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Saturday, May 26, 2018

Fringeville #178: 60 years in the rearview…and a Double-Shot

The randomness continues…

I’ve lived 60 years. A lot of stuffed happened over the decades, and today I’ll just review a tiny bit of it from my perspective. Feel free to agree, disagree or question my sanity. As I’ve grown fond of saying, I’m cantankerous and don’t give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks. (That poor little rat…it seems everyone belittles his ass.)

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In elementary school I remember the nuns at St. Bernard’s in Riverdale, Maryland, teaching us to dive under our desks if we saw “a flash bright as the sun” outside the classroom windows. These were the fun Cuban missile crisis days, and we lived in the DC suburbs. The good sisters never said what would be causing the flash, but even at that young age I sort of figured it wasn’t God arriving on a cloud to pass out marshmallows and hard candy. As I said, fun days, those. But if something happened, I knew we would bounce back. Armageddon didn’t come, thank God, because a nuclear explosion trumps a little boy’s optimism every single time.

I watched as a teenager as we struggled in Vietnam. I lost a cousin in that war, and though I was just a young pup I never supported those who took their anger at their government out on the poor bastards who were sent to fight, willingly or unwillingly. They were doing their duty, like a long line of Americans before them, and I was appalled they were disrespected by certain elements of our society. But I always knew America would bounce back from Vietnam, and it did. Less innocent, scarred for certain, but we bounced back.

I remember clearly the first space shuttle disaster. I was an aide at an elementary school as part of my failed attempt to get a degree in education (I ran out of moolah). As I left the classroom for the day, the children were all excited about the first teacher going into space. I got in my car and turned on the radio and heard the breaking news. The shuttle was gone. A terrible blow, but I knew America would bounce back, and it did.

I hung a flag on my front porch on 9/11 with the help of my son. I’d been in a mini-mart parking lot that morning, on my way to work, and I was trying to get my radio working. It had funky wiring and I had to jiggle it, like a toilet handle, to get it to work. The radio came to life and brought me once more terrible, breaking news. I knew immediately we were at war, the course of American history had changed, and we’d been dealt a terrible blow. I also knew America would bounce back, and it did, but it has been a rocky damned road for sure.

During all those times, and so very many others, I’ve always had a deep-seated belief that America would overcome anything in its path. We might get bloodied, we might get knocked down a time or two, but we always bounced back.

These days I worry. I worry a lot.

I worry we’ve either stepped into the abyss already or we are at the very edge, looking down and dangling one foot over the void. There’s a stiff breeze is at our backs and darkness beckons.

Ah, the crop reaped from instability sown.

One could successfully argue that I helped plant that seed. It is one of the reasons (there are many) I left politics. I can sum it up nicely like this: I’ve done enough damage.

That was never my intent, of course. I got involved with politics because I wanted to make a positive difference. There were things I perhaps did very well, but in the end the damage was more than I could have ever believed possible. How’s that for a legacy folks? It weighs on me heavily, one of a growing list of personal failures as I begin to run out of road.*

I hope America gets its shit together. She can, if the will is mustered, but mostly these days we’re mustering “wont’s” not “will.” Everything, every issue, big and small, is a tribal clash. Every crisis is seized by the blue or red as another arrow in an ideological war many Americans are disgusted with.

Yes, I’ve abandoned the religion of politics. I believe, and suspect I always have, in the innate goodness of people. When they plant me, I can only hope I leave something good behind me. I can only hope I’ve touched a life for the better somewhere and that little bit of positive difference rolls forward to someone else, and someone after that, and after that, until no one remembers the stone but still feels the ripples.

* Running out road doesn’t mean they’re sticking a fork in me just yet. I’m going to be around a while. Hopefully quite a while. It is just simple math: there’s a lot more miles behind me than lay ahead, and the road I’m left with has more potholes and fewer decent exits. As I am also fond of saying, the Universe always wins, just not today.

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Next, I’m going to do something I'll call Double-Shots. Will this be a regular thing? Will I remember to do this every week. Who the hell knows? These days, I forget to pull my zipper up at least three times a week. And what’s depressing is that no one notices except my wife. It’s like it is accepted old-fart behavior.

What the hell was I talking about? Ah, yes... Double-Shots. For the inaugural posting, I present two of my very favorite artists, Mark Williams (my dear friend since 10th grade) and Jill Hennessy (who I’ve never met but I think I make smile every so often. And I’m pretty sure she loves chicken wings, so there’s that.)

For both artists, I went with live performances.

First up alphabetically, is Jill. I discovered her music quite by accident. I was always a Law & Order fan, and I also loved her on Crossing Jordan. When I learned she had released some music, my first thought was “…great, another actor/actress who thinks they are musicians.”

I had that all wrong. Jill was busking up north in Canada since leaving home as a young pup to make her way in the world. On her website, she says, “…My guitar was my friend, my family, the one constant in my life.”

She’s a helluva songwriter. The piece I’ve posted is a "live" studio version of 4 Small Hands from Ghost in My Head one of Jill's two album releases (the other being the equally charming I Do). I hope you enjoy listening to Jill as much as I do. (Note: Yes, I switched out the videos from the initial post. Grabbed the wrong one. I'm old. This stuff bewilders me at times. Sadly, Jill's sister isn't on this clip.But the cello is there, and I am a sucker for the cello.)

Next up, Mark Williams.

I met Mark in high school. We were brothers in music, and brothers of the soul as well. He has become a marvelous songwriter and performer. I have his entire “Out Past The Moon” album on my iPhone, and every time one of the songs plays, it is like hearing it for the first time. So many textures, so many surprises. It’s like a perfect dessert that somehow reveals a new flavor with every spoonful. If you don’t have his work, download it. You’ll enjoy it immensely.

I think the common thread that links both of these folks together for me is they started as kids with a guitar and a couple of chords and never looked back. And the world is better for that.

Here's a write-up on Mark at MoonStalker,  and it includes a link to CD-Baby for his Out Past the Moon release.You can also visit this YouTube channel.

Mark is coming back to NEPA this summer to perform at Bartolai Winery on July 14. More on that in an upcoming post. It will be, as always, a wonderful evening with friends and terrific music.


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Some last minute thoughts that have been going through my head:

These days, I know so many angry people. Are you running your anger or is it running you?

A society that cannot protect its children has failed.

Is there anything we Americans won't fight with each other about? We probably can't even agree on if we agree to disagree.

I saw something on social media that I can't quite get over: Chicken wings coated with real gold. Edible. $1000 a pop. Might be a good time to be Ed Norton.

"Hey Ralph, you won't believe what I found in the sewer. Bowling's on me tonight!"

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Be good to each other.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Fringeville #177: Random Schmandom

I finally decided to write one of my rambling random bits. I will let it meander wherever it wants to go. I may have started the engine, but I’m not taking the wheel. Whatever pops into my brain goes to the post. That might be dangerous but I am 60, cantankerous, and I really don’t give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks of me these days.

Random rambling is my elected form of self-therapy; heaven knows I need something.

Here goes…

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I’ve been working on this post for weeks months. I have abandoned it and resumed multiple times.  I began by trying to somehow make cat poop funny. That’s how far gone I am creatively these days. I abandoned the cat poop fairly early on, but the post continued to morph, twist and change. It’s been a couple of weeks months and most of its innards have been ripped out and redone over and over and over ad nauseam. In the end, I ripped the long post into chunks, and today is the first piece I’m letting out of the box, along with a nod to current local media events.

Let’s get started.

I don’t know what’s up with me. Maybe my brain is starting to go. Maybe it’s more subtle effects from the dreaded manboobs pills I am still taking. I do believe they factor into this. One thing I’m fairly certain of is that when you find yourself writing about cat poop, something is clearly wrong.

In any case, the initial prescription for the manboobs pill ran out. I had semi-annual bloodwork done and all is as expected. I don’t see my oncologist until October, so I contacted his office to see if I was done.

The doctor wrote back. In essence, he said: “You’re still growing boobs. I phoned in a refill.”


I want badly to be done with my anti-androgen. I am not the same person, physically or mentally, that I was when I started taking it over a year ago. It is, however, doing its job. Between radiation and the manboob pill, the cancer appears to be arrested.

That’s a fun way to look at it: a little chemo paddy wagon, with a burly sergeant driving and waving his nightstick at the wayward cells: “You…over there…hiding behind that pelvic bone. You’re not going anywhere, boyo. Get in the fecking wagon or I’ll rap you good. Move along! Get in the back with the rest of the mutants, you dirtbags!”

One must keep a sense of humor, I suppose, especially when at times it seems it is all I have left. But the sad clown thing? Oh yes, I get that. I really do.

In short: I do as the doctor orders. He may keep me on it because it seems to be working with just a few annoying side effects: intermittent fuzzy thinking, physical weakness, weight redistribution (I am becoming a Weeble), total shutdown of the manly bits, and the possible need for a training bra (you will not see me working shirtless or wearing slim fit clothing).

On second thought, scratch the Weeble comparison. They don’t fall down. These days, I do plummet to earth every once in a while.

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In something akin to a seismic event on local talk radio, Sue Henry has left WILK. I don’t know the circumstances, but they are not germane to my post.

When Renita Fennick asked me to run for State Representative in 2010 (and that’s how you get things done, kids…you ask someone) one of my first stops was Sue Henry’s show on WILK. I requested to come to the studio. I only had one cochlear implant at the time, and was still regaining my hearing. I was, honestly, afraid to do an interview on the phone. She understood and had me come and visit. I was a nervous wreck, but she was gracious. I learned then, and in a few other calls to the station over the years, that you had to come prepared to talk to Sue, regardless of which side of the political fence you were on.

Sue taught me to do my homework (and good teachers do that, in and out of the classroom).

I listen to very little talk radio these days due to my various work schedules, but hers was the only one I tried to catch. Sue, thank you and God Bless. Local radio will go on, nothing sits still, and while the powers that be will fill your slot, they will never, ever replace you.

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Be good to each other.

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