Thursday, March 16, 2023

Old Enough to Accept a Collect Call from Mr. Floyd

The album Dark Side of the Moon was on Billboard Top LPs & Tape chart for over fourteen years during the 1970s and 1980s, but until the last few decades I was only aware of a few of the album’s songs. When Pink Floyd was becoming a music icon, I was busy listening to what would be what later be called Folk Rock. Singers like Linda Ronstadt  and the Eagles  were my primary choices for listening. 

The Folk Rock genre was where my head was at during those years. I could find meaning in the lyrics and I liked the storytelling in the ballads. There were exceptions, of course, but mostly, that music defined my teen years. But somewhere in the background, some songs by Pink Floyd made it into my playlists. Comfortably Numb, Time, and eventually The Wall.

When I was in college, I was a disc jockey at several radio stations. Most were AOR—Album Oriented Rock. That meant aside from the top 40 songs by a particular group, we would play other things on their albums. I’m not sure what the process is now, but we used to have to track what songs we were playing and how often. My assumption was it had to do with both royalties and tracking what songs were popular in our listening area Over the course of my DJ career, the programming directors for at least two of those stations required DJs to add a set of tunes to our documentation, even if we didn’t play them. They were songs off Dark Side of the Moon album.

During my tours in Germany, Pink Floyd’s music spoke to me. I listened to not only Dark Side of the Moon but also The Wall, and a Momentary Lapse of Reason. I was more mature, and I was finding different meanings in the songs I had noticed before. Even though the band’s intent was for albums to be listened to start to finish, I found certain individual titles blended better together and created my own playlists. Aside from the lyrics, I found the music itself to be almost hypnotic. Yes, it was rock ‘n’ roll and had many wailing guitar solos, but overall the music was calming and of a medium tempo rather than something feverish. Maybe that’s why I had to wait until I was older to appreciate it.

Through the years, the band has changed the members, produced a movie of The Wall album, and allowed their music to be matched together with laser light shows. I will admit that I’ve never been to one of the laser light shows, although I’ve heard they are cosmic. I’ve also never watch the movie of The Wall, but I saw the props from the movie on display at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. I’m not sure why I bypassed those things, but I understand parts of the band might be on tour this summer and if they are performing at a venue nearby, I might just have to go see them.

Last night, I went to sleep listening to my Pandora mix of Pink Floyd songs. As the music relaxed and eventually allowed me to drift off to sleep, it momentarily occurred to me how far I had come with Pink Floyd and their music. I’m glad that I didn’t discover them earlier in life as I don’t think I would’ve appreciated each of the songs and albums as I do now.

Vincent van Gogh once said that “Perhaps I am a painter for people who have not been born yet.” Maybe Pink Floyd’s music was out there waiting on me to get to a point where I could properly listen to it. If you’ve never listened to Pink Floyd, I invite you to audition their Dark Side of the Moon album. As you look over the titles list, you may recognize a few songs, and be tempted to focus on those. Don’t. Instead, listen to the album the way the band intended. Each song in its entirety in order start to finish. Then listen to it again. The first listen will let you enjoy the songs, but the second will allow you to become immersed in the music’s complexity with the lyrics. I promise you, will find something there.

I haven’t done this yet, but supposedly Dark Side of the Moon and the The Wizard of Oz can be combined into a single visual/audio experience. I guess I'm waiting on the right frame of mind before I sit down and try it. Here are the instructions:

1. Set your MP3/CD player play the first track of Dark Side of the Moon. 

2. Set your MP3/CD player for album repeat.

3. Start The Wizard of Oz.  

4. Wait for the MGM lion to appear. Once he roars for the third time, hit play on the MP3/CD player. Press mute on your TV.

5. To confirm the music and movie are in sync, when you see the credit “Produced by Mervyn LeRoy,” the credit should fade amid the transition from Speak to Me to Breathe.


Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Words Written, but Not Shared

It might look like I haven’t written any entries for the entire month of February, but that is not correct. I wrote lots of words – I just didn’t share them here.

Right at the end of January I suffered one of the potential side effects of my ankle surgery: a pulmonary embolism. I spent a few days in the hospital and had radiological intervention surgery which fixed things. So, I wrote about that; I wrote about my time in the emergency room; and I wrote about the team of doctors, nurses, mechanics, vampires, and pit crew that took care of me. I wrote about the food in the hospital (overall, not bad). Plus, I wrote about pain and the pharmacological cures for pain which didn’t really work for me.

I wrote four entries, two of which were over a thousand words, but when it came time to publish each one of them, I demurred. It wasn’t that I really cared who knew that my ambulance driver’s name was Astrid, or that I had one vampire so good she could draw blood at 2 AM and not wake me up. I guess overall; I was revealing things that were too mundane. Sure, I guess if you were about to undergo the procedure yourself you might enjoy hearing what somebody else went through, but aside from that does anybody really need to read such things? Actually, the perfect place for such things would’ve been in a journal.

Several times during my life I attempted to keep a journal and would usually get through the first month or two before I gave it up. Those attempts have left me with brief glimpses into periods of my life during middle school, my first year of college, and my first overseas assignment in the Air Force. None of which connect anywhere else. This blog is the closest I’ve gotten to documenting of my life for long period. Even this doesn’t cover everything that is going on, just the high-points that I feel like sharing. When I read back over the entries I wrote for February, I didn’t see much difference between them and scribbles in one of several blank notebooks I picked up the Waldenbooks. Not something I would want to inflict on anyone.

The short version is that I survived the embolism with no permanent damage. The procedure being used at the hospital was pioneered during COVID and the team that performed it gained massive amounts of experience during that time. It led to the procedure being smooth for me and effective. Fortunately, I had a doctor who understood that pain need to be managed and kept trying different medications until he found one that was effective. Considering I was at an eight on the scale of ten for most of the first two days, I’m glad he kept trying. 

Now you know the reason for the blank that was February 2023, and I’ll now return to writing something of interest on a weekly basis. Well, at least interesting to me. As for all those words I wrote and didn’t publish here, I will print them out and stick them into one of those notebooks from my younger days. Who knows, maybe someday the wind up in a museum.


Friday, January 27, 2023

Nepo Brats


Recently, I've been hearing a new buzzword: Nepo Baby. It’s being used to refer to kids of movie stars in Hollywood who find themselves cast or taking part in movies simply because of whose children they are. The basic gist is that nepotism is getting them where they find themselves. I'm not really sure why anyone would be surprised at that. It’s understandable that if your dad or mom is a big movie star, they might be friends with casting agents who’d want to do them a favor. Likewise, it is also possible that those same friends might've met the child at some point, and rather than going out looking for the next Lindsay Lohan, they just select Junior for the part instead.

Over the course of my life, I felt a few jobs with family-owned companies. At no point was I ever stupid enough to believe that I’d be promoted above the boss's son. In fact, the boss's son was probably going to wind up being my boss if I continued working there. Naturally, some nepotism would lead to a good choice, whereas others were terrible. I think the worst situation of all was when I worked for a clothing company where the entire three-generation family was working at the store along with a few folks who were not family. We got to see family drama dragged in from home to the store, and at various points, in time we were expected to select sides. I was smart enough not to play that game, and to move on as soon as possible. I ended up in the Air Force, which leads me to another type of Nepo Baby.

My choice to go into the service was at least partly driven by my familiarity with what life after enlistment would be like. It was an insight I gained over a lifetime because my father was in the Army. When I got to basic training, at least a dozen of us quickly figured out that we were second or third-generation military brats. It gave us a distinct advantage simply because we were familiar with what that lifestyle entailed. We were also sure of what life would look like at the end of basic training, whereas many of our fellow Airmen were deluded that their entire career would be like basic training. In the end, I think two folks from my flight were discharged in the first week for inability to adapt.

Adapting is what a military brat does best. However, in this case, we were not adapting but simply returning home. Our parents had guided us on how to follow instructions, budget time, make decisions on the fly, and can process critical thinking. All of those skills made the transition into uniform much easier. This was not the type of nepotism where you got something because of who your dad was, but you were successful in the job because of how your parents raised you. Don't get me wrong, there were several people I was in basic training with who came from the civilian world and adapted just fine by the end, but for me and my fellow military brats, it was just easier.

While people are upset that some Hollywood Nepo Baby is getting ahead unfairly because of who their parents are, they should take a moment to be thankful for the military brat Nepos. Those men and women are defending this nation and have been doing so for two, three, or more generations. It is a job that less than seven percent of the country's population will ever choose to do and in the end, those who do get nothing additional for following in their parent's footsteps–– except earned pride.


Friday, January 13, 2023

A Little Yipee Ki Yay

I played cowboy when I was a kid but I never sought it as a future vocation. Although, when I saw The Wild Wild West on TV, that almost changed. I thought Jim West was an okay character, but the character I really liked was Artemis Gordon. Artemis not only invented cool gadgets and got to play with them. He was also a master of disguise. To me, he was the most interesting part of the show even though he didn’t get in many fistfights and seldom got the girl. That’s just the way it goes in the Hollywood version of the West, I guess.

Even when I played cowboy with my friends growing up, it was always a militarized version. That is to say, we usually played Calvary or gunfighters. What else could you expect from a group of military brats? In fact, most of us had fathers who were part of the 1st Calvary Division, so it was a very natural fit. We wore cowboy hats, and belts that held two six-shooters. There was at least one kid in the group who wore crossed bandoliers of spent shells ala Sergio Leone. I always wore my guns with the grips to the front. like Clint Eastwood. The cowboy thing didn’t last very long, maybe a year or so before giving way to just playing Army.

Recently, a TV show came on that forced me to reconsider the cowboy as a career thing. No, I’m not moving to the west to buy a ranch, but there is something to be said about the environment where you can live that kind of lifestyle. For the first time since I heard Frank Zappa’s Montana, I considered what advantages there might be in living there. It is beautiful. I love the view of mountains in the distance and gorgeous colorful sunsets. The state seems to have plenty of both. The best part is I don’t have to be a rancher or a floss tycoon to enjoy it. I like that.

The show stars Kevin Costner and is named for a park in the western part of the United States which I will omit. Costner plays the patriarch of a family of ranchers operating a large ranch for over a hundred years. What makes the show more enjoyable is that it shows you the actual work of a ranch and why it is important far beyond the grazing pasture. Sure, there are lots in the storyline about family drama, bad guys who get their comeuppance, and crooked politicians, but there is so much more, and that is lacking in most modern TV shows. It is compelling, accessible, and fun to watch. Taylor Sheridan is a talented storyteller and has a few more shows I enjoy for the same reasons. If you haven’t seen it already, give it a three-episode trial.

Way back when I was a Boy Scout, I earned the horsemanship merit badge which required me not only to ride but also to know the accessories necessary to ride, various breeds of horses, and the best ways to treat them to get them to work with you. Since I was later a counselor at the same camp, I got to ride pretty much on demand when in my spare time. I enjoyed riding, but it never rose to the level of obsession it does with some folks. To me, it was always what I rode through while on horseback. In Oklahoma, it was flat open spaces— but still wide and open but not a single field of dental floss. 


Monday, December 19, 2022

The Fruit Cake Fell Off The Table and Almost Killed Him

Can we talk about fruit cake for a minute?  Every year, the traditional treat gets attacked and vilified by folks but yet it continues to exist.  I saw one survey that said 35.6% of Americans consider it essential. If you are unfamiliar, fruit cake is produced using raisins, cherries, and other fruit, flour, spices, and nuts.  The cake is dense and heavy due to all the ingredients but not overly sweet.

As a kid, I remember a two-by-two rectangle of Claxton fruit cake appearing at about the same time as a  box of Queen Anne cordial cherries in November.  My Dad felt both were necessary traditions to properly fuel proper holiday spirit. The cake was so dense a small half-inch slice was plenty for me.  As a kid I wanted to know how it could be cake with no chocolate. After a few tries, I began skipping it.

It wasn’t until college when I was given a tin of homemade fruit cake by a girlfriend that my appreciation of the sweet changed.  In addition to the normal ingredients, when the cake had cooled after coming out of the oven, she sprayed it with a goodly amount of rum – then let it soak in for a day.  This made every bite a treat of various fruit flavors all infused with a wonderful rum after-burn.  I treasured every slice of that fruit cake and refused to share it with my roommate. Thanks, Mathly.

Given his feelings toward the confection, I wasn’t surprised when my Dad began including a small fruit cake with other Christmas gifts he sent to me. I’d always pour a liberal amount of rum over it prior to digging in.  Since most commercial fruit cake is very heavy, my annual fruit cake consumption is at most three slices, but every bite was enjoyable.

With my Dad gone, I find myself buying a small box of cordial cherries every year.  Maybe it is time to start picking up a fruit cake too. By the way, a few years ago I went pirate and tried using Captain Morgan’s spiced rum.  Arrr, she be a serious Yuletide dessert now, mates!


Tuesday, December 13, 2022

A Chop, Chop Here & A Chop Chop There

I’ve never been big on sharing health news. I consider such things to be my private information until I have processed it ... and by then it is history, anyway. This time is different since I discussed its approach before it happened.

As you might’ve been able to tell, I survived my recent surgical adventure. Overall, it was a smooth experience. I showed up when I was supposed to, got checked in by a group of great professionals, got an assortment of drugs designed to make the experience pain-free, and then after being wheeled into an operating room that featured a table full of power tools, took a nap.

After waking up and getting dressed, I escaped the premises without feeling anything below my left knee thanks to an effective nerve block. A short while later, my phone notified me I had new implant information on my medical records app. How efficient — I checked the app and found the name, model, and serial number of an assortment of screws and wires that will probably be with me the rest of my life, along with the information on a graft injectable that was used. Odd feeling. The cyborg part of my life has begun. (Cue, power wrench sound from Devo's Are We Not Men?.

Over the last few days, the nerve block wore off and an assortment of pain pills I am taking in its place has ensured my anesthesiologist called a smooth landing. It has been, more or less. Getting around for the most basic things has required a little relearning and some mechanical help (crutches, a grabber, and a knee scooter). Per my ortho, it’ll be about two months before I am healed enough to use my newly rebuilt ankle to bear weight. That will be when I can figure out if this entire process was successful.

What started as an accident on the aft end of a C-141 that resulted in a fall out of the aircraft onto the tarmac in Guam has finally been fixed. Given that the fall occurred before most of the tech used to repair it existed, the delay was probably a good thing.

I didn’t run into any classmates from kindergarten this time, but Andrea was a much nicer nurse than any Army nurse I ever ran into. I guess there are tradeoffs.


Tuesday, December 6, 2022

All the King's Horses and One Immensely Talented Ortho Surgeon

When I was eight, I went into the hospital alone for the first time  — well, the first time I remember. I was there to have my tonsils out and while I don’t recall being afraid, at that age and situation I had to be. Luckily, the kid in the bed next to me (it was an Army hospital children’s ward) was talkative and. after talking for a few minutes, we discovered we had gone to kindergarten together. While this might be no big deal in the civilian kid world, for a military brat it meant that even though we had both lived in three different states since we last saw each other, we were together again. He was there for an operation on his eyes.

There were no TVs in the ward, so we spent the night talking and getting yelled at by the nurse for talking. The next morning, they wheeled all the beds in the ward out in a long line, and we were paraded down to the operating room to wait our turn. Sometime later, I woke up back in the ward with the worst sore throat of my young life. My friend had returned too, with patches over both eyes.

The most memorable thing that happened that day was when I puked in my bed and my friend was yelling his head off for a nurse to come help. When he could finally get one, she changed out the bedding while cursing me for not calling her sooner. Not sure how I was supposed to yell for her with a throat that had just had tonsils yanked out. By the way, not all Army nurses look like McMurphy.

Later that day, I went home. I never saw my classmate again, and I carried an aversion to nurses for a long while after. I got over it, even dedicating my book POMSILv2 to them.

Over the course of my life, I have had a few surgeries but never ran into another classmate.

Tomorrow, I am having my ankle repaired from an injury I suffered while in the Air Force. I guess after more than a few years it’s time to make my ankle work the way it should. According to what I’m told, I will enjoy a medically induced haze for a few days to mask the pain. So, if I take a few days to reply to an email, that is why.

Just didn’t want you to wonder if I fled the country to avoid being captured by some espionage agency I wrote about a little too realistically… then again, maybe I did.