Wednesday, January 31, 2007

More Lily Sleeps

I just found out that Casey Stratton has released a double disc collection of B-sides from his Lily Sleeps album. Can we have another YAY! please? I don't get into all the songs on Lily Sleeps, but it is a fine album nonetheless. It is also home to one of my top 3 favorite Casey Stratton songs - "Dog's Mercury" - a song that I never tire of even though I'm not entirely certain what it's about. Something about it hits me in just the right spot. I think it's just that it's so damn melodic and the chorus is just killer.

Anyway, I won't be buying these B-sides until AFTER the tax refund comes, which, if I get my butt in gear could be as soon as 7-10 days from now. I always like to let my tax return stew a couple of days after I do it and then look at it again. I almost always find something that I did wrong - and believe me, our taxes are nothing complicated at all. Just one W-2 and some mortgage interest statements. I didn't even have enough in my savings account this year to make any appreciable interest! So in addition to taking down the tree in the backyard, helping pay down the credit card and replenish our savings account, this tax refund will also help me to get some new-old Casey. That's fabulous. And with The Crossing coming out March/April - well, I'm just so glad he puts out as much music as he does!

And he mentioned on his message board that he's starting to book dates for this year's tour. Casey, if you bring the tour to Iowa, we'll be there with bells on - and I'll get all my friends to be there as well! Not that that's going to be a zillion people or anything, but you'll have a cheering section, most definitely.

Have you confessed?

Yesterday, despite a less than desirable financial situation following my biweekly paycheck, Heidi went out and bought me the CD/DVD of The Confessions Tour. Have I ever mentioned what an absolutely fabulous wife I have? I had convinced myself that I didn't need it and that I could wait until we get the tax refund. I would have to get by with my bootleg audio of the tour (which, as I've detailed before, is surprisingly good for bootleg material - I have both the Phoenix and Paris shows.)

I watched a bit of it last night - most notably "Live To Tell" so that I could see it as it was meant to be instead of the edited to ribbons version that was shown on NBC last November. And of course, we had to watch "Jump" because Anna loves it. And it is so much better than the NBC version - perhaps it's just the lack of ads and annoying edits that were present during the NBC broadcast. But the entire tour is there, intact, with nothing edited. YAY!

Tonight I was watching the bit starting with "Music Inferno" up to the end and it was like I was back in Las Vegas watching the show live. It brings back such fun memories and really, that's what a tour DVD is supposed to do. Sure, it's a great way for people that can't get to her live show to experience the live show, but truly, something like The Confessions Tour can't be contained on a TV screen. But it's a pretty good souvenir of the live experience. I think this is probably Madonna's best tour - something I thought right after I saw it and watching it again, I remain firm in that opinion. While Re-Invention comes close, there is just something about this tour that really seemed to get Madonna in the mood to perform live. Her performance is so joyous in so many parts - the part that gets me is how much she smiles. Contrast this with Drowned World, where she barely addressed the audience beyond scripted shtick and at times really seemed to be going through the motions. (And a substandard set list didn't help matters at all.)

And even though the whole experience of the Confessions Tour was sullied a bit by Jeff's kidney stone, trying to get to the airport to catch our red eye flight which remains, to this day, the single worst flight I have ever had - I still have such fond memories of it. So much so that the next time Madonna tours, I won't even pretend that I don't want to go!

Read: My original post after seeing the Confessions Tour.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

He ain't heavy

Someone in Arizona has 32 birthday spankings coming to him. Yep, my brother Ryan (better known around these parts as anonymous commenter "Brian Callahan") turns 32 today. Which means that 32 years ago today, I got a new baby brother. Honestly, I don't remember him coming home from the hospital. Hell, I don't even remember mom being pregnant with him. Of course, using this logic, I can't ever remember a time in my life when I didn't have a brother. And honestly, I don't want to imagine what that would be like.

True to form, here's a couple pictures of us when we were growing up. Notice that these are both from our early life, sparing every reader of this blog the trauma of our awkward years. It's bad enough that we had to suffer through them.

That's me in the front (obviously) looking like one of the boxcar children and Ryan's in the back with his shirt full of slobber. Man, could that kid drool or what?

And what the hell were Mom and Dad dressing me in? Ah, the 70s - love them or hate them, they're all over my family photo albums. (Mostly I love them in retrospect - fascinating history that stuff.)

As with most brothers, we're a bit of a study in contrasts. He's more classic rock - I'm cheesy pop music all the way. In high school, he discovered body building and became, as a friend of mine so succinctly put it "2x3 Dans." He's a dentist in Arizona - I'm a pharmacist in Iowa. But he's also a pharmacist, too! However, a couple years of working the graveyard shift in a very well known chain drug store caused him to apply to dental school (and has rendered him a twitching mess whenever he walks into said chain drug store.)

We haven't always seen eye to eye, but hey, he's my brother. Always has been, always will be.

Here's to you, Ryan! Hope you have many more. And I promise I'll make it to Arizona soon - I just have to figure out my finances!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Step back in time, part deux

Posting old pictures may become a weekly thing, it's hard telling. My blogging tends to be rather sporadic - and I certainly don't do it when I don't feel like it.

Anyway, here's the very first picture of Heidi and me that was ever taken. It sits on my desk to this day - exactly why, I'm not entirely certain because there are certainly better pictures of us that I could choose to have displayed. But this one stays - at least for now. It was taken at a buffet restaurant that I can't remember the name of now (Heidi, help!) It's Old Chicago in Iowa City now, but I'm totally blanking on its previous name. Anyway, it was her grandfather's birthday so it's likely early late January/early February. (11 years ago almost to the day! And I didn't even plan it that way!)

Don't we look like infants? And obviously in the days where I thought less hair was better! Thank goodness those days are over!

This shirt

Once upon a time there was a shirt. I purchased it at JC Penney in 1993 - I was deep in my plaid days and would wear almost nothing except for button down plaid Dockers shirts. It really wasn't a fashion thing - OK, maybe just a little, because I really liked how they looked - but mostly, they were just comfortable. And we all know that comfort trumps style any day of the week. Well, almost any day, that is.

Anyway, here's a picture of the aforementioned shirt.

I really loved this shirt - I loved the interplay of the black, blue and orange. I could never describe it as a particular color - I think , though, that it's the orange that sticks out the most for me. However, at some point, it got a rather unfortunate association. Whenever I would wear it when I was in college, my day was almost invariably bad. And because of this, it was forever saddled with the label "the unlucky shirt."

I always hated for it to have that association - but I am superstitious as hell and for quite a while, I stopped wearing it (not to mention that it really did kind of fall out of style.) However, one night in November of 1995, I decided to wear it to Jeff's housewarming party. He had moved down the hall from one apartment to another and Jeff, who never needs an excuse to have people over, decided to invite a whole bunch of people that he knew to celebrate the move. I was one of them - and despite the fact that I was exhausted from having been up the entire night before finishing up a lab report (and plus the fact that I was riding down with our navigationally challenged friend Jen) I still agreed, albeit a bit begrudgingly, to go. So it was me, my unlucky shirt and my Baltimore Orioles baseball cap (which had been given to me by my former roommate - not that I'm anything even remotely resembling a baseball fan) that made the trek down to Washington that night.

Among the other people that Jeff had invited to the party was a friend of his from school - Julie -who also lived in Washington although the school they taught in was not in Washington. She came along as well and brought her daughter who was recently graduated from college and trying to figure out exactly what came next. She was living in her mom's basement - not something I envy of anyone.

Oh, and did I mention that her name was Heidi?

She says to this day that she spotted me from across the room in my Orioles cap and unlucky shirt and something just clicked. I say the same thing - only she wasn't wearing the unlucky shirt or the Orioles cap. (actually, she was wearing a very beautiful white sweater!) Although we were slow to start, it's funny to hear Jeff tell the story about how we ignored everyone else at the party and talked just to each other. People are leaving, we're talking. Jeff and Jen are cleaning up the dishes, we're still talking. We watched the then-brand-spanking-new Madonna video "You'll See" (and she got a foretaste of the Madge obsession that she'd spend the rest of her life coping with - although she didn't know it then!!) We hit it off splendidly.

Yes, it took me 3 weeks and much nudging from Jeff to actually call her and ask her out again (she was nothing if not patient with me and my glacial approach to relationships.) But the rest, as they say, is history. I bought Madonna's Sex book and she thought that was fabulous. I subjected her to a viewing of Xanadu and she didn't run screaming from the room. She gets definite points for that.

Roughly two years later, we got married in Iowa City on an 80 degree October day. We specifically chose October so to have a nice cool fall day. I sometimes wonder if I wasn't wearing the unlucky shirt under my tux.

So the shirt's not so unlucky anymore, although I still refer to it as such - but mostly in jest. It's been relegated to being worn under sweaters and fleece pullovers for several years now as I'm not as skinny as I used to be and it's worn out in places from overwear. And just recently, the collars started to fray. Witness exhibit A:

And because of this - it's not really even suitable for wearing under things anymore. And funny thing - I'm sad. It's the first piece of clothing that I'm actually a bit sad to see go. We talk of cutting it up and putting it into a quilt - an idea I like very much.

The whole thing reminds me of Mary Chapin Carpenter's song from which I got the title of this blog post:
This shirt is old and faded
All the colors washed away
I've had it now for more damn years
Than I can count anyway
I wear it beneath my jacket
With the collar turned up high
So old I should replace it
But I'm not about to try.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Wedding crashers

John and I were having a discussion this morning via shoutboxes comparing "Dallas" to "Dynasty." He's watching "Dallas" on DVD right now - and is just about to the "Who Shot J.R.?" episode. I never really watched "Dallas" as a kid - never got all caught up in the "Who Shot J.R.?" hysteria. I know - amazing, isn't it? However, I did watch "Dynasty" religiously for quite a number of seasons. I mean, Joan Collins as Alexis is pretty much the definition of over-the-top, right? I remember that Wednesday nights at 8PM were sacred. I wouldn't take phone calls (although several of my friends would try to call me intentionally to keep me from watching it!) for it was "Dynasty" night.

Perhaps the most memorable scene I recall from "Dynasty" is the end of season 5. Amanda is about to be married to Prince Michael of Moldavia. The entire cast has gathered for a royal wedding. Only the royal wedding is about to be interrupted by revolutionaries intent on overthrowing the king. As a result, the revolutionaries open fire on the wedding ceremony, and everyone is left for dead. Here, watch for yourself (it's 8 minutes, but totally worth it!):

They all had the feathered hair down pretty good, eh?

But unfortunately, the only person to die (that I recall) is Ali MacGraw's character. So apparently, all the people were playing possum. Or knocked unconscious from fright. And wearing Kevlar vests. Or something.

The other scene I recall vividly is Blake's attempted strangulation of Alexis. La Mirage has burnt to the ground and through manipulation that I've long since forgotten, Alexis has managed to buy Blake's mansion (was it even on the market?) Alexis stands at the top of the staircase saying "It's all mine, Blake!" and Blake goes nuts and tries to strangle her to death. I don't remember how it all came out, but obviously, Blake got the mansion back.

Sadly, only season one of "Dynasty" is on DVD. And Joan Collins doesn't even show up until the last episode of that one. How I'd love to watch them again. They used to be on Soap Net, but no longer apparently. Jeff and I sat up until 3 in the morning watching a "Dynasty" marathon on Soap Net one night many years ago - and I get all giddy thinking about how much fun that would be again!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Crazy dreams (are made of this)

I woke up this morning at 3:30AM and it was very much a "done sleeping now" moment. How this will play into my general fatigue and malaise that I've been experiencing this week remains to be seen, but for now, I'm willing to go with it. I don't work until 2pm tomorrow, so if worse comes to worse, I can go to bed early again tonight and sleep in tomorrow morning. Or alternatively, I could be tired at about 10AM, in which case, well, I'm fucked.

But in any event, when I woke up this morning, I was waking up out of a particularly vivid (and crazy) dream. Fed in no small part by the loads of Casey Stratton that I've been listening to recently, I had a dream that I was at one of his shows. I don't know exactly which city it was in, but it was obviously not local as Heidi and Anna were both with me and we were staying at a hotel. Rather inexplicably, a lady from work was along with us, begrudgingly providing child care. The show was not at the expected coffee shop or small venue, instead, it was in a small drugstore - much like the independent pharmacies like The Apothecary in Carroll or maybe a mid-to-large size Medicap. But there was Casey's keyboard, set up in front of the antacids and cough and cold medicines. And what's funnier is that he was actually performing in the dream.

There was a pretty good crowd there - the front of the pharmacy was pretty much SRO so he was happy about that. I don't really remember much of the set list except for one song. He took a little pause and said "OK, this next one is a cover, and it's Wilson Phillips 'The Dream Is Still Alive.'" OK, holy shit, when was the last time I even THOUGHT of that song? 17 years ago when the CD was current, maybe? But, regardless of what dusty corner of my brain that was sitting in, he did, indeed sing this song. And what was EVEN funnier was that about mid-way through the song he pushed the keyboard away and started doing this little choreographed routine to the song. To Wilson freaking Phillips!! During this dance routine, he threw a couple bottles of Maalox out in the audience. Insane!! The odd thing was, as crazy as it all sounds, it was actually quite good and very entertaining!

And then for the last song of the set he was going to do "Live To Tell" (I knew immediately from the opening chords, very much like I did in Chicago last October) at which point Heidi was displeased because she really wanted to hear "This Woman's Work." But neither song was meant to be as the owners of the store at this point said the store was closing in 5 minutes, and Casey was irritated by this because he always likes to sell CDs and sign stuff after the shows. And they weren't budging - at one point I remember a very severe looking lady declaring that we "had 30 seconds."

That's pretty much all I remember. Of course, when I woke up, I had to dig through my CDs to find that Wilson Phillips album with "The Dream Is Still Alive" on it (I'm nothing if not completely suggestible.) And Casey, if you're reading this, we do have a Medicap here in Ames when you decide to tour next - but I won't expect any Wilson Phillips songs or snazzy dance numbers. ;)

EDIT: I thought that it was perhaps a long shot, but here's the video for "The Dream Is Still Alive." The video and audio start out VERY out of sync, but they seem to get over themselves part way through.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Shades of gray

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror today at work and realized (not for the first time) that there will absolutely not be a single brown hair on my head by the time I hit 40 in a mere 5 years time. That's how fast I'm going gray these days. I don't really bemoan getting gray hair - for one thing, I've been going gray since I was 18 and to be honest, a lot of men my age don't have the luxury of even having hair to begin with, so I try not to bitch too much about it.

But still, there is something about it - a little reminder every day that you're not getting any younger. And I'm not one of these people that pines for their younger days. As I've said before, I really am enjoying my 30s and every year really does get better. I look back on my 20s with a little bit of a head shake and a "sheesh" under my breath. I'm healthier, both mentally and physically now than I was then, and I am certainly one hell of a lot wiser than I was in my 20s. At least that's what I like to think.

I think the thing that's hardest about growing older is that the older I get, the more I remember my parents being this age - and I'm certainly not as old as them, right? I remember my dad turning 40 - my mom putting one of his grade school pictures in the paper and wishing him a happy birthday. I remember watching his transformation from a man with a head full of brown hair to a head full of gray hair - and I think mine's happening a lot faster than his did. He thinks it's on about the same timeline, but I swear it's happening faster.

I wish I had a good picture of my gray hair, but alas, I don't have anything recent that really demonstrates my point well. In truth, I'm a little bit fond of my gray hair as it really behaves better than my brown hair - which is all curly and unruly at times. My gray hair is coming in a lot straighter which makes for some interesting mornings - some of the hair wanting to just lay in place magically while some of it refuses. It also gives me a bit of George Clooney-ish look which is certainly not at ALL bad. And plus, Heidi really likes it, so who the hell cares what anyone else thinks.

I know that I'll never color it - that's just WAY too much maintenance. So I embrace it - like I'm trying to do with so much of my life these days - as a part of me that is wonderful and beautiful. Because, well, it is!

And because it wouldn't be a blog post from me without a link, here's what Anderson Cooper has to say about gray hair.

Random observations

In the place of a proper blog post, which seems to be more elusive than the a presidential approval rating for Bush over 30%, I have but this to offer.

1) Can I just say that I am so tired of being tired? I know it's working which is wearing me out so, but what's a guy to do? I work all day and then am so tired at night I can barely muster the energy to play with Anna. I realize that a lot of this has to do with it being winter, but for the love of Pete, I'd love to be able to stay awake past 8:30 some night!

2) Thanks to my friend XO, I have been exposed to the lovely Brian Kennedy. He thought that I might like him based on my fond appreciation for Casey Stratton, and he was right! The bad thing is that all the CDs are imports (read: no iTunes) and in these days of drastic belt tightening, all extra things must be weighed carefully! But he does have a lovely voice and I can see myself listening to a lot more of this in days ahead.

3) The Brian Kennedy has prompted a Casey Stratton renaissance - I've been listening to him tons these days. I can hardly wait for the new record coming out February-Marchish. And I can't get enough of "Violet Room" these days. Pure brilliance - the bridge alone is worth an entire blog post.

4) We miss you Mike. Hope you can get your net access soon.

5) John is sending me my Kylie mug that he picked up from the Kylie concert he saw in London last week! YAY!! And there's a copy of Showgirl: Homecoming in there as well!!

6) And now, it's 7AM and time to finish getting ready for being tired work.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Revenge can be so sweet

I've been meaning to post this for quite some time now, but the mood has never really struck me. But now, this morning, I look out the window and see the snow STILL COMING DOWN after we've probably gotten 4-5 inches already. But a quick look on Intellicast shows me that we're on the edge of the snow now so it'll be stopping before we know it and this afternoon, I'll be out trying to move the snow off the sidewalk and the driveway. After the last storm, I did the walk but not the drive, preferring to look the other way and just drive over it. I don't think I'm going to have that luxury this time around. So it seems like now is the time to write this.

Anyway - recently I have totally and utterly gotten into the 1986 Eurythmics album Revenge. I have a long and interesting (to me) relationship with this album. I bought it on LP when it first came out - I think I was one of the few people I knew at the time still buying vinyl as most of my friends had made the switch to cassette tapes. But purchase it on vinyl I did, mostly on the strength of the lead single "Missionary Man." I knew other Eurythmics songs, of course - "Sweet Dreams" and "Would I Lie To You" were virtually unescapable at that time. But Revenge was the very first Eurythmics album I bought.

"Missionary Man" was a great song with an even better video - a bit "Sledgehammer" in some ways looking back on it now.

I actually had the 45 of "Missionary Man" before I bought the Revenge album - I loved buying singles back then and I think that a huge part of the appeal of iTunes to me is the fact that I really can buy singles again. Granted, they don't have the fancy cover art, but that's beside the point!

Well, back to Revenge - when I got it home, I honestly was underwhelmed. I don't know what it was - whether it had to live up to my enormous expectations or what it was but I really had a hard time with it. It did not seem as accessible as "Missionary Man" and the subsequent single "Thorn In My Side" had made it seem (not the first time in history that the singles from an album were not representative of the entire album.) I think, looking back on it, it wasn't pop enough - not enough "fast songs" or whatever - to really appeal to me at that age. Although I did really latch on to one album track - "A Little Of You" which remains in my top 5 favorite Eurythmics tracks.

So I forgot about Revenge, never really getting into it. It was only years later, after I was able to see them in all their brilliance on Savage, still by far my favorite Eurythmics album, and after two Annie Lennox solo efforts that I decided to revisit it. I picked up the CD used in Iowa City just after Heidi and I were married. And I liked it more than I remembered. But still, I was underwhelmed. For whatever reason, it wasn't speaking to me then again! And I'd bought the album twice now! (well, sort of - buying it used only half counts.) And so Revenge was a victim of the great CD purge when we moved to Ames - it became a part of the collection of the Washington Public Library. But before donating it, I did import it to my computer.

Boy, am I glad I did!

This brings us to the end of 2006 and for whatever reason, I found myself really wanting to listen to it. Fortunately, I didn't have to go buy it a third time. I listened to it all the way through on my iPod and although I had really warmed to a lot of the songs - most especially "When Tomorrow Comes" and "The Last Time" - I finally realized what a cohesive album it really was. OK, "Let's Go!" is a little bit ridiculous (forget about the preacher, man/Let's do it on the ground???) but overall, Annie is in fine voice and the songwriting really is top notch.

Perhaps it wasn't a problem with Revenge after all - maybe I just had to hit a certain point in my life to really appreciate it. Because listening to it now, it doesn't play like so many albums from that time period do for me - as cheesy high school nostalgia - but rather, it is like an album that just came out six months ago and is becoming a part of my musical "being" for lack of a better word. Sure, I remember the videos for the singles, but really, it plays very well for being a 20 year old album.

So yes, Revenge can be so sweet, but sometimes, it just takes a damn long time!

Friday, January 19, 2007

For the love of Dolly

YAY! Today Dolly Parton turns 61 years young. This was a random Wikipedia fact that I stumbled across when I was looking for something else last night - and I'm sure glad I did. I think that today, in honor of her 61st, I'll do nothing but listen to Dolly all day long! And perhaps cover songs of hers, although I might spare myself the 5 zillionth listen to Whitney Houtson's "I Will Always Love You."

I just heart Dolly so much - I have ever since I was a kid watching her "Live In London" concert on HBO over and over and over again. How I wish that would get a DVD release!! The last time I checked on eBay, the VHS tape was selling for 75 dollars!! A VHS tape!!

She has such a long legacy of fantastic music (and, admittedly, some real dogs as well.) And while I know that even she realizes that the big hair and the big boobs are all about the image and the package, beneath all that lies one of our very best American songwriters. As much as I love to make fun of her cornball lyrics in some of her old songs, I'd like to see me do any better. She can write songs about dead babies, burning down the orphan's home and making moonshine better than any I know.

So here's to you Dolly! As a 34 year old man, I love your music a whole lot more than what is allowable by law. Here's some great YouTube clips to celebrate Dolly's birthday.

(Dolly sings "Two Doors Down" on - apparently - the Cher Show in 1978!)

("Potential New Boyfriend" - her first music video and a great camp classic!)

(Here's an oldie! "False Eyelashes")

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Step back in time

I got a card from my cousin Christy yesterday. It contained some photos that she found that she thought I might like to see again. And I thought, what the hell? Totally bloggable on a (admittedly) slow blogging week.

The first three pictures are all from around the same time period - 1989-1990. This first one is my cousin Melissa and me at my brother's confirmation party.

What is up with that shirt I'm wearing? Yuck! And I'd love to know what it is that I'm drinking that requires a spoon. Chocolate milk perhaps?

Here's a pair from Christy's graduation.

OK, looking back at pictures like these reminds me of why I hated pictures of myself, and to a degree, still do. Look at that bouffant hair! What WAS I thinking? And I also look like I haven't eaten in about a year and a half. Seriously, folks, that's how skinny I was in high school. Of course, to be somewhere in between that and what I am now (which is by no means fat but is decidedly not what I was) would be nice. These pictures capture me at what I consider my gangliest, and at times, it's still the person I see in the mirror - although I know that I look a whole lot better than that now.

Finally - a more recent one. It's Anna and me. She's about a year old. It was pre-facial hair and pre Doctor Who specs. It's funny, I'm smiling, but I don't look happy. I remember that time period. It was probably the time of my life when I was the most depressed I had ever been. Thank goodness THOSE days are behind me. But still, even though there was all that crap going on in my head - a storm of emotion that couldn't be quelled no matter how hard I tried - there was that little girl on my lap, making me smile.

I love all these pictures - they remind me of where I've been, when I lose track of it getting all caught up in the here and now.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


It's Sunday night and usually, the thought of the upcoming week makes me cringe, want to run the hot water and ready the razor blades. But tonight, for whatever reason, I feel like the weekend was very productive and refreshing and I'm ready to return to the daily grind. So much of the time I try to get this nebulous "something" out of the weekend that always eludes me and ultimately, leaves me feeling unfulfilled and wanting more.

Not this time. I'm pleasantly tired from the day's activities and even though it's only 9:30PM, I'm thinking about going to bed and getting a really good night's sleep. Yesterday was spent mostly being lazy. I started "X-Files: Season 3" back up on a VERY good episode ("Apocrypha") and watched My Little Pony: The Runaway Rainbow with Anna. This meant more than words can possibly describe to her. It was cute because she also has the book of that movie so she was very excited to "hear what they REALLY sound like." Although I must admit that I dozed during it a little bit, it wasn't bad kid's programming.

I spent last night bantering with Mike and John on - something that has been long overdue as everyone's been really busy. I also read Heidi's new draft for one of her books and it is very good. I have to finish it yet, but from what I've read so far, she's going in the right direction.

I slept in this morning while Heidi and Anna went to church. Today was not as lazy as yesterday was - we got the back rooms of the basement cleaned out in preparation for a big room switcheroo that we have in mind. That was a huge undertaking and is just the first phase of that VERY large project. But it felt good to get rid of a lot of stuff - we have so much garbage sitting out on the curb getting snowed on right now, it's not even funny. It felt good for the feng shui of the house to get it out of here.

And after that, I had the distinct pleasure of talking to John on the phone - all the way over in Northern Ireland thanks to Skype. Well, actually, I could have just picked up the phone and done it, but I certainly couldn't have done it for 0.017 euros per minute. And what a wonderful conversation it was!! It was 50 minutes of non-stop talk about Madonna and Kylie as well as various other things. It's always great to get a voice with someone you converse with via e-mail so that was very very fun. And although I knew this prior to talking to him on the phone, our conversation just cemented in my mind how lucky I am to be able to call him a friend! (Hi, John!!) Definitely a highlight of the day.

And then tonight - I played Barbie as Rapunzel with Anna on my computer which thrills her to no end and truthfully, it's kinda fun making the castle all beautiful with her.

So I'm ready for bed. And I feel fulfilled, like I said earlier. And I had to blog it because I spend so much of my time waiting for a weekend like this, and finally, I got it.

Transforming dreams

I dreamt last night of the Constructicons. For those of you who may not know, the Constructicons were a type of Transformer - they were, as the name suggests, different types of construction vehicles. Their ranks included a cement mixing truck, a bulldozer, a payloader, a dump truck, a truck crane and a steam shovel. What was even better, they had the ability to form the mighty robot Devastator.

When I was a kid, I had the entire set of Constructicons - purchased at Sears or something like that with Christmas money for the astronomical price of 50 dollars or something like that. Anyway, with all this talk of the Transformers movie that's coming out, I decided to see if Mom had kept all my Transformers that I had when I was a kid. And sure, enough she had. The last time I was back at their house I went through several boxes looking for Transformers. And in so doing, I found three of the six Constructicons.

There they are - Scavenger, Scrapper and Hook. But sadly, I'm missing the other three. I've been searching on eBay and replacing the remaining three would prove to be quite pricey. And finding ones that are in half-way decent shape without duplicating the ones I have is proving to be darn near impossible. I KNOW that I had the other three, and that they are probably in my parents' house somewhere, but finding the right box is more than I really care to undertake these days. They don't even need to have all their accessories as I found the plastic bag with all the pieces of Devastator along with the three Constructicons - and that's fortunate as precious few of them actually have the pieces.

So last night, I dreamt that I was in some sort of comic book shop and that behind the counter, they had the three remaining Constructicons that I needed in order to form Devastator. I kept on seeing them behind the counter and really was wanting them, but couldn't seem to get the attention of the shopkeeper. Finally once, I did, they kept on moving around and morphing into the ones I had - and I kept having a hard time remembering which ones I needed. And when I asked how much they were, the total for all three that I needed came to something like 30 dollars. I knew that we didn't have the money for me to be spending 30 dollars on Transformers, but I did it anyway. And then when I told Heidi, she was none too pleased.

I think that this dream is less about Transformers and more about money. We're trying very hard to limit our spending and NOT use our credit card as we work to get it paid down. Six months ago, I would have just bid on those things on eBay and put it on the credit card. Now, if we ever want to do things like go to England or remodel parts of the house, we need to limit that kind of spending. And perhaps that was my subconscious rebelling against that - because, yes, it's hard a lot of the time. I work in a well paying job and at times, it seems like my right to be able to do what I want with that money. But the unfortunate part of that is that I must keep in mind that we moved a good 3 years before we could really afford to do it, and then took a huge loss on our house that we had previously. Not that I'd change a single thing, but it 2006 really drove the point home that we need to get our financial house in order.

Until then, I'll just pine for this:

Blogging the storm

Well, it's 6:22PM here in Iowa and the snow is coming down pretty hard - harder than I expected to be quite honest, but not has hard as I've seen it in storms past. And it looks like there's a lot more to come. It's coming from the southwest - mostly west, a little bit south. And it's the fine powdery snow that is shit for building snowmen but is easier to shovel than the wet heavy Missouri snow that we seemed to get all the time when we lived in southeast Iowa.

There's something about a snowstorm that is oddly comforting - and this is only a snowstorm in the loosest sense of the word. I often think about people in the 1850s, living on the frontier in cabins a la Laura Ingalls and how a snowstorm must have seemed magical because it came from nowhere. There was no Super Doppler radar to warn them of the impending snow and there was no central heating and no electricity to keep them warm. It must have just been amazing. And yes, it's still amazing today, although the fact that we've known it's been coming all week takes a bit of the mystery out of it.

Severe winter weather is some of my favorite weather because it's so silently deadly. And so beautifully deadly. That probably seems a bit morbid, no? But it's true. Snowstorms lack the drama of a tornado or a hurricane, but they're more subtle in their severity.

Here's a picture from just before sunset tonight - same vantage point as before (or damn close anyway.)

I'll take the final picture tomorrow after work.


I ran across this via PopBytes and since it's been probably 15 years since I've watched an episode of SNL, it's a good thing we have the blogosphere to show me things like this. I've always thought Jake Gyllenhaal was a pretty cool guy who took a huge career risk starring in Brokeback Mountain. And I'm so glad he's comfortable enough in his masculinity to do this. Braver than me in a red dress, by far.

I couldn't quit smiling. After I got done cleaning up the coffee I spit across the keyboard!

Update: Heidi took me to task over my comment that Jake was "brave" in taking the role in Brokeback Mountain. And if that's what came across in this post, I didn't make myself very clear. What I was admiring most about his bravery is that ALL men should take a page from his apparent ultra-comfort in his masculinity. If they did, perhaps we'd all understand each other just a little bit better. I know it's something that I admire greatly in many men - both famous and not-so-much. It's something I'm working on day after day in my life, being comfortable with myself and accepting myself for exactly what I am -- all the while seeing what more lies beneath.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

And so it begins

I'm posting these pictures just to serve as a reminder that it still snows in Iowa from time to time. This is the start of what was originally going to be a blizzard that was to dump 12 inches of snow. Now, it's been scaled back to 1 to 3 inches, but still, it's snow!! Anna is thrilled beyond words.

I'm mostly looking forward to a day inside by the fire watching TV.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Baa baa black sheep

OK, this looks real, and if it is, it's SO up my alley.

(via Metafilter)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Perpetual motion

From the minute I got up this morning, I don't think that I have stopped moving. Work was busier than hell today (which is becoming the new normal, unfortunately) and by the time I got home, I just wanted to collapse onto the couch and rest for awhile. Alas, that was not to be.

We're more than likely going to be, at long last, getting some significant snowfall this weekend. And by significant, I'm talking nearly a foot by the latest forecast. Of course, that's still two days off so the forecast could completely change by then. And I'm not disrespecting the weather people - winter storms in Iowa are notoriously tricky to predict. Just a little nudge and a storm that was going to bury you in 17 inches of snow leaves only a trace in its wake.

But in preparation for this, I finally went out to try to start the snowblower. Honestly, the fact that January 11th is the first day of the winter where we have to worry about the snowblower starting is amazing in and of itself. So I went out the garage and got it all hooked up and dug out the owner's manual (I can never remember from time to time how to start it.) It's an electric start snowblower so you plug it into the wall and it just starts up like magic. Not tonight. Try as I might, the engine would not turn over. Now, if I were my dad, I would be able to figure this out ("oh, all I need to do is change the spark plug/siphon out the gas/whatever") but I'm not him, I'm me and well, I'm not that mechanically inclined. The fortunate aspect of this is that when we bought the snowblower, Heidi had the foresight to buy the protection plan, so whenever anything goes wrong with it, they fix it for free. So I figure, rather than waste any more time on this dumb thing, I'm going out to Sears and having them fix it.

I try to load the snowblower in the trunk of the car, knowing full well that it's never going to fit enough to close the trunk. Well, I have to take the chute off of it (which is a task in and of itself, requiring not one but TWO socket sets to find the right size socket to take the bolts off) to even get it into the trunk and even with the chute off, it's balanced rather precariously. I turn it around and put it in handle first, which provides for a bit more steadiness and balance, but still, it worries me. So I'm looking around the garage for something heavy to use as a counterweight. I pick up the heaviest things in the garage that I can lift - two partly used bags of potting soil - and use them as anchors. I'm ready to go.

I pull out of the driveway and am going down the street toward the mall and suddenly, I hear a KERKLUNK! from the trunk. I look back in a panic, but fortunately, the snowblower is still there. I was going to get out and inspect, but at this point, I'm all "fuck it! If it falls out, it falls out." I drive like an 98 year old all the way to the mall which I'm sure really made the people that were following me happy. But believe it or not, I made it all the way to Sears without spilling the contents of the trunk all over the pavement.

The guy at Sears is very friendly and looks up my service plan and says, yep, they can fix it for free and it shouldn't take too long as they don't get many repairs this time of year. They print out the receipt and say that it'll be back in a couple weeks.

That's right folks. A couple weeks. And it's going to snow like there's no tomorrow in two days. Something about this just doesn't add up.

Now I'm all "well, what the hell do I do now?" Fortunately, I thought enough to go two doors down (couldn't resist that Dolly reference) and ask my neighbor if he would have pity on my soul and allow me to borrow his snowblower in the event that we do get the mother lode of snow that is expected. Being the nice guy that he is, he readily agrees and I'm set for the snow.

So now this drama took a good 2 hours - at this point, it's 6:30PM. I sit down with Anna for about 45 minutes to play and Polly Pocket online games on her computer which was great fun because I am using just about any opportunity these days to improve her reading ability. I think that she CAN do it but at times chooses not to. Playing those games, although she pretty much runs the show, is great fun and we had a great time hooting and hollering over the games.

Suddenly, I hear from the upstairs that I need to come up RIGHT NOW. Heidi proceeds to tell me about a friend of ours whose day had been particularly rotten and she wanted to try to give him a call. Trouble is, this guy lives in London and to use our regular long distance will probably require me to go out and find a second and third job. Seriously - the regular rate is $1.21 per minute and the "economy" rate is $0.88 per minute. So it's like, talk fast!! But thank goodness for Skype which allows you to call around the world for next to nothing over the computer. And Heidi's iMac even has a built in microphone that we still can't find but are trusting it's there as Skype passed the microphone test. We had the number and we're all set to go, right?


Try as we might, we could NOT make the number work. It kept saying that the number did not exist -- as if we were trying to divide by zero or something. Heidi is frantically sending private messages to our friend and trying to figure out Skype while I'm busy trying to get Anna into the tub where she is insisting on washing her own hair thankyouverymuch and no Dad, you're not going to help. And anyone who knows Anna knows that she marches to the beat of her own drum - and that drum beats rather slowly. Everything takes an age with her and while I love her dearly I frequently find myself wishing she would kick it into second gear. Tonight was one of those nights.

Back to trying to call London - Heidi is having NO luck whatsoever with Skype so we decide to bite the bullet and use our regular phone. Which, inexplicably, doesn't work either. I think briefly that maybe he's giving us the wrong number, but certainly he knows his own phone number so who am I to suggest that? ;) I'm grasping at straws, so give me a break! Ultimately, we never did get to talk to him. I mean, it was only 8PM here, but over there it was 2 in the morning and he did have to work the next day.

So now, after getting Anna in bed, it's 9:30PM and I work at 7AM tomorrow, just like today. So I'll be up at 4:45AM tomorrow morning, just like today.

I can't, for the life of me, figure out why I'm tired.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Zbornak on Amtrak...among other things

Well, it was a long time in coming but it was actually a decent night at work tonight. Not too busy, but not so dead either that the night seemed endless. So it was a good thing.

On the way to and from work tonight, I listened to Laura Nyro's Eli and the Thirteenth Confession which is an album I bought off of iTunes the other night. I have known about this CD for probably 10+ years now and I just never got around to actually listening to it. I was taking a bit of a chance with it because a little Laura Nyro has a tendency to go an incredibly long way, but the album is a classic album of the late 60s so it's pretty much required listening for me. The songs that leaped right out at me were, of course, the songs that I knew previously as they were covered by the 5th Dimension -- "Sweet Blindness" and "Stoned Soul Picnic." I laugh whenever I listen to "Stoned Soul Picnic" as there's a line in the song that goes "there'll be trains of trust/trains of the golden dust" and when I was a wee lad (ok, 14 so maybe not so wee of a lad) I could have SWORN that they were saying "trains of trust/trains of the Golden Girls" even though I knew there was no way in hell that was right.

When I listen to it, I feel like I'm missing out on a huge part of the listening experience by listening to it in digital clarity. Reading some of the reviews on iTunes, it sounds like people wore out multiple copies of the vinyl - and it seems like listening to it on vinyl with all the cracks and skips would be essential for a true Laura Nyro listening experience. I also think it would be helpful to be doing drugs of some sort - probably marijuana, but since that's simply not going to happen, I'll just have to pretend.

It is a good album. I'm just familiarizing myself with it now, and I'm sure that my opinion is still a bit in flux. I do like the images I get in my head when I listen to it - but then I'm a sucker for late 60's/early 70's stuff anyway.

One problem I have with it is that it was featured quite prominently in a book that I really loved up until the end - at which point I chucked the book across the room and vowed to never read anything by that author again. The book was A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham. The book had so much potential and had me all wrapped up in the characters only to have an ending so completely inconsistent with what any of the characters would do that I just simply couldn't stand it. I HATED how they ended it. Without spoiling it for anyone reading that might be inclined to read it, I just couldn't believe the reactions that the two main protaganists had to what happened at the end of the novel. As a father, it was insulting. Enough about that.

But that's a small thing to overlook. Because mostly, it's beautiful. And Laura has a beautiful voice.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Will wonders never cease to amaze me

OK, I was over at my mom and dad's today and my mom had the Taylor Hicks CD. Somehow, I don't know how, it just magically found its way on to my iPod. I put it on my computer when I got home tonight and damn! I'm actually liking it. I never watch American Idol - not because I don't think I'd enjoy it on some level - but mostly because I can't ever remember when anything's on TV so I don't even bother trying. If I really want to watch it, I'll catch it on DVD.

I knew a little bit about Taylor Hicks, mostly that he won American Idol last season and that his music could be best categorized in that nebulous category of "blue-eyed soul." I really hate that term - not that I hate that type of music, but for some reason, that term really bugs me, so consequently, I wasn't really all that impressed with the music of his that I heard.

However, I always feel a bit of a kinship with fellow premature gray haired folks and so I couldn't really resist when I saw that my mom had bought a copy of his CD. Yes, it's the type of music that I was expecting, but you know what? I have to say that it is surprisingly very enjoyable and very accessible. Hicks has a pleasant enough voice and the production is top notch. It reminds me, in many respects, of Clay Aiken's Measure of a Man CD which was so much better than it had any right being. Too bad he went and recorded an album of sappy covers for the follow-up, although his cover of Dolly Parton's "Here You Come Again" is excellent!

Almost without a doubt, Taylor Hicks will be my top artist on this week which will knock my musical credibility into the toilet. So sue me - it's good stuff. You owe it to yourself to check it out and it's really a shame that the album is falling down the U.S. charts like it is. It's better than half the stuff out there and really deserves a good listen.

Winter mix

Despite the title, this post is not going to be about vegetables -- because when I read the title, all I could think of was the California winter mixed vegetables that frequently appear on the menu in the cafeteria at work.

No, instead, this is about a mix CD I made for my friend Mary. I wanted to put a little something extra in her Christmas present (we just got together yesterday to have our Christmas) so on Saturday night, I was feverishly putting together a CD of songs that I thought she might like. A lot of them were culled from my "Recently Added" playlist in iTunes. And even though it was initially a present for Mary, it is probably going to become the official Winter Mix 2007 - following in a long line of winter mixes that I have done every January since 2000. It's been a while since I've done a list of songs, so I thought, what the hell, why not blog it? So here it is:

Dan's Winter Mix 2007

1) "You Want This" - Janet Jackson. I admit that this song kind of came out of nowhere to end up on the CD. But I've always loved this song. The sample is good and it really is Janet at her peak, even though I don't particularly care for a lot of the Janet. CD.

2) "Like A Virgin (Confessions Tour Studio Version)" - Madonna. This song is probably getting the most play around my house these days. I found it on a Madonna forum and, as I've blogged before, it's a studio version of the live version Madge did on the Confessions tour. It's so good - the live version was one of my songs of the summer and it's only fitting that the studio version make the winter mix.

3) "Little Victories" - Matt Nathanson. I have Caryle to thank for talking me into buying the whole Matt Nathanson CD, Beneath These Fireworks. I had purchased a few songs of his here and there before, but the whole CD is actually quite good. This is a good song for when life's not all that good and you have to remind yourself of the big picture.

4) "If You Leave Me" - Sarah Cracknell. Another song courtesy of Mikey and, as usual, it's fabulous. I love Sarah Cracknell's solo stuff (Heidi can kind of take it or leave it - she much prefers her with Saint Etienne) and Sarah reminds me so much of Deborah Harry I'm almost obligated to love her.

5) "Revenge 2" - Eurythmics. I've totally been into the Eurythmics 1986 album Revenge these days (that's a blog post in and of itself that'll be coming up soon.) And this is one of the bonus tracks that was added to the album when the CDs were remastered a while back. Why it's "Revenge 2" I'm not sure, as there isn't a song on the album called "Revenge" but it's a very good song nonetheless.

6) "Catch You" - Sophie-Ellis Bextor. This is a song I would have never found without my blogging friend xolondon. He featured it on his blog, and I've heard a bit of Sophie before - most notably "Murder on the Dancefloor" - but I had no idea something new was coming out. This is a great song. Again, reminds me a titch of Blondie, and well, it's fabulous.

7) "Lovelight" - Robbie Williams. John introduced me to this song after "Kiss Me" made my best of 2006 list. He and I kind of share the same opinion of Robbie Williams - I mostly don't care for him, but when he does something right, it's usually very very good. And this is another one that he did very very right.

8) "The Hardest Part" - Casey Stratton. The lead track off of DIVIDE and a top notch track. It was a staple of Casey's live shows prior to DIVIDE's release so I heard it quite a while ago. But it always seems to come back to me. It's a song of a dead relationship - Casey always knows just how to get to the pain in his music - but for a song about that subject, it's gorgeous.

9) "Put Your Makeup On" - Simon Curtis. Thanks to Paul, I now know a little bit about Simon Curtis, who, according to Paul is the great hope for pop music in 2007. And this is a great track - I especially love the part about how he talks about how he got shit for listening to the kind of music he did when he was a kid, with other people saying "you should listen to this or this" (paraphrasing here) but their music wasn't worth a damn on the dance floor.

10) "STFU" - Lucian (feat. Barbra Streisand). Quite possibly the funniest thing I heard all year. And surprisingly, it only gets better after each play. Basically, all it is is Streisand telling that person in her audience to "Shut the fuck up!" over a techno beat. But it never fails to make us all laugh hysterically.

11) "Nothing Is Real But The Girl" - Blondie. With all the references to Blondie (Sarah Cracknell, Sophie-Ellis Bextor) I just thought that it was appropriate to put the grand dame herself on there - or rather, her band!! (Blondie is a band!) This one comes from their comeback CD No Exit which was quite good and criminally overlooked here in the US. But I wouldn't expect anything less from radio programmers here. I mean, Debbie is over 30 you know!

12) "Sorry (Man With Guitar Mix)" - Madonna. Yep, the second Madge track, and it's testament to the fabulousness of Confessions on a Dance Floor and the song "Sorry" in particular, that it made the Winter Mix when the Pet Shop Boys mix of the same song made LAST YEAR'S winter mix. I've cooled significantly to the Pet Shop Boys mix, and this one has emerged as my favorite official mix of "Sorry."

13) "Believe In You" - Amanda Marshall. I haven't listened to Amanda Marshall in ages, but back in the day (mid-90s) I played her debut album until it we couldn't stand to listen to it anymore. Her follow-up, Tuesday's Child, was nowhere near as good and only had a few standout tracks. This is one of them.

14) "Gravity" - John Mayer. I have a serious love/hate relationship with John Mayer. I recognize that he's a good musician and has crafted some quality songs - even if they aren't necessarily pop. But for some reason, his personality -- or rather, how he comes across to me -- really rubs me the wrong way. He just seems like every stupid frat boy that I hated in college that had all the women fooled. But in any event, I do like his music and am able to look past his personality for the most part. Perhaps I'm wrong and he's a really nice guy, so what the hell do I know?

15) "Early Winter" - Gwen Stefani. The only song I really like off of The Sweet Escape. Seriously, if I never hear that "Wind It Up" song again, I'll consider myself the most fortunate man on the planet. And that's too bad because I really did enjoy Love Angel Music Baby. Time to go back to No Doubt, Gwen.

16) "Long Hot Summer" - Girls Aloud. I, of course, have Mike to thank for all the Girls Aloud I have. And I think this is probably my favorite song. They so should have used it in An Inconvenient Truth, but I guess the pop-ish UK girl band sound wasn't exactly the mood they were going for in that movie.

17) "I Like The Way" - Darren Hayes. I've really been into Darren Hayes this fall/winter. From what I can ascertain, the album The Tension and the Spark was pretty much a flop which is too bad because it has some pretty good stuff on it - this being one of them.

18) "Analogue" - a-ha. If you're like me, you probably thought that a-ha disappeared after "The Sun Always Shines on TV." But John sent me a bunch of his favorite a-ha tracks and they are great. This one is my favorite of all of them. Thanks John!!

OK, that's enough of me rambling. If you read this far, good on you. If not, well, it's hard to say if you missed anything.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Life and death

Yesterday was my grandpa's funeral. I don't think there's anyone that looks forward to going to a funeral. I know that I wasn't looking forward to going to this. Not because I didn't want to go, but there are certainly better circumstances under which to see family. But yesterday, January 6th, was the day chosen for my grandfather's funeral - the day we said our final goodbyes.

My grandfather would have been 90 years old yesterday. In fact, there was a birthday party that was being planned for him prior to his death. The cake had been ordered and everything! So instead of having the birthday party, we had his funeral. Or rather, we had a bit of both.

The funeral was a very standard Lutheran funeral, complete with the singing of "In The Garden" and "Amazing Grace." There was a message delivered by the retired minister of the church - a minister who knew my grandpa well and was the one that performed my mom and dad's wedding ceremony. It was a sad time, and I think even I had a few tears. Not so much for my grandfather, but for those he left behind. I don't think it's possible to be ready to lose your spouse. Even if you know it's coming - it's hard to let go. Especially after 65 years. And that was what happened to my grandma. She knew he was sick, but, in talking with my cousins, she didn't think it would happen as fast as it did. She expressed sadness about "putting him in the ground" on Saturday. I am, however, very glad that she is living in assisted living and has friends and support out there, rather than rambling around an empty farmhouse.

We went out to the cemetery following the service for the interment and they had the usual "ashes to ashes, dust to dust" speech. My grandfather was buried in an ash casket in the town he grew up in. After the official church business was finished, all the grandchildren (and anyone else who wanted one) were handed a balloon to release. My mom asked on of my cousins to say a few words prior to the release of the balloons, but instead of that, we all sang "Happy Birthday." Right there at the grave site. It was a thing of beauty. My dad snapped this photo of the balloon release.

It was just what he would have wanted - and you could feel his presence there.

Following that, we all went back to the fellowship hall at the church to have ham/turkey sandwiches, brownies and coffee. Oh, and it wasn't complete until you had a piece of Grandpa's birthday cake, which still had "Happy 90th Birthday Dad & Grandpa" on it. It was just perfect. A perfect celebration of and memorial to his long life and the legacy he left behind.I hope that when I die, my funeral is as full of memories as his was. And please, spare me the "In The Garden" stuff. I'd rather have my family sing a rousing version of "Vogue" followed by a dance post interment. But seriously, what happens to me after I die, I don't really much care. All that stuff isn't for the person who died, but for the people left behind.

What I want 2007 to be a picture. This photo is courtesy of the Post Secret web site - a MUST see every Sunday.

I know that you're not supposed to re-publish Post Secret stuff, but I just couldn't resist. Talk about a picture being worth a thousand words.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Rhonda nostalgia

Tonight was hellaciously busy at work. I mean, there could have been two pharmacists working - that's how much work there was. In any event, I survived it. And I'm up later than I expected, but that pretty much goes without saying for the evening shift. For whatever reason, I just can't come home and go right to bed. And considering that tomorrow will be a whirlwind of getting Anna to dance in the morning and then heading up for the funeral at 12:30PM, I should probably be in bed.

But here I am, sitting up at 12:30 in the morning and while my brain is completely exhausted, I'm resisting the call to bed for the moment. When I was at work tonight, I was really wishing that I could come home and watch USA Up All Night but there were two problems with that - the first being that it's no longer on TV and the second being that even if it were, I don't have cable so I wouldn't be able to watch it anyway. I don't know - there was always something soothing about knowing that there was a perfectly good B-movie on USA on Friday and Saturday nights. Now, it's nothing but informercials and crap. And, let's be honest, I kinda miss Rhonda being a bimbo.

And then I was all set to come home and watch a DVD before bed, but then I didn't leave work till 11PM which means that I didn't actually get home till 11:20PM. And that's just too late to start a movie. So I'm here, blogging and listening to music which is an acceptable alternative. The only problem with it is it's all too familiar. It's what I always do. But there is a lot of comfort in it.

It's a full weekend ahead. Grandpa's funeral tomorrow. Sunday we meet up with Mary in Ankeny and have a very belated Christmas. Monday I took off work as I get 3 days of bereavement leave per year and well, who knows what I'll do?

Maybe I'll see if I can find the DVD of Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death and try to watch it. Not likely to find it, but Rhonda would definitely approve.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The other side

My grandfather, Monroe Newcomb, passed away yesterday morning at 5:20AM. My mom called me last night to let me know. He slipped away in peace - finally free of the pain that had come to characterize so much of his life recently. The funeral is going to be on Saturday so we'll be heading up for that.

As I've talked about before, my grandfather had been in declining health over the last year. Recently, he'd gone on hospice care and the primary focus was keeping him comfortable. The last time I saw him was just before Christmas this year - a Christmas I almost didn't go to because of the general busy-ness of the season. Now, I am so incredibly glad that I went. Although my grandpa was kind of out of it and it took him a few minutes to figure out who I was, ultimately, he knew who I was ("oh, you're Nina's boy!") and I saw a side of him that I had never seen before. He talked to me about the pain that he was in - saying that there had to be something they could do. I had been talking with the nurses earlier that day who had been talking to my grandma and they'd finally decided to put him on Roxanol (oral, concentrated liquid morphine) to help with his pain. I was able to tell him that his doctor had prescribed something that was going to help with the pain - and help quickly. Hopefully the doctors didn't make a liar out of me.

In the long run, it's never how someone was at the end of their life that persists. In the case of my grandfather, there was 89 years prior to his death to remember. And what a life it was. He raised 6 children. He farmed a large amount of land (I can't remember the exact amount) during the 80s farm crisis which was no small feat for a lot of farmers. He lived with significant hearing loss most of his life - a huge memory of my grandpa will always be how you had to talk louder than normal for him to hear you. And then there's the legacy of 60+ years of marriage to the same woman, something that I hope like hell I can repeat. That is, if I live that long!

And then there are the fun memories. The memories of sleeping in sleeping bags all over the house at Christmas, only to hear him coming in the door with snowballs to put in our sleeping bags. Sitting in their motor home at Adventureland Park (an amusement park to which he provided us free tickets year after year) and as I ask my grandfather a question - he proceeds to burp in my face. And then there's the memory of being 17 years old, at my grandparents house for Christmas and getting sick. And I don't mean just "oh, I've got a cold" sick - it's was the chills, aches, throwing up sick. It's 5 in the morning and there's one bathroom in the whole house, and the door is shut. I am so nauseated that I don't care who is in there, and I throw the door open, only to find my grandfather sitting on the toilet as I'm sick in the sink saying "Are ya hurling?"

My grandfather was not one that expressed love to us explicitly - I think that has something to do with being a man in that generation. I don't remember ever hearing the words "I love you" coming out of his mouth - at least to me. But there was never any doubt in my mind that he loved us. We were the continuation of his family - all of us. And family was so obviously important to him. There are things he did for his family that, when I think about it, must have been so hard for him.

And the things he witnessed - the changes. Sometimes I think that it's no wonder that death must come as a relief to so many of the elderly these days as they've seen so much change in their life that the world they are growing old in bears absolutely no resemblance to the world in which they started their lives. I sometimes wonder if I'll see that much change in my life.

So here's to my grandpa, who is finally out of pain. I'm very glad that he didn't linger for months and months, in pain and confused. But I am still saddened by the news of his passing.

Grandpa, I hope that heaven is a symphony of music that for so much of your life, you had a hard time hearing. You are an inspiration - and I will carry you with me my entire life.

(my grandma and grandpa earlier this year at their wedding anniversary.)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Brand new man

In honor of the new year, I'm taking a cue from Caryle and changing the title of the blog. At the suggestion of Heidi, I'm going to...not so much change but hone the focus of this blog a bit. Never fear, there's still going to be all kinds of talk about pop music - what is my life without it?? But I'm also going to be doing a few more personal things - mostly talking a little bit about what I talked about in my New Year's post. I want to talk more about my experiences as a man in this world. That may bore some people - it may intrigue others. I hope you plan to stick around.

This morning, I feel like a brand new man. Yesterday at work was pretty much utter shit - what a great way to start 2007. Heidi had an utter shit morning as well - I can't speak for her afternoon. Then we did the bills and complete depression set in, as it usually does every two weeks when we try to figure out how to get through the next two weeks on what's left of my paycheck after we pay on our debt. I was exceptionally tired last night - slept very poorly the night before and got up very early. Bad combination. But in any event, I feel a lot better this morning and am glad that I resisted the urge to blog last night as it wouldn't have been anything that I would have been particularly proud of this morning.

So here's a to a new day. It'll be a good one.

Monday, January 01, 2007

I love this woman

Read Heidi's blog entry detailing last night's adventures. And you get to see another picture of me in a dress if that trips your trigger.


So as I was saying, it snowed last night. It was really windy and cold, the snow whipping around off the roofs of houses and generally making driving and being outside an unexciting prospect. But Anna's been dying to go sledding, and when we saw a couple kids sledding down the hill down the street last night on the way back from the storm, we made a deal with her that we'd go on Monday. I still can't believe those kids were out there at night while it was snowing sledding. Apparently, they were on to something.

We got dressed up in our winter best and trudged down the street to the hill which serves as the sledding place in the winter and the place from which to watch fireworks every 4th of July. This was the sight that greeted us.

A good chunk of the snow already melted. I half way feared this while we were walking down there - the grass sticking up out of the snow, the sidewalks already turning to mud. But we persevered. We did what people in Texas probably do faced with the prospect of it not snowing for another 10 years -- we sledded anyway. Actually, Anna did all the sledding. In a complete and utter turnabout from last year, she INSISTED on going down the hill by herself. This was really ok with me as I didn't feel like getting all muddy and the part of sledding that I really hate is lugging the sled back up the hill.

Anyway, here's some pictures of my girl - growing up even faster than I want to think about.

Who says you need snow for sledding anyway? Anna teaches me something new every single day, I swear.

Did I shave my legs for this?

What an eventful New Year’s Eve we had. Jeff and Caryle were in fine form. It all started a bit sedate – probably brought on by the fact that the weather was not the most conducive for driving so it took them quite a while to get here. And instead of riling us up, the margaritas and other alcoholic bevarages seemed to be putting us to sleep. By the time “I Knew I Loved You” by Savage Garden came on the iPod (it was on shuffle), we knew we had to take some drastic measures. And who knew it would take Whitney Houston to do it? Inspired by Caryle’s winning of the 2nd place prize in her 5th grade dance contest dancing to “How Will I Know”, we cued it up on the iPod and before we knew it, we were all dancing like fools. And although we may have looked like fools, we felt like gold on the inside.

(Yep, that's me in a tiara. But just wait -- it gets better.)

Heidi, Anna and Carlye - all looking FABULOUS!

I have to say that Jeff is one of my personal heroes. He is really a person that, whether he knows it or not, leads the “fuck you!” charge against traditional masculinity. And I’ve always been a bit of a sidekick in that respect, cheering him on, while quietly succumbing to societal views on masculinity in the background. Although I have to say, in the last year, I’ve been so much braver than I have ever been in my life. Jeff and I went to Brokeback Mountain together. On Super Bowl Sunday. I KNOW!!! (as Monica would say!) Jeff has gone to Halloween parties dressed as Madonna. And Joan Crawford. Unfortunately, I can't find pictures of either of those.

So, after a few margaritas, a lot of dancing, and a lot of fun, I had my own “what the hell?” moment last night as well. Inspired by the Sugababes “Red Dress” and by Heidi and Caryle and Anna all coming down looking ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS and dancing around -- not to mention an insane amount of egging on and double dog daring by Jeff, Heidi and Caryle - this is what I was talked into.

And you know what? I almost didn’t blog this. But then, I remembered my New Year’s resolution. Actually, I’m not calling it a New Year’s resolution. I’m calling it a change of attitude. That mental shift – the “are you ready to jump?” come to life, in brilliant, living color. But I have resolved in 2007 to be braver, to care less about what other people think of me and just be who I am. Which is not to say that I’m a transvestite – I’ll leave the cross dressing to Eddie Izzard who makes a much better looking woman than I ever could. But I think that there is more to me than meets the eye. There’s so much more to any of us than meets the eye.

Which kind of makes us all a little bit more like the Transformers, I guess.

So here’s to 2007, being braver--only without the margaritas, because really, that's cheating. And to dancing. Especially with you, Mike and John!