Poem

I first shared this on Facebook yesterday. Didn’t get a ton of reaction but those who cared seemed to care a lot. So I’m posting it here too. In case anyone else cares. Presently untitled. And it’s the closest thing I can come up with to describe things at the moment.

No one can ever be sure.
It seems doubt is all we were made for.
But if doubt hits a drought
there’s no need to shout.
If we’re out, I can always make more.
I’ve doubts in amounts no one can ignore.
But You’ve heard this all before.

I’m tired of losing.
I’m tired of loss,
and all that You’ve taken from me.
You want my prayers?
I want fucking answers.
I want something I can believe.

I’ve tried to hold up my end,
but it feels like I’ve been dragging Yours.
It’s not that I don’t believe in You,
it’s that I can’t carry much more.
The thing about doubt
is you first must have faith.
That’s the only way it works.
I’ve got faith enough to call Your bluff.
Why must everything hurt?
(Live long enough and everything hurts.)

If You test my faith,
expect spit in Your face.
Not every test benefits You.
You want my worship?
I want my life back.
What are You trying to prove?

There are those who say
that the only true way
is to turn to You in prayer.
But I’ve folded my hands ’til they’ve bled
and every word that I’ve said
seemed to vanish into thin air.
They say there’s nothing I can’t say to You
because You always understand.
But who do I turn to when God’s not enough
and I need human hands?
When I reach out, where are YOUR hands?

I know it won’t ever be easy.
You didn’t promise to use a light touch.
The only promise You made
comes after the grave.
And after this, You OWE me that much.
But when I face my end,
can I call You my friend
and trust that You will do the same?
I don’t want to die still wondering
if You ever knew my name.

A Month of Stuff

It’s been a hell of a month. I mean both the “hell” and the “month” literally.

Not all of it has been bad. A LOT of it has been bad. Some of it has been wonderful, though. Tonight, it feels bad. The depression is bad. The coping mechanisms aren’t working. My brain is screaming, my blood feels like it’s on fire. Tonight isn’t wonderful. So I’m writing because it’s been too long. And because I need to write.

For what it’s worth, I know what triggered the depression. It was Sunday night. A simple, innocuous Facebook post by a friend that was just a matter of fact statement of what they’d done that afternoon. Nothing too unusual. Nothing bad. “Just a little pin-prick,” as the song goes. Just a little reminder that someone I care about has a life going on without me, that I wasn’t invited to…and my brain translates that into feeling unloved, unaccepted… Soon it tells me I’m never going to find “the one” or if I have I fucked it up. It reminds me that at my age, having kids isn’t a likely outcome. That my music career is met with a shrug by most of the people who are most important to me. And why ARE they so important? They never call. Why do they never call?

…all because a friend went to a dinner party on a sunny afternoon.  That’s all it takes sometimes to make the feelings I’ve been doing okay keeping under control turn overwhelming. So we blog.

A hell of a month…

On July 13th, I took a late-afternoon shower and when I got out I saw that I’d missed a call from my Dad. Dad had been feeling poorly in recent months. I won’t go into too much detail, but he’s been sluggish and losing a lot of weight. I’ve been worried about him. In what times I find to still pray, I tend to include “please watch over those I love and keep them happy, healthy, and safe.” Since mid-May, I’ve been tagging on, “…with particular attention to my Dad–I don’t like seeing him like this.”  So I texted, saying I saw I missed a call and did he need anything. I got a new call and the voice on the other end wasn’t Dad, it was his significant other of 25 years, Susan.

Spoiler alert: It didn’t turn out to be the case but the thought in my head when I registered her voice was, “Oh, this it when I find out Dad died.” I was sure. Although I’m happy to have been wrong about it.

In reality, Dad had been rushed to the emergency room with a variety of symptoms, some of them gross, and I’m sure he’d prefer I not post the list here. It was serious, but not fatal. After something like 8-9 hours he was finally admitted somewhere around 2 or 3 on that Sunday morning. I went out to see him that day, of course, and Susan brought me up to speed, alongside my brother and sister-in-law. It didn’t sound good.  And when we walked in to see Dad, he didn’t LOOK good. For a couple of days, he was having trouble staying conscious and everything just seemed “off,” if you know what I mean. I remember thinking, “Okay…so WHEN WILL I get the news that Dad died?” It looked and felt BAD.

That Monday, I’d scheduled a day off work in advance. In true “you couldn’t have planned it that way” fashion, I had a ticket to meet one of my all-time biggest idols in Geddy Lee from Rush, who was to be in town signing his book. The Friday before I’d posted that I was looking for someone to go with me and my friend Amanda said she’d like to go–the signing happened to be the day before her birthday. So we made plans and with the blessing of those sitting at the hospital, I went to the signing and kept the plan.  Up until she arrived (she lives about an hour and a half from here) I didn’t tell Amanda about Dad because I knew she was excited about the signing and I didn’t want her to question whether or not she should still come into town for it. WE WERE GOING. I brought her up to speed once we were both standing in the mile-long (no exaggeration) line.

A sidebar about Amanda. I think it’s important to give some context for why this evening at this time meant so much–and I think she’d echo at least most of this… Amanda is one of my longest standing friends. We’ve known each other for 21 years (in a row!) and in all the things that have happened in that time, we’ve managed to remain important to each other. There’s a level of trust and understanding between us that is ineffable. When she’s around, I feel like I’m reunited with a part of myself that I forgot I liked. Amanda is the best. Everybody should have an Amanda. (And no–at least to my knowledge, we’ve never dated. I know how this might sound to some people, but…just…come on, man.)

Amanda and I have had Rush in common for almost the entire duration of our friendship. We met at a church we both were going to and I’m sure this isn’t the first conversation we ever had, but I know it was early on. I remember exactly where I was standing on the church property when Amanda came over to me and said, “So…I hear you like Rush.” And I’d like to think that from that moment on, we’ve been cosmically linked. Her dad is a guitarist and played Rush songs all the time when she was growing up. And it goes deeper than that… When Amanda’s mom was still pregnant, her parents attended a Rush show–so Amanda’s first Rush show was in utero. You can’t deny the awesome of that! I don’t always do everything right, but I was at this signing with the right person.

The signing itself was quick and simple. Not a ton of interaction, but you got to share a few seconds with a God. When I got up to Geddy, I asked if he’d sign, “Take off to the Great White North” in reference to a song he sang on the 1981 Bob & Doug McKenzie album of the same name. He declined, but said, “but I’ll write this” and wrote “Take off, eh!” I was overjoyed. (Google Bob & Doug/SCTV if you need context for that.) All told, it was probably 10 seconds with Geddy. Worth every penny and every hour of waiting. Plus…big-ass book to go with it!

Afterward, Amanda and I got dinner together and talked for a couple hours. We covered a lot of ground and I don’t think I can recall even half of it, but it was the kind of talk you only have with that kind of friend. Then we spent probably another hour(ish) at an arcade nearby. She’s really fucking good at Tekken, by the way. I’ve known that since the 90s…but damn. My ass still hurts from the kicking.

At the end of the night, we said goodbye and had a nice few moments I’ll keep for myself and not write about. (Still not dating–stop it.) And we went our separate ways. It was a perfect evening. I don’t get a lot of those. Amanda took a selfie of the two of us outside of the bookstore where the signing took place that I immediately made my phone background because I knew I’d need to hold on to a happy memory for a while. (It’s still there, by the way.) I know I’m on the borderline of saccharine here, if I haven’t already crossed over…but as cool as it was to meet Geddy Lee, he was the opening act for that evening. Again…everybody should have an Amanda.

I can’t stress enough how important and critical that night was to my sanity in the days that followed. From that point on, the past several weeks have felt like a fever dream. Dad kept getting diagnosed with more and more problems. By the time Amanda and I were saying our goodbyes, the doctors had determined that Dad had suffered a stroke at some point recently. (Unsure exactly when–but it was too recent to explain the months of declining health.) Then on Tuesday–the day after the signing–they performed a brain scan and found that his carotid artery was something like 70% clogged and they rushed him into emergency surgery. My understanding is that if they hadn’t done that, a second life-changing or ending stroke was imminent. I was home and planning on going to work when I heard “carotid artery” and dropped everything to rush to the hospital. I knew that was serious…and again it felt like we might lose Dad.

He made it through that surgery really well. He eventually got moved into rehab for the stroke and has been in one rehab program or another since. Target date to be out of it is the 23rd, from what I understand. Although there are still lingering questions and follow-up visits, and other things to address…it seems like he’s going to be okay. I’m the eternal pessimist…but I think he’s going to be okay, after feeling at least 2-3 times like I was saying goodbye. He did have a quick readmission to the hospital with pneumonia…but that seems to be going okay, too now that they’ve released him again.

In the interim, I’ve been cleaning at Dad’s condo. I don’t know if this will embarrass him or not, but one of the things that came up is that he’s got COPD/emphysema because of his smoking habit. So he CANNOT smoke anymore. And feeling helpless to address anything else, I’ve been spending a ton of time at his condo doing laundry, spraying Febreze, cleaning up, and just doing whatever I can to try to get rid of some of the smoke smell that’s sunk into fabric and wood alike. I want to make it easy for him and getting rid of the smell should help a lot. But at this point, I guess he’s been more than a month without a cigarette. So it should be out of his system. And he only got very grumpy a few times. So for two or three weeks my routine was work, hospital, condo, home, sleep, repeat…

And somewhere in there I also got sick. Actually it was right around when Dad got pneumonia. I wonder if we both caught something from the same source and it turned into pneumonia for him. I’ve still got a bit of a cough two weeks later. That hasn’t helped anything.

Things started to feel not-quite-normal, but close within the last week or so. Then this week, as I described above, the depression hit pretty hard. And then today–or I guess yesterday now, since it’s after 3 a.m.–I got word that someone I knew passed away. This after spending the past 24 hours begging God, “Can I please just get some reassurance that things are going to work out? Can I please just get some comfort?” …instead, my friend Mike let me know that Rick had died. So…a few words about Rick.

Rick was a manager at the comic book shop I used to frequent, near my house. I know. That’s a tertiary friendship…okay…but Rick was something special. He was…kind. That’s such a weak word for it. But it’s the word that comes to mind for him.  Someone else on Facebook wrote, “he had one of the most sincere ‘good to see ya’s’ I’ve ever heard in my life.” And that’s about right. He got to KNOW the people who came into the store. First and last name, interests outside of comics, interests IN comics (of course). He made TIME for people in a way a lot of us just don’t think to do.

I remember one day I walked into the store and Rick was right there, waiting specifically for me. “You’re going to love this. If you don’t, bring it back and I’ll refund you.” And he handed me issue #1 of Morning Glories, which almost immediately became my favorite title in the years where I was buying issues. And he got me into the Brubaker run on Captain America (which all you Marvel Universe fans owe a debt of gratitude). And he recommended this and that over time…  And he is to some degree responsible for the last time I seriously smoked. No, seriously.

One day, I was in the comic shop and there were some playing cards that were in a box shaped like a cigarette pack. I picked one up and said, “Wow…these make me want to start smoking again.” Without missing a beat, Rick piped up, “Then smoke.”  “Pardon?”  “If you want to smoke, then smoke. You’re a grown man and can make your own decisions. Be happy.” And he’d never led me astray before…so…….

The last time I saw Rick, he didn’t know I saw him. It was three weeks ago. I was in a grocery store and he was walking down one of the aisles, pushing a cart. And it had been a couple of years. My hair is different (and lesser–ahem) and I’m a little chubbier…  “He probably wouldn’t remember me…it’d be weird to say hello…” And I paid and left. Even in the parking lot, I was thinking to myself, “That was dumb–what’s the worst that could’ve happened?” And I figured if I saw him again, I’d say hello. Then tonight, my friend Mike–another really great guy–filled me in that Rick had suddenly passed away.

You should always say hello.

I don’t mind telling you that when the words I read from Mike tonight sunk in, I cried. Not deep sobs. Someone could’ve been five-feet away and missed it. But there were some deep breaths and tears. There are now, too. I JUST SAW HIM. And I didn’t stop… Rick would have remembered me. He would have.

And now it’s creeping up on 4 a.m., having proof-read and probably still missed things I should correct… I have work in the morning. Or I guess just later today at this point. And I can’t sleep. I didn’t sleep much last night either. Lately everything has felt so weighty. So uphill. And I’m tired. But I can’t sleep. I feel…lonely.

It will probably pass. Most things seem to. Some of them take a piece of you with them when they go though. You’ve just got to hope it isn’t one of the important ones. But I’m better equipped for these feelings than I might’ve been a year ago. I have mantras, breathing exercises, good habits to practice, a nice wallpaper on my phone, and so on.

I’m bad at ending things that I write. It feels like “You should always say hello” would’ve been the logical, climactic place to stop. Right? That was probably the one. Ah well. Thanks for staying with me on this one. It felt good to get some of it out.

Now…perchance to dream…

Several Reasonably Long Stories

It has been forever since I’ve written anything here. It seems like it’s been forever since I’ve done anything even close to this with the podcast also having been on a bit of a hiatus. (More on that shortly.) There are a lot of reasons for that. Mostly I’ve just been exhausted lately, and doing something productive (even if it’s fun) after working all day hasn’t been my top priority. Mostly I’ve been getting home, sitting down, maybe playing a video game (presently re-obsessed with Stardew Valley) and just sort of killing time until I go to bed. Those are my work days, lately.

…but there is other stuff going on too, so let’s talk about those things point by point. I promise there are paragraph breaks in many of these points–sometimes they don’t display very well on this blog. Also the spell-checking on this blog seems to have stopped working. Sorry if my word-making isn’t nice.

  1. It’s my 39th birthday, as I write this. I don’t have a lot of thoughts about that. My family and I got together the previous weekend for dinner and gifts and whatnot, and it was nice. Enjoyed a good steak for the first time in a long time. Today is pretty much just a Wednesday with a slightly more active Facebook wall–midweek birthdays are like that. But I have been finding small ways to mark it, just for myself. Next year, I’ll be 40. I don’t expect it to be much different than this year in terms of celebration.
  2. One of the things that was related to my birthday though was that my Dad got me a ticket to go see The Who on the 23rd. We’d have gone regardless, but the ticket was a birthday gift, since it was so close to the 29th. I’d written in the past about what I assumed would be the LAST time I saw The Who. Turned out to be wrong about that. I’m glad I was.
    This time they played an outdoor venue in Hollywood Casino Amphitheater (or “Whatever They Call Riverport Now,” as it’s known locally). I don’t love outdoor shows, but The Who is one of the bands I’ll follow where-ever they play, so it was fine. They had a symphony with them, and while I first thought that could go either way, the band themselves remained bombastic, animated, and dangerous, so the extra orchestration just made it all BIGGER in the best way.
    My favorite thing about The Who is that every time they play, there’s a chance it might all go horribly wrong. When you factor in 30ish extra musicians, those odds skyrocket.  So when it goes right–as it very much DID–it’s a wonderful treat. Sure, Townshend’s voice was blown out and the new kid on bass wasn’t loud enough in the mix on The Real Me…but in general, the symphonic arrangements were incredible and the show was a blast. Dad, Dave (my brother), and I all first saw The Who together in 1989–30 years ago!–and it was great that we all got to do it again.

    who
    We made several attempts at taking a selfie. This is the one where we were all–y’know–visible.
  3. Right…so about the podcast.  I’ve taken several weeks off from it. That’s partly because I had a minor sound problem that required a major disassembly of the area in which I record. It’s been a hassle to get everything back in place and combining that with the aforementioned coming-home-and-crashing I described above, I’ve been getting very little done on the show.
    I’ve not really meant to step away from it, and I do plan on getting back to it shortly. I want to talk about the Who show and new music from the Cranberries and Amanda Palmer and The National and having seen Patton Oswalt last month and so on. I just haven’t. I’ve been feeling very tired and have had some nagging back/shoulder pain as I’ve described countless times that also just makes sitting in a chair talking about nothing sound uncomfortable as well. And the show slipped away from me, with all those issues combined.  Maybe when I start back up (this week?) I’ll call it “season two” or something.
  4. I’ve also been rehearsing to play an acoustic set with Mike Feldman in June. It’ll be a small gig without even so much as an amplifier. It’s doubtful that anyone will even hear the lyrics or distinguish one song from another. And ultimately it could also be cancelled for bad weather if it’s raining, since it’ll be an outdoor gig.  So of course we’re working very hard on getting up to speed for it.  (I’ve also got some mental gymnastics to do… The only thing I find more uncomfortable that attending an outdoor concert is playing one myself–I’m a sweaty guy.)  But ultimately, if the place wants us to sit there and essentially play to one another for money, that’s cool.  I hear it’s a nice place, at least.  Haven’t been there.  Don’t actually even remember the name of the place right now.
    I like playing acoustic sets most of the time–although knowing this one won’t have any amplification gives me some pause. If nothing else, it’ll be fun to dust off whichever acoustic I take with me for it.  (Thinking maybe even the 12-string!)  Mike also has me scheduled for two more dates playing bass with him this summer in the same bar we always seem to play…but the acoustic show should be a nice change of pace, even if subdued.
  5. Otherwise, musically I’ve not got a ton going on. The two albums I put out last year (“It Could Be Worse” and “*”) were pretty much what I wanted to accomplish for a while. I’ve got some other stuff sort of half-written, but nothing even demoed as of now. Sort of taking whatever my next project will be slowly. I don’t have anything solid in mind for it yet. But at the same time, if you’d told me in May of last year that I’d be doing a new album for release in that same November I’d have doubted it. So who knows what I’ll do?  I don’t PLAN to release so much as a single in 2019 though.
  6. I recently marked my 10th year at my day job. I don’t like to talk about work on the blog or social media–it just seems to me that when you put details or things about your job in writing on the Internet, you’re asking for problems. However, I am comfortable saying that even though it’s not always sunshine and roses, it’s been a great and productive 10 years and I’ve made some good friendships. And that’s what counts, even on the days where the only thing that keeps you sitting at a desk is the thought that “the lights need to stay on.” (And I’m also glad to report that I don’t have those days very often.)  🙂 It’s a challenging and fulfilling job, but more importantly I work with good people I enjoy seeing every day. I don’t take that for granted. Most people don’t get to feel that way.

    10 years
    This is sitting on my desk now. It’s on a lighted base and looks neat. 🙂 Sorry the photo’s a little small. The only other option was enormous. The blog’s photo settings are dumb.
  7. One of my cousins has a wedding coming up this weekend. On Sunday at like 4:30. Weird day and time for a wedding, right? But as long as everyone’s happy the time doesn’t matter, does it? So, I’ll be spending Sunday in a suit, looking for who among my Baptist cousins at the Baptist wedding secretly has a flask of whiskey and asking them if they can pour a little in my Coke. (That’s how I’LL be happy.) It’ll be fine.
  8. I found out on Monday that I’ve been on and off flirting with a lesbian for a while. Whoops. I don’t want to say too much and identify her, but the concise version is she’s someone I (obviously) don’t know very well but see occasionally. We have similar taste in music and she’s fun to talk to and on most occasions I’ve gone a bit out of my way to be charming in a way that were she straight probably would’ve read as flirting much more clearly. However, as it was, this week we bumped into one another and she asked me if I’m going to the Amanda Palmer show tomorrow night. I said I wasn’t really planning to, but could be talked into it.  Her reply was, “Oh, well me and MY GIRLFRIEND (emphasis mine) are going and I thought if you were going to be there maybe we could all hang out.”
    Well…shit.  Whatever. It happens–of course I can’t exactly be MAD about it. And it’s still very nice that she was thinking it’d be fun to hang out. And I’m sure sometime soon we WILL because I still think she’s a cool person and I’m an ally to the LGBTQ community, of course. (…and maybe if we hang out more often I can make friends with other lesbians until I have a loyal army of lesbians at my disposal!) Mostly I just felt dumb about it. Thankfully she (I assume) has no idea, and I think even if she did, she’d think it was funny/flattering.  Still not planning on going to the Amanda Palmer show though. I like Amanda Palmer, but she’s a lunatic and is promoting a very sad album that I don’t think will make for a fun club show–even though it’s one of the better albums I’ve heard this year.
    Also, this whole situation resulted in one of my favorite Twitter interactions I’ve had lately.  I briefly tweeted something about it and somebody sent me a direct message that said, “Happy Birthday!” then 10 minutes later, “And sorry about the lesbian.” What a great series of messages to get! I wish they made greeting cards that on the front said “Happy Birthday!” and on the inside said “And sorry about the lesbian.”  🙂

    And I think that’ll do it…there are several reasonably long stories there. I was going to write more and it was going to get political and stuff…but this seems fine.

    Happy birthday to me and also to you.

    Current Listening:
    The Who, still…obviously
    The National – “I Am Easy to Find”
    The Get Up Kids – “Problems”

“The telephone is so impersonal. I much prefer the hands-on touch you can only get with hired goons.” – Charles Montgomery Burns

Well I said I was going to write before Valentine’s Day and y’all probably knew that was bullshit. Sorry. I really thought I would. So here we are, Simpsons quote in the header, and let’s go…

  1. I said something on the most recent episode of my podcast that I want to write about as well. I don’t feel like it’s too big a deal, but there are people in my life who might think otherwise, so I want to get the word out there a little bit so anyone who has concerns has the opportunity to voice them.  As I’ve covered elsewhere, I recently spoke with a counselor about some stuff and among the topics discussed was why I’ve chosen not to drink in recent years. The long and short of it is, I’m not an alcoholic and it boils down to me just needing to not use alcohol as a crutch. If I can enjoy it responsibly, it’s not an issue.
    Which brings me to this…I don’t plan to go whole hog into drinking again, but I do want to have a Guinness with my dad on St. Patrick’s Day, and probably one at the Flogging Molly concert that precedes it the weekend before. So I’m going to do that, because I miss Guinness and it sounds nice. And that’s it. I’m not going to get drunk. I’m not going to go nuts. I’m just going to have a beer on some occasions where it feels appropriate.  One.  One beer.  I’ve developed the discipline to not drink at all playing in bars and/or to have one and only one O’Douls non-alcoholic beer when I’ve got it around the house. I think I can have one drink and stop if I’m hanging out at a bar.
    Feel free to hold me accountable to that if we’re out together. Or feel free to ask me questions if you need to. Again, this isn’t a big deal to me. I just feel like it’s easier to talk about it openly before someone “catches me” in a bar with a Guinness in hand, y’know? Okay. Let’s move on.
  2. I found out recently that Bruce Springsteen released the show I saw in St. Louis in 2008 as a download/semi-bootleg on his website. I briefly talked about that show at this link. Damn, I’ve been doing this a long time. I ordered a CD copy and also got the download. The download is neat, but it’s got that horrible thing where there’s a little blip of silence almost link the track skipped between tracks and you’ve just got to live with it…so the download is unlistenable. I’m waiting on the CD for the first listen. It should be here Monday. I like The Boss a lot. He’s in “guilty pleasure” territory, for sure…but he’s delivered great rock songs for–what?–30 years? 40? A long clip…I’m watching the “Springsteen on Broadway” Netflix release while I’m writing this. Good stuff.
  3. Peter Tork died recently. It made me sadder than I might’ve expected. Peter was my favorite Monkee. My brother, our mutual friend Chris, and I saw him several years ago. It was fun.
    During the show I remember watching a couple that was well into the Autumn years badly dancing together, having the time of their lives, and thinking, “Those two? They WON. They don’t need to care that they can’t dance or what anyone thinks about it. They have each other, they both dance like shit, and when they leave, they’ll leave together and say, ‘remember when we saw Peter Tork and had so much fun?’ and they fucking WON.” I voiced it at the time. Chris chugged his beer.
    Piano legend Johnnie Johnson accompanied Tork for a bit that night. We met Johnnie in the parking lot after the show. Johnnie passed away several years ago, too.
    I don’t know. Peter Tork seemed to have had a really fun career and smiled his way through it with that priceless, boyish grin. He was part of bringing the world some music that makes everybody with ears happy. That’s awesome. God bless him.
  4. The Oscars were last week.  I didn’t see any of the movies. Nevertheless, I’ve been a fan of Olivia Coleman since her Mitchell & Webb days. So it was a pleasure to see her win. That, my friends, was Numberwang. (Google it.)
  5. Oh! Speaking of Springsteen, I bought a Telecaster! It looks like this:
    3
    I’m frustrated that I look cross-eyed in this photo thanks to the reflection in my glasses.

    Very traditional. Very classic. I’ve wanted a traditional, good looking, American Tele for a while. Finally made the plunge.  I’ve been playing a cool Mexican one that I got from my friend Mike Feldman for a few years. But that one’s been heavily modded to be more like a Strat with some extra weird stuff on it. And while I like it, I wanted just a plain-Jane, workhorse Tele for a long time. Apparently the time was now.  It sounds great. It feels great. It’s just great. (Springsteen plays a Tele, in case you’re still trying to figure that out.)

  6. I’m rewatching LOST. It’s still a really great show. You should rewatch it too. Then I can yell at you about how you’ve probably misunderstood the ending. (Although if you actually watch ALL of it, that shouldn’t really be possible…)
  7. On the page of notes where I jotted down “Stuff I should blog about” I have written the word “wrestling,” but I’m not sure in what capacity I wanted to talk about it.  There’s a lot going on, but I don’t know why I specifically wanted to talk about it when I wrote it down. I guess foremost, it’s nice that Roman Reigns announced that he’s in remission from Leukemia.  Good for him.  But otherwise…I’m still watching and having fun, I guess.  Raw was better this week than it’s been in a long time.

And I think that’s it.  Had a rough week and I’ve just been decompressing all day. Cooked a bit. Watched some stuff. So on…

————

Current Listening:

  • Springsteen on Broadway
  • Joe Jackson – Fool
  • Dream Theater – Distance Over Time

“We’re gonna live like kings! Damn hell ass kings!” – Bart Simpson

I feel like I should apologize for it being February 4 and I’ve not written since before Christmas! Time has been passing in a whirlwind for me lately. I’ve got a couple of longer posts in mind but since it’s been a while, let’s put a Simpsons quote in the title and do a random post just to catch up a little.

  1. As seems to happen close to every year, I’d like to revise my top ten albums list from 2018. Basically, move Elvis Costello’s “Look Now” into the #10 slot and slide 11-15 around appropriately, with the Jayhawks album now in the #11 slot. I under valued the Costello record a little at the time and realized it as I was doing the spoken-word version of the list on my podcast.
  2. My Grandma has been in a bad way for a long time. I think since the day after Christmas, she’s been in one medical facility or another suffering from pneumonia, a heart attack, RSV, and a stroke. All pretty much at once. All at the age of 93. She finally got to return home today which is part good news and part the insurance company being too cheap to keep paying for medical rehab. It’s been quite a journey for her and there’s still work to do. There’s probably a whole post in this, but I’ll just leave it here for now.
  3. I recently relistened to all the music I put out in 2018. I feel like I did some of my best work last year with the release of “It Could Be Worse,” “* (Asterisk),” and the “Hallelujah” single. It was a good, productive year. If you haven’t listened to any of that, it’s still free to listen to and download at the links in this post. Or you can pay if you want to. But if you just download it for free, I’m more than happy about that. I don’t collect your e-mail address and won’t even know you took it. So please take it. I’m proud of all of that stuff. I’m proud of MOST of what I’ve released over the years, but last year felt like something special. For what it’s worth, I don’t think I plan to release anything at all this year, so hopefully two full length records and a single last year will hold people over (ha ha).
  4. I watched at least half of the Superbowl this year. It made a good argument for watching Monday Night Raw instead of Monday Night Football, for sure. Bad game played by teams no one was supporting this year. Even the commercials were nothing special. Nor was the halftime show. Let’s just pretend it didn’t happen.

…and y’know what? Everything else I want to talk about feels more long-form, so I’m just going to stop now. I promise that I at least intend to write again before Valentine’s Day.

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Current Listening:

  • Guided By Voices – Zeppelin Over China
  • Over the Rhine – Drunkard’s Prayer
  • Mandolin Orange – Tides of a Teardrop

My Top 10 of 2018

Top 10 final

It’s that time of year again. The time where I look at the piles and piles of CDs and records around me and think “HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?” then organize them into my favorites of the year and post about it to justify the expense.  So with no further ado…here’s the list of my top ten (and then some!) albums of 2018! I’ll write more after the list (including runners up and other stuff I feel like I should mention), but for those who want the TL:DR version, here it is:

  1. Sloan – “12”
  2. J Mascis – “Elastic Days”
  3. The Decemberists – “I’ll Be Your Girl”
  4. Coheed & Cambria – “The Unheavenly Creatures”
  5. Amanda Shires – “To the Sunset”
  6. Frank Turner – “Be More Kind”
  7. Guided By Voices – “Space Gun”
  8. John Prine – “The Tree of Forgiveness”
  9. Father John Misty – “God’s Favorite Customer”
  10. The Jayhawks – “Back Roads and Abandoned Motels”

Live Album of the Year: Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – “Live at the Ryman”

Single of the Year: Rufus Wainwright – “Sword of Damocles”

Favorite Concert of the Year: Jason Isbell in St. Louis, September 10, 2018.

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MORE WORDS:

Okay. So I think that’s a decent list. It was difficult to put this year’s list together, especially when 2017 had an embarrassment of riches to choose from while 2018 was frankly a little underwhelming. It seemed like this year took FOREVER to even get started musically, despite some promising early-year releases from the likes of David Byrne and the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (neither of whom made it into my top 10). It just didn’t seem like there was much to pick from that was stellar. Which, in fairness, did make narrowing it down a lot easier. And did make the handful of stellar releases mean a lot more.

I arrived at Sloan‘s “12” as my number 1 pick because it’s the album I’ve returned to the most from this year’s new releases. It’s a fun pop-rock album from one of Canada’s longest standing rock bands. They’re great in concert and great in the studio and are nice guys, to boot. “12” really should’ve been everybody’s go-to Springtime listen this year, and if you missed it you need to be sure to add it to next year’s list.

In at #2, J Mascis‘ “Elastic Days” came out fairly recently and I picked it up the day it hit the shelves. There’s not a bad song on it and it keeps the listener engaged throughout. If you’re expecting to get a bunch of Dinosaur Jr leftovers on a Mascis solo albums you’ll either be disappointed or relieved to know that’s never the case. When he goes solo and signs his own name to it, you get a much more relaxed, lush listen and it’s a joy to hear it.

The Decemberists‘ “I’ll Be Your Girl” was one of the earlier releases that I picked up this year, having recently become a fan of the band, and I’m glad to see it show up on the Top Ten list, much more so to see it crack not only the top 5 but the top THREE. Immediately catchy, upbeat, earthy, and fun, it deserves to be on everyone’s list. “Everything is Awful” is one of the best songs of the year.

I got into Coheed & Cambria a few years ago and am blown away by the musicianship and storytelling they employ on each album. “The Unheavenly Creatures” is no exception and may even be the album that’s blown me away the most right out of the wrapper, which is what landed it on this list at #4. I picked it up on vinyl and it’s 3 LPs, so you’ve got to turn the album over several times to make it through to the end. The first time I listened to it, I don’t think I sat down at ALL between flips of the platters. Heavy and melodic but with a pop sensibility just beneath the surface, this one’s a BIG winner. They brought their A-game from moment one.

Amanda Shires doesn’t seem to love getting stuck with the “Americana” label and seems to have made a serious effort to be thought of as a “Rock” writer on “To the Sunset.” And she did a damn fine job of it. But at the same time, an album that features the violin/fiddle as a main instrument will always fall into the “Americana” world, no matter what you do. And there’s no shame to it. It’s a great Americana record. It’s a great Rock record. It’s a great record. And it’s in at #5.

I’ve been a Frank Turner fan since the first time I heard him. Acoustic English Folk Punk would be a fair way to describe him…but in recent years, he’s taken a far more electric edge that he does just as well, and that’s where we find him on “Be More Kind,” my choice for #6. Energetic and angry, but with a deep yearning for peace, “Be More Kind” is not only a great listen, it’s great advice. As is my favorite lyric on the album: “Let’s make America great again by making racists ashamed again.”

Moving on, we find the mighty Guided By Voices in at #7 with their surprisingly ONLY release in 2018, “Space Gun.” GBV/Robert Pollard is know for putting out so many albums you could be forgiven for missing a few (dozen) in your collection…but you’re not going to want to miss this one. It sounds exactly like Guided By Voices. But it sounds like them when they’re FOCUSED. And that’s a good thing. I feel like getting Bobby Bare Jr in the band was one of the best choices Uncle Bob could’ve made–I can really hear the benefit of that on the recent releases.

Country/Folk/Whatever legend John Prine put out an overwhelmingly good album in this year’s “The Tree of Forgiveness.” It’s one of those albums that as soon as I finished listening to it, I rushed to Facebook to tell everyone I know to do likewise. I hope people did. It’s the work of a man at the tail-end of his career, giving us lessons that should last us a while. It probably deserves to be higher on the list than #8 and if I were doing genre-specific lists, believe me it WOULD be. If you don’t pick up “The Tree of Forgiveness” you’ll be missing out on one of this year’s most lush and warming listens.

I was highly critical of Father John Misty‘s 2017 release “Pure Comedy” for being what I believe I referred to as “too one-note,” especially lyrically. In 2018, “God’s Favorite Customer” corrected that on all points. It’s very hard to describe Misty’s vibe (also known as J Tillman). Sometimes there are trumpets. That…doesn’t help does it? It’s like he took Lawrence Welk or one of the old-school bandleaders and shoved a rock band up his ass then told everybody to pay more attention to the lyrics than they normally would and then started dancing funny as a distraction.  That’s it.  And he did it to perfection this time, placing him at #9 on my list.

I’ve been up and down on the Jayhawks for a long time, which makes me glad to have found them cracking into the top 10 this year with “Back Roads and Abandoned Motels.” I almost didn’t put it on the list because I had reservations about the eligibility of the record. It’s mostly made up of material that band-leader Gary Louris initially wrote/released for other projects and/or wrote for other artists. But since it’s the original songwriter offering original recordings with his band, I think it works. And the songs are really great. So it made the list. Yay!

I also listed my favorite live album, concert, and single of the year above. Jason Isbell is represented there twice. I’ve raved about the concert he did in St. Louis this year in multiple places (most gushingly on my podcast in the week that followed it). I’ve raved about pretty much all of his music over the past years in pretty much every possible venue. I’ve been evangelical about Jason’s work in recent years. And he deserves every mention and every rave review. Pick up the “Ryman” release and play it loud.

Rufus Wainwright‘s “Sword of Damocles” single came out of NOWHERE a few months back after he performed it on the James Corden show. It’s a politically charged ballad that fits this time in history to perfection. And Rufus, of course, sings it so, so beautifully. I also saw Rufus in concert (for the first time) this year with the St. Louis Symphony backing him and if any show could’ve toppled the Isbell show this year, it would have been that one. Rufus is a gift God has given us. You need to accept that gift. (There’s that evangelism again…)

RUNNERS UP:
(I promise this will be brief.)

runners up final

  1. Elvis Costello – “Look Now” – I was sad not to put this in the top 10 because it’s exactly what I want from Elvis Costello at this point in his career and it’s like listening to a fine wine. Beautiful record.
  2. Kurt Vile – “Bottle It In” – Dreamy, guitar driven music that you can get lost in. What’s not to love?
  3. Metric – “Art of Doubt” – I only picked this up recently and I feel like if I had another few weeks with it, it might be up in the top 10. Great listen.
  4. David Byrne – “American Utopia” – Byrne has always been weird. This is no exception. I like it a lot and it turns on a DIME. The first time I listened to it, I didn’t realize I had my player on shuffle and I heard it out of order. Then later I heard it in the right order. It didn’t change a thing.
  5. Laura Jane Grace – “Bought to Rot” – I like this album a lot more than I liked LJG’s main band’s last project (Against Me’s “Shape Shift With Me”). It feels focused and like she worked hard on getting what she wanted out of the songs. My greatest criticism is my greatest praise and that is that the lyrics are incredibly contradictory and in places flat-out incorrect. Her song about hating Chicago and apparently all of Missouri is so geographically wrong that I wonder if she’s ever actually been to either one. And what could be more punk than being so arrogantly fucking wrong?

OTHER STUFF I LIKED:
(This will be even shorter.)

  • Bottle Rockets – “Bit Logic”
  • Mumford & Sons – “Delta”
  • Trampled By Turtles – “Life is Good on the Open Road”
  • High on Fire – “Electric Messiah”
  • Roger Daltrey – “As Long As I Have You” (Ineligible due to most songs being covers
  • Greta Van Fleet – “Anthem of the Peaceful Army”
  • Ray Davies – “Our Country: Americana Act II”
  • Ghost – “Prequelle”
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – “Wrong Creatures”
  • The Get Up Kids – “Kicker” (Ineligible because it’s an EP)
  • The Hold Steady released a series of two song download-only EPs all of which were great, but none of which were eligible due to the nature of the releases.
  • Louden Wainwright III – “Surviving Twin” Ineligible because it’s got a lot of old material.
  • David Bowie – “Glastonbury 2000” – Ineligible because it’s a live album and also an 18 year old performance.

And that was my favorite stuff of 2018!  I hope you enjoyed reading it and maybe will pick up a couple of things you’d overlooked before.

A Whole Bunch of Life Stuff…

Normally I’d name this kind of post with a Simpsons quote in the title, but this one has some real stuff in it, so I’m dropping the gimmick just this once.  Here are a number of things I’ve been meaning to write about…

  1. It’s just plain sloppy that I haven’t mentioned on this blog that “*” is now available for FREE (or pay what you want) download at http://derekbrink.bandcamp.com/album/asterisk. Go there and listen to it and download it and tell your friends!
  2. Okay…this one’s serious…  If anyone listens to my podcast and more particularly listened to the episode I did with my friend Jim a couple of weeks ago this won’t be exactly NEW news, but it’s probably worth putting out there in more than one medium.  I recently saw a counselor to work through a few issues.  Basically I’ve been angry for a very long time and I needed to talk to someone about it who doesn’t know me before I eventually–well–turned into my mother and died in my mid 40s.  Got some tools to help with that and it was a beneficial experience, but that’s only part of why I’m writing.
    The part that is particularly interesting is that over the course of our sessions the counselor poked around asking about prior addictions, etc.  As most will know I’ve been open about my decision to quit drinking 5 years ago and smoking 4 years ago. Talking in particular about the drinking the counselor talked to me about the nature of addiction and my reasons for stopping etc. In brief, her assessment was much the same as my own–that my excessive use wasn’t a chemical addiction, but was rather a manifestation of my depression (about which I’ve also been very open). Her words were, “I don’t think we need to talk about your drinking, I think we need to talk about your depression.”
    So what does that mean? Well the long and short of it is that after some additional conversations, I think that if someone offered me a beer, it wouldn’t be “falling off the wagon” if I accepted it. Don’t get me wrong, there is a wagon and I’ve been on it for five years, but I do not think that at this point if someone offered me a glass of wine with a nice meal or a beer at a rock concert it would cause a negative spiral or whatever. Over five years, I’ve developed the discipline to not drink at all–and that same discipline would allow me to stop at ONE.
    Now this doesn’t mean I’m planning on going whole-hog back into buying beer or keeping bourbon in the house. Being that the root of any heavy drinking I’ve done in the past has been my depression, it remains important to purposely limit my access/exposure or continue abstaining entirely. The latter is fine with me.
    One of the major talking points in our meetings was that it likely continues to be a good decision to not drink–there’s nothing wrong with choosing to live in a way that doesn’t hurt you. But now that I better understand the issue…I guess it’s just nice to know that if someone raises a toast, I don’t necessarily just have to stand there like a chump. Even though I might. So…yeah…that was a lot of information to unload all at once. I’d be glad to talk to anyone who has any concerns–believe me I have no intention of making them realities.
  3. Positive news. I’ve been losing some weight. On purpose. Pants are a little loose.  I don’t know if anybody can visibly see it yet…but I do need new pants, so that feels pretty great after years of being a fatass. I’m very interested to see what the Holidays do to me though.
  4. I mentioned the podcast, above. I’m still enjoying doing it. But I do plan on doing it a *little* less frequently. I’m going to switch to only doing the show every other week. It’ll help me out a lot in a lot of ways. I’ll be putting a post up about that on the podcast blog soon, too…so this is just the short version.
  5. In the last week I’ve found myself recording something I didn’t really expect to do. For an upcoming Christmas party, to accompany a video, I’ve recorded a version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Now…as much as I genuinely love that song (it’s one of my all-time favorites), I do think it’s time for a moratorium on covers of it, and that’s why up until now I’ve never done one. But I ended up doing it as a favor and I also ended up really liking my arrangement. I think I’ve got a take on it that’s kind of different from the ones you normally hear.  So…I’m thinking about looking into the copyright costs and maybe releasing it as a single nearer to Christmas. Presently undecided, but I love Leonard Cohen, I love that song, and I’m proud of the work I did on it. It might be nice to have more people than just the one Christmas party hear it…  We’ll see…
  6. Of all of the stuff I’ve written above, I might be most nervous about making this known, due to my superstitious nature… I’ve been documenting my struggle with migraines on this blog (and elsewhere) over the past year to two.  As most will know, the migraines have presented themselves with visual distortions (common to sufferers) and have been weekly if not more frequent than that for an extended period of time.  Well…I haven’t had one for 11 weeks.  Which is a record, by FAR.  The longest I’d previously gone without one since they started was a month.  I’m now almost THREE months in.  I don’t know that I’m out of the woods, but it’s been nice thinking about it less…  The main thing I’ve changed is that I had stopped taking Ibuprofen right before they “went away” (at least for the past several weeks). I’m wondering if I’d just been taking Ibuprofen in such volume for so long, my brain just flipped out?  Who knows?  Migraine science is a guess at best…it’s just been nice to see normally for a couple months!

And those are all the major updates.  I plan to blog more and better soon (that’s part of why I’m dialing back the podcast–I miss doing this).  So hopefully you’ll hear from me sooner than later.

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Current Listening:

  • Devin Townsend Project – Ghost
  • Kurt Vile – Bottle It In