Thursday, May 31, 2012

Coffeeee

I kind of feel this way every morning ...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Family

I’ve kept in touch with several friends over the years but family contact was much more challenging. Through some cosmic miracle I usually hear from friends right at the moment when I need to, but not so much with family. Till about ten years ago. I specifically reached out to cousins I hadn’t seen in years and, sadly, family funerals and Hurricane Katrina helped unite us more. Actually, that could be considered the positive side to those tragedies.

Now because of my persistence and digital communication like email, texting and Facebook, I often hear from family right when I need to. I was missing family contact this week when out of the blue I received a text from my sister reminding me she was vacationing in Alaska. I didn’t remember she was going to do that, so I’m glad she reminded me. I’m also happy she has friends to share travel with.

Then today I got a Facebook message from a cousin who lives near Seattle who happens to be here this week. Dinner one night? Definitely! Her brother is the retired doctor who gave me some second opinions during my recent medical situation and I saw him recently when he too was in town. They both grew up around here and still have ties to the area. They are the only cousins of my generation who never lived in Louisiana.

Family is very important to me and I am so happy I have been able to reconnect with my cousins. I’ll take most of the blame for losing contact to begin with after I moved away and I’ll take my share of the credit for getting back into their circle. In some ways it’s like we never broke the circle. Many of them were at both of my parent’s funerals, many helped after Katrina (their homes had much less damage than my sister’s did) and most said yes to invitations to what is becoming an annual cousin holiday reunion coinciding with my road trips there. We catch up on childhood memories and share stories about our parents, tales which are often brand new to us. We email family news and holiday greetings. Sure, every family does things like this but it is sort of new territory for me. Very appreciated too.

I consider many of my friends to be family but there is something extra special about blood relation. Maybe it’s my Italian heritage. Maybe it’s just something very normal that I lost sight of for a big chunk of my life. Whatever the reason, I cherish my friends family and my blood family. I am lucky to have them all.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Quote Collection.

It’s been awhile since I posted a list of quotes. These are very appealing to me this month. Enjoy.


“Life is like riding a bicycle - in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
- Albert Einstein

“Sometimes you can’t let go of the past without facing it again.”
- Gail Tsukiyama

“The great courageous act that we must all do is to have the courage to step out of our history and past so that we can live our dreams.”
- Oprah Winfrey

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.”
- Wayne Gretzy

“Even if you stumble, you’re still moving forward.”
- Anonymous

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.”
- Mark Twain

“Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action.”
- Walter Anderson

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.”
- Elbert Hubbard

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”
- Mary Anne Radmacher


And I saved the best for last:


“Just keep moving forward and don't give a shit about what anybody thinks. Do what you have to do for you.”
- Johnny Depp

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day Randomness

If a "normal" picture is worth a thousand words, how many are these worth?




I took these two years ago at Rolling Thunder, an annual event during which more than 100,000 bikers thunder through Washington DC in honor of those who gave their lives in the service of our country. 

The top picture might be obvious: one of the American flags that circle the Washington Monument.  The middle picture is of two bikers reading names on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, possibly spotting the name of someone they served with during that war; I am proud of that picture but it doesn't even come close to capturing the feeling you have when you are actually standing there before the names of more than 58,000 who died in that "conflict".  The bottom picture is just a tiny glimpse of the parade, as the bikes thunder down Constitution Avenue on the National Mall. 

Thunder is a very appropriate word to describe the event, an auditory representation of both the roar of the motorcycles and the sounds of battle.  I am not much of a flag-waiver, wasn't much of a soldier and don't especially care for motorcycles, but I am damn proud to be an American, grieve for those who died and salute those who served.  I met a guy at a party yesterday who will be riding in Rolling Thunder for the 6th time this weekend.  He suggested that I ride some day.  I might reach out to him next year to see if he needs a passenger.

God bless America.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is an odd holiday with conflicting purposes. The day itself is intended to be a time to reflect on those military men and women who died in the service of our country. Yet it is also the unofficial beginning of the summer, an anchor holiday to open the season, with Labor Day as the close in September. It makes perfect sense to greet people with “Happy Memorial Day” but when you really think about it, the point of the day is not happy.

Soldiers fight our wars. Inevitably many of them die so we ultimately can live free. At my core I believe all war is wrong but I do understand its purpose and I certainly benefit from it. Those contradictory beliefs are as complicated as the dual celebratory nature of Memorial Day.

My job dominates my life so it is actually odd for me to contemplate a three-day weekend. It is Friday night as I write this, I am drinking wine and picturing the rest of my weekend. Tomorrow afternoon I’ll be at a co-worker’s housewarming party, tomorrow night I’ll be back home in the house I so desperately want to move out of. All day and night Sunday and Monday, I’ll be working on straightening things out in my parts of the house and boxing up some of the things that won’t be in dispute in the coming “negotiations”. That’s all I’ll say about that here, but if you know me you know what I’m talking about. I’ll probably have to mow the front lawn too, maybe on Sunday.

The weather here for the next few days will be hot (in the 90s) and humid, typical summer weather here. My shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops are ready to be worn. Because of my recent medical crap, I’m not in the great shape I was in a few months ago, but I’m slowly working my way back toward summer-ready physique. I won’t have much of a tan this year, partly because of my skin cancer episode last year; trying to be more cautious.

This ‘beginning of summer’ weekend helps me to focus on some likely activity for the next few months. I plan to be moving to another address. One or two friends who live away from here might visit. I hope to visit my cousin in Virginia Beach again, maybe in August. There are several concerts on my agenda between now and September including Miranda Lambert, Coldplay, Kenny Chesney and possibly Dave Matthews. Using Memorial Day as the front anchor for my summer, there is a chance that by the season’s end I might have some pleasant memories to reflect on, so that Labor Day will also be a sort of memorial day but in a different context.

So that’s my holiday. What is on your agenda? The best appropriate greeting I can leave you with is this: have a safe memorial Day Weekend.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Popping In and Popping Out of People’s Lives

Random odd things happen to me regularly, so I shouldn’t be surprised when they do; but I am.

A few years ago I began to search for old friends and acquaintances online. In some cases, my goal was to get in touch with some of the ones I hadn’t heard from in decades; in other cases I just wanted to see how they turned out. The biggest surprise happened about three or four years ago when I found my first wife. Both the marriage and the divorce happened while we were in college and we had no contact since. The breakup was bad and mostly my fault; nothing illegal or immoral, just my immaturity and inability to handle responsibility at the time. I never expected to hear from her again and it didn’t really matter anyway. I knew she remarried, had kids and lived in that city and two or three others in that part of the south over the years.

A bigger surprise I discovered on that web site was that she and her family had moved north, far north, to a town less than fifteen miles from where I currently live. What?!?! Nobody moves halfway across the country to that town. The web site had an address and phone number but I chose not to intrude. Then I found her on Facebook last year . That time I did reach out and another surprise … she answered my message. We did some catching up in two messages and I assumed that would be it. Fine with me; my curiosity was satisfied.

The biggest surprise happened two nights ago: another message on Facebook. Wow. And why? Actually she asked if I had seen the latest issue of the college alumni magazine. There was a story about a campus restaurant and bar that just reopened for the first time since being destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. The original one was built all the way back when we were students. She reminded me that the name of the place actually pre-dated that facility and was in fact the name of a monthly music event I put on back then. She thinks I actually invented the event and the name, although I’m not sure I can take all the credit. I did, however, get a whole page in the yearbook one year, with a picture and a story about me and the event. I hadn’t thought about that in a very long time.

All of this is so odd yet so normal for me. I have countless examples of times when people from my past briefly popped back into my life and vice versa. In many ways, Facebook has facilitated this and has definitely helped me with my goal of seeing how old friends turned out. It’s odd but also kind of good in that it reminds us of parts of our past that are in some way connected to our present. It reminded me that music has always been a huge part of my life and that for a brief time I was a concert promoter and bar tender. I wasn’t very good at either but I have an insider’s understanding of those jobs.

By the way, I looked up the article online and I replied to her message. My prediction: I won’t hear from her again. For about a year or two.



Monday, May 21, 2012

Sharing

I’ve heard the studio version of this song at least three times in the past week on one or more SiriusXM channels. Thought I’d share it. Enjoy. A friend is seeing their concert this week and I hope to see it in June.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Threes

You know that thing about celebrities dying in threes? Robin Gibb, one of the Bee Gees, died today at age 62. He had been living with colon and liver cancer for some time and more recently was in a coma from complications related to pneumonia.

The 1970s were a time of significant changes in music, but disco could be called the soundtrack of that decade and no group was associated with that music form more than the Bee Gees.

So just this week: Chuck Brown, Donna Summer, Robin Gibb.  Three, each an icon in their own way.  Each with a legacy of very memorable music.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Choices and Priorities

My original plan for this fine Saturday in Maryland was to go to an all-day blues festival. Some of my favorite performers are on the lineup and the venue is on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay. The forecast is for sunny skies and temps in the upper 70s. I decided to pass.

Plan B was the Andrews Air Force Base open house and air show. I love planes and I’ve been to this event many times, camera in hand. Passed.

What I am going to do is look at apartments in my new favorite neighborhood then return home to make progress on a home office cleanup that I have been putting off for six months or more. Boring choices to service top priorities.

Sometimes we have to make choices in life, decisions that are not fun in the short run but are beneficial to us in the long term. Over the past few decades I have run the distance between being all business and all fun. Those places are not mutually exclusive but it can be a challenge to put them both together. Fortunately my job blends them nicely. Combining those two in my personal life is more problematic.

A goal for the past five years has been to find more fun and spontaneity in my life. I have reached that goal but sometimes at the expense of other goals, such as moving on. I study other people’s lives for inspiration and it is interesting that the close friend who has helped bring out my live-in-the-moment side for three of those years is now also the friend who inspires me on the serious goal-setting side. At various points in our lives we cannot do it all, at least not all at the same time. So we prioritize and make daily choices to reach those priorities. Balance is my favorite word and my life motto and today is a good example of living the balance.

So right after I hit ‘publish’ on this post I’ll get in my car and start on today’s priority. Wish me luck.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Eclectamania


I don't know why I should ever have trouble finding topics to write about for this blog. I live a fairly odd but interesting life. Here are some eclectic examples of what was on my mind a little while ago as I waited for an early lunch at a sub shop that sells mostly Chinese food:

- The G8 Summit you've been hearing about in the news is in my neck of the woods. Camp David, the Presidential retreat, is in a fairly secluded location in my current county, with no obvious signage (for security reasons). But long-time locals know where it is and I'm sure the rest of will by the end of today. Likely evidence: traffic, black Suburbans with tinted windows, helicopters and thousands of protesters.

- My music taste is very eclectic. On my long ride home the other night I listened to Thelonius Monk and Johnny Cash; and thirty seconds of a Barry Manilow song.

- Injured my left thumb last night … while trying to remove the plastic packaging from a roll of paper towels. Not sure what's worse: the pain or the surprise that I could bend my thumb back opening paper towels.

- During the twenty eight years I have lived within 50 miles of Washington DC there have been seven Presidential inaugurations. An awesome aspect of American freedom is that citizens can attend this public display of the continuity of government. Yet I've only been to one and the closest I could get was a Jumbotron on the National Mall, several blocks from the Capitol. I need to work my media access more. The whole thing is thrilling, no matter who is getting sworn in.

- I met DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier yesterday.  I'm 5'11" tall; I think she is taller.

- There is a new study linking coffee consumption with longevity. The more coffee you drink, the longer you live. Hmmm, if that's true, I'll live forever.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

There Goes Another One

Two days in a row, two aging music stars dead. This time it is Donna Summer. She was called a disco queen, a term she apparently disliked. Her most popular songs were from the disco era, however. She died from lung cancer, but had still been performing until recently.

Her music was fun. Here is one of her songs …

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Go Go Gone

Chuck Brown, a guitarist and singer known in Washington DC music circles as the “Godfather of Go-go,” died today at age 75. Brown was born in Gaston, NC but lived most of his life in the Washington DC area. He is considered by many as the pioneer of the ‘go-go’ style of funk music.

Prior to living in the DC area, I had never heard of go-go music, which is not at all related to the ‘go-go’ term used in white pop circles of the 1960s. This ‘go-go’ music is funky, danceable and known to people of all races and ages in the Washington region. It had some national notoriety in the late 1970s and some of the riffs were sampled in other music more recently, but it is a style instantly recognizable around here.

Brown was still performing this year, but canceled performances recently while trying to recover from pneumonia. He died at Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Bustin Loose is his signature song. Listen to it below if you “feel like bustin’ loose, bustin loose now.”

Wet Advice

Saw this on a cousin's facebook page.  Good advice ...

When life gives you rough waves, surf them. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Crossing Lines

I am not religious but I am tired of non-religious activists blocking all forms of religious symbolism in public places. Today's example: an atheist organization objecting to the display of the "ground zero cross" at the 9/11 Memorial.

I read about this in USA Today a few days ago. Here is part of the story:

Atheists have sued to prevent cross-shaped steel girders from the destroyed World Trade Center towers from being included in the official Sept. 11 memorial, saying the religious symbol is unconstitutional because its gives "preferential representation" to Christians who died in the 2001 terror attacks.


"Many of American Atheists' members have seen the cross, either in person or on television, and are being subjected to and injured in consequence of having a religious tradition not their own imposed upon them through the power of the state," the complaint (pdf) states. If the cross is not removed, the group wants a non-religious exhibit included.

Don’t they have better things to do in their lives than waste court time on this?

Like it or not, we were founded as a nation based in Christianity with a mandated tolerance for religious freedom. Seventy-five percent of our population claims some amount of connection to Christianity. Less than ten percent are atheists. Both sides of that equation have the right to believe what they believe. So do Muslims, by the way. All religions have the right to be represented. I do not believe we as a country should sanitize or erase evidence of religion. Doesn’t majority rule in our society? The majority are Christian. Don’t eliminate their symbols. Do include others when appropriate.

Some Christians believe that this ‘cross’ has some religious significance. Other people believe it was a random piece of connected steel beam that happens to look like a crucifix. Either way, it is part of the ‘remains’ of the building and should be part of the memorial. Interpretation can be left to the visitor.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Depression Sucks, but …

At a point in life when many of my high school buddies are at or near retirement and contemplating coasting through the rest of their lives, I’m climbing another flight of stairs. Each of those guys is sitting on some metaphorical deck, or maybe the real deck on his paid-for house with his first and only wife of thirty or more years sitting beside him. Two are recalling stories of their kids growing up. One of them might even be a grandparent now, a thought I can't wrap my head around. My first wife is a grandmother, my second has a son in high school and my third has dogs, the only living things she really cares about. My only female friend from high school, who was also my high school girlfriend, is married to somebody who has mostly retired and she is counting the few years left to hitting that marker herself. Their house is paid for and their kids are out of college.

I'm about to be single again and the house I thought I'd pay off and live in the rest of my life will not be mine much longer. I'll be living in the neighborhood where I want to live, enjoying a version of the life I want to have, hanging onto a job typically held by someone twenty years younger than I am and scared to death of what happens when that job finally ends. I'll be alone again, a condition I am usually comfortable with but not always. I'll be dating again, which is just so ridiculous because I don't even know what that means any more. My awesome female friends will still hang out with me but most are much younger than I am and will probably disappear if I try to turn any of that 'hanging out' into 'dating'.

I usually don’t care about that stuff, but sometimes I do. And I don't really like ambiguity. I want clarity, yet that kind of conversation is somewhere between awkward and stupid, and rarely clear. Dating in my own age range, or even the age I admit, seems so foolish. And before any of this stuff really happens, I will be cruising down a dirt road full of obstacles and bumps, totally trusting my instincts, knowing, hoping, I'll get back on the paved road I expect to find. And that part of my journey will kick in the occasional bouts of depression I hate to admit having.

I know there are professionals who can help me. I have encouraged three different friends to utilize that option themselves in the past few months, but ignore my own advice when it comes to doing the same myself. I know what's wrong in my head and heart and I know what to do about it. Discussing it endlessly with a total stranger won't be any more effective than having those conversations in my own head. I need action not discussion. But who has the time – for either professional counseling or for internal contemplation?

It all sucks and I will wallow in it for a few days or weeks, then I'll climb out, take a metaphorical shower and charge out the door, climb that staircase and start my next chapter. I started this post as an ode (or whine) to depression. As I re-read this, I think maybe it'll serve to remind me that I always find the path to what I want, often after crawling through the underbrush. I am the guy who figures it out. I am the optimist, the success story, the role model for designing a great life.

We're born alone, we die alone and right now I feel like I'm living very alone, despite having some wonderful, supportive friends. All this crap sucks, but I know things will be fine. I just want it all to be fine NOW and now weeks, months or years from now.

Today's Attitude

This is how I'm feeling about myself today.  I'm damn proud to be unusual.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Road Trip Finale and Moms

Well, I'm back in my home zip code. A four-day getaway is too short but this one was needed and the results are good. Some random thoughts:

This was my 7th visit to Asheville NC. It's an awesome town and I have a great friend there which adds to the fun of my visits.

Had more great food, drinks and laughter yesterday.

While walking back to the car I heard my name being called. Turned around and there was a co-worker. He grew up in Asheville and I knew he was in town visiting family this weekend but running into him on that sidewalk at that moment was so random.

Left town at 7:15 this morning ... cool, partly cloudy, NO traffic. Nice.

I-81 in Virginia is as bad as I-95. Hate them both.

Today is Mother's Day. My Mom loved to travel and that might be where I developed my love for it. She died several years ago, partly related to being on the road. The circumstances are cloudy and sad, but there is a small comfort in knowing she was travelling.

Back to work tomorrow in a much better mood than when I left Wednesday.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Road Trip 4

Well, I have to go home tomorrow. That sucks. My visits to Asheville are never long enough, partly because of the friend I have here. Our friendship is unique and most of our other friends do not understand how we can have the friendship we have. Many people do not understand how a man and a woman can be ‘just friends’. One benefit of the self-discovery journey I have written about a lot during the past few years is that I don’t have to explain myself. I know what this friendship is and I know what it isn’t. Much as I share big parts of my life with anyone who will listen, I don’t care if anyone gets this one or not. I get it, she gets it and that’s all that counts.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Road Trip 3

This is the perfect long weekend relaxing road trip. Asheville is an awesome place, made even more fun by having a good friend here. She is a great tour guide and drinking buddy. And friend. This is my 7th visit here and I am starting to know my way around. I have stopped at some of the same bars, restaurants, coffee haunts and retail shops each time as well as some new ones on each visit. It’s a great balance between the familiar and the experimental. I had some tasty dark roast coffee this morning at a place called World Coffee. The scents ran the gamut from almond latte to incense and the customers included locals, tourists, modern-day hippies and artsy people. It’s 1969 meets 2012 … my kind of place. I spent some time with a media counterpart at some local radio stations and right after I post this I’ll be doing a little work. I don’t like to work on vacation but I have to this time. At least I’m in a quiet hotel room with little chance of anything being added to my ‘to do’ list. Tonight: more wine and food. Tomorrow: more wine and food and coffee and picture-taking and a little shopping.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Road Trip 2

On the road for a long weekend escape from stress and other things. Got great news from a good friend shortly before hitting the road. Made my whole day. Spending tonight in a clean but dumpy hotel in Virginia. Will be in a much nicer hotel for the rest of the weekend. All for tonight.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Road Trip

Those two words say it all.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Few Random Thoughts

Sometimes I am good at keeping in touch with friends and sometimes I am not, but my best friend from high school is a master at it. The single most significant reason he and I are still in touch is that he has never given up, even though I have gone for years at a time without making contact. I’m certain he has not missed sending me cards for Christmas or my birthday for the past several decades. By the way, he just ‘discovered’ email a few years ago, so most of the previous contact has been through traditional postal mail and the occasional phone call.

I am entitled to plenty of vacation in my job but so far I have only taken one day off this year. So I put in a request for two days this week. I made hotel reservations in one of my favorite cities but I don’t know as of the time I am writing this whether or not I’ll be making that trip because the friend I plan to visit might have a scheduling conflict. But even if I don’t go there, I will take the days off and go somewhere. I need the break!

Another thing I’ve been trying to make happen in my life for a couple of years now might finally be happening. I still can’t really go into detail here, but yesterday was a turning point of sorts. A good one. Wish me luck. Although determination is what will really make it happen. I can picture it and feel it in a way that far exceeds previous similar feelings.

My recent health situation has improved. Doctors still don’t know what caused it and there is one more test to go, but at least I feel ‘normal’ again. Almost.

Did you see the ‘supermoon’ last night? It was cloudy at moonrise, so I missed that awesome photo op. I did see the full moon later, but my pictures didn’t turn out good at all.

OK, off to the gym for a cautious workout, then home to finish mowing, then a little wine. Cheers.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Some Uplifting Quotes

A short but significant phone call last night led me to look these up.  I have my reasons.  Read and learn.  This is good stuff.


Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.
- Stephen Covey

Don't deny the diagnosis; try to defy the verdict.
- Norman Cousins 

Always look at what you have left. Never look at what you have lost.
- Robert H. Schuller

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, or not to anticipate troubles, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly."
- Buddha

People who laugh actually live longer than those who don't laugh. Few persons realize that health actually varies according to the amount of laughter.
- James J. Walsh

Neither fire, nor moisture, nor wind can destroy the blessing of good deeds, and blessings enlighten the whole world.
- Buddha