Monday, September 16, 2019

Today Is My Birthday

Today I turn 65. Gosh that's old.
My wife Denise, her Bestest my sister
Karen who introduced me to
her. She was 16. Birthday dinner
this past weekend.

Here's the thing, when you're younger you never think you'll ever be this old.  Jackson Browne sings in The Pretender, "They say in the end it's the wink of an eye."

Amen to that.

What's funny is how things have changed over the years.

Like when snacks said spicy hot when I was a kid, they were kinda bland. Now when they say spicy hot your mouth just about falls off they're so hot.

Kids nowadays like candies like Sour Patch Kids and Starbursts, you know, things that are tart. We didn't then. We liked chocolate. Don't get me wrong people still do but that's not the go to like it used to be. Go to the movies and see what they have for sale. And while we're talking I remember great buttered popcorn for 15 cents. Now it's the kind of popcorn you pack boxes with and it's like a 100 bucks.

I can remember the days before rap and cell phones, in fact I can recall when rap began. Sugar Hill Gang anyone? There were different kinds of rap then. Funny rap. Introspective rap. Uplifting rap. Dance rap.

I also recall when you didn't curse in songs. Sounds quaint doesn't it? Nowadays you can hear all kinds of things in songs you didn't hear when I was young. Words that got my mouth washed out with soap are in hit records. Hey, listen to what you want to, I'm just saying.
Me in elay.
I was 21.

Nowadays you say pay phones and land lines to blank faces. It seems everyone is walking around looking down at their phones. It used to be people called and left a message. People couldn't find you. Now it's, "I called you 15 times where were you?"

I remember when Pac man was brand new and everyone ran to play it. We couldn't believe how cool it was. Man, you would go to a certain bar or arcade just because they had it. Now? Go find one. I'll wait.

I remember before computers and the internet. Say what? That's right, before Macs and laptops and iPads and all that. Computers used to be a block long and those were the good ones. Now it seems everyone has one somewhere and I don't know if that's a good thing. But what do I know?
Me and my brother
The Kirkster

Do you know why we have reality shows everywhere? Back in the day, the writers of sit coms and tv shows went on strike. Networks and studios, instead of renegotiating with them, thought it was cheaper to film people who had their own dialogue and that's where Real Housewives and Honey Boo Boo and Bridezilla and all the rest came from.

My wife and step daughter watch The Bachelor and The Bachelorette and yours truly has been banned from the TV room when they're on. Why? For saying things like, "It's easy to fall for someone in Tahiti it's when you get back to a studio apartment in Pittsburgh and all the cameras are gone..."

Banned I tell ya.

Remember when our parents first heard rock and roll, when they first saw color teevees, when they first had seat belts? The time before afros the time when only Mr. Clean had a shaved head and an earring?
Griffin, Miles, Jenna, Denise, and Miss Maya.
A long time ago...

That's how I feel.

Today is my birthday.

A wink of an eye.


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Saturday, September 14, 2019

Eddie Money

File this under I'll bet you know but Eddie Money has died.

It's so strange that it's becoming something we're slowly getting used to. The passing of our musical heroes. Prince, David Bowie, Tom Petty, Luther Vandross, and sadly there are more.

I've always said wait until Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Robert Plant...I've also always said that I wish people no harm but we're going to lose our collective minds behind all that. My father always said to me that dying was part of living.

But still.

I was a brand new DJ in Baltimore when I went to see this new singer in a small venue. He was great. His name? Eddie Money. It was the first time I saw a concert as someone who played the music.

When I was on the air in Chicago, WLUP-The Loop, I saw Eddie again. I told him I saw him in the Marble Bar in Baltimore years before. He casually said, "I remember that night." With wide eyes I asked him did he recall every show he'd ever performed. "No," he laughed, "I remember that show because I met a girl at the after-party and we went back to my room." "I'll bet that happens a lot," I said.

With a sly grin and in that New York accent Eddie replied, "I do my share of pushups."

I've been telling that story for years.

Rock and roll, for me, has been around forever.  Lines like, 'hope I die before I get old' and 'when I'm 64' are like second nature to me and everyone else. Is it weird that when I see a grandfather in a Pink Floyd t-shirt I don't think it's weird?

'Just like Ronnie said.'
Eddie and Ronnie

When Take Me Home Tonight seemed to be everywhere my sister Karen, who loved the song, mentioned something to me. With Ronnie Spector gyrating and singing in the video she said that it was strange to see Eddie pick up a saxophone. And as she said pretend to play it. I pointed out that like Bowie Eddie actually played the sax.

"Oh."

Eddie Money, whose real last name was Mahoney, had a father who was a cop. He was supposed to follow in his footsteps but gave it up for music.

I speak for a lot of people in saying I'm glad he did.

Turn on Sirius/XM or Classic Rock stations and wait. You'll hear him.

Rest In Peace Eddie Money.




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Thursday, September 12, 2019

Pat Hanavan

Pat Hanavan is my neighbor and good friend and I've written about him before.

Let me remind you.
Lydia and Pat

He and his wife Lydia, who is dear as the day is long, lost their son Patrick back in 2015. Patrick had been battling depression and that's pretty much all I knew. I went to the funeral and have been hugging them, physically and mentally, ever since.

Turns out Patrick passed by his own hand and I couldn't imagine what dealing with that is like. You read about that, you hear about that, but imagine it happening to you.

Tough is a good word. So is tragic.

Let me just say that when something awful happens you think you're the only one that is going through something like that. I'm here to tell you you can't see in people's hearts and minds. If you could, you'd see everyone is dealing with something.

Doesn't make it any easier to deal with, just easier to understand.
Patrick

Back to Pat. When something like that happens to you what do you do? Well, he decided to try and help others who have been down that rabbit hole.

He decided to write a book.

And a good one it is.

The first sentence is a simple one 'We are all on this journey called life, but many of us struggle with what appears to be the simple things.' Amen to that. It tells the story of Patrick. Of being his father and the before, during, and after.

Pat writes about the ups and downs of Patrick and there were ups. Surfing with friends, fishing, and walking in nature are a couple of them. He also writes about the downs. Mood swings, depression, self medication. He writes about things he calls quirky-Patrick would never wear shirts with advertising on them. How he would lose his wallet on a regular basis. How he would break or lose his glasses, also on a regular basis. But you never think it's a precursor to the unimaginable.

The old saying is that hindsight is 20/20. True that.

There is a sense of 'how'd did I miss that?' in the writing. Most people who go through what Pat did have similar feelings. It's very helpful to read on the page what tumbles through your thoughts.
Christine and Patrick from 2004.
His daughter, Patrick's sister Christine, is also in the book and one passage where she half dreams about her brother after he's gone is especially poignant.

Now the after.

Pat writes about finding his son, about calling 911, about telling Lydia and Christine; about the devastation he felt. One can only imagine. His faith, their faith, helped him immensely. He talks about kind of sleep walking through the funeral, the aftermath of Patrick's death, and also how hard it is when there is a void in your life. Again, one can only imagine.

Now the helping.

Pat writes about how psychiatry helped him and his wife Lydia and how it can help you as well. And let's not forget how it might turn a light on in someone's mind who might be contemplating the unthinkable. How sharing his experience with Patrick might help a person who needs to hear about it happening to somebody else.

In a world where there is no help sometimes you find yourself alone in a dark room with only a glass of wine and your thoughts. And your spouse pleading with you to finally come to bed. This book will go a long way to help insure that a person has options, that a person knows there is a helping hand.

Pat's last words...I hope this makes a difference.

Pat, you have.

An epilogue.

I substitute teach and look at the magnet I found on a teacher's desk.

Coincidence?

You be the judge.


Mind Crisis is available from Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1686085958/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_





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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Hazel Francis

A song made me think of my grandmother.

The song was Stranger On The Shore by Mister Acker Bilk. Don’t know it? Not to worry I couldn’t name you anything else he’s done. This was a sleepy sounding instrumental done by a guy in a bowler hat who played the clarinet. But. It was the biggest selling song in the UK in 1962 and it was played a bunch here in the US.

I heard it first coming out of the radio in her kitchen. I was seven.

My grandmother’s name was Hazel. Hazel Francis Johnson. In my whole life I’ve never met another Hazel. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess you haven’t either. Names were different back then, less Brittany and Aisha and more Mildred and Ethel.

We called her Nana.

My grandmother was born in Bimini. She was wonderful, magical, and I’ll bet yours was too. She was my mother’s mother and she left a deep imprint on me and my brothers and sisters.

Grandparents spoil their grandkids. They kiss and hug them, give them all the treats that mom and dad don't want you to have and are great babysitters.

The old joke is that they're so great at that because they get to go home and leave the runny noses and full diapers behind.


Nana was always a good cook but she was a great baker. We kids learned that if she was baking something you better get there early.

Hazel Francis lived in New York; Jamaica, Queens to be exact. I went to second grade there when my father, in the Air Force, went to Germany ahead of us. It was while living in her house that I learned to play handball, how to collect glass soda bottles for the two cents you would get when you turned them in.


How to tawk like a New Yorker which I later un-learned.
Nana used to eat cereal before she went to work but get this instead of milk in the bowl she had coffee. I’ve never met anyone who did that. When I was young and the tooth fairy came and exchanged my teeth for coins, there were subway tokens mixed in with the loot. I thought it kinda strange but hey it was m-o-n-e-y.

We got used to the way Nana would say every sentence like it had an exclamation point at the end of it. We’ve been saying, “There were peas and rice!” forever, lovingly mimicking her.

 And yes it makes more sense to us than to you.

When she retired she came south to Maryland to live closer to us but she missed New York terribly. She had her own apartment and knowing that she missed home I got her a subscription to the Daily News, her favorite New York newspaper.

One day when I went to pick her up I noticed three or four papers that had been mailed to her on her buffet by the door. “Do you read them, Nana?” I asked. “Every one,” she replied. “ Do you know why?” she asked with a twinkle in her eye. “Because I like to talk and if you like to talk you have to know what you’re talking about.”

Truer words were never spoken.

When she died there was a funeral in New York,  it was the first one I ever went to. We were all there; my mother, my father, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, family friends. It's odd what I remember from that day. They had an open casket and I didn't know what to do so I did what everyone else did. I went up, genuflected, and saw my grandmother for the last time.

But here's the odd memory.

When I got back to the pew where my family was I told my mom what I had done and said, "You should go up and see her." She told me, "That's not my mother up there. It's just a body. Her soul is gone." I'd never heard that before.

Mom never went.

                                                       Hazel Francis Johnson.
                                                          My Grandmother.
   










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