Sunday, January 31, 2016

My Autistic Brother Sean

It was 1963.

July 24th to be exact, the day of my brother Sean's birth.

I was eight on my way to being nine.

We later had a sign on our front door that said 'Welcome Home Sean!' I pronounced it Scene, I had never seen Sean spelled before. He was coming home from the hospital and a new brother was big news.

 I was so excited.

Sean was very cute and very sweet. My mother was busy with bottles, naps, and diapers and she handled it all with grace and aplomb. It was when he was a bit older my parents noticed he was different.

At first Mom and Dad thought it might be just a passing phase but when it didn't change, they took him to a doctor, and that's when I first heard the word autistic.

You want to hear something funny? I thought they said artistic. I thought my brother was going to be a painter. It's hard enough grasping autism as an adult, try grasping it as a child.

Keep in mind, also, it was the mid 60's. Autism back then was a dark room.

I have to hand it to my parents, they never put Sean in a back room or hid him in any way. When our friends would come over, there he'd be, off in his own world but out front, a part of our family.

Talk about brave. And loving.

It seemed Sean was in and out of a thousand places as my parents tried to find the best care for him. I remember a time in Maryland, a time in Rhode Island.

My father, on one of his visits to see Sean, couldn't wait to tell me he had met Johnny Winter in the Providence airport. He told me he said to him, "I really like your song "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu." He said Johnny hesitated a bit and then said, "Thank you."

I didn't have the heart to tell my Dad that song was by Johnny Rivers.


Sean got older and settled into a wonderful organization, CSAAC. Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children, located in Rockville, Maryland.

I don't say wonderful lightly but they truly are. It's people like them who helped turn the light on in that dark room.

The more you know the more you know.

Sean lives there now and to be able to live his life with dignity...

I thank you CSAAC.

An epilogue...having an autistic brother has helped me to accept more readily people with handicaps. The next time you see someone, battling, be kind.

As the saying goes, there but for the grace of God....


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Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Rolling Stones and My Mom

So there I was on the treadmill and "Happy" by the Stones came on and I thought of my mother.

Say What?

There's a story.

I was in college, home on summer break, and my mom came in from the garage and gave me a copy of Exile on Main Street. She said she had been in a record store and the song "Sweet Virginia" came on and everyone in the store started bopping their heads to it.

She thought that was fun and fun-ee, bought the album, and the rest as they say is history.

That's why the Stones make me think of my mother.

It got me to thinking, what other artists make me think of my family?

The first time I ever heard of Emerson, Lake and Palmer was through my dad. He had been traveling for his job and when he came home, he told me about hearing an album on the road that had a dove on the cover and featured an organ like he had heard in church.

ELP everybody and I have my Pop to thank for that.


KC and the Sunshine Band reminds me of one of my twins, Griffin.

When the boys were younger booty was a naughty word. They giggled every time they heard it. I found out and the next time they were in the car, I was ready. Out of the car's stereo came, "shake, shake, shake... shake, shake, shake... shake your booty, shake your booty." I must have played that a thousand times and each time Griffin would squeal, "Again, Again!"

Earth, Wind and Fire makes me think, always, of the other twin, Miles. Every time the song "September" came on the radio, he would sing along to it. "Bah de yah, say do you remember, bah de yah, dancing in September."

Sweet tune.

He'll tell you it's one of his favorite songs and it's something to watch him move and groove to it.

On to the girls.

Jenna turned me on to Chris Brown. We were in her car and his song, "Don't Wake Me Up "was on her iPod. She had it plugged into her radio's speakers and when it came on I said, "Who is THAT?  She told me and now he's on my iPod.


Maya's fascination with Adele has been well documented but her love for Ed Sheeran has not. She was on to him way early, in fact she saw him in concert for 10 bucks.  She says, with pride, you'll never see him for that amount again.

And she's right.

Every time I hear him, he reminds me of her.

Ed's on my iPod, as well.




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Friday, January 22, 2016

Two Birthdays

Every year in January, I've been celebrating two birthdays.

Two special birthdays.

First up, on the 23rd, is my Bestest Friend's birthday.

That would be Tony Colter.

He's not only my ace, not only Uncle Tony to my twins, not only does my dog not bite him; she doesn't even growl at him; but he's also a DJ on Sirius/XM.

That's a mouthful.

People have known him for years as MadDog 'cause that was his moniker on terrestrial radio. What's so funny is in real life he couldn't be further from being a mad dog. He is kind, gentle, smart, a great father, great husband, and as I said, my best friend.

I've known him since we were kids and in fact just spent a weekend with him in southern Florida. He's on Bluesville and Watercolors on satellite radio, and now voices those shows in the winter from the warmth of the Sunshine State.

I told you he was smart.

He rented a house and has a make shift studio in a walk-in closet there. Tony has a desk, a microphone, a laptop, and moving truck pads to help muffle the echo in that room. He's surrounded by his research and as Jackie Gleason used to say, "And away we go."

I told him when he's done recording a show it gives new meaning to the term coming out of the closet.

Happy Birthday Tony.

The second one is on the 30th.
My sister Karen, my Dad, my brother Kirk

It's my Dad's birthday.

My Dad has been my father forever and I may be a bit partial here but I think he is bossa nova special.

I've told you before that he was a Colonel in the Air Force and helped raise six kids with my Mom. He always sang, has a great voice, and currently sings in the choir at his church.

Would he be upset if I told you this birthday is his 87th?
I don't think so.

There are plenty of stories to share with you.

Here's one.

We kids were little and were taught to say, "Yes sir and no sir." Military you know. My mother told my father that sounded too formal and could he talk to us about it.

He said okay.

He gathered us around and said, "Your mother and I have been talking and we don't think you should say yes sir or no sir to me anymore."

We nodded our heads.

"We think you should say yes dad or yes father."

We nodded again.

"So from now on, say that, okay?"

"Yes sir."

And so it goes.

Happy Birthday to my Dad.

Happy Birthday to two of the most special people in my life.



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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Glenn Frey

I sure didn't want to write this.

Now Glenn Frey.

Has it been an avalanche lately? Sure seems like it. David Bowie, Natalie Cole, Lemmy, Otis Clay, and now Glenn Frey. I'm sure I'm forgetting someone but there have been so many lately.

I think I speak for a lot of people when I say please give me a break so I can lick my wounds.

The Eagles.

First song of theirs that grabbed me was "Ol' 55." It wasn't even written by them, but one Tom Waits. Glenn sang lead on that one with Don Henley chiming in. I still listen to it all the way through when it comes on.

"Well my time went so quickly
I went lickedy splitly, out to my old 55
As I pulled away slowly, feeling so holy
God knows I was feeling alive."

Great song. They have alot of great songs, most of them written by Glenn and Don.

Two things...

Back in the day country was mainly the Hank Williamses, the Patti Pages, George Jones, Loretta Lynn. The Eagles were a big reason that changed and Glenn Frey was a big part of that.

Ask Nashville. They'll tell you.

Also, you probably can name the best selling album of the 20th century in America. "The Eagles, Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975."

I have my copy, I'll bet you have yours.

Glenn was from Detroit and was good friends with Bob Seger.  Frey later sang backup on Seger's "Against the Wind," and Seger helped write "Heartache Tonight."

The documentary on the Eagles told many things but one thing really stood out to me. Bob gave some early advice to his friend, Glenn. Write songs, he said, at first they'll be awful but they'll get better and better.

And he was right.

I have so many favorites it's not even funny.

"New Kid in Town,""Take It Easy,""Heartache Tonight," "Tequila Sunrise," "Lyin' Eyes,""Already Gone" are some that Glenn sang lead on.

Did you know he was an Otis Redding fan? He named his youngest son Otis. Seger says, "He was in a country-rock band and loved soul music."

Our heroes are getting old, my friends. And as it goes, one day they're not here anymore. Father Time is undefeated.

But we thought they'd live forever. Their music does.

When Bowie died, I listened to him incessantly. When I first heard about Glenn, I thought it couldn't be true.

It was.

So sad.

"Well, I'm a standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona..."

Off to drown in his music.



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Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Passing Of David Bowie

This one hurt.

They all do but this one just a bit more.

I'll bet you can recall exactly where you were when you heard that David was gone.

I can.

Monday morning, early, I was at my desk and had just turned my computer on. I went to Facebook first, as I do, and there it was. What? David Bowie died?

The internet can be a wonderful thing but I learned to be careful. It's full of hoaxes and untruths. I used to take it as gospel, I learned the hard way to go to different sources for the real deal so I went to The New York Times website and there it was on the front page.

David Bowie had died.

I took a ragged breath and just sat quiet, still as can be. David Bowie had died.

I wasn't the only one. Here came the tributes, the memories, the downright shock of hearing the news. Social media is great at times like this. To hear how David affected someone in Alaska, in New York, a young man who now lives in Orlando, was endearing, was poignant.

A few memories of mine...

In college and being in my domain, the basement of my house, and playing "Suffragette City," loud. When it came to the 'Wham Bam Thank You M'am,' my mother came downstairs mad as a hornet and said, in no uncertain terms, that that kind of language was not allowed in her house. I tried to explain it was just a song.

I don't remember her response I just remember she was mad.

Cut ahead many years and a story my wife tells. She told it to her mom this week. We lived in Manhattan, had just had our twins, and she took them to a pediatrician who had been recommended. As she was waiting with the other moms, who came in but Iman with she and David's daughter. My wife thought, "This doctor must be pretty good if Iman comes here..."

On Facebook I saw videos I'd never seen before. You probably saw them, too. The interview that David did with MTV where he took them to task for hardly playing black artists was fascinating.

David singing with, wait for it, Cher.

A very funny clip of David at a piano at a party and singing a song about Ricky Gervais. The lyrics were a hoot and watching Ricky's face... It was great. Ricky's clip where he talked about David was great, as well.

I did a Live By Request with David and he and his band were just offstage about to go on.
They were in a circle like ball players before a big game, and they all had their heads down. David looked up, saw me, and winked.

And off we went.

One other thing.

I had guests at that show. If you watch it (it's on youtube) watch right after the first caller. He requests "Changes" and as David and the band start to play it, they cut to the audience. There is Denise and my brother Kirk, with blond hair, happy as happy could be.

David Bowie.

They all hurt.

This one just a bit more.




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Friday, January 8, 2016

Luther

I was walking my dog today to get exercise for me and to wear her out.

When I walk Lola I have headphones on and I listen to my iPod. "Love Power/Power of Love" came on and it made me think of Luther Vandross.

Luther Vandross.

With a voice like honey and a sweet personality, it was always a treat to talk to him. He was the king of the slow jams. I once told him that when a girl came over and I wanted to be romantic I'd dim the lights and put him on.

He smiled.

I asked him, "When you're feeling romantic, who do you play?"

He smiled again and said, "Me." And laughed.

Good times.

I first heard of Luther via David Bowie. He sang backup on Bowie's hit "Young Americans." Flash forward to his debut album and the song "A House Is Not A Home" grabbed me.

Hard.

Through the years, the Grammys, and the hits, he always remained a sweetheart. Always very approachable.

Through the years he also struggled with his weight, going up, back down, and up again. Watch the video for "Stop to Love" (my favorite song of his) and you'll see the 'thin' Luther.

He always had a 'what can you do?' attitude about it.

"One time I was home alone grilling a hamburger," he told me, "And when I was done I realized I was out of hamburger buns."

What to do?

"I put the burger between two glazed donuts and ate it that way."

He laughed again.

Did you know Luther had a fear of flying?

I was on a jet at JFK preparing to go to Los Angeles and he came aboard, looked around and left. I thought, "Great. Luther is going to be on this flight." Never saw him again. I found out later that flying was hard on him and he also was superstitious.  If he couldn't get the lucky seat he wanted, he'd wait until the next flight.

He couldn't on that one.

Let me tell you about the last time I saw him.

It was in New York and I was with my daughter Maya. She was maybe five. We crossed Fifth Avenue to go into Central Park and a black Suburban was there at the stop light. The horn honked and I heard a knock on the window. I looked up as the back window came down.

There was Luther, shyly smiling.

He waved, the light changed, and the car drove away.


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Monday, January 4, 2016

Food I Like And Exercise

I've struggled with weight my entire life.

I'm not talking real heavy just too heavy. Been on more diets than I can recall. The drink lots of water diet. The grapefruit diet. The eat small meals a zillion times a day diet. The eat nothing but white foods diet. Or is it black? I forget. The doughnut and pizza diet. Just kidding.

My problem is I like to eat. It's what I eat that gets me in trouble.

I love sweets. There I said it.

Not all sweets, but we've got to talk about some of them.

Cookies.

Chocolate chip cookies are like catnip to me. There are cookies I can walk right by, but not them. I don't like candy per se but I'm a nut for chocolate. Milk chocolate sings to me. M & Ms, Hershey bars, and can I ask who invented Godiva?

And since we're talking candy, how about Snickers? How about Baby Ruths? And let's not forget the heavenly Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I can eat about a thousand of those at one sitting.

Sigh.

There's more.

I don't eat much pie but I love me some cake. Again, there are some cakes I can walk right by but there are many I can't.

Sigh, again.

I also like junk. Chips are a good example and with kids that stuff is in the house all the time.

On to food.

I love pizza and that's bad. I'm not proud to say this but at my heaviest I could eat a whole large pepperoni pie. By myself. Not good, people. I love nachos, heck I love Mexican food. Love Italian food. I don't eat Mickey Dees or Burger King or Taco Bell but every now and then Five Guys calls me.

They have my number.

Let's go down the good food I like aisle. Salmon, oatmeal, fruit, vegetables, chicken (rotisserie not fried), salad, raw nuts. There's more but I shout about things that are bad for you like a preacher and whisper about the good stuff like I'm passing along a secret.

And since we're talking about secrets I'll share one with you. Things that you ate alot of when you were younger are bad, bad, bad, for you when you get older.

What's a person to do?

Exercise is always a friend.

It burns calories and helps keep you healthy.  I know, I know, it can be a big time pain in the...but you have to do it. I exercise more now than I ever did. Tell you something. There are days you really don't feel like exercising.  That's when you get major points for doing it. Plus if you do nothing all day but you exercise? You feel like you've done something.

Look around you, there are people who are old but look pretty good. There are people not so old who don't. Genes are part of it. Smoking and excessive drinking are also part of it but exercise allows you to do some bad things and still be pretty healthy.

That's a good trade off.

Now that chocolate thing...

Off to the gym.


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