Wednesday, March 5, 2014


There were people who found it important to point out that the stereo was worth more than the car.  It was true that the gold, 1969 Plymouth Valiant was a 15 year old castoff from Bell Telephone Company and did not garner many second looks as it rolled down the street.  And it was true that the stereo was a totally radical aftermarket addition financed entirely by 1980’s era teenage boy paychecks.  But he knew you couldn’t measure things like this with dollars.

His index finger pushed the cassette into the player and he heard the familiar click. The two Sanyo amplifiers and Sanyo deck fired up the soundtrack of his life.  There were people who didn’t know a thing about noise reduction that claimed Dolby C was useless. But the 6 x 9’s in each door and the two 8 inch rounds in the back proved them wrong.  He knew it sounded good.

Geddy Lee’s voice screamed at him to conform or be cast out.  He pounded on the steering wheel and serenaded the drivers in the next lane with the story of the restless dreams of youth. There were people who failed to understand the Canadian rock band Rush.  But he knew every word of every album.  

He wasn’t the only one.  There were people who rode in that car who would drum every single Rush beat onto the dashboard.  There were people who hung their feet out of the window during the California road trip while Rush provided a distraction from the heat.  Rush played on that stereo when they piled into the car on their way to the football games.  Rush was the soundtrack to the brake failures coming down from the Mt. Erie adventures. It was Rush playing on the way to challenge Steve at ping pong and over the Westside bridge to pick up Dave and every time Chuck wanted to go visit Judy.   

And Rush played on the day he drove away from them all, when he drove away from those days to search for his future.

No, you couldn’t measure things like this with dollars.

It was 2014 when the teenage boy sat in the hard plastic chair and listened to the teacher yell above the roar of junior high chatter.

“Today we are having 80’s trivia contest!”  the teacher announced.  “I’m going to play a song from the 1980’s and the first person to tell me what the name of the band is will win a fabulous prize!”

The sound of Geddy Lee filled the room.  He screamed at those teenagers to conform or be cast out.

All of the kids stared blankly at the teacher in front of the room.

Except one.

One teenage boy raised his hand.

“Um...that’s Rush.” he offered casually.

The teacher asked him how he knew about Rush.

“Yeah, that’s my dad’s fault. 

I swear he knows every word of every album.”

Check This Out!

Rush was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.  Here's a video from a concert of theirs in 2011.  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

He Was A 12

There was no way out.

We were trapped.

My left hand reached forward for the husband.  My right hand reached back for the teenage boy. 

My God, I thought. One wrong move and bad things could happen.

It was six thirty in the morning when he painted a bird on his face. 

He dressed carefully, layer by layer, each piece colorfully cementing his commitment to the cause.  As he walked to the train station he had to take a deep breath.  He needed some way to control the excitement bubbling in his blood.

When he arrived downtown it was a sea of blue and green as far as he could see. 

It was no surprise.
He knew they would show up.

The Seahawk 12s always showed up.  

He waited a long time for the team to come by.  But when they did he yelled as loud as he ever had.  He raised his arms and chanted with the crowd. His heart was pounding.  He thought this might be the greatest moment of his life.

He knew it was just a game.  But by God, these boys, these men, had managed to make him deliriously happy.  They had won the Superbowl.   He was sure he’d remember it forever.

He knew he was just one of thousands that day on the parade route.  He knew he was just a normal, average guy with a bird painted on his face.  But this football team? - They were inspiring. They had done something great.

The crush of people began as soon as the parade was over.  Within minutes the husband, the teenage boy and I were seized and engulfed. The pack tightened.  The choking crowd swayed as one.  The gridlocked individual was powerless as thousands of bodies pressed up hard and tight against each other.  The initially intoxicating and exhilarating experience of being a part of it all had taken a turn toward the frightening and alarming.

It was, without question, impossible to move.

I turned to find a man with a bird painted on his face bellowing over my head at the top of his lungs.  His belly pressed hard into my side, I could feel him take in another breath and bellow again, “There are little children here!  There are little children here!”

The crush of 12s turned their heads in real concern and looked toward the man with the bird painted on his face.

“Come on people! “ he firmly roared. “We are going to make some room!  We’ve got to get these little children out of here!"

Impossibly, the 12s pushed back and parted the sea of congestion.  Impossibly, a space was created. Impossibly a mother holding a baby and pushing a stroller with a toddler in it nervously made her way through the crowd.

The man with the bird painted on his face yelled again, “Good job people! Good job!   We don’t want anyone getting hurt-especially the little children.”

And with that the crowd closed in on each other.   

Again, it was impossible to move.

When the crowd finally broke free, I watched him walk away.  He thought he was just one of thousands that day on the parade route.  He thought he was just a normal, average guy with a bird painted on his face.  But this guy? - He was inspiring.  He had done something great. 

Check This Out!

Most of what I knew about Bruce Springsteen came from his Born in the USA years and the fact that my high school choir teacher was one of his biggest fans.

I have just finished the book Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin.  

A fairly honest account of Bruce's life and music, this book has caused me to become one of the Boss' obsessive superfans.  At least for now.  It's worth checking out, for sure.  It's no surprise he's still creating and touring. I recommend having some of his albums around while you are reading. Listening to the music the author is describing helped in understanding the book, and Bruce.  

I've become particularly fond of his early music, something I was fairly unfamiliar with before reading the book.  

One of my new favorites:   Prove It All Night

Friday, February 7, 2014

You Should Have Been Looking At My Boots

You saw avocados. 

You saw me pressing the avocados trying to find the perfect one.  You saw middle aged and mom jeans and the search for healthy monounsaturated fats.

 U shoulda been lookin’ at mah boots.

If you had seen my boots you would have heard the retro pounding of Judas Priest’s Rock Hard, Ride Free.  You would have felt the peculiarly brilliant words of George Saunders cut through your heart.  You would have tasted the beatnik in the Post Punk Kitchen recipe I was shopping for.  You would have seen all that and you would have wanted more.

But no.  You saw the avocados.  

You saw the brown rice and the Good Housekeeping and the fiber yogurt. You saw the coupons and the chamomile tea and the mundane.

You should have been looking at my boots.

The hipster man-boy coddled my emotions as a skilled young salesman would be expected to do with a 40-something woman who had wandered into that kind of store.   I had wanted to buy the boots since I was in 8th grade.  Budgets and rational thinking hijacked my intentions for 30 years.  But now I sat before this hipster man-boy and listened to his prophetic chattering about my dream boots.  He told me they would be too tight.  He told me they would hurt like heck.   He told me they would stretch out and then fit like a glove.

I felt like a joke when I put them on.  He assured me I didn’t look like a skinhead at all.

I was unsure and ready to walk out the door.  He was convinced and remained admirably committed to his ultimate goal.

He grabbed me with his eyes, smiled in a particularly charming way and slowly cooed,

“Trust me. 

They will be awesome.  

You will be transformed.

You. Will. Love. Them.”

The hipster was right.  The dream boots were a nightmare.  My feet were utterly overwhelmed with agony.  The Internet promised that my pedi-torture would eventually lead to a euphoric nirvana.  I didn’t know if I was strong enough to make it to that promised land.

But I did.

The agony eventually morphed into mere pain, traveled through mildly uncomfortable and landed solidly in the hipster’s predicted vision about my boots.

They were awesome.

I was transformed.

I. Did. Love. Them.

When I put on my boots that morning I became a rock star.  I became a poet.  I was a rebel.  I was a visionary.  I had secrets and darkness and a riot in my brain.  I had insight and intensity and inspiration in my blood.  My boots and I stormed into the store that day screaming at you.  We were bold and fearless and ready to conquer.

Yeah, you should have been looking at my boots. 

You would have seen all that.

But no.  You saw avocados.

Check This Out!

The New York Times believes that Tenth of December by George Saunders is the best book you will read this year.  

This collection of short stories is different.  It is provocative.   It will make you question.  It will make you think.  It will give you some serious book withdrawal when you are done.   You really should check it out.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Her Spunk Left This World

The cat stared back.

She was the only brave one.

We could barely stand to look her in the eye.  

We wondered if she knew these were her last hours alive.

The college girl held onto the cat and sobbed.   As a small, squeaky voiced elementary school girl, she had wandered through the shelter cages and declared that the mottled brown mess with the white patch on her belly was the one.  And now, 10 years later, she had rushed home from college to say goodbye. 

Tomorrow the husband and I would take our fluffy Millie Willie Silly Billy Pumpkin Pie Kitty Cat to the vet.  The sympathetic vet would take a needle and stick it into her.  Our Millie would look us in the eye as the last of her spunk left this world.   We would stand there with our box of Kleenex and would watch her die.

We would pay the vet to do this.

Because we felt it was the best thing to do.
Because we weren’t rich and couldn’t afford to pay for the treatment she deserved.
Because we didn’t want to see her suffer.

This is what we told ourselves.

We were miserable.

The college girl stared blankly at the children gathered around Santa.  She had rushed back to school so she could volunteer at a Christmas party for the neediest children in her community.  Two hours ago she was holding her sick cat.  Now she wondered if the cat was even still alive.

She was miserable.

The little girl didn’t own a coat.  Her mother said the girl’s thin sweatshirt didn’t keep her warm or dry when she waited for the bus.  While the little girl sat on Santa’s lap, the college girl helped her mother pick out a small warm coat from the pile of donated ones.  The mother moved on to pick out a Christmas present for her daughter.  It would be the only thing that would be under the tree this year.   The college girl watched as the mother then took the little girl to get her face painted and to pick out a brand new book to take home.  The little girl couldn’t stop smiling.

She was happy.

After a few hours, the college girl walked out of the building with a fellow volunteer.   The college girl said she should hurry back to her dorm to study for her finals.  The volunteer, a foster mother, said she should hurry back home to the baby she was currently taking care of.   “She’s a sweet baby who’s had a tough life already,” the woman told the college girl.  “This little baby’s dad got angry and threw her against the wall. Right now her head is held together with staples.”

The woman smiled and waved as she walked away.

When I talked to the college girl I expected crying, I expected sad.

But her voice was calm.

I worried out loud.

She assured me she was fine. 

I questioned that.

She told me about her day. 

She told me her problems didn’t seem so big anymore.

When we said our prayers that night we prayed that our Millie was in a good place.  But we also prayed for that little girl and that little baby. 

We were grateful.

Check This Out!

I highly recommend the book, The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown.  Tons of history, drama and inspiration ensure you won't put it down. It's being made into a movie-that should tell you how good it is.