Rest Well, Eddie…

My mother hated this shirt.

She almost cut it up with a pair of scissors and threw it away instead of letting me keep it. Yet I’ve still got it in 2020. Although in fairness, she died in 1994 and was therefore unable to continue that fight. But I digress (already!).

It wasn’t fair, of course. I don’t have a lot of memories of Mom that I’d call “fair.” I already had a “Damn Yankees” shirt in my collection, and I hadn’t even SEEN them! The Damn Yankees shirt was a gift from my brother. “Well it’s in the NAME of the band” she said, “so that’s different.” Although the back of THAT shirt included the phrase “Shit-Kicking Rock ‘N Roll” and she ruled that I just had to wear an over-shirt on top of it if I wore it outside the house. But “ass?” She wanted to take scissors to it.

The previous Van Halen tour was the “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” tour. The name of that abbreviates to “FUCK.” They called it the “FUCK N’ Live” tour and my brother had at least one, maybe more shirts that said exactly that (though in fairness he was 8 years older and had a job). When I bought the “Kicking Ass” shirt, one of my motivations was “I have a shirt that says “damn” and “shit” on it already, and Dave has a shirt that says “fuck” on it… “Ass” is the least offensive of all those words… But no… Mom was–as was her gimmick–irrationally furious about it.

Let’s just take a moment to examine those words… Fuck = Sex. Ass = A Butt. Shit = What comes out of a butt–and we don’t like the smell and try to get rid of it as quick as we can–we generally consider it to be the most worthless of all things. Damn = Eternity in Hell. If anyone can tell me why my mother thought a butt was worse than shit, sex, or eternity in Hell, I’m all ears. In fact, if anyone can tell me why eternity in Hell isn’t the worst of the profanities, I’ll fuck the shit out of your ass for the favor. (Seriously…think about it… Why are you so offended right now???) Mom… Mom was not a fan of exegesis.

Dad, for his part, expressed some dissatisfaction with it when I bought it, but let it happen nonetheless–I think mostly because I had a friend with me so he didn’t want to make a big thing of it at the show…and also, Dad is a rational person and probably thought, “Hell…he definitely says WORSE at school by now and he can just wear a shirt over it…” I think he KNEW there was a fight with Mom coming, but even if he wouldn’t have said it at the time, I think he thought it was winnable.

So that’s how I almost lost that shirt. The way I kept it was that I took it with me to bed that night and also Dad and Dave stuck up for me. I don’t know what most of that fight was like…I just went to bed confident it would solve itself. I think it was even DAD who told me what the verdict was instead of Mom… The rule was that I could wear it around the house (which I didn’t) but that I couldn’t wear it outside the house–not even to practice with my band (which I did).

And that’s how Eddie Van Halen drove a wedge between my mother and me, from which we never really recovered before she died.

Okay…maybe it wasn’t THAT serious…but it’s one of the first things that screamed to mind today. Because today, we lost Eddie Van Halen. He died. Cancer took another god from us. Cancer is a real son of a bitch.

My mother also once called my brother a son of a bitch. He replied, “I’m glad you’ve got the right opinion of yourself” and promptly locked the door to his bedroom and I listened to a solid half-hour of her pounding on his door, trying to get in…but again, I digress…

I guess Van Halen just takes me back to my teenage years. That band meant EVERYTHING to me then. I was evangelistic about Van Halen, deep into my teen years. I vaguely believe that the cheerleaders at my high school only performed to “Aftershock” because I got one of them into the band in my Sophomore/Junior year. I *know* that there are people who were sad today specifically because I forced them to listen to something from the Van Hagar era–my personal era of choice. I think of Van Halen and I think of a time in my life where everything was urgent, every girl was “the one,” every experience was new, and every moment was miserable, except for the ones where Eddie was playing. They were the band I grew up with. Their songs were some of the most fun I’ve ever had.

In more recent years, I haven’t talked about Van Halen that much. I don’t know when their most recent mention on this blog might be…and I doubt that it was positive… Let’s face it…in recent years, the band did a lot of stuff I didn’t like–some of which I downright opposed…

But that doesn’t diminish what they MEANT in my life. Even if “meant” is a past-tense word.

…and even then… As recently as March of 2020, I was listening to them, anticipating what was supposed to be a Summer Sammy Hagar concert in St. Louis. Of course, COVID-19 delayed that along with everything else anyone might’ve been looking forward to (please wear a goddamn mask)… But as recently as six months ago I was thinking about Van Halen, smiling to myself about old memories of shows and experiences gone by, remembering when my friend Paul and I lit candles to listen to the “Balance” album together for the first time, and feeling great about being a fan. Van Halen hasn’t always been my FAVORITE band (unlike The Who) but they’ve always been important. They’ve always mattered…

And today we lost their most important member.

I know people will want to argue that… I know people invest deeply in Roth or Hagar (or Cherone?) or argue for a chemistry between specific lineups or are just loyal to the two brothers…but if Eddie Van Halen hadn’t been one of the best in the world at the thing he did, there would be no need to talk about ANY of that. Van Halen without EDDIE Van Halen is just a bar-band, hoping a record exec is somehow in the bar and likes “their” version of a Seger song. The band was named for HIM. Not for Alex. Alex is a great drummer–don’t get me wrong–but you can throw a rock in any city and hit a bar with a great drummer in it. But the guy who redefined the electric guitar for the LAST time? There’s only one. He was special. And–THANK GOD–he started a band with his name in it and got the attention. And everything changed.

Eddie Van Halen was my generation’s Hendrix. No hyperbole. He changed the guitar forever. In 1978, everyone heard “Eruption” for the first time. Everyone thought, “I didn’t know the guitar could do THAT” for the first time since Hendrix died. And no one ever said it again.

Name the person after Eddie who redefined the electric guitar. Who’ve you got? Tom Morello? He just did shit Hendrix was doing with more pedals–and he did it very well–but it wasn’t NEW. Joe Bonamassa? Nope…he plays really well, but every 2nd year student knows the Pentatonic Scale–he’s just got better amps than most of us. Dan Auerbach? He’s trying to sound like guys in the 70s and that’s all he seems to know how to do. Jack White? Go fuck yourself–being able to build a Diddly-Bo doesn’t make him special. John Petrucci? Phenominal player…who has Alex Lifeson to thank for his chord structure, and who never would’ve thought to tap a single fret without Eddie laying the groundwork. John Mayer? I’m sleepy…wake me up after his solo so I can shit on his awful lyrics…

…am I missing any? Well fuck them too.

Eddie Van Halen was the LAST person who will ever redefine the electric guitar in its current form. The guys who are great who came after him stole every tapped-note from him, and they KNOW it. Whatever the electric guitar becomes next–if anything–will happen because someone completely stripped it down and rebuilt the whole fucking thing into something new. Eddie defined it in its final form. I will accept no argument–and if you look deep inside yourself, you KNOW there is none to be made. I’m right. I’m fucking RIGHT.

There are a dozen stories about what Van Halen meant/means to me that I could tell here. All of them have different impact. Some of them meant more to me than others. Some are happy. Some are sad.

Those are MY stories. And for now I’ll hold on to them…

What’s important is that you KNOW you’ve got your own story that revolves around their music. You KNOW what happened in your heart and your memory when you heard Eddie died today. Even if that thought was only, “He was a real asshole, I won’t miss him…” you knew the NAME and why it was important. (And you’re a dick, by the way.) Eddie Van Halen’s legacy is indelible. There isn’t a grown-up on this Earth who didn’t know his name. There isn’t a grown-up on this Earth who doesn’t know exactly WHY they know his name.

Some of us just have the shirt to go with the story.

***loud guitar noises***

Thinking About Robin Williams

I’m writing this on the sixth anniversary of when we lost Robin Williams.

Robin with his daughter Zelda, playing Legend of Zelda. (Source: https://winkgo.com/zelda-williams-streaming-legend-zelda-charity/)

I don’t feel like I ever really mourned Robin. When he died, Ferguson, MO was at the peak of its protests. (And for what it’s worth, I count the rioting that was then and is now happening as a form of protest. I no longer believe in separating the two.) I live a bike-ride away from Ferguson. I worked at a church with the word “Ferguson” in its name in a different life. I have deep ties there. (Side note: That church is no longer in operation. It also took no real public stand in the immediate aftermath of the murder–I’ll say it again MURDER–of Michael Brown. Do what you want with that.) At any rate, I was distracted at the time. It didn’t feel important to mourn someone who I admittedly admired, but who ultimately was a fun distraction in my life rather than a friend.

So…I failed to mourn Robin Williams.

But today, I feel a heaviness in my heart that has been on and off when I’ve thought about him over the past several years. I wrote after his death that Robin Williams was a man who could’ve picked up any phone in America, dialed any seven numbers, and found someone who said, “Yeah, I LOVE Robin Williams!” Yet that wasn’t enough to save him. “Because that’s how depression works.”

A lot has come out about Robin’s health since he died. He had an incurable illness. He was losing himself, daily. As deeply as I find suicide to be unpardonable, I also believe that the fact that Robin went out knowing who he was is a small blessing. That he was able to KNOW what he was leaving–and more importantly what he was avoiding–is a small consolation. I understand it. I do not support it. But I understand it.

And tonight I mourn. I loved Robin Williams. He made me laugh. He made me cry. He made me *think.* And that last one is the most important.

In this post I used a picture of Robin playing Legend of Zelda with his daughter, who is also named Zelda (for obvious reasons). If you’re on the e-mail list, I don’t know if they send the pictures with it, so I want to mention it. In the picture, Robin doesn’t look like Robin. He has a big, thick beard that’s mostly grey. And I love that version of him. That’s my favorite Robin Williams. As my beard gets thicker and greyer, I see myself in that Robin Williams. I don’t know if you can see it too…but I see it.

See it?

I miss Robin Williams. I wonder what he would have done with Donald Tr*mp being in the White House. I wonder what he would have said about COVID-19. I wonder what kind of streaming media he would’ve given us now that it’s a regular thing in all of our lives. Jesus…can you IMAGINE Robin Williams unfiltered on a live-stream or an Instagram story? We’re missing out on a lot.

And I’m sad about that tonight.

Off the top of my head, here’s a brief list of Robin Williams movies I’ve enjoyed–that actually MEANT something to me (in no order):

  • Awakenings
  • Dead Again
  • Hook
  • Good Morning Vietnam
  • Adventures of Baron Von Munchausen
  • Toys
  • Death to Smoochy
  • Mrs. Doubtfire
  • Dead Poets Society
  • The Birdcage
  • Good Will Hunting
  • One Hour Photo
  • Patch Adams
  • The Fisher King

…etc…etc…

I’m embarrassed by how few of those I own on BluRay. (I plan on fixing that soon.) Think about just that list for a moment. There are movies you want to add to it. There are some that you think, “well of course.” There are some that are cliches. There are some you haven’t seen. There is at least one you haven’t HEARD of… As I’m writing this, I’m realizing suddenly that I didn’t even have Aladdin on that list…or his role in Hamlet…or Jack…and I didn’t even TOUCH his TV roles…shit…

He was versatile. He spoke to EVERYONE. Robin Williams was everything to everyone and I have not heard any negative story about him from anyone in the industry. The worst I’ve ever heard was a weak accusation of “he stole my joke!” from hack comics who just happened to write the same joke Robin ad-libbed about a current event, or the odd story that is tempered with “well…he was on cocaine at the time and…” but ends with a smile and acceptance.

Robin Williams…

Robin Williams was special.

It has taken me six years to realize just how much I miss him. Six years, and I’m just now realizing that I’m never going to see a new Robin Williams movie again. More than half a decade to realize I’ll never see an unexpected cameo on a sitcom again, like when he and Billy Crystal walked onto the set of Friends. (And good lord that was in 1997–where has the time gone?) It has taken me six years (and the deaths of countless other unarmed Black people at the hands of police in America) to realize how deeply it hurt to lose Robin. Because he was the kind of guy you just thought would live forever. And even now, I feel like he will still pop up again. And I know he will. I know he’ll live forever…

I don’t know where I’m going with this. You’ve probably realized that by now.

In all honesty this is somewhat prompted by the fact that I’ve been listening to old episodes of the podcast Harmontown, on which Robin once appeared. I’m up to the year in which he died and they’ve mentioned him a bit. His loss was felt by anyone he touched, and he was on their stage, joking around with them, making their night a lot more fun. I can’t even imagine that…yet Dan Harmon and company were right there for it and shared it with their listening audience. And I’ve listened to that episode a lot. It’s serendipity that I happen to be listening to this era of the show on the anniversary of Robin’s death–just a few weeks after what should have been his birthday.

I guess one of the things I want to say is that I forgive him. I forgive Robin Williams for killing himself. That’s hard to do. Suicide is one of the few things I find unforgiveable in life. There are friends and family members I haven’t forgiven yet. Most of them had temporary problems. Robin’s medical problem was permanent and was only going to get worse for both himself and everyone he cared about. Maybe that makes it easier.

I didn’t know him personally and can’t comment on what his family or friends should feel…but I’m finding it easier to accept his decision than it has been to accept “my marriage was falling apart” or “I lost my job” or the excuses I’ve heard from those to whom I’m closer. At the same time, I wouldn’t fault Zelda or Bobcat Goldthwait (Robin’s best friend) if they’re having more trouble forgiving it than I do. The proximity of your love is always a factor in your loss. I was Robin’s fan–I can shed a tear and move along.

Nevertheless… Robin, I understand and I forgive you. Even though I would never make that choice myself…and for what it’s worth, if you’d been yourself, I don’t think you would’ve either.

And I guess that’s all I really want to say.

I miss Robin Williams. I get why he did what he did…but it’ll never stop being sad that he did it.

If you’re reading this, please don’t make any decisions that it takes the randos who don’t even know you six years to forgive. Go back on your meds. Go back to your shrink. Talk to your priest. Fuck, start drinking again… Whatever it takes for you to stick around and keep pouring love into this world.

But whatever you do, KEEP pouring love into this world. We need it.

Small(?) Update

Well my last post got some attention pretty much overnight. ๐Ÿ™‚

I did end up reading essentially that post at Grandma’s funeral. It went well and I hope it helped people celebrate her life. I made some semi-spur-of-the-moment edits to it, because some stuff works in a blog post but not in speech and vice-versa, but more or less it was the same.

There were a couple things that needed to be corrected when I actually spoke–most notably that the story I told where Grandma hitchhiked home WAS true (my uncle confirmed it for me that morning–she’d been driving a 1986 Buick Century). But also, she wasn’t rescued by a Prime driver, she was rescued by a JB Hunt driver in Farmington, MO. Per Ron (he’s my uncle) she wanted to write a letter to JB Hunt to thank their driver, but he asked her not to because they’re not supposed to do that kind of thing and he might get fired for it. So I’ve got to make the transition from thinking about Grandma when Prime comes up to thinking about her when JB Hunt comes up…and I got my first chance to do that on Thursday! ๐Ÿ™‚

I took this screenshot instead of answering the phone, like a jerk. Sorry “work.”

My brother also spoke at the funeral, and you can read his transcript of what he said here. He did great. I wish he had more opportunities for public speaking and writing and whatnot. He’s very good.

The day itself felt really long, although also really cathartic. With a few exceptions, I’ve been pretty much locked up in my house since mid-March, so being out at the funeral home and cemetery over those two days was the most I’ve been out and seen people in pretty much four months. It didn’t feel *too* strange, but I was a little anxious about it. Fortunately most people who attended chose to wear masks and there was a decent amount of social distancing going on. My favorite moment was when my cousin Drew walked in and saw me. He walked up to me and said, “Hey Derek! How’re we doing this?” and gestured to ask if I was comfortable with a handshake, hug, or elbow bump. We settled on the elbow bump. I think that Drew’s “how’re we doing this” is going to be my default greeting going forward from here. ๐Ÿ™‚

The funeral was lovely. The pastor who ran the service read some texts and e-mails and whatnot from different family members, and via social media my cousin Samantha (Sammy) pointed out that Grandma had passed away on Grandma’s husband’s birthday. He’d passed away in the mid-70s, but Grandma never re-married and always talked about Mel in a way that you could tell he was the one and only love of her life. I guess her final birthday present to him was to come home to him on that day. I didn’t know that she’d died on his birthday–he’d died a few years before I was born–but that fact is so beautiful that it immediately rushed to my heart and my tear-ducts and made the start to my eulogy a little shaky. (I acknowledged that I hadn’t realized it, through tears and a shaking voice as I started my remarks.)

I’ve found that as I get older I’ve been crying more. And it’s not because I find things to be sadder than I used to… It’s because some things are just TOO beautiful.

After the funeral service ended, we all piled into our cars to take the roughly 45-minute drive to the cemetery, due to the weird route we took. I had the honor of being a pallbearer alongside my brother, several cousins, and a close friend of the family. I didn’t always call Grandma when I was supposed to, but I’m glad could do that for her. She was buried alongside her husband Mel, just about a block down the road from where my mom is buried. Y’know, I’d never known where my grandpa was buried. Somehow it’s just never come up–probably because I’ve never met him. So that was an informative moment for me.

After the graveside moment, several of us then drove another half-hour out to my uncle’s church (which was also Grandma’s church in her final years–although I think her heart was still in Ferguson) for the repass/repast (depending on where you’re from) lunch. That felt weird. Usually during those moments I’d work the room a little and decompress. But with COVID in force, I mainly just sat at the table with my immediate family and even then it felt strange to take off my mask to eat. (And of course now I’m 100% sure I have the virus as a result, even though I have no symptoms.) The time we live in makes mourning harder than it’s ever been before… But I did get to have a nice few moments with my cousin Cory that afternoon. We’re going to get a drink together once it feels safe to do it. He’s a good cat.

And that’s one of the things that’s been tugging at my heart this whole time… I’ve got family all over the States, and even into other countries in some cases…but I’ve also got family RIGHT HERE. And for a while now I’ve been wanting to do a better job of honoring that. My cousin Pam–with whom I spent a little time this week–does a GREAT job of keeping up with all of the cousins, aunts, and uncles. But I just kinda fill in the gaps by talking to Pam (and/or our cousin Terry). I spend a lot of my free time just kinda sinking into myself and my own interests when I could be reaching out and building close relationships with family. And I want to get better at being an active member of the family. Maybe a beer or whiskey with Cory is a foot in the door of that. Or maybe I just need to text more people. Or something…

All I know is I don’t want to find myself saying “I should’ve called more” again.

I got home from the funeral, sat down on my couch, and fell asleep for three hours without even loosening my tie. I hadn’t been sleeping much the previous few nights–because Derek–and I guess I needed the rest.

All said and done, Grandma has been laid to rest after a life well lived. I’ve been thinking about her a lot over the past few days, of course, and it strikes me how much she overcame and managed to smile through. Born in the 20s with the nation in a shaky-state, she eventually lost her husband, lost her daughter, lost most of her siblings (there were 12 of them!), had a host of medical problems from strokes to diabetes to who-knows-what…and yet always had time for people and always had joy. For 95 years.

I’m lucky if I hold on to joy for 95 minutes.

Way to go, Grandma.

Rest in Peace, Grandma

My grandma died at around 3 a.m. on July 3rd. (She was my last living grandparent. That’s a new feeling.) She reportedly went peacefully in her sleep. She had been in the hospital with pneumonia and fluid around her heart, but it seemed like she’d be okay–from what I understand there were even talks that she’d be going home within the next couple of days. Then–just like that–she was just gone.

I was off work that day and slept in. I woke up to the message on my cell phone from my uncle. Or rather I eventually noticed that I had a message. Unfortunately my phone doesn’t really grab my attention with a flashing, neon, “someone died” light or anything. So I was late in finding out. Very Derek. So a few phone calls later and I was alone in my house just thinking about it for a while.

I’ve been trying to organize my thoughts on what to say about Grandma. My uncle was kind enough to ask if any of the grandkids wanted to say a few words at her funeral and at first I thought I would, but when I started trying to write something it just felt self-indulgent and not in tone with what I would WANT to say at her funeral, so I declined. It’s almost midnight after the wake with the funeral to come at 11a.m. and I’m just now typing this, so I feel like that decision is valid…but if anyone sees this prior to the funeral and insists I could be tempted to read it, for the record.

…but basically I didn’t think a room full of my relatives needed to hear me say, “she was right–I should’ve called more.”

There’s more to it than that, of course. But yeah, it’s in my nature to think back on how I could’ve called or visited more. At the same time, Grandma didn’t call me that often either–I think she thought I live a busier life than I do–but that’s a two way street and I know I tend to just kinda park once I get home from work. Still, every time I looked at the caller ID and it was Grandma calling, I did pick up. I don’t pick up for everybody.

This is already too self-judgemental. See why I didn’t want to do this in the room?

I have good memories of Grandma. I have some that make me sad and regret stuff too (those are my default settings!), but I have a majority of good ones. Grandma was kind. That’s such a small word for a big thing, but it’s a good one. That’s who she was.

When my mom died in 1994, I remember how hard it hit Grandma to lose her daughter. I remember someone having to bring her a chair during the wake while she fell apart and her legs grew weak upon the initial viewing. That’s a sad memory, but it’s an important one…because I also remember how freely and generously Grandma welcomed Susan into our family as Dad’s significant other in 1995. It was never an issue or a problem. There was never any standoffishness. Dad had found someone new that he loved and Grandma welcomed her. She told me once that she was glad Dad moved on because after her husband (Mel Herweck) had died she kind of didn’t and it took her a long time to start having fun again. So she was glad Dad had friends and a girlfriend because she knew what it was like to feel alone. I don’t know if I’ve ever told Dad that. But that was Grandma. She was happy to see Dad happy. Because that’s who she was.

And I remember how excited Grandma has been at every wedding for her grandkids. She was all about spending time with family and loved seeing it increase. The grandkids’ husbands and wives were new grandkids to her. Because at her core, she was happy that we’re happy…that’s who she was.

In hand with that, I remember how for years almost every time I talked to her, Grandma would ask me when I was going to find a nice girl and settle down. I’m not sure what kind of lifestyle she thought I led… Usually my weekends consist of sitting quietly and reading until it’s time to go to work again. There’s not much more “settled down” that I can get. But that’s the phrase she always used. I had a variety of answers. In better times, “well I’m working on it” and in worse, “well I’m pretty settled” would be go-to replies. It took me a long time to realize that she wasn’t being a busy-body or pressuring me. She just wanted me to be happy. That’s who she was. (For what it’s worth, now that I’m 40… Grandma, I’m working on it…but I’m pretty settled.)

Grandma did know that the great love of my life has been music, though. And she made it a habit to ask me about that too. Are you still playing your guitar? Do you still play at church? Do you have any gigs coming up? (Although she always called them “digs.” She misheard the word and went with it…much like she always called K-Mart “K-Mark.”) Grandma was unfamiliar with my songwriting–thank GOD!–but she knew I loved doing it and would ask about it because she knew I found joy it in. She took joy from hearing about the things that gave YOU joy. That’s…who she was.

I have a memory of Grandma that I’m not sure is true. I ran this story by a couple of the cousins and my brother earlier and none of them remembered it…but I think I’m right. Grandma went to Arkansas to visit family a lot. There’s a family farm that kind of connects everybody and it’s typical for there to be a bed there waiting for any family member who needed it. In years gone by, Grandma went there a lot and often on her own. On one such trip her car broke down and she needed to get back home so she caught a ride with a truck driver–and the reason I’m so sure that’s true is because I specifically remember it being a Prime truck (they’re a specific delivery company for those who don’t know). After getting home she later was riding in a car with one of her brothers and every time they passed a Prime truck on the road, he locked the car doors to make sure Grandma wouldn’t get out and hitch a ride, as a joke. Years later, I now work in commercial trucking insurance and Prime trucks come up a lot in conversation. Every time they do I briefly think, “better lock the doors so Grandma doesn’t hitch a ride!”

Grandma, for all of her proper Southern Baptist-ness, was a free spirit when it came to traveling. She took a lot of trips and had a good time. My cousin Cory was out of town when she died and cut a trip with his new wife short to come back and he commented that he knew if it was up to her she’d want him to keep traveling. And he’s right. Because that’s (say it with me) who she was.

I last talked to Grandma two weeks ago. My birthday was May 29th and she sent me a card with a check in it for $25, but a mail SNAFU meant that it didn’t reach my house until a couple weeks later. It arrived and I called to let her know. (Of course, being Derek I called two days after I should have.) She seemed in good spirits. She was glad I got the check and wished me a happy birthday again even though we’d already talked closer to the date. She knew, of course, that I’m 40 and it wasn’t necessary to send me a check at this point…but she wanted to. She wanted to make sure I had a little extra pocket money to spend on something fun. She wanted me to enjoy my birthday. That’s who she was.

In that last conversation I am very proud of the fact that I said “I love you” quickly enough that she didn’t get the chance to say it first. I think you should always make it a race to say “I love you” to somebody. I won that one. I didn’t call enough–I know I didn’t. But I hope the “I love yous” always felt real. She didn’t know it…but I think I have the last 10 years of birthday cards she sent. (But I cashed and spent the checks.)

There are a dozen other things I want to talk about and a dozen other memories coming to mind. One of the things that knocked me over earlier this week was the realization that I’m never going to have another piece of her banana nut cake. That’s my favorite cake. At all or at least most of the family gatherings when she knew I would be there, Grandma made SURE I would get a piece of MY banana nut cake. Because that’s who she was. And that’s not going to happen again. And no…you don’t know how she made it. You don’t have the recipe. You aren’t sure you know a great recipe that will remind me of Grandma any time I eat it. And even if you do…respectfully, I don’t want it. I want my Grandma’s banana nut cake.

And that’s okay.

I know she’d want me to have the recipe–that’s who she was–but sometimes losing something means more than having it.

So…

I guess if I have any message I’d like you to take with you from this post it’s this. Be kind, be accepting, be generous, take pleasure in the pleasure of others…

And enjoy every slice of cake.

Make that who you are. I’ll try to, too.

“Not many people know I was the first person to own a radio in Springfield. Weren’t much on the airwaves those days, just Edison reciting the alphabet. ‘A,’ he’d say, then ‘B’… ‘C’ would usually follow…” – Abraham Simpson

The last time I wrote anything here was January 28th. Anything interesting happen lately? Anything, say, of global impact that for some reason only the USA sees as a political issue?

I’ve been fortunate enough to still be working and to be able to do it from home. Although soon my office will be expecting to have us back, of course. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about that. I live in the part of Missouri that presently has the most cases of the virus in the state–it’s literally my CITY, not just my region. Personally I’ve been taking this very seriously and I’ve gone since March 20th without being in the same room as anyone else. I’d be much happier to KEEP it that way until there’s a confirmed vaccine. But so it goes.

In the meantime, let’s do some catching-up, in the usual way…

  1. WordPress has changed the way you make new posts. I don’t like it. Nothing’s where it should be and there is severe lag between typing and it showing up on the screen. (In music-tech we call it “latency” but I don’t know if it’s the same for this…but it sucks.)
  2. I released a new solo album in April called “Departure.” It’s entirely instrumental stuff and I’m really proud of it. It’s available at Bandcamp, per usual, and of course you can get it for free by entering $0.00 as your purchase price, or more if you’re feeling generous. But don’t worry. If you take it for free I won’t know you did. It tells me how many downloads there were, but not who downloaded it. I’m just glad people are listening.
  3. I have a plumber coming over tomorrow. I have a crack in one of the main stacks and a drip in a shutoff valve for the toilet connected to it. (I caused the latter trying to turn off the water flow to the toilet. Of course.) I hate having plumbers and stuff like that over–I don’t like the disruption. Because this won’t be a one-and-done visit. I’m 100% sure the stack will need to be replaced. And (long story) there’s also going to have to be some new flooring put in in that bathroom. So it’s going to be a very big project and will probably result in me having to sleep and shower elsewhere for a while. I’m not happy. And I wish it could wait one more week so I could live at home during my birthday.
  4. And that’s something. I’ll be turning 40 on Friday. Then it’s just the long roll down the hill to the grave, I suppose. I’ll be celebrating it with just a Zoom call to the family. No going out. No party. COVID-19 is a bigger deal than Derek 40. I’m fine with that. I’m pro-social distancing and sheltering in place. It’s fucking stupid that anyone’s opposed. It’s the most selfish thing in the world to go out right now. And since I’m not a shitty person who is also probably not washing my hands (although isn’t it interesting no one’s protesting THAT), I’ll be turning 40 at home. Or wherever I’m staying while the fucking plumber will be ripping out my bathroom floor.
  5. I’m working on other music, apart from the Departure release. Probably going to release something else this year, but don’t know when. I’m barely into the demo-stage of less than half of a full album. So it’ll be a while.
  6. I also have to renew my driver’s license. This week I guess. Although with the plumber here I’m not sure when I’m supposed to make that work either. I wish they could just do that online. All I have to do is identify six road signs, pay a fee, and get my picture taken. We should be able to do that over the internet by now. Instead I’ve got to go to the DMV in the middle of a pandemic, in the area with the most infections in the state. That’s just how the timing always seems to work for me.
  7. I’ve been listening to a lot of The Who. Saw them in St. Louis a year ago (well…a year and two days as I’m writing this) and it popped up in my Facebook memories. I recently bought a new stereo receiver with Bluetooth, so I listened to a massive Who playlist I’ve got on my phone–it’s almost 7 hours long with no songs repeated–and there are still about a dozen I left off! I’ll post that playlist at the end for no good reason.
  8. I’ve talked about most of the stuff I’ve been watching and whatnot on my podcast lately. In brief I’ve gotten into the TV show Community and don’t know how I missed it when it was on. Also I’ve gotten all caught up on the movies of Kevin Smith that I’d not seen, with the exception of Cop Out, which I’ll get to someday eventually maybe. I’ve enjoyed having the extra time for stuff like that.
  9. My diet has been difficult to maintain in quarantine. It’s tough to eat healthy amidst the hoarders who have no idea why they’re buying fresh vegetables who are then ordering pizza. So I haven’t really lost any weight during this–ideally I still need to drop about 10-15 pounds to be the right weight for my height. But the good news is I also haven’t really been gaining either. On bad weeks I’ll fluctuate within about 5 pounds from where I was when this who lockdown started. So that’s good.
  10. I bought a new guitar for my birthday. It’s a Gretsch 12 string electric. If I can figure out how to put a picture into this post with this new horrible interface you’ll see it here. If not, then fuck WordPress.
  11. I mentioned my podcast above. I wasn’t able to get an episode together this week because I was prepping for the plumber to come over. I’m a very bad housekeeper and there were several days worth of work needed to get someone in here even on a semi-emergency. It’ll be back next week. I think.
  12. Seriously…if they don’t fix the lag with this interface, this might be my last post. If that happens then you know what caused it. I don’t know why people can’t just leave something that works ALONE. (I counted while watching that last sentence type itself after I stopped typing…8 seconds! Unacceptable.)

…and I don’t know…I need a haircut and I miss going to the record store and hanging out with my family. But otherwise I have most of the stuff I like in my house and I’ve been having everything else (including groceries) delivered. There are a lot of aspects of it I’ve actually really liked. This post seems to read otherwise though. Oh well.

Here’s that Who playlist I promised you. I’m only now realizing it’s exactly 100 tracks!

  1. Pete Dialogue (from the “Maximum R&B” Box Set. It’s just Pete yelling at the crowd to shut up for about 40 seconds.)
  2. Overture
  3. It’s a Boy
  4. I Can’t Explain
  5. 5:15
  6. Sea and Sand
  7. The Seeker
  8. It’s Not Enough
  9. The Real Me
  10. Quadrophenia
  11. Another Tricky Day
  12. Leaving Here
  13. Heaven and Hell
  14. Cut My Hair
  15. Love Ain’t for Keeping
  16. Eyesight to the Blind
  17. The Punk and the Godfather
  18. Street Song
  19. A Legal Matter
  20. Shout and Shimmy
  21. Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand
  22. Going Mobile
  23. Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere
  24. Baba O’Riley
  25. Beads on One String
  26. Sensation
  27. Studio Dialogue (from the “Maximum R&B” set–an outtake/false-start of “Behind Blue Eyes” that’s pretty funny.
  28. Behind Blue Eyes
  29. God Speaks to Marty Robbins
  30. Dreaming from the Waist
  31. Tattoo
  32. Fortune Teller
  33. Pure and Easy
  34. Real Good Looking Boy
  35. In the Ether
  36. Wire & Glass
  37. Baby Don’t You Do It
  38. Relay
  39. Naked Eye
  40. Mike Post Theme
  41. Who Are You
  42. Break the News
  43. A Man in a Purple Dress
  44. They Are All in Love
  45. How Many Friends
  46. Eminence Front
  47. Sister Disco
  48. Getting in Tune
  49. Ball and Chain
  50. Doctor Jimmy
  51. Be Lucky
  52. Fragments
  53. All This Music Must Fae
  54. Slip Kid
  55. The Kids Are Alright
  56. Pictures of Lily
  57. I Can See for Miles
  58. So Sad About Us
  59. Blue, Red and Grey
  60. Don’t Let Go the Coat
  61. Old Red Wine
  62. Music Must Change
  63. Happy Jack
  64. Squeeze Box
  65. Long Live Rock
  66. Under My Thumb
  67. Let’s See Action
  68. Welcome
  69. I’m One
  70. Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting
  71. I’m the Face
  72. The Dirty Jobs
  73. New Song
  74. Young Man Blues
  75. I’m Free
  76. Magic Bus
  77. The Last Time
  78. My Generation
  79. Substitute
  80. A Quick One While He’s Away
  81. Imagine a Man
  82. My Wife
  83. I’m a Boy
  84. Drowned
  85. The Song is Over
  86. Pinball Wizard
  87. Bargain
  88. Too Much of Anything
  89. Amazing Journey
  90. Sparks
  91. You Better You Bet
  92. I’ve Had Enough
  93. Water
  94. Join Together
  95. Won’t Get Fooled Again
  96. The Rock
  97. Love, Reign O’er Me
  98. We’re Not Gonna Take It
  99. See Me, Feel Me
  100. Tea & Theatre