. Some parades have celebrity Kings and Queens. Most parade Krewes use “traditional” float designs but there are a few on Mardi Gras day itself that make floats on flatbed trucks.

Mardi Gras is a great day for socializing but maybe also a day for escaping. Schools, government offices and most non-tourist businesses are closed that day and neighborhoods that don’t have parades in them are empty. When I was a kid, my Dad worked in an office near one of the main parade routes, so our family used that as a base for the day. In high school I had friends with family homes near parade routes and my college fraternity used to rent hotel rooms or whole buildings near the action.

I haven’t been to Mardi Gras since a few years after college so I don’t even know if I’d enjoy it now, although it could be a lot of fun to go back there with friends who have never had the experience and show them around.

Mardi Gras is not my favorite huge public New Orleans celebration, however. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival takes that honor. That one includes two consecutive weekends at the end of April and beginning of May, with a multi-stage event at a race track infield as the main music, food and art anchors. I’d do that one every year if I could. My last Jazz Fest visit was 2007. I had hoped to go again this year but can’t. Maybe 2013. I’ll write something about that one later.

Closing with the only Cajun French I know, and the one sentence that sums up the whole spirit of these events and the city of New Orleans itself: Laissez les bons temps rouler! Translation: Let the good times roll!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Number Ten

This afternoon I’m watching the pole qualifying for next week’s Daytona 500. Drivers each drive two solo laps around the track. Those qualifying times determine where they will be when the race starts next week.

Five-time points champ Jimmie Johnson is still my favorite driver but I’m considering a change in my second fave. My contenders: Carl Edwards in the 99 car, partly because a friend of mine likes him and he was almost the points champ last year; Kevin Harvick number 29, partly because another friend likes him (a friend who has occasional track access); and Danica Patrick in the 10 car, because, well, because she’s both a gear head and hot. I also like the underdog sometimes, and she will be only the third female driver to compete in the Daytona 500. Did I mention she’s hot? She is also a good driver in the open-wheel world (Indy 500, etc.) and trying to break into NASCAR. She’s been in a few races but this will be her biggest to date.

Hopefully this is the year I finally go to a race. I’ll keep you posted.

By the way, much as I like this picture, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t touched up a little, maybe a lot. Only her husband and the photographer know for sure.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Another Point of View

About my post yesterday … in all fairness to the New Jersey Governor, let me tell you his feeling in the face of criticism relating to his decision to fly flags at half staff tomorrow to honor Whitney Houston.

From Entertainment Weekly:

Christie said he was not saying that Houston, who was born in Newark and was raised in nearby East Orange, is a role model. Instead, he said, Houston deserves the honor because of her huge cultural impact and as “a daughter of New Jersey.”

“I am disturbed by people who believe that because her ultimate demise — and we don’t know what is the cause of her death yet — but because of her history of substance abuse that somehow she’s forfeited the good things that she did in her life,” said the governor during a briefing in northern New Jersey. “I just reject that on a human level.”

The governor noted he has ordered flags flown at half-staff for all 31 fallen New Jersey soldiers and every fallen police officer during his time in office.

He also ordered flags lowered last year for Clarence Clemons, the saxophonist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.

I like the guy and I feel better about his decision after reading this. I still don’t think it’s a good idea but at least I understand his thinking.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Red Flag for the Governor

New Jersey Governor Christie wants flags in his state lowered to half-staff in honor of Whitney Houston.

What?!

Maybe that would have been a good idea if she had died in 1993, at the peak of her singing career and before she became the poster girl for substance abuse and self-destruction. But now? Before the release of toxicology reports that might point to drug overdose as the cause of death? After years of continued, self-directed, damaging behavior that destroyed her amazingly beautiful voice? After changing from "role model for singers chasing their dreams" to role model for "live and die like the disfunctionally famous"? For a singer whose answer to a televised interview question relating to her alleged crack use was something like "crack is cheap; I make too much money to use crack"?

Misplaced sympathy and inappropriate honor, Governor.

We should grieve for her death, feel bad for those who were close to her, learn from her mistakes and in some way (but not that way) honor and celebrate the part of her life that inspired our lives.

Flying the flag at half-staff should be reserved for leaders, heroes, unsung heroes and others of similar stature.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Channel Surfing

Much as I liked Whitney Houston I got tired of watching news channel talking heads talk about her Sunday so I surfed on ...

History Channel - watched an hour program about the Berlin Wall (a surprising architectural and engineering project).

More History - an hour about sugar. Really. Did you know wars were fought over it, including in part the American Revolution.

Another History - an hour about chocolate. Did you know it is an aphrodisiac? How did I miss that?

Surfing on. ... Bourne Supremacy, again. Saw part of it Saturday. Incredible car chase scene.

A program about generational topics, featuring a family of wing-walkers. I can't watch. Click.

A promo for a public TV program about drivers over 50. Hey! Drivers over 70, sure, but 50? Stop! I do dread eventually losing my ability to drive. My Dad's last day behind the wheel was in his upper 70s in the middle of his Parkinson's days. He sobbed.

Surfing on ... QVC: a 60" TV. Right! Next time I have an extra $1899.

Several Sunday morning talk shows, each with a Republican candidate. Question: did Santorum get his teeth whitened in the past 2 weeks? Another one: how does Romney get his hair to do looked symmetrically messed up? Is Ron Paul's tan real or man-made? Does millionaire Newt intentionally buy his suits at Wal-mart, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Next channel ... "Crack the case. Another Law & Order is next."

Onward ... Cindy Crawford and Valerie Bertinelli talking about, well who cares what they're saying? I'll stop on that channel for awhile and watch.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine Assortment

So who was this Val guy anyway? Turns out he was a priest. A “holiday” related to love is named for a priest?! OK, according to a totally reliable, accurate source (my sarcastic description of Wikipedia), the saint of Saint Valentine’s Day is actually three or more Christian martyrs named Valentine, a common name in back in their day, circa 200 A.D. Martyrs? Love? My cynical side says that makes perfect sense.

Actually the “love” connection seems related to either a February celebration in ancient Rome (circa 400 A.D.) related to fertility or a 14th century Chaucer poem.

And then there’s that English nursery rhyme from the 1700s:

The rose is red, the violet's blue,
The honey's sweet, and so are you.
Thou art my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine:
The lot was cast and then I drew,
And Fortune said it shou'd be you.

Methinks that’s either a tome about arranged marriage or a fancy ‘Personals’ ad from the days a few hundred years before online dating.

If you know me in real life, you know I’m a romantic at heart, sometime sappy and emotional. Get over it; that’s me and I’m damn proud of my ‘chick flick’ side. A balanced personality is a good thing, right? You also know I’m not feelin’ it much right now, so my inner cynic is an outie today.

Funny thing, though: I wrote two new poems on my poetry blog last night. They’re love poems, in my own quirky style. I haven’t written a poem since June, yet last night I wrote two in about twenty minutes. Read them if you dare.

Anyway, there are many kinds of love and Valentine’s Day is a good day to celebrate all shades of that multi-tasking four-letter word. Some of my closest friends are women and I love them (you if you’re one of ‘em) and wish them/you a Happy Valentine’s Day.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Whitney

Wow, what happened? After hearing about Whitney Houston's death I read several biographies to learn about the years since I stopped paying attention to her career and life.

She was one of my favorite singers in the late 80s and early 90s. Her voice was incredible, ranging from soft to angelic to soaring. She could sing everything from inspiring ballads to dance hits to the National Anthem. Music was destined to be a major part of her life; her mom was singer Cissy Houston, she is related to Dionne Warwick and her godmother was Aretha Franklin.

She looked great ... uhh, hot even. Then she married Bobby Brown. Not for me to judge; let's just say that coincided with what I believe was the beginning of the end.

It is always sad when a famous talented person dies at a young age, but her death doesn't surprise me all that much, given the turns her life took of late.

Fortunately we will always have evidence of her remarkable talent. Here are two examples:



Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A DMB Thing

Funny the way it is … you have a song in your head and it conjures up some meanings right before you go to bed … imagery, memories, a thought here, an observation there.

I am more or less a Dave Matthews fan. I especially like the band’s musicianship. First time I saw them in concert I was blown away by the fact that no matter how far their improvisation strayed it always resolved back into the song. Few bands can really do that. Second time I saw them was with the friend who first exposed me to their intricacies, which shed a different light on the experience. But the most remarkable part of that show was how they saved the most difficult song for the end.

Funny the way his songs run the range from fun to serious to complex to simple to sexy to incomprehensible. Every time I play his Groo Grux King CD, two songs stand out. One is partly quoted on the left column of this blog. Here is the other, which I heard tonight as I played the CD. It is a very thoughtful song; although I must admit that as interesting as this video is, it seems to have little to do with the powerful message of the song’s lyrics. I assume a true DMB fan would understand a connection in what I see as a disconnect. But I love the song. Here it is. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Car Geek Observations

Yes, I love cars … and trucks. I know a little about engines and specs and a lot about makes and models, especially older cars. I’ve owned twelve vehicles, many for less than eighteen months, three for more than five years. Five were new, the rest pre-owned. Two were trucks, three were wagons, the rest were 2 or 4 door sedans – no convertibles yet but I had one as a company vehicle for a month back in the 80s. I remember every make and model, years owned and approximate purchase price. Oddly, I have very few pictures of most of them.

Brand I hate the most: Chevrolet; I had one, it was the single worst car I’ve ever owned and I’ll probably never even consider one again, ever. Brand I’ve had the most: Ford (five of my twelve). I’m not really a Ford fan but they happened to make the vehicle I wanted most at those times. Two of my best and one of my worst were Fords. I would buy one again, maybe an Explorer. Cars I used to want but have never owned: Mercedes and Cadillac; not that interested in them any more. Former fantasy brand that I did actually own once: Volvo. Current fantasy brand: Acura! Don’t know how I’ll ever afford a new one but it’s on my bucket list.

I’m thinking about this right now because I went to the Washington DC Auto Show. In the 1980s and 1990s I went to Auto Shows nearly every year. I look at cars, collect brochures and sit inside cars I might want to own some day. Three of my cars were chosen in large part to how I felt while sitting in them at these shows. But until yesterday I had not been to an auto show in the 2000s. Glad I went.

I mostly sat in and looked at SUVs. I can’t really afford to buy any vehicle at the moment, but I miss my SUV and I’m paying plenty of attention to them.

Acura MDX - I want one!!
Biggest surprise: Jeep Grand Cherokee. I am not a fan of Jeep/Chrysler but this one felt good. And Consumer Reports has rated Jeeps higher in reliability than in the past.

Another surprise: how much I liked the Honda CR-V. The redesigned one is bigger than previous versions. My current ride is a Honda and I’m happy with the brand.

Nice surprise: Explorers are still good. I miss the one I had. The latest are comfortable and reasonably reliable, just like the one I had a few years ago.

No surprise: my absolutely favorite at the whole show was the Acura MDX. It’s a luxury SUV in the size class of an Explorer. It costs way too much but if I had the money I’d buy one anyway. Awesome vehicle.

2012 - but looking very 70s
Boomer Alert: the ‘big three’ are trying to appeal to us with the return of some of our old favorites in the Muscle Car category. The name plates and colors are from the 70s and late 60s but the designs are current. Mustangs never went away, but Camaros, Chargers and Challengers left and are now back. Mustang is still my fave in that class.

Other thoughts: Nissan Xterra keeps getting better while Nissan Passport keeps getting worse. Mini, Smart and Fiat are toys – until everyone is driving something that small you won’t see me in one. Hybrids and electric cars took up plenty of space at the show – their time has not come yet but it will.

Xterra - keeps improving
Meanwhile, I am just a few months from paying off my current ride. If I’m smart, I’ll live without payments for a few years. But I have not always been smart when it comes to cars.

What about you? What is your current ride? What’s your fantasy ride?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Thursday, February 2, 2012

NOLA

Everyone should visit New Orleans at least once in their lives.

It’s crazy, cool, funky, lively, lazy, musical, quirky, humid, multicultural.

There is music in the streets. Bars don’t have to close unless they want to. The accent is not Southern and it’s not Cajun, but is has elements of both, with a little bit of Brooklynesque thrown in.

People there are resilient, tenacious and stubborn … at least the ones who moved back after Hurricane Katrina. Some say they are a little crazy or stupid for moving back. If you’re from there, you get it, even if you disagree with it. If you visit for more than four or five days, you might also understand.

If you grew up there, as I did, this sentence says it all: You can leave New Orleans but New Orleans never leaves you.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Love, peace and soul!

Don Cornelius, creator and host of Soul Train, died today at age 75, reportedly by suicide. I won’t pretend to know what his life was like or what drove him to kill himself, but I respect him as a man who followed his dreams and changed the face of television on many levels.

He was inspired by Dick Clark but had much more style and charted his own path in the world of music-related television.

There was still racial prejudice and segregation in the 1970s when that show began, but they usually didn't make it an issue. Soul Train was about music, culture and lifestyle for black youth but everyone could benefit from the experience. It was well done and fun to watch. I used to watch the show regularly and some of my favorite singers at the time were featured guests … Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, even Michael Jackson. The dance line was cool … I never knew if those were just people who showed up to be on the show or if they were professional dancers. Either way, they were very good.

Here are a few stories and video clips. I’ll close my part of this post with the words he closed his show with each week: we wish you love, peace and soul!"

Intro 1982 –

Soul Train Intro (1982) by johnnyaalaska

The dance line -

SOUL TRAIN LINE Dance With Me, by Chaka Kahn by Discolarry125

The story tonight on CBS -



Click HERE for bio information.