Recently, You and Me: Me, My Wife and Dave Matthews Band

dmbMy wife has this way of internally rolling her eyes, when she doesn’t want me to see she is rolling her eyes…. Yet, I still know she is doing it and she knows I know.

A lot of this eye rolling has been occurring because of another man. Well, technically, a band of them. For the last year I’ve regained my obsession with Dave Matthews Band and their music. The funny thing is this obsession was rekindled after a bad concert.

Yes, Dave Matthews Band is known for their amazing live performances, but my complaint was not with them. This guilt is all on the shoulders of the audience around me. During the show I almost wondered if my annoyance was because I am older and this is not a thing anymore (and really concert going can take a lot of energy). Nah. This ain’t on my shoulders. Honestly, the people around us were dicks.

There, I’ll say it again: “Dicks.”

Someone was selling beaded necklaces, another family was coming and going throughout the show (I think there were some drugs going on there), and a family sitting next to us brought their own bongos. Yes, you read that right- bongos. And of all of the members of Dave Matthews Band, Carter Beauford  doesn’t need any drumming help. The man is freaking amazing.

Yet, ever since that concert I have not been able to stop listening to Dave Matthews Band. I listen to the music while I am getting ready in the morning, having breakfast, when I am driving the kids to school, and going for walks. Dave is there always, and it feel very natural. Like a friend, just hanging out, catching up on memories. Continue reading

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Snapshots of Decades: A Birthday Blogpost

Super BirthdayTurning 41

It’s my birthday and I am reading Stephen King again.

I do the book reviews for my local NPR station and I knew I would have to take on this very popular author at some point. After a year and a half and over 30 reviews the moment had finally arrived. A copy of his newest novel landed on my porch from his publisher (three weeks before its official release). They want my review. So be it.

I had an aunt growing up that was obsessed with Stephen King. My aunt in some ways was a King creation waiting to happen. She had fiery red hair; a loud, almost shrieking voice; and many of us kids were scared of her. When she got mean, she got really mean. I always did my best to avoid her, never spending the night at her house, trying to avoid being in the same room with her for too long. My aunt would spend her days either on the phone (always complaining), chewing gum or drinking Pepsi (she drank a lot of Pepsi), and reading Stephen King. When I was in 7th grade, she, for some reason, noticed me and gave me a pile of her Stephen King books to read.

I was not impressed and told her as much when I returned the pile a few months later. Rude of me? Yeah, probably.

We spoke even less after that.

Yet, here it is, 28 or so years later and I am once again reading King and I feel like it is a time capsule to that old me, right then. Mainly, it’s because King sounds exactly the same. His voice/prose hasn’t matured, even the plot and characters feel the same as those other books. I’m guessing for many of his fans (including my aunt) it feels like returning to a home.

For me, I see the cobwebs and I wonder why no one has done any cleaning… Continue reading

Drums and Kings: Turning Forty

Gandalf by Ted Nasmith I have always been a book nerd.

A great example of what I mean is my first reaction to J.R.R Tolkien’s masterpiece The Lord of the Rings. I read the book that first time when I was around nine and while I loved it, my favorite moment was probably not the same as for other readers.

There is this wonderful chapter in the first book The Fellowship of the Rings called “The Bridge of Khazad-dum.” For those that don’t know or remember, this is the lowest point for the fellowship as they run to escape the dark of Moria, pursued by unspeakable evils. Yes, I worried about the heroes but really what made me sit up straight and take note was what Tolkien did in his writing and I had never seen anything like it before.

The orcs and goblins chasing our team were using drums but their drums were more than drums. They were speaking.

Doom, boom, doom, went the drums in the deep.

They are relentless, and obviously doing more than simply beating. They are screaming a warning, building to a crescendo over the course of the chapter until finally at the end Gandalf is lost and the drums then fade into the distance, leaving the fellowship and the readers all breathless.

But for me, I wasn’t breathless because of the action and the loss.

No…

I wanted to know how Tolkien did that.

Continue reading

So-So-So (3 Days to 40)

Birthday CakeSo I was at the grocery store buying my wife a bottle of wine. The cashier (a broad-shouldered, older woman with a haircut reminiscent of something you would see in a lumberjack camp) took my ID. She looked at me, looked at my ID and then looked at me again. Immediately, I was overcome with a feeling of dread at the conversation coming.

“You got a birthday coming up,” she began. She sounded like a smoker, or she had a cold. Either way, her voice was rougher and deeper than mine. When I speak to people that have voices deeper than my own it always makes me feel like a kid and I should use words like “ma’am” and “sir.”

“Yup,” I replied simply. I hoped my short response with a word that wasn’t really even a word would end the discussion…. it didn’t.

“A big one,” she said with an evil smile. The smile was a tad disconcerting.

“Yes,” I  said with a nod. There was then this awkward pause.  Her, holding my license and smiling; me, doing my best not to make eye contact. After what felt like a minute, I added, “I’m trying not to think about it.” Continue reading

The 3 Mes: 22 Days Until 40

Number 3I’ve become very self-centered over the last few months.

Not in a “I’m going to be rude” kind of way. No, this is more like I get lost in thoughts, staring off into the distance. It’s like…

I’m sorry, I was someplace else right then. I’m back now.

A few posts ago, someone commented that I was going through a mid-life crisis. At the time, I brushed it off. Me? No!

I didn’t have any of the signs we all know from television and movies! But… now…  I think this might be my version of it. An exclusive and unique mid-life crisis. Sounds like something I would do. And to get through this stage in my life, I thought it might be “fun” to document my thoughts and feelings. Capture this moment. As a writer, you never know what will lead to inspiration and right now all of my focus seems to be on this, this shift. It is new, it is different, and it won’t happen again.

Okay…. Oddly, at this time (22 days off from life’s halfway mark) I feel splintered, broken into three different versions of myself.

There is the present me, the future me, and the past me. And I can see them in the mirror, they haunt me. When I get dressed in the morning, I sometimes wonder which one I am dressing like, which one I am going to be that day. This may all seem very dramatic to some, but I am a writer. It comes with the territory, drama is in the DNA. One of the great truths for all three of the mes. Continue reading

The 1996 version of me is alive and well, thank you very much

10520_1168666669474_4075184_nIn 1996, I was about to graduate from college and with diploma in hand I was preparing to take on the world. Oh, I had so many plans in play!

First, I was going to disappear, six week or so, into Europe, solo. Then I was going to apply for graduate schools around the country. I wanted to study literature while focusing on my writing (the end game being either I make it successfully as a writer or I end up as a Ph.D. in English Literature). I could see it all in front of me, so solid I could have touched it.

The strange thing is that this year is I seem to be having a lot of flashbacks to that me, that time in my life. It’s like I can’t escape that guy. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind that version of me. Yeah, he could be a little too over the top in his sarcasm and his opinion of himself, but he was still me.

I’ve been trying to pinpoint exactly where this began. The obvious answer is my high school reunion last year,  But to be honest, that really didn’t hit me that hard, I would have rather just spent the weekend someplace with some of my friends than take part in what felt like an awkward reunion special for a TV show.

Maybe it could have also been the death of our first Beastie Boy last year? From the first time, I heard the Beastie Boys, they represented something for me and my friends. We didn’t listen to them all the time, but when we did it was because of a certain mood or a certain feeling about being young dudes we wanted to capture. And now MCA is gone, so when I listen to the music now (which is a lot) it feels like unbottled memories, and the energy is a shadow. A great shadow, granted, but a shadow nonetheless.

Or maybe this is all just related to the fact I turn forty this year. The possible halfway mark. The turned corner. The end of youth. A whole new smack of drama I had not considered before. It’s like in politics when a president starts their second term and the newspapers start talking about how the president needs to think about legacy.

That’s me… I guess I am on legacy time now. Continue reading

My Remaining Years and the Birthday of Doom

I have always hated birthdays and I think part of the problem is I have always put too much pressuring on meeting difficult milestones.

I blame myself, but I also blame great writers for this. See, I have always put a lot on what others have done by my age and the older I get (and more great writers die off with each year I pass. I mean, come on! I’m almost a few years off from when Jane Austen snuffed it), the more this is getting difficult to do. Many of the greats have already hit their classic by this point. Me? I’m still struggling to get people to find my writing (and thank you for reading).

Looking back over my website this year it seems aging is a big theme for me. Maybe part of this is related to the fact I lost my grandfather at the beginning of the year. He was the last of my grandparents and with him an entire generation of my family disappeared. Yet, to be honest, I have written about aging before then. One of the first things I wrote for Green Spot Blue was a piece about being older than Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Yes, being older than Indy is a big deal for members of my generation. If you don’t understand what I mean, I can’t help you. (You can read that piece here.) I’m approaching Last Crusade now… after that there is a long draught until the flying fridge and the crystal skulls.

Before this becomes some kind of a great pity party for me, let me add here that I am very happy in my reality. My wife and I have created a wonderful life together and our kids are amazing. I know it’s almost corny to say one’s kids are their greatest achievement but… Okay… my kids are my greatest achievement. Continue reading

The Art of the Blog: Getting Personal

Blogs are always started with the best intention. A writer feels they have something to share, something that could enrich a reader out there in the stratosphere of the internet.

The funny thing is you see this a lot around the newly published, both self-published and professionally published. Did I say “a lot” in that last sentence? Good, because I meant to say “a lot.” And usually on these newly minted blogs there will be a few posts about their book, their experience writing it, and a few helpful suggestions and then… nothing. The internet is littered with the remains of these kinds of websites, something akin to a field after a rock concert. The party is done, but no one bothered to clean up the mess from the show.

Frankly, what the beginning blogger doesn’t realize is that it takes guts and stamina to write a true blog and to build a readership for it. A blog is more than a marketing tool, it is a new writing platform (and in my opinion could become its own powerful writing medium right alongside writing for plays, books, television, etc.), and if you don’t see it as such, you won’t be able to use it to its full potential. Yes, you can fill it up with advice and your opinion, but for people to come back again and again, there has to be something in your blog that is not available anywhere else on the internet…

I’m talking about you, by the way.

Continue reading

Starting School

“Can you believe our firstborn is starting school?” My wife asked me this question a few days ago, her eyes going wide as she said it, and it ridiculously enough took me completely by surprise.

My son is about to start Begindergarten, which is a cute way of saying an “Early Fives” class. He is going to attend it in an elementary and he will be there all day just like all of the bigger kids, using their same cafeteria and their playground (not at the same time, of course). My wife and I were so focused on getting him into the right school in our area for the last eight months that I didn’t realize until recently how much this change meant for all of us in our little family and for him.

This was about to be something new…

In preparation of this first day over the weekend we drove him to his new school and allowed him to play in the playground for about an hour. While he loved playing in the playground (trying everything he could), I kept noticing things, my parental eye kicking in.

  • Who was it that left these empty beer cans here on the playset? Will these people who would drink at a kids’ playground be around the school? Heaven forbid, or will they actually be attending?
  • Why are there so many weeds?
  • And are those soccer nets going to be fixed?
  • Is that rust?

Yes, while this playground is better than anything I had growing up (and this is a great school district), I still was catching everything I possibly could. This could be a super power of mine. A lame super power, but still a power. You can call me “Protective Dad.” And I am here to shake my head and wag my finger at others! Irresponsible people of the world be warned! Protective Dad is among you now! Continue reading

Falling Out of Step: A High School Marching Band Farewell

Last night I had a dream that my yard and driveway were taken over by a marching band. I can’t explain how it happened and why they chose my little house to park in front of and warm up their instruments by but there they were and they were everywhere; the sounds of the horns and percussion seemed to engulf every room.

I went to my front porch, now fully aware that I was in a dream, and watched transfixed as these high schoolers acted as if it was perfectly natural for the drum line to practice by my tree, the saxophones to tune each other on my sidewalk, the flutes to gossip while sitting on the edge of my porch, their feet dangling and kicking over the precipice. Even the color guard was there, stretching and practicing their throws and catches on the street in block formation.

In the dream I walked through the crowd of kids, feeling very much the adult, and found a surprised parent, I’m not certain why she was surprised, she just was. I asked what school is this? Why are they here? She didn’t answer my question, only asking a little hesitantly if it was okay.

I smiled and said it was great. And then I woke up. Continue reading