Top Ten Albums of 2019 (And Runners Up)

2019 top 10Well here we are. Another top ten in another year. Some of this year’s choices surprised even me, and I’m the guy doing the choosing. I had a hard time with this list because while a lot of stuff got my attention, not as much grabbed me in a way that I thought it was a top-ten contender. But those that got there got there in a big way–some of them released within a week or two of compiling the list! As in past years, I’m about to be WAY too wordy about it, but in brief, here’s the list.

Top Ten of 2019:

  1. Amanda Palmer – “There Will Be No Intermission”
  2. The Who – “WHO”
  3.  The Cranberries – “In the End”
  4. Leonard Cohen – “Thanks for the Dance”
  5.  Guided By Voices (three releases/tie) – “Zeppelin Over China,” “Warp and Woof,” & “Sweating the Plague”
  6. The Get Up Kids – “Problems”
  7. Joe Jackson – “Fool”
  8. Eli “Paperboy” Reed – “99 Cent Dreams”
  9. The Hold Steady – “Thrashing Thru the Passion”
  10. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – “Infest the Rats’ Nest”

Favorite Concert of the Year: The Who in St. Louis back in May. But seeing Cheap Trick for the first time in maybe close to 10 years was a lot of fun, too.



As I said, this year had a LOT of releases I liked but only some that were ever really in the running. As the year wore on I started to get worried that I might not even have ten. Maybe I’d only be doing a top 5. But the list eventually rounded itself out and I’ve even got another ten I want to talk about below, making it a “top 20” of sorts, even though the latter 10 aren’t really in a particular order, and I’m going to be very brief about them. But first the top ten.

Even though it wasn’t a release I was initially very excited about and even though I knew there was a Who album coming later in the year, Amanda Palmer’s “There Will Be No Intermission” knocked me on the floor the first time I heard it and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten back up. It’s very sparse–some songs being only piano and vocal or her signature ukulele and vocal–and that’s part of the appeal because it vastly helps the delivery. But what’s really going on here is some of the most gripping lyrics I’ve heard in several years, delivered by a woman who goes back and forth between nearly shouting and nearly crying at every line.

Calling it an “emotional listen” is a massive undersell. This album sets a new standard for self-revealing lyrics as Palmer (AKA “Amanda Fucking Palmer” to fans) writes about being unsure of if she’s a good parent in “A Mother’s Confession.” And it also sets a new standard for how to address abortion not only as an artist, but a friend in “Voicemail for Jill.” I can’t honestly say that I’m going to listen to it a lot because it’s genuinely devastating in places. But I can say this is hands-down the most important thing that came out all year. That the cover is Amanda in the nude, raising a sword above her head is a perfect metaphor for the work she did here. And it’s also the most Amanda Fucking Palmer album cover I’ve ever seen.

It’s of some surprise to me that anything in the world could’ve placed higher on a Derek Brink Top Ten list than a new album by The Who but the Palmer album is untouchable just in terms of social relevance. Nevertheless, in at #2 is The Who – “WHO.” In their first album since 2006’s “The Endless Wire” (which apparently was written exclusively for me) The Who returns with a corker! The first time I played it, I played it as loud as I could stand it and the low end of the album is so present it shook the room. They mixed this like they MEANT it. Less thematic than some of their best known work and with really only one track I might consider skipping (the last one), it’s an explosive, meaningful listen that is 100% The Who. (As a side note–I can’t believe I’m saying this–but I prefer the standard edition to the one with the bonus tracks!)

Daltrey’s vocals still soar above the mix like no other singer could hope to do. Townshend’s backing vocals still add a ton of depth and his guitar still screams almost as loud as Roger–maybe sometimes louder. And the current band does a great job keeping it all together, but still leaving enough room that it all might fall apart at any moment. And that’s why we love The Who–the music sounds like it’s dangerous. Though it just barely didn’t reach the top spot, “WHO” will definitely be the album that I listen to the most from the year’s releases. I have so much more I want to say about this one, but for the sake of space, let’s move on.

And we’re moving somewhere a lot safer, though also in many ways sadder, as we come to my choice for #3 in The Cranberries – “In the End.” It’s sad because this is definitively their final album, following the untimely and accidental death of lead singer and principle songwriter Dolores O’Riordan in 2018. Thankfully she’d done enough work on the new album before passing away that the rest of the band was able to complete it. And it stands as a wonderful tribute to her life and work. Sad and sweet lyrics that were always her forte, but become much more poignant with her passing. Catchy hooks that have kept fans tuned in ever since the first time they heard “Linger” (or “Zombie” or whatever). This is a perfect Cranberries record. If they had to go out, this was a good way to go. We’ll miss you forever, Dolores.

Another person we’re going to miss forever is Leonard Cohen, whose new/final album “Thanks for the Dance” also came out this year. (This list gets sad in that way.) When I first heard about it I was afraid it would be a cobbled together “outtakes” album, but the Cohen family assured fans that this isn’t an album of leftovers but is instead “the master’s final collection of songs.” And thank goodness for that. It’s a chilling and moving farewell from a poet and writer who has done more to shape my philosophy than any theologian. I don’t know if it’s an entry point for anyone who doesn’t know his work…I think it works better if you have a relationship with Cohen’s songs and then view it as a goodbye letter. But it is haunting and beautiful. And I regret that I bought it on CD instead of vinyl. (Might have to correct that.) Sparse with the main thrust of the mix being Leonard’s deep, soulfully sad voice, it wraps around the listener the way a final hug before getting in the car for the long drive home should.

But let’s cheer up a bit… I’m cheating with my choice for #5. Because I’ve had to number them “5a, 5b, and 5c.” Because that’s really the only way to deal with Guided By Voices, who’ve released three full-length albums this year in “Zeppelin Over China,” “Warp and Woof,” and “Sweating the Plague.” Of the three, “Plague” is the best and most focused in my opinion. But all three are good rock albums invoking tones of Bowie while still being rooted in 90s lo-fi. And really if you took all three, brushed away the chaff and made a compilation of just the BEST songs off each album, you’d have one fucking GREAT one. So that’s how I’m justifying putting all three into one entry on the list.

In at #6 is The Get Up Kids with their new record “Problems.” I’ve been a Get Up Kids fan for probably close to 20 years. Followed them through their hiatus and into the reunion. Didn’t love the first album after they got back together, but I love this one. Part of the appeal of the GUK’s for me is that their lyrics often seem to intersect with specific details in my own life that they couldn’t have possibly known about. And that’s all over this album. It’s punky but also sentimental without ever losing its sense of fun. Good stuff.

One of the albums I wouldn’t have imagined being on the list or even imagined BUYING when the year started without being prompted comes in at #7. I’ve never been too big a Joe Jackson fan, previously only being familiar with 80s radio single “Is She Really Going Out With Him,” but that all changed this year with the release of “Fool.” It turns out my brother Dave is a huge Joe Jackson fan. He told me recently that Joe Jackson is to him what Elvis Costello is to me. So I get it. He highly recommended Joe’s new one and I gave it a shot…and it shot into the top 10. The thing that blows me away about it is that the mix sounds like you’re right there in the room with the band at ANY VOLUME. Trust me, that’s hard to do. The songs bounce back and forth between fun and lighthearted and deeply serious but all sound like they’re from the same spirit. That’s hard to do too. Clearly still rooted in 80s structure, but feeling wholly modern in tone, “Fool” is a big winner for me and has made me dig deeper into Jackson’s back catalogue. Thanks for the recommendation, Dave.

One of the other big surprises of the year was Eli “Paperboy” Reed’s “99 Cent Dreams.” I obtained it because I signed up for YepRoc records’ “Completist Club” where they send you everything they put out on the label for the year. I ended up being very underwhelmed by not only many of the releases but also by the service of the label and empty promises made…but that’s a different subject. What did knock me off my feet was Reed’s latest release. Rooted in a different generation’s danceable pop music, Reed is a throwback to a time I hope music can revisit again soon, where people actually enjoy listening to it. Fun and upbeat retro-rock that had me bouncing up and down while I did my dishes the first time I listened and has been a fun one to go back to ever since.

Another one I’ve been returning to a lot since it came out is The Hold Steady’s “Thrashing Thru the Passion” which came in at #9. Dumb title aside, it touches all of the beats that I’ve loved on THS’s other releases, all in one package. Meaningful lyrics, uptempo rock songs you’d die to defend, and some quiet moments you’ll ponder over your glass of whiskey (or whatever’s your poison). Part of me feels like the album should be ineligible because half of it came out as singles the year before, but I’m overlooking that because there’s enough new material to justify it and also because shut up.

And that brings us to the final record in our top ten, which came out of nowhere for me and for a whole bunch of other people too. I’ve heard of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard in past years, but had assumed them either to be a jam-band (aka a waste of time) or a throwback 60s revival that I might like but not enough to get into. Turns out they’re a weird group that is trying to explore as many genres as possible as quickly as possible. They’ve only been together since 2010 with their first album coming out in 2012, and “Infest the Rats’ Nest” is their 15th album (and second this year). On this album, they delivered a full on thrash-metal record that comes very close to being a masterpiece. Evoking early (“before they sold out”) Metallica, Slayer, and others, this album shreds from moment one, and it was very nice to hear as a long time metal fan who’s grown disenchanted with a landscape of good bands with silly corpse vocals that suck.


TEN MORE (Briefly):

So that was the top ten, but I’ve got several more I just want to briefly talk about because I don’t think I have anywhere else in most cases. There’s no particular order to this, but if it helps you to think of them as 11-20, go nuts.


  • Son Volt – “Union” – First Son Volt album I’ve liked since the “reunion” (which is just Jay Farrar using the name with none of the other original members). Back to the folky tone that I fell in love with. This was at #10 before King Gizz and the Wiz Liz Fizz Bizz Kidz fell into my hands.
  • The Highwomen – “The Highwomen” – (This is the ONE where I won’t be brief.) I WANTED this to be in the top ten. I really did. And maybe it SHOULD be… It’s an important record for women in rock and country (mostly country) and I really, really like it.
    The Highwomen is a more or less “supergroup” formed by Amanda Shires, Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, and Maren Morris in the tradition of Cash, Nelson, Jennings, and Kristofferson forming The Highwaymen, after which this group is lovingly named. And…that’s actually the problem for me. Because no matter how great the record is, I would struggle with putting a “supergroup” that I know isn’t anyone’s primary focus on the list. (Damn Yankees wouldn’t have made it in the 90s, either.) But also…to open the album they do a version of “Highwayman” changing it to “Highwomen” (not a word!) with new lyrics focused on their own gender and struggles. and it’s just kind of a shrug of the shoulders for me. Plus, “Highwomen” sounds like a drug reference (which it isn’t) and that’s problematic.
    But all that aside, the primary thing that made me move this off the list was pretty simple. When you compare the lyrics on this one which are basically, “I’m a wife and mom with a job” to the lyrics on Amanda Palmer’s record, it’s clear in a heartbeat which one makes the list and which doesn’t. And once you’ve made that decision…frankly I just liked the stuff that DID make the list more. BUT I really do like “Highwomen” and I’ll be listening to the album for years to come. And believe me I’m THRILLED about the success they’ve been enjoying. It’s just that the above reasons are why it didn’t make the list, and on this one I really felt the need to explain it.
  • The Specials – “Encore” – One of the few ska based acts I stand by. They hadn’t put out an album in 18 years and I consider “Encore” a pretty strong comeback.
  • The Pixies – “Beneath the Eyrie” – Like it a lot and it’s the Pixies sounding like the Pixies, with more involvement from Paz than on prior records. We all know the band is just Black Francis’ (or Frank Black or Charles Thompson) solo act now…but “Beneath the Eyrie” belongs in your collection if you’re a fan.
  • The National – “I Am Easy to Find” – This album is everything that “Sleep Well Beast” wasn’t. The prior record was okay, but nothing special. This one is special. That the album cover evokes memories of “High Violet” and the title, memories of “Trouble Will Find Me” is very very appropriate.
  • Bob Mould – “Sunshine Rock” – Really good, punky listen with the vocals buried so deep in the mix you can’t make them out. If Bob could fix that, we’d have a top ten record here. (But that seems to be how he likes things mixed now… “Beauty and Ruin” and “Patch the Sky” aren’t much better mixed.)
  • The Muffs – “No Holiday” – Coincidentally and depressingly released about a week after bandleader Kim Schattuck died, it’s a heck of a send-off. If it weren’t her final album, I’d say it was a little too long and would benefit from losing some of the losable songs…but with things how they are, I’m glad everything is on it.
  • Dream Theater – “Distance Over Time” – Been a DT fan for close to 30 years. This one doesn’t disappoint.
  • Tegan & Sara – “Hey, I’m Just Like You” – Fun pop music with a little bit of the acoustic tones that have been missing from their last few albums. Danceable but with a little more depth than you might expect.
  • Mary Prankster – “Thickly Settled” – First one Mary’s put out since 2004 (or more like 2002 since the 04 release was a live album). Good return. The music is fun and energetic. But…she’s lost some of her lyrical edge. From the woman who brought you “Mercyfuck” and lyrics like, “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck / You’re not my problem, I’m my problem” having a record you could pretty much safely play in front of your kids or grandmother is a little disappointing. But that said, I still bought a shirt.


Stuff I liked but don’t feel the need to talk about:

These are just honorable mentions…

  • Tyler Childers – Country Squire
  • The Rubinoos – “From Home”
  • Eleni Mandell – “Wake Up Again”
  • Mandolin Orange – “Tides of a Teardrop”
  • Michaela Anne – “Desert Dove”
  • Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real – “Turn Off the News (Build a Garden)”
  • Willie Nelson – “Ride Me Back Home”
  • The Alarm – “Sigma”
  • The Mountain Goats – “In League with Dragons”
  • Over the Rhine – “Love & Salvation”
  • Refused – “War Music”
  • Last in Line – “II”
  • Neil Young – “Colorado”


Stuff I Didn’t Like (and I feel like I need to explain why):

  • The Minus Five – “Stroke Manor” – One of the YepRoc releases. The leader of the band suffered a stroke and was told he’d never perform again. While in recovery he wrote this album. Which is a FUCKING AWESOME STORY. I wish I felt the same about the album. I really, really do. Because that was a miracle and I wish him nothing but the best.
  • Jenny Lewis – “On the Line” – I’ve liked a lot of stuff from Jenny’s career going back to Rilo Kiley. But this one fell short. Very short. My abiding memory of it is, “I fell in love with a poppy, doot doo doo. Just because.” And when the most memorable song on the album is that unintentionally fucking stupid, that taints the experience. But I also seem to be the only person I know who feels that way about this record, with most hailing it a masterpiece. Maybe my feelings will change on it over time.
  • Devin Townsend – “Empath” – I wanted to like this so badly it hurts because I think Devin is brilliant. But between a VERY quiet, uneven mix and songs that just don’t ever seem to focus, this one was a miss for me. (It genuinely sounds like he just plain forgot to master it. It’s demo-tape levels of quiet.) But I bet I like the next thing he does.
  • Bruce Springsteen – “Western Stars” – It’s not BAD…but it sounds like he wrote a movie soundtrack (because he did) and just didn’t finish the songs (because he didn’t). Most of them just kind of stop before they go anywhere and would benefit from the full E Street treatment. But I bet I like the next thing he does, too.
  • Slipknot – “We Are Not Your Kind” – Corey Taylor’s current mask is a perfect metaphor for this album. It does the job, but there’s a little too much of it and I was hoping for something else.
  • Frank Turner – “No Man’s Land” – I seem to like every other album with Frank. This is one of the ones I don’t. It just doesn’t seem to have his usual energy or wit. But maybe it’s me.

Okay. I’ve rambled on long enough. Hope that was fun. Tell me your list sometime, too!

Top Ten of the Past Ten Years

It’s coming up to the “end of year” list season. You’ll get my top 10 (or so) of 2019 within the next couple of weeks, but I wanted to post something different going into it. At the time of writing, the 2019 list is not complete. The Who’s new record isn’t out yet, after all.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people are taking time to also talk about their favorites from the past decade, since we’re about to roll over into the 20s. I like the idea and am going to do something similar in this post. As anyone who’s been reading this blog over the years knows, I always publish a “top ten records” list. You could just go back and find what I listed as #1 each year yourself if you wanted to…but I’ll save your lazy ass the trouble and do it for you here. (Sorry about what I said about your ass being lazy just there.)

But here’s the thing…it’s not as simple as telling you what my #1 was in each year. Time and perspective would knock some of them out of that position ten years later–sometimes only 1-2 years later. Plus, a lot of thought goes into these lists…sometimes I’ll make something #1 because of artistic merit or because of the statement it made rather than my actual fondness for it. Maybe my #1 from 2011 was my favorite album that year…but maybe if I re-evaluated I’d move up #5 because it was a major statement from that artist. Or maybe in hindsight I’ve simply not listened to the #1 from 2014 as much as I thought I would at the time, and while I stand by the placement it might not even be on the list of my ultimate favorites for the last 10 years. Or maybe I got it right each and every year because I’m great. (Nope!) There’s a TON of room for me to be a hypocrite here. And for the purposes of the below list, I think I’m weighting it much more by personal significance than any other metric.

So…let’s start like this…  Here’s what I chose as my top ten each year from 2010-2018:

  • 2010: Shooter Jennings & Heirophant – “Black Ribbons”
  • 2011: Foo Fighters – “Wastin Light”
  • 2012: Metric – “Synthetica”
  • 2013: Jason Isbell – “Southeastern”
  • 2014: Manchester Orchestra – “Cope”
  • 2015: Father John Misty – “I Love You, Honeybear”
  • 2016: David Bowie – “Blackstar”
  • 2017: Ryan Adams – “Prisoner”
  • 2018: Sloan – “12”

Yeah. Good list. But I also went back and re-read each year’s post because I’m nuts. And it’s not as simple as just putting those in order and saying “Come back later to see where this year’s #1 ends up!” No…it’s me…you know it’s not that easy. Some of those aren’t going to make the top ten for the whole decade, much less #1. For example, Ryan Adams is immediately being removed from contention because even though I enjoyed the record I’m not going to have someone who’s presently under investigation for an alleged sex offense on my list for the decade. Foo Fighters? Love that album…but I love some of the runners up from different years (and even that SAME year) more in hindsight. We’ve got some work to do, and that’s without even factoring in THIS year’s releases!

Looking back on 2010-2018, here are the albums in play for my top ten for the decade (again, excluding anything that came out this year), not counting the above…

  • The Hold Steady – “Heaven is Whenever”
  • Rufus Wainwright – “All Days Are Nights”
  • Drive-By Truckers – “The Big To-Do”
  • Flogging Molly – “Speed of Darkness”
  • Lou Reed and Metallica – “Lulu”
  • Rush – “Clockwork Angels”
  • …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead – “Lost Songs”
  • David Bowie – “The Next Day”
  • The National – “Trouble Will Find Me”
  • Prince – “Plectrum Electrum”
  • Prince – “Art Official Age”
  • Jason Isbell – “Something More Than Free”
  • Bottle Rockets – “South Broadway Athletic Club
  • Amanda Shires – “My Piece of Land”
  • Drive-By Truckers – “American Band”
  • The Tragically Hip – “Man Machine Poem”
  • Jason Isbell – “The Nashville Sound”
  • Aimee Mann – “Mental Illness”
  • Manchester Orchestra – “A Black Mile to the Surface”
  • Guided By Voices – “How Do You Spell Heaven”
  • Elvis Costello – “Look Now”

I want to talk about ALL those albums in detail.  Fortunately I already have in the past…so you can search those in the search box to the left if you want to read about them.

But you’re here for my top ten of the decade (I guess).  So let’s just do that…  Here they are, from 10 to 1. And it feels weird not to include this year…so just assume that this year’s #1 would be #11 on this list.  (Let me say in advance that it was HEARTBREAKING to cut off each of the above records from the top 10. Except Ryan Adams, pending investigation.)

Okay. (All cover art lovingly lifted from Amazon.)

#10 – Drive-By Truckers – “American Band” (#3 on 2016’s List)


I’ll be honest and say that a lot of DBT’s run post-Isbell has been hit and miss. That doesn’t mean they haven’t been consistently among my favorite records in those years. And that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a TON of songs that are part of my personal soundtrack from those years. It just means that it’s a little difficult to point to one from those years where you can say, “There’s the one. There’s the best DBT album of this era.”

That changed in 2016.

“American Band” isn’t just a great rock record, it’s a snapshot of the Tr*mp years in real time. It captures the desperation and fear we all feel beautifully, but also offers a big dose of hope because you know that at least we’re not alone. From school shootings to BLM to flat out talking about Ferguson and “what it means” when another black kid is mowed down by another fucking white cop (or other asshole), this record is insanely important in a way not everybody is willing to be. And it has come to mean a lot to me.

#9 – Rush – “Clockwork Angels” (#6 on 2012’s List)


I’ll admit that I’m a little surprised to have come around on this one as much as I have. Sure, it was on 2016’s list, but I still thought of it as “a latter-day Rush album” and didn’t LOVE it in the same way I did “Counterparts” (my favorite Rush album) or the stuff older than that. But this one has grown to be in that same club in the last couple of years.

I love a good concept album…and while this one is only hazily a concept album, that was an immediate point in its favor. (People will argue that there’s nothing “hazy” about it, but come on…if you have to write a literal NOVEL to explain it, it’s a weak concept.) But there’s enough to hang onto in the story that it works for me. And the lyrical depth is there. The questioning of the “Watchmaker” looking over everyone, but not really caring is a strong metaphor I deeply identify with. Dark, but again with a little bit of hope…this is a great Rush album that you’ve got to spend some real time with to absorb.  I’m glad I have.

Plus…the music just fucking RIPS, man.

#8 – Aimee Mann – “Mental Illness” (#3 on 2017’s List)


I adore Aimee Mann and this might be the most Aimee Mann record Aimee Mann has ever Aimee Manned. Beautiful acoustic tones and arrangements. Lots of background vocals to keep you listening closer. Heart-shattering lyrics. Sad and sweet, just how I like it.

I was in love with this album before I owned it. Aimee performed “Goose Snow Cone” on Colbert the week before the album released and by the time she hit the line “gotta keep it together when your friends come by” I was teary-eyed. When release day came I took it home on vinyl and CD as well, and I’m glad I did. I’ve just about worn out both. Maybe Aimee’s best work. And that’s saying a lot, because I am willing to fight the shit out of you over how great “The Forgotten Arm” is.

#7 – The Bottle Rockets – “South Broadway Athletic Club” (#2 on 2015’s List)

Bottle Rockets

My brother had my favorite review of this album and it still makes me smile to think about it. On the day the album was released, The Bottle Rockets played a set at Vintage Vinyl here in St. Louis (they’re from here). They played the whole album front to back and Dave and I met the guys and got autographs after the set. Having heard them perform the whole thing, Dave was standing there with the album in-hand, still in the shrink-wrap and said, “This is one of my favorite albums of the year and I haven’t even listened to it yet.” Gold.

I love the guitar tones on this record. I love them so much I almost immediately went out and bought the same model of Rickenbacker that lead singer/guitarist Brian played at the in-store. This album changed my tone as a player. I decided to start taking my sound more seriously because of it–especially the clean tone. And every song on it is catchy as hell. Great record, and I owe a lot to it.

#6 – Lou Reed & Metallica – “Lulu” (#5 on 2011’s List)


I know. But you’re wrong.

The problem isn’t the music. The problem is that people expected it to be a Metallica album instead of a Lou Reed album. I will grant you that this is not a good Metallica album. But it is a FUCKING PHENOMENAL Lou Reed album. It should have been billed as “Lou Reed featuring Metallica” instead of a collaboration.  This album is all Lou’s, even though I know Metallica had a hand in the writing.

I don’t know if it’s fair to call this the darkest album of Lou’s career. That’s REALLY hard to qualify for a guy who had an early release about a dude taking a hooker to a drugged out party, then she overdoses and they drag her body out to the street and leave her there, to the tune of the lyric, “It’s a universal truth, somebody turns that blue, you know the bitch will never fuck again.”  But it still might be. It’s definitely the heaviest thing he’s done. And he needed a Metallica there to push him where he needed to go, sonically. But then there’s also “Junior Dad,” which is quiet and beautiful and has a 10 minute outro that would fit in as well with his album of songs meant for meditation as with anything else.

This was the last record Lou ever did. One of his most intense and definitely one of his most challenging. It’s art on a level he hadn’t done before, and Metallica DAMN sure hadn’t either. It’s a masterpiece. And you and your “I am the table” memes need to show it some fucking respect.

#5 – The Hold Steady – “Heaven is Whenever” (#2 on 2010’s List)


I think this is my favorite Hold Steady album, even though it doesn’t have my favorite song on it.  (Favorite song is “Constructive Summer” off “Stay Positive.”)  This is one of those albums where I can’t even pinpoint what it is about it that speaks to me so deeply. I mean, yeah…the lyrics…but you can have great lyrics and still make a mediocre or bad record. This one fires on all cylinders. Something about the first few pedal-steel (lap steel? just a guitar with a slide?) notes makes it feel like an old friend right out of the gate.

I’m not sure when this one snuck into being one of my favorites of the last ten years. Sure it was #2 in 2010. Okay. Fine. But a lot of stuff in the past ten years was #2 and not all of them remained a decade-defining record for me. “Heaven is Forever” did.

“You can’t get every girl. You’ll get the ones you love the best. You won’t get every girl. You’ll love the ones you get the best. You can’t kiss every girl. You’ve gotta trust me on this one.”

Best advice any band gave me in the last 10 years.

#4 – Manchester Orchestra – “A Black Mile to the Surface” (#2 on 2017’s List)


Manchester Orchestra has been on a couple lists. They were #1 in 2014 with “Cope.” But “Black Mile” is the one that made the list.

A relatively recent release compared to some others on the list–especially the ones this high up. But this one got its hooks into me DEEP. It’s a great “depression” record, if you get what I mean. There are layers of beauty to this record that I can’t explain. And some of them occur while there’s flat-out screaming going on. They captured a mood and a mental landscape in a way I don’t think I’ve heard anyone else do in this generation of musicians. Heavy but melodic and gentle all at once.

I said in 2017 that I had trouble picking out a standout track on this record because in the era of singles they wrote an ALBUM. And I stand by that. I only listen to this one in its entirety. It’s one of the few that I’ve had a “driveway moment” with in recent years, where I’ve gotten home, but the record isn’t over yet, so I just sit in the driveway and listen to the rest of it.

I’m still irritated with myself that I didn’t go to see this tour. And it’s also weird that I haven’t bought it on vinyl yet.  I could probably change the latter this weekend.

#3 – Shooter Jennings & Hierophant – “Black Ribbons” (#1 on 2010’s List)


I recently talked about this one on my podcast. It’s one of my favorite concept albums, but also one of my favorite ALBUMS. It’s a story of the government taking away so much of our freedom that even speech is relegated and the radio is shutting down. Stephen King is featured on the album as the voice of the last free radio station. And the story of the album plays out like one of his books, only much more terrifyingly real.

Genre-bending and destroying in tone. Politically charged in concept. Brilliant on all points. It was written coming out of the Bush years where we thought it couldn’t get any worse. Now that we’re stuck with the fucking impotent, gutless, shameless, hypocritical, spineless, useless, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, urine-soaked, traitorous, motherfucking lunatic Antichrist we WILLINGLY GODDAMN ELECTED in 2016, this album is only getting more and more applicable. You need to track it down if you haven’t heard it.

#2 – Jason Isbell – “Southeastern” (#1 on 2013’s List)


In many ways, Jason Isbell’s career is on par with The Who for me in terms of personal meaning and depth. The guy writes some of the best songs you could possibly ask anybody to write and for me the love affair with his solo career really took off with “Southeastern.” (Although I’d been a fan of his work since he was in the Drive-By Truckers.) This album is one that is clearly personal for him (although, aren’t they all?) but rather than being inaccessible as a result, it makes it all the more relatable.

The tone of the album being so personal lends itself very well to the mostly acoustic vibe of the album. I remember when I saw Isbell touring in support of the album, he got to a block of songs from this record and exchanged his electric for an acoustic, then I don’t think he took it off for 30 minutes just hitting this song list as hard as he could. It was wonderful.

This is one of those albums that is always going to be a go-to for me. It’s up there with “Harvest” or “Quadrophenia.” I just ALWAYS want to hear this album. I’m floundering to find things to say about it other than that. I just ALWAYS want to hear “Southeastern.” Might spin it tonight, in fact. Join me, won’t you?

#1 – David Bowie – “Blackstar” (#1 on 2016’s List)


I doubt that there was much question that this would be number 1.

I’ve got a lot of albums on this list that connected with me in a personal way. I don’t know if there’s a more personal connection possible than the death-letter Bowie left for all of his fans in “Blackstar.” It hits all the right personal emotional beats for me, but there’s so much more than that, too.

Bowie knew he was dying. He’d been quietly fighting cancer and the writing was on the wall.  Most fans had been hearing rumors of him being sick for about 10 years, but with no real substantiation. But in the last year of his life, Bowie knew. And he turned it into art. “Blackstar” was released on Bowie’s birthday–I bought it on CD and vinyl that same day. Then two days later, Bowie was gone. And the whole album with it’s sparse, dark mood with songs so clearly about saying goodbye clicked in the head of everyone who’d heard it and we all knew this album would be the closest thing we’d ever get to Bowie telling us we’d be okay without him and he’d miss us.

What could be sadder? What could be more beautiful?

“Blackstar” isn’t necessarily the album on this list that I’m going to listen to the most–in true Bowie fashion, his final piece demands a lot of the listener. But it is the album that I will always remember where I was when I first heard it, and I’ll always remember it as the first thing I listened to when I heard the news. It was the only thing that made sense at the time.

Fuck, I still miss him.


So…a lot of stuff that was #1 for the year wasn’t even on this list. And apparently I liked 2016 and 2017 more than most years. It’s funny how things change.

So…what did we learn from all this? Not a damn thing.

See you soon with the top ten of 2019!

“Just Because I Don’t Care Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Understand” – Homer Simpson

Hi. Remember me? I haven’t written since August 22, and even then it was…let’s say enigmatic.  Sorry.  Not very.  But sorry.

A lot has happened. A lot hasn’t. I can’t really remember where we left off. Let’s write stuff as it comes to mind…

  1. An update on Dad. He eventually got out of the hospital from the issues I wrote about back in July. But more has kept happening. He’s had another smaller-concern hospital stay related to a blood pressure issue. As of the time of writing, he’s still in there, which seems like it’s been two days too many for a simple thing that they identified and just need to figure out how to treat. It’s the kind of thing that if he’d talked to his GP it would’ve been at MOST an outpatient visit. But he went in Monday night and by the time this posts it will be Friday. In general he’s doing much better though. I’m sure he wishes all of this was behind him more than anyone else. UPDATE/EDIT: Dad was released on Friday night. I wrote this on Thursday.
  2. I’ve lost 50 pounds. On purpose. I decided that when I turn 40 (this upcoming May) I didn’t want to be obese anymore. And that’s what I was. I was at a weight/height ratio that qualified as OBESE. Not just fat. So I radically changed my diet, and I’m 50 pounds down from obese.  Now I’m just fat.  But soon I’ll be a healthy weight for my height. I started somewhere north of 240 and I’m presently 187, as of this morning. I can walk up stairs without being winded again and my pants fit–and I can actually find my SIZE of pants in the store now, too. It’s kinda nice.
    And I didn’t exercise. There’s no fucking Fitbit or Dipshit or any of that involved. No gym membership. Not even any running in place. I’ve kept my EXACT SAME routine and just changed diets. Exercise is for BODY BUILDING, not for weight loss. I’m planning on exercising too, once I hit my goal weight…but so many people go to gyms then get upset that they’re not seeing results while still eating cheeseburgers every day–that’s because IT DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY. I switched to a largely plant-based diet (though I do still enjoy meat occasionally) and have kept an eye on calories. That’s IT. That’s ALL I did. And there’s no reason you can’t if you want to (unless there’s some weird-ass medical reason).
    Healthy for my height is anywhere between 144-176. When this started I thought, “I’d be happy at 180.” Now that I’m close and can see the results, but also the remaining gut…I’m thinking 165. Shouldn’t be too tough. I was 240+ in July.
  3. I had a surprise trip to the dentist last week when one of my front teeth just cracked in half while I was sitting at my desk at work. I wasn’t eating or anything. Just felt some pressure poked it with my tongue, and the next thing I knew half my tooth was in my hand. So they rushed me in same day and filled it in. I hadn’t been to the dentist since I had the oral surgeries in what I now realize was 2017(!). I forgot that afterward my mouth feels weird for up to two weeks because it’s not used to having a guy’s whole hand in it, moving my lips around. (Well…not on a weekday…) So I’m kinda feeling twitchy in my face this week.  Oh well. At least there’s a tooth where there’s supposed to be one.
  4. I’ve gotten pretty seriously into Bob Dylan in recent weeks.  I’d avoided doing so for years. But he keeps coming up in my life where I expect him the least so I gave in to fate.  I bought the “complete collection” boxed set that came out in 2013.  And a few other things. No collection is ever really “complete,” especially when the artist is still working. It’s been a fun journey. I decided to log it at a different blog, where I go into more detail. It’s here, if you’re interested–I hope you are.
  5. You may also be wondering what the hell happened to my podcast, Empty Checking. Well…the same thing that happened to this blog. Personal shit took the fun out of it, so it kinda went on hiatus. But it’ll be back. I’m toying with an episode right now, and soon enough it’ll be uploaded.
  6. I’ve been reading a lot lately. I’d almost stopped picking up books for a very long time when I started getting migraines. But with those having seemingly largely receded (which I think has been mostly due to GREATLY reducing my caffeine intake), I’ve started reading again.  Here’s what I’ve had my nose in:
    1. “Presto!” by Penn Jillette – This book has been a big help in my weight loss journey and I mostly started it because I just wanted to know more about Penn and how he got so thin. It’s a great read even if you don’t want to lose weight.
    2. “The Unseen World” by Liz Moore – I love Liz Moore. Possibly too much–although I’ve never Googled her interests or photograph, so I feel like it’s not TOO too much… She wrote a book in the early 2000s called “The Words to Every Song” that I bumped into in a Borders bookstore (RIP) and learned that she’d also written a CD called “Backyards,” which I immediately snapped up as well because the book was great. Then I lost track of her for too long and when I looked her up again she’d written two more books with a third on the way.
      I bought both of the ones that are out and I’ve completed this one. It’s beautiful. It’s misleadingly described about being about artificial intelligence, and yes that’s IN the book…but it’s actually the story of a daughter’s relationship with her father who is dying with Alzheimers and has a mysterious past. It’s a story about love, the lies we tell each other, forgiveness, hurt, and a little bit of artificial intelligence right at the end. Highly recommended. Looking forward to reading the other book as well (“Heft”) but haven’t cracked it open yet. She’s got a new one coming out in January that I’m excited about, too. I just wish she’d also do another album…
    3. “Saturday” by Ian McEwan – Abandoned. For the second time. I picked it up when it was new in hardback and tried to get into it but just couldn’t. Decided to try again because I’m a different person than I was in 2005…but I don’t think I even made it as far into the first chapter as I did 14 years ago. I had the feeling that everything I was reading would ultimately have no bearing on the overall plot and was just in there so McEwan could show people how well he could describe a fucking room. Tedious. And I know I’m the only person in the world who’s ever called it that…but damn… Authors, it doesn’t matter how beautifully you write if you never get around to telling your fucking STORY. (That said, I want to give one of his other books a fair shot sometime.)
    4. “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins – In progress and enjoying it. I’m told there’s a movie of it, too, and I’ll probably watch that after I’ve finished. The book struggles with jumping around in time either too much or not enough to be a good gimmick. You forget that you’re supposed to be paying attention to the dates so you know where you are in the timeline–and that gimmick kinda sucks in print. Especially when the events are only separated by a couple MONTHS instead of years or decades…  (Even if the chapters started with “two months ago” instead of “September 15th” it would be an improvement.) But beyond that, it’s a very good story and I like it. I’d say more, but I don’t feel like I have enough of a handle on it to get into the plot.
    5. “Unfaithful Music” by Elvis Costello – Declan MacManus’ autobiography. (Yes, I know his real name without Googling it.) I’m a big fan of Costello’s and waited way too long to read his book. It’s very good in that every chapter feels like it could’ve started the book and you get lots of cool life-stories from Elvis along the way. It’s not quite linear and reads more like you’re just listening to him answer questions about his life and tell stories. And those stories are very entertaining. Good insight into what was going on in his head during some of the big periods of his career and elsewhere.
    6. I’ve also got Tegan & Sara’s new book, but I’m only a little bit into it. So I don’t know what I think yet. And I’m still unclear on which one is Tegan and which Sara, but it’s like that with twins.
    7. Pending – Pete Townshend’s new novel “The Age of Anxiety” is sitting on my coffee table, waiting until it can have more of my full attention. Also Nicole Krauss’ recent book in sitting quite near to it, right on top of some George Saunders I haven’t quite gotten around to yet…
  7. I’m writing some new music. I’ve got an album’s worth that will be put together for some time in 2020. Should be a good one. A bitter and angry one. But a good one. Details to come on that when more happens.
  8. Seeing Sloan tomorrow night. Canadian rock band that my brother has liked for a long time, but he just got me into a few years ago. They’re really good if you’re unfamiliar. They always put on a good show. Should be fun.

I feel like there’s a more serious post to be written about all the stuff I have been avoiding writing about since posting my depressing little poem in August. (Which has since become a song you can download here.) But it also feels like that’s not anyone’s damned business and I don’t want to write about it.  So…we’ll leave it there.


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…