Where Do They All Belong?

As I write this, I am in day two of a four day run where Steph and the kids are away and with their cousins. Having been a parent now for eight-plus years, these pockets of time are rare. It’s certainly odd to come home to complete silence, though any parent will tell you that these breaks are also quite liberating. It’s a strange combination of exhaling and enjoying the quiet and also feeling guilty for being able to exhale and enjoy the quiet while my wife has the kids. I joked with someone at work how weird it is to come home and just be able to put your phone and keys anywhere and KNOW it will be there, right in that spot, the next morning!

It got me thinking about solitude. My childhood was relatively normal. I was into sports, I ran around outside with neighbors, explored the woods behind my house, swam in the summer and rode my bike anywhere I was allowed to. It was also not normal in the sense that my sister was a pretty competitive figure skater, so much so that she went to school part-time for a while. This led to some odd work hours for my parents, who had to a) support her and b) make sure she got from point A to point B every day.

For a while there and if my memory serves me correctly, from the age of about 10 to 13, my mother was working midnight-to-8am shifts at some plastics company in Clinton for a while. Often times my sister would skate before school and my dad had to take her, then head to work himself. Since my mother wouldn’t get home until 8:15 or so,  I’d have to get up by myself, get food and get myself to the bus stop for 7:30. Not normal, but I guess I didn’t know any different. As I think about it and talk about it with others, this is/was very uncommon.

I have some specific memories of this time. Once in a while, my dad wouldn’t go right to work. He’d come home for some reason, I am not sure what. Maybe to see that I’d get off to school ok. And he would bring donuts. Ahhh donuts. It was always great to have those on school mornings, but the truth was it was better to have my dad there because I felt safer. As a 10-13 year old, your mind goes all kinds of places when you’re alone, especially in the winter when the sun doesn’t show itself until around 7am.

Another specific memory is hearing a loud crash and bang at the house while I was still in bed and it was dark. I was so freaked out and scared that I didn’t leave my bed until the sun came up and I literally had get up, get dressed and run like hellfire to the bus stop. Upon returning home from school, I found that the screen door to the backyard had come off it’s track and banged to the ground. That was the noise. But a little kid’s mind wanders, you know?

I think the oddest part of this was when I actually had to babysit a smaller kid. Her sister was a figure skater, too, and both of her parents worked, so it was decided between our  family and hers that I was the best possible option for babysitting her. Are you kidding me? I didn’t think it was a good option. So a few days a week, I’d be on the bus with this meek, skinny little kid (maybe 8?) and the two of us would be at my house until her parents came and got her after work. I can’t remember for the life of me how we filled the time, but I was glad on the days when it wasn’t happening.

It all goes back to the solitude thing. As I grew into an adult, I found that I really loved being by myself. Of course I still do. I remember promising some high school friends that I would be the last one to get married. I was right. I even had two friends from school who were married and divorced before I even got married for the first time! There was a time when I told them I would never get married, in fact. And I probably believed it.

But times change. I guess I could have gone two ways. I could have really been the hermit who moved to Vermont or Western Mass. with all my CD’s and vinyl and stuck it out by myself in a small log cabin (believe me, the thought crossed my mind more than once) or I could do the “normal” thing and get married, have children, etc.

Meeting my wife changed everything, of course. The emotional pull of having a wife and child, as it does with most people, won out. There is tremendous satisfaction in the whole thing, of course. Knowing that you have someone who loves you and is a teammate in everything you do and try – that’s powerful. I got a good one, too. And kids…..oh kids. Nothing in life is so maddening and yet so lovely and satisfying.

So I am enjoying the rare bit of silence right now. I am enjoying it because the solitude defines, to an extent, how I grew up. I found ways to occupy myself. I found ways to be happy. I spent a lot of time in my room, inventing stuff to play or build. It’s where I developed my love for music, which I still have today. It’s where I found my love of books. A kid who was alone as much as I was at home during this time could’ve really gone sideways. And trust me, I almost did go sideways for a while there. I can’t speak to whatever prevented me from doing so. I’d like to think it was a good head on my shoulders, but I don’t think that’s what it was. I think it ended up being a few good teachers in high school who cared about me and just…..maturing. But boy, it was close to going sideways.

We all deserve solitude. But 4 days is probably going to be plenty to get the need for solitude out of my system. By the time everyone gets home, I will revel in the noise, the commotion and the crisis of an 8 year old whose Legos fall apart. The reveling will not last long and then we’ll snap back into our normal routine of parenting….. and living. And my wife, my support system, my teammate, my friend, she will be back and we will continue along our path, still relatively early in our chapters, but writing our book together.

I’m Ready for the Laughing Gas

I recently got back from a family trip to Hawaii.

(Editors note: Back when I wrote on this page more regularly, my next sentence in this post would have been “but that’s a blog post for another time” or something like that. But let’s face it – at my current pace of roughly two posts per decade, there’s little chance you’ll get a Hawaii post out of me).

Anyway, while I was in Hawaii, I still tried to keep up with news back home on my IPad via my Boston Globe subscription. To give you an indication of a) just how much less attention I pay to music than before and b) how much U2 has fallen off my map in the last 5-7 years, I had NO idea that U2 booked four nights at the TD Garden, with all four performances occurring while I was gone. I am not entirely sure I would have gotten tickets, but I thought it a little strange that I hadn’t even heard of the shows.

By my best recollection, the last time I saw U2 would have been around 1992. It’s safe to say that back then, they were IT for me and many others. I think I may have seen them 4-5 times on the Achtung Baby tour alone and can clearly remember shows in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Foxborough and New York City. I love SetList.FM!

Anyway, it got me thinking about U2 again and while rock radio ruined them for me by pounding all their Top 10 songs all over the radio for years, there’s still so many very very good songs that the radio doesn’t play. So I had an idea to construct a Spotify playlist of all my favorite U2 songs that did NOT chart above #50 in the US Billboard Charts. What I found was that there are 17 songs that I can go back to again and again and probably never get sick of. These are songs that you will likely never hear on the radio, either. Bonus!

I can split the playlist into era’s for myself, because that is fun to do if you’re a music nerd. So I’m gonna do it. It won’t be that painful for you and if you know me well enough, your name might even be in here.

The Middle School Era (1982-1985):

As a middle school boy, I hadn’t really cemented myself as a deep music fan, but the foundation was there. I had a deep appreciation for Led Zeppelin – and not just the hits that everyone else knew. I also liked deep Def Leppard cuts, AC/DC and upon looking through my 6th grade notebook recently, discovered that I also liked The Firm and Journey quite a bit.

Songs from this era on the Playlist:

  • Like A Song – oh, the urgency and liberation of being young and untouchable.
  • Seconds – one of my favorite U2 songs ever, I think about nuclear weapons. Takes a second to say goodbye!
  • 40 – they got it from the Bible. Really. A mellow, lovely tune.
  • Surrender – another of my all time U2 faves. Vaguely referencing suicide, prostitution and attempting normalcy.
  • A Sort of Homecoming – a warmer vibe here, but that moment in the song when he sings “…and we live by the side of the road, on a side of a hill…..as the valley explodes!” — you just know that this band is a beast. Emotional, brilliant, beautiful. So much going on in this song.
  • The Unforgettable Fire – another rich, emotional beauty of a song. Listen closely for Larry Mullen’s “shit” near the beginning as he struggles to get in time. Love it.
  • Wire – could be my favorite U2 song of all time. I think it’s about drug use, but I can’t be sure. That’s how I interpret it, anyway. A frantic, dark, rock and roll song that stays with you. Ends with “I’m no dope, I give you hope, here’s the rope, here’s the rope, now…swing away…..” This is KILLER!

But I didn’t know ANY of these songs back then! All I really remember about U2 back then was “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” their first real radio breakthrough from the War album. I sure liked the song, but they were pretty new and I wasn’t going deep with them.  I also have a very specific memory of sitting in my room one day, being afraid of Hurricane Gloria in 1982 and listening to their song “Gloria” repeatedly. Why does that stick in my head?

The Unforgettable Fire came next, in 1984 and that was another step forward in terms of my exposure. Like many other people, I gained a huge amount of respect for them after Live Aid’s killer performances from that record. I still wasn’t ALL in on U2 then, but “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and “Bad” were two songs I really liked. It wouldn’t come to me until much later how strong this album was from front-to-back. Dear Lord, it’s a near-masterpiece. I didn’t really get it, though, until the early ’90s.

The High School Years (1985-1989)

OK, this is when U2 went totally bananas. Everyone LOVED them! My specific memories during high school are of three people who were always pushing me to listen more. Thank you Josh Harmon, Karen Skinner and my high school girlfriend Paula. Karen sat behind me, I think it was Spanish II class. She was a year ahead of me and I remember her really pushing me hard to listen to more than just the hits. Truth is I’ve never, ever liked “With or Without You” or “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” But the rest of that album is on the money, honey. Big time. Karen was right. Josh was just a U2 fanatic and also had an influence.

Songs from this era on the Playlist:

  • Exit –  a man plunges into darkness. Maybe their most depressing song ever. But compelling as hell.
  • Running to Stand Still –  another story about the ravages of drug addiction, but beautiful nonetheless.
  • Red Hill Mining Town – likely my 2nd favorite U2 song ever. Crazy highs and low lows. They’ve never really performed this live because they discovered that Bono couldn’t hit those high notes quite enough. This makes me so sad, because if I saw it live it would probably make me cry. It’s about miners and the effect of their job on their families. The moment when Bono screams “Hanging on! You’re all that left to hold on to” is maybe my favorite moment in the bands whole catalog.
  • Van Dieman’s Land – So many people were turned off by Rattle & Hum, but there’s a lot to like here and this is one of them. A dark, simple song sung by The Edge. Always has stuck with me.
  • Hawkmoon 269 – Another one of those quiet tunes that hits some frantic highs.
  • God Part II – Most certainly not their strongest work, but I’m still a sucker for a memorable song with good rock guitar and lyrics that reference other famous musicians.

The College Years (1989-1993)

This is where it peaks for me. Achtung Baby came out and I about went berzerk for U2. Lots of people didn’t appreciate (or maybe understand) U2’s change in direction, but I LOVED it. I didn’t mind the serious U2 of the ’80s, but I LOVED the whole approach in the ’90s of the band spitting irony of the mass media and creating characters to mock it (the whole FLY thing). But that was just the sideshow. The MUSIC on Achtung Baby, to me, was their peak. Adventurous, a little more rocking, richer and a little less preachy……and catchy as hell. This is also the last album by them that I loved. Really, my admiration was over the top, probably.

A year or two later, they unleashed Zooropa and that had a few gems, but it was the beginning of the end of my adulation for U2. Ever since then, it’s been 10% hit and 90% miss. But that sweet spot from 1982-1992 is one I don’t think any band will ever accomplish again.

Songs from this era on the Playlist:

  • Zoo Station – if only for the distorted, rocking guitar intro. It was the opener on the Achtung Baby tour for all those shows I saw. And it’s awesome.
  • So Cruel – maybe one of their most beautiful songs to listen to.
  • Zooropa – the last song I really loved by this band. An atmospheric rock song that would have (and should have) fit perfectly on Achtung Baby and it’s a song that I have never gotten tired of, even after 20 years. Super cool chorus, awesome vocals, great mix and just a  beauty. If you haven’t given this song a chance in a while, you really should.
  • Wild Honey – From the “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” album. I liked this album. But it didn’t destroy me like Achtung Baby did. This song is a nice, acoustic-based rock song with a great hook.

So there you have it. When I post to the blog, I go big. I’d love to say it won’t take me three years to post again, but who knows. Playlist below. This is basically the set list I would hand them for a live show if it were up to me. Gosh, I would pay a LOT to see them do this set:

Are You Serious?

Whew. You know when you walk somewhere you haven’t been in a few days and you end up going straight through a spider web and it ends up in your face and hair? That’s what this feels like right now. My arms flail for a split-second and I’m trying to feel around to get rid of the web that’s in my mouth and hair. Hello blog! Cobwebby and dusty in here. Plah.

The last time I posted here was a day or two after the Bruins cup parade. That was, oh, a year and five months ago. What could have possibly gotten me to come here and wax on? Well, I attended my very first house concert tonight. I thought it was meaningful enough on a few levels to have to get everything down on (e)paper while I still smelled like incense. Right?

Now, what could have possibly gotten me out of my home and to a house concert, you ask? Well, a couple of things:

1) It was Michael Tarbox playing. If you’re musical nerdy enough, you know him as the lead guitar/singer for the Tarbox Ramblers, an outfit who owned a lot of my Friday nights from, oh, 1996-1999 at The Burren in Somerville during those few golden years when I was working at Rounder Records, broke and not knowing any different. They pretty much owned the place once a week, playing to an absolutely packed house of people who just loved them, myself among them. If people want the best guitar lessons, you can try out from https://ncmac.net/instruments-1/

I am doing my best to keep things short here, but the Ramblers came along at a time in my life that was rather serendipitous. I had just come off of a 7 week drive around the country with a college friend. Neither of us had been particularly enamored of our corporate post-college jobs, so we both quit, got in the car and literally had no plan. We just drove. And drove. That’s a topic for another post. Maybe in another year-and-a-half. Upon my return, I had to take stock in what I wanted to do and I ended up in the warehouse at Rounder Records, which started a slippery slope in the record business that ended up with myself running my own little record label. Again, story for another time. Or just search the blog here, I’m sure you’ll find some stuff.

Anyhow, during that road trip myself and my friend were exploring the country and popping in all kinds of music, including an awesome collection of old 1930’s and 1940’s traditional blues standards, one of which was a song called “Stu-Ball” that we had taken a particular liking to, so much so that we kept playing it and shouting the lyrics out loud. To be 23 and that free again, right? I do actually have us doing this on video.

Fast-forward to my first Tarbox Ramblers show. The Burren, Somerville. Probably sometime in ’96. They play their first song and I’m just lost in their genius. I mean these guys are for REAL! After the first song, I tell my friend John Cain that these guys would absolutely CRUSH “Stu-Ball” and I proceed to tell him about this lost blues standard we repeatedly played in the car just months earlier. If only they knew it, I remember thinking……if only. Next song by them, I shit you not – Stu-Ball. Right then and there I knew I had found something special. And for years they remained that way to me and I got to know their singer/guitar player relatively well, who is just such a good soul and a great talent. At some point, the label I was working for signed them, too, so that whole era can arguably be defined by their sound.  Their songs just take me right back to the Burren. Every time. Glorious, fun, liberating, drunken nights. So, let’s call it 17 years later – a house concert with Michael Tarbox? I’m there!

2)  Said house concert is in the town I grew up in. Weirdness. I’ve probably been back to Lancaster, MA three times in the last ten years. My family is moved out. Gone. As many of you may know, there’s not much there. I’m a half-hour east now, closer to Boston and too busy to ever need to be in Lancaster for any reason. So why not go!? I’ve never been to a house concert. What the hell? You go to someone’s house? And they allow you inside? And a band plays? Well, yes. That’s pretty much how it works. In this case, it’s actually Michael’s sister’s house and it’s a place I drove by every weekday on the bus on my way to school for many years. Big old beautiful (and I mean beautiful) Victorian on Main Street in Lancaster.

It’s a pot luck. I ate dinner with my family, but I get there and the scene is rather festive. I know NOBODY. A lifelong friend from school days will join me later, but I’ve got a half-hour on my own. Of course, I see Michael, we have a hug and proceed to catch up. Such a good guy. He shuffles off and I end up talking to the opener, whose name I unfortunately forget but I will probably always remember the conversation we had. He’s probably 50. Clearly a music fan like me and we have some small talk and I ask him how long he’s been playing music. A year and a half! Shit! Are you kidding? He was like me – a devoted fan of music and one day he just wanted to try playing it, so he picked up the guitar and just started. Now he plays out, writes songs and is……just doing something he always wanted to do. Special.

Such an interesting path we all take. I don’t have even close to the balls it takes to perform music in front of people. That is horrifying to me. I would piss myself. Yet I’m the first guy shouting songs in the car and going all air-guitar at home when nobody is watching. I’m perfectly happy doing what I do on a daily basis. In fact, professionally it’s pretty awesome. But I love hearing stories and talking to people who just take that left-turn. Inspiring.

My friend shows up. We both quietly laugh at the situation because both of us grew up here, he delivered newspapers here as a boy – and it’s all just kind of surreal. I’ve got worlds colliding, neither of us know really anyone, there’s all kinds of amazing food and this house is just unreal.

…..and then Tarbox starts. And in some ways, nothing has changed. He’s still got it, I never doubted that. The people, older, are absolutely all over the place dancing and having a ball. It’s sweet, really. I just stand there with my friend and take it all in. As I look around the room, I’m trying to figure out if I know that person? He looks familiar! She looks like someone, I swear it! Could it be her? No!

I listen to the great songs and occasionally think back to a completely different era in my life. It’s almost just like The Burren (or middle school?) except we’re all older and I’m geographically in the place where I was from age 4-17. What the what?

Either way, it was so pleasant to see the age variance – people from age 4 to 65 – dancing, forgetting about life and enjoying themselves. So I like house concerts. Maybe I’ll go to more. My first one was pretty special. Here’s a little footage:

See you in 17 months? I really hope it’s sooner than that.

The Bruins

I remember the little TV. It was a tiny black & white, maybe 6 or 8 inches and it had a little handle on it. My dad usually kept it in the garage to watch stuff when he was down there working on a car or whatnot, but one day the TV in my parents bedroom crapped out and he hauled it upstairs, tin foil, antennas, little crappy speaker and all. This had to be somewhere in the 1978-1979 time frame, but I really can’t remember. But I remember this – that was my first exposure to the Boston Bruins, or at least the first one I can remember. The Bruins were my original must-see-TV.

There were countless nights after that, spent laying on the bed watching the games with my dad. Probably hundreds of them. It is one of the stronger fabrics of my childhood. The years flew past, as they do. The mini-TV got moved back downstairs in favor of a bigger, color one and the Bruins kept playing, every fall through spring. With each passing year, my idols would retire, be traded or just change. Brad Park. Pete Peeters. Terry O’Reilly. Barry Pedersen. Rick Middleton. Steve Kasper. Ray Bourque. Cam Neely. Adam Oates…..they all just faded, one into the other, not for lack of personality or accomplishment, though — it all just rolled along like your favorite TV show – some were good episodes and some were not.

My first game was Thursday, December 11, 1980 at the old, dusty, wonderful Boston Garden. I was nine. My dad was 34. But it feels like yesterday – I can still taste the Garden pizza, can still probably draw for you the view from our seats, just under the Garden balcony overhang between the blue and red line, looking across to the Bruins bench. I have such vivid memories of being in the pro shop before the game, looking in bewilderment at all the cool Bruins stuff. Walking across through the slightly dark North Station lobby, full of smoke,  old thick wood benches and a few people living on them. The big old clock down there right before you walked out to your train. The gray-walled, winding ramps up to the arena. They played the Quebec Nordiques (so BLUE!), with the Stasney brothers flying around and a local kid named Ftorek, too, early on in his career. They lost 5-3. I remember so much about it all. I was already very much a hockey fan by then and had been playing for five years already, but THAT was something else. To BE there! I remember walking outside on Causeway St after the game, my dad holding my hand. He asked “so what did you think?” I don’t remember my answer, only the question. But I can probably guess what my response was.

Spring of 1983. I’m twelve. My mom and sister are watching the big TV in the living room, so my dad and I are back in the bedroom for game 7 of the Buffalo-Boston Adams Division Finals at the Garden. We watch intently and when, in overtime, Brad Park buries his own rebound with a slap-slot from the top of the circle, we rejoice, big hugs and laughs. See it here, the video is only :33 seconds:

It’s truly like yesterday for me.

1987-88. I’m a junior in high school. We split season tickets with a family friend and thus began our regular trips into the Garden, right at the time Bourque, Neely, Moog, et al, hit their peaks. A wonderful time to be seeing live games. Of course, my dad and I attend many of them and see some great games, the most memorable is one in which he has a new company car (’88 Chevy Cavalier) and we park it at Alewife, as we always did, and take the Red Line to Park Street and the Green line to North Station. I don’t remember the outcome or who they played, but I know I had a high school game the next day. We get back to the garage, turn the ignition and……nothing. No way to get home. We end up in that flea bag motel right on Route 2 and I miss half of school the following day, which, by MIAA rules, makes me ineligible to play that night. Or so I thought. Our Athletic Director Pete Richards calls me into his office and TELLS me I was there all day (and apparantly tells the main office the same thing). I fall in line, nod in agreement and play that night.

So it goes. In and out of Bruins games, year after year after year. They make the playoffs all the time, but can never reach the pinnacle. I go off to college and watch several seasons from afar, hitting Pittsburgh and the Igloo when the Bruins are in town. At one point, I painted the large rock at Kent State with the Bruins logo, but they always end up losing to Pittsburgh in the playoffs, who were an absolute force. Neely’s career basically ends and it’s a slow, steady downward spiral. For about ten years the Bruins are irrelevant – I go to games while living in Somerville, pay $20 bucks or whatever for the back row of the balcony and always sit in the first 5 rows off the ice. Easy. A few blips here and there, such as the night I watched Anson Carter bury one in double overtime during the Tar Hut years, while drunk and watching one of our bands play at the Bay State in Northampton, MA.

But for the most part the Bruins are silent players. Then….the lockout. Suddenly there’s 30 teams (something I still hate).

Then, in the 2006-2007 season, the Bruins are relatively awful, but I watch every game, because Stephanie is pregnant and in bed every night by like 8:30, so I have nothing to do. There’s a flicker of hope in their game, though, and the next few seasons are exciting. And then there’s this season. Much like what is now a generation ago, I split season tickets with a friend. I go to 12 games and see 10 losses, but the Bruins still do well. You know the rest, right?

But I have to tell you about the ride this year during the playoffs. I can’t be silent about it. I was at every game except for Game 2 of the Montreal series. I was invested – financially, mentally, physically. Walking out of that arena after these games, I truly felt like I’d played. As cliche as it sounds, it was one of the rides of my life. I will never, ever forget game 7 of the Conference Finals vs. Tampa Bay, perhaps the best hockey game I have ever seen. Those Cup Finals games were terrific and raucous and fun and LOUD, but I have never heard a crowd that loud in my life that night after Horton scored the only goal of the game and then the moment they clinched it. Just unforgettable. Now the memories come rolling through – Thomas stopping Gionta. Horton’s double OT goal, then doing it AGAIN in OT four nights later to eliminate Montreal. The SEGUIN game! Too many amazing memories…..

My dad was with me when the Bruins said bye to Philadelphia, then again for game 3 of the Cup Finals, which I will forever remember as the night real life took over hockey (see my work blog post on that here). The memories of this run are endless and I will hold them dear for the rest of life. It might be the best money I’ve ever spent. To be a part of the crowd, to hug strangers, to high-five EVERYONE in sight, to continuously be able to trot friends and family in that building with me for the playoffs is something I will cherish for so long. The result, as you know, was tremendous. The company and the enjoyment and the feeling that you were really, truly, a part of the team is unbeatable.

So this morning, the circle for this season got closed. We brought our own boys with us right to the base of the TD Garden, where the old barn used to stand. And I swear it would have been right at center ice of the old Boston Garden where the Bruins players came out, trotting the hardware just 15-20 feet from us and spoke of their appreciation for us fans – and I felt like they meant it. I couldn’t help but think of all the games I’d seen in person and all the games I watched as a kid with my dad, which happened right on that very spot where I held my boys and stood next to my wife, watching the Cup, the Prince of Wales trophy and the Conn Smythe trophy sitting there on the stage. I felt nine again. Bewildered. Almost wide eyed. I felt the same elation I’d felt so many times growing up watching this team. But most of all I loved hearing that crowd. All as one. Can’t even imagine what it must have felt like as a member of the Bruins these past few days.

Later on, just like that Decmeber night in 1980, I asked my own boys “so what did you think?” Maybe they’ll remember their answer someday or maybe they won’t……but I got to close out the season this morning with my family next to me and thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people who, just like me, got to exhale this year. And boy did that feel good.

I Don’t Remember, I Don’t Recall

I went to a friend’s 40th birthday party the other night. I guess this is the year all my old classmates and I turn 40.

I have this very specific memory of laying down on the floor of my house, probably 9 or 10 years old. The TV is on and it is the evening. I have a pen and a notebook and I’m laying on the floor, writing in the notebook. I’m writing down numbers. Lots of numbers, next to each other, on top of one another, numbers everywhere, really. I occasionally look up at the TV, but for the most part as I am laying there on my stomach with my pajamas on. I distinctly remember scanning the page, up and down, looking at the numbers and saying to myself “this is probably what math is like in college.” A few minutes later I distinctly remember saying to myself “wow, I will be 29 in the year 2000.”

What does all this have to do with a 40th birthday party? Well, memories for one. The recurring theme of this blog is that I am rather fascinated with the passage of time and all the sociological and mental aspects of dealing with it. We are obviously not the same people at 10, 20, 30 and 40. Obviously. Just think of yourself at those ages and how much you changed every ten years. It’s all dramatic change. I find myself wondering if the level of change will be similar from 40 to 50. I think the changes will be more physical on this go around. But who am I to know? I guess the older people can chime in if they want.

Anyway, memories. As we sat around the table at the party, each of us had very specific memories of one another that we all pretty much forgot. One woman who I’ve known since the age of five told me she remembered clear as day that back in Kindergarten I always seemed to know the days of week. I always knew what day it was. Of course, I have no memories of this. Another friend reminded me that when we were 19 he crashed for months on the couch of the apartment on Peterborough St in Boston. I felt bad, and told him so, that I had forgotten about this. How could I have possibly forgotten about someone who I lived with? For months! Of course, as soon as he said it, I remembered that and more and he also filled in some cracks of my memory about other amusing stuff that happened in that apartment and on that floor.

So how is that we can retain certain things, certain moments, from when we’re splayed out on the floor of our house when we’re 9, but we can’t remmeber someone we lived with for a couple of months when we were 19? It’s absolutely fascinating stuff.  Anyway, that night was a blast. When you get five people who have known each other for that long a period of time, there are inevitably some chestnuts that get unearthed. The biggest laugh of the night (and probably the biggest laugh of the YEAR) was the result of something that someone had forgotten, in fact.

So this is the year we all turn 40. I’m pretty okay with that, so long as I can keep connecting with the people I’ve been on the ride with. One thing that does keep changing for me is the value of those relationships. Even if I only connect with them once a year, once a month, once a whatever. Those relationships keep getting more important to me. I want to hear more stories that I’ve forgotten. I want to laugh. I want to remember.

[audio: remember.mp3]

Peter Gabriel, “I Don’t Remember”

I got no means to show identification
I got no papers show you what I am
You'll have to take me just the way that you find me
What's gone is gone and I do not give a damn
Empty stomach, empty head
I got empty heart and empty bed
I don't remember
I don't remember

I don't remember, I don't recall
I got no memory of anything at all
I don't remember, I don't recall
I got no memory of anything

Strange is your language and I have no decoder
Why don't you make your inentions clear
With eyes to the sun and your mouth to the soda
Saying, "Tell me the truth, you got nothing to fear
Stop staring at me like a bird of prey
I'm all mixed up, I got nothing to say
I don't remember
I don't remember

I don't remember, I don't recall
I got no memory of anything at all
I don't remember, I don't recall
I got no memory of anything
Anything at all

I don't remember, I don't recall
I got no memory of anything at all
I don't remember, I don't recall
i got no memory of anything
absolutely anything at all
I don't remember

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Vacation. It’s a funny word these days in this house. As parents of three-year olds, my wife and I define vacation as pretty much any time we get to spend alone outside the normal bounds of our daily routine. An occasional dinner, for instance. Or even an overnight somewhere. But the old definition of vacation – taking a trip somewhere for a week or two – doesn’t really apply as a parent. Vacation, in the traditional definition, isn’t really vacation. Things like grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, showering or driving to work become “vacation.” Simply put, vacation for us right now is just parenting somewhere else and hoping beyond hope that everything goes remotely normal.

You hope for “remotely normal” because the odds are pretty much stacked against you. Remotely normal, in fact, would be an enormous win for many parents. Here’s what you’re generally looking at:

  1. You’re probably going somewhere with less space.
  2. You have less of their toys and books to use as weapons of mass soothing – you just can’t bring it all unless you’re J-Lo or Julia Roberts.
  3. Many kids don’t adapt well to a wholesale change in overall environment.
  4. You’re dealing with multiple three year olds. I shouldn’t have to explain that one, should I?

I am here to tell you that our vacation wasn’t even remotely normal. I can’t, by definition, say it sucked. But I can tell you it wasn’t ideal. But I don’t want to bog you down with all those gory details. Oh hell, yes I do! If I had to deal with it, you do too. It rained pretty much 5 out of 7 days. That was rather evil, as numbers 1 and 2 above were greatly exacerbated by mother nature, that bitch. You were so good to us all summer long and so mean to us on our vacation week.  We shake a finger at you. You can pick which one. So the weather didn’t help. It even caused one of us to make a trip home to pick up fall/winter clothes since the temps didn’t get past 65 for 3 of those days.

So yeah, that basically means that all four of those bullets above were operating full steam! That’s not good for anybody, really. The level of exhaustion was pretty dramatic. While we’re on the subject of dramatic, I should also mention how whiny a couple of three year olds can be. I should also mention I am not without fault. Because when you’re dealing with two whiny three-year-olds, you’re definitely getting a whiny 39 year-old as a result. Time doesn’t go by fast enough for anyone when you’re shut in for 3.5 days. At the beach.

OK, now – the good! Yes, there was good! We went to Plum Island, our vacation of choice each year. We just love Plum Island. It’s really an awesome little place. Every year we dream about having our own vacation house there! Anyway, if it rains (and boy did it rain) there are choices for the little ones. So if it wasn’t for the the mass of electric train sets at the Wenham Museum, the tidal pool creatures exhibit at the Joppa Flats, the clean, friendly people at Leo’s Super Bowl in Amesbury, MA or Gram’s in Newburyport, whose ice cream rivals some of the best I’ve had, this “vacation” could very well have been, well, shorter than a week. The sun finally arrived on Thursday and we did get to spend Thursday and Friday outside and at the beach, so it improved a bit, but the WHINING! Good golly gee, man. The whining.

But you know what? We’re going back next year, if only to capture moments like these:

Zachary free as a bird!

Or these:

Nathan, fly!

and yes…….this, the ubiquitous self-portrait:

What would my blog be if I wasn't somehow a focus?