Farms, Funerals, and Family

My aunt Clara died today. She’s one of the aunts from Arkansas that has been more or less a central figure to that side of the family, or at least that’s how I’ve always viewed her. Maybe I should take a step back and explain that.

There’s a family farm on my mom’s side of the family. It’s not a property I’d ever have any real legal claim to. It would be a misread to think I’m part of some kind of wealthy land ownership situation. But it’s still right to call it “the family farm.” It’s the place where my mom’s mom and all of her siblings grew up. And until recent years it was tended by “the girls;” four of my aunts who lived together and looked after things–Stella, Clara, “Deet,” and Naomi. When I was a kid, “going to see the aunts” was a regular thing in the Summer and it meant spending a week staying in the farmhouse with the girls. I have a lot of fond memories of that. The house was a gathering place for everybody in the family. You’d see all of the cousins, most of the aunts and uncles, and a few people you were pretty sure you were related to, but who can tell? And the girls were at the center of it. They had the gift of hospitality above all else.

In 1994, my mom died and I stopped going to Arkansas over the summer. I was 14. If I’d been in my 20s or so and could drive a car, maybe things would’ve been different. But as it was, I largely only saw Mom’s side of the family at Thankgiving, weddings, and funerals from there on out. And over the years, Naomi then Deet and now Clara have died. Stella is the only one left, and her health isn’t great.

I don’t know what becomes of the farm house soon. Someone probably has an idea. Probably more than one someone. Probably more than one idea. Probably an argument to be had sometime soon by somebodys… As for me, if nobody has claimed it, I’d like to put a bid on the piano in the front room. It’s the only one I ever heard my mother play.

But I’m not sure we’re there quite yet.

Clara was the one who you called if you were playing in the yard and came upon a snake. She’d take care of that for you. And she was the one who knew I’d want to play dominos or the board game Aggrivation every night I was there. She’s the first person I’d ever heard say, “you’re gonna get GOT” in a gaming context. And she was also the one who baked the GOOD bread. I’ve never had bread as good as Clara’s. And I guess I won’t again.

The thing I won’t ever forget Clara doing was something that happened when my mom died. We were at the funeral parlor and there was a family member (by marriage) who was known to be fairly rude and semi-intentionally say the wrong thing present at the wake. Said family member was talking to me at one point. I remember she was saying something about the carpet in the funeral parlor being cheap, as though that’s anyone’s problem. Clara made eye contact, marched over, grabbed my arm, and said, “Derek, have you seen this floral arrangement that so-and-so sent? I just know you’d like it…” and drug me away. Once we were by some set of flowers or another she said, “I didn’t think you should listen to that right after your mom died.” I don’t think I’ve ever said “thank you” so quickly.

And another memory. My brother and I went to Arkansas for Deet’s funeral several years back, but failed to tell anyone we were doing so. We’d gotten a hotel room nearby, but decided to go over to the family house to say hello. We knocked on the door and everybody got excited to see us–we had even forgotten to tell Grandma we’d be there! We were in the house for all of two minutes before we realized that Clara had gone down the hallway to fetch some sheets and blankets to make up two extra beds. “The boys are going to need someplace to sleep.” We had to stop her and tell her we’d gotten a hotel room so we wouldn’t be under-foot. She just assumed we were family, so of COURSE we would be staying. In hindsight, it kind of breaks my heart that we didn’t. Sometimes you forget about hospitality until it hits you over the head.

My Grandma called me about two weeks ago to say she’d been down to see Clara and she wasn’t doing well. She’d been in poor health and the writing was on the wall. I said something about it being comforting to know she’d be at peace…but even when they’re true, those are just the words you say. They don’t really help that much when someone you care about is struggling. Maybe they do later. I’ve never been sure.

While we talked, Grandma started talking to me about liquidating her assets. She had a stroke earlier this year and is now living with my uncle and aunt. “Derek, do you need any quilts? Would you like some old pictures of your mom? Do you have a Foreman grill? Would you like that clock you gave me for Christmas back?” She kept saying she doesn’t have room for things. But she’s 93. We both knew what conversation we were having. It made me nostalgic for the times she used to ask me when I was going to find a nice girl and settle down. Not that I have any answers to that, either.

Time keeps passing and with it people pass away. That’s how life works. It’ll happen to all of us. So it goes.

There is a lot I love about being from a big, Southern-with-a-capital-S family. I love that despite the fact that I haven’t kept in touch in the right ways, I’m always welcomed. I love that Uncle Eddie and I are going to talk guitars when we see each other; we speak the same language. I love that when I randomly bump into one of the cousins it’s easy to say hello. I love that some of us have stayed in touch on Facebook in the ways I’ve failed to in person. But the one thing I hate about it is that when it’s a big family, a lot of mourning gets crammed into a few years, every generation.

I posted on Facebook the same thought that I’m going to use to end this post. If I had it to do over, the one thing I’d do differently is I’d have gone to the farm in Arkansas more often as an adult, and I’d have kept in better touch with Mom’s side of the family. I guess I’ve lived long enough to regret some things. Unfortunately the only way a lot of us figure that out is by outliving somebody else.

I can probably do better from here on out.


“It Could Be Worse” is coming out on May 18

I’m going to write a longer post that will go up when the album comes out…but yeah.  The new album “It Could Be Worse” will be out on May 18 in digital format on my Bandcamp page or on CD if you see me in person or ask for one to be mailed to you.  Either version is “pay what you want” pricing, and I’ll totally give you one for FREE, as usual.  It’s one of my best albums, and I can’t wait for you to hear it!

Here’s the cover (which I hope you can click on to make it bigger, but if not…sorry):a0654136360_10.jpgThe track list (which won’t mean much to most of you) is:

  1. So Anyway
  2. Nobody Else
  3. Everybody Shut Up
  4. What I’m Dying For
  5. No One Leaves St. Louis
  6. Who I Am
  7. Amanda, I’m Tired
  8. That Was Then
  9. I Still Believe
  10. Always

It’s about a 40 minute listen. I play my 1973 Martin and my Rickenbacker guitar and my Rickenbacker bass all over it. I’m really happy with it, and I hope you will be too!  See you again on the 18th!

Current Listening:

  • Frank Turner – Be More Kind
  • John Moreland – In the Throes

“What good is money if it can’t inspire terror in your fellow man?” – Montgomery Burns

Well I’ve got to get SOMETHING on here in April.  May as well be a random post.

  1. The new album (“It Could Be Worse”) is very near completion.  I’ve just got photos left to do.  The problem is that’s been impossible.  The photographer and I have been having trouble meshing schedules.  Still hoping to get something finalized soon, but if not, I’ve got a “plan b” for cover-art.  So you’ll probably be listening to the thing roundabout my birthday if all goes to plan.
  2. Been going to church a bit lately.  Took a couple-year hiatus, there.  Assuming I make it in tomorrow (or later today, as the clock would have it), it’ll be three weeks in a row.  It’s been nice.  That’s about all I have to say about it for now.
  3. Today was Record Store Day.  I didn’t go to it.  I’m kind of sick of the whole ordeal.  I’m an AVID music collector, but the notion of a day being set aside where the industry purposely creates too small a supply to meet a demand, where you have to fight to find what you want…it’s just ridiculous and it’s part of what’s killing brick and mortar stores.  If people can listen to Tom Waits’ “Orphans” collection on Spotify, why get up early on a Saturday to go throw elbows to get the vinyl repressing?  If you’re going to make it, make it for those of us who are actively Tom Waits fans and aren’t just jackasses looking to flip the “collectors item” on eBay.  Also, none of the record stores in this town have anywhere near enough parking to make it worth the fight.  So, I’ll pick through the scraps tomorrow, while I’m also shopping on the regular shelves that are there EVERY day.
  4. The podcast is going okay. Numbers are better on the theme shows, but I’ve got my regulars who listen to most episodes regardless.  So that’s about all you can ask for if you’re doing it for free.
  5. I’m writing this on the day Verne Troyer died.  He was preceded by Harry Anderson and Barbara Bush.  It’s been kind of a weird week.

Boy, that’s about all that’s going on.  I’ve got some stuff I’d like to write about in long-form, if I ever get motivated to do so.  So maybe that’ll happen soon.  But until then, I guess this was a mercifully short one.

Current Listening: A bunch of Pearl Jam.

This is too many albums for Facebook…

There’s a thing going on Facebook where you post a different album cover each day with no explanation of why it means so much to you for either 10, 15, or 30 days depending on which version you were tagged in.  I had at least 50 of them.  So it’s going here, instead.  I pulled all of these images off of Amazon and they in order by their file number/name, I think…I just hit “select all” in a folder and then pressed “upload.”  No thought went into the order.

…and also about a dozen more, but this took me like an hour.

By the way, I don’t care that Facebook shared my info and neither should you.  They’re a company and every company has done it. Just because you get an ad, you’re not obligated to buy or believe what it says.  If you don’t want your personal info out there, don’t share it with anyone.  Facebook didn’t give out your address and phone number…YOU did.

Sorry About This

Haven’t blogged in a while and wanted to write something.  Having some trouble getting the juices flowing though, so I decided to find one of those “getting to know you” surveys to spark some ideas.  And this survey has almost 100 questions.  So that’s a post.  Sorry!  At least this one’s a better survey than that last one I took and made you read.

  1. Who is your hero?
    I don’t really have one. Heroes tend to let you down. I have people I admire for individual qualities and I’ve got musicians or writers who I would call INFLUENCES…but “hero” is such a worshipful term I’m really not comfortable applying it to anyone.
  2. If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
    Kinda like it where I am.  But I’d like to visit Ireland, Scotland, England, and Canada(land), and maybe I’d end up in one of those if I had the choice.
  3. What is your biggest fear?
    Spiders.  And dying alone.  So dying alone with a spider.
  4. What is your favorite family vacation?
    We didn’t really take a lot of them.  We went to Arkansas to visit family a lot when I was a kid.  Sometimes it was the whole family, sometimes less.  So probably that I guess? We didn’t ever do the Disney trek or go travelling or anything like that.
  5. What would you change about yourself if you could?
    I’d spend less time doubting whether or not I’d like to go out.
  6. What really makes you angry?
    People getting involved in things that were fine without them.
  7. What motivates you to work hard?
    People getting involved in things that were fine without them.
  8. What is your favorite thing about your career?
    I like at least most of the people I work with. They don’t often get involved in things that were fine without them.
  9. What is your biggest complaint about your job?
    When people get involved in things that were fine without them.
  10. What is your proudest accomplishment?
    This is a hard question because I have trouble crediting myself with things. And even when I know I’ve done something good, by the time I realize it, it’s already in hindsight and I’m working on the NEXT thing…  So…
    I’ve had a pretty good recording career.  We’ll go with that.
  11. What is your child’s proudest accomplishment?
    I guess something its mom didn’t tell me about, since I was unaware I had one until this question.
  12. What is your favorite book to read?
    I read a lot…it’s hard to say.  “Catcher in the Rye” stuck with me.  So did “Lincoln in the Bardo,” more recently.  And a bunch of other stuff…  There are even comic books I’d put on this list like “Bone” or “Blankets” or “Maus.”  “Angela’s Ashes” impacted me greatly and so did several Vonnegut books of course (“Cat’s Cradle,” “Slaughterhouse Five,” etc).  A couple of spiritual authors like Brennan Manning and Tony Campolo have meant a lot to me in the past too, although a lot of my “spiritual” reading ended when I started unindoctrinating myself from my Bible College years and listening to the MESSAGE of Christ rather than poking at every Greek letter…
    I could go on and on…  But those are the books and authors that popped into mind.  Plus a controversial thought at the end to grow on.
  13. What makes you laugh the most?
    A lot of things.  Usually just any conversation where the participants (myself included) just let themselves be silly and sort of daydream or spin into madness. Also cat videos.
  14. What was the last movie you went to? What did you think?
    I’m genuinely trying to remember the last time I went TO a theatre. I don’t do that very often.  It might have been “Elvis & Nixon” with my dad back in 2016.  I liked it.  With what’s come out about Kevin Spacey since, I’ve got some mixed emotions though.
  15. What did you want to be when you were small?
    Everything at one point or another.  But probably mostly a famous musician.
  16. What does your child want to be when he/she grows up?
    Again, you’ll have to ask its mom, I guess.  Also please let me know who she is and how and when this happened, if you don’t mind.
  17. If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be?
    Meet my child.
  18. What is your favorite game or sport to watch and play?
    I’m not really into sports.  I don’t enjoy playing anything, that’s for sure. But I do enjoy watching the occasional soccer game and I like to watch darts.  I also enjoy both the Winter and Summer Olympics.  And if wrestling counts (it should) then that’s it hands-down.
  19. Would you rather ride a bike, ride a horse, or drive a car?
    Car.  The rest of that sounds like there’s way too much wind involved and it’s probably rough on the ol’ nutsack.
  20. What would you sing at Karaoke night?
    I’d need four friends and we will ROCK THE SHIT out of “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls.
  21. What two radio stations do you listen to in the car the most?
    KDHX and KSHE, I guess.  The former way more than the latter.
  22. Which would you rather do: wash dishes, mow the lawn, clean the bathroom, or vacuum the house?
    Wash dishes.  I actually kind of like doing dishes.  The water’s warm, you can listen to music or a podcast or something and still count it as “productive” and you feel kind of accomplished once you’ve put them into the washer and started it.  (I hand wash then put them in the dishwasher.  This is the only appropriate method.  I will fight you.)
  23. If you could hire someone to help you, would it be with cleaning, cooking, or yard work?
    Probably cleaning. I get lazy about it.  Like for years at a time.
  24. If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
    Probably corned beef and cabbage (with potatoes and/or carrots).
  25. Who is your favorite author?
    I think it’s probably Kurt Vonnegut.
  26. Have you ever had a nickname? What is it?
    A couple in high school, I think…but I’m having trouble remembering them.  My brother (and some others) sometimes call me Wayne, which probably counts since it’s not my middle name. I haven’t really had many that have stuck. People who try are usually greeted with strong negative reactions and drop it.  Just call me Derek.  Or Wayne.  I’ll answer to Wayne.
  27. Do you like or dislike surprises? Why or why not?
    It depends on the surprise.  “Hey Derek, there’s free cake!”  That’s great!  “Hey Derek, there’s an active shooter!”  That’s bad.
  28. In the evening, would you rather play a game, visit a relative, watch a movie, or read?
    Any of those will be fine.  You pick.  What time? Can I bring anything?
  29. Would you rather vacation in Hawaii or Alaska, and why?
    Alaska.  I prefer cold climates.
  30. If money was no object, what would you do all day?
    Probably pretty much what I’m doing right now, just without an alarm clock looming over me.
  31. If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to?
    I don’t know.  Maybe one of the years where I could see The Who when Moon was still alive or something.
  32. How would your friends describe you?
    You’d have to ask my friends.
  33. What are your hobbies?
    Numerous…  Mostly pop-culture stuff.  A lot of people would count my musical meanderings as a hobby.  I read a lot.  Watch a lot of TV.  Stuff like that.  I also enjoy making stuff, so I try to find projects to work on or things to do around the house that feed into that.
  34. What is the best gift you have been given?
    That’s a tough one.  I come from a very generous family and “best gift” changes over time too–like when I was 11 it might’ve been the ticket to see Styx play live in St. Louis.  When I was 14, it might’ve been my bass amp.  When I was in my 20s it might’ve been the roof over my head while I was half-assing my way through college.  I know that I value gestures more than things, though…  And thankfully there have been enough of those that it’s overwhelming trying to narrow it down.
  35. What is the worst gift you have received?
    Smash Mouth’s Greatest Hits.
  36. Aside from necessities, what one thing could you not go a day without?
  37. List two pet peeves.
    (1) When you can hear people chewing.
    (2) People commenting on what they did, saw, heard, or smelled in a public restroom.
  38. Where do you see yourself in five years?
    I try not to think that far ahead.
  39. How many pairs of shoes do you own?
    I don’t know, a million?
  40. If you were a super-hero, what powers would you have?
    I’d abuse them.  It’s best not to give me any.
  41. What would you do if you won the lottery?
    I’ve thought about this.  I wouldn’t tell anyone about it and I wouldn’t outwardly try to show it off. But I’d buy a lot more dinners and stuff like that and probably worry a little less.  I wouldn’t do one BIG thing, I’d just spend when I wanted to, knowing there’s a nest-egg there. I mean, I might pay off a credit card or my student loan…but in general, I think you’d be surprised by how little it would change me.
  42. What form of public transportation do you prefer? (air, boat, train, bus, car, etc.)
    I don’t take public transportation. I have no opinion.
  43. What’s your favorite zoo animal?
    Bears, maybe? Or the masturbating monkeys?  One of those.
  44. If you could go back in time to change one thing, what would it be?
    I don’t know.  I’m not sure there’s a pivotal moment or decision that would really significantly change that much and those that would probably wouldn’t ultimately be beneficial to anyone.  I’d take back a thing or two I said or avoid going to events I know in hindsight that I didn’t enjoy.  But there’s not one specific thing that leaps to mind as “THAT is the ONE THING!!!”
  45. If you could share a meal with any 4 individuals, living or dead, who would they be?
    That’s an excellent question and I’m choosing to answer it with as little seriousness as possible.  I would go to dinner with Gordon Ramsey, Guy Fieri, Paul Prudhomme, and Emeril Lagasse.  We would go to White Castle.
  46. How many pillows do you sleep with?
    More than you’d think.  I’ve got a firm “My Pillow” and a buckwheat pillow under my head.  Then I’ve got a number of other pillows just kind of AROUND in case I need them because of my back pain…  Sometimes I’ll need to put a pillow under my back so I can have some support there.  Or sometimes between my knees if my sciatica is hurting my hip.  Or sometimes in-between my ankles if my knees hurt.  All told, I think there are up to five pillows on the bed at any given time.
  47. What’s the longest you’ve gone without sleep (and why)?
    I think like four days.  I was depressed.  Didn’t eat for a few of those days, either.  Wasn’t a good period.
  48. What’s the tallest building you’ve been to the top in?
    I really have no idea.  I don’t know that I’ve been in too many tall buildings and when I have been, it hasn’t been important to me to remember the number of floors.
  49. Would you rather trade intelligence for looks or looks for intelligence?
    I’d trade both on Tuesday for a hamburger today.
  50. How often do you buy clothes?
    Pretty regularly.  I’m kind of a t-shirt collector, so I get those frequently.  Pants and socks and stuff as needed.  I enjoy buying clothes, so I do it often.
  51. Have you ever had a secret admirer?
    How in the fuck would I know that if it was a secret?
  52. What’s your favorite holiday?
    Thanksgiving.  And sometimes St. Patrick’s Day.
  53. What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?
    It isn’t something I’m proud of, so I’ll pass on this one.
  54. What was the last thing you recorded on TV?
    Looks like it was The Graham Norton Show on 3/9.
  55. What was the last book you read?
    I’m a few stories into George Saunders’ “Tenth of December.”  It’s good.
  56. What’s your favorite type of foreign food?
    I guess Chinese food. Or maybe Greek because I do love lamb. But I get Chinese more often.  So probably that.
  57. Are you a clean or messy person?
    I’m a fucking slob, thankyouverymuch.
  58. Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life?
    Tough call…most of my favorite actors are too old.  Maybe somebody like Paul Dano would be age appropriate and he’d be great at it.
  59. How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?
    Depends on the morning and what’s happening with my back.  Anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes.
  60. What kitchen appliance do you use every day?
    Microwave, I guess.
  61. What’s your favorite fast food chain?
    I eat at a lot of them.  This is hard.  Wendy’s maybe?
  62. What’s your favorite family recipe?
    My grandma’s banana nut cake.  Oh shit…I forgot to call her tonight. I meant to do that.
  63. Do you love or hate rollercoasters?
    Indifferent. I feel like if you’ve ridden one you’ve ridden them all.  I’d go on one, but I’d probably think going to the park was a waste of money.
  64. What’s your favorite family tradition?
    I guess we have them, but I don’t really think of them that way.  Probably the longest standing one and the one I’ve made it a point not to compromise is Sunday dinners with Dad, though.
  65. What is your favorite childhood memory?
    I don’t really have one.  I don’t mean that in any kind of philosophical way or sad way.  I just really don’t do well at recalling my achievements, accomplishments, or happy occasions.  I often have to be reminded of them.  There were a lot of them.  That’s good enough.
  66. What’s your favorite movie?
    This is a VERY hard question, but my default answer is “12 Angry Men.”  I might have to do a podcast episode on this topic some time.
  67. How old were you when you learned Santa wasn’t real? How did you find out?
    I don’t remember.  It seems like it wasn’t that big of a deal.  My parents always gave me better gifts than Santa did anyway.  I was in my 20s before I realized they did it that way on purpose, though.
  68. Is your glass half full or half empty?
    I can’t remember where I put the fucking glass and it’s a red Solo cup, anyway. I’ll just get a new one.
  69. What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of love?
    Nothing too crazy.  Mostly I’ve just put in way too much drive-time on somebody who wouldn’t do the same in the past.
  70. What three items would you take with you on a deserted island?
    Food, water, and shelter.
  71. What was your favorite subject in school?
    Music and art classes.  You know.  The ones they don’t want to fund anymore.
  72. What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
    The first thing that came to mind was chicken hearts, but there’s probably something weirder.
  73. Do you collect anything?
    I covered that above, kinda…  But yeah.  CDs/vinyl.  Movies.  Books.  T-shirts.  Guitars.  And things related to those interests–sometimes a figurine, sometimes a poster, etc…  Hear all about it every week on my podcast, Empty Checking!
  74. Is there anything you wished would come back into fashion?
    People need to get away from streaming media and go back to collecting physical products.  And I think they WILL.  It’s just going to take some time and a plunge in Google or Apple’s bottom line that makes them fuck over their customers on storage space to wake people up.  Or just ONE really good hacker who fucks up everybody’s “cloud” and they realize they really can’t depend on it.  Or Netflix going under.  There are a lot of ways it COULD happen.  I’m interested to see which one takes place.  And when it does, friends, come to me and I will help you replace your lost Frank Zappa CDs.
  75. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
    Depends on the setting and situation.  But by default more of an introvert.
  76. Which of the five senses would you say is your strongest?
    Well, to begin with, the human body has WAY more than five senses.  That’s a significant simplification of a very complex set of inborn attributes.
    For example, we don’t JUST have a sense of touch.  We can touch something and have the sensation of knowing it will be sticky, furry, hot, cold, etc…  And that’s what most people mean.  But the human body also has an innate sense of knowledge of its relationship to itself.  Close your eyes.  Now keep them closed and touch your two index fingers to one another.  How did you do that without seeing your hands?  You used your body’s sense of itself.  This sense is the same one responsible for “phantom pains” when someone loses a limb. The body’s knowledge of itself fascinates me on a deep level.
    We also have a sense of morality, a sense of humor, a sense of self-value, and there are those who would even call our ability to anticipate a reaction based on sight/sound/etc, otherwise known as “intuition” as its own sense in and of itself.  The human body is a complicated wonderland of senses that are far more numerous than the five we’ve come to identify.  Here is an article from Cracked that cites sources indicating it may be anywhere from 14 to 20 on average, based on most studies. (The body’s awareness of itself–proprioception–is mentioned in the article.)
    Anyway…  Smell.
  77. Have you ever had a surprise party? (that was an actual surprise)
    I don’t think so.  And I really wouldn’t want one.  I don’t like people making too big a deal about my birthday, especially if there are a bunch of strangers around.  And I’d want to have the benefit of knowing I was going to have to be around a group of people who all wanted to talk to me all night.
  78. Are you related or distantly related to anyone famous?
    No one that springs to mind, but there may be someone I’m forgetting.
  79. What do you do to keep fit?
    I do not.
  80. Does your family have a “motto” – spoken or unspoken?
    Probably. But we’ve never formalized it. We joke occasionally that for example when you’ve overloaded the trunk of your car and things are destined to fall over and break but you close it anyway and mutter, “nah, it’ll be fine,” THAT’S the Brink family motto.  But in general, I don’t think we’ve officially got anything. Unless referring to something that isn’t working as “well, this shittin’ thing” counts. Dad started that one and I know I use it regularly.
  81. If you were ruler of your own country what would be the first law you would introduce?
    By Official Decree of the Office of The Derek: Everybody stop being dicks and follow the goddamn road laws because YOU’RE the reason we HAVE them; you don’t know better, you’re part of the problem, and YES I’M TALKING TO YOU.
  82. Who was your favorite teacher in school and why?
    Mr. Koontz, my choir teacher is the first who comes to mind.  He was a warm, encouraging man and he always had kind words to say to me.  He believed in me and made me a section leader in the choir, encouraged me to get into our chamber choir, and constantly guided me toward doing my best.  If anyone reading this ever finds him on Facebook, please let me know.  I’d enjoy saying hello.
    Then the same for Mr. Hudson who was my science teacher in Jr High and then in 9th grade.  When my mom died, he kept me after class into his prep-period on the day I got back from being out to deal with it and asked me if I was okay, told me he’d lost his dad when he was my age and said if I needed to talk to anybody he’d be glad to make time for me.  I’ve thought about that a lot and I’ve tried to do the same for people I’ve known since who have lost a parent.  I’ve not found him on Facebook either.
    I’d like to tell both of those guys how much their little gestures meant.
    Then in college, I had the pleasure of turning similar professors into friends…and they are on Facebook and know what they mean to me.
  83. What three things do you think of the most each day?
    I’m assuming we’re talking about material things here…so I’ll say:
    (1) My laptop because I use it for a lot of stuff including most of my hobbies.
    (2) My phone because I’m addicted to social media.
    (3) My bed, because I wish I were in it.
  84. If you had a warning label, what would yours say?
    Caution: Words may be harmful.
  85. What song would you say best sums you up?
    This is impossible to answer and I am not even going to try. There are too many fucking songs.
  86. What celebrity would you like to meet at Starbucks for a cup of coffee?
    Good question…  It might be interesting to have a chat with Brian Wilson.  I’d love to pick his brain about sound production and the beauty of the small background parts that no one cares about except for the writer.  Or I know Rufus Wainwright frequents Starbucks, based on his Facebook page, and it seems like he’d be fun to talk to.  Or maybe someone like a Jenna Fischer because I could start with “I’m from St. Louis too, where’d you go to high school?” and she seems nice based on her twitter.  Or one of my favorite comics like a Patton Oswalt or Marc Maron.  And I always thought I’d get along with Sally Field for some reason.
    But really that scenario has got to be weird for them because they don’t know me AT ALL and I know a lot about them…so ideally just somebody with whom I could talk about more than just the thing they’re famous for…  I know Neil Peart of Rush hates when fans come up to him and fawn over his music, but if somebody doesn’t recognize him and wants to talk about the weather, he’ll talk to them all day.  (So I know what my move would be with Neil…after a two hour conversation about bird migration patterns, I’d end with, “Tell Geddy and Alex I said hi.” and then get punched.)  Whatever the case, I’d try to make it more than just the “OHMYGODYOURESOGREAT!” fan gibberish and have a conversation THEY can enjoy as much as I do.
  87. Who was your first crush?
    I don’t want to put a person’s name out there.  She’s a very nice person and she’s a mom now.
  88. What’s the most interesting thing you can see out of your office or kitchen window?
    From the office I can see a street and a parking lot.  From my kitchen, I can see my yard.  That’s about it.
  89. On a scale of 1-10 how funny would you say you are?
    Maybe like a 6-8 depending on when you catch me.  Sometimes I’m a solid 3.
  90. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
    I didn’t even plan for 5.
  91. What was your first job?
    That the state made me pay taxes on?  My parents wanted me to enjoy being a teenager and I was probably part of the last generation that COULD do that…so I didn’t get a real job until I became a part time library worker in college.  But I played in a bunch of bands and roadied and stuff before that, and it sure felt like work, and there was some money thrown around for it.
  92. If you could join any past or current music group which would you want to join?
    The band I want to join doesn’t exist.  It’s me and a list of my musician friends who get together and we play songs we wrote and we all like playing together and we’re great.  But most of them are too busy.  And I’m too lazy.
  93. How many languages do you speak?
    Most of one.
  94. What is your favorite family holiday tradition?
    Whenever we get together, whatever that means.
  95. Who is the most intelligent person you know?
    I haven’t tested.
  96. If you had to describe yourself as an animal, which one would it be?
    Like a clinically depressed basset-hound maybe? An extremely forgetful cat?
  97. What is one thing you will never do again?
    Graduate from high school.
  98. Who knows you the best?
    Probably either my dad or my brother.  Maybe both.

Well, that was thorough.  Sorry again!


Current Listening:

  • Decemberists – The Crane Wife
  • Snow Patrol – Eyes Open

“Eventually I stopped caring. But that was the ’80s so nobody noticed.” – Rev. Lovejoy

I was surprised to find that I haven’t blogged in over a month.  It’s been a busy and slightly frustrating (because it’s so busy) period over the past month.  So let’s just hit some highlights in a random post.

  1. On Friday night, my friend Bruce and I went to see Rufus Wainwright with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra at Powell Hall.  As is well documented on the blog over the past decade, I’m a big Rufus Wainwright fan.  However, somehow I’d managed to never see him in concert until this past weekend.  It was worth every bit of the wait.  I’m going to talk about it in full on my podcast this week, but in brief, he played most of my favorites and provided a deeply moving and entertaining experience. He’s just great.
  2. I’ve been hard at work on the new album.  I’ve got a mix I like, but the limiting in the master keeps getting away from me and it gets over-compressed with a muddy bass EQ.  I know that doesn’t mean anything to most people reading this.  But it’s what’s going on.  🙂
  3. I’ve been playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the Switch.  I like it as an experience, but I think it fails as an actual GAME.  It seems like the actual critical gameplay is left unexplained with GIGANTIC leaps in difficulty from one mission to the next and a majority of the game’s time is spent just figuring out WHAT to do (and then endlessly walking there) rather than working out how to do it…  It’s a lot of FUN, but it’s not a great GAME.  I find myself constantly needing a walkthrough just to find the next thing I’m supposed to do (looking at YOU, sensors in the “divine beasts”)–then when I’ve found it, the puzzles are too short to really be considered fun gameplay.  The fun of the game is wandering through the massive open world and finding new stuff, and on that level, it succeeds overwhelmingly.  But we have Stardew Valley for that…  Of course, I’ve never been a fan of playing Zelda games anyway.  I’m a Mario man. So I may just be the wrong audience for it.  But hey…ultimately, it is fun.  Even if it’s 90% just walking.
  4. Following the dental extractions I wrote about in the last post, I’ve been slowly moving toward regularly chewing on both sides.  Unfortunately, the migraines don’t seem to have stopped.  I got one just yesterday.  But I’m still hopeful that it’s just a process and my brain has to rewrite how it processes not having the constant tooth pain, so it’s just taking some time.  If nothing else, I made it 2 weeks between occurrences this time.  It had been weekly.  So maybe that’s progress.
  5. I’ve been enjoying the Olympics.  Adam Rippon is exactly as good as he thinks he is and he’s made a fan out of me.  Also Curling.
  6. I’ve had a lot of back pain lately. Mostly first thing in the morning.  I’ve got sciatica, as per an Urgent Care diagnosis in early 2017 (but I could’ve told you as far back as 2003) and sometimes it just hurts first thing in the morning.  I’ve changed a couple of things about my sleep position and the way I get up in the morning and it’s helping a little…but basically I blew something out a few weeks back and it’s taking forever to heal.  And my sleep position and pretty old mattress aren’t helping it.  It typically gets better throughout the day, but early in the morning, it hurts to bend down and pick up my shoes.  So…that sucks.
  7. I’m going to be recording a friend’s demo next weekend.  I really need to clean my house.
  8. Speaking of my house…  I’m working on some stuff around the house.  I’m putting up art and shelves and things.  I most recently constructed a CD tower that holds just about my whole collection (it’s gigantic) and I’m working on getting some stuff into place elsewhere as well.  Which is leading to me identifying stuff that I need to fix.  Particularly in the bathroom, which has been falling apart since it was remodeled years ago.  My towel rack is hanging onto the wall by a thread.  Same for the toilet paper holder.  The sink was leaking so bad I had to turn off the cold water (and I haven’t fixed that yet even though it was around Christmas).  The hot water knob on the shower is loose…  It’s a mess.  Every problem is an easy fix.  It’s just that there are SEVERAL easy fixes.
  9. I got a haircut on Thursday.  No big deal.

And I think that’s it.  It’s getting late and I have work in the morning.  So…  Bye until next time!


Current Listening:

Still Rufus.  Presently his “Live at the Artist’s Den” album that I never really absorbed, but I’m enjoying a lot now that I’ve seen him.  Going to listen to “Rufus Does Judy” (his faithful recreation of Judy Garland’s “Carnegie” concert) next.

I shouldn’t do PSAs about drugs. I enjoy them too much.

Since we last met, I’ve had dental surgery.  So…here’s how that went.

I was nervous going in–more than I’m proud of, in fact.  It was less the dental surgery itself than it was the anesthesia.  I read years ago that Peter Faulk (TV’s Columbo) went into a coma and then died following being put under for dental surgery.  And I know there are very small odds for that kind of thing to happen. But every time it doesn’t, those odds go up, and I guess I was feeling lucky.  (Spoiler alert: I’m not in a coma.)

Dad drove me to the appointment, because I was going to need a ride home.  We sat and talked about nothing for a bit in the waiting room, then I was taken back for the surgery.  They asked me some preliminary questions, confirmed I had a ride home, etc.  I asked a few questions, all of which were answered with the totally committal, “it’s different for everybody” bullshit…  Then they put an oxygen mask on me and left me sitting with a blood-pressure reader on me for probably 15-20 minutes.  Eventually they wheeled in an IV that was going to be putting me to sleep.  And I watched my pulse and blood pressure go up a little.

When the doctor came in, he seemed to be in a weirdly good mood.  Told him I was nervous and he said, “we get a lot of that.”  Then he explained about the IV and prepared me for when I’d feel “a little pinch” at it going in.  Then it went in.  I said, “I apologize in advance for anything I say when I wake up…  I mean, I think I’m a good person, but who knows?”  And the doctor said, “We get a lot of that, too.”  Then they put a thing in my mouth that was designed to keep it open while he was working…  And then I woke up.

Okay.  They say that you wake up without knowing you were asleep.  That’s bullshit.  I had no concept of how LONG I’d been out and no memory of anything that happened or anything like that…but I KNEW I’d been out and I knew the surgery was done.  They led me to a comfortable chair for recovery and brought my dad back.  My memory of that is in and out.  I know they were talking to him about the prescriptions I was going to need and told him I did well and they used less anesthetic than anticipated, so we’d be getting some money back.  At one point, I remember pointing to the poster on the wall behind my dad and saying, “Is that the Beatles?”  He said yes, and I said I saw four of them and two of him…  And that’s when I realized I was stoned off my ass.

I have limited experience with drugs.  We’ve all made mistakes and smoked or swallowed something handed to us by a friend…but I don’t regularly partake in anything these days.  I haven’t even been drunk in five years come May 27.  So this was an interesting experience.  And I’ve got to say it’s one I could get used to.  (So I’m not taking the narcotic pain-killer they recommended.)  Colors looked brighter.  It was raining, but it felt sunny to me.  They gave me an ice-pack to put on my face, and I’m pretty sure it was what Jesus must feel like.  Drugs are neat.  Don’t do them.

Went back to Dad’s condo, where he could keep an eye on me for a bit.  As the drugs wore off and some pain settled in, I got pissy and so forth.  Eventually, I was feeling normal enough to go home, so Dad took me home and I’ve been there recovering ever since.

It hasn’t been too bad.  I can feel a ***little*** bit of swelling in my gums.  But I haven’t had any significant visual swelling and not a ton of pain.  My jaw is a little stiff and I’ll get an occasional shot of pain if something touches the wounds.  Also, it on and off feels like I’ve got a mild sore throat…  But all of that’s normal.  The swelling is slowly going down and I’m getting used to the missing teeth.  I had four molars removed on the left side (two wisdom teeth, two not).  It’ll take a bit to get used to, but I don’t need any partial plates or anything like that.  Just time to heal and soft foods to eat for a little while.

It’s been a long journey since my first dental appointment in 2011.  Here’s what the damage was like then:


That’s a mess.  My grill was so banged up, it looked like I just hit a deer.  There’s still more to do, but here’s where we are now in 2018…  The red marks are extractions, fillings, and so far one root canal:


my_big_fat_mouth - EDITED4
It’s interesting how we’re leaving in the sideways one on the bottom, isn’t it?



As I’ve stated elsewhere, I hope the extractions from Thursday (that whole field of red Xs) will help with the migraines I’ve been having lately.  We’ll see…but so far I’m already feeling the benefits within my mouth.  I’ve been in pain for 10-15 years since the wisdom teeth came in.  With them out, there’s a lot less CONSTANT pain.  I think the reason it seems like I’m healing so well is that when you’ve been in pain for 15 years and the source goes away, the pain of the surgery wounds healing is really no big deal.  If nothing else (sorry this is gross), today marked the first time in I-don’t-know-how-long that I’ve brushed my teeth and didn’t spit out blood.  So that’s kind of a good feeling.  As is the fact that my left cheek is actually healing up now instead of being constantly accidentally bitten and slashed by broken, jagged teeth.  There’s been a swollen section to that cheek for YEARS that is receding this week!

I’ll be going in to see my regular dentist in about a month to make sure everything’s healing okay and to presumably do more work on my remaining issues.  But the worst part is over for now.  So yay!

I’ll let everybody know when I’ve eaten my first post-surgery steak.  All this soup and mac and cheese and stuff like that is getting boring.