Archive for August, 2010

Saturday Night Music Meme

Posted in Uncategorized on August 29, 2010 by tom

This came to me on FB, and it was fun to do.  Brought back some good memories.  Do it if you want and send me a link.  Or don't.  It's up to you.  Hakuna matata. :-) 

 The rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen albums you've heard that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag fifteen friends, including me, because I'm interested in seeing what albums my friends choose. Remember: List records in no particular order. 


Marillion- Misplaced Childhood (Got it in college, and I've listened to it ever since, off and on; like Pink Floyd, old/good Genesis, and Led Zeppelin)


Bruce Cockburn- Dancing in the Dragon's Jaws (acoustic folk-jazz, with some of the best acoustic guitar playing ever; beautiful images; one song all in French)


Led Zeppelin "Four"- (Not my favorite now, but what a collection of songs: "Rock & Roll," "Stairway," "Levee," even the bad songs are great; one of the soundtracks to my adolescence)


Eric Clapton- Just One Night (High School+guitar+this album=hours of jamming and an appreciation for the blues; also for, as my friend and idol Russ Albums once said, an appreciation for how much Albert Lee eats Clapton's lunch on "Cocaine")


Crosby Stills & Nash-CSN (You can also add Deja Vu and So Far to this one.  I always loved CSN, though, for the harmonies and the slick, 1970's cocaine-era studio ace backing)


AC/DC-Back in Black (The perfect album for a 14 year-old, which is how old I was when it was released; I still blast it when the songs come on the radio)


Rickie Lee Jones- Rickie Lee Jones ("Chuck E's In Love" was the hit, and the worst song on the album; her voice is fragile and weird, but capable of remarkable power ("Last Chance Texaco," eg); this is just an eccentric, brilliant collection of songs, with great studio back-up)


U2- The Joshua Tree (I'd tried to like U2 before, during my college radio days, and they just didn't work for me; Joshua Tree was mainstream enough that I grew to appreciate the band; I moved along with them to Achtung, Baby, and moved back through Unforgettable Fire; I don't listen to them now, but we were tight for a decade.)


Chet Baker- The Right Thing for You (Just a little cd–six songs, I think–but three of them had the last recorded work of Paul Desmond; on the cover, you could see how ravaged Chet looked, way removed from his matinee idol days in the 50's; very laid-back and great)


Allman Brothers Band- Live at the Fillmore East/Eat a Peach (I think if I were going to build a band, it would have two guitars, bass, a Hammond B-3, and…well, the two drummer thing didn't hurt; "Ain't Wastin TIme No More," "Whipping Post," "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," just all spectacular songs.  Can't think of a better guitar tandem than Dickey Betts and Duane Allman, and Gregg could sing the phone book and make it sound bluesy)


Indigo Girls- eponymous/Nomads, Indians & Saints (saw them four times in six years, and they were always good; very few people can write songs like they do, and in my 20's, I was feeling that whole angsty thing; I don't listen to either of these anymore, but I still know all the words and harmonies)


Neil Young- Live Rust (I wore this one out playing along when I was in highschool; the acoustic songs are great, but the electric sides? "Like a Hurricane" and "Powderfinger" are tributes to the humbucker-distortion tandem)


Neil Young- Harvest Moon (Totally different time in my life from Live Rust; Harvest Moon was contemplative and beautiful, looking back at life's journey, and around the present as well; my favorite line is from Unknown Legend, "And somewhere on a desert highway, she rides a Harley-Davidson, her long blonde hair flyin' in the breeze"; that's perfect for describing how I imagined two soulmate-type girls who'd moved on; beautiful arrangements and writing)


Otis Redding- The Very Best of Otis Redding (more soul in his little fingernail than Rick Astley had in his whole body; when you're drunk and suffering from a bad breakup, "I've Been Loving You Too Long," "These Arms of Mine," even "Try a Little Tenderness"…just perfect)


Pink Floyd- Wish You Were on the Dark Side of the Animals (In high school and college, they were all in heavy rotation; not so much with The Wall, although I still think "Comfortably Numb" has one of Dave Gilmour's best guitar solos)


I took too long and explained too much, but I liked the trip down memory lane. Happy Weekend. 🙂

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Posted in Uncategorized on August 21, 2010 by tom

This year has already had too many friends and loved ones enduring bad things–deaths, breakups, getting "Una Paloma Blanca" by the George Baker Selection stuck in their heads.  That said, I'm happy to report that my friend and coworker, Brian, just welcomed a new granddaughter, whose name we think will be Emma.  Six pounds, ten ounces. Hooray! I plugged her data into the DorkFone, and came up with this age-progression picture of what she'll most likely look like:


Please take a moment A) To welcome Emma to the planet from wherever you are, and B) to give her any advice she might need.  I shall forward your greetings to the sickenly proud grandpa. 

Thanks, and happy weekend!!

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Thursday Night Mental Chex Mix

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on August 19, 2010 by tom
  • Little brother, I'm happy to report, has survived his grueling back surgery.
  • My parents, I'm happy to report, have survived their grueling three week stay with little brother.
  • If I were to set the rules for time travel, I would not allow a specific date or event to be set.  I'd tie it to the radio.
  • And I'd make it arbitrary, so you never knew when it was going to happen. 
  • Example, I'd be driving home from work.  My back is sore, and my brain hurts after a long day.  My fuel light comes on, and I dread having to fill up the USS Nimitz.  I'm worried about my brother's back, the sparseness of my vault at Gringott's, and I wish I had enough extra money to replace my back-right tire.  Suddenly, Rush's "Spirit of the Radio" plays. 
  • Yay! I've always liked that song.
  • So I'm driving, then POUF! The fabric of Time rips a little, and I'm suddenly 18, driving my Datsun B-210 on a windy South Carolina road. 
  • Sounds great, right? Holy crap, I'm 18! Gas is 98 cents a gallon! I have a metabolism! A panacea!
  • But I'm thrust into the worries of my 18 year-old mind.  I just got a 39 on a Calculus test.  Beth the Swedish Girl won't talk to me. I have to write a paper for my Freshman Comp class, and I don't have a topic.  (My highly developed powers of bullshit are in their nascent stages).  I also have to write a paper for my friend Ben's friend's English class, in exchange for a small bag of certain herbal substances.  I'm homesick–I miss my friends, my old school, the absolute Manifest Destiny I felt six months ago in high school–and SHIT, it's cold, and I'll probably die a virgin.
  • There are no panaceas in our timelines.  At every point in life, we have our burdens and pains in the ass. 
  • We also have our wonderful times–those precious memories that comfort us and bring smiles to our faces. 
  • At this point, I'd love to go back and have my 18 year-old troubles.  Lord knows I could bang out my Freshman Comp paper in a painless hour, and I'd charge cash to write my friend's friend's paper (or I'd use the bag of herbal substances on Beth in an attempt to lose the aforelamented virginity (it was a couple weeks later, alcohol, with Jennifer, in a Jeep, as it happened 😉 )) 
  • When I was 18, if you'd transported me to this moment, I'd be amazed at the computer I'm using.  My DorkFone 9500 Turbo XLT would totally freak me out, and I'd think the USS Nimitz was unbelievably cool. 
  • I guess the key is perspective, trying to acknowledge the gorgeous moments of WIN that counterbalance the drudgery and abrasive beatings.
  • Happy Thursday (from 2010)

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Eat, Pray, Love: The Rest of Us

Posted in Uncategorized on August 8, 2010 by tom

Monday, I saw a special screening of the new film, "Eat, Pray, Love." It was beautifully made and very well-acted.  Julia Roberts plays travel writer Elizabeth Gilbert, who leaves a broken marriage as a broken person, and decides to take a year off to find herself by eating in Italy for four months, chanting in India for four months, wrapping up with four months in Bali, hanging with a shaman and noshing on Javier Bardem.

If you ask me, that's a great idea. (Except for screwing Javier Bardem)

Unfortunately, like most earthlings, I'm unable to take a year off of work and move abroad.  I have to learn to revitalize my soul and spirit here, with the job I have, the food available nearby, and the God of my incomprehension. 

To me, the purpose of "finding oneself" is improving your real life wherever you are.  If, for example, you live in New York City, you will certainly find serenity if you move to an isolated hut in Bali.  Duh.  But how does that help you when you get back to New York? If you don't enjoy food anymore, spending four months in Italy doing little but eating and cooking and drinking wine will certainly invigorate you.  Again, duh.  Also, I think it's very likely that spending four months praying, meditating, and chanting in an Ashram would enrich your soul.  Duh, a third time.

Sadly, most of us can't afford to run away for a year.  We have to learn to Eat, Pray, and Love differently.

EAT: I like to cook.  I'm actually good at it, believe it or not.  I make the greatest pot roast in the world, and brother Marky and I bake a pineapple upside-down cake that can cure many diseases.  The reality is that I don't feel like being creative when I get home.  Much as I'd love to go to the farmer's market and buy fresh asparagus and grow my own herbs, as much as I'd like to drizzle things with extra virgin olive oil, I just want something fast. 

Other people in Tomworld have issues like feeding a whole family on one income, trying to make macaroni & cheese and hotdogs more appealing somehow.  Recipes with angel hair pasta, fresh vegetables and mussels give way to Poverty Primavera: ramen noodles with whatever vegetables are on sale, and a can of tuna.   I'd love to take a bunch of friends to my favorite bistro, order in Italian, and buy everybody carafes of wine.  The reality is that I can't do that.  I'm taking Team Punkin out for Birthday steaks Monday, and that will be it for August's fine dining.  After that, thank God for Value Menus, and that I actually enjoy Poverty Primavera.

PRAY: In Twelve Step groups, the spiritual core is simple: "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him." (Italics theirs) For me, it's like this: if I can understand God, God isn't God.  I just trust that there's a capital-s Something out there, Something bigger and wiser than tom.  I have friends who are agnostics, atheists, Muslims, Baptists, Pentecostals, Catholics, Wiccans, Hindus, and every shade between.  This is good.  The one thing I profess to KNOW about God is that it ain't me.

I agree that meditation and chanting and prayer would probably help me find my spiritual center.  Living in a world with a spiritual focus…I have no doubt that would instill peace, much the same as rehab is a very safe place for alcoholics not to drink.  The problem is, how do I carry that peace out into the chaotic world outside the ashram walls? How do I stay sober in a world where every store sells beer and wine? 

The reality is that I'm not able to devote my entire life to finding myself.  My prayers are simple, like "Please help my friend Jo, whose husband of 34 years just died," or "help my friend who's having a difficult time with her pregnancy and her life," or "help my brother's back be okay." I'm not looking for enlightenment, just to survive.  I say "Thank You" when I see a gorgeous sunset, or walk along the beach holding hands, or realize that it's a huge damn miracle that I'm still here. 

LOVE: "Love, exciting and new, come aboard, we're expecting you. The looooooooooooooove boat, welcome aboard it's love."

Sorry.  That's the theme from "The Love Boat," a show where a nerdy, unloveable nerd (Sonny Bono) would find romance on the high seas with a heartbroken widow (Adrienne Barbeau), with wisdom from Captain Stubbing (Gavin McLeod), pina coladas and grins from Isaac the Bartender (Ted Lange), and perhaps an 8-ball of pink Peruvian flake cocaine from Julie the Cruise Director (Lauren Tewes).  The irony is that "Fantasy Island" followed "The Love Boat" on ABC's Saturday night juggernaut, and yet "Fantasy Island" was usually more plausible. 

Love is an important part of our lives.  If we're lucky, we experience love in many forms during life, from being loved as a child, to cherished as a friend, adored as a lover, loved back as a parent, revered as an elder.  It doesn't always work that way.  The Cowboy Junkies have a perfect lyric for the phenomenon of romantic love: "Sometimes you meet someone, and your guts just burst."

It's like that.  At certain times, our paths cross with somebody, and it's like stepping on a rake in the garden: WHAM, upside the head.  I've written before about how I, like some people, am a comet.  I come perihelion to people, shine brightly in their lives for awhile, then resume my journey.  But in the past year, I've realized how much love I have in my life.  It may not be the ratings-jackpot romantic love they found on The Love Boat anymore than I'll be dining on fresh asparagus and veal marsala when I get home.  The love I get from my friends and family sustains me.  The odd romantic fling flashes bright and burns hot, but this steadfast love from "my people" sustains me.  Thus far in life, I've had a lot more turkey sandwiches than decadent gourmet dinners, just as I've had a whole lot more good friendships than romances.  Life is good; love is good.

And hey, if you need to live in some paradise cabin and mount Javier Bardem to find love, God bless you.  (If nothing else, that leaves more Penelope Cruz for me)

Like I said, I enjoyed "Eat, Pray, Love." But I think I enjoyed it the same way I enjoy seeing Indiana Jones films: "This is entertaining, and I'm happy for the protagonist, but this life and tom-life are incompatible."

My mission is not to travel the planet searching for life's answers.  My mission is to live my life, and my life is here. My life is now.  My mission is to make the most of where I am, when I am, and with whom I am.  Like Dumbledore's Mirror of Erised, a truly contented man would gaze in the mirror and see only his reflection.  I gaze into my mirror, and I see…nothing.  My lightbulb burned out, and I keep forgetting to change it.  But I'm okay with that, even if I'm not meeting Penelope Cruz later for fettucine, prayer, and mounting.  At least for now, if I want it to be cooler in my life, I'll jack down the A/C, and not move to Antarctica.

Have a great weekend.

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New Update from Ma: Little Brother Home Friday

Posted in Uncategorized on August 6, 2010 by tom

Well all Mark's tubes are out and the good news is he could "make water", as we say in the South, when his foley cath came out.  He is moving much better today and sitting up and walking alone except having help getting the back brace on.  We took lots of turns around the surgery floor today and he climbed the stairs in the PT room and got instructed in getting in and out of the car, etc.  He is having a problem with nausea which the nurse says is from the muscle relaxer.  She was calling to get a different one ordered. They are good there.  Dave and I took them some brownies from the good grocery store this afternoon.  They all came in to thank us.  All you nurses know how special that is to be appreciated.  

Thanks for the continued care, concern and prayers heading up this way

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Update from Mom (re: Little Brother Surgery) (And THANKS!)

Posted in Uncategorized on August 4, 2010 by tom

Just a note to let you know that Mark got out of surgery about 10 AM.  the doctor said he was a "mess" in his back.  Lots of narrowing bone and shifting lumbar 4 and 5 and very swollen nerve. Had to shave bone away to free the nerve.  Swollen nerve will go down with time.  Put in the screws and material to stabilize and encourage his own bone growth  He will go to his room in hour or hour 1/2.  Said he did very well with not much blood loss….alll sounds good to us.  Thanks for your prayers and concern, we feel it! 

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Ouch (Godspeed, Little Brother)

Posted in Uncategorized on August 3, 2010 by tom

A couple years ago, I spent five weeks in the hospital.  I'd had an infection and two emergency surgeries.  Beyond that, it was just 18 hours a day of IV antibiotics and wound care.  No large muscle groups were cut, and while my pain was very real, it was manageable.

After my 35 days in the hospital, I was able to go home.  The "wound" healed nicely (as nicely as such a wound can, anyway), but what amazed me was how long it took the rest of my body to recover.  I lost trunk strength and leg strength, and my back has been a mess ever since.  Somebody said it takes a week to recover for every day you spend in a hospital bed.  That seems about right–35 weeks before I could do an 8 hour work day without it really hurting.  It was the basics, though: sitting, walking, standing. 

I'm thinking about this now because at 0630 today, my brother Marky goes in for major back surgery. He was always the more athletic of the two of us, and at some point, he injured his back.  Some process on a few of his thoracic vertebrae broke off, and the vertebrae ended up twisted and misaligned.  I apologize for not giving a more accurate description of his surgery, but I was too busy wincing when my mom described it. 

They have to cut through the back muscle, rearrange his backbone, and put some sort of metal in there to keep it aligned. 

Freakin' OUCH!

It will be a tough recovery.  For a month, he won't be able to sit at all–either stand or lie flat. He'll miss 6 weeks of work, minimum.  He'll have to wear a back brace for a couple months.

But it will heal, and he'll be better off than he is now.  That's the good news.

When I went in for my first surgery, I was a little worried.  I was convinced, because of my terminal uniqueness, that they wouldn't be able to A) knock me out, or B) revive me after.  Marky reassured me.  "They wheel you into a cool room, then you have the best sleep of your life, and wake up, and it's all over."

He was right.  All I could do is trust that my surgeons, anaesthesiologists, nurses, etc, knew exactly what they were doing.  They didn't have to like me or respect me or even be nice to me.  All I needed them to do was be good at their jobs.  Thankfully, they were. 

Little brother is in for a rough few weeks, after a hellish few days.  Please think good thoughts, send positive energy, say a prayer–whatever you do, do so on his behalf.  Thanks.



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